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The peloton staff was treated to an Italian wine tasting by Christopher Meeske, president of Mission Wines. Here are his detailed tasting notes on selections made in the Fruili to Sicily regions of Italy.
Words: Christopher Meeske
Images: Tim Schamber
1. Scarbolo Pinot Grigio Ramato (2008) Grave, Friuli
Friuli, the northeastern-most region of Italy, borders both Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east and is the home to some of the most distinctly aromatic and fragrant wines of Italy. The soils for this rare, single vineyard Pinot Grigio consist of dark, red clay, alluvial deposits, minerals and limestone. Ramato, or copper, is the natural color of the Pinot Grigio grape. Juice and skins fermented together reveal this rare color while also creating more intense aromas and structure. The nose exhibits wild strawberry, red fruits and rose petals. Perfect as an aperitif or alongside baked or grilled shellfish—or at the end of a meal paired with fresh cheeses. Typical price: $23
2. Produttori del Barbaresco (2006) Barbaresco, Piedmont
Domizio Cavazza (along with 19 growers) formed the original Cantina Sociali in 1894. Reincarnated in post-Mussolini 1958 as Produttori del Barbaresco, it is now the standard bearer of wine cooperatives in the world, focused exclusively on the eccentricity of the Nebbiolo grape. The range of wines produced is typically a Langhe Nebbiolo, a Barbaresco normale and nine individual cru or single-vineyard Riserva bottlings.
In 2006, these single-vineyard wines were not bottled separately. Instead, they were blended into the wine destined for the Barbaresco normale offering, adding considerable class to the already excellent wine. Aromatic notes of rose petal, black fruits and licorice combine with considerable weight to make this wine deeply colored and intensely flavored. Serve with wild game birds and grilled or roasted meats. The underlying acidity of the Nebbiolo grape serves as a perfect foil for richly-flavored food. Typical price: $34
3. Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso (2008) Bolgheri
Producing 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet, 15% Syrah and 5% Sangiovese, Le Macchiole is located in Bolgheri, on the coast once inhabited by the Etruscans, around 100 kilometers south of Florence and just 5 kilometers from the sea. Bolgheri is, today, one of the country’s most prestigious wine-producing regions and is often referred to as “the Bordeaux of Italy.” Le Macchiole lies on fertile, deep clay soils that also contain a lot of stones and rock—which are perfect for highlighting the vines’ varietal characteristics.
The Rosso is made from the estate’s second selection of vineyards. Ripe, dark fruits with flowers, smoke, licorice and tar envelop the wine. A conversion to biodynamic farming in some of the estate’s vineyards, as well as a deft use of French oak, keep this revolutionary project on the forefront. Pair with red meats, savory risotto or rich cheeses. Typical price: $31
4. Pietracupa Fiano di Avellino (2008) Campania
Campania is a region of southwest Italy, where Naples is the capital. In the heart of Irpinia there is a farm region of Pietracupa. Abundant sunshine and hillside sites for vineyards, volcanic soil and local indigenous vine varietals distinguish this region. The Loffredo family has been in the wine-making business for many years, and, in the respect of ancient traditions, has devoted itself to vintage and exclusive wines such as Fiano di Avellino. Fiano di Avellino takes its name from the variety the Romans called Vitis Apiana, “vine beloved of bees,” and is said to be redolent of pears and hazelnuts. Serve with delicate softer cheeses, fresh fruits, such as melon, or grilled fish. Typical price: $28
5. Passopisciaro (2008) Sicily
Sicily was famed throughout classical antiquity for its agricultural production and fine wine. The island’s geography and climate, a hilly and mountainous terrain with poor soil and low rainfall, make it ideal for the classic Mediterranean agriculture of grain, olive oil and wine. Andrea Franchetti in 2000 decided that he would create a new farm on the slopes of the volcano in Etna called Passopisciara. The farm consists of 40 acres in the town of Castiglione di Sicilia, on the north side of Etna, at about one thousand meters of altitude. The 2008 Passopisciaro is made with a large proportion of grapes coming from parcels that lay at mid-mountain. The wine is made from an ancient indigenous grape variety of Etna named Nerello Mascalese and the age of the vines ranges from 60-120 years old. High-altitude vineyards provide diurnal temperature fluctuations, which contribute to the incredible elegance and silky tannins of this wine. Mix in the contribution of the volcanic soils and you have a wine containing beautiful aromatics and perfume. This unique wine is a classic of the south, and extremely elegant given its southern origins. Serve with grilled fish and roasted meats. Typical price: $43
Christopher Meeske Mission Wines
Located on historic Mission Street in South Pasadena, California, Mission Wines specializes in boutique, small-production wines from around the world. Chris Meeske has owned and operated the popular wine shop for seven years, after spending 15 years as a sommelier in world-renowned restaurants like Patina in Los Angeles, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and the Highlands Inn in Carmel, California. Chris is also an avid cyclist and generously pours the peloton staff Craftsman1903 Lager on a regular basis. missionwines.com
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