We are very excited to welcome 3 new producers, (Sobrero, Fontanabianca, and De Angelis Corvi), to our family along with their exceptional wines. Our first shipment focused on classic wines from the Veneto region. These new arrivals represent classic native Italian varietals from the Piemonte (Barolo, Barbaresco) and Abruzzo (Montepulciano) regions, including our first whites (Arneis, Trebbiano) and a rosé (Cerasuolo). I suspect many of our followers will be unfamiliar with these wines, which is fine. Understanding wine is about continual learning; so don’t feel unworldly. It would be easy to write a page of descriptions on each wine, but I will attempt to summarize the characteristics of each and provide just enough of a description to peak your interest in trying these wines. Andiamo! (Let’s go!)
2006 Barolo Riserva Pernanno
Region: Piemonte Zone: DOCG Barolo
Varietal: Nebbiolo Style: Dry Red, Full Body
2006 was an exceptional vintage for this commune. This is a powerful, concentrated Barolo with bold fruit and exceptional balance. Appreciate it now, or cellar it 15-20 years. A great addition to a collector’s cellar. WS 92 Points
Give this wine a try if you like: a big California Cab.
2007 was a warmer growing season and produced a more easy-going and approachable Barolo with good fruit on the palate and a velvety finish. Very approachable now, but best in 5-10 years.
Give this wine a try if you like: California Cabs.
2012 Dolcetto d’Alba
Region: Piemonte Zone: DOC Alba
Varietal: Dolcetto Style: Dry Red, Medium-body
“The Little Sweet One”, a brightly colored red that is meant to be enjoyed right away and not aged. This is a “daily” wine with nice fruit and soft tannins. Drink it now.
Give this wine a try if you like: California Merlot
2012 Moscato d’Asti
Region: Piemonte Zone: DOCG Asti
Varietal: Moscato Style: Slightly sweet white
An effervescent white with a straw yellow color, floral nose with fresh fruits, apple and pear on the palate, and a slightly sweet finish. Drink as an aperitif or with dessert.
Give this wine a try if you like: Sweet Riesling.
2009 Barbaresco “Bordini”
Region: Piemonte Zone: DOCG Barbaresco
Varietal: Nebbiolo Style: Dry Red, Full-Bodied
A full-bodied, complex red from the Bordini cru brings intense floral perfume to the nose, red currents and plum to the palate, and a long elegant, spicy finish. Appreciate it now, or cellar for 15-20 years. WS 93 Points.
Give this wine a try if you like: Full-bodied Pinot Noir.
2010 Barbera d’Alba
Region: Piemonte Zone: DOC Barbaresc
Varietal: Barbera Style: Dry Red, Full-bodied
A full-bodied red that is complex, with fruity aromas, and delivers luscious plum, red currant and black cherry on the palate, and soft tannins on the finish. Enjoy it now.
Give this wine a try if you like: California Merlot.
2012 Langhe Arneis
Region: Piemonte Zone: DOC Barbaresco
Varietal: Arneis Style: Dry white, medium-bodied
A medium-bodied white that delivers a floral bouquet of fresh fruit on the nose, and a crisp, clean finish with hints of lemon. Enjoy this now.
Give this wine a try if you like: un-oaked Chardonnays.
2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Elevito”
Region: Abuzzo Zone: DOCG Colline Teramane
Varietal: Montepulciano Style: Dry Red, full-bodied
A big red with intensely dark ruby red color, complex aromas of ripe berries and spices, and a velvety soft landing on the palate with rich, ripe fruit flavors. Excellent now, but you can cellar this one 10-15 years.
Give this wine a try if you like: a big, California Merlot.
2012 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo
Region: Abruzzo Zone: DOC Superiore
Varietals: Trebbiano, Malvasia, Paserina
Style: Dry white
A medium-bodied white with straw yellow and golden hues that delivers floral and ripe apple notes to the nose. Balanced acidity allows for a soft, fruity landing on the palate with a clean finish. Enjoy now.
Give this wine a try if you like: un-oaked Chardonnay
2012 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
Region: Abruzzo Zone: DOC Superiore
Varietal: Montepulciano Style:Dry Rosé
A light-bodied rose with intense red cherry color that delivers delicate and elegant hints of berries on the nose, and rich fruit flavors on the palate. Enjoy now.
Give this wine a try if you like: a California Syrah Rosé.
