28° F, in the shade, too cold to swim, just right for Osso Buco
It seems like there are now 6 of you out there who want me to write about wine, instead of getting my proxies to gripe about the state of the wine business. Honestly, January of 2007 has been a jump-start for tasting some great wines. In less than a week I have tasted Castello dei Rampolla wines 3 times, all of the 2001 Barbaresco Riserva crus from Produttori, everything Marco di Bartoli makes, all of the wines from Elvio Cogno, Amarone from Le Ragose, Allegrini, Le Salette and Viviani. And that is just the tip of the iceberg during this winter.
Speaking of winter, down here in the South, earlier this week we experienced the Winter Surge, thanks to El Niño and Nancy Pelosi. For two days the region was blanketed with ice and bitter cold, but we cowboyed up and hit the streets.
A local restaurateur called up and wanted to taste some wines for his new list. He had just cooked up a slew of lamb Osso Buco, would we come by and show him some wines?
So I grabbed my Italian A-B-C wines: Amarone, Barolo and a Chianti in any other time. The wines were the 2000 Allegrini Amarone, 2001 Elvio Cogno Barolo and 2000 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco (95% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon).
Along with this trio of red wines, I arranged to meet the Sicilian Trinity Gang members, otherwise known as “Tony the Bone”, “Joey the Weasel” and “Sausage Paul.” I’ve known these characters for some time now, and we meet from time to time so as to actually enjoy some of these wines with food. None of that swirl-and-spit routine. This time it is for the pure enjoyment of the grape.
We always talk about those days that are perfect for the big red wines from the Veneto, Piemonte and Toscana, and this was one of those days. The meal was also made for this kind of day, the kind I think about when a server is telling me the daily specials, usually in July or August, and invariably Osso Buco pops out of his or her mouth. Then I think of the day when a dish like that would be perfect. January, winter, bitter cold, ice on the roads. The perfect storm to match up with the wines and this particular type of hearty fare.
First we opened up the 2000 Sammarco from Rampolla. Biodynamic farming, perfect vineyard location, the birds and the bees love the place. Vines are planted close, Tachis anointed the property, gave his benediction to a plot of land that, in my opinion, is one of the first growths of Tuscany.
Tony the Bone liked the Sammarco. He was pounding it down pretty good, kind of like in the old days when we got a special on Carlo Rossi Paisano and it was his night to cook up spaghetti and meatballs. Yep, Tony was living large. All the while his phone is ringing with orders, so he's making money sitting there.
Next we opened up the 2001 Elvio Cogno Barolo. Owner Walter and Nadia Fissore (Elvio is her dad) along with Beppe Caviola (one of a handful of rock star winemakers in Italy) teamed up to bring to market a Barolo that we all can afford. From the Novello vineyard, 1400 feet in the air, with an extended, 35-day skin maceration. Joey the Weasel was liking this wine, wondering if Nadia had any unmarried sisters.He is planning to go to Vinitaly in March, and I’ve promised him a tour of Piedmont. The Weasel has a few things on his mind, and wine is one of them. He’s also looking forward to tasting the wine with his "new family."
Sausage Paul wasn’t too keen on the Barolo. He was planting his Riedel crystal straw in the Amarone and sticking to his guns. You don’t argue with Sausage Paul. He knows his way around a kitchen, and he’s pretty good with knives, if you get my inference. I have to say, the Amarone and the lamb was a magical moment. The 2000 Allegrini has scored big in all the right places. Decanter loved it, awarded it 4 stars. Gambero Rosso give it tre bicchieri. The American press slobbered all over themselves. It was a good time for Mariluisa and Franco Allegrini. Sausage Paul was purring like a big cat on the savannah.
Meanwhile, the Sammarco had opened up like the Red Sea in a Cecil B. DeMille movie. I hadn’t seen Tony the Bone this animated since he last had electro-shock therapy back in the 80’s.
All the while, Joey the Weasel was fantasizing about some Italian woman. Ever since Carlo Ponti died, he’s been all stirred up. I don’t know if he can wait until March.
Well, I’m closing in on 800 words and it’s 1:30 in the morning. I can smell the café latte as we pull off the autostrada into Alba. Good morning ~ bona notte.