Friday, May 11, 2007

Three That Stood Out

Photo by Giuseppe Pino

You’re on the road four, maybe five days. Maybe it’s New York or New Orleans or Phoenix. And you’re ready to go home. A week in Austin well, I’m ready, il conto per favore.

Three wines that have stood out this week. A week filled with nothing but tasting. There were many wines not from Italy but I want to get us back on the wine trail in Italy. Sans weirdness, sans snark, just playing the part, without wise saws or modern instances.

Castellare Chianti Classico 2003
I often forget about this wine, usually I am breathing heavy over a bottle of Rampolla or Querciabella. A little ways down on the SR222, in Castellina in Chianti, the winery is situated on what the local people call “i sodi”, land too hard or steep for horses, vineyards that have to be worked by hand. This is an illusive wine, or maybe it is just too direct. Maybe I am looking round corners for an explanation of this wine, when right in front of me it stands, simply naked. Honest. True to its origins. It could be one of those ancient southern wines that I dream about or one of those wines made 4500 years ago in the Northern Sinai for the Egyptian rulers.

I am still tasting this wine, trying to figure out how it will fit into a world that wants it “right now”, because this isn’t a wine that will yield so quickly. Yes it’s right there in front of me, but the problem, Horatio, is that this isn’t part of the philosophy folks in many parts dream of. In hipper-than-California Austin? Let me slip my i-pod on and listen to a little Modest Mouse and I’ll get back to you. Maybe.

Back….better now. This is like a pair of jeans that are torn and worn and dirty, real cool. Only thing is, you didn’t buy it that way, you wore the jeans for years. You turned them that way by living with them, wearing them, sweating in them, dancing in them. This is not a store bought, plug-and-play Chianti Classico. This isn’t “old school”. This is “ancient school” Chianti. But like the winemakers of 2500BC, they had eight generations to polish their craft, get something to gleam.

Austin, or anyone who cares, take this bottle onto a porch in the late afternoon and spend an evening with it watching the earth turn.

Altesino Rosso di Montalcino 2003
Rosso di Montalcino used to not sell and then the wholesalers would close it out and give someone a good deal. Rosso di Montalcino is now as expensive as Brunello used to be. Rosso do Montalcino isn’t a shadow wine of the big brother. Past, present and future. We just have to get to the future part. It’s a funny thing, wine geeks go out of their way to dig up interesting wines from the Loire or Margaret River or Paso Robles. They exist; I was sipping on a very nice Bourguiel last night, followed by an old vine Petite Sirah from Lodi. Yeah, yeah.

So what are we gonna do with the not-so-big-Mamou?

I reckon all of Alesino’s Rosso di Montalcino is opened and drank sooner or later, so let someone else worry about that, for now.

I got up at 5:00 am and drove 200 miles. Around 9:45 I was tasting the Altesino Rosso do Montalcino on 6th Street in Austin with a client and the winemaker. After three plus hours of driving from Dallas I had arrived to Montalcino, I was in the Tuscan Hill Country. The glass was the passport. Smoky, dusty, oregano, dried porcini, a walk in the fields. Nice way to rid myself of driver’s legs. Sweet fruit, thick and juicy. Steak and eggs, with a side of garlic grits.

Viviani Amarone 2003
I know I probably talk too much about this winery. I get perturbed when I hear folks talking about what they think a great Amarone is. Walk the hills, get lost in your car in Negrar at midnight. Drive past Dal Forno’s place three or four times looking for a place more “garagista” than it is. Then talk to me about great Amarone.
Walk the walk first.

I shouldn’t even have to talk about this. You should already know the greatness of this wine, this estate. You should have already “gotten” this. I am an altar boy in my starched cassock, preparing the implements for the priest. Everything is ready, the candles are lit, the incense is loaded. The wine is poured into the cruets.

The aroma of this wine is reminiscent of the little San Gabriel Mission, tight, fine, ancient wood beams, light incense floating in the air, deep-roots sweat-and-blood. A high mass wine, the cardinal and the courtesan dine and drink alike when this wine is present.

So, while I haven’t exactly swerved back into the vortex of a reality most people would find recognizable, these are just a few notes gathered while trying to find my way back to the base camp.


Anonymous said...

Don't know the others, which sound very appealing, but I have to agree that the Viviani Amarone is what it should be and not a bit excessive.

Sorry, forgot to comment in italiano.

-- Truman

il siciliano di francia said...

ciao un saluto di un siciliano coluccio

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