This week’s wine Wednesday is dedicated to one I tasted a while back but have not been able to forget. It’s the Falesia chardonnay from D’Amico Winery located at the confluence of Umbria/Lazio/Tuscany. I met the couple during a lunch in New York at Marea organized by the lovely Tony DiDio. I had never heard of the winery and was intrigued. The couple made their mark in other industries and started their winery out of a passion for the vine in 1985. The winemaker is quite young and french which was a further twist. Their winery is located in the Calenchi valley on volcanic soil which brings lots of minerality to the wines.
Vaiano, is a UNESCO protected area on the border between Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria.
It is said to be the birthplace of the Etruscan culture. The exciting and moonlike landscape is a result of water passing over tufa stone which led to these amazing cliffs.
I have never visited the property but it looks very interesting and the cellars apparently have been excavated underneath the vines and the hanging gardens, attempting to recreate an Etruscan cellar that was found on the property.
We tried a number of wines that day, both reds and whites. Like many others, I tend to be a little less enthusiastic when I try an international varietal from Italy rather than an indigenous one, of which they have so many, but I decided to suspend my usual thinking and was richly rewarded throughout the tasting. I really enjoyed the Calanchi and Falesia Chardonnay wines. The latter particularly as it was made from 30 year old vines. I even got some petrol notes on the Falesia which were unexpected The wines also both spent time on their lees and this creamy texture came through on the palate as well. According to the winemaker, they have a regime of using a low level of sulfites. Lees can also do the job to protect the wines from oxygen, the winemaker said. Commenting on the high level of acidity, he noted that volcanic soil helps to maintain freshness and acidity in wines.
We also tried a wine called Noe which was a blend of Grechetto, Pinot Grigio and Trebbiano. It was very aromatic and fresh. I am sure on a hot day like today, more than one bottle would be poured at my table.
The Falesia which was my pick for today had a bit of everything I like, great minerality, white fruit notes of apple, pear and some herbaceous notes. as well as a creamy texture from the lees. It reminded me a lot of some of the Antinori chardonnay I have tasted from Italy. The volcanic soils also brought sapidity to all of these wines, another characteristic I favor.
The winery also makes a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Franc which we tasted and were inviting. I’m in love with Cabernet Franc as a grape so I will write about that one as well. The Cabernet Franc had just the right amount of pepper and spice and elegance that I look for with that grape together with great mineraity, something I love to find in a red wine. I hope to see more of these wines on various lists in the city. I know you can find them both at Marea and at the Lincoln. You can also find some of the wines in these places on wine-searcher. A winery to watch, I hope to visit on a future trip to Italy.
I had the good fortune to meet Peter Zemmer through Tony DiDio a couple of years ago. I never wrote about the great lunch we had at the Gotham Bar and Grill but the wines have stuck in my head and I have tried the newer versions since that time. They are always consistent, clean expression of the various varietals and in my mind representative of what that region has to offer. The winery has been in the same family for almost 100 years, founded in the 1920s and now the third generation is at the helm. The winery is located in Cortina on the wine route and is among the smallest villages in Alto Adige. It is in the middle of the valley floor and therefore has a great micro-climate, protected from the harsh winter. In fact, their are many fruit trees close to the vineyards. The mild weather allows the grapes to reach phenolic ripeness. Zemmer makes both whites and reds which were all very interesting. His Pinot Grigio is one to write home about and can make the case for why Pinot Grigio should not be discounted. I also greatly enjoy his Pinot Bianco, a favorite.
I always think of the whites from Alto Adige but the reds had the same clean clarity about them as the whites. He does use oak on many of the reds which I didn’t find as much in the whites but it was a judicious and subtle use of oak, not overpowering. His reserve line from which he makes a Lagrein that we tasted are only made in certain years. It was an exciting tasting and I was lucky to go. I look forward to trying additional wines of his at Vinitaly, if I can get near the stand, the area is always very crowded.
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.
California has been on my mind since a recent trip there in late September. While there I tasted a number of interesting Chardonnays but I must say my new favorite, I came late to the party, is the Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay that I tasted at the Frederick Wildman tasting last month. This winery from Sonoma was first on my radar while working at Maslow 6 wine shop in 2010. The owners seemed partial to this wine and I never knew why. Now I do.
It had beautiful aromas and flavors that you would expect of Chardonnay, apples and pears, creamy, buttery notes but it also had minerality and the toasty, nutty, yeasty flavors that I so enjoy. I found the use of oak to be quite balanced as well. It was long and harmonious in the mouth with a beautiful finish. I was also very happy to meet one of the most courtly fellows in the wine industry that day, Tony Didio.
Speaking of California, while out there at Laguna Seca, I had the chance to catch up with David Glancy of the San Francisco Wine School.
I know David from the Society of Wine Educators conferences. David, a Master Sommelier (MS) has launched an online wine school which awards a California Wine Appellation Specialist certificate. I am considering enrolling next year but first I must finish my French Wine Scholar program. Having taken numerous classes with David through the years, I am sure his online class with be both informative and fun. I highly recommend it.