Posted on | May 15, 2013 | Written by David Bertot | No Comments
Milestone wines are not easy to choose. They must possess a specific combination of personal meaning and unique qualities. They must speak to you both in what they represent and in how they taste. And they must, above all, be very special.
Last night my wife and I ate at one of our favorite restaurants we used to frequent when we lived in the West Village. Po, a landmark for Italian food, is postage-stamp-sized; it only seats about 30 diners and oozes charm. Our wine of choice was a bottle of Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello from the 2000 vintage. We were celebrating our second anniversary.
The wines of Aldo Conterno are special to both of us; we are huge fans of the freshness and vivacity they possess. I opened the Colonnello 2.5 hours before dining. The nose on this wine is a divine showing of peonies, roses, tar, and some red fruit displaying a classic and wonderful Aldo Conterno signature aroma. The flavors were complex; the wine’s pleasant, long finish was unmistakably the work of Aldo Conterno’s team.
The Colonnello vineyard lies on the Monforte border with Barolo. The soil composition contains a high percentage of sand giving the wine its signature aromatics and refined tannins. This bottle paired incredibly well with the entrée of Guinea hen served on top of fregula prepared with scallions, asparagus, and a drizzle of saba. The layers of fruit in the wine played well with the saba. Although mellowed out with age, the acid and tannins of the Barolo cut right through the crispy, fatty, salty skin of the Guinea hen. It was an absolutely delicious pairing. However you choose to celebrate a milestone, do choose your wine and company wisely. It’s worth it.
I’m already planning the third. A bottle of Granbussia 1996 sounds like it might be perfect.
Today I have chosen two 2011White Burgundies from Domaine Leflaive, a producer who probably needs no introduction as it represents the apex of its category. The thing that most people don’t realize is that, aside from their stellar Grand Crus, they produce wines that are outstanding values and some of the best examples of their appellations. Also a quick note on the 2011 vintage: some have deemed it to be a little difficult, but most of the wines that I have tasted from 2011 suggest that it’s a vintage for wine-lovers who prefer elegance and purity to power and saturation. The wines across the board have been spectacular, and Domaine Leflaive is no exception!
2011 marked the seventh year since Domaine Leflaive implemented biodynamic viticulture in their Macon Verze vineyards, and the results are absolutely stunning. The wine offers supple aromas of honeysuckle, orange blossom, citrus fruits and sweet apricot. It is intense with a somewhat rich palate for a Macon that gives very lively acidity harmonious balance and incredible length. This is a wine that can be enjoyed now in its youth or over the next 5-7 years.
An absolutely explosive nose that needs to be smelled to be believed, this Batard Montrachet offers layers and layers of aromas that unfold in your nose; mind-boggling scents of honey, pineapple, orange marmalade, and ripe apricot intertwine with crushed stone and hibiscus flowers. On the palate, it grips you with its almost oily opulent texture, liquid minerality, beautiful acidity and overall harmony. This is a mind-bending wine that is a joy to taste now, but will age effortlessly and gracefully and will bring many years of enjoyment
This wine is absolutely stunning in 2011, probably the best I have had since I first drank Le Volte. The Le Volte is the “business card” of Ornellaia, and it will open up your eyes to how strongly committed the estate is to producing high quality, delicious wines year after year. The 2011 is seamless from start to finish: the entry is rich and soft while the mid and back palate are fresh, complex yet forward and stylish, making for a tasty drink that I would imagine myself drinking this for the next 5 to 6 years, with steaks, chops, chicken and anything else that you can put on a grill!
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, located in Bolgheri, the hotbed for fine Super Tuscans, is an estate we know and love for the likes of Merlot sensation Masseto and the estate’s namesake Ornellaia. It is also an estate that can make a value wine of exceptional quality, as Le Volte demonstrates (under $30!). A blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, Le Volte is friendly and inviting, silky-smooth and delightful. All business cards should be as excellent as Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2011 Le Volte.
It’s spring and time for that ritual cleaning. I was helping my old client and now very good friend Bix clean out his cellar; basically, we were looking for wine he should be drinking. There was much to choose from—old Bordeaux, Barolos, Brunellos—you name it. But the one that jumped out at me was Montevertine’s Rosso 2003. I remember selling this to his many years ago. IWM doesn’t have anymore of the 2003 in stock, so I’m replacing it with the current 2010 Montevertine Rosso. On that same hunt in Bix’s cellar we thought it would be prudent to see how some of the big boys were drinking and we decided to keep it in the family–Le Pergole Torte 2008. Here’s to spring cleaning and finding forgotten treasures!
Montevertine Rosso 2010 $44.99
We both always enjoyed this wine but haven’t had this vintage in ages…we were rewarded—it still had plenty of fruit but the complexity and earthiness gave the wine an added dimension. It drank like old Brunello but with an elegance and grace that would make you think this wine was much, much more than that $30 bottle of Rosso that I sold to him all those years ago! The lesson learned is to keep a bottle or two of your simple table wines around—you may find that they are not so simple after all! IWM may be sold out of the 2003 that Bix and I enjoyed, but put some of these 2010 beauties in your cellar and forget about them for a few years. You’ll thank me.
