Italian Wine, Various Regions

This week we will sample a variety of Italian wine from regions including Piedmont, Tuscany, Veneto, and Abruzzo. Altogether there will be one sparkling, one rose, three reds, and an aperitif (fortified wine-based spirit).

The sparkling wine/Prosecco is called Secco Brut and is made by Ginevra Casa, wife of Charles Smith of Washington State’s K Vinters, and her sister Olivia. The Casa sisters are natives of Rome, Italy, and grew up with an infatuation for Prosecco. In 2010 they started the Secco label with a Brut Bianco and Rose, and in 2012 added Moscato and Moscato Rose to their portfolio. The Secco Brut is a friendly and approachable Prosecco made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Raboso Piave that’s slightly drier than the traditional style with undertones of flowers, melon, and minerals. The winemaker is Charles Smith who makes and bottles the wine in Veneto, Italy.

The rose is produced by Nicodemi, a brother and sister team (Elena and Alessandro Nicodemi) whose entry-level white (Trebbiano) and red (Montepulciano) wines have been featured at a recent tasting. Nicodemi is a family-owned and operated winery located in the central-eastern region of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and more specifically a new DOC called Colline Termane in a hilly province bordering the Adriatic sea. They have 38 hectares (about 94 acres) of vineyards that are certified organic. They produce all of their wines in as natural a manner as possible using hand-picked grapes from low-yielding vines. The rose of Montepulciano is a more serious style, with complex fruit and herb aromas and savory qualities.

Small Vineyards is the importer of Perazzeta Sara Rosso Toscana, a Tuscan blend of mostly Sangiovese with a bit of Ciliegiolo. The winery is located in DOC region of Montecucco, just south of Montalcino; it’s owned by Alessandro Bocci, who is also the winemaker, specializing in wines of “power, tension, and assertive terroir.” The Sara Rosso is a bold and flavorful red, with some rustic qualities, that will pair perfectly with a variety of summer foods from BBQ to grilled meats and vegetables. Small Vineyards represents family-owned producers that hand-pick their grapes, grow them in an “earth-friendly” manner, and make their wines in a traditional style from traditional grape varieties.

From Piedmont (one of my favorite wine regions in the world) we will try three wines; two very different Barberas and an aperitif called Cocchi Americano:

Casalone Barbera is brand-new to our selection. It’s from one of the oldest wineries in Monferrato, whose origins date back to 1734. The Casalone family still controls the entire production, and their motto is “Vinification is an art that requires love.” This opinion has been handed down for almost three hundred years from one generation to the next and it has become the inspiring principle of a family that has remained faithful to a centuries-old tradition without succumbing to the ease of modern technology. The Barbera is quite rustic and dry in style; it’s light-to medium-bodied, very food-friendly, and offers excellent value.

Armando Parusso is a highly-respected, family-owned and operated producer that is run by brother and sister team Marco and Tiziana Parusso, children of the founder Armando Parusso. They are growing 100% of their own grapes in 18 different parcels between the sub-appellations of Castiglion Falletto and Monforte d’Alba in Barolo. Since the 1980’s Marco and Tiziana have taken an ever increasing role in their family’s great Barolo estate; they have an enthusiastic and analytical approach, conceiving their Barolos with “greater elegance and more transparent vineyard characteristics each year.” Their modern facility was finished in 2000, which has allowed them to make wines under conditions that Marco considers “optimal,” elevating his wines to new levels of complexity. The Barbera that we will sample is quite complex and aged for 14 months in barrel, which provides firm tannins and full-body. I think you will be as impressed as we were when we first sampled this outstanding wine.

Lastly we will sample an aperitif called Cocchi Americano. Aperitifs are a style of wine-based spirit (generally fortified with Brandy) that are usually served before the meal in order to stimulate the appetite. The aperitif was introduced in the 1840’s in France when chemist Joseph Dubonnet created the drink as means of “delivering malaria-fighting quinine. The medicine was a bitter brew, so he developed a formula of herbs and spices to mask quinine’s sharp flavor.” The Cocchi Americano is a sweet aperitif made from Moscato grapes that fortified with Brandy and infused with herbs, flowers, and citrus. We will try it straight-up as well as mixed with Dolin Sweet Vermouth, a splash of soda, and orange slices in the traditional Piedmont-style, a concoction that is perfect for sipping on hot summer days!

The Hotel Capstone is providing a bounty of delicious Italian-inspired hors d’oeuvres to sample with our line-up. We hope you will join us!

