Italy

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Nonino Grappa Cocktails

Gritti Palace Hotelthe bar at the Gritti Palace, Venice

Fall’s cooler weather, and aromatic breezes proves a perfect time to shift to warming aromatic cocktails. Part of the Nonino project instigated by the three daughters has been working with mixologists around the world to create unique cocktails using the Nonino distillates.

The monovarietal grappas, and grape distillates by Nonino offer a unique opportunity to play with distinct varietal characteristics. Their distillation process captures grape aromatics in what Giannola Nonino calls “a crystalline purity.” The flavors of each grappa reflects the character of the grape type used, with warmer blue floral notes lifting from the glass in the merlot distillate, and distinctly yellow flower and warm hay aromas for the chardonnay. Nonino’s first monovarietal, picolit, remains my favorite.

The Gioiello, their honey distillate made from acacia honey, too carries trademark flavors of autumn. It’s a beautifully nutty, forest floral aromatic that’s both warming, and spiced on the palate. A lovely sipping cocktail on its own.

Nonino, of course, also makes a tasty amaro that’s great over ice, or in a cocktail as shown below.

While visiting Venice last year we were able to meet several mixologists who were kind enough to share their recipes with me for three of my favorite Nonino cocktails. Each of the three recipes following are easy enough to make at home, and perfect for Fall weather with flavors of apple, rose, and herbal infusions.

(Some of the drinks they showcased brilliantly involved infused aromatic tea smoke, and other complicated ingredients. I don’t keep a vaporizer at home.)

 

Nonino Frozen, Mixologist Davide Girardi, Udine

Mixologist Davide GirardiMixologist Davide Girardi

Nonino Frozen
Mixologist Davide Girardi, Udine

5 cl Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
Soda Water
1 lime
cane sugar
2 mint leaves

Muddle and pound 1/4 of a lime with 2 spoonfuls of cane sugar.
Fill a glass with crushed ice, and Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and top it up with soda water.
Mix it energetically in the glass in which it is to be served, and decorate it with mint leaves.

Passion Nonino, Barman Mirko Falconi, Gritti Palace, Venice

DSC_0383Barman Mirko Falconi in the library of the Gritti Palace

Passion Nonino
Barman Mirko Falconi, Gritti Palace, Venice

3 cl Grappa Nonino Cru Monovitigno Fragolino
1.5 cl white Cinzano
0.5 cl Aperol
1 cl passion fruit juice
1 cl rose syrup

Shake all ingredients except for the grappa.
Once shaken, pour in a mixing glass,add ice, and the grappa.
Stir slowly and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.
Decorate with peels of apple, melon, and pumpkin.

This cocktail is a lot of fun to play with switching up which flavor of the monovarietal grappa, and what type of fruit juice too. For example, the Picolit grappa works well with pineapple juice.

Nonino Cool, Head Barman Gennaro Florio, VeniceHead Barman Gennaro Florio Gennaro Florio, Venice

Nonino Cool
Head Barman Gennaro Florio

4cl Grappa Nonino Cru Monovitigno Fragolino
3cl Sour Apple liqueur
1 Tbsp blossom honey
drops of squeezed lime

Caramelize seasonal fruit (apple works well) in Grappa Nonino Monovitigno Moscato and cane sugar to use as garnish.

Shake all ingredients, and fill without ice into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with caramelized fruit.

Cheers!

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

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Listening to Giannola Nonino

A year ago a few of us were lucky enough to share two days with the Nonino family. The Noninos are the most well known grappa producers in Italy, known for a series of innovations in production that succeeded in raising the status of grappa worldwide.

While Benito Nonino distilled the grappa, his wife Giannola developed many of the ideas, and packaging that helped raised Benito’s work to such prominence. Today their three daughters are thoroughly involved in running Nonino, and have gone on to continue the tradition of innovation and quality. After working on it for a decade, the three daughters succeeded at figuring out how to distill honey, for example.

If you don’t already know how grappa is made, you can check out my Behind the Scenes at Nonino piece over at Serious Eats, here

While with the Nonino family, Cathy Huyghe and I asked Giannola to share more of her story. Jeremy Parzen translated. The following is a transcript of her story as translated by Jeremy. She begins by speaking of her family history as the foundation of the work she did for Nonino, as well as for how she raised their children.

Giannola’s Family

Ginola Nonino“It’s really important to start this story by telling the education I received from my parents. My father was very learned, well read. They were children of immigrants.

“My grandfather, at the end of the 19th c. immigrated to Argentina from Italy. He was part of a big wave of immigration to Argentina. My father was born in Argentina, then came back to Italy. At the end of the 19th c. a lot of people went hungry in Friuli. There was a lot of suffering. My grandfather left Cividale all by himself.

“Thanks to the priest from Cividale he met his wife. He went to the priest in Argentina and said, I want to get married. I am in Argentina. I want to marry a nice girl with her head on her shoulders. The priest in Argentina wrote to a priest in Cividale. So thanks to the priest from Cividale, and another in Argentina, all by letter, he found a wife.

“He had gone to Argentina so he would put food on the table. You got off the boat in Argentina and they gave you a plow. They said, you can pick land. You put stakes around the land, and work as much as you want.