We made our first trip to the Langhe in 2011 and while it has only been six months since our most recent visit, I felt a warm welcome back by friends made over the past two years. We return again, this time to welcome Sobrero Francesco in the Barolo, and Fontanabianca in the Barbaresco as new members of our family of producers, and to sample new vintages. Barolo and Barbaresco are two zones separated by only 10 kilometers, but when comparing wine characteristics, they may as well be on the other side of the country from each other. Look for more on that later.
It’s early October, and it’s vendemmia, (harvest)! The whites (Arneis) are already in and well into maceration. The Dolcetto (little sweet one) and Barbera harvests have begun, but the “King”, Nebbiolo, continues to hang and will likely continue for one to two weeks longer. The winemakers assure me that this is normal for Nebbiolo, and one must be patient. This October is dropping some light rain on the vineyards, and as long as it doesn’t persist, no one seems concerned about muffa (mildew).
Barolo is referred to as both the King of Wines and the Wine of Kings. There are eleven communes that comprise the DOCG, but only five are included in the original communes from 1980 when the region was promoted to DOCG status—Barolo and La Morra in the Central Valley, and Monforte d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto, and Serralunga d’Alba in the Serralunga Valley. These are two adjacent vinicultural zones with significantly different soil types and microclimates that produce wines of significantly different characteristics. The Helvetian soils in the Serralunga Valley with its relatively high composition of limestone produces wines that are concentrated, powerful, rich and full-bodied. In contrast, the Tortonian soils in the Central Valley are a mix of clay and sand and produce wines that are aromatic, lighter bodied, and considered more approachable when young. The wine characteristics between these five subzones, or communes can even be differentiated further, and if you want to dive deeper on your own, search Ratti’s 1979 sub region classification. I recommend you research while enjoying your favorite glass of Nebbiolo. Blending fruit from the five communes was common until the 1960’s when winemakers shifted to production of single vineyard crus. Today you will find reference to forty different crus in Barolo, each known for its unique characteristics.
We met the family at Sobrero Francesco of Castiglione Falletto in March of 2013 and were immediately taken by their 2006 and 2007 Barolo Riserva from their “Pernanno” vineyard with their bold, generous fruit, velvety texture, and lasting complex finishes. The winery was started in the 60’s by Francesco Sobrero and is now operated by his grandchildren Flavio (winemaker), Francesca and Federica. Flavio does an excellent job of blending traditional Barolo methods with modern technologies. And, you are not going to experience better views than at their agriturismo Casa Sobrero.
The hilltop village of Castiglione Falletto is as welcoming as it is historic. We enjoyed exceptional regional cuisine by Angelo and Maria Cristina at Le Torri Ristorante and Andrea Valentina’s cucina at Locanda Del Centro. We always enjoy a cafè or glass of wine and talking to the locals at the Bar La Terrazza “da Renza” and enjoying the view.
Drive minutes north from the Barolo on A33 and you are in the Barbaresco. If Barolo is The King, then Barbaresco is the Queen. While both wines are 100% Nebbiolo, their similarities stop there. This is where Nebbiolo demonstrates its ability to produce wildly different characteristics based on soils and microclimates. The Barbaresco is subject to slightly higher temperatures than its neighbor. And indeed, the Nebbiolo in Barbaresco matures earlier, is harvested earlier, and delivers wines that are more aromatic, perfumed and delicate.
We first met Luisella Pola at Fontanabianca in Neive during our visit in March 2013 and were quickly won over by their flagship Barbaresco “Bordini”. We returned again this trip to spend time with the two families who share a long history together producing fine Barbaresco wines. Aldo Pola and Bruno Ferro, along with their wives, Luisella and Mariangela and daughter Stefania, carry on the traditions of their fathers Franco Pola and Ottavio Ferro who began making wine in 1969. Their Bordini cru in the heart of the DOCG, faces southwest, and directly faces the historic hill town of Neive. It has consistently produced rich, elegant and beautifully complex Barbaresco. The village of Neive is both inviting and enchanting. Aldo and Bruno hosted us for an afternoon of dining at La Luna nel Pozzo where we were treated with pairings of fresh, local dishes and Fontanabianca Arneis, Barbera, and Barbaresco wines. Magnifico!
Our favorites from Sobrero Francesco and Fontanabianca are on their way to Northern California. Look for them on our website by mid October.
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.