Selvapiana Chianti Rufina good to the last drop

June 15, 2013

color sangiovese

MAN, I love this wine! Look at the color (no Photoshopping here, just a raw photo snapped with a white backdrop). THAT’s the color of Sangiovese.

I paired last night with a thinly cut, bone-in pork chop, slowly roasted Yukon Golds, dripping in extra-virgin olive oil, on the side. It was a beautiful thing…

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Selvapiana, the gift of Sangiovese just keeps giving (and a photo of not so little Georgia)

January 19, 2012

It’s been incredible to see the heartfelt, poignant reaction to Quintarelli’s passing on Sunday. With the loss of Quintarelli and Gambelli, January has been a “cruel month” in Italian wine, as Italy’s top wine blogger Franco Ziliani put it. With uncertainty looming over Europe and an ever shifting wine industry, this passing of the old guard seems to mark the end of an era in the wines that we know and love. I have to admit that it leaves me in a state of aporia. But it’s time to begin wine blogging again…

When you first open the Selvapiana 2009 Chianti Rufina, you are greeted by a stiff whiff of volatile acidity and a wine so tannic, dense, and chewy on the palate that your first impulse is to recork it and put it down for another few years.

But with a little aeration, the funk quickly blows off and the wine starts to reveal its gorgeous ripe red and berry fruit, its ethereal mouthfeel aligning with its bright, translucent granite color (see the photo by Tracie P above).

Tracie P’s not drinking more than a glass of wine at dinner these days because she’s nursing Georgia P and so I’m always looking for under $25 wines that will last for several days in the fridge.

I opened the 2009 Selvapiana on a Monday and drank a glass every night with dinner over the course of four days. But the last day — and the last glass — the wine appeared to me as a Platonic ideal of beauty, the quintessence of what fine (food-friendly) wine should be in my view: bright, bright acidity, balanced alcohol (around 13%), a nose reminiscent of dewy pine, and ripe plum and black cherry. Pretty nifty for a wine that costs less than $20 in most markets (mine included). It just needs a little patience. I love it…

In other news…

Georgia P’s nearly 9 lbs.! She and mamma are doing great…


Italy vintage 2008: the good, bad, and delicious

April 26, 2010

Above: Tracie P made a delicious pollo alla canzanese (with potato purée) last night for dinner. After she tasted a bit paired with the 2008 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, she said: “wow, Chianti goes with everything!” Selvapiana is one of our favorite wines, in terms of cost, food-friendliness, general deliciousness… and of course, its old-school ethos.

It’s too early to make any general sweeping observations (and no matter what the vintage, there will always be idiosyncratic expressions of any appellation depending on the grower, growing sites, and winemaker), but 2008 — from what I have tasted so far — is sizing up not to be the greatest vintage in northern and central Italy in recent memory. The legacy of 2008 has yet to reveal itself but it would seem that rain — particularly rainfall in the latter part of the vegetative cycle when the vines need aridity to avoid mildew — made for a harvest without a lot of longevity.

But that’s not bad news. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s really more a question of when the wines will begin to show well (earlier in this case) and their approachability and food friendliness.

So far, the two standouts for me have been the 2008 Langhe Rosso Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco (which we served at our wedding, if that’s any indication of how much we like it!) and the 2008 Chianti Rufina by Selvapiana, which our friend Sarah (a publicist who reps the importer, Dalla Terra) recently sent to us to try. Of course, anyone who reads my blog knows that Tracie P and I are big fans of Selvapiana.

The wine wasn’t as tannic and did not have the structure of the 2007 (which we drink regularly at home, because of its under-$20 price tag and its wonderful versatility at the table; it was my pick for Thanksgiving 2009, as you may remember).

Instead, this time around the wine was bright and showed nice ripe fruit right outta the box. It was lighter in body and sang a cheerful tune in the glass. I probably won’t stash a bottle of the 2008 to see what it tastes like in a few years (as I did for the 2007): when it hits the Texas market, it’s sure to be a a Wednesday- or Saturday-night (or in last night’s case, a Sunday-night) wine for the dinner table at home, to be drunk as soon as it’s had time to rest after arriving from our local wine monger.

