I just returned from a spectacular vacation in Italy. One of the more exciting moments of my trip was on the first leg of the journey. I planned on attending the 35 Enologica di Sagrantino in Montefalco, a tasting of Sagrantino. I love the wines of Umbria and, wanting to learn more about Sagrantino and the wonderful wines it produces, I took advantage that this tasting was being held during my time visiting to attend. I was also excited of the possibility of seeing the Paolo Bea Estate. Like many people I was introduced to the region and to Sagrantino through his wondrous biodynamic wines.
My friend Barbara, who runs a tour company based in Perugia, was able to call ahead of time for me and arrange a visit. Needles to say my visit to Antica Azienda Agricola Paolo Bea was amazing and unforgettable. We were met by Sergio, who has been working at the winery for over a decade. He was very apologetic because it turned out that on that day the bottling machine, which goes from producer to producer, happened to be available and they were in the process of bottling and corking wine. We got a tour of the new winery, which was planned and designed by Gianpiero, Paolo Bea’s son, who is in charge and, according to Paolo Bea, has taken the winery to the next level. All aspects of Gianpiero’s design take the wine into consideration and the winery was constructed with materials from the surrounding area that provide natural ventilation, humidity and temperature.
As we went from room to room and stared in awe at the various barrels both wood and steel, we got an opportunity to taste the grapes that were being dried to make Bea’s famous Passito, and as we walked further down to the cellar we heard the clinking of the bottling machine. We were also able to witness the entire family busy reaching for bottles of wine from the assembly belt and quickly but diligently place them in crates where they will rest for another two years or so. When we walked down to the final level, Gianpiero greeted us with his son and walked us through the rest of the cellar and the process.
After our tour of the cellar and watching the bottling process in action, we followed Sergio to a tasting room a few yards from the winery. There we sat down and I was able to taste through all of the Paolo Bea wines. All of them were spectacular.
Gianpiero stopped in again and we chatted about the wine and his philosophy; after about 10 – 15 minutes Paolo Bea himself walked in. I’m not really the kind of guy that follows sports and I didn’t understand why people would freak out when they saw their favorite athlete, actor or artist, but when I saw Paolo Bea walk in to greet us I felt goose-bumps. I stood up to shake his hand and everything I wanted to say to the man just went blank. I mumbled a few words and he gave me a hard handshake and a hug. I presented him with some coffee that I brought from Colombia just for this occasion.
We tasted the rest of his wines together. Both Paolo and Gianpiero grabbed a bottle and signed the label for me and gifted it—it felt like getting a rock star’s autograph. When I returned to New York, I nestled these bottles in the back of our wine fridge, where they will stay until I celebrate a very special occasion. I always say that there is no better way to taste a wine than to taste it with the person behind the wine. Not only did I have the opportunity to taste these wines at the source but also I was able to taste them with the people responsible for what’s in the bottle. After our tour and tasting it took me a few hours to come down from the excitement.
Maison Louis Jadot was founded in 1859, but the Jadot family started purchasing vineyards as early as 1826. Today the négociant house, under the guidance of Pierre-Henry Gagey, makes array of incredible wines numbering more than a 100 single cuvées and labels every year. Jacques Lardière, the domaine’s recently retired winemaker, understood that terrior is what makes Burgundy and Louis Jadot exceptional, and the estate’s commitment to terroir isn’t wavering.Jadot Ferret Pouilly Fuisse Tournant de Pouilly 2011 and Jadot Domaine des Heritiers Corton Charlemagne 2011 are two outstanding wines from the Jadot stable of exceptional wines. Jadot’s Pouilly Fuisse Tournant de Pouilly is one of the finest produced coming from the Domaine Ferret, renowned for the classification of Tête de Cru and Hors, and the Jadot Domaine des Heritiers Corton Charlemagne 2011 is a Grand Cru and a wine from a superb vintage. This amazing Corton Charlemagne comes from a unique terroir and is one of the most sought-after white wines in the world. These 2011 wines are classic Louis Jadot, the Burgundy house you can always depend on for high quality wines.
Offering a day-bright straw yellow color, this wine’s aromas are initially subtle but they open up with an array of wonderful scents of lime, citrus, touch of beeswax, floral notes, and toasted almonds. These aromatics lead into a palate of rich fruity flavors with noted minerality, all coupled with a long, intense and persistent finish. Deriving from a parcel situated in the northern part of Fuissé on the borders of the hamlet of Pouilly, the east-facing Tournant de Pouilly vineyard covers a hectare of gentle slope. This ’11 Pouilly Fuissé is a wine that will last a minimum of 10-15 years.
