By Filippo Bartolotta, in Florence
Last night I went on the coast to meet with Luciano Zazzeri, Chef and owner of La Pineta.
For many the best seafood restaurant in Italy is La Pineta. It is an elegant, romantic shack on the sea. Luciano cooks the lightest dishes with the perfect balance with perfumes, textures and portions.
Our Italian Wine And Food Road Show this year starts in Soho, Manhattan, New York.
We are setting off in a fabulous place, home to a very fine contemporary artist who also happens to have one of the best palates I have ever met.
We will go to the New York fish market in the morning with Luciano to see what’s fresh and good and our day will start right there…from scratch.
Last year I traveled with over thirty wine labels for three months across the country. This year I will be doing less events with only a very exclusive group of producers.
Starting from the South of Italy, I’ll be presenting the wines of Feudi di San Gregorio, quite possibly the most beautiful winery in Southern Italy, located near the Amalfi Coast. This winery excels in making better and better wines each year, thanks to the vision and pragmatism of Antonio Capaldo.
Their main label with me on show will be the Fiano di Avellino Feudi di SanGregorio 2009: mineral, citrus, zesty and very polished with a great persistence.
Moving past Rome and then north again we meet the Arnaldo Caprai winery in Umbria.
Here Marco Caprai has managed to put Umbria back into the wine map with a stunning black fruit driven, austere, tobacco and tar driven Arnaldo Caprai “25 Anni” Sagrantino di Montefalco 2005.
Then we get to Tuscany from Montefalco to the city of Montalcino in less than 2 hours by car. Home of the king of Reds and the Red of Kings is Brunello di Montalcino. We didn’t just go for a generic Brunello, but for a masterpiece, that one of the famous artist Sandro Chia of Castello Romitorio.
Brunello di Montalcino 2005 Castello Romitorio is a very red fruit driven wine with a lot of cherry fruit, licorice and spices.
Still in Tuscany but just an hour north, past the medieval town of Siena is Fontodi.
With it Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo: a very robust, muscular black fruit driven wine with a lot of tannic structure. Here Giovanni Manetti also makes a pure Sangiovese Flaccianello 2007: packed with suede leather, tobacco, prunes and a very smooth touch.
Three, four valleys north on the way to Florence is Isole e Olena. This wine estate is synonymous with Cepparello. Paolo de Marchi is the owner and wine maker here releasing an uncontaminated elegant soft red fruit silky Sangiovese. Cepparello 2007 is better then ever.
Now it’s time for a little cultural entertaining stop in the capital of Renaissance. Home to the Uffizzi Gallery and the Academia, Florence is an intact architectural gem. Right in the heart of town is the Frilli Gallery, run by a family of artisans who still produce classical reproductions from the very same marble used by Michelangelo, casting bronze with the old Cellini’s lost wax process. Great place to see and touch great masterpieces and to buy original statues.
Moving west toward the Coast we have a couple of very different wineries.
In Suvereto, nearby of the most important Etruscan sites is Petra. A wonderful design cellar built by owner Vittorio Moretti on a Botta Architectural project. Petra IGT is a classic Super Tuscan Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 2008 release is very elegant and refined with very tame and mature tannins, ripe cherries and black currant and a smooth finish.
Right in front of the Tuscan Coast is Elba Island, where Napoleon was confined.
Here Mr Pier Mario Meletti Cavallari has started of a very challenging endeavor: the production of red dessert wine from the indigenous Aleatico grape. The Aleatico Alea Ludenda of Tenuta delle Ripalte is a very juicy forest fruit wine with a lot of savoriness and Mediterranean spicy character. This is just the perfect match for Antica Dolceria Bonajuto Modica Chocolote.
Pierluigi Ruta is in the SE corner of Sicily and makes this ancient Atzec recipe. Once you try it it will be difficult to go back to your regular chocolate fix.
Let’s move north from Tuscany to for a pit-stop in Modena. Acetaia Giusti has been making Modena Balsamic Vinegar since 1605, they were practically the first family to begin this tradition.
Today they still make all sorts of Aceto Balsamico di Modena cooking the local grapes and aging the sweet condensed juice for many years in wooden casks to release a luscious, sticky and delicious vinegar which will help though out our road show in our various dinners.
From Modena I would make our way north to Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, where one of the world most outstanding wines is made: Amarone Romano dal Forno. Luscious, dense black fruit, almost sweet, but then its almost salty. Rich and velvety with a never ending finish. If one can’t afford the luxury of this wine the Valpolicella Romano dal Forno is practically a stunning Amarone with a little lighter density.
Half an hour drive east on the way to Venice is Graziano , producer of one of Italy’s most famous White: Soave Classico. His Soave Classico Monte Grande is an oily, almond and white fruit mineral white with a lot of character and drink-ability.
Here Vittorio Moretti has made one of his dream come true: producing a refined sparkling. Cuve Bellavista will be traveling with us as our welcome wine. Every evening will be opened with this splendid Franciacorta, made from Chardonnay grapes in a traditional sparkling wine method. That means that for at least three years the fermented grape juice will be in contact with the yeast to add complexity, texture, flavor and of course bubbles to the wine. As a result the Bellavista Cuve Franciacorta has a round palate enriched by a soft mousse which leads to a lime and white fruit aromatic caress and lingering refreshing savory finish. I look forward to begin the journey with Bellavista
Moving all the way to west near Turin, is one of the world most important wine regions: Langhe. Barolo is the king here, made with 100% Nebbiolo. The cuisine of the area is famous for its rare and expensive white truffle and Barolo is the best match for it. Luciano Sandrone Cannubi Boschis 2006 is one of the best crus that came out during my tastings last year: a very austere, structured, licorice and leather Barolo with a quinine element and a floral touch right at the finish. The entry level Valmaggiore Nebbiolo is one of the best way to get to know this wonderful Italian variety.
Last bu not least is Lessona, Proprieta Sperino. Produced by the young Luca de Marchi, this is an Italian style Pinot Noir. It is in fact Nebbiolo 100%, locally called Spanna and produced in the Northern part of Piedmont. It is like drinking a softer and sweeter style Barolo with a very savory, velvety contrast and plenty of super juicy red fruit.
And this year the U.S. Italian Wine Authority is going to be our partner to make sure that all those thirsty friends of ours can find the right way to get hold of our delicious wines: Italian Wine Merchants with Sergio Esposito and Karlsson making our project a step more concrete!!!
So this is Italy at Your Table 2011 US ROAD SHOW in a nutshell.
We will start from NYC on the 12th for ten days with an appointment also at the prestigious Metropolitan Museum. Then we will move to Washington DC for our annual Charity Event: The Martha’s Table Sutarday Sips and Sundays dinners. Here we will meet again with Alice Waters and Jose Andres and another 10 of America’s best chef to support a great cause: last year we’ve raised over $100.000.
Of course I am excited, thrilled and anxious to be on the road again in the US with the best Italian wines and foods alongside the best discerning gourmets on the planet. I’ll be visiting their homes, from the Big Apple, to Saint’Antonio, from Washington to San Francisco, from L.A. to Kansas City.
Who is behind all this? I couldn’t make this dream come true without Vanessa. Her patience, thoroughness and precision made a random idea a business model and a REAL project.
Benedetta is the logistic and co-ordination mind to make all this come into place: the ingredients for the Metropolitan, the invitations for the Napa Valley Reserve, the press events and above all the supporting of myself:) Good luck Bene!!! Also Carrie and Corinna from the office making all the necessary arrangements, Tour organization, translations and support…thanks to all of you.