Since launching in April, we have been working hard to bring you more classic, native Italian varietals from exceptional family winemakers. During our last 2 tasting expeditions through 2 Italian wine regions we discovered 9 wines from 3 family winemakers that we proudly bring to you. The wines are on the water and destined for Northern California! Here is a short summary of the winemakers and their wines. Over the next few months we will highlight each winemaker and their families in more detail.
Village: Castiglione Falletto
Drive 163 km southwest of Milan and you will find Castiglione Falletto, in the heart of the Barolo. We met the Sobrero family on a cold March day, as the vineyards were receiving a dusting of pre-spring snow. Francesco Sobrero, grandfather of the current winemaker Flavio Sobrero, established the winery in 1940. Flavio and sisters, Francesca and Federica, carry on their grandfather’s tradition of producing a number of classic varietal wines from the Langhe sub-region in the Piedmont region. We have chosen to bring their Barolo Riserva “Pernanno”, Dolcetto d’Alba, and Moscato d’Asti over on this boat. Read more at www.sobrerofrancesco.it.
The Langhe is a wonderland of great Italian varietals. You need only drive 23 km northeast from the Barolo, and you are in the heart of the Barbaresco. We found Fontanabianca on a hillside near the picturesque village of Neive, where Aldo Pola and Bruno Ferro carry on the winemaking tradition of their fathers who founded the winery in 1969. Aldo and Bruno produce handcrafted wines that brilliantly capture the perfumes and elegance that is unique to this classic Italian terroir. This shipment will include their Barbaresco “Bordini”, Barbera d’Alba, and Langhe Arneis. Read more at www.fontanabianca.it.
I will always have fond memories of our expedition to the fabulous Abruzzo region (July 14 wine blog), and our meeting with Corrado De Angelis Corvi at his cantina outside the village of Controguerra. The rolling hills around Teramo, set against a backdrop of the Apennines to the west and the turquoise Adriatic to the east is nothing short of spectacular. It’s a grand stage for the vineyards of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Corrado has masterfully captured all the best characteristics of this noble terroir in his wines. We are very excited to introduce you to his Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Elevito”, named after his parents Elenora and Vito, along with the classics Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Read more at www.deangeliscorvi.it.
We feel very fortunate to have completed 2 expeditions in 3 months, added 9 wines and 3 producers to our family, visited 2 new regions, developed lifelong friendships with new families, tasted more great wines than I can count, and created many priceless memories.
I expect the new wines to be available at the end of September. Here’s hoping for favorable winds and calm seas! Cin cin!
Chi cerca trova….Seek and you shall find.
Beautiful landscapes! Great foods! Fabulous wines! Friendly people! That’s how I describe our most recent wine expedition to the Abruzzo region. The drive from Rome east on A24-A25 to the Abruzzo takes you through small, gorgeous valleys that are guarded by formidable mountains on the way to a turquoise Adriatic. My research of the Abruzzo prior to our trip, included references to how the combination of the Apennines to the west and the Adriatic to the east creates the perfect climatic conditions for grapes and olives. Indeed it does, and I would add “people” to that list. The rolling terrain is covered in a patchwork of vineyards and olive orchards. From our base we established at the Castello di Chiola in the picturesque hill town of Loreto Aprutino, it was a striking contrast to look 10 miles to the west at snowcapped mountains, and 10 miles east to the Adriatic Sea. Did I mention this was in June? Yes, snow capped mountains in the middle of June. Google “Gran Sasso” and you too will understand why there is snow in June—the peak is 9500 feet above sea level, which by the way, is only 30 miles west of the warm beaches near Montesilvano.
Did I mention the wines are fabulous? Shortly after checking into basecamp Chiola in the afternoon, we wandered a few cobblestones away to Ristorante Convivio where owner Adrianno reopened just for us and then proceeded to cook us a fantastic lunch (pranzo). I get some of my best wine recommendations from locals, and Adrianno was a rich source of advice and stories. He described how we were staying just a few steps away from the famous Montepulciano winemaker Valentini, who can count the Pope among his customers. And then there was Emidio Pepe who is legendary for producing wines that are all natural and “biologica” (biodynamic) to the point of crushing the grapes with bare feet. To pair with our lunch, I asked Adrianno for a recommendation from his cellar, and he quickly (and appropriately) asked, “What’s your budget?” I quickly replied that it was something far below that of the Vatican. He brought us a 2008 Masciarelli, and it was delicious. We tasted over a dozen different Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines over the nine days in Italy, and I soon came to realize that you can universally describe them as “floral and spicy on the nose, big and round in the mouth, with silky-soft tannins on the finish”. The low acidity, big fruit, and soft tannins make these friendly reds that pair easily with a wide range of foods.
