In the Heat of the Taste: A Weekend in Italy (by way of Berkeley)

Heat wave, woo hoo! Yes, I love warm weather but live in a city that rarely tops 65 degrees. Saturday, it was warm across the Bay and I headed east to taste an Italian flight at Kermit Lynch Wine MerchantsIMG_0827When I arrived I saw a gentleman with a wine sack. “What did you buy?” I inquired. He then pulled out a White that he could only find at the Spanish Table as well as a 2001 gran reserva Rioja. He was beaming.

I was a little early so I stepped into the shop and decided it was a good day for me to buy a bottle of Barbaresco to cellar in honor of my birthday on August. 22. The KL staffer led me to a 2011 bottle that he said would need at least 6 more years. I then chimed in, “I like a traditional style not a modern one.” He then gave the bottle a loving pat and replied. “This is traditional.” Sold.

Given the heat, my lack of wheels and my  previous commitment to a certain Barbaresco, I went to the tasting with a vow to only take home one of the wines tasted.

I diverge for a geek moment: There are over 350 authorized grape varieties in Italy and more than 500 other documented varieties in circulation as well. So no need to say, “I never heard of that grape” because that comes as no surprise.

Back to the Action. Diving right in, I tasted 6 wines over the course of 90 minutes, savoring the yummy crostini and Panini shared for pairing with the wines.

The Whites/Rosé IMG_0823

#1 – NV Spumanti Metodo Classico Extra Brut, Riofavara, Sicily (95% Moscato di Noto; 5% Grecanico). Nutty and as bone dry as you would expect. More surprising was “Honeyed” floral quality in the bracing dry package. Refreshing on the warm day; kind of sexy too; did my heart and soul good.

#2 –2014 Bardolino Chiaretto, Corte Gardoni, Venero (50% Corvia, 25% Rondinella, 25% Molinara, Barbera & Sangiovese). Pleasant enough rosé with hints of strawberry with a touch of minerality but a little “not much happening” there for me. Alas, I have been drinking a lot of Bandol rose recently and am a tad spoiled as a result.

#3 – 2013 Valle D’Acosta “Petite Arvine,” Chateau Feuillet (100% Petite Arvine). The nose hinted of “sweet fruit” but the palate delivered a lovely savory wine –its salinity  and minerality kept my interest.

Before hitting the reds I was asked “which one did I like most.” I told the person pouring the wine that I would reserve my verdict until I tasted them all. I also shared my birthday dilemma and it turned out he was an August baby too!

The Reds IMG_0824

#4 –2013 Valtenesi “La Botte Piena”, La Basia, Lombardy (80% Groppello, 10% Barbera, 5% Sangiovese, 5% Marzemino). Bright cherry on the nose, tart cherry on palate, fun, chalky but pleasing finish. Fun in an almost Gamay kind of way.

#5 – 2012 Garde Marzemino “Le Morene,” La Basia, Lombardy (100% Marzemino). Dusky cherry look to it as if cherry was mixed with chocolate; candied cherry on nose; high acidity that was a little overwhelming even for me and I like high acid wines to pair with food! Mid-palate got hint of violets (I liked that) but finish was inky and bitter.

#6 –2010 Campi Flegrei Piedirosso, Contada Solandra, Campania (100% Piedirosso). I love a Margherita pizza at Delfina’s and love washing it down with Piedirosso. I was waiting for this. I got fruit, herbs and a tiny bit of earth but the wine failed to excite.

Moment of truth. What to take home? The White of uncommon varietal? The fun red? The refreshing sparkler?

I took home the Sparkling Sexy Sicilian because anyone who can make a bone-dry wine from a grape that has “moscato” in its name and is from a place so hot they are probably harvesting right now has created a miracle!

And this August baby believes in miracles. How about you?

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