Italian wine still groovin’ in Austin

stella retica arpepe

“Around New York,” wrote Eric “the Red” Asimov last month in the Times, “no Italian-accented wine list can be considered in vogue these days without at least one of the excellent Valtellinas from ArPePe.”

(Check out Eric’s excellent overview of Nebbiolo and some of his favorite labels in the U.S. here.)

Ever since the historic Valtellina winery ArPePe began making its comeback a few years ago in Manhattan, its wines have become a sine qua non for hipster Italophile wine directors across the country.

I’m happy to report that Austin has become one of the epicenters of this nouvelle vague.

I had a chance to taste through the wines during a quickly planned trip to the River City yesterday. The 2006 Sassella Stella Retica (above) was the highlight in the flight that was poured for me at Vino Vino, my client and the best little wine bar in the Texas capital.

(Stella Retica is a place name, btw; check out this Alpinist post on the Via Stella Retica in Sondrio province, not far from the winery.)

It was interesting to talk to the folks at Serendipity, who brings the wine into the state, and the supplier rep, who told me that all the wines are made in chestnut casks. There’s one cement vat in the winery, he said, and it’s one of the biggest in Italy. But it was decommissioned many years ago after ArPePe ceased to be the only cooperative winery in the appellation. Today, it’s used as a reception space, he said.

housemade mozzarella

Later in the evening, I made it down to my favorite pizzeria in Texas, Bufalina, where my buddy Steven Dilley serves the entry-tier ArPePe by the glass.

That’s his housemade cow’s milk mozzarella (above) that he uses exclusively to top his pizza. It’s never refrigerated, he says. It was delicious as was the Margherita that I shared with my good friend Billy Mann who happened to be in town on business.

I awoke very early this morning and drove home in time to spend some time with the Parzen girls: I head out tomorrow for California and then NYC and so every moment with them is precious.

But I’ll rest easy on my trip, knowing that Italian wine is alive and doing well in the Groover’s Paradise.

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