Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two Hours in Italy

There is something special about Italian wine. The way it is interwoven into the lifestyle of Italy’s countryside…and the way the lifestyle is woven into it makes it, to me, the most incredible wine experience that exists. When I go to a French tasting, I leave wanting to understand more about French wines. I feel the same about Spain. When I leave an Italian tasting I want to learn Italian. I want to jump on the nearest plane and get lost in the small towns of Tuscany or Piedmont, walking the streets and vineyards.

I had the privilege of eating lunch with Domenico Clerico this week at Mateo, a great Boulder restaurant. Mr. Clerico is getting on in years, has major health issues, and speaks no English. Telling stories through an interpreter, this incredibly respected winemaker came across as a humble farmer who loves what he does, and loves even more sharing his love for it. He seems genuinely amazed that the entire world is clamoring for his wines.

We started with his 2011 Dolcetto Visadi. It was spicy, fruity and all in all a perfect example of this varietal which is the everyday wine in the Piedmont. Next we tried his 2011 Capisme E. This is a stainless steel fermented Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo is Italy’s noble grape that spawns the great Barolos. This is a bright, fruit-forward version of this wonderful grape with vibrant red fruit flavors. Both of these wines went beautifully with cheese, cured meats, paté, and steamed mussels.

Next we tasted his 2010 Arte, a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera, aged fifteen months in new oak. This is a tannic wine, with toast and vanilla and ample, complex fruit. It went well with the butternut squash risotto with chèvre, walnuts, and roasted mushrooms.

Finally came his two Barolos, the 2008 Pajana and 2008 Ciabot Mentin. These are sourced from opposite ends of the same vineyard, the famed Ginestra. The Pajana is from a south-facing area and is slightly more open and forward than the tightly wound Ciabot, from a south-southeast facing region of the hill. Both are massive wines and will age for many years and become even more magnificent. Although very young, they are brilliant even now, and matched beautifully with the wild boar ragu taglierini and braised beef short ribs with root vegetables.

Clerico’s wines are a luxury—each of his Barolos will set you back a hundred bucks, and the Capisme, $35.00. The Arte is about $45.00 and even the Dolcetto comes in at $24.00. But they are all worth every penny.

Treat yourself to a bottle and enjoy La Bella Vitta!

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