One of the most powerful white wines made anywhere in the world, this 2011 is all about power, richness, spicy, mineral laden, and intensely fruit. The Jadot Domaine des Heritiers Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 201 comes from one of the most prized appellation in all of Bugundy; this Corton Charlemagne is divided between the two villages Aloxe-Corton and Pernand-Vergelesses in the northern part of the Côte de Beaune, both with a south-southwest exposure. In fact, these vineyards are some of the oldest of the Louis Jadot holdings and date back to the nineteenth century. This gorgeous white Burgundy will age 10 to 20 years or more with ease.
I always enjoy tasting new releases of Rosso di Montalcino, not only because I enjoy Sangiovese, but also because they provide a bit of insight into how the Brunello di Montalcino for that particular producer is going to be in that specific vintage. The majority of Brunello producers make their Rosso from grapes that come from younger vines or grapes that don’t make the cut for the Brunello. Don’t let that keep you from picking up a bottle of Rosso, though. The best producers hold to extremely high standards making their Brunellos, and when you’re being that selective, even the Rosso will contain great juice. Rossos also aren’t aged as long before release, resulting in a wine that is meant to be consumed while you’re waiting for the Brunello to mature.
In superior vintages Rosso di Montalcino is a bargain, often costing a fraction of the price of the Brunello, and being qualitatively very high. 2012 is turning out to be one of those promising vintages. Over the weekend I tasted the 2012 Baricci Rosso di Montalcino at a friend’s going-away party in NYC. While most of the attendees were enjoying other beverages, a handful of us tasted this great Rosso. Baricci is a relatively small artisanal producer that crafts fantastic Sangiovese. This particular bottle was showing well with perceptible structure, nice tannins and balanced acidity, with classic flavors of dark cherries, tobacco, and spice. We had ordered a ton of pizza, which paired perfectly with this wine, with the cheese helping to balance the mouth-watering acidity.
Priced at under $30, this ’12 Rosso di Montalcino is definitely a go-to red for your casual weekday dinner or a weekend get together with friends.
Every day is a celebration, and any day is the right day to enjoy a bit of sparkle in the glass! Bubbly wines are not only for special occasions; rather, they turn “anytime” moments into celebrations. That said, the holidays are around the corner, and chances are you’ll need a few special bottles of bubbly. Each glass of bubbly has at least a million reasons to drink it anytime, so find a few bottles that you enjoy and pop away!
Sparkling wines are arguably the most versatile beverages in the world of wine. This category offers a wide range of flavors, color and sweetness – and in some circumstances, these bottles are great for cellar aging. Although there are many options to choose from, quality producers all share common threads: finesse and balance. Here are two favorites of mine that you can enjoy tonight or any time of year:
Many believe that Prosecco is always sweet, but that’s not true. Although there are varying degrees of sugar, some of our favorites reside in the dryer category, and one of them is Fantinel’s Brut Extra Dry. This lovely offering from the Valdobiadenne region in Veneto is a refreshing alternative, offering exceptional quality at an unbeatable price. Gentle apple and citrus flavors shine along with a clean, slate-like finish and a splash of minerality. This is a lovely wine to enjoy with a range of antipasti, raw bar favorites, or grilled seafood.
Andre Clouet Cuvee 1911 NV $99.99
Named after the number of bottles that Andre Clouet produced, this vibrant Champagne is blend of three vintages of Grand Cru Pinot Noir from Bouzy. This wine is full bodied and expressive, delivering a punch of bubbly power with finesse. The wine carries a mousse-like texture that’s backed with bracing acidity providing a nice, crisp “lift.” Food pairing possibilities are endless here! I prefer to enjoy with rich, salty bites that play with textures and contrasting flavors.
This week started with a whirlwind trip to Umbria and a look at undiscovered treasures in this much overlooked region. The week ended with a guide to toasting and to making every wine moment special. In between, we enjoyed Le Volte 2012, the under $30 wine from Bolgheri’s Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. All in all, it was very nice and remarkably informative–and it left us wanting to drink some wine.
Fortunately, our experts were ready with loads of suggestions. Garrett offered a pair of bottlings from cult Burgundy producer Lignier Michelot–and one’s just over $30. His brother Justin looked to Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, calling them “brothers from another mother,” and selecting a personal favorite for each grape. David Gwo stuck with the Umbria theme and picked two Sagrantino bottlings from icon Paolo Bea. And Robin Kelley O’Connor looked to Spain for inspiration, selecting a couple of bottles that express this country’s stunning range of winemaking.
Cheers to you on this long holiday weekend! We hope that wherever it takes you, you’re enjoying the company of people you love–and great wine, of course!
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