Winebow’s Vini d’Italia Tour comes to Nashville

Winebow's Vini d'Italia tour comes to Nashville

Winebow’s Vini d’Italia tour comes to Nashville

Vini d’Italia 2013 rolled through Music City this week. Presented by the Italian import company, Winebow, the event travels through four U.S. cities (Orlando, Nashville, Phoenix and San Francisco) to showcase its outstanding portfolio of wineries along with the opportunity to talk with several winery owners, esteemed winemakers and even Winebow front man, Leonardo Locascio.

I was able to meet up and tour taste through the line-up with my Nashville connection and old colleague, Russ Wright, as well as one of my clients, Chef Shannon Ritzhaupt of Café Roma in Cleveland, TN.

The Nashville leg of Vini d’Italia was hosted at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and featured hundreds of fine Italian wines, grappa and a few spirits. Keeping in mind that events like these are a marathon and not a sprint, we tasted through some old favorites from the forty plus wineries that were represented on the tour, including Castellare, Allegrini, Montevetrano, Ceretto, Tiefenbrunner, Di Majo Norante and the list goes on.

Winebow has a strong portfolio so it’s never easy choosing which wine or wines were showing the best. Getting through the tasting in a limited amount of time can be daunting enough, but a consensus for which wines were “Best of Show” winners did arise.

Valle Reale Although there wasn’t as much competition in the rosé wine category, we did try one that blew the socks off any other rosé we’ve had this year. The 2012 Valle Reale Vigne Nuove Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo was magic in a bottle and our pick for “Best of Show – Rosé Wine.” I had first discovered this wine about six years ago doing a review for the Knoxville News Sentinel and the 2012 vintage is proof that the vintners at Valle Reale have nearly mastered rosé vinification.

Rich flavors of extra-ripe strawberries and a lengthy finish are remarkable for a rose made from 100% Montepulciano grapes. The watermelon aroma is a wonderful surprise as well. Located in the central Italian region of the Abruzzo, Valle Reale and the Pizzolo family have done an impressive job of mastering Montepulciano especially when you consider that the winery was started just thirteen years ago.

Competition was a little fiercer when it came to “Best of Show – White Wine” Category with a wine from Piemonte edging out great whites from the Veneto, Alto Adige and a neighboring competitor. The 2012 Monchiero Carbone Recit Roero Arneis reminded us just how special the Arneis grape is.

Arneis at its best

Arneis at its best

The uniqueness of the Recit Arneis is in being both a well-structured, beautiful wine and concurrently a simple and approachable one. Its layer upon layer of stone fruit flavors and peculiarly alluring bouquet, make this 100% Arneis wine charming, interesting and repetitively drinkable.

The “Best of Show – New Wine” in the Winebow collection comes from the Lake Garda area. Winebow’s long time partner – Zenato (and more specifically in this case, Nadia Zenato and her mother Carla Prospero) have a relatively newer venture called Sansonina.

The lovely Nadia Zenato with Sansonina Lugana

The lovely Nadia Zenato with Sansonina Lugana

The release of the 2010 Sansonina Lugana shows you just how far Trebbiano wines have evolved. This golden bottling of one of Italy’s most taken-for-granted grapes simultaneously shows off orchard-fresh fruit flavors and a well-balanced mineral complexion. Let’s hope these last two white wines come to market and soon.

Trying to select a “Best of Show – Red Wine” from any Italian portfolio, let alone those selections of Leonardo Locascio, is like to trying to pick a winner from an international beauty pageant. I must say that the Barolo Zonchera from Ceretto was beyond impressive and the Castellare I Sodi di San Niccolo out of Toscana made one wonder if cuisine could actually come in liquid form.

Gaetano Saccoccio presents the Il Bosco Syrah Cortona

Gaetano Saccoccio presents the Il Bosco Syrah Cortona

However, we kept coming back to an un-traditional find from a winery located in Southern Tuscany, near the Umbrian border. My Nashville connection referred to the 2009 Il Bosco Syrah Cortona as a stunner – “this wine exemplifies a new level of terroir-focused plantings combined with a modern styling and structure. The result is a complex yet refined bottling that can rival the best Syrah offerings from around the world.” I couldn’t agree more; this wine from the Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro winery is like grafting a historically Cote Rotie vineyard to that fine Siena style.

And finally if you’re looking for a mega-value (and safe case purchase) then you have to lay your hands on a box of the 2012 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese. At $9 a bottle you’ll have an inexpensive wine to both serve and impress your guests with at the next big cookout.

Basil Risotto & New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

basil risotto

walnutblockI had to start this post with a small pic of the Risotto! Creamy with gobs of bright basil freshness, the risotto created a better mind frame than any rodent, err groundhog could manage to deliver. Delicate nutty flavors from the parmesano and pine nuts brought balance to the minty, pepperiness of the basil.

Normally I’m a purist when it comes to something like risotto and would be looking for an Arneis or Trebbiano to pair it up with. But tonight, I found myself enthralled by a 2012 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc called Walnut Block. Bright and pleasantly acidic, with crisp citrus flavors of lemon and grapefruit, the Walnut Block has a herbaceous bouquet that went toe-to-toe with the basil risotto. With aromas like green pepper, asparagus and lemongrass, the Walnut Block (and the basil risotto) are a much needed and early prelude to the vine of spring.

White Italian wines wrap summertime in cool mood

When I first started writing this column about a year ago, I began by talking about one of my favorite categories of wine, Italian whites. It’s true that things come full circle in life because summer rolled around and I found myself enjoying some new white wines from Italy.

Like good Italian food, which can sometimes be hard to find, good Italian wines are meant to be shared with family and friends.

Amano Fiano ($10.99): The 2006 Amano Fiano is a dry Italian white with a solid structure and approachable acidity. Aromas of melon and grapefruit carry over nicely to the palate. My friend, the Great Scot, had me over for dinner recently. The Amano Fiano was a noble match to his wife’s coconut-crusted tilapia and a medley of sauteed zucchini, peppers and shallots. Lively and fresh, the 2006 Amano is summertime sunshine in a bottle. If you like it and want to try another, then I highly recommend the 2006 Terredora Fiano from Campania.

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