Sagrantino stories: Umbria gave LA its name

From the department of “de urbe angelorum”…

perticaia sagrantino 2010Yesterday found me tasting wine in Los Angeles at Sotto, where I’ve been co-authoring the wine list for nearly four years.

There wasn’t a lot of wine to taste: the longshorepeople strike in Oakland has left many California-based importers without any new wine to show.

I did, however, get to taste with Alessandro Meniconi (above), the winemaker at Perticaia in Montefalco, Umbria (at Sotto, we serve southern Italian wine nearly exclusively but I when I’m in town, I occasionally taste central and northern Italian wines for my personal betterment).

When he arrived at the restaurant, the last tasting in my schedule, he happened to be using his phone to search for the origins of the toponym Los Angeles.

As fate would have it, the name’s origin stretches back to the village of Assisi, not far from where Alessandro makes wine.

A Franciscan missionary, I learned, named the Los Angeles river after the Porziuncola, the small church in the hamlet of Santa Maria degli Angeli, just outside of Assis: El Río de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula (the River of Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula).

The city that grew there would ultimately be known as Los Ángeles.

I also learned that Perticaia, the name of the winery where Alessandro has been working since 2008, gets it name from an Umbrian dialectal word for plough. It’s not an -aia wine, as many would imagine.

His 2010 Sagrantino showed beautifully in the tasting and although it’s aged for twelve months in barriques of varied age (including some new), the wood was perfectly integrated into the wine.

I was really impressed by the gorgeous balance of this vintage, which by all accounts has delivered some fantastic wines in central Italy.

His 2009, also very good, was big and bold, with rich fruit. But the 2010 was much more approachable thanks to its equilibrium. I liked it a lot and Alessandro is pouring it today at the Tre Bicchieri tasting in San Francisco.

That’s the only LA story I have time for today. Time to get back to the tasting block. Check back tomorrow for my amazing encounter with wine glasses that sing (no joke).

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