The dogs were biting at my ankles as I dodged into the greengrocer store here in town. Inside the genius-mad spiceman was cuddling in a corner with his heirlooms. I had seen him down the street in the Italian shop, where he told me he had scored some wild asparagus from the Basque part of France. I was hopelessly locked in a mad dash to get my green on.
Later that evening we had been invited to our friends’ flat. Not just any flat, it is in an older but still desirable part of town. It’s a minimal space, clean and uncluttered. The friends had just returned from a six week road trip to places in the world I would never see.
Simple food and a few wines from the cabinet, I was just coming off cold-turkey withdrawals from Riesling, but I was in the game and looking past the Mosel, for the moment.
You never know when a wine will surprise you. For instance, we were going to have a Verdicchio from Matelica, usually a wine I go crazy for. Before that wine, though, our host opened a bottle of Beringer Alluvium, a white from Semillon and Sauvignon, and a splash of Chardonnay and Viognier. No chance of tasting terroir there, right?
I had been to Beringer in February for a tasting and a dinner but I didn’t remember the wine except as a brief snapshot during the reception.
Terroir and California don’t go together? So the debate goes. Being a native of California, perhaps I sense the underlying thread that a place like California weaves into every thing Californian. I get it, don’t always like that some winemakers cover it up with their barrels and their egos and their lofty ambitions. Then again, a winery like Stony Hill manages to dodge the barrels and the reverse osmosis parade that is going up and down Hwy 29. So it is possible.
Anyway, this Alluvium didn’t seem so out of kilter. In fact it wasn’t until our host handed me a glass of the Verdicchio (a Gambero Rosso 3 glass’er, so he told me) that I nearly jumped out of my skin. The California wine reflected its California-ness more truthfully than the Verdicchio portrayed its Marche-ness. Pure and simple, no debate, I was longing for more of the Beringer and hoping the Verdicchio would just go away.
Still, I was in that Riesling trance of late, so that might have something to do with it. Nah, I’m not buying into that.
The Verdicchio had great acidity, but a little too highly pitched. What was the winemaker thinking? Let’s raise the heels up another inch, hike up the skirt, lower the bodice, there, she’ll be a real stunner. What does Sergio@IWM call ‘em, bona?
Well, it didn’t work this time. Anyway we were on to reds
We were joined by a couple who had just arrived from San Francisco. Fresh air, lively conversation, some new ideas, waiting for the red wines to breathe.
Earlier in the day I had gotten a text from one of my Italian Wine Daughters about Rampolla’s Sammarco. This is what I love about the young’uns, they have a question about the 2003 Tuscan harvest, they send you a text. I think we got it worked out. Sammarco, by way of answering the IWD, is indeed 95% Cabernet and 5 % Sangiovese, not the other way around as I told her. Sorry.
But here’s a winery that has embraced their green-ness, Rampolla, that is. And they are making a Cabernet in Sangiovese country. Whose fault is that? A younger Tachis, no doubt, but it works for me. There are all kinds of surprises in the vineyards, aside from the way we think it should be.
The SF couple has a vineyard in Alexander Valley, Laughing Raven. Sauvignon and Barbera was what I heard they make, perhaps something else. We must try these wines too. I think there will be more surprises.
Many folks are searching for their simple truths, and life on earth just isn’t giving the answers we would expect.
The host pours a red wine and folks ask what it is. Wine, drink it. OK.
Back to Italy and the Marche, to a wine that if I could nail in a blind tasting it would make me very happy. Le Caniette Nero di Vite, a Rosso 50% Montepulciano and 50% Sangiovese, lots of wild-ass acidity bordering on volatile, taking you right to the edge of the brink, strapping on the rubber bands and pushing you over to a bungee-jump-of-a-lifetime swallow-of-wine. And back up to do it again. And again. That bottle didn’t last too long.
The Marchegiani have the great secret of Italy growing wild right out of the pots in front of their windows.
Piceni invisibili they are. Happy, lucky, well fed.
Next up, a 2000 Barolo from Pira. They actually didn’t let the vintage take a hold of the wine in the sense that the wine was unencumbered with gobs of fruit. It was gob-less, and we could have used a second bottle. Man, that was nice, even if was too suddenly over. Some of ‘em are James Dean and some of ‘em are George Burns.
There was so much coming at me, for this post, but it would be too long. This search for the appropriate shade of green in one’s life, who are we to think that we are directing any of this? Come on, take one down and pass it around, 95 other bottles waiting to come down. Keep the line moving, bub. We can tackle our inner terroir some other time.