What, you expect me to drink this?
The end of the Playhouse Wine Festival is a lot like the departure of a visiting cousin who really knows how to party. You’re bummed that the fun is over, but then you’re also relieved to re-balance your body fluids. And after consuming so much great wine, all you crave is a cold, frothy beer.
Fortunately, my wine-soaked brain was able to recall a few things from this year’s Italian–themed sipathon. In the Ruffino-sponsored Sangiovese Seminar I came to the conclusion that honestly, I just don’t like old wine. It seems the older I get the younger I like ‘em. When the oxide starts overpowering the fruit, I’m lost. In this Sangiovarium we were offered a five wine vertical of Ruffina Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico from 2001 to 1997. The 2001 showed ripe fruit and a rich mouthfeel. Fine and good. But, tasting blind, I noted the 1995 as weird, brickish in color and tasting of licorice oxide. I noted the 1990 as oxide and unpleasant, with the ’85 as being more oxidized and sherry-like. I refer to sherry as a negative, here. For the 1977, I had three words: wet dog oxide.
By the end I felt like Steve Martin in The Jerk and wanted to say, “Bring us some fresh wine! No more of this old stuff.”
I do like ‘em young and my favorite of this bunch was the Modus Toscan Poggia Casiano Estate 2005, a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cab and 25% Merlot. It has a luscious floral and black fruit nose, great balance and a long fruity finish, just the way a “Super Tuscan” should be.
Just to prove the Pinot-like heartbreakability of Sangiovese, four out of these fifteen wines came from outside Italy. I’m no flag waver, but I thought the Sandhill Small Lots ’05 from the Okanagan and the Montevina Terra D’Oro ’05 from Amador County stood their ground valiantly. Seghesio, not so much.
Peire Antinori led an Antinori-sponsored seminar called, The Global Influence of Antinori. I certainly felt influenced as he led us around his world in eleven glasses. After the Cervaro, La Bruscessa, Badia a Passignamo and Tignanello we flew off to Chile for Hare De Pirque, to Washington for Col Solare, and California for Antica Chardonnay before heading back to Alba for Prunotto Bussia Barolo to Bogheri for Guado Al Tosso and finishing in Puglia for Tormaresco Bocca di Lupp Angelanico. All of it magnifico. The one dog was the over-soaked Antica Chardonnay, which Antinori curiously described as having an elegant non-Californian style.
Antinori’s “Super Tuscan” Tignanello inspired lots of questions, specifically, how is my vintage doing. First, a guy asked about his 2000 and then a woman asked about her 1997. Thinking, I can beat those years, I inquired about the 1988 that came into my possession last September. He answered with a roller coaster wave of his hand, saying he didn’t know if it was up or down. Sigh.
Antinori’s favorite Tignanello years: 1997, 2001, 2004.
The Banfi Clonal Selections seminar was run by Philip Di Belardino, and within a minute I wondered, who let the comedian in? This guy was like a fermented Jackie Mason who sprinkled jokes into every winemaking point he made, which were many. Continuing the festival’s Wine Is Food sub-theme, he cracked: “In Italy they don’t say ‘you’re drunk’; they say you just haven’t had enough to eat.”
Like the Ruffino seminar, we were taken through three clones of Sangiovese leading to a blend of the three. In this case, the sum was overwhelmingly superior to its parts. Their Brunello di Montalcino and Poggio Alle Mura were exquisite offerings that made me want to skip brushing my teeth.
In the tasting room, so many wines, so little time. Loved the Renaldi Imperial, a well-extracted 100 Pinot Noir sparkling, the delightful Vini Tonon Chardonnay Spumante, and the rich, dark Scambia Pinot Nero. My favorite booth was Agricola Marrone where servers stood in front of the table and poured four wines according to tiny menus they handed out. The menu-ettes listed their ideal meal plan: “Tre Fie” Langhe Arneis as apertif, “La Pantelera” Barbera D’Alba and “Pichemej” Barolo for main dishes – tasted after inhaling truffle steam from their crock pot – finishing with the “Soleil d’Oro Moscato” d’ Asti.
Our server explained how the winery is trying to show how wine can be enjoyed from breakfast to dessert. Did she say breakfast?. Oh yes, she said, the Moscato is a perfect breakfast wine, and at 5% alcohol, the whole 750 ml bottle is the strength of one beer. Having made enough jokes about how a low-alc, fruity white can be a perfect breakfast wine, I now feel vindicated to know that – like most things vinicultural – the Italians thought of it first.
Ciao wine fest, and please pass the pale ale.