“My grandma left Italy without knowing anything about this person. They would meet at the other side of the journey, and when she said goodbye to family she didn’t know if she would ever see them again. This is what hunger and poverty did to people. They were forced to make such decisions.

“My grandfather was successful, and finally able to come back to Friuli with my father. At the time my father was 25 years old. He opened a small factory, made plows, and farming equipment. My father for this reason was a great lover of this land.

“He bought land in Percoto, Italy. At that point, my father had a company with 60 workers. At the same time, my father was a very sensitive person, and well read. He began to study customs, and traditions of Friuli. From the time I was very little we were going out and learning about Friuli tradition. That’s how as a young child I learned about indigenous grape varieties of the area.”

Giannola Nonino helped to preserve, and reestablish farming of indigenous varieties in Friuli. They had been illegal, and her work with farmers, and outreach to politicians helped instigate legal changes that supported the reestablishment of indigenous varieties in the region.

To further this cause she conceived of the Nonino Prize for those growing indigenous grape varieties. Paolo Rapuzzi of Ronchi di Cialla famously won the Nonino Prize for his saving Schioppettino by hunting feral vines in the hills along the Friuli-Slovenia border.

Giannola Nonino“My parents taught us how to behave in the world. We were raised not to just be frivolous girls in the world. Our identity was in our intelligence, and how we conveyed our intelligence. We were determined our projects should be conceived without hurting anyone, and we knew we could overcome any obstacle. Never give up.

“I was not a good mother. I was severe. I would try to give them what they wanted but there were rules, and they needed to follow. They had to be good at school, to study. They had to be obedient, and from when they were very little they would get in the truck with me, and we would look for pomace [to make grappa]. But from third grade, they never went to bed without me checking their homework.

“The first thing to give your children is affection. The most important thing is affection. But then you have to teach them how to respect themselves, and how to respect others. You have to do well in school, and you have to play, and when you grow up you should do a job you really enjoy because if you don’t enjoy it it’s going to weigh on you.

“I know I love my children more than anything in the world but I never lost track that they would respect themselves, and respect others. As a mother you want to give them everything but you have to teach your children that anything they receive takes a lot of energy. Other people have put a lot of energy into whatever it is we have.

“My father is the one that gave the knowledge of our land, and the love of our culture to me. But above all he valued keeping alive all of this knowledge because otherwise the cost is the loss of our identity. Just like what she does.” Giannola points to me referencing an earlier conversation, “sending her daughter back to Alaska where her whole family is from. Otherwise all of these roots would just die in the street.

“In a society like we are living now, in the entire world, this is the foundation of this loss of security our children have, this loss of knowledge.

“That is my advice. Convey to your children that knowledge of your land, and your people. It is without this knowledge we cannot live like real people. It is without this that we fight and we kill each other. It is with this knowledge we live as real people.

” I believe my father, as the son of an immigrant who became an immigrant himself is someone who, the values are even stronger in him.

“What I give to my children, and what my grandparents give to me, the knowledge of family, is the most valuable thing we can have.

Growing Nonino Grappa

DSC_0424“First I fell in love with my husband, Benito, then I fell in love with his job. I call it the art of distillery. I hope you have felt the same emotion I felt the first time I watched distillation happening. From that moment I wanted to learn how to distill. It is a magical thing to take the grape, and turn it into a crystalline distillate of the grape.

“The first of December 1973 we made the first monovarietal distillate of Picolit. At noon sharp on that first of December 1973 as the first drops of the grappa came, I drew them to my nose, and I knew our experiment had succeeded.”

Nonino was the first in history to make monovarietal grappa. Winemaking in the region previously made mixed white wine, and mixed red wine without separating grape types. Because grappa is made with the grape pommace, after the wine is pressed from the skins, the material available depended on the style of winemaking already established.

Making a single varietal grappa in order to celebrate the varieties indigenous to the region was Giannola’s idea. She worked with farmer’s wives through the region, offering to pay them in addition to paying the husbands for the grapes in order to secure pommace separated by grape type. 

Prior to Nonino’s innovations with monovarietal grappa, grappa was seen only as a worker’s distillate, not as a drink for finer tables. Giannola also worked to change that attitude.

“It occurred to me at that time that consumers that had a snobby attitude about grappa, they needed to taste this grappa. If we sold it as a normal grappa, they would have refused to taste it. At that time we did not even talk about marketing or talk about packaging. I realized if I put it into a refined container that would make the consumer curious. Then they would taste it, and fall in love with it.

“So we put the grappa in the old medicinal style bottles, and had the label that described which grape variety and its qualities, and the bottles were individually numbered as well, and it was like the bottle had an ID card as well that came with it. All of these qualities together gave our grappa the right to be considered top quality. The packaging was just a means to an end, teaching the public about the quality of our grappa.

“In 1975 we created the Nonino Prize in order to save indigenous grape varieties of Friuli. It was forbidden at that time to grow them. From 1975 to 8 we worked to save, rescue those varieties. Then the law changed, and it became a literary prize. The literary prize started as a way to document realities of farm life in Friuli. Industrial culture may die, but the death of rural farming culture would also be the death of all humanity.”

