December 2, 2012-December 2, 2013

The past 365 days have come and gone so quickly and I am much stronger for it.                                                                                                                    What will the next turn of the wheel hold for me? What do I want it to hold? What will be random and what will be controlled?
I am in a better place in every way.
I can only hope for continued progress, perpetuated by my drive and efforts, layered with the torque of the universe.
Not one for New Year’s resolutions, I am making some firm commitments today for the future year…to propel me into a greater and broader future beyond 2014…
Looking forward to the journey and the ride! Let’s hope it is wild.

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303 magazine: Chasing Grapes : Sultry Reds to Warm Up Your Cool Nights

Piedmonte

Falling in love and indulging in truly sensual experiences are the last bastions of an innocent, childlike wonderment that an adult can experience.  The world may lose its luster but it doesn’t have to lose its joy. Sensuality brings us pleasure by engaging our tactile, visual, audio, gustatory, and olfactory perceptions of the world around us. There is nothing in the world better than being in the embrace of the one you love, feeling the warmth of their skin and their breath as their lips brush against yours.  Some people are thrilled by the sensation of silk against their skin or the feeling of fresh, cool soil in the garden in the spring.  Others are turned on by the sounds of a heartfelt, raging guitar solo or the coo of a sleeping infant.  Rich golden, orange and red leaves hanging on autumn trees against amber and pink skies at twilight bring happiness to the people who happen to notice.  But for some, the truest expression of sensuality is found in the aromas and tastes of an amazing bottle of wine paired with a fantastic meal.

Something about autumn stirs my own cravings for more sensual wines with layers of complexity only found in the sultry red wines from the northern shores of the Mediterranean and Ligurian Seas.  These wines awaken my appetite for more luxurious cuisine and a more serious dining experience.  Gone are the casual, steamy, dog days of summer with its crunchy salads, cool soups and icy cold white or rosé wines. In Denver, days may still be warm but evenings are a bit chilly. It’s the perfect time for cuddling in front of a roaring fire with mon petit ami Jerome, and indulging our senses. Wonderful, rustic pasta dishes and smoky grilled fare complemented with the wines of Piedmont or the Rhone Valley bring a sensuality that has been missing all summer back into my kitchen and into my life.

Ready for Harvest in the Rhône Valley

The following wines illustrate my quest for this sensuality to warm these shorter days, cooler evenings, and fulfill my desire for a sultry, aromatic, and flavorful wine to pair with a more substantial meal at the end of my day.  These are wines I have selected to honor the passions of mon petit ami Jerome; his favorite regions and wines that I know he will fall in love with.

I was recently introduced to Proprietà Seprino Uvaggio 2006 by my friend Ashley, at Little’s Wine & Spirits.  This gem of a wine is full of surprises. Hailing from the foothills of the Alps in northern Piedmonte, Italy, the wine was created by father and son team, Paolo and Luca de Marchi.  The word uvaggio indicates that it is a field blend of nebbiolo, vespolina and croatina, fermented together and aged in wood for a medium bodied and firm structured wine. (As opposed to the vinaggio which is a blend of finished wines). The wine shows an inky, purplish tone with classic nebbiolo notes of rose petals, cocoa, and tar rounded out with a lovely spicy scent, jasmine blossoms, ripe pomegranate, and a hint of juicy Morello cherry.  Even though it has a rigid tannin structure, there is just enough acidity to keep this well-balanced wine for years to come.

