Italian Treasures

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North Berkeley Imports Winter 2012 Italian Portfolio Tasting

Last week North Berkeley Imports hosted a series of Winter 2012 Portfolio tastings in Seattle, San Francisco, Scottsdale, and Los Angeles. The events showcased not only a unique selection of wines, but also the wine makers themselves there pouring. I was lucky enough to attend and taste through a selection of wines from family-owned Italian wineries.

North Berkeley Imports keeps their focus on small production, family owned wineries that offer a commitment to quality and uniqueness. As a result, I’ve long had an interest in their overall portfolio, and was grateful to be invited to attend their recent event. Following are some quick notes on the Italian wines that stood out in the event, both for their quality and story.

Ca’Vittoria Prosecco

Ca’Vittoria poured two of the nicest quality proseccos I have tasted in a long time. Their vineyard rests on steep cliff sides, and at some elevation. As a result, the vines are incredibly low yield offering crisper, more distinctive fruit flavors and firmer structure than prosecco often tends to carry.

Prosecco vines are more usually planted in the valley areas, thus producing more grapes per plant, with fuller fruit. The result tends to be a lower acidity, softer flavored juice.

The Ca’Vittoria proseccos are pleasantly dry, with good minerality, and distinctive flavors. The rose’ especially stood out as an interesting presentation of red berry plus dried herbal notes.

Dama del Rovere

From the same region of Italy as the Ca’Vittoria, Dama del Rovere also offers sparkling wines. However, what makes Dama del Rovere’s offerings unique is their commitment to a less common grape, Durello. They present it in both a dry prosecco-style, and a dry champenoise-style rendition. The quality on both is lovely, with their vines grown at some elevation, thus concentrating the flavors.

The durello gives a super floral, light fruit note on both the nose and palate. The quality on both was good, but I preferred the charmat (prosecco-style) version of the two to match the structure the durello offered. In the charmat bubbles the durello gave a fuller body and richer flavors. The champenoise-style bubbles gave a very light flavor, with a smooth easy mouth feel. It’s a lovely, light sparkling wine option.

Caravaglio

Just North of Sicily is a small island Salina on which Caravaglio keeps an entirely organic farm. Their wines carry the distinctive sea fresh, and clean flavors possible from volcanic soils coupled with hands on wine making practices. I was especially impressed by the 2010 Malvasia Secca Isola di Salina, an entirely organic white with decidedly rich, and, at the same time, crisp flavors. There are pleasing subtle, dried floral, and light herbal qualities to this uniquely fruit-driven wine, with the minerals offering even more grounding to this well-balanced offering.

Nicodemi

From the Abruzzo region of Italy, the Nicodemi siblings produce earthy, well-balanced Montepulciano-driven red wines. The 2010 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo carried an interesting blend of characteristics including a distinctive tobacco and red fruit nose following in the mouth with floral qualities added on the palate. The 2009 vintage of the same wine showed as more tart, with slightly higher tannins offering a drying mouth feel and light spice.

Most impressive was their 2008 Notari Rosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and the 2006 Nicodemi Neromoro Riserva. The Notari Rosso is an approachable, well-balanced medium bodied red wine easily matching a range of food choices. The Neromoro shows wonderful richness with more earth, tobacco, and fruit all joining together for a fascinating wine.

I enjoyed meeting Elena Nicodemi as well. She is an impressive woman, with a strong clarity about her work.

Paneretta

Finally, I want to mention Enrico Albisetti, and Patricia Eckert, of Paneretta. I especially enjoyed meeting this couple, and tasting their selection of Chianti Classico. The couple typically blend in around 10% Caniaolo (rather than any Bordeaux varieties as is common with many other producers of the region) with the Sangiovese to create their uniquely Tuscan wine. One of only a few growers of Caniaolo in the world, Mr Albisetti is passionate about the grape. Though it fell out of favor in the region because of its unique growing challenges, Mr Albisetti is committed to growing only Tuscan-indigenous grape varieties on their property, and thus also offers a full varietal wine of the grape. The 2008 is only their second bottling of the 100% Caniaolo, and I feel fortunate to have tasted such an uncommon wine. Spending two years in new French barriques, the Caniaolo shows rich flavors of leather, light baking spices, well-aged red fruits, with medium-plus tannins. It’s a wine I was fascinated by and hope to be able to taste again in a more dedicated manner.

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Thank you to Aimee of North Berkeley Imports, and Kent of Quail Distributing for inviting me to attend.

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