The Nonino familythe Nonino Family, from left: Giannola, Cristina, Antonella, Elisabeta, Benito Nonino

“My daughters were with me even during the night. My daughters were born in the pommace. All we did was talk about grappa grappa grappa. They fell in love with work.

“Benito and I traveled through the best places for wine in Europe. We decided to make an artisanal distillery for our daughters so whenever the need arose, our daughters would know how to distill because they did it with their own hands. That is when we invented the UE grape distillate, a distillate from skin, and juice, and pulp, and grapes. The UE has the elegance of wine, the aromas and characters and flavors of skins.”

Grappa is made with grape pommace, that is after the wine has been pressed off the skins, what is left is distilled into grappa. The Noninos were the first to distill the entire grape in what they call their UE.

“In 2000, our daughters, so that they would not be outdone by their parents created honey distillate, Gioiello, which was extremely difficult. It was a huge victory for them to prove to themselves that they could achieve the same greatness as their parents.

“As a woman, I always had to battle because I was so determined, and I knew the high quality of grappa my husband produced. I decided we were going to make my husband the greatest distillate in the world. So, in the mid-1960s I started a battle to transform grappa from Cinderella to a quality distillate. I did it thanks to my determination, and especially because my husband is the best distiller in the world.

“He has such intimate knowledge of the raw material, and created a special still to preserve the aromas and flavors, and he is never entirely satisfied, always to make it better and better. I believe one of the qualities that helped us transform, the number one thing we were hoping to achieve was never perfect but the attainment of absolute quality of the best grappa.

“My first trip to New York, I did not speak English, and had no translator but wanted to tell my story. So in front of a mirror I memorized the story in English, and I understood the expression I had to make. I practiced again and again, and it was a great success.

“These were the grapes my father taught me to love. I had to preserve them, or I would have betrayed the values my father taught me to love. Twenty years later, our daughters, we have given them the value of our land, and they have become even more rigorous.

“My story is a story of passion. If I was born again, I would do it the same again.”

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RIP Paolo Rapuzzi

My good friend Jeremy Parzen was kind enough to let me know this morning that Paolo Rapuzzi passed on. His blog post about Paolo is here. In April 2012, several of us spent lunch and part of an afternoon with Paolo, his wife Dina, and their two sons. Paolo showered us with stories of them beginning Ronchi di Cialla, one of my favorite wineries of Italy. Then we walked the vineyards with their son Ivan, who runs things now with his brother.

Paolo and Dina together rescued indigenous Friulian varieties, some of which had been thought extinct. Most particularly, they re-discovered Schioppettino from feral vines in the hillsides along the Slovenian border. The primary clone of Schioppettino, taken from their vineyard, is named Rapuzzi in their honor. Many of the local varieties at the time were going extinct through the region largely because of the ongoing impact of wars, and the governments exclusion of them for economic regions. I could go on and on about what meeting them, and their work means to me. (If you ask my friends, I occasionally do that with them in person.) Instead, I’m going to repost Paolo’s story told to us by him during our visit that April.

originally posted April 11, 2012

Lunch at Ronchi di Cialla: Meeting the Man with whom it Began

Paolo Rapuzzi standing on Ronchi di CiallaPaolo Rapuzzi, the founder and owner of Ronchi di Cialla

“The story of the winery is very simple. I am Friulian. So, when it came time to plant, we planted the grapes of the region. The ancient varieties.

“I had been working for a very big company. But we [he and his wife] spoke. We asked, should we die as typewriter sales people? Should we live in a system we don’t like? We didn’t like having someone bossing us around. The only person that can work without a boss is a farmer. So, on January 30, 1970 we started. They talked us into buying this land.

“I am not a farmer by history of profession, and we had no land. We began looking. They talked us into buying this land. It had been abandoned for 25 years, since the end of World War II. This is only 2 kilometers from the [Slovenian] border, so life in this area was very hard during the war. When it was over the family packed up and left. The house and vineyard had been abandoned for 25 years. Inside the house was grass waist deep and badgers were living in it. But we liked it a lot because there were olive trees here. Even it was abandoned we knew it was the right place to begin our new life.

A consummate story teller, Paolo Rapuzzi“My two sons had been born already. Luckily they decided to follow my footsteps. They handle the estate now and studied farming at university and handle both the grape growing and wine making.

“When I started I had no experience. So, I had no preconceived notions in what I was doing. That is what most helped me do what I ended up doing [on the farm and with wine making]. I never studied wine making and have never had an oenologist. We wanted to make wine from here, from Cialla. Some do not agree, but the grape already has everything it needs to make wine. So, the less we try to force grapes, the more its product represents wine from the area. We are meticulously involved in the entire process from growing to wine but it is very much about what we do not do than what we do. Nature has everything it needs to make wine.

“We planted in 1970. From the beginning it has been indigenous grape varieties, native yeast, no chemical farming, low intervention wine making.”

Paolo and Ivan RapuzziPaolo and Dina’s son Ivan adds a comment: “We make truly long lived wines. All of our wines–the whites, the reds, the sweet wines–all of them age very well. That is an indication that it is from the zone. It is the land itself that makes these wines.”

