Just four days after the first day of spring, on Thursday March 24 at 6:30, we celebrate this new season with our Primavera Italiana Wine Tasting. It’s another opportunity to try some of the more exciting wines from Italy, five little-known gems that have been unearthed by our General Manager Luis Herrera.

Many of our patrons already know the taste of the sparkling wine known as Prosecco. But the Contratto “Millesimato” is another thing entirely. Vinified Extra Dry, it more closely resembles a vintage French Brut Champagne.

The Tuscan winery Fattoria dei Barbi is world famous for their Brunello di Montalcino. But connoisseurs know that their Morellino di Scansano is one of the province’s little secrets, a blend of native Sangiovese and Merlot.

Tuscany’s neighboring state, Umbria, is the home to unquestionable the finest example of Italian Pinot Noir, aka Pinot Nero, that we have ever tasted. Grown in vineyards over 1300 feet above sea level, it’s flavor fairly explodes with flowers and fruit.

Luis has found a special bottling of one of Italy’s most uniquely Mediterranean white wines, the Lugana from Lombardy.. With hints of almonds and flowers, it’s a wine you can drink anytime, anyplace.

Perhaps the most exciting find is a single-vineyard Barbera from a winemaker best known for making legendary Barbaresco. Most Barberas are delicious, straightforward, fruity red wines. But here is a unusually complex version made from 60 year old vines, with hidden depth of flavor. More similar to a Nebbiolo than a Barbera.

This wine tasting includes complementary antipasti and informative commentary from an industry representative.

Price per person is $29, which includes all food and wine. Our last wine tasting was a sell-out, so interested parties are encouraged to call soon for reservations.


Contratto was founded in 1867 in Canelli, the heart of a prestigious wine producing area. The company always had a reputation as one of Italy’s premier Brut sparkling wine producers, actually given the nickname, “the Spumantaio”, by connoisseurs. In time it acquired a select number of vineyards in Cerequio and other renowned areas in and around Alba and Gavi.

In January 1994 the historic company was taken over by Distilleria Bocchino, another famous Piemontese producer, mainly renowned for its liqueurs made from grapepips, and in particular the grappa obtained from Moscato grapepips which results in an aromatic and widely appreciated liqueur.

The two companies are now run by Carlo and Antonella Bocchino, the fourth generation of grappa makers intent on making the best: their bottles must be first class and they impose a thorough selection process starting with the choice of vineyards and vines. The brother – sister duo have now decided to focus their attention on a small range of historic wines, limited to a highly selective estate production.

TASTING NOTES: A wonderfully stylish and savory sparkling wine with dominant pinot characteristics. Scented with fragrant notes of flowers, berries, cherries and fresh bakery yeasts, it’s backed by meaty, nutty and creamy complexity with underlying notes of cinnamon. Medium to full-bodied, it’s round and generous, with a smooth, vinous presence extending all down the palate. Very sophisticated and elegant, it’s underpinned by a refined extract that provides a restrained sense of length.

REVIEW Vinous / Antonio Galloni – “What a pleasure it is to see the 2010 Metodo Classico Millesimato, a wine I first tasted during dosage trials last year. In my opinion, this is the first wine that shows where Contratto is headed. A blend of old-vine Pinot and Chardonnay, the 2010 graces the palate with green pear, flowers, mint and white pepper. The flavors are dry, brisk and bracing, but there is also plenty of depth and texture in the glass. This is a fabulous showing.”
:JAMES SUCKLING: 92 points   A dense and rich style of sparkling wine, yet remians agile and bright. Dry and long, 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay.
Four generations of the Dal Cero family have worked at Ca dei Frati (the “house of friars”) since acquiring the estate in 1940. The winery is located on the south banks of Lake Garda, near the Sirmione peninsula, and beneficiates from the lake’s influence. The prevailing wind and mild climate contributes to the production of high quality wines despite the flatness of the land. With 150 hectares of vineyards (all of them hand harvested!), Ca dei Frati is the most important winery in Lugana. The predominantly clay soil provide all of the grapes used in the production. The focus of the estate is the local Trebbiano-based Lugana. At Ca dei Frati, Lugana is interpreted in a variety of styles, some innovative and some traditional, all however, true to the spirit of the region and its proud wine heritage. The wines are elegant in structure with a hint of wildness and are unique for their concentration, complexity, and expressivenes

