I assembled her new table and chairs while she was napping…
Above: I found this reproduction of Hemingway’s handwriting in this edition of his complete poems.
Last night after dinner as Georgia P slumbered, Tracie P read a book on birthing, and I relaxed watching Star Trek: First Contact (the movie), an ad came on the television for the Asiago Ranch Flatbread Grilled Chicken Sandwich at Wendy’s fast food.
It got me thinking about the Asiago high plateau and fond memories of visiting the village of Asiago many years ago.
And so I wrote this rant for the Bele Casel blog, where I regularly describe the symptoms of acute Venetophilia.
I was also reminded of Hemingway’s verses dedicated to the many villages that dot the landscape of the foothills of the Dolomite Alps in my beloved Veneto:
Half a hundred more,
Little border villages,
Back before the war,
Monte Grappa, Monte Corno,
Twice a dozen such,
In the piping times of peace
Didn’t come to much.
They were the sites of some of the most terrible battles of the first world war.
And many of them still look the same was as they did when Hemingway saw them for the first time.
And the sandwich, you ask? Here’s my rant.
Thanks for reading and buon weekend yall!
From the annals of oenography…
Above: The facade of the TTB offices on G Street in Washington, D.C. (image via Google Maps).
Earlier this week, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issued a circular laying out guidelines for regulation of wine industry-generated social media.
The move is significant in part because the document clearly states that the agency considers wine industry-generated social media — social networks, video sharing, blogs, microblogs, etc. — to be a form of advertising. And as such, it will be regulated by the TTB.
I found this informative post by a Napa law firm in which the authors spell out the impact that this policy will have on wine industry members who use social media in promoting their brands.
The authors of the post also point out that according to TTB policy, content posted by consumers on wine industry social media is also subject to regulation. Ultimately, this could lead to wine industry members being held responsible for questionable content posted by users of their platforms.
[See the comment section for a clarification on this last point.]
Above: The famous Tiglio di Malborghetto (in the village of Malborghetto, Udine province, not far from the Austrian border) is believed to be more than 400 years old (image via the Unità Pastorale di Gradisca d’Isonzo).
Since antiquity, the linden tree — Tilia platyphyllos or Tiglio nostrano, as it is known in Friuli — has been revered for its longevity and the malleability and sturdiness of its wood. (See the excellent verses from Virgil’s Georgics below.)
The name Lindenburg — literally, the linden borough (Lindenberg, Lindenbergh, etc.) — is an expression of northern Europeans’ ancient fascination with it. Throughout Europe, towns and villages are named after this quasi-sacred plant.
Above: Many Italian wine insiders consider Borgo del Tiglio to be one of the country’s greatest white wine producers.
Last Friday in NYC, invited to join a generous group of Nebbiolo collectors who wanted to share some old bottles with me, I brought a bottle of Borgo del Tiglio (Borough of the Linden Tree) 2010 Collio Studio di Bianco, a blend of separately vinified Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano, and Riesling Italico, one of the winery’s top wines.
Located in the village of Brazzano in the township of
Corna di Rosazzo Cormons ( Udine Gorizia province, Friuli), Borgo del Tiglio is relatively unknown among Italian wine appassionati in the U.S.
As far as I know, the wine is only available for sale to consumers in a few northeast corridor markets, thanks to NYC retailers Moore Bros., whose affiliated importer brings the wine to our country.
I was first introduced to the wine by Friulian aesthete Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey a few years ago when Tracie P and I ate at his excellent Frasca in Boulder.
But in Italy, the wines made by Borgo del Tiglio are stuff of legend.
When I mentioned to Francesco Bonfio — Paduan-born, Siena-based and erudite wine retailer, friend, and collector extraordinaire — that I’d be drinking the wine at lunch, here’s what he wrote back:
“Studio di Bianco is made by Nicola Manferrari owner of Borgo del Tiglio. One of the best producers in Collio. I have bottles of his Friulano (at that time it used to be labeled as Tocai Friulano) from the mid 80s. Next time, we’ll taste them together. Marvellous. It is a 30 years old white that shows 6 years aging.”
The wines aren’t cheap but they’re worth every penny.