Paolo continues: “When phylloxera came the farmers made a mistake. Not everyone agrees with me. They began planting foreign grape varieties. We lost over 150 indigenous grape varieties. It is an indication of how viticulture changes. Today we are getting it back. More people are dedicated to the indigenous varieties.”

Ivan comments: “Friuli is one of the places in Europe with the greatest bio-diversity. It is the intersection of the Alps, the Adriatic from the Mediterranean, and the Balkans. The Northern and Eastern Alps too come together here so you are at a real crux of the Mediterranean, with the Northern and Eastern Alps.”

Later Paolo tells a story: “In the beginning we were infested with red spiders. It was a problem. We went to a phyto-pathologist for advice. He told us, don’t do anything. If you leave the spiders another type of spider will come along and compete. So, we left the red spiders. It was a big risk. But yellow spiders came and killed the red spiders. When you use pesticides you do not just kill what you are targeting. You kill everything. But nature will balance itself if you do not do this.”

Outside Ivan walks us through the vineyards and tells us more about their low intervention views. “In Cialla, proximity to Forest is the most important. The same predators that attack vitis vinifera [grape vines] attack other species in the forest. But in the forest they have natural enemies. Nature keeps a balance. So, in being close to the forest we do not have to intervene because the same balance that is in the forest is maintained in the vineyard too.”

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Thank you to Jeremy Parzan for translating Paolo’s story to us as he spoke.

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Paolo Rapuzzi, thank you for all you have done. Rest in peace.

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Drinking Gewurztraminer with Matzo Ball Soup

Gewurztraminer Characteristicsclick on image to enlarge

This week I couldn’t kick the Matzo Ball Soup craving so Jr and I spent an afternoon making it from scratch. By grating fresh ginger into the Matzo Balls, and using a touch of parsley on top of the chicken broth, the soup worked beautifully with Gewurztraminer.

Gewurztraminer produces naturally pungent, easily recognizable aromatics. The grape naturally generates higher sugar levels, leading to a predominance of off dry-to-sweet styles of the grape, or higher alcohol level dry wines. Acid levels also quickly drop in the variety. As a result, Gewurztraminers readily have a fuller mouthfeel, and oily or slippery texture. All combined, cooler climates do better for the fruit. With lower temperatures, a grape that can tend towards blouse-y flavors and feel maintains greater structural focus, and can more easily hold the juiciness to balance its fuller palate.

Following are notes from six dry examples — two each from Alsace, Alto Adige, and California.

* Elena Walch 2013 Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige, 14.5%
Alto Adige in Northern Italy stands as both the origin, and one of the most celebrated regions for quality Gewurztraminer. Elena Walch offers a beautiful dry Gewurztraminer that lifts from the glass with nicely focused fresh rose aromatics then moves over the palate with ultra juicy crisp length. White nectarine, orange blossom, and light chamomile keep the palate nicely focused, crisp, and well integrated with a slippery mouthfeel. This was my favorite wine of the tasting. I kept returning to it through dinner, and after.

Elena Walch 2012 Kastelaz Vineyard Designate Gewurztraminer, Alto Adige, 14.5%
On a steep hillside above the village from which Gewurztraminer gets its name, Tramin in Alto Adige, Elena Walch grows the fruit for her single vineyard designate wine. Kastelaz. The site has produced quality fruit for generations. The Kastelaz brings a lighter, rounder focus to the aromatics and palate, carrying white peach, honeysuckle, pear blossom, and chamomile tea alongside light spice elements. Aged on its lees, the Kastelaz gives a creamy, nicely balanced palate. Though this wine offers slightly more residual sugar, it carries nice juiciness, and natural acid levels that bring it in as a dry wine.

Hugel 2011 Gewurztraminer, Alsace, 14.15%
Alsace proves another of the more celebrated regions for quality Gewurztraminer, with the area regarding it as a signature grape. For Hugel, it is a flagship variety. This dry Gewurztraminer carries cooked pear and lifting almond leaf aromatics rolling into a perfumed white stone and orchard fruit palate accented by chamomile tea. There is nice focus here, pleasing texture, and a long finish.

Domaines Schlumberger 2008 “Les Princes Abbés” Gewurztraminer, Alsace, 13.35
Meant to celebrate the long history of the region, Domaines Schlumberger‘s “Les Princes Abbés” portfolio uses portions of Grand Cru fruit from classic varieties. The aromatics keep a focus on freshness and delicate precision carrying crisp red apple, anjou pear and birch bark from nose to mouth. With just a kiss of sweetness, the juiciness of Les Princes Abbés keeps the wine fresh on the palate.

* Thomas Fogarty Vineyards 2012 Gewurztraminer, Monterey County, 13.3%
Taking fruit from a cool, windy vineyard in Salinas Valley, Thomas Fogarty VIneyards delivers one of the nicest examples of a varietally expressive, dry style Gewurztraminer in California. Giving a touch of skin contact to broaden the palate, and develop textural complexity, the wine delivers very lightly toasted croissant with hints of orange blossom, dried rose petals, and lychee all on a crisp, juicy presentation. This wine brings nice freshness, focus, and length.

