CLASSIC CLUB SELECTIONS – October, 2023
- Giacomelli Pianacce Vermentino (IT)
- MCV Petite Sirah, Paso Robles (CA)
- Caittin Steinbacch Pinot Noir (FR)
- Fibbiano Ciliegiolo, Tuscany (IT)
- Dr Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Kabinett Riesling (GD)
- Secondo Marco Valpolicella (IT)
Giacomelli Vermentino Colli di Luni Pianacce (IT) $27
Vermentino is THE white wine of Liguria, and it’s best-known product, other than Carrara marble. This sea-side town enjoys the bounty of the sea and its wines are perfect compliments to the local dishes. Try to find the regional favorite ‘Testaroli’, if you can, dumplings with a simple pesto. Testaroli and a bottle of Vermentino are heaven.
Vermentino from Colli di Luni are less herbaceous than the rest of Liguria, as it is a warmer region. But they are in between the typical Ligurian Vermentino and the richer versions from Sardigna. Pour some of this wine into your glass and smell the aromas of fresh herbs like basil and sage complimenting citrus notes, all followed by a finish that hints at an almond-like bitterness.
Liguria is one of the smallest of Italy’s 21 wine regions. You’ll find it tucked in just south of Piemonte and West of Northern Tuscany.
And the Colli di Luni (hill of the moon) is located in the lower-right portion of Liguria. This tiny region is home to a scant 62 acres of vines. The region’s name is a bit of a mystery, as it
dates back to Roman times and is not well documented (Pliney the Elder, where are you when we need you?!). But it seems reasonable to suspect it may be named for the famous white-marble cliffs, qarried for centuries to get access to its prestine Carrara marble (right).
The Giacomelli winery is the brain child of one very determined man, Roberto Petacchi (left), who converted his family farm to pursue the perfection of Vermentino. Thiry years and many awards later, his dream has proven rewarding, both financially and with the repsect of his peers.
MCV Petite Sirah, Paso Rolbes (CA) $39
This is classic Petite Sirah, rendered in a purely California style. That is to say, if you’re wearing socks, prepare to have them knocked off. This is not a wine for the feint of heart. Weighing in at 14.9% ABV, and made from 100% Petite Sirah from three vineyards MCV has been working with for years – Derby Estate, Gemeny and Parrish Family. But if there was ever a wine with shoulders broad enough to handle high alcohol, it would be Petite Sirah.
Known as a wine that can age for decades, I sometimes suggest buying a bottle in the birth year of a newborn so it can be gifted to them on their 21st birthday.
A quick note on the grape – there is nothing small about ‘petite’ Sirah. The flavors are big, the grape clusters are big, and the tannins are big! The term ‘petite’ refers to the size of the individual berries. Because they are small, there is a higher ratio of skin to meat (pulp), resulting in the tannic structure that helps this wine age.
Aromas of blueberry, wet stones, dark chocolate, beef jerky and mocha. On the palate the wine offers the same profile as the aromas, with perhaps some addition of freshly gournd white peppercorns.
A family-run winery that launched in 2011, MCV specializes in Petite Sirah. They still work with some of the vineyards that helped launch the enterprise 12 years ago.
Joseph Cattin Steinbach Pinot Noir, Alsace (FR) $28
About the Wine
This rich and full-bodied Pinot (which will be hugely popular with fans of New World Pinots) is produced in the far south of Alsace. It takes its name from the village of STEINBACH, which has been long renowned for its high-quality Pinots.
These wines were once called “STEINBACHER RODA,” meaning the “Red from Steinbach”, which everyone just knew to be Pinot Noir. This wine is surprisingly age-worthy, and is just now hitting its prime, where we anticipate it will remain for the next few years before beginning a slow descent sometime late in the decade. Limited yields from vines planted on the south-east facing slopes on Ferruginous sandstone soils.
About the Winery
Cattin is the largest family-owned and family-operated winery in Alsace. It is located in Voegtlinshoffen, a small village on the foothills of the Vosges Mountains at 1,091 feet in elevation. The Cattin family has been producing wine here since 1720 and today the winery is managed by the 12th generation. Those old world wineries are really good at passing the family business between generations!
The estate is composed of many small plots located in the Southern part of the Colmar region and a staggering 80% of their vineyard land is located on slopes. A broad menu of soils (clay, limestone, sandstone, ferruginous, marl…), combined with big time diurnal shifts, means an exceptional palate of aromas and flavors. Cattin uses old oak “foudres” (big barrels) to produce some of the region’s most terroir-driven Grand Cru wines. Their marquee wine is from the legendary ‘Hatschbourg’ vineyard, which is one of the family’s oldest plots.
The family leans into sustainable farming practices to preserve the richness of its terroir as it prepares to pass the whole affair on to its THIRTEENTH generation!
Fattoria Fibbiano, Ciliegiolo Toscana IGT (IT) $40
Ciliegiolo (CHEEL-yay GEE-OH low) is a rare Tuscan grape producing a Light/Med-bodied red similar to Sangiovese. In fact, it was long thought to be the parent of Sangiovese. But DNA testing has led to confusion over which variety is the parent and which is the offspring!