The specific wines for the tasting are:

Secco Italian Brut Bianco 2011– Veneto, Italy. A blend of 77% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Bianco, and 8% Raboso Piave (a red grape that’s native to the area of Piave within the Veneto). Sorelle Casa Fine Wines was started by sisters Ginevra and Olivia Casa, originally from Rome, Italy (Ginevra is married to the “larger than life” Washington State producer Charles Smith). The 2011 is light and fresh with an inviting nose of spring flowers and melon fruit. A hint of honeyed sweetness and fruits suggesting apples and citrus, is balanced nicely with bright and gentle acidity and undertones of spring herbs and cut grass. A delicious sparkler for the hot summer months. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Tasting $13.99

Nicodemi Cerasuolo Rose 2011– Cerasuolo Montepulciano di Abruzzo DOC, Italy. 100% Montepulciano that aged in stainless steel for 6 months and in the bottle 2 months prior to release. Cerasuolo is the only appellation in Italy where the rose styled wine obtains its color via a short maceration of the skins, rather than “salasso” (“saignee”), or bleeding of the red wine vats. “Cerasuolo” refers to the wine’s deep blush color, meaning cherry-colored. This elegant style favors an emphasis of great depth of fruit and texture. Juicy, vibrant aromas of cherry fruit and spicy pepper undertones with hints of citrus and bubble gum. It is smooth and velvety with textured tannins and a gentle finish. Imported by Montecastelli Selections. Tasting $12.99

Casalone Barbera del Monferrato 2009– Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy. 100% Barbera that fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. One of the oldest wineries in Monferrato, Casalone officially started operations in 1734 and their first bottles of wine were sold in the market in 1776. Land and vineyards are basically the same today as they were in the 18th century, and the Casalone family still controls 100% of their production. The welcoming nose offers scents of raspberry and strawberry. It is quite dry and fresh on the palate with briary fruit flavors and earthy hints, followed by a pleasant aftertaste. Tasting $11.99

Armando Parusso Barbera d’Alba DOC Ornati 2009– Alba, Piedmont, Italy. 100% Barbera that aged in barrique for fourteen months then in the bottle four months prior to release. The grapes are estate-grown on 18 different parcels, located just south of the Montforte d’Alba Barolo appellation border on the round outcropping named Ornati. This Barbera offers fruity and soft characteristics that are so well known of this grape from the southern Langhe. A fresh wine with abundance of color, juicy elements due to the long and balanced growing season, and pronounced acidity. Forward cherry fruit flavors combine with impressive spicy, savory (almost salty) depthful characteristics. A very complex and well-made Barbera! 88 Wine Spectator- “Succulent black cherry and blackberry flavors pick up a hint of coffee from the oak treatment in this modern-style red. Firm finish. Drink now through 2014. 1,100 cases made.” Imported by Montecastelli Selections. Tasting $19.99

Perazzeta Sara Rosso Toscana 2009– Tuscany, Italy. A blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Ciliegiolo that fermented and aged in stainless steel then two months in the bottle prior to release. Alessantdro Bocci, owner and winemaker at Perazzeta, produces outstanding everyday wines in Tuscany that have “power, tension, and assertive terroir.” This Tuscan blend is bright and juicy with aromas and flavors of cherry, dried fruits, earth and baking spice with crisp acidity and a tangy, fruit-filled finish. 88 Wine Spectator- “Bright, juicy cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors highlight this elegant red. A touch of spice enlivens the finish.” Imported by Small Vineyards. 2,000 cases produced. Tasting $12.99

Cocchi Americano NV– Asti, Piedmont, Italy. “Made to the same recipe since 1891, this extraordinary aperitif wine has long been a staple of Asti. On a base of Moscato di Asti [a sweet white fortified with a touch of brandy] is infused a blend of herbs, fruit and spices, most notably cinchona [bark] [or quina; medicinal plants known as sources for quinine and other compounds], gentian [a large genus of flowering plants] and citrus, and laid down for a year before being released. In Piedmont it is served chilled with ice, a twist of orange peel and a splash of soda to bring out all its natural aroma and fragrances. Outside of Italy it is revered as one of last great blanc/bianco aperitif wines, essential to a wide range of classic mixed drinks.” Cocchi Americano has much in common with Lillet Blanc, like the strong orange taste, but with the addition of more bitterness and spice. 16.5% ABV. Tasting $17.99

cocchi americano

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