Gundlach Bundschu 2012 Estate Gewurztraminer, Sonoma County, 14.5%
Showing off the exuberant side of Gewurztraminer, Gundlach Bundschu‘s 2012 highlights the pungent lychee and oily-slippery mouthfeel typicity of the grape. The nose carries lychee and spice greenery rolling into a flamboyant, perfumed mouth of lychee, melon rind, and lily pollen. The 2012 shows the broad character of a warmer profile typical for the variety. I have to admit the expressiveness of this style is overwhelming for me.

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Each of these wines were provided as samples.

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post-edit: I finished this write-up in the middle of the night after a two week run of not-quite enough sleep. My apologies for the creatively varied mis-spellings of Gewurztraminer in the original posting.

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In Love with Sangiovese

Il Poggione 2008 Brunello di Montalcino

I imagine drinking good Sangiovese like the oral experience of excellent effleurage massage — a therapeutic practice that sweeps the fingers lightly over the body in long, lifting strokes that begin from the limbs and move towards the heart. The technique touches the skin without dragging against it, stimulating circulation while opening the muscles for more.

Sangiovese naturally carries beautiful acidity, lifted and vibrant without being aggressive. The tannins come in medium, and, when mature, offer long sweeping strokes that contact the palate without dragging. The texture of a deftly made Sangiovese gives the oral expression of pleasing, faintly erotic effleurage massage.

Il Poggione makes traditional Brunello di Montalcino, keeping its use of new oak to a minimum, and relying on only their older vines for the Brunello level wine. Younger plantings, with their brighter red and pink fruit expression are used for a lovely Rosso di Montalcino instead.

The 2008 Brunello di Montalcino from Il Poggione opens with lifted, juicy red fruit aromatics and palate giving savory and smoke accents. With air it changes significantly over the course of several hours. I strongly recommend opening the wine at the start of the meal so you can taste it immediately and enjoy it as it evolves, rather than decanting it for later. With air, the red fruit character turns to, what my friend Meredith describes as, an almost-creamy fig soaked in espresso, originating however from the fruit itself rather than oak influence. The wine carries long juicy, and savory elements dancing on dark-earth mineral lines all the way through from open to the long finish. This wine offers nice structure, and that long stroking tannin so seductive in Sangiovese.

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To read more on Il Poggione:

Talking with Il Poggione winemaker, Fabrizio Bindocci, during harvest 2013 in Montalcino: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2013/10/03/harvest-in-montalcino-visiting-il-poggione/

Listening to Il Poggione vineyard manager, Massimo Ricco during harvest 2013:  http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2013/10/04/harvest-in-montalcino-a-life-in-wine-talking-with-massimo-ricco-il-poggione-agronomist/

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To read Janice Cable’s recent love letter to Sangiovese: http://www.insideiwm.com/2014/02/24/siding-with-sangiovese-italys-absolute-accept-no-substitutes-best-grape/

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Selecting Prosecco

The sparkling wine Prosecco rises from the dramatically lifting foothills of the Alps in Northeastern Italy, with its quality center stretching from Valdobbiadene to Conegliano. The method for making Prosecco, Metodo Italiano (also known as the Charmat process), brings a more delicate focus than the Champagne method allows, presenting more distinctive aromatic qualities, as well as preserving fruit and flower characteristics of the grapes used as a result.

Glera and Metodo Italiano

Metodo Italianoclick on image to enlarge

Regulated Prosecco allows use of only the glera grape (previously known as the prosecco grape but renamed to avoid confusion). Glera is preciously fruit focused in its flavor, carved through its edges with a green-salt bitter note that at its best gives its wine shape.

Metodo Italiano does not require the high acid levels demanded from the Champagne method, therefore generating a sparkling wine with less overt linear tension than its counterpart. In lower quality examples the lack of tension means an overly simple fruit-only wine I tend to find cloying. As with any region, however, such examples tend to appear from the bulk, industrial segments of the production process. It is important to remember that many producers play with only the best fruit, earlier picking times, and some technique variations to keep the wine focused and clean in its core.

Though Prosecco is generally finished today in pressurized tanks (in the stainless steel tank portion of Round Two shown above), the introduction of these tanks is quite recent. Prior to the 1970s, the approach to making Prosecco still included movement into a secondary vessel, but culminated finally with fermentation finishing in bottle under crown cap. It is uncommon for Prosecco makers to take this approach today, but a few still do.

Prosecco Favorites

Following are notes on a few special examples of unique Proseccos available within the States.

Ca’ dei Zago

Ca’ dei Zago DOC “Col Fondo”
My favorite of the Proseccos mentioned here utilizes the older method of finishing fermentation under crown cap. The Ca’ dei Zago offers a slightly cloudy body, as a result, but also brings with it an additional biscuit note thanks to the crown cap completion that is pleasing. This wine carries those crisp biscuit notes topped through with lemon zest and the distinct glera edge to carve its shape over the palate. The wine also brings nice focus and good mineral tension through clean fruit and floral aromatics. The Ca’ dei Zago is a nice example of a Prosecco that succeeds at complexity and a core of tension within a wine that is still distinctively Prosecco.

