The first Wine Tasting of the Spring will be on Thursday April 6 at 6:30 as Stellina unveils a quintet of “Italian Gems”.
The evening starts off with a most unusual white wine from the northern Italian province of Piedmont, made from a grape type that nearly became extinct: the Timorasso. This particular Timorasso from La Colombera is considered one of Italy’s finest whites, and is produced by a father-daughter team with a long history in the region.
The tasting continues with a Sicilian red grown on the slopes of the active volcano Mount Etna. While many wine growers have given up because of the risks, Andrea Franchetti has recognized that it is the perfect place for growing indigenous grape types like Nerello Mascalese.
Also from the south is the elegant Bocca di Lupo from Tormaresca, “A pure expression of Aglianico”, the grape type used to make the legendary Taurasi, it is one of the finest wines of southern Italy.
The Nino Negri estate in northern Lombardy is home to an unusual variety of Nebbiolo. In the hands of their winemaker, named Italy’s Winemaker of the Year, it yields a rich concentrated version that is closer in style to an Amarone than a Barolo.
Finally we experience the best that Tuscany has to offer with the amazing Brunello from Fossacolle. Grown from a special clone of sangiovese in vineyards surrounding the hilltop town of Montalcino, it is epitome of Tuscan winemaking.
As per usual, the wines will be accompanied by selected antipasti and informative discussion from an industry representative.
Cost for the tasting is $35 per person. Reservations are required. Please call the restaurant to reserve for all special events.
TORMARESCA, BOCCA DI LUPO
COLOR: Deep ruby red.
AROMA: An intense and complex nose with successive notes of red fruit and dried fruit, spice, herbs, and balsamic sensations.
FLAVOR: An elegant wine with firm tannins, a very important structure, balance and a round texture, and a lengthy and persistent finish and aftertaste.
THE IDENTITY OF APULIAN AGLIANICO Bocca di Lupo is the spark that lit the enological dream of the Tormaresca estate. The desire to rediscover this noble and austere varietal by offering an authentic apulian interpretation drove Tormaresca’s project. A requalification program has been underway for the past fifteen years. Fully mature vines allow us to produce grapes with depth and therefore ideal for making wines with great aging potential and likely to evolve over time. Bocca di Lupo represents the culmination of years of hard work and research in achieving the style we desired when we initially began the Tormaresca experience in 1998.
The Wine Advocate 93 Points! –“A pure expression of Aglianico, the 2010 Castel del Monte Bocca di Lupo is one of the standout wines of Southern Italy. Tormaresca was among the first (maybe the first) to make top shelf Aglianico in Puglia and the 2010 vintage was especially favorable to late-ripening grape varieties like this. Fruit from the Bocca di Lupo vineyard matured slowly and steadily until the end of the growing season. Vito Palumbo and his winemaking team made some small but significant tweaks in the 2010 vintage, including greater quality control on the sorting table and more delicate destemming to lessen the varietal’s natural astringency. One-quarter of the wine sees new oak (French and Hungarian) for 20 months. The rest sees second- and third-year neutral barrel. The aromas are impressive with little touches of black licorice, tar and resin that add pretty contours to darkly extracted fruit. Bold cherry and toasted almond give depth and dimension. Tight tannins and bright acidity bode well for the wine’s aging potential. I need to make a special callout to Vito Palumbo, manager of Marchesi Antinori’s Puglia estate Tormaresca and “Mr. Puglia” in person. Few have championed the Puglia wine identity more articulately and more passionately than Vito Palumbo. Tuscany’s Antinori family invested in Puglia in 1999. This ground-breaking winery subsequently brought a wave of new investments and hot-climate winemaking technology to the boot of Italy. The Tormaresca experiment has not always been an easy one. Despite the many ups and downs (including difficult vintages), Vito continues to be an inspiration for the many new faces that are now blossoming in the wake of Tormaresca’s birth. “
RAVES FROM THE PRESS:
90 pts Wine Enthusiast, May 2016
94 pts. James Suckling, November 2015
An excellent Brunello for the vintage with dense concentration of fruit and loads of dried-berry, chocolate, mahogany and earth aromas and flavors. Needs time to soften but very structured for 2011. Better in 2017. -James Suckling
90 pts. Wine Spectator, September 2015