The Rhône Valley in Autumn

We love France, French wines, and the Rhône Valley produces many of our favorite wines. In recent weeks, mon petit ami Jerome acquired two contrasting styles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the staunchly traditional Bosquet des Papes  Chante le Merle, 2009, Vieilles Vignes, and the more modern  Le Vieux Donjon, 2008.  Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a fascinating commune of the southern Rhône with a history of unique culture and unique wines to reflect the dramatic history of the area.  In 1308 Pope Clement V relocated the papacy to the city of Avignon. For seventy years, the Avignon Popes did much to advance the wine making of the area.  They encouraged viticultural regions to expand and brought more modern technology to the area. The wines of the region became known as Vins du Papes. Wine of the Popes.  Always rustic and earthy in style, Châteauneuf-du-Pape allows up to 13 different red and white grapes into their blends but relies on four main varietals to signify the unique style. Grenache, Mourvèdre,  Syrah, Cinsault, are the main varietals utilized but Counoise, Muscardin, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse are allowed along with white grapes including Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Picardan, Roussanne, and Picpoul.  Bosquet des Papes  Chante le Merle, 2009, Vieilles Vignes, has been a family owned labor of love since 1860. Chante le Merle is their baby. The bracing and balanced wine is mostly Grenache with a splash of Syrah and Mourvèdre, showing notes of lavender, raspberries, mocha and a spicy, rich finish. Family owned and very small production, Le Vieux Donjon, 2008 is a bit more solid and rustic with assertive perfume and more juicy fruit.  It is broad, plush and solid, with notes of kirsch, juniper, baked spicy apples, and hints of anise seed and cypress.

Ripe syrah grapes bursting with flavor

Côte-Rôtie is the roasted slope of the Rhône Valley known for Syrah often blended with a bit of  Viognier.  This is one of the first and only regions of France to allow, and even encourage the blending of a small amount of white grapes into the red wine to encourage a silky smooth and more floral aroma and mouth feel. The most distinctive characteristic of Côte-Rôtie wine is the beautiful and aromatic aroma. The fragrant notes often include green olives, raspberry, violets, meaty bacon, black pepper, white pepper, blueberry, blackberry, plum, and leather. Most of the vines are very old, with 40 years being an average and some vines being over 100. This produces low wine yields of very flavor-concentrated fruit, leading to lush and flavorful wines.  Domaine Partick Jasmine Côte-Rôtie, 2007 is an elegant and classic representation of Côte-Rôtie. This particular wine boasts juicy cherries, ripe raspberries, tobacco, crushed minerals, violets, and a sprinkling of white pepper.  Jasmine has a lively acidity along with a firm tannin structure and a glorious, smoky finish.

As lovers of most things nebbiolo, it is only natural to find ourselves drawn to the king of Piedmonte: Barolo. Piedmonte is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and yet, it seems always under wraps save for the most adventurous wine lovers. The unique mesoclimate and tortonian soil riddled with limestone marl give way to wines that are heady, aromatic, elegant, and well-balanced with the ability to age for many years. Nebbiolo is a late ripener and was once reserved for sweet wines, but in the mid-19th century an inventive Italian invited a French winemaker into his fold and the pair created the first modern Barolo.  Oddero Barolo is a modern representation of this black-skinned grape known for its tar, rose petals, truffles, licorice and dusty cocoa notes. Friends and I recently shared a bottle of Oddero Barolo 1994 which was just ready to drink.  The most difficult thing about loving Barolo is leaving it alone for years while it matures and becomes the absolute beauty it is destined become.

All of these delectable wines should spend more time in the cellar, but look for them now while they are available.  They are small production, coveted, rare and beautiful gems.  Find them, buy them, lay them down and leave them alone.  In a few years, when they are more accessible, the bliss you experience, much like love, will be well worth the wait.

Chasing Grapes: The World’s First Premier Cru: Aglianico

Vineyards of Campania
2,700 years ago, on the sun drenched slopes of Mount Falerna near Campania and Latuim in Southern Italy, Aglianico grapes basked in the sun in three very special vineyards. The first vineyard was known as the Caucinian Falernian and was located on the highest slopes, the second vineyard was the Falernian found on the lowest slopes; and between the two vineyards rested the third the prized Faustian Falernian vineyard. These precious vineyards were owned by Roman aristocracy for millennia and are still under vine today. Originally, the Phoenicians cultivated the grape in Greece. During the 7th or 8th BCE the Greeks brought the Ellenico grapes to Italy where it gained its new name: Aglianico.