Zardetto

Zardetto “Tre Venti” 2012 DOCG
As a single vineyard Prosecco, Zardetto’s Tre Venti succeeds at showing the unique fruit character possible from this sparkling wine method. The Tre Vigne shows apple and ginger with a touch of narcissus on the nose, tightening through the palate into a wire-y, masculine body of apple with blossom, toasted notes and hints of marmalade through a long finish. I enjoyed the surprise of this Prosecco quite a bit, and would like it with food.

Zardetto “Zeta” Dry 2012 DOCG
Delicate and pretty floral aromatics, alongside ripe apple with light toast and ginger accents breeze into a giving fruit focused palate with refreshing saline-mineral length. Where the Tre Vigne vibrates wire-y, the Zeta is all feminine flow. This is a wine to drink easy with friends, and a smile.

Nino Franco

Nino Franco Grave di Stecca 2010
Nino Franco brings a single vineyard, older vine focus to their Grave di Stecca also choosing to pick earlier to bring juicy focused length to this Prosecco. The Grave di Stecca 2010 gives a crisp spice nose carrying into a uniquely spiced palate of orchard fruit, on a palate that simultaneously offers rich depth and nice focus with lots of mineral length and a long juicy finish. This wine holds up very well alongside a range of foods.

Though the Grave di Stecca follows all of the DOCG requirements, because the family wishes to honor the unique flavoral characteristics of the vineyard, they choose not to submit it to the actual DOCG inspection. This wine, then, is essentially a declassified DOCG. Incidentally, I have also had positive experiences with the aging potential of this particular Prosecco.

Nino Franco Riva di San Floriano 2012 DOCG
Heralding from a beautiful steep sloped vineyard on the edge of Valdobbiadene, the Riva di San Floriano brings a star bright, perfume spice nose through to its ultra crisp apple and spice palate. This is an elegant example of a single vineyard Prosecco with lots of vibrancy and a long juicy finish. This wine does well as an aperitif and alongside white fish, or lighter risottos.

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Tasting with Sandi Skerk

Sandi Skerk

Sandi Skerk and his 2009, 2010 Ograde White blend

Kevin Wardell of Bergamot Alley in Healdsburg, Cailfornia opened his doors early yesterday to a small industry tasting of Skerk wines. The event was guided by both Sandi Skerk himself, and importer Oliver McCrum of Oliver McCrum Wines, and hosted too by Kris Clausen of Vinifera Marketing.

The team selected side by side vintages of four wines central to the Skerk portfolio, as well as a preview of upcoming releases, and a not-for-sale passito.

Skerk originates at the Italy-Slovenia intersection of Karst (or Carso), so named for the geological formation of the same name that dominates the area. The region sits atop a bed of limestone, shaped and hollowed by movements of water, then layered over with shallow red-iron soils. Skerk’s own cellar rests along a limestone hollow with holes in the floor blowing fresh sea-influenced air from below.

Vineyards only a short distance from the Adriatic, and grown up hillsides North of Trieste, Skerk exemplifies the magical, quiet presence of the region. His wines and personality both showcase a steady persistence, carried on fine frame, with elegant aromatics, and savory delicate palate.

It is hard to describe the stimulation and life found in a glass of Skerk wine — they are simultaneously clean, and unexpected; at once pretty and yet carrying notes of meat; the palate persists through delicate frame full of sapidity and Italian salato. These are wines designed to showcase tradition and elegance both.

Skerk’s family carries a history of winemaking, though Sandi’s own professional training begins with mechanical engineering. Eventually choosing to return to the family business, Sandi began in 2000 experimenting with techniques practiced by his grandfather.

As Skerk explains, in his grandfather’s generation, winemaking typical to the region fermented all white grapes together on skins, and all reds together on skins. Macerated ferments normally lasted 10 days to two weeks, before being pressed and aged. Skerk’s father focused instead on straight-to-press practices, fermenting whites’ juice only.

In 2000, Sandi returned to experimenting with extended fermentation on skins lasting around 30 days. In his most recent vintages, Skerk has reduced maceration length to 2 weeks, bringing his approach closer to that originally used by his grandfather.

Grapes are picked based on taste, with beautiful juiciness and clean aromatics consistently showing through his wines. By utilizing only pristine fruit, Skerk is able to avoid sulfur additions until prior to bottling.

Skerk keeps his cellar techniques disciplined while also straightforward, choosing to keep a steady eye on helpmates like pristine picked fruit, CO2, and submerged cap. The wines are kept on lees until a month prior to bottling, to further support the wines’ own natural immune system. In this way, Skerk is able to keep free sulfur targets around only 20 ppm.

Tasting Skerk Wines

Skerk portfolio

Skerk Vitovska 2009 and 2010

Indigenous to the region, Vitovska grows with thick skins and big bunches. Skerk head trains his Vitovska in order to encourage smaller berry and bunch size, thus increasing the skin-to-juice ratio for his macerated ferments.

The aromatics of all Skerk wines are greatly increased from his reliance on skin contact. With scents of fruit-based (not oak) nutmeg and cardamom integrated into the apricot blossom and orange spice of the nose, the 2009 cascades into savory flavors of prosciutto, pepper and melon on the palate. This wine exemplifies the Italian idea of salato and sapidity–intensive mouth stimulation with savory, mineral salinity.

