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The 2012 Adalia Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG comes from vines planted at 350 meters above sea level to calcareous soils. The wine is composed of 40% Corvina, 40% Corvina Grossa, and 20% Rondinella. The vineyards are trellised, following the regionally specific system of pergola trentina. Grapes are selected and picked by hand in the first part of October, before naturally drying in a room known as a fruttaio, specifically designed to create the best environment for the grapes to lose moisture. In February, after 4 months in the fruttaio, the grapes are destemmed and gently pressed. Natural fermentation begins in oak casks and lasts for a month before malo spontaneously occurs. The wine is aged for 12 months in oak barrels before release.
The 2016 Ruvaln Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG from Adalia comes from vines 400 meters above sea level, planted to calcareous soils. The vines are planted in in the double pergola trentina trellising system, which gives the leaves the best exposure to the sun's rays, while keeping the grapes cool under a shady canopy. The Ruvaln is made up of 40% Corvina, 40% Corvina Grossa, and 20% Rondinella. The grapes are selected by hand in the first part of October and let to naturally dry for 3 months. At the beginning of February, the grapes are destemmed and gently pressed. Spontaneous fermentation begins in stainless steel, followed by malo. In the cellar, the wine ages in barrel for 24 months before release.
A while ago, my fiance filled me in on an interesting fact. Many of the grapes that go into the red wines of the Valpolicella DOC are named after the birds that eat them. Corvina is based on "corvo," which means "crow." Rondinella is based on "rondine," which means "swallow." The Adalia 2018 Laute is 35% Corvina, 35% Corvina Grossa, 20% Rondinella, 10% Molinara. The grapes are trellised in the regionally traditional pergola trentina system, allowing the leaves of the vines to catch optimum sunlight, while the grapes are shaded underneath their canopy. Fruit is picked by hand at the end of September, destemeed, and gently pressed. Fermentation begins with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel. The wine sees one week on the skins before malo. Aged in stainless before bottling. On the nose, the Laute shows red cherry, stripped tree bark, clove and pepper. The palate has juicy cherry and plum, coffee, and with cool green herbs. The mouthfeel is fresh, lush with it's fruit, and soft with it's tannin. David Hatzopoulos
The Adalia 2018 Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore Balt comes from a blend of the regions traditional red grapes. Composed of 35% Corvina, 35% Corvina Grossa, 20% Rondinella and 10% Molinara from vineyards planted to calcareous soils at 300 meters above sea level. Like all of the Adalia wines, the vines are set up in the double pergola trentina system, allowing the leaves to obtain as much sunlight as possible, while shielding the fruit below the canopy. The grapes are picked by hand in the second half of October, before being destemmed and gently pressed. Fermentation begins with native yeasts in stainless steel. Maceration on the skins lasts for approximately one week. At the end of February, the wine is then "passed over" the skins of the dried Amarone grapes for 7-10 days. Aging is done in oak barrels for 18 months, where secondary fermentation finishes before bottling. On the nose, the wine has plummy dark fruit, with cherries and herbs. There is a hint of raisin. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied, with cherry and earth on the palate. David Hatzopoulos
Beginning with Auosnia's pied de cuve, new grapes are added and kept to ferment for 15 days on the skins before wine is pressed off. This is the same procedure for Ausonia's more fundamental Apollo bottling. However, in this case, aging is done in amphora. One vessel is 8 hectolitres and one is a smaller 2 hectolitres. This lasts 12 months before the wine is bottled unfiltered and aged 6 more months in bottle. The color is black in the center with purple edges. Compared with Ausonia's standard Apollo, this wine shows much less fruit. It is more reserved. The wine's nose is soft, with notes of iron, tobacco, soy sauce, raw almonds and walnuts, and dried, savory red cherry. The palate has black cherry and a mix of warm herbs. In structure, the wine displays a soft texture of well-integrated tannins and medium acidity. David Hatzopoulos