Here’s what my friend, Master Sommelier Jesse Becker, says about the wines on his retail site:
“Nicola Manferrari founded Borgo del Tiglio in 1981 when he took control of his family’s vineyards. Low yields, strict vineyard selection and meticulous cellar work result in some of the most powerful, intensely ripe and textural wines in Friuli. Monferrari describes his style as ‘beautiful and kindly’. All wines are fermented and aged in 250L barrels.”
Ubi maior, minor cessat: there was no way I could deliver a bottle of Nebbiolo that could hold its own with the bottles opened at Friday’s lunch.
But I hope and believe that Borgo del Tiglio thrilled my hosts as much as it did me with its delicate and focused but muscular minerality and its layers and layers of white and stone fruit.
The following are the verses from Virgil where he praises the wood of the linden tree in his description of the farmer’s tools.
Thanks for reading and enjoying the epistemological implications of oenophilia with me. You see? Wine is just an excuse to dust off my copy of the Georgics! :)
caeditur et tilia ante iugo leuis altaque fagus
stiuaque, quae currus a tergo torqueat imos
Now to tell
The sturdy rustics’ weapons, what they are,
Without which, neither can be sown nor reared
The fruits of harvest; first the bent plough’s share
And heavy timber, and slow-lumbering wains
Of the Eleusinian mother, threshing-sleighs
And drags, and harrows with their crushing weight;
Then the cheap wicker-ware of Celeus old,
Hurdles of arbute, and thy mystic fan,
Iacchus; which, full tale, long ere the time
Thou must with heed lay by, if thee await
Not all unearned the country’s crown divine.
While yet within the woods, the elm is tamed
And bowed with mighty force to form the stock,
And take the plough’s curved shape, then nigh the root
A pole eight feet projecting, earth-boards twain,
And share-beam with its double back they fix.
For yoke is early hewn a linden light,
And a tall beech for handle, from behind
To turn the car at lowest: then o’er the hearth
The wood they hang till the smoke knows it well.
(translation by J. B. Greenough)
Bartolo Mascarello 1958 Barolo, a holy grail of wines for me. If ever there were a wine that embodied the “unbearable lightness” of Nebbiolo, this would be it. A wine from an extraordinary vintage in Langa and an apotheosis of Barolo. One of the most remarkable wines I have ever tasted — perhaps the greatest.
fetish, “an inanimate object worshipped by preliterate peoples on account of its supposed inherent magical powers, or as being animated by a spirit [Oxford English Dictionary],” from the Latin factīcĭus meaning factitious (made by or resulting from art).
Everyone agreed that the Bartolo Mascarello 1980 Barolo was a standout in the flight. It had that electric vibrancy and magnetic focus in its rich, dark fruit. Wow, what a wine this was… 1980 is regarded as a fair to poor vintage in Langa and this wine was a great example of how great winemakers can deliver outstanding wines even in challenging vintages.
Dayenu! If only just one of the bottles in the flight had been opened over lunch at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria in lower Manhattan, it would have sufficed to satiate our Nebbiolo fetish!
Even though we’d never met in person, I’ve known Ken for many years virtually: we follow each other on social media and often exchange notes and information about the winemakers we both follow (remember this post on the origins of the term piè franco that I wrote a few weeks ago inspired by Ken?).
The Giuseppe Rinaldi 1985 Barolo was another standout for me personally. Like the 1980 Bartolo Mascarello, it seemed to be at the peak of its evolution, a “great wine” on a “great day.”
We’d been trying to get together for some time now. But the fact that I no longer live in NYC and he lives outside the city have made it tricky to make our schedules and travels align.
But on Friday, the stars smiled upon me: Ken invited me to join him and his regular group of collectors and Nebbiolo fetishists.
A great wine from a good (but not great) vintage, the Giuseppe Rinaldi 1974 Barolo was in the late fall of its evolution, with an ethereal lightness of nuanced fruit. One of my personal favorites, although not the best of the best.
Fetishists, you ask? No, I’m not referring to the colloquial usage of the term fetish. There was nothing sexual or otherwise titillating about our lunch and tasting.
I’m talking about the way that Nebbiolo from Langa often assumes a a cultish and even spiritual significance among collectors and connoisseurs (the same way high-profile restaurateurs and top-spending diners often fetishize beef in our country).