We put it in a decanter and after two hours it started to blossom. Dark concentrated fruits with plenty of structure but with a fine elegance and balance that tells you that although it’s delicious now, this wine will be around evolving for another 15-20 years, no doubt! This tasting further illustrated how great the Sangiovese from Montevertine really is on all levels. Montevertine is truly one of the finest estates in Tuscany.
Lombardia is pretty well off, and it shows in the opulent, highly stylized wineries of its Franciacorta zone, the seat of the region’s sparkling production. These are not merely for the sake of appearance, however, as sparklers—and increasingly still wines— are taken quite seriously in this land where business is pleasure. Situated in the Po Valley’s center, Lombardia is bordered by Trentino–Alto Adige, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piemonte, and Switzerland.
While the majority of Italy’s sparklers are crafted through metodo charmat, a process that expedites production by eliminating secondary fermentation in bottle, Lombardia’s Franciacorta DOCG of the doesn’t. This region is a prolific producer of method champenoise sparkling wines crafted from Chardonnay (the most planted), Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco, all of which were likely introduced following phylloxera’s decimation of original plantings at the close of the nineteenth century. In fact, the traditional French paradigm is the only one permitted, an affiliation that its practitioners extend by employing French terms on the labels (with regard to both sweetness level and wine type). Franciacorta enjoys a distinctive microclimate, courtesy of the cooling breezes issuing from Lake Iseo that reduce the rate at which the grapes ripen, enabling them to maintain desirable acidity while realizing a more intense and complex flavor profile. In addition to its extensive work in the classico genre, Lombardia also produces Satèn (vinified exclusively from white grapes in a crémant style) and Pas Operé (without dosage) bottlings.
Sparklers also constitute a notable presence in Oltrepò Pavese’s diverse varietal community— the DOC, in fact, provides for a metodo classico spumante composed of 70% Pinot Nero. While Trebbiano is a regular, albeit rather unexceptional performer in several of Italy’s zones, it steps notably out of character in Lombardia’s Lugana zone, conveying a rather forward persona. This expression is attributed to the grape strain known as Trebbiano di Soave (referred to as Trebbiano di Lugana here). Other whites include those produced under the Terre di Franciacorta discipline, the majority of which realize a fairly full impression via barrique fermentation and aging; DOC demonstrate a penchant for working with Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. In the Oltrepò Pavese, Riesling—particularly the strain known as Renano—realizes strikingly aromatic versions.
These bottlings, in conjunction with a number of reds, have been emerging in demonstrative fashion, making their way through the sizable bulk production and validating Oltrepò Pavese’s inherent aptitude for quality wine production. Barbera and Bonarda (Croatina) are heading up the zone’s reinvention, realizing a distinct attitude shift in versions that flesh out the austere persona characterizing their early appearances. The two often work together, especially in Oltrepò Pavese’s Buttafuoco and Sangue di Giuda DOCs, where they are joined by Uva Rara, Ughetta, and Pinot Nero. Both may be vinified across wine’s stylistic spectrum (encompassing dry, sweet, still, and sparkling versions). Pinot Nero, however, is turning the most palates at present, finding the necessary support to maintain its delicate balance in Oltrèpo’s continental climate.
Valtellina, Lombardia’s other main DOC for reds, devotes itself to Piemonte’s Nebbiolo, which goes by the somewhat imposing name of Chiavennasca in this isolated area marked by high altitudes. As Valtellina enjoys a unique climatic makeup, Nebbiolo has been able to acclimate well, though most bottlings convey a character that is leaner and more graceful than their Piemonte counterparts. In order to produce a more concentrated offering, producers craft bottlings from partially dried Nebbiolo grapes. This strategy produces a glycerin-rich wine—designated by the term sforzato—that offers intense aromatics and a more savory character than that of an Amarone. Four principal vineyards, each of which operates under the DOCG designation, are regarded as delivering the zone’s premier expressions of Chiavennasca: Sassella, Grumello, Inferno, and Valgella.
Cuisine in Lombardia is quite rich, with lots of butter, cream, and lard. General staples include risotto, polenta, and rîs (rice), and regional salumi are quite numerous, often accompanied by schita, a kind of pancake made with water, flour, suet (fat) and milk. The city of Milano specializes in cotoletta alla Milanese and risotto allo zafferano or milanese, and Valtellina is noted for bresaola (air-dried beef) and sciatt, a savory cheese and grappa fritter. Some characteristic desserts of the region are preferita, a puff pastry layered with jam from the town of Broni (Pavia), and risumata, made by beating egg yolks with sugar and additing aromatic white wine.
Now that we’ve taken a tour of Lombardia, it’s time to enjoy some of the wines. Open a bottle and cheers to business, pleasure and the place where they meet.
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