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.

Italy and Spain offer great alternatives to traditional Rose

Ricardo Cotarella is without a doubt one of Italy’s best winemakers and consultants. From $10 red blends to $100-plus Super-Italian stallions, his wines receive knockout reviews and awards. His consulting and project with the Falesco winery in Umbria has turned into one workhorse of a wine brand known as Vitiano.

Until recently, Vitiano was known primarily for its red blend of Cabernet, Sangiovese and Merlot. And after a few vintages of a less than inspiring attempt at a Rose, Cotarella and Falesco seem to have quickly mastered the blush version of the Vitiano line extension. The 2008 Falesco Vitiano Rosato is a fresh springtime sweetheart that is “pretty in pink” with soft strawberry notes and a bright raspberry finish. I recommend it with a spinach salad, complete with pine nuts, your favorite cheese and some local strawberries.

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Three countries wage battle for the best rosé

There’s a battle royale brewing this year over who’s been putting out the best rose’ wines. Historically, French rosé from Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley have been the unchallenged heavyweight champions of the world. But recently, the Americans and even the Italians have done some serious training, beefed up their outputs and thrown their hats in the ring. As a result, this year’s rosé releases have been interesting enough to warrant a three-way brawl as to who’s bottling the best.

Italian rosé wines are, in a word, different. The recurring theme to keep in mind with Italian rosé is that it’s not as fruit driven. Indeed, they’re scruffy little wines that are typically bone dry and beckon for a food partner to truly maximize their potential. Both the 2006 Regaleali Le Rosé and the 2005 Valle Reale Cerasuolo Rosé shared these common traits, as well as having aromas that emanate scents of a funky old-world cheese.

The Valle Reale Rosé from Abruzzo showed a better one-two punch ability as both a food wine and a solo sipper. It found its stride late in the match.

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