Giorgio Grai 1982 Alto Adige Cabernet
In nearly every region of Italy where I’ve tasted, I’ve met winemakers who cite Giorgio Grai as their mentors. I met the man once, many years ago, in New York at a tasting of his wines at Le Cirque. Now in his 80s, the tireless Italian master continues to consult and make wine (and drive race cars). Elegant, refined, polyglot, polymath… I think of him as the James Bond of Italian wine. Francesco called him from the table and we shared the immense sensorial and intellectual pleasure inspired by this wine, still very youthful in its development.
The acidity and freshness in this wine were brilliant and its focus and precision awe-inspiring. Ripe red fruit with notes of cinnamon and eastern spice and a gentle menthol note that emerged with aeration. Where other expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon make me yawn, this wine made me cry…
Baron de Ladoucette 1983 Pouilly-Fumé Baron de L
This wine was actually the opener but ubi major, minor cessat… I have to confess that I had never tasted Ladoucette: Francesco informed me that the winery’s Baron de L is considered one of the great (if not the greatest) expression of Pouilly-Fumé and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine shared its last breath of life with us, rewarding us with richness in mouthfeel and flavors of lemon custard and freshly baked pie crust and a gentle aromatic note of country herbs. With aeration, it started to wilt but its last gasps of vitality were thrilling.
Gianni Brunelli 2004 Brunello di Montalcino
When Francesco asked Laura Brunelli which vintage of her family’s wine we should drink, she and sommelier Mirko agreed that the 2004 is in a moment of grace. Its current openness shared that signature zinging acidity of Brunelli’s Sangiovese, with plum fruit and intense minerality and just a touch of savory (think carpaccio not filet mignon). Gorgeous wine that will probably close up again soon.
Duckhorn 1983 Napa Valley Merlot Three Palms
Francesco inherited his Americanophilia from his father, whose happy memories of the American liberation of Italy during the second world war, said Francesco, spurred his father to go west. Knowing that I’m from California, Francesco brought the Duckhorn as a homage to my origins. It surprised us with bright red fruit on the nose and honest acidity. But the dominance of wood in the mouth disappointed me. As balanced as it was otherwise, the wood sat on top of the wine, lacking cohesion with the other elements. Alas… America’s love affair with oaky wine always leaves me scratching my head…
I was so happy to meet Francesco and his lovely wife Marina back in June in Apulia, where he and I were both judges in a Southern Italian wine competition. Their familiar Paduan cadence brought back memories of my many years at the Università di Padova. Francesco is the president of Vinarius, the association of Italian wineshop owners. I enjoy Francesco’s company and conversation immensely and his tales of the late and great Italian wine importer Lou Iacucci had me on the edge of my seat. Here’s the link to his wine shop, just off the Piazza del Campo.
What did we eat? Click here to find out. Thanks again, Francesco!