Barbaresco Pora 2001 Produttori del Barbaresco left me speechless

May 17, 2010

pora

Above: Every once in a while you open the right bottle at the right time with the right people on the right occasion. The 2001 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco left me and Tracie P speechless last night.

Yesterday, on our way back from Orange, Texas (on the Louisiana border), where we visited with Tracie P’s family and celebrated most-likely-soon-to-be-family-member Clark Dean’s graduation from Sam Houston State University with home-smoked ribs and brisket (Clark’s dating cousin Katherine), we stopped in Houston for an impromptu wine tasting and spaghettata with the Levy clan and family friend Taylor Holladay.

Cousins Marty and Joanne and Neil and Dana (of the Levy clan) are so generous to me and Tracie P and have so warmly welcomed us into their lives: we wanted to do something special for them by means of a wine tasting and — by request — Tracie P’s spaghetti alla carbonara.

Five wonderful wines were opened and you can imagine which wines they were, since they often appear here at Do Bianchi (the theme was our favorite wines to drink at home). But the wine that eclipsed them all — the bottiglia signora — was the 2001 Barbaresco Pora by Produttori del Barbaresco.

pora

Above: After the tasting, the Pora was the wine that everyone wanted to drink for dinner. I just can’t begin to explain how much I love Produttori del Barbaresco — excellent price/quality ratio, honest and real wine, poop and fruit in a glass.

“Poop and fruit in a glass,” were Tracie P’s words: this nearly 10-year-old expression of old-school Nebbiolo, from one of the best vintages of our lifetime (delivered in a bottle I picked up at a close-out last year for $35!), left me (nearly) speechless (if you can imagine that!). A nearly perfect equilibrium of tannin, earth, fruit, and acidity, the right bottle, the right wine, opened with the right folks, at the very right moment.

Pora is arguably the “softest” of the Produttori del Barbaresco single-vineyard bottlings but this bottle surprised me with its impressive tannic structure, integrated nicely with the wine’s gorgeous fruit. I promise that one day soon, I’ll post my notes from tasting all of the winery’s crus with winemaker Aldo Vacca back in March.

In other news…

On Saturday, Taylor had been bamboozled by the behemoth of Texas wine retailers (and it’s not hard to guess who that is). He had visited the flagship store in Houston asking for a bottle of Produttori del Barbaresco (my recommendation) intended for his late-night date Sunday night. He was sold an under $30 blend of barriqued Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese from Bolgheri (in a very “naughty” bottle, i.e., deep punt, thick glass, etc.) by a salesperson who told him, “this is very similar to Produttori del Barbaresco. If you like that, you’ll like this.” Wrong grape, wrong region, and wrong style… Tracie P and I just couldn’t send Taylor on his mission with a bottle of tricked-out Cabernet! Luckily, I had a bottle of 2004 Rosso del Veronese (a classic blend of Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella, vinified in stainless-steel and aged in large cask) by one of Quintarelli’s protégés Luca Fedrigo, owner of L’Arco.

How did the wine work out? “Great… It got me a kiss!!”

Available at the Austin Wine Merchant, under $20 (the wine, not the kiss).

In other other news…

If you haven’t yet read Alice’s “Modern Love” column in the Times… run don’t walk!


Quintarelli’s putative son

October 20, 2009

luca fedrigo

After a year in Texas, you’d think that I wouldn’t be surprised by the vinous talent that comes out to see us. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to chat with Luca Fedrigo, above, owner of L’Arco in Santa Maria di Negrar, whose wines I’d never tasted. “After I started making wines in the late 1990s,” he told me, “my first sale in the U.S. was here in Austin.” The Texas market’s loyalty to his wine has brought him back ever since.

Just as Texas holds a special place in Luca’s heart for the sweet memory of that first sale, so do the wines of Valpolicella in mine: I first tasted great wines from “the valley of alluvial deposits” when I went to study at Padua in the late 1980s.

Franco has written about the regrettable “Amaronization” of Valpolicella that has taken place over the last decade: the region is sadly over-cropped and too many producers are making Amaronized expressions of fruit that would be better destined for Valpolicella Classico.

Luca is part of a small but determined movement of winemakers who remain true to the origins of the appellation. I really dug his traditional-style Valpolicella and Amarone, classic expressions of the appellation, aged in large old casks. I even liked his Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, which showed great minerality and acidity (I think I’m going to use this wine for my Veneto class on November 3 as an example of the tradition of Bordeaux varieties long present on Veneto soil).

As it turns out, thirty-something Luca left school at the age of 14 and went to work for the “father of Valpolicella,” Giuseppe Quintarelli, who, in turn, became his putative father (I won’t go into the personal details, but let’s just say that Luca is practically a member of the family). For years, Luca studied winemaking with the great master of the appellation and ultimately became his vineyard manager. Quintarelli, he told me, helped him (and many others) to branch out on his own and create the Arco label. A gift that keeps on giving: thank goodness for Luca and the preservation of the traditions of this truly great appellation. “Valpolicella without Quintarelli,” Luca said, “is like a family without a father.”

The wines are available at The Austin Wine Merchant.

In other news… a savory oatmeal cookie…

oatmeal

After three months of scraping by on writing and teaching gigs, I’m thankfully back to hawking wine. This early morning finds me in a hotel in Houston, where I “showed” wine all day on a “ride with,” as we say in the biz, with a famous French winemaker. It’s only my first day back out on the road and I already miss her terribly. But like manna from heaven, her savory oatmeal cookies somehow found their way into my wine bag and made for an excellent breakfast with my coffee.

Proust had his madeleine…


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