The Ciliegiolo grape makes an accessible, delicious red wine that swans about showing off round tannins and lower acidity than Sangiovese. , and a distinctive cherry flavor profile that permeates the wine’s aromas of crushed mint, rose, red berries and citrus. On the palate you’ll find an acidic backbone and soft tannins that compliment flavors of sour cherry, blood orange and Asian spice notes.
Nestled in the hills between Pisa and Volterra, Fibbiano was founded to preserve the most iconic Tuscan varieties: Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Colorino, SanForte, Colombana and Vermentino. Brothers Matteo and Nicola Cantoni manage 50 acres of vineyards following organic farming practices.
But it’s their soils, rich in marine fossils and shells, that turn a visitor’s head. (Stand in front of their production facility (under the grass roof, Rt) and you’re gazing out over a scenic valley from the highest elevation in the area. Then look down at the soils and note that you’re standing on coral remains and fossilized sea shells from eons ago! As any reader of these pages knows by now, such soils are ideal for crafting high-quality wines. No, it’s not just your imagination, there really is a lick of salinity in these wines.
The grapes are harvested and then fermented using native yeasts in cement tanks. Look for a unique Mediterranean character that balances precision, concentration and savory notes that are markers for all their wines.
Fattoria Fibbiano has a total production of just 8,000 cases in most vintages. But that’s up from just a few thousand several years ago. Currently, Fibbiano wines are available in 15 countries, a very impressive marketing feat for such a small family operation. But the charming Matteo Cantoni is on a march to establish Fibbiano as a standard bearer for Tuscan wines, making nearly 100 market visits every year while kindling a semblance of family life via WhatsApp and Zoom calls with his wife and daughter.
Dr Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett, Mosel (GD) $30
With its blazing red soils and perched on a precipitous slope, the Ürziger Würzgarten vineyard forms a massive amphitheater of ‘Rotliegendes’ (a red, volcanic sandstone – see image at right) and strikingly red slate that is unlike any other.
All the various elements of “terroir” that make up the Ürziger Würzgarten yields its own unique expression of Riesling, one marked by great depth, tantalizing exotic fruits and spicy aromas.
The steepness of this vineyard demands that it be harvested by hand. Rumor has it the view is so inspiring that vineyard workers have difficulty staying focused! But the steep terrain demands focus, as does the tow rope used to help them make their way up when loaded with harvested grapes (L).
Family-owned for over 200 years, the winery has been managed by Ernst F. Loosen since 1988. Great wines, he believes, are the perfect expression of soil, climate and grape variety. With the heritage of his ancestors – old vines, true to their roots, in historic Grand Cru sites of the Middle Mosel – he found exactly the material he needed to produce independent, complex wines of world class.
Secondo Marco Valpolicella Classico DOC, $29
Valpolicella wines meet an odd reception in America. Often people react to the idea of Amarone – the top end of the pyramid in this region. Though Amarone is a dry wine, it is crafted from grapes that have dried on mats for weeks, reducing their liquid by about half, and when fermented into wine it has highly concentrated fruit flavors and a viscosity that approaches a dessert wine. They are, as one would imagine, pricey.
Well this ain’t that. This is the basic Valpolicella – a simple table wine that, in this case, is light as a feather or… a ballet dancer, like the one gracing the label.
The wine is a red fruit-driven, spicy and bright blend of 50% Corvina, 40% Corvinone, 5% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. It has hints of leather. Tart cherries. Pomegranate. A very high YUM! factor.
Hand-harvested and then fermented in stainless steel with native yeast followed by two weeks of maceration (which is amazing, as you can see through the wine in a glass with ease) before settling in concrete tanks for 12 months, and then another six months in large neutral casks (Slavonian oak “botti“). Finally, the wine settled in bottle for six months prior to release.
Secondo Marco means “according to Marco”, and it’s an apt name for a guy who is a disruptor. In 2008, Marco Speri left his Family’s world-renowned Speri winery to make Valpolicella wines according to his very own vision and taste. His approach is deeply rooted in time-honored local winemaking traditions, which require growing exclusively native grapes (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta, Molinara, Croatina, Pipiona…), using the traditional Pergoletta Veronese trellising system, letting the native yeasts carry over the fermentations naturally, and aging the wines for extended periods in large, neutral aging vessels. Organic farming, the use of Green Manure and an unrelenting attention to details complete Marco’s winemaking philosophy, one that is “according to Marco”.
The resulting wines offer a singular combination of aromatic complexity and overall balance, transcending the convention that for decades has seen Valpolicella Producers split in two camps: the traditionalists and the modernists.
Marco’s idiosyncratic winemaking approach elevates traditions into a contemporary style in which the core of the fruit aromas, naturally ripe and rich but far from overpowering, is lifted by a finely tuned acidity, resulting in wines that are both easy to drink and full of aromatic details.
In Marco’s own words: “When you continue a family tradition, on the one side there is fear of change and on the other the desire to do something new, to leave an imprint. Like everything that is alive, wine is the result of a constant development, I try to preserve the character of the native grapes of my Region by accompanying these changes in my own way…according to Marco.”