Lugana I Frati
100% Lugana (Trebbiano).
Sourced from I Frati – Sirmione San Rocco – Pozzolengo Ronchedone – Desenzano del Garda La Tür – Desenzano del Garda Rovizza Alta – Peschiera del Garda, all on chalky clay soils. Fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel. 80% Malolactic fermentation in stainless steel. Aged on the lees for 6 months in tank, followed by 3 months bottle aging prior to release.
This is Ca Dei Frati’s flagship wine which has made their reputation, and continues to represent the image of the winery. Its production reflects the value they place on local traditions and practices. It is made from grapes grown on 10 to 35 year old vines, planted on calcareous and clay soil.
TASTING NOTES: The nose is clean, delicate and fragrant, with perfumes of fresh white flowers and nettles, apricots and almonds. An attractive acidity gives it an elegant finish and makes it particularly easy to drink. It is a perfect match for cold starters, vegetable soups and steamed or grilled fish. It ages well and acquires after several years in bottle notes of spices and candied fruit, as well as complexity.WEBSITE VINO IN LOVE TASTING NOTES: I Frati is produced with 100% Turbiana grapes (as far as I know Turbiana is just a synonym for Trebbiano but there is a heavy debate among scientist whether Turbiana and Trebbiano are actually the same grape or not). Unlike its brother Brolettino, I Frati did not age in oak. Instead, the wine aged a few months in stainless steel tanks.In the glass, the wine had a pale yellow color. 13% was the label listed alcohol by volume. On the nose, there were intense aromas of lime, white flowers, almonds and green apple as well as soft aromas of candid fruits. In the mouth, I Frati is extremely smooth. The wine was refreshing, dry and crisp. I tasted apple and some minerals. The wine was well-balanced. I Frati had a medium-long finish. After every sip, I wanted to take another!____________________________________________________________________________FATTORIA DEI BARBI, MORELLINO DI SCANSANO (TUSCANY)Terroir: In 1997, Stefano Cinelli Colombini purchased an estate in Scansano, in Tuscany’s Maremma area, near the Tyrrhenian Sea coast, now called Vivaio dei Barbi. This 28-hectare (69-acre) property is planted to 20 hectares (50 acres) of which 16 hectares (40 acres) are Sangiovese and 4 hectares (10 acres) are Merlot. The estate sits on a hill, rising to 250 meters and enjoys a Mediterranean climate with long, sunny, bright days mitigated by cooler nights refreshed by the sea breeze. Soils here are stony and mixed with sand. Sangiovese from Maremma, locally called Morellino, tends to give wines that are well structured and balanced with soft tannins and lower acidity levels than in Montalcino.

Notes from the Winery: The surface planted in grapevines covers 28 hectares. All our vineyards at Scansano are set up for irrigation, which enables us to bring the grapes to the perfect degree of ripeness. Theoretically, the farm can produce 84 hectoliters of Morellino di Scansano DOCG per hectare, although we have never been able to get more than 50 hectoliters per hectare, even taking advantage of irrigation. We feel that the Maremma region can produce outstanding Sangiovese wines, but to attain this quality production has to be kept very low.

The regulations for making Morellino call for 85% of Sangiovese, locally called Morellino, and 15% of other varieties. We have added 15% of Merlot grapes, which gives our Morellino di Scansano an intense bouquet and pleasing roundness, without altering its distinguishing characteristics. The vineyards are situated on a hill 250 meters above sea level, facing the Tyrrhenian Sea, a detail that contributes to a perfect microclimate, with warm sunny days and cool nights, thanks to the sea breezes.

Morellino is ideal for well-seasoned meat dishes, roasts, the grilled wild boar meat typical of Mediterranean cooking, cured pork, and especially flavorful cheeses. This wine breaks the rules in its own way, since it is an excellent companion for fish soups and in general any type of fish cooked with spices and tomato sauce. In Italy, the major market is Tuscany, but consumption of Morellino is growing fast in other regions as well.

Vinification: The grapes undergo a pre-fermentation cold maceration (“cold-soak”), which consists of cooling the grapes at a temperature of 16°(60°F) in an anaerobic environment (under a CO2 blanket) to protect the must from oxidation. This non-alcoholic, aqueous extraction results in an increased color intensity and stability, softer astringency and tannins and more body and aromatics. After 48 hours, the temperature is raised and alcoholic fermentation begins, lasting 12 -13 days and temperatures reach 27°- 28°C (78 – 80°F) raised to 27°- 28°C. After racking and malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged in small-medium sized Slavonian oak barrels (225L – 15 hl) for six months.

Longevity: Drink now and up to 4 to 5 years from release of vintage.
Production: 5,000 cases (750×12)

Tasting Information

Ruby-red color with purple hues. Red berries, cherries, myrtle and notes of Mediterranean shrub. The palate is warm with soft, round tannins, fresh acidity and a touch of tobacco on the long finish.