As we met with producers over the days that followed, we came to love the other great wines from the region including Pecorino, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. The region’s proximity to the Adriatic means a rich choice of fresh seafood, which pairs well with the clean, crisp finish of the Trebbiano and the refreshing taste of the Cerasuolo. One of our best surprises was meeting Nicola Jasci of Jasci & Marchesani (Vasto) and tasting his Riesling. Italian Riesling? It’s absolutely delicious! Nicola’s Pecorino equally impressed and paired very well with our fresh fish lunch. Nicola’s mastery of his vineyards just west of the town was evident in his wines.
Seventy-six kilometers north of our base at Loreto Aprutino is the small town of Controguerra. The majority of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata); however Controguerra is located in a very small area known as Colline Teramane that was established in 1995 and promoted to D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in 2003.
It was here, a few kilometers outside of Controguerra that we met Corrado De Anglis Corvi, a noble man whose passion for his craft speaks to you the moment you shake his hand. As we walked his hillside vineyards of Montepulciano and Trebbiano vines, it was clear that his passion was deeply rooted with his reverence for the land. Corrado’s wines epitomize the best qualities and characteristics of what can be borne from this idyllic land and climate. His Montepulciano d’Abruzzo introduces itself with a big, floral and spicy nose. It lands on the palate with big, luscious fruit, and delivers a silky soft (morbido) finish that seems to go on and on. As big as this wine delivers, it is very friendly and approachable. The soft tannins and low acidity allow for a soft landing and smooth finish.
My images of the Abruzzo will include the incredibly diverse terrain, with its snow capped mountain tops, rolling hills of vineyards and orchards, and sandy beaches that are continually washed by the warm, turquoise waters of the Adriatic.
I will try to hold on, as long as possible, to the memories of the delicious local flavors our palates experienced while our eyes were drawn to ancient castles in hilltop towns and on cliffs overlooking the Adriatic, such as Castello Aragonese in Ortona. And, of course, I will remember the friendly, gracious people we met and hope to meet again soon. Their warmth and hospitality will live on in our stories. I am grateful to Leonardo, the General Manager of the Castello Chiola, for sharing a bottle (bottiglia) of Emedio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from his personal cellar. Molto grazie per la vostra ospitalita!
Oh, did I mention the wines are fabulous?
Join us for a four-course tasting menu featuring authentic specialties from Veneto.
Veneto is one of Italy’s northernmost regions, lying along the coast of the Adriatic sea. Its cooking has exotic and exciting influences from around the world. From seafood and livestock to produce, the Veneto cuisine is widely varied. Radicchio rosso, for example, is prized for its use in rice dishes, grilled as a vegetable, cooked into soups or eaten raw in salads.
Each course is paired with exclusive, handcrafted, native varietal wines from premier producers in the region including Paolo Zucchetto Prosecco from Valdobbiandene, and Fabio Corsi's Valpolicella of Le Marognole.
All wines are imported by Chigazola Merchants of Santa Rosa, and are presented by Ca'Bianca sommelier, Alessandra Diana.
Chigazola Merchants will also be present to answer any questions about these exceptional wines and the producers' heritage of making fine wines.
“You must have a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo!” I heard this from my friend Marco at Ca’Bianca, and from my producers and friends in Italy. I have enjoyed many native (“autoctono” in Italian) varietals including Montepulciano, but in the spirit of transparency, I am not well versed in all the wines of the Abruzzo region. So, it’s time I become versed and, more importantly, immersed! I sounded the travel alarm for the crew and told them we were going on another scouting expedition. Our target…the best Montepulciano d’Abruzzo we could find!
We haven’t left Sonoma wine country yet, but I already have an appointment with a producer in Vasto. I checked the winery bio, Italian reviews and press. Looks perfect. It helps to have a network of industry professionals in Italy who understand my passion and mission - to identify producers who craft exceptional wines from native varietals and have a long family history of growers and winemakers. I have started my research on the region, and I become more intrigued with every website I visit. The region’s history is rich with conquerors and emperors throughout ancient times waging war to rule the land. The Abruzzo region has expansive vineyards, hill towns, white sandy beaches, and, of course, the Apennines. (Stop! You had me at vineyards.)
There are three DOC wines in the region (Contro Guerra, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo, and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo) and one DOCG (Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane). The region is most known for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This big red is crafted primarily from the Montepulciano grape, although DOC regulations permit up to 15% Sangiovese. It is typically a dark, deeply violet colored wine, with low to moderate acidity, and characteristically soft tannins. While I am primarily looking for the red, I’m also looking forward to experiencing the whites in the region—Pecorino (no, not related to the cheese) and Trebbiano.