The 2010 drinks like picnic on the sea shore, with orange and apricot blossom laced through with clove aromatics, followed by prosciutto on a touch of melon and breadstick, hints of red berries and salty seagrass on the finish.

Skerk Malvazija 2010 and 2011

Made with the Malvasia Istriana grape, the 2010 Malvazija shows pretty aromatics of pink and yellow flowers, followed by a tightly focused palate that opens significantly with air to reveal crisp apple, quince, touches of red currant and black cap. The wine is both savory and floral, with beautiful integration, and long palate stimulation.

Malvazija 2011 gives apple blossom, pink tea rose, crisp apple, and quince, giving savory palate notes of rock salt, cracked pepper, and mineral crunch. The wine offers textural richness and a long finish. The 2011 Malvazija will be available for release in February 2014.

Skerk Ograde 2009 and 2010

Made in a cofermented blend of Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Vitovska, and Malvasia Istria, the Ograde offers the sophisticated, fine boned, complexity possible with a harmony of grapes. I enjoy Skerk wines very much generally, but this was my first taste of the Ograde. I especially enjoyed it.

Skerk 2009, 2010 Ogradeclick on illustration to enlarge

Giving pretty floral aromatics, followed by textural savory palate, the 2010 shows herbal aspects, to the 2009’s lightly jalapeno notes. Where the 2009 offers pink and fresh floral apects, the 2010 crisp white notes. These are beautiful wines.

Skerk Terrano 2009 and 2010

Made with the Teran grape, Skerk’s Terrano carries bright red fruit acidity coupled with savory plum, and touches of pickled cherry. The 2009 opens with pink floral and plum blossom, moving into prosciutto, black pepper, and long savory, salato finish. The 2010 offers plum and cherry blossom, alongside the savory palate, with pickled cherry, and refreshing cucumber moving with beautiful length. This is an ideal wine for crusted, medium rare, red meat.

(Not for Sale) 2010 Passito Terrano

We closed the tasting with Skerk’s hand-bottled Terrano passito. The wine offered a beautiful example of juicy-to-sweet balance, concentrated red currant, cranberry, and blackcap, moving into an impressive savory finish. A hand written home bottle is a special joy of mine. What a treat to enjoy this one all the way from Carso.

***
Thank you to Sandi Skerk, Oliver McCrum, and Kris Clausen.

Thank you to Sam Bilbro, Megan Glaab, and Kevin Wardell.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

1

Visiting Nonino, Tasting Grappa and Amaro

As some of you know, I was on a recent press trip to Italy. Part of the activity was spending a day with the Nonino family exploring their distillery and vineyards, as well as tasting through their impressive collection of grappa and amaro.

I just wrote up the visit with a behind the scenes slide show over at Serious Eats.

Nonino at Serious Eats

Check it out here: http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/10/behind-the-scenes-nonino-grappa-distillery-how-grappa-is-made-grapes-friuli-italy-amaro.html

Cheers!

 

2

Photos from a Quick Trip to Venice

On my recent press trip to Italy we were able to fit in a quick over night stop in Venice. I’d flown through the airport but never had time to stay in the city itself. Honestly? I slept as well there as I did the last time I returned to my Great Grandparents (now defunct) home in remote Alaska — my childhood summer home. That is, really really well.

The thing about Venice is there aren’t any roadways. It’s just stone alleys interconnected with bridges. The city is a series of islands without modern day roads. The rumble of cars, and low din of engines we’re so accustomed to in most places doesn’t exist in Venice. For that alone it felt wonderful. But wandering the little alleys wasn’t too shabby either.

Our morning in Venice was our one time to ourselves on the trip. I spent my two hours purposefully navigating the islands without a map so I could test my inner compass on a city without square intersections. I had no destination in mind. I just wanted to see the place. So I set off with the idea I’d turn left to start and circle out for an hour, then return a different route, hopefully ending up to the right of where I started. I had one brief moment of panic five minutes before I was supposed to be back at the hotel to meet the group for the airport return. But, as my adrenaline rose I looked to my left, and there, it turned out, was the Prada store just around the corner from where we stayed. I made it!

Here are some photos from the brief visit. It’s beautiful there.

Entering the canals of Venice

To get from the Venice airport to the city of Venice demands a 45-minute boat ride across a small sea. Venice is a series of islands interconnected by bridges, with travel through the city occurring on the islands on foot, or between by boat. Here we’re entering the city via one of the small canals.

Traveling past homes in Venice into the center of the city

Entering the city includes travel along the backs of people’s homes, including view of their daily wash.

Heading out for cocktails and dinner

Visiting the Gritti Palace for drinks

After arrival, we set out to investigate local cocktail culture with our first stop at the Gritti Palace.

Inside the Gritti Palace

Inside the Gritti Palace Bar Longhi.