Like the 1980 Mascarello Barolo, this wine was stunning for its vibrancy and richness. The Pora cru tends to be generous with its fruit in the wine’s early years. And this was a illustrative example of how Pora retains that brilliance of fruit even as it evolves. I think that all agreed that this, the 80 Mascarello, and the 58 Mascarello were the top wines in the flight.
After all, between the eight persons in attendance, we could have never consumed all the superb wine on the table before us. Much of the wine was left over — a libatio, a drink-offering, a “pouring out of wine or other liquid in honour of a god” (OED).
In fact, the purpose of the gathering wasn’t to nourish ourselves or to employ or apply the wines as they had been conceived — as nutrients themselves, an accompaniment and complement to food.
Instead, we were there to worship these wonderful, wonderful wines. And before us, my generous hosts had erected a temple that literally overflowed with rare treasure and religious artifacts.
Over the last decade, shiny library-release bottles of old-vintage (topped-off?) Borgogno have made their way to the U.S. market. I was thrilled to taste an original release from the 1966 vintage and was impressed by how fresh and lively this wine was. A personal stand-out for me.
For me, such an opportunity is golden. Although I do collect wine and have a nice library of twenty or so cases of Nebbiolo, I rarely get to taste old vintages of top wines like this.
And I am humbly and eternally grateful to the whole group — Marc, Frank, Jamie, Carl, Joe, and Ken (in the order that they sat at the table) — for its extreme generosity.
Guys, I can’t thank you enough for inviting me to “pray” with you.
And Ken, as much as the wine thrilled my senses and my mind, the best part was gleaning your insights on Nebbiolo, Langa, and the people who produce (and who have historically produced) these wines.
You are a rabbi in my world and anytime you need me for a minyan, I am available to daven on the bema of the Langa hills.
One of the most remarkable flights of wine I’ve ever seen before me. Other highlights were Taittinger 1995 Comtes de Champagne, Mastroberardino 1968 Taurasi (classic, not single-vineyard designate), and Ruffino 1961 Chianti Classic Riserva (gold label).
From the department of “some how, some way, I get to drink funky-assed wines like every single day”…
Tracie P and I are so fortunate to belong to such a wonderfully collegial and unabashedly generous community of wine writers and professionals.
Knowing that we are diehard fans of Joly and his Coulée de Serrant and ever thirsty to taste older vintages, a colleague and client of mine recently set me a six-bottle vertical of the wine stretching back to 1991.
We had let the wine rest for a few weeks and decided to open a bottle last night for Mother’s Day (at 32 weeks into our pregnancy, Tracie P drinks one glass of wine a couple of times a week).
Sadly, the 2000 (opened first) was maderized… Drinkable but lacking the electricity we had hoped for.
The cork on the 1991 broke as I pulled it but after straining and decanting to remove a few crumbs that had fallen into the bottle, the wine showed beautifully, with intense freshness (after about 20 minutes of aeration). The wine had layer upon layer of ripe and dried stone fruit and zinging acidity in perfect harmony with the wine’s unctuousness. We loved it (paired with a late spring Texas basil pesto).
It was a very special and unforgettable Mother’s Day for us. :)
I spent the day offline yesterday but this morning was thrilled to discover a review of our wine list at Sotto in Los Angeles (which I curate together with Rory Harrington) by Master of Wine Tim Atkin for The Economist online magazine Intelligent Life.
“If you want to drink Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the default choices of too many American diners,” he writes, “you will be disappointed. But if you’re interested in Greco di Tufo, Nerello Mascalese, Aglianico and Negroamaro – or prepared to give them a try – Harrington is a very enthusiastic advocate of these and other native varieties.”
Click here for the complete review.
What a thrill to know that Tim enjoyed our list! And how great to be connected to such a brilliant wine writer and authority through our virtual community!
And thanks to that very same community, I had the immense fortune to
taste drink 1958 Bartolo Mascarello on Friday. I had been invited to lunch with a group of NYC-based collectors who happen to read my wine blog (do people still read wine blogs?).
It was one of the most memorable wines I’ve ever tasted in my life. And I thank my lucky stars for the generosity of the friends who shared it with me. It was just one in a remarkable flight of wines that I’ll post about tomorrow (80 B. Mascarello, 70 Pora, 85 Rinaldi etc.). Stay tuned…
some how, some way, I get to drink funky-assed wines like every single day…