Rich, offering bright cherry, strawberry, peony and earth flavors. The tannins are aggressive, but nothing a little bottle age won’t resolve. Combines elegance and a little muscle. Best from 2018 through 2030. -Bruce Sanderson
93 pts. Wine Enthusiast, May 2015
“Aromas of stewed plum, wet earth, leather, game and an exhilarating whiff of menthol lead the nose. The vibrant palate shows great intensity, delivering juicy black cherry, crushed raspberry, licorice, tobacco and white pepper alongside chewy tannins and firm acidity. Drink after 2020.” -Kerin O’Keefe
94 pts. International Wine Report, March 2015
The Fossacolle is an absolutely striking effort in this vintage, impressing with its beautiful fresh character that is marked by dark cherries and plum along with spring florals, licorice and wet stony minerals which are beautifully layered in the glass. This medium to full-bodied Brunello is wrapped in a beautiful silky texture, showing excellent structure and balance with a lovely layer of underlying acidity. Today, the wine is quite appealing, but readers may want to allow this some additional bottle age as it will also improve with age. Best 2017-2030. -Joe D’Angelo
93 pts. Wine Advocate, February 2015
“Bursting with dark cherries from the start, the 2010 Brunello di Montalcino shows its youth, but also shows its aging potential. The wine seems excited and anxious to embark on a long evolutionary trajectory. I say that because of the inner vitality and energy that burns within this dark ruby-colored Brunello. The tannins are wound tight, nervous and require more time to soften. The fruit notes are prominent and fresh, but there’s enough licorice, herb and blue flower to count on emerging complexity. All these elements should line up smoothly in five years from now.” -Monica Larner
NINO NEGRI, LE TENSE SASELLA
Established in 1897, Nino Negri is the premier estate producing wine in the Valtellina DOCG in Italy’s Lombardy region. The estate specialty is Sfursat (“strained” or “forced”); a wine made from grapes harvested by trained pickers and dried for 100 days in the cool, dry, alpine air. This winemaking style combines the opulence of Amarone with the elegant complexity of Barolo. The success of Nino Negri is due largely to the efforts of winemaker Casimiro Maule who has worked at the estate since 1971, his entire professional life. In 2007, Casimiro was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Gambero Rosso, the magazine authority in Italian wine.
The star and primary varietal here is Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo. The variety has been cultivated in the area for over 1,000 years and all Valtellina DOCG wines must contain at least 90% Chiavennasca.
“Tense” means protected, because in 1600 the vines were guarded all year round to prevent anyone from causing damage to the grapes. “Le Tense” wine is made from 100% Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca) grapes from the sub-zone of Sassella. After vinification on their skins, short maceration and a brief stay in steel, 25% of the wine ages in large French oak 32-57 hectolitre casks for 20 months, and the rest in French and American barriques for 4 months before marketing.
92 pts- Vinous / Antonio Galloni – “The 2011 Valtellina Superiore Sassella Le Tense offers notable complexity and nuance. Sweet tobacco, menthol, licorice and dried fruits are all nicely lifted throughout. The 2011 was aged in 80% French oak and 20% cask, and the influence of the smaller barrels is felt in the wine’s contours and flavor profile, but is not intrusive at all, just another layer of nuance. This is a very pretty, classy Valtellina red from Negri.”
PASSOPISCIARO, NERELLO MASCALESE
93 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
An IGT Terre Siciliane wine, the 2012 Passopisciaro is 100% Nerello Mascalese aged in botte grande for 18 months. The wine opens to a light garnet hue that is characteristic of the grape and the hot vintage. This Etna grape can easily bleach out its color. The wine’s bouquet reveals volcanic tones of brimstone and ash with pretty contours of wild berry, cassis and blue flower. There’s a pretty sense of lift and buoyancy in the mouth thanks to the pure energy and intensity of its fruit. Despite the wine’s light color, this is a firecracker red in terms of its appeal to the nose and palate. (ML) (9/2015)
92 points Wine Enthusiast
Aromas of red berry, brimstone, white pepper, Mediterranean herb and a whiff of leather come together in the glass. The creamy palate offers wild strawberry, juicy cherry, cinnamon and savory herb alongside bright acidity and firm, polished tannins. It’s vibrant, with compelling tension. (4/2015)
A well-knit red, with a subtle vibrancy to the pure cherry and strawberry fruit and aromatic hints of anise, leather, graphite and sandalwood. Fine-grained tannins lend some grip to the juicy finish.