View from the Gritti Palace

The view from the back of Gritti Palace, where we sat–Santa Maria della Salute Church

Trying Grappa cocktails

Trying grappa cocktails with Nonino’s anniversary Picolit single varietal, the Passion Friuli, developed by Mirko Falconi

Meeting Mixologist Mirko Falconi

Gritti Palace mixologist, Mirko Falconi

Dinner at Taverna Fenice

Visiting Taverna La Fenice, around the corner from the opera house, for cocktails and dinner

Bartender Gennaro Florio

Fenice mixologist, Gennaro Florio

Ribolla Grappa

I follow around Ribolla Gialla, so I was excited to spot this bottle of Nonino’s Ribolla single varietal grappa.

Gennaro making us his signature cocktail

After dinner, Gennaro made us one of his signature cocktails, an espresso-grappa-kahlua concoction finished off with vaporized black tea and ginger. It was surprising for its lightness and delicate layering of flavors.

 

The morning

I took only a few pictures in the morning as I wanted to focus on wandering instead. Venice is one of those places where every corner is full of charm so I could have had a photo at every stop. My goal was to take streets with few people.

The view from my room

The shutters on my hotel windows helped with the good sleep. Once I realized how to open them here was the view from my room.

The view from my room

The view looking straight down

One of the canals

Setting out, turning left. This guy really was singing. I mean, GEEZ.

The view of Santa Maria della Salute Cathedral

Santa Maria della Salute church from the other direction

Wandering in Venice

one of Venice’s tiny alleyways

Wandering in Venice

Wandering in Venice

When you don’t avoid the crowds, this is what it looks like. The square in front of St Mark’s Cathedral.

Back at the hotel

Arriving back at the hotel just in time.

Jeremy and I in Venice

One of the big bonuses of this trip was getting to travel part of it with dear friend, Jeremy Parzen of Do Bianchi. We met up in Friuli (where we first met), then traveled to Venice, and on to Montalcino. It was great to see him.

Cheers!

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

 

2

Harvest at Il Poggione

In visiting harvest of the Sangiovese for Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino at Il Poggione, we were able to speak with both Fabrizio Bindocci, the General Manager and Winemaker of Il Poggione, as well as the President of the Brunello Consortium. We were also able to speak with his son Alessandro Bindocci, winemaker at Il Poggione–he and his father work together.

Along with Francesca Bindocci (Alessandro’s sister, Fabrizio’s daughter) the Bindocci’s are part of a multi-generational family that has worked at Il Poggione since Fabrizio’s grandfather began in the farm and vineyards.

Fabrizio and Alessandro explained they are able to maintain hand’s on work of the large property (none of the vineyard work is mechanized) by keeping 75 full time employees, and working closely with two vineyard team leaders that survey the overall health of the property and work with the other agricultural employees.

We asked if we could also speak with one of the team leaders, Massimo Ricco. The following was translated from Italian by Alessandro.

It was quite a pleasure talking with Massimo, to hear more about his life and work, but also partially because he seemed surprised by our interest in him. He and Fabrizio laughed with each other off and on throughout the interview. Massimo was willing to give us time but also seemed eager to get back to work.

Harvest in Montalcino: Meeting Massimo Ricco

Massimo Ricco

Massimo Ricco, Agronomist and Manager, Il Poggione

“I have been in the vines at Il Poggione for 2 years and 4 months. I was working for other properties, consulting for other properties in different regions before coming here. In Tuscany, and also in Umbria.

“I am a manager of the other vineyard workers. I am an agronomist. I check the vineyards, the health and state of the vineyard. When it is not harvest, I organize different work for the cultivation of the vines and olive trees. I like this sort of work but in the winter there is not enough work to do. I like healthy vineyards and making good looking fruit. It is the best satisfaction.

“I was born in Latina, near Rome, and grew up in Perugia. My wife also lives and works here. She works in the vineyard.”

Fabrizio nods and smiles saying, “Yes, they were a double purchase.”

Massimo nods and laughs. I ask him what work his parents do. “My father is a worker in chemical industries. My mother is a housewife.”

I ask how Massimo came to Il Poggione. Fabrizio laughs, “I found Massimo on my crystal ball. I was looking for a professional level collaborator. So I made many phone calls and Massimo came up. He was consulting for other wineries in Tuscany and Umbria at the same time.”

Massimo nods. I ask him how he likes working for one vineyard now instead of many in two regions. “I like working with one vineyard instead of many very much. There are less kilometers on the car.” He laughs. “The difference working one vineyard is positive. The advantage of a single property is to be there and follow the whole production life of the vine.

“The foundation of the work I got from the agricultural university in Perugia. For 3 years after, I worked for a company that built wineries. Then, I began consulting on vineyards and olive trees.

“The growing of the olive trees is quite simple compared to the vineyard. The trees demand less time. The most important thing for the olive trees is the pruning.”

harvesting Sangiovese

In Tuscany many properties inter-plant alternating rows of olive trees and grape vines. The temperatures are warm enough to ripen olives in the region so most properties have both plants. Il Poggione has one vineyard block with alternating rows, and other areas of the property where the plants grow on their own. Alessandro explained that in a bad frost one winter the trees in the inter-planted vineyard were the only to survive. Il Poggione produces, and bottles its own olive oil.

***

Thank you to Massimo Ricco. Thank you to Fabrizio, and Alessandro Bindocci.

Thank you to Megan Murphy. Thank you to Cathy Huyghe.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com