Sunday, June 05, 2022

“For Chrissake, enough about the evils of the world and the unfairness of life. Just tell us what wines you are enjoying lately. Is that so friggin’ hard?”

How’s your week been? Here, the past week has been challenging. Family health issues, the heat, the economy, the war, the dead babies, the endless gun battles, ya feel me? Yeah, I bet you do. Well, (at least) one of you out there has had it with my perpetual hand-wringing and endless jeremiads. And this person wrote me to tell me so:

“Look, man, we’re all seeing it, feeling it, hurting from it. I didn’t come here to have more of it shoved in my face. I came here to escape. I know how you loathe wine writing and wine writers, but for Chrissake, enough about the evils of the world and the unfairness of life. Just tell us what wines you are enjoying lately. Is that so friggin’ hard?”

OK. Alright. I surrender. Truce. I’ll write about wine. Even some wine notes. Will that make you happy? Because I want you, all of you, to be happy. Oh, at least those of you who have survived the last few years of pandemic, war, active shooters and the general (and rapid) dissolution of civil society. So, let’s go!

Mainly Italian, with an occasional French or German wine inserting itself into the mix. We all bleed red, c'est ne pas? So, where to start?

Let’s start with the outlier, a white wine from Bandol. I was recently in a French bistro and my table-mate told me to choose the first wine. I saw this little number, the Chateau Croix D’Allons Bandol Blanc 2020 and went with it. We were having Coquille Saint-Jacques.

At first sip, the wine was soft and delicate. Nice nose, seemed familiar. I blurted out, “I wonder if this is a Clairette/Ugni Blanc blend?” Something about the nose. Sure enough, it was. Good guess. Also, a bit of a wonderment that the old grey matter remembers things like this but has to be reminded to renew my gun permit. Oh well, the wine was dry, delicate and easy-going. I bought a case (about $35/btl.) and split it with my table-mate. It’s a well-made wine from a nice family, not some industrial commercial behemoth. They also make red and rosé. I also bought some rosé. It’s going to be a hot summer in Texas. Firecracker hot. Uzi hot.

Ok, now that I’d dipped my toes in the Trebbiano (AKA Ugni Blanc) pool, I then opened up a Tiberio Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2020. I was having a hard time finding this wine in the stores in Dallas, so when it showed up, I was “thrilled,” to use a well-worn cliché among wine bloggers. And I was not disappointed. $20.

I’ve said this before, but I will repeat. Trebbiano from Abruzzo triggers wonderful emotions and memories within me. The body is light, but not Frascati light. It has this nuttiness that lends itself well to marrying with gorgeous seafood, like the food I remember fondly from San Benedetto del Tronto. The wine isn’t so full of itself that it has to be front stage and center. It is a player in the band, not the soloist. Never a diva, but always singing somewhere in the choir, making the overall experience better for those who are in the audience. A great accompanist.

Switching gears a little and heading over to the other side of the peninsula, to Toscana. The Gorgona from Frescobaldi. Gorgona is an island-penitentiary. The wine is made by prisoners. Organically farmed Vermentino and Ansonica. Great story. But how was the wine?

You know, this was a wine that needed air. And it didn’t need to be so cold. It had the feeling of a red wine in the body. In other words, it was substantive. It was rich. It was pricey (about $100). It was a bit brooding (threw that word in for folks who just need more fervor). And as it breathed, and as we drank it over a couple of hours, it was really quite seductive. Like no other wine I’d had in a while. It came from somewhere.  It transported me to the island. I was there, a prisoner of the grapes and the wine and the place. Happily. Hey guess what? No mass shootings on Gorgona. The island-penitentiary is safer than America.

Two more whites from the same producer – Angelo Negro. A natural-like wine, the 2020 unfiltered Arneis. The residual yeast is in the bottle, so it presents as cloudy. Which I do not have a problem with. It was spritzy, dry, steely, with nice delicate fruit, a little grapefruit, a touch of peach. Great with peach cobbler, btw. And, as the Piedmont Guy (the importer) says, “Chill, shake, serve!” I’ve gone back and re-bought. So, take that as a recommendation. $20.

His other wine, was a sample sent to me, the 2014 Sette Anni Roero Arneis. Released after seven years (Once upon a time, an insane idea for a white Italian wine. Now, not so). It shares similarities with the first wine of his we had, but it shows how an Italian white wine, properly made and properly stored, can show development and evolution in time (Oops, I wasn’t supposed to mention that word again, time. Don’t want anyone to mistake this for my watch blog).

Wow, what a seductive and lovely wine. In fact, Negro is fast becoming one of my favorite producers of Arneis, old or new. Lovely. Hauntingly lovely. Got it? Go get it, kinda pricey, $40ish. Half a tank of gas.  Or, 90 rounds of ammo for your AR-15.

Ok, now the reds. As my friend the master coroner says, “A slab and a Cab.” Yeah, steak, blood rare. Yum!

To accompany the Angelo Negro 2020 unfiltered Arneis, I hand-carried a 2007 Pietradonice from Casanova di Neri to lunch. 15 years old. Still a baby. $100 half of what a good bullet-proof vest will cost you.  We killed it with a Tagliata di Manzo con Rucola e Parmigiano? Yeah, it’s Texas, as they say, “Come and take it!” So, we did. And it was bloody delicious.

The Pietradonice is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a renown Tuscan (Brunello) producer, Casanova di Neri. His Brunello is always on target. He never misses the mark. And his Cabernet was a bulls-eye with the steak. I only wish I had a big fat Cuban to smoke with the last half of the bottle. Oh, wait, we did. We smoked ‘em out and finished ‘em off. Perfect shot!

The other red, the one we had with the 2014 Sette Anni Roero Arneis, also came out of the wine vault. It was a library release from Le Chiuse, also in Tuscany, also from Montalcino. The 2010 “Diecianni” Brunello di Montalcino. $150
half of what a good body armor set will set you back. God was it almighty good. Big, rich, refined, sumptuous, deep, brooding, ready to drink but could have taken another 10-20 years of deep sleep. But why make the wine wait? Let’s finish it off now. And we did. So awesomely satisfying in it’s high-capacity power to deliver.

Candidly, this was probably one of the best wines I’ve had this year, from arguably, one of the greatest vineyards in Montalcino. And the way things are going, I’m grateful. You never know what’ll be waiting for you at the post office, the grocery store, the restaurant, the hospital.

Oh yeah, we were at the ER last Saturday night. And it took them six hours to get to us, because they were bringing in so many gunshot victims via the ambulance entrance, that the staff was hard-pressed to attend to their pressing and urgent needs first. A tip: Don’t go to the ER on a Saturday night. Especially around 2AM, when it goes into burst mode.

Lest anyone mistake my ramblings for anything other than a good old-fashioned American sanguine construence (but not necessarily congruence), please know that I still love wine and food. And most people. Especially the children. And the babies, the innocent, sweet little babies. Rest their souls. Hang in there folks. We are in now-familiar, but still un-charted waters. Be careful out there.


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