Declassified Dettori 06 Cannonau Renosu & carnitas at Bahia Don Bravo (La Jolla)

Last year I was lucky to pick up a case of 2006 Romangia Rosso Renosu by Dettori (Sassari, Sardinia), Alessandro Dettori’s declassified Cannonau from the “uneven” 2006 vintage there (as Antonio Galloni has called it).

The U.S. retailer and Alessandro don’t seem to be on the same page as to why the wine was declassified (possibly because of a language issue?).

According to Alessandro, he decided to bottle the wine in 2008 in the middle of a disastrous vintage for him. Normally, he would have let the wine age longer in vat before bottling. But according to one of his ever lyrical emails, the bottling was inspired by a bout of powdery mildew during the devastating summer (for Dettori) of 2008.

Maybe he was concerned the onslaught of bacteria tainted a few of his vats. Or maybe, as he suggested in an email, he remembered how previous generations bottled their wine right away. They did so because they wanted the wine to be ready for the winter and feared being without wine. But by doing so, they also avoided potential spoilage issues.

I’d seen mixed reactions to this wine in the chat rooms. But I also know that Alessandro’s wines require patience — in your cellar and at the table.

He calls his declassified wines “Renosu,” meaning sandy (from the Latin [h]arena, meaning dry, sterile sand). According to his own gloss on the term, it refers to the wines raised in the lower-lying sandy subsoils as opposed to his hillside vineyards (when in fact, the grapes used to make this wine were once intended for his flagship red wine, the Dettori Rosso).

The good news is that the only bad news is that I wish I would have bought more of it!

When opened a bottle the other night with a heaping helping of carnitas at our favorite taco stand in La Jolla, Bahia Don Bravo.

We didn’t get any of the volatile acidity that folks on the boards have talked about and the wine was fresh and bright, juicy and tasty. Had I not known it was a declassified Dettori, I would have said it was the rosso (it’s one of those wines that, if you follow the producer, you can easily pick out in a blind tasting).

I loved the wine and it was a fantastic pairing for the salty, fatty carnitas.

Georgia P had refried beans for the first time that night. I think it’s safe to say that she liked them. ;)

We were sad to say goodbye to grandma Judy, Georgia P’s cousins, and all our good friends in San Diego. But after a week on the road and away from our little house at the corner of Gro[o]ver and Alegria, it was time to get back to Texas where we belong…

Cannonau, Italian Grape Name Pronunciation Project (with Alessandro Dettori)

Lately, there has been a lot of positive response to the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project. Nothing could make me more happy: I created the project to encourage people to speak Italian grapes. After all, one of the things that fascinates us about Italian wines is the ampelonyms and the stories behind them (or in many cases, the lack of information about their etymons). This week’s installment comes via David Weitzenhoffer, who runs a great little importing operation out of New York, Acid Inc. Although at Sotto, we buy Alessandro Dettori’s wines through his Southern Californian importer, we do carry a handful of David’s wines at the restaurant (Scala Cirò and Schola Sarmenti Negroamaro) and I love what he’s doing with his portfolio.

Dettori? The wines that Alessandro produces on his family’s estate in Sardinia are among my favorite wines of all time. We sell them at Sotto, Tracie P and I collect them (they’re not out of reach for middle-class collectors like us), and they changed my life — there’s no other way to say it — when I first tasted and began following the wines back in 2005 in New York.

I met Alessandro — an electric character, for his personality and the