ITALIAN WINE CLUBTasting Notes
Every month we choose the wines for our Italian wine club one by one and document the bits that make each bottle special and exceptional: the GROWER, the GRAPE(S) and (what’s in your) GLASS. Below are the monthly summaries of these notes from the field, to be enjoyed as you drink, or referenced as needed.
BEACH CLOSED… so open these wines instead.
We’re taking the best type of ‘virtual tour’ of some incredible locations by visiting their most expressive inhabitants- the grapevines that overlook these beach vistas, listen to the waves crash, and taste of the sea. The dramatic Ligurian coast seems to jump straight out of the Med into rugged mountains… Le Marche is the jewel of the warm, bountiful and downright captivating Adriatic Sea… and the volcanic island of Ischia, Campania, has views and flavors akin to a tropical paradise.
BLURRED BORDERS WITH SLOVENIA
Wedged between Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, sits Slovenia. Warm air flows in from the Adriatic and meets and mixes with the cool air settling down from the Alps- a primo recipe for bumping acidity and fresh aromatics for these Friuli / Slovenian wines. This month we straddle this blurred border and showcase four fabulous producers (two from each side) that are recently turning heads with incredible wines with a true sense of place and culture.
In the Northeastern corner of Italy along the border of Slovenia, tucked into the convergence of the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, this region is renowned for producing the best white wines in the country. And here in Friuli, ‘white’ is a very loose term. More often it includes a rainbow of colors – from lemon green to straw, from marigold to orange, and from copper to pink. Aah, Friuli.
LOMBARDIA: LOTS’O’ LOVE FOR THE LAND OF LAGOS
It has been a hell of a year for the World, and especially Lombardy, the region in Italy hit hardest by Covid-19. This is our heartfelt shout out to our friends there, to the beautiful lives they live, and the exceptional wines they make.
SARDEGNA A LA ESPAÑOLA
Sardinia is a cultural melting pot with a pretty notable 400 years of Spanish reign. Most of Sardinia’s native grape varieties, (and there are a lot!) are not truly sprung-from-the-soil indigenous, but brought centuries ago, adapting to the island’s hot and dry sun-soaked climate. The Mediterranean diet loves these new-to-you native grapes, now Sardinian staples.
VALLE D’AOSTA: SUMMITING THE PEAKS OF ITALY
In the dizziest heights of the Northwest of Italy lies the skinny, steep glacial valley called the Valle d’Aosta. The Valley produces just a few thousand acres of vines, on the very highest vineyards on the European continent. The storybook Valle d’Aosta is a wonderment of white wines as energetic as glacial milk and reds as crunchy and light-bodied as snow.
CAMPANIA– A BIG GUN OF THE SOUTH FLEXING ITS VOLCANIC SOILS
The eyes of the wine world have always been drawn to the South of Italy – but this beautiful region is truly the source of the draw. If there were ever a place that I would call ground zero for my Italian Wine education and love, it is Campania. Proximity to the iconic volcanic landmark Etna is the key to these four fabulous wine’s success, by way of their unique soils
SIMPLY LAZIO. UNBRANDED, UNFETTERED.
Welcome to Lazio. You know, home to Rome? It is the strangest anomaly of an Italian region because it still lacks a true ‘brand identity – just look at its immediate neighbors and you’ll see what we mean. Thankfully, there are some native grape gems with fabulous potential to be picked out and followed closely: Bellone, Greco Moro, Cesanese… all gems of brand-less in-between, home-to-Rome Lazio, indeed.
ALL YOU NEED IS BUBBS. ALL YOU NEED IS BUBBS. ALL YOU NEED IS BUBBS. BUBBS IS ALL YOU NEED.
Italian sparkling wine is made in every region and in every style, though clearly we still only know it from the big three: Prosecco, Franciacorta and Lambrusco. But now, behold, we’re seeing more bubbly wines focused on varietal correctness from regional winemakers and their own local grapes. We present here to you four very different, but equally enjoyable bubbles for you to sip.
LOVE PINOT? LOVE SICILY!
The most common request I get as a Sommelier is “Can I try something from Italy that tastes like a Pinot?” And you know what… That’s one question I can say yes to without hesitation! Welcome to the Island of Sicily. There are tons of reasons that people have fallen for Pinot Noir as their favorite grape, and there are equally as many reasons to now make Sicily and it’s native grapes your new favorite as well.
