Meeting Bastianich, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy: Plus 2008, Calabrone 2007

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Originally from the area where Italy intersects the Balkan states, the Bastianich family decided to return to its roots by purchasing land to make wines expressive of the region. The result of the project has been three varietals each indigenous to the homes in which they are grown and made–the Adriatico portfolio. With it you discover Malvasia from Istria, Ribolla Gially from Slovenia, and Friulano from Friuli.

The Bastianich portfolio is broader, however, than just these three wines. Within Colli Orientali del Friuli, for example, the Bastianich family also grows grapes known not only as native to the area but also those they find as most expressive of their terroir. That is, they seek to grow only those grapes that do best on their land.

In talking with wine people from the Friuli region there is a common refrain. Lydia Bastianich, with her grounding in U.S. restaurant and food culture, is an ambassador for Friuli. That is, she has built a bridge between the already established quality of Friulian wines, and the wine market of the United States. In talking with Lydia herself she concentrates on the roots of the region–what makes the area and also Italy at large unique. In both cases, the answer is the same. Italy, according to Lydia is an area of great diversity developed by the regionality and individuality of Italians. As she puts it, Italians from whatever region “focus first on family; then, if they feel like it, on their neighbors, and only then on city and then region.” That focus on home base that Italians have, as she describes it, helps to establish unique commitment in an area, out of which arises a mix of rich expressivity, and creativity.

Yesterday we shared lunch at the Bastianich home, with Lydia coordinating an impressive menu. After we were able to taste through their Adriatico line, and their regional portfolio. Following are two of the Bastianich wines that stood out in the collection.

Bastianich Plus 2008

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The Bastianich Plus is the family’s attempt to make a “super”-Friulano. They had tasted a range of well made but common versions of the indigeous-to-Friuli variety and decided it was time to do a focused and concentrated version of the event. The wine is made from 60-70 year old vines of the variety, all hand selected, with 10% of the clusters hung and dried for a month to add concentrated fruit elements. The result is a richer body and texture, with more grounded expression of the grape, showing an interesting presentation of its flavor profile.

The nose carries spice of citrus zest and touches of baking spices with minerals and almond. On the palate, the rich texture shows a subtle and grounded range of lime notes, with subtle touches of honey, baking spice, and nut.

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The Calabrone is an expression of the Bastianich love for Amarone style wines. It is made only in the best vintages, with so far 6 of the 12 vintages being made Calabrone. The 2007 blend carries a Refosco focus with half of those grapes being hung and dried before pressing. The remaining blend arises from 10% all dried Schioppettino, 10% Merlot, and 10% Pignollo.

The nose and palate of this wine give a nice balance of concentrated elements with lighter notes keeping the wine from being either heavy or cloying. There are touches of earth, hints of leather and mushroom, and hits of lavendar all alongside a body of raisin, date, fig, and dried red cherry.

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