From guyot trained Montepulciano vines planted to clay and limestone soils. Picked by hand in the first half of October. Primary fermentation begins with skin contact for 15 days in stainless steel tanks before malo. Wine is bottled unfiltered. Against my white notebook paper, the wine has a core of very dark purple, with a lighter shade around the rim. The nose is a blast, packed full of an array of fruits and earth. Fragrant aromas of summer peach, strawberry, and cherry create a lush base for more subtle accents of sun-dried tomato and loamy, cool earth. On the palate, there is plummy dark fruit and red cherry, with a touch of dark mineral zest. The wine is tannic, a touch more so than I anticipated, with good grip balanced by medium acidity. If you're looking for a new house red, this bottle from Ausonia could very well be your answer. Lots of flavor, structured but drinkable, and under $20. David Hatzopoulos
From guyot trained Montelpulciano vines planted in clay and limestone soils. Fruit is picked by hand in the beginning of October. A portion of the wine macerates for 5-6 days to get color and structure. Alcoholic fermentation begins spontaneously in stainless steel tanks, followed by malo. The wine is a shade of deep cherry, reflecting the flavors and structure of this fantastic rosato. On the nose, there are full aromas of strawberry, cherry, raspberry and a hint of mocha. The palate has similar flavors of mixed red berries, with an additional accent of wild herbs. A touch of acidity freshens the wine's full texture. On the first day I had the bottle open, the wine was gentle with a soft richness. On the second day, the wine became pleasantly juicy. An expressive, flavorful, but thirst-quenching member of the Ausonia lineup. David Hatzopoulos
This is one of my favorite Rosatos which I look forward to every year. It's from Faro in Sicily - north of Etna, in fact almost at the very north-east tip of Sicily, in a spectacular vineyard above the sea. Because it's the same grapes as Etna (Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, + the local Noccera) you get some of the same sensations, but Faro has much sandier soils, and the wine is more fruit-forward, strong on cranberry and raspberry. Fairly dark in color, this is incredibly adaptable with food - no shy, watery Provencal wannabe, but with real depth, even at 11.5% alcohol, so easy drinking, with gravitas. Jamie Wolff
A blend of Nerello Mascalese grapes taken from each of Cornelissen's single vineyards; the vines are over 60 years old. 12,000 bottles produced.
The COS 2019 Frappato comes from the certified organic vineyards of one of Sicily's most recognizable and acclaimed producers. The 15 year old vines are planted to level vineyards, 300 meters above sea level. The soil in this area of Vittoria, on the islands southern edge, is mostly red sand of limestone and silica. The fruit is picked by hand before moving to the cellar for a natural fermentation on the skins in concrete. The wine ages for nine months in concrete and three more in bottle before release. For a Frappato, the COS '19 is rather deep in hue. The nose is full of freshly picked and sliced cherries and strawberries. Flavors on the palate are similar to the wine's aromas, displayed in a juicy, barely tannic (but still tannic) structure. Good acid and a dark mineral tone lend the wine a clean mouthfeel, full of freshness. A distinct expression of Frappato, definitely more pronounced than most others. Serve with a chill if you'd like. David Hatzopoulos
Il Fortunato aced it with their Rosato Spumante; another lively sparkler produced from organic vineyards with only a minimal addition of sulfur. The nose is playful with a mix of bright berry fruits and fresh red cherries cut by tart apple skins. On the palate, a delicate mousse lifts the wine showing some weight, great acidity, and just touch of sugar. Absolutely lovely! Pair with charcuterie, simple pasta, or simply drink on its own. Andy Paynter
The nose on La Visciola's 2015 Priore Superiore brings a warm wood shop to mind. Fresh resin, smoke, pine and candle wax. Additionally, there are airier aromas of dark flowers, clove, mint, and even a hint of something savory, like paprika. The palate is generous, with low acidity and a plush softness structured by imposing tannin. Displayed are flavors of deep red cherry fruit, pine, birch, and turned earth. The color of the wine is rustic, balancing between it's dark red core and clear mahogany edges. One of the most soothing Cesanese wines I've tasted, combining power with a certain mature, tempered character. Drinking great right now. David Hatzopoulos
Making Aglianico in a fresh, food-friendly style is not easy; in so many wines ripeness takes over, resulting in a charmless,“hot” wine that tastes of alcohol and roasted fruit. Messer Oto* avoids these pitfalls and showcases Aglianico's ability to carry lifted flavors of brambly fruit and smokey minerals. This is very dry but with some rich black fruit, ripe tannins, and plenty of peppery nuance and complexity; bright acid provides balance and makes this a very versatile food wine to accompany anything from grilled salmon or chicken to burgers or richer stews. *There is a fine public fountain in the Vulture town of Venosa which dates to the 1300s and which is named for a “Messer Oto,” who must have been a local boss of the day.