PIEDMONT PICNIC: PART TWO
Two famous whites and two most almost famous reds
Pelaverga and Grignolino are two grapes that once played a bigger role amidst the rolling hills now dominated by Nebbiolo. Delightful as they are, and not without their respective fan clubs, they each have a long way to go before they can be considered amongst the greats in Piedmont and therefore, Italy. But, then again, everyone likes a good underdog story. This is ours.
PIEDMONT PICNIC PART ONE / 2×2
Piedmont is where it’s at. The cat’s meow of Italy, and Italian wine. Recognition for world class wines in this area is so many people’s gold standard, and clearly well deserved. But there is so much more to Piedmont than Nebbiolo. This Month we are featuring two of the “other” most famous local Piedmontese red grape varieties, equally important and delicious, as well as two white grapes that more people need to know about.
CRISP AND COMPLEX TEXTURES FROM SICILIAN HOTSPOTS
Sicily produces an insane amount of wine. The international reputation of its warm island soils can be credited to the big local red grape Calabrese, far more commonly known as Nero d’Avola. Long ago, however, it was the fortified wines of Marsala that first launched Sicily’s fame. For far too long the white wines of Sicily were overripe, inexpensive and reaching for an international audience. This is not the case today.
LIGURIA : CLINGING TO THE COASTLINE
The boomerang shaped Mediterranean boundary with waterfront property ranging from historic and rustic fishing villages to the ritz and romance of the Riviera. From the beach to vineyards is an intensely steep climb in most parts of Liguria, earning the region one of the very few in Italy with truly ‘heroic viticulture’ outside of the Alps. Here we honor and appreciate the Ligurian native Pigato, and check out what more is still to be discovered from this very special coastline.
MORE ITALIAN GRAPES IN CALIFORNIA, PLEASE.
A tribute to Seven % Solution and the movement to ‘celebrate and perpetuate varietal diversity in California.’ These four wines are from grape varieties that are absolutely perfect to be grown here in California: Garganega, Ruché, Frapatto, and Nego Amaro. These Italian wines will be different of course (different soils, climates, techniques) but that’s exactly the point. California wine is about to get really interesting.
SPRINGTIME IN THE DOLOMITES Part II: TRENTINO
Home to a few native grape varieties with seriously great promise, the small handful of top winemakers in this area are up against a very tough challenge: growth. Heavily influenced by large Co-op farming these particular larger-than-life producers are leading the charge to keep Trentino in a positive spotlight and inspire future generations to pick up wherever they leave off.
SPRINGTIME IN THE DOLOMITES Part I: ALTO ADIGE
The second you cross the into the Alto Adige, you may suspect that you have accidentally crossed into Austria. Here, more than anywhere else in Italy, is evidence that (over centuries) the invisible political line has been moved several times. And while April’s wines are not made from truly ‘indigenous’ Italian grape varieties, these grapes are no less important to the identity of this region.
An understated region which is finally becoming recognized for its wines – not too long ago the only claim to fame was a snazzy fish shaped bottle. These wines display the balance between the sea and the mountains, out of this world aromatics and the inspiration for our Bergamot namesake.
Coastal Campania is truly an unforgettable place to visit; as rugged as it is beautiful, as formidable as it is majestic. The combination of volcanic soils, the dramatic mediterranean coastline and the deliciously warm Southern Italian sunshine work their magic together to help make wines that have truly unique character.
CALABRIA – WELCOME TO THE WILD WEST
Rugged yet stunning wide open landscape, Mediterranean climate, prime location, mountainous terroir and the potential in native grape varieties. Also, the omnipresent influence of ‘Ndrangheta (serious old school organized crime. Seriously.) Followed by a signature slow pace of life. Calabria in this way is truly a world unto itself.
From ugly sweaters to decorations to cookie baking…the holidays aren’t about competition, right?! All four of these bottles are “perfect for every occasion” so at the very least you will be the guest who brought the best wine. But most important of all? Have a safe, beautiful, and bountiful holiday this year surrounded by those you love.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Even for those who’ve had the opportunity to dig much deeper into Italian wine, we expect these four wines might provide a few ‘wows’ and maybe even an excited ‘what the?’ They are meant to challenge as much as delight, and to create a sensorial memory that inspires a desire to learn and to try more.
THE FOUR CORNERS
These are our first wines out of the gate, from us to you. These wines have been chosen to remind you of all the goodness that Italy has to offer, a smattering of various styles and grape flavors. They are also your introduction (or refresher) to Kevin’s palate. Which is super fun and nerdy.