Review Chicago Tribune: “Coming from a portion of Tuscany called the Maremma (with its own nickname of “the California of Italy” for its warm but gentle climate), Morellino is a take on sangiovese that heightens its cherry and tomato-y aromas, tones down its tannins and acidity (though, blessedly for food, hones them to a sharper sense) and accents the red fruit with graphite, minerals, tobacco leaf and dried herbs. It’s a very come-hither sangiovese, and the juicy finish just makes it more seductive.





FROM THE WINERY: This was the first Cru vineyard LA SPINETTA acquired for the production of Barbaresco, in 1995. The acquisition turned out to be one of the winery’s best investements, resulting in two fabolous wines Barbaresco Gallina and Barbera d’Alba Gallina – both very authentic expressions of this exceptional vineyard.

Shortly after the purchase of the vienyard, however, the Rivetti’s feared they had made a huge mistake. This is one of the many stories worth telling…

Giorgio Rivetti still remembers the event as if it were yesterday. It was November of 1995 and Giorgio heard that a portion of this famous vineyard was for sale. The opportunity to obtain a part of this vienyard was incredibly exciting for Giorgio, particularly since he had been waiting several years for the right moment to finally invest in an important piece of land. While he was certain that buying Gallina was the right decision, he had to rapidly convince his two brothers, who were much less excited and much more concerned about making such a substantial investement. Giorgio knew that he had very little time to decide as other parties were interested in the land as well, and so he pushed and persuaded his brothers until they finally agreed. Perhaps because he was so excited, perhaps because he had to convince his two siblings, or perhaps because it was winter, Giorgio had not paid much attention to verifying the grape variety planted in this Barbaresco vineyard. He recalled having asked the seller if the vines were all Nebbiolo at the notary signing, which the seller had confirmed, but words sometimes have very little meaning. In the spring of the following year, an unpleasant discovery was made. One and a half hectares of the five purchased were planted with Barbera and not Nebbiolo! Giorgio encountered a difficult meeting with his brothers, who obviously blamed him for having made this poor investment. Little did they imagine, however, that Barbera Gallina would turn out to be such an incredible wine…

Today the vines in Gallina are between 55 and 60 years old. The hillside, 270 meters (885 ft) above sea level, faces entirely south. The ground is primarily calcareous, typical for the Crus of Barbaresco. What really sets Gallina apart is the fullness, richness and fruitiness of the grapes. Both the Barbera and Nebbiolo wines are opulent and full-bodied, which when combined with aging in oak, result in extremely sexy and elegant wines with a fantastic aging potential.


Review from Vinous / Antonio Galloni -91 points “Deep, bright ruby-red. Blackberry, black cherry and chocolate on the nose; more oaky than the Ca’ di Pian bottlings. Very sweet, chocolatey and ripe but with lovely acidity energizing the middle palate. The oak element is more harmonious on the palate and back end than on the nose. Finishes lush, fine-grained and horizontal, with lovely building length. The percentage of new oak has been cut dramatically for this wine in recent years, according to Giorgio Rivetti: the 2009 version was aged in 50% new oak and prior to that year it was done entirely in new barriques. The crop level here was a very low 30 hectoliters per hectare, according to Rivetti.”
FROM THE WINERY: The ten acres (four hectares) of Pinot Noir vineyards at the Castello della Sala estate are located at some 1320 feet (400 meters) above soil level and are planted on Pliocene-era soils, calcareous, rich in marine fossils, and with sands of sedimentary origin. The wine was produced for the first time in 1988. The Castello della Sala is a fortress which dates from the 14th century and is situated approximaely ten miles (18 kilomters) from the city of Orvieto and was purchased by the Antinori family in the eyar 1940.
The 2013 Pinot Noir is perhaps one of the most expressive of recent years. A light garnet red in color, the nose recalls delicate aromas which range from spices to floral notes of violets and roses along with red berry fruit. The palate is supple and tasty with elegant tannins, silky and polished in texture, the finish long and balanced, the wine is already drinking well but is also endowed with a very important aging potential.
TASTING NOTES: Pure, expressive Pinot Nero fruit rests on a bed of violets and roses in this elegant, sophisticated wine that’s touched with notes of earth, underbrush and spice. Offering a tremendous inner perfume of red berries and floral notes, the palate of this ’13 Pinot Nero uncoils with a silky feel and the grip of velvety tannins, building to a sustained, satisfying finish. The grapes for this wine spend ten days macerating on the skins in stainless steel; then, they’re fermented in temperature-controlled barrels, followed by malolactic fermentation and aging for around eight months in barrique and another fifteen in bottle before release. Enjoyable now or years down the road, this Pinot Nero from Antinori is impressive.