THE STORY BEHIND PASSOPISCIARO VINEYARDS
Before Andrea Franchetti visited Sicily in 2000, Mt. Etna’s profession winegrowing community had all but disbanded over the period between WWII and 1981. Commercial-scale viticulture could not overcome the cost of growing grapes in such an extreme terrain and climate, and the major 1981 and 1991/1992 eruptions of Mt. Etna were the ultimate disincentive to struggling growers from investing even further. However some vines of Carricante and Nerello Mascalese did remain viable on the terraces of Etna, even going back before 1900. Franchetti approached an owner of one neglected vineyard, and the owner settled for 1/5th his original asking price just to be rid of the property once-and-for-all.
Franchetti’s first Mt. Etna vintage came out of the 2001 with fruit grown on a rented vineyard of Nerello Mascalese at 1,000 meters. The resulting wine from the Nerello was too light for Franchetti’s preference, which typically leans towards more robust and extracted reds, so he supplemented the Nerello with another wine to produce 200 cases of a fuller-style red. Franchetti found that Nerello Mascalese often produced wines with notes of camphor and citrus that are the result of the volcanic lava soils, and the indigenous yeasts could prove temperamental. However just four harvests later, Franchetti’s relentlessly artistic personality fashioned a representation of Nerello M. that met Franchetti’s standards, stayed true to the typicity of the site, and even garnered some critical attention.
The true stroke of creativity followed in 2008 when Franchetti decided to embrace the contrade. Each contrada on Etna reflects one of the old feudal properties as laid out in the local land registry, and the early 2000’s had ushered in a growing trend of isolating vineyards and releasing the resulting wines as “contrada wines,” a designation intended to be similar to crus. By 2011, Passopisciaro released five single-vineyard bottlings from each contrada Franchetti works with: Rampante, Sciaranuova, Guardiola, Porcaria, and Chiappemacine. Today, these bottlings are named Contrada “G” or Contrada “S” to avoid confusion with the sites themselves.
Each of the contrade demonstrates remarkable complexity in terms of the Nerello Mascalese itself as the main grape of Mt. Etna, but perhaps more importantly for those who appreciate the nuances of terroir and the individual personality of each site. While the contrade can be considered in the same way as cru, each contrada is so vastly different, one could consider the contrada wines as extreme representations of what cru designations achieve. The extreme differences of vineyard sites are due to the ever-changing environment of a highly-active volcano. These distinctions are due to the various eruptions, spills and flows that result in five variables: soil minerals, grain size (sand, gravel, powder, and rock), altitude, individual lava flows, and irregular aspects.
LA COLOMBERA, TIMORASSO
La Colombera is a boutique, Piedmont winery located near Tortona, 78 km directly north of Genoa. It is owned by winemaker Piercarlo and daughter Elisa Semino. They grow indigenous grapes like Timorasso and Croatina for the distinctive and delicious wines reviewed here. In 2000 they began to resuscitate the old Timorasso variety, a rare white wine that improves with time in bottle and in 2006 produced their first wines from the variety. Derthona is a blend of four different vineyards within the 22 hectare La Colombera estate, all with southeast exposure. Altitudes range from 220 to 300 meters. Il Montino is a single vineyard cru from clay soils and a southeast exposure.
La Colombera 2012 Derthona Timorasso Colli Tortonesi ($28) 91 Minerals, lemon, and garden thyme show on the nose of this delicious, densely flavored wine. The flavors are rich with honeyed mandarin notes, yet the wine is exceedingly fresh and bright. Bracing acidity and lingering fruit extract show on the finish. Fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees for 9 months with weekly battonage. The winery recommends aging this wine, preferably for about five years.