I have been absent from this blog for nine weeks, the age of my new baby but today I am back and want to take the occasion to write about Peter Mondavi of Charles Krug Winery who turns 100 today, a venerable age for a remarkable man. I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Mondavi two years ago in October together with Giacomo Pondini from the Consorzio di Tutela del Morellino di Scansano and Karen MacKenzie of the eponymous agency.
Mr. Mondavi still goes to the office everyday and credits his longevity to wine and staying involved. He was incredibly generous with his time and I am thrilled that I got the chance to meet him thanks to Karen Mackenzie’s efforts.
Mondavi was one of the first wineries I had ever visited when I was 20 years old. I went with my Mother during college. I remember being overwhelmed at its luxury and its size. Since then the family fortunes have ebbed and flowed and Robert Mondavi sold his winery before his death.
Giacomo and I also tasted through a number of the wines with Mr. Mondavi. The one that I was most partial to that particular day in October 2012 was the Family Reserve Generations.
I liked the wine itself and I liked the symbolism behind the wine and the idea of generations of family. I drank it with my family as part of our Christmas meal if memory serves. The wine was made from 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. It spent 21 months in new French oak. Despite its high alcohol level, I thought it was quite delicious and showed lovely fruit, spice and earthy notes on the nose and palate. I think Cabernet lovers would also like this wine as the other Bordeaux varieties give it pepper and spice but the essence of this wine is pure Napa Cabernet.
I wish Mr. Mondavi cent di questi giorni (Nov. 8) and marvel at his kindness, modesty, and achievements.
Earlier this year I had the occasion to meet Primo Franco of the Nino Franco winery at an intimate lunch organized by Tony Didio. Primo was fascinating and an incredible “Signore del Vino.” His family winery is one of the first to make a name for themselves in the Prosecco trade, quite unimaginable today when Prosecco is so easy to find but according to Primo at the beginning there were just a very few producers trying to make a name for themselves and their area.
His family got started in 1919 just after World War I. His grandfather, Antonio and his father, Nino built up the winery. Primo, himself a graduate of the prestigious oenology school in Conegliano, took over in the 1970s and thereafter put in some modern techniques.
We tried a number of his wines, including a Rose’ calle Faive and Grave di Stecca. Both were interesting and the Grave di Stecca a very elegant and special cuvee but it is the brut that I feel represents the area and the category most profoundly.
There are many areas for Prosecco as we know and generally different styles as well, according to the level of residual sugar in the wine. The Brut is the driest version of Prosecco. This one had very bright acidity and was a real joy as it paired with a salmon burger.
So many others have also written about their encounters with Primo Franco, including Charles Scicolone in this relatively recent post, Dobianchi earlier this year, and Alfonso last year. What I found throughout everyone’s posts is a common sense of how wonderful both Primo and his wines truly are.
I like Alfonso’s vision of Primo as a great tree but when I met him, he was in his version of a very dapper Italian in midtown Manhattan. We all have our individual experiences with winemakers, either in Italy or in the States, but its the shared impressions that they leave on each of us, that strikes me. Meeting Primo was a highlight of my New York wine life this year. Thanks Tony for introducing me, again, to wonderful producers.
This week’s wine pick is Faro from Azienda Agricola Palari from Sicily. I first tasted this wine at a Tre Bicchieri event in New York some years ago. I was impressed with its unique blend of indigenous Sicilian grapes including Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Acitana, and Jacche’.
The wine was ruby red in color with loads of berry fruits, spice and a hint of vanilla. It was velvety and harmonious on the palate with juicy tannins. A great wine to age, I was very impressed with this beauty.
I’m having a Sicilian thing this summer with many memories of a couple of wonderful trips I took to Sicily years ago. This winery is located near Messina. Faro is a very ancient wine that was produced in this area for many years. Production was then interrupted both because of production issues and because of Phylloxera. The wine is made in a very particular area with a great micro-climate and on a series of vineyards that change dramatically in terms of their altitude from sea level to 1,475 feet with an eight mile range. The vines grow on very steep slopes and are bush trained requiring hand harvesting.
The wine is fermented in stainless steel but ages in new French oak and then in the bottle for at least 18 months before release. This is a big Sicilian wine and needs hearty dishes to support it. A land of contrasts, this is one side of Sicily – big, passionate and intense.
This week’s grape variety is Fumin. It is the last variety that starts with the letter “F.” Amazing to me to note, but I have written 111 of these sorts of posts through the years. Italy has such an endless number of grape varieties, there is always something new to learn.
Fumin is a variety that comes from the Valle d’Aosta. It can be made into a blend but it is also used to make mono-varietal wines and is used in the Valle d’Aosta Denominazione d’origine controllata (D.O.C.) wine. In a blend it brings both color and acidity. In fact, it is a wine that should age a bit before drinking to mellow out some of its robust and rustic aromas and flavors.
Every year at Vinitaly, I try to spend time at the Valle d’Aosta booth. I like the wines and the people, straight forward and frank. Some examples of great Fumin are from the top producers in the Valle d’Aosta, including Grosjean, Les Cretes, and Ottin, among others.