Andiamo! (Let’s go!) For those friends who may be interested, you can follow us on our expedition on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/ChigazolaMerchants.
Summer heat has arrived in Northern California wine country. It’s a 90 °F afternoon and a glass of chilled Prosecco is sounding pretty good right now. The question is which bottle of Paolo Zucchetto to open. The Grand Cru of Prosecco, the Cartizze, is really elegant. Great fruit with a smooth, creamy finish. The Extra Dry I would never turn down if it were offered. With its slight residual sugar, it’s very friendly and always a welcome sight with our friends.
However, on this hot afternoon I want that bone dry, clean finish that the Puro-Fol delivers. The “pure what”? Follo, (or Fol as the locals call it) is a picturesque little town in the heart of the Prosecco region (Valdobbiadene County). Paolo Zucchetto’s Brut is a single vineyard designate sparkling wine, so pure follo grapes, or Puro-Fol. Winemaker Carlo has crafted this brut in the “zero dosage”, or zero sugar, style. Doesn’t get any drier than this! The mouth is fresh fruit with a nice acidity that delivers a crisp, clean finish. We decided to enjoy this in the shade of the back deck watching the afternoon sun begin to set. Slice up some chilled pears, strawberries, apples or your favorite fruit du jour, and you have what I would call a pretty good afternoon.
How do you make a great Ripasso? Start with the harvest of the classic Valpolicella varietals from Marano di Valpolicella—Corvina and Corvinone, Rondinella, Croatina, and Molinara. After harvest in autumn select grapes are chosen to make Amarone and Recioto through the “appassimento” method whereby the fruit is dried in wooden racks for nearly 100 days. The remaining fruit is immediately pressed and put through an initial fermentation to make Valpolicella Classico. In the February timeframe, the semi-dried grapes are then pressed and fermented with their skins to produce Amarone and Recioto. The skins are removed prior to placing the wine into wooden barrels for aging.
Get ready! This is where it gets interesting. The skins (lees) from the Amarone are reintroduced to the Valpolicella, and the wine undergoes a second fermentation, hence the term Ripasso, which means to “review” or “pass again”. The result is sweet cherry flavors of the Valpolicella with the firmness and complexity of the Amarone. You can see why this wine is sometimes referred to as a "baby Amarone".
While the exact origin of the ripasso style of winemaking is unclear, I have found references that date this "appassimento" method (drying grapes prior to pressing) back to ancient Greek and Roman times. What is clear is that this style of winemaking produces a truly unique and complex wine unlike any other.
Our Valpolicella producer, Fabio Corsi, has crafted an amazing Ripasso. I tasted it for the first time in Fabio’s cellar in Valgatara. My son, Tony, was along for this search; and on this day we were previewing all five of Fabio’s wines. In full disclosure, we had just toured his ancient, 16th century underground stone cellar where I imagined all the great wines aging over the centuries.
Ok, this may have influenced my tasting experience. After all, context makes a big difference when experiencing wine. We had started with Fabio’s Valpolicella Classico. It was just that—classic, with great cherry flavors balanced with soft, barely noticeable tannins Next, we moved to the Ripasso; and the moment Fabio poured it in my glass, the color grabbed my attention. Tony and I swirled, sipped, and swallowed at about the same time. We turned and looked at each other; and without uttering a sound, our eyes said it best, “We must have this wine!” My next thoughts went right to the Amarone. If the Ripasso was this fabulous, then the parent Amarone must be….! Let me give you a preview. It didn’t disappoint, but I will save that for another post.
Nestled between the villages of Saccol, Santo Stefano and San Pietro di Barbozza in Valdobbianene County, lies 106 hectares (260 acres) of the steepest hillside Prosecco (Glera) vineyards. Over 100 different families own and manage this vineyard known as the Cartizze, and the sparkling Prosecco that is produced from these prestigious vines is commonly referred to as the Grand Cru of Prosecco. The steep grade, unique soil, and ideal exposure produce Glera grapes of exceptional quality but limited quanity; consequently, a Cartizze will typically command a price 2-3 times that of another DOCG Prosecco. Cartizze Prosecco is known for its floral nose and hints of pear, apple, and apricot in the finish. Its characteristics make it a perfect aperitif before a meal or with sweet desserts at the end of a meal.
We are very proud to be the exclusive importer and distributor of Paolo Zucchetto Cartizze in the U.S. Winemaker Carlo Zucchetto has created an exceptional cru from the 2012 fruit that was harvested on September 15, 2012, and released on February 15, 2013. It is extremely well balanced; and the finish? Well, "simply elegant." We hope you enjoy!