The best news is that in tough vintages (as 2008 is shaping up to be), winemakers will often choose not to make their flagship wine and their top vineyards will go into their second and third label.

Above: A few weeks ago, we served the 2006 Chianti Rufina Riserva [single-vineyard] Bucerchiale, the winery’s current flagship release, with roast lamb on the patio of our new home. Rich and still very young for its age, a wonderful roast and grilled meat wine, still very tannic but approachable with some aeration, one our favorite expressions of Sangiovese. Definitely a Saturday-night or Sunday-feast exclusive (the PARZEN 7-DAY RATING SYSTEM® is calculated according to a festivity-and-celebratory-worthy algorithm).

I don’t know whether or not Selvapiana intends to bottle their single-vineyard Bucerchiale from the 2008 vintage or not and it’s highly likely that the winery doesn’t know yet either: they’ll taste and re-taste the wine before they decide how they choose to age and subsequently label it. We’ll see.

Legend has it that famed Italian winemaker Piero Talenti once said, “there is no such thing as a bad vintage. There are just vintages where we make less wine.” However apochyphal, there is more than a grain of wisdom in this axiom. Vintage is just one element in the vintage-terroir-winemaker equation.

After all, Bordeaux 2009 may be the “most talked about vintage” in the last 30 years, as Alfonso pointed out on the corporate blog that he authors, but I won’t be able to afford it!

POST SCRIPTUM Here are a couple of interesting links and recipes for Chicken Canzanese: Cooks Illustrated and Amanda Hesser in The New York Times via 1969.

Tasted any good 2008s? Please share!


Sunday poetry: For You, O Democracy (red, white, and rosé)

July 5, 2009

Above: We spent the Fourth of July in Orange, Texas, along the Louisiana border where Tracie B grew up.

Had you told me a year ago that I was going to fall in love with a gorgeous Texana and move to Austin, I would have told you you were crazy. But, then again, stranger things have happened. I can’t complain: for all of its surprises, life certainly has been good to me so far. Yesterday, Tracie B and I celebrated the birth of our nation with her beautiful family in Orange, Texas, along the Louisiana border (pronounced LUZ-ee-AH-nah), where Tracie B grew up.

Above: Tracie B’s Uncle Tim — an outstanding cook — used his grill as a smoker. He stuffs his bacon-wrapped jalapeños with cream cheese and chicken (or duck when he has it).

Living in the South has been an interesting experience for the San Diego Kid. There’s perhaps no other place I’ve lived in the U.S. where people feel such a strong tie to culinary place and culinary tradition. And I can’t imagine a warmer welcome anywhere in the world.

Above: “Low and slow.” That’s the mantra of Texas Barbecue. The centerpiece and litmus test of any Texas barbecue is the smoked, dry-rubbed brisket, smoked for 10-12 hours at 200-225° F. The “depth” and evenness of the pink “smoke ring” are two of the criteria used to judge Texas barbecue.

Yesterday, we were the guests of Tracie B’s Aunt Ida and Uncle Tim who were also celebrating their return to their home: flooding and storm damage following hurricane Ike had forced them out last September. What a difference a year makes…

Above: Tracie B’s Mee Maw’s deviled eggs paired beautifully with the Bisson Golfo del Tigullio Ciliegiolo, which has become my new favorite barbecue wine and probably my favorite rosé for the summer of 2009. It was the hit of the flight that Tracie B and I brought to the party.

Tim, an excellent cook (his gumbo is off-the-charts good), made barbecue and Tracie B and I opened a bottle of Inama Soave, Bisson Golfo del Tigullio Ciliegiolo, and Villa di Vetrice Chianti Rufina — a tricolor summertime triptych.

Above: Ida and Tim live on a bayou. They only recently moved back into their home. The backlog of reconstruction in the area kept some people out of their homes for nearly a year.

Yesterday’s celebration made me think of this poem by Walt Whitman.

from Leaves of Grass, 1855

For You, O Democracy

Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.

I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,
and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.

For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.

Above: At the end of the night, the glow of the DuPont plant down the road lit up Cow Bayou. The image reminded me of the first part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the original Disneyland in Anaheim.

Happy Fourth of July, y’all! Thanks Ida and Tim and thanks Mrs. B and Rev. B for having me!


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