Vineyards near Campania
The Falernian wine made from these ancient Aglianico grapes, from the Faustus vineyard were the world’s first Premier Cru, and were reserved for the extremely wealthy and important members of Roman society. It was a wine of legend and heritage, written about by famous poets, philosophers, scholars, and historians. The grapes were harvested late in the season and had tremendous levels of sugar resulting in a sweet wine with very high alcohol content. The wine was left to oxidize for up to twenty years in clay amphorae vessels. The potent sugar and alcohol content of the wine made it age worthy and suitable for travel. The Roman legions carried Falernian throughout Europe and as far north as Britain. Pliny the Elder commented, “It is the only wine that takes light when a flame is applied to it.” He also described a particular banquet honoring Julius Caesar in 60 BCE where the famed “Opimian vintage of 121 BCE” was served. That vintage was an exclusive Falerian and was one of the finest wines ever created.

Aglianico grapes
Aglianico grapes are deep purple, hearty, and full of potent flavors. In Basilicata, they thrive in the volcanic soils of the extinct volcano, Mount Vulture, and on the hills near Taurasi in Campania. The commoners of Rome drank a crude red wine pressed from these grapes. The rustic, inky black wine was superior in tannins and in acidity. It had notes of smoky ash from the volcanic soils and bright red fruit from the abundant sunshine. The best Aglianico was more elegant than rustic and reserved for Roman aristocracy alone. Legend claims this is the wine offered to Jesus before his crucifixion and the same wine that Mary Magdalene dabbed to his lips as he was dying. We will never know.

What we do know is that this lovely little grape is still growing in these same vineyards in the southern most regions of Italy. Eighty years ago two winemaking families began to produce modern wines from Aglianico grapes grown on Mount Vulture vineyards. The two most prominent regions for Aglianico in Italy are in Campania, where it is known as Taurasi DOCG, and Basilicata, where it is known as Aglianico del Vulture DOC. Until very recently, Donato D’Angelo and Paternoster were the only two producers of Aglianico del Vultures available in the U.S. Feudi is a new leader in the Aglianico game. Now, Aglianico is springing up on wine lists and in wine boutiques across Denver.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of presenting three styles of the Aglianico grape to a budding group of wine aficionados.  I happened across an expression of the grape I’d never had the chance to try: bubbly! De Conciliis Selim Spumante is the first sparkling Aglianico from the Campania region of Italy.  Bruno De Conciliis harvests his grapes from vineyards in Paestum, near ancient Greek ruins. This beautiful, fresh, smoky wine blends Aglianico with Fiano grapes to produce a lush, lively wine with notes of orange blossom, tangy citrus and fleshy, succulent peaches. Named for a jazz great, Selim is an anagram for Miles, as in Miles Davis. Pair Selim with a fresh seafood salad or even with a late morning brunch.  Next in the lineup was Apollo Aglianico from the hillsides of Ponte Sannio, Campania.  This Aglianico has a more modern style made from hand harvested fruit that has been fermented in oak and stainless steel vats but it is finished for six months in oak barriques. It is unfiltered adding to its richness, blackberry juiciness and perfume of vanilla and blueberry jam.  Finally, we tasted the more traditional Terra di Vulcano Aglianico del Vulture, a classic representation of this inky, rustic, sultry grape.  Salvatore Pala first began making Aglianico in the 1950’s in Basilicata and this is one of his darlings. The project is still family owned, the grapes are hand harvested and fermented in oak and stainless steel, and although the winery uses modern technology, the wine is still a classic. This sensual wine is full bodied, with a nice balance of tannins and acidity.  It shows gorgeous smoky notes of black plums, black cherries, dried cocoa, violets, and rose petals. Aglianico loves food and is fantastic with rustic, wood fired pizza, smoked salmon, spicy cured meats or lean grilled meats. Share these wines with your friends and loved ones at your next late summer barbecue.  I am looking forward to sharing all three of these sexy wines with mon petit ami, Jerome, the very next chance I get! I am sure he will love Aglianico as much as I do.

Mount Vulture

 

Look for this trio of wonderful wines at Little’s Fine Wines, 2390 S. Downing St Denver, CO 80210; Mon-Thurs: 10am to 11pm Fri-Sat: 10am to 12am Sun: 12pm to 9ish pm; 303-744-3457.  Ask for Ashley.

photos courtesy of flicker, salentosolemarevento, and lucania.se,