Marco Merli left a career as a fashion designer to focus his energy on a small, 7 hectare farm that his father owned in Umbria. He quickly moved towards organic farming, and there is no sulfur used whatsoever. The Zeridibabo rosato comes from a .7 hectare parcel of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Ciliegiolo grown on clay and limestone. The vines range from 15 to 45 years of age.The nose is full of red fruit, with pomegranate, raspberry, red currants, red apple, red apple peel, and currant leaves. On the palate the Zeridibabo shows a hint of a bitter edge, with blood orange zest and a touch of an herbal presence to compliment the luscious red fruit of the nose. Very enjoyable, this wine was delicious on its own, though would also stand up very well to lighter summer fare. Oskar Kostecki
2017 was a much riper vintage than 2016, and this wine shows it. Francesco added a tiny bit of sulfur just at bottling. The nose opens with notes of plum, a hint of prune, dark forest fruit, stewed raspberry and blackberry, dried cherry, grape jam (a high quality one), baking spice, nutmeg, and a hint of forest undergrowth. The palate is juicy, still with a lot of energy and acidity to retain balance. Though lacking some of the subtlety and fascination of the 2016 vintage at the moment, it may be best to hold for a year or two, as I feel this will be a wonderful wine with some time to settle. That being said, there is no harm in opening it now, and indeed at a recent tasting some folks preferred the more forward aspects of the 2017. Oskar Kostecki
Wow. Full-bodied and full-blooded, this Primitivo is an intense and profound example of this variety. As with the 2017 Negroamaro, Francesco added a small amount of sulfur at bottling. The nose shows notes of red currants, black currants, black cherries, raspberry preserve, plums, raspberry leaves, cedar, dried herbs, and a hint of earthiness. On the palate there is a similar mélange of red and black fruit, with a hint of dried fruit and raisin. The wine has prominent tannins and quite warming alcohol, though with good acidity and still some modicum of freshness and lift. A serious wine. A bit edgy at the moment, this will perhaps be best in 3-5 years, though if enjoyed now, give a decant of an hour or more. Oskar Kostecki
From a one hectare site of 120 year-old vines planted on the slopes of Mount Etna, this is volcanic wine at its best. The nose opens with a lovely bouquet of ripe raspberry and overripe strawberry, red currant, macerated cherry, deep red forest fruits, and dried orange peel. There are hints of nutmeg and other pungent spices, sage, thyme, and a hint of something green, perhaps tomato vine. On the palate it is medium bodied, with bright acidity and medium but soft, very finely integrated tannins. The palate introduces more citrus (blood orange) and pomegranate on top of the red fruit. The volcanic minerality really shines here, melding the fruit and herbal notes with ash and smoke. There is beautiful grip and intensity on the palate, which leads to an incredibly long finish. Paired perfectly with grilled sausages, but this is a very versatile food wine. Drink now with an hour's decant, this will continue improving for the next 10+ years. Oskar Kostecki
This white comes from some of the oldest vines in Italy, most being over 100 years old, and some almost 300. Monte di Grazie was started by a doctor in 2004 in the town of Tramonti, high up in the Lattari Mountains of Campania. The wine consists of 40% Ginestra, 40% Biancatenera, and 20% Pepella, from volcanic soils. The grapes are destemmed before pressing, and fermentation occurs naturally in stainless steel. The wine spends 6 months aging in stainless before bottling.
Sisma bottles come from a single vineyard in the crater of the Monte Rosso cone at the base of Mount Etna. The 2016 vintage conditions were excellent; it had the appropriate amount of sun and rain, all at the right times. This led to perfect fruit maturation. The nose offers wild fruit (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry) with pepper and spice. The palate offers flavors of plum (and plum peel), Provençal herbs, and pepper. There is a plush tannic framework – engaging but far from mouth-drying. David Hatzopoulos
In addition to farming their two hectares, the Monterosso team sources organically-farmed Nerello Mascalese for their Volcano bottling. The 2017 vintage was hot and had very little rain, resulting in an extremely small harvest. Grapes were picked two weeks earlier to ensure freshness. The wine is bold and robust. The fruit on the nose is dark (blackberry, cherry), with a hint of amaro-like aromas and smoky earth. The palate has a character of bitter and herbaceous red/black fruit and savory cured meats. David Hatzopoulos
The Lagnusa Nero d’Avola vines ranging in age from 20-50 years old, and they give the wine remarkable depth and complexity. It has an opulent, silky texture, but it’s also a juicy and racy wine, with intense red cherry fruit, herbs like mint and thyme, and a hauntingly long stony finish. This shows the quality of much more expensive wine, and it’s full-on competition for the best Nero d’Avola from Vittoria and Pachino.
