Finally, some consistent white wine weather (or just spring weather for the rest of us). As the mercury rises in New York, it means only one thing: it’s the perfect time for a lively, vivacious white. I decided to enjoy my weekend with Sartarelli 2014 Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico.
This wine was born in a region called Castelli di Jesi, arguably the best region for Italy’s Verdicchio grape. Situated around 1,000 feet above sea level where nothing blocks the cool sea breezes coming off the coast of Ancona, Sartarelli’s vineyards impart the estate’s wines with a rich minerality. This mineral core balances out the wines’ fruitiness and adds substantive structure. Despite the seemingly ideal landscape for Verdicchio, the talents of winemaker Alberto Mazzoni make Sartarelli wines something special. Dedicating Sartarelli entirely to Verdicchio, Mazzoni uses his experience with the ancient grape to create wines with a silky texture.
Like most of Sartarelli’s wines, this Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Classico is an easy starter wine and a real crowd-pleaser. And did I mention that this wine is under $18? Yes, this white is probably one of the best value wines we offer at IWM. I shared this with my friends and heard nothing but excellent reviews as we drank it with linguine and shellfish. Although it has powerful fruity aromatics, this Verdicchio is very well balanced and goes well with almost any food as its flavor will not overpower any dish. However, I will say we particularly enjoyed it with seafood. Its minerality and almost almondy finish just seemed to lend itself perfectly to mussels, clams, and linguine. I full-heartedly recommend keeping a few bottles (or cases) of this on-hand for the warm weather ahead.
Regardless of the season, day of the week, or time of day, sparkling wines are always appropriate, and when you pour Champagne, simple moments become a celebration! My fridge always has at least a few cold bottles on standby for those times. In my opinion, bubbles are the best way to awaken the palate, bringing a glassful of joy to whomever partakes. Today I highlight one of my favorite producers, Rober Coulon, who creates stunning wines that offer the best quality-to-price ratio I have yet to come across.
Situated in the prestigious area of La Montagne de Reims in Champagne lies the Coulon estate where eighth-generation farmers and winemakers Eric and Isabelle Coulon passionately craft Champagne. The vines grown here are almost equal parts Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, most of which derive from premier cru vineyards. Averaging 38 years of age, vines like this are a rarity in Champagne where older vines and their limited production are often considered a curse rather than a blessing. Using only wild yeasts, Roger Coulon produces a miniscule amount of Champagne each year. These special bubbles are some of the greatest values to be found while bringing a luxurious (and delicious) element to any occasion. These wines are perfect for gifts or just those afternoons or evenings when Champagne is required.
Bright, mineral-laden bubbles attack the palate and explode into a full bodied, rich and creamy mousse. Because of the percentage of reserve wine that is added to this cuvee, there are notes of toasted nuts and brioche wrapped in a blanket of citrus, stone fruit and pear; this wine is a great match with just a wide variety of antipasti, fish, poultry and even veal.
Made entirely of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, this floral and enchanting bubbly deceives its fans into thinking it is younger than it is. Bright zesty stone fruit mingles with white and purple floral notes while surprising the palate with a rich and powerful backbone that carries the wine into what feels like a never-ending finish. This Blanc de Noirs is superb with seafood and salty foods.
Pio Cesare 2004 Barolo $79.99
Summertime approaches, and with the nearly even currency conversion rate, now is the time to visit Italy. I’ve only been twice, but Italy is never far from my mind. I spend a lot of time there in my imagination, if not in my body, and I live vicariously from other people’s visits. For these reasons, I wanted to compile my travel posts in one easy to read compendium. If you’re going–and you should–I want you to enjoy yourself, and I want to add a touch of esoteric travel to your schedule.
My post on how to visit winemakers gets linked a lot by winemakers. While advice like make appointments, plan carefully and get an Italian cellphone may feel intuitive, my winemaker friends they’re shocked by how often simple visits go awry. All I can say is that going to wineries in Italy is nothing like going to wineries in Sonoma or Napa, where wine tourism is an accepted practice, and, indeed, it’s viewed as just another service that wineries offer. This is not the case in Italy, and this post gives you some essential information that will keep everyone from crying.
When I watched the film “The Trip to Italy,” and its paean to Italian food got me thinking about my favorite restaurants, mostly all in Tuscany (one is in Liguria), where I spent the most time. I made a brief list of my favorite dining experiences, with links to helpful webpages. All I can say is that if you have the opportunity to eat at any of these spots, you will be so happy. So, so happy.
Italians have a deep-seated sense of whimsy, and the things they do for fun are not necessarily the things we do for fun. You will not find amusement parks in Italy. You will, however, find three truffle museums and many sculpture parks. Going to Italy and not taking advantage of some of the more intensely Italian amusements is like going to Wisconsin and not eating bratwurst, going to Vermont and not enjoying maple syrup, or visiting New York City and not riding the subway. It’s counter-intuitive and silly. Here is my take on one Tuscan truffle museum, and here is a description of visiting a sculpture park, with links to a few others.
My best advice for visiting Italy, especially Rome, but, really, all of it is pretty simple: Get lost. Get lost in Rome. Ask when your town’s market day is, and visit it. Wander lonely as a cloud. Drink it all in, and let me know what you enjoy because, until I get to go back, I’m living through you.
We wine-lovers are always looking for value—those wines that give us the most bang for our bucks, or those superb bottles that should cost more than they do. I get asked about value a lot. Sometimes value is a wine that over-delivers on a relatively expensive price point, but other times it’s a wine doesn’t cost much yet still explodes on the palate.
Regardless of whether you’re a big-time collector or an enthusiastic novice, chances are you’ll sometimes want to drink a wine that’s easy and delicious. This kind of wine, the bottles that don’t require much thought often fit most neatly into the value category. Last week, I enjoyed two wines that fall into this easy-going value category: a Fiano from De Conciliis and a Nebbiolo from Renzo Seghesio. I expect these wines, favorites of IWM founder Sergio Esposito, will become your favorites too, once you give them a shot.
De Conciliis has long been an IWM staple. This estate produces a superb lineup of wines that includes a sparkler, whites and reds from Campania in the South of Italy. This Fiano offering is a bright, golden and complex white from along the Campania coast. Fiano, an ancient grape that for many years teetered on extinction, has made a resurgence thanks to producers like De Conciliis; this complex ’13 Fiano feels ready to burst with citrus fruits, honey, minerals, nuts and fresh, palate-cleansing acidity. Drink to 2020.
The Seghesio family has been producing wines in the Barolo region for more than a century—with a 100 years of experience I am not surprised that this estate has nailed down the intricacies of the Nebbiolo grape to produce some stellar wines. Seghesio’s Barolos are traditional, elegant and long lived, but they can be difficult to approach in their youth. That is why this Nebbiolo Langhe, sourced from the younger vines and refined in steel as opposed to oak, is such an important play. This Ruri Langhe Nebbiolo allows you a chance to appreciate the freshness and cherry fruit that Nebbiolo offers, but without the overwhelming tannins. It’s definitely a reward for those on a budget and for those without patience. Drink to 2022.
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