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Monday, October 26, 2009

And you thought school was boring.

Yeah, we all would have had better grades if every 10:00am class started with 20 wines. Last week we intended Vinitaly in San Francisco, one of two PR campaign stops on Vinitaly's U.S. tour. This is sort of a marketing outreach that preludes Vinitaly in Verona in April, an event with 4200 exhibitors. That is not a typo, 4,200. This brief tasting was entitled Italian Wines for Today's America. We started off with several very nice Proseccos, presenting from the very simple (and enjoyable) classic single-dimension fun quaffing, to a more layered and nuanced one with five month Charmat ageing, and then a Ribolla Gialla Spumante, showing the low acid delicate side. A fat, almost Alsatian Pinot Gris followed, then a Marche Verdicchio with barrel ageing and a ripe 14.5%, again showing the diversity of styles and a fluid competence in execution (all of these below $20 retail). A couple of nice Chianti's followed, one with a touch of Merlot and an attractive $8 price point followed by a big, long maceration Toscana Sangiovese, textured while still retaining the high-strung nature of Sangiovese. Then La Togata Brunello 2004 (great, old-school low oak, high acid) then a blockbuster Amarone Riserva, full of juniper, blasamic notes, meat, all in balance and harmony with almost Bordeauxish tannins. Whew. - The point here is diversity, quality, depth, and QPR.
The second half focused on Sicily, and the details are too numerous but real eye openers where Corbera's superb Catarrato at $10ish and a wide variety of Nero d'Avolas and Nero blends again illustrating depth of price and quality. Wines of the Marche followed, and then the industry tasting followed that. In quaffing all of this Italian wine I was glad to see oak taking a step back and honest tannin remaining. The 2004 Brunello tasting was marred for me abused oak and lack of acid, these wines, mostly 2007 and 2008, seemed to be more centered with an honest identity. There were several highlights for me - particularly the Nero d'Avolas (which we still are dying to plant) and some of the more funky Southern reds like Salice Salento and some Uva de Troia. All in all, educational, enjoyable, and still being processed.

(Removed a long rant here about how bad the wholesale market is and how evil the hypocritical distributors and gatekeepers are with their mountains of Rombauer and Sonoma-Cutrer while they talk about too much oak. Suffice to say, out of about eighty good wines had last week, almost none are available in Sonoma or Napa counties. Sad, sad world. And, this affects us as a small producer as well.)

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