Sourced from 50 year-old vines trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically, this is a more profound expression of the grape Schiava than one usually finds. The wine is fermented with 30% stem inclusion and macerates for 6 weeks in large conical vats followed by elevage in old oak and cement tank for 10 months. 2015 was a warmer year, and the wine shows more exuberance than previous vintages. The nose is full of dark cherry, ripe plums, plum skin, dark wild forest fruit, violets, cracked black pepper, and blackcurrant leaf (my original note reads: "smells like a pristine forest"). The palate introduces more red fruit: raspberry and cherry. The wine has great verve and acidity, with medium tannins that are quite soft and well integrated. Well-rounded and well-balanced, this is at a great moment now, showing a bit of development, yet still retaining nice primary elements. Very giving, yet relaxed. An engaging food wine, that has the ability to pair with a wide range of dishes. One of my first choices for Thanksgiving dinner. Oskar Kostecki
The Allegracore bottling from Romeo del Castello is from the younger part of their vineyard, planted in 2004. An elegant and approachable Etna Rosso, it has been a Chambers Street favorite since the 2009 vintage! 2017 was a hot year in Sicily, but the wine is very balanced thanks to an earlier harvest and aging in stainless steel. A blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappucio, though from my understanding, primarily Mascalese. Chiara says that in the past Cappucio was use more to give color and boldness, while the structure comes from the Mascalese. -EL
Vittorio Savino, owner of Fenicotteri, joined Foti’s small association of producers called i Vigneri (some of whose wines from Mt. Etna we always have on our shelves). I Vigneri offers unparalleled expertise in every aspect of viticulture and production (including the services of Ciccio, the group’s mule). Foti’s work at Gulfi, and his knowledge derived from the vines in Pachino must have been very valuable when trying to restore a vineyard that’s virtually on the shore of the lagoon. The farming is impeccable (only copper and sulfur and sheep manure are used on the bush-trained vines) but it’s the location that brings an incredibly compelling mineral and saline lift to the wine. Called Fenicotteri (flamingo, in Italian) after the migratory flamingoes who visit the lagoon next to the vineyard. JW Firmly medium-bodied, the 2015 shows beautiful notes of black cherry, blackberries, black currant, raspberry jam, a hint of leather, cut hay, cocoa, coffee grinds, with hints of black pepper and a black olive brininess. Well integrated and soft, but quite present tannins and medium acidity. Wonderful complexity which just keeps unfolding the longer the wine is open. There is a certain plushness, without anything extravagant. This wine is very compelling all the way through the bottle. Oskar Kostecki
This is the second vintage of Terraquila Falconero Zero that I've been able to taste. Less earthy funk than the 2017, but full of the same dried fruits and herbal tonic essence. On the nose, there are dark flowers, raisins, dried cherries and blueberries. On the palate, the wine has flavors of crushed dark stones, plum peel, a touch of licorice, quinine and clove, all rounded out with savory black cherry. What I like most about the Falconero Zero is that it has a blanket of dense, firm bubbles initially, but when the carbonation softens, a wonderful mouthfeel follows. Its as dry as dry can be, fitting perfectly with the wine's slight bitterness. Paired with homemade caponata and a marathon of Michael Douglas movies... a Sunday that'll be hard to beat. David Hatzopoulos
In Emilia-Romagna, Terraquila creates red méthode ancestrale sparklings from organic Lambrusco Grasparossa. Aromatically, the wine offers roasted coffee and dark forest fruit, with a touch of barnyard and earth. Similarly, the palate is full of burly flavors like smoke, plum, raw herbs, and espresso. David Hatzopoulos
Tasting Vinica’s Tintilia makes me wonder how this grape ever fell out of favor in Molise in the first place. It seems particularly well adapted to the high altitude vineyards of the region, showing a balance between ripe fruit and fresh acidity. The grapes are crushed at low pressure and allowed to ferment naturally in open top vessels before being held in steel tanks for two years. There is no temperature control at any point, which allows malolactic fermentation to occur naturally over time. The wine has a pleasant herbal tone of green pepper that peaks out on the nose over tart berry fruit, red roses, and moist earth. The palate is quite fresh and marked by bright acidity and soft tannins with a pleasant, earthy finish. This may not be a wine to cellar for ten years but it is a wine that casually conveys a sense of joy and is a carefree food pairing choice. Give it a try with rich pasta dishes, roast pork, stuffed mushrooms or open it at your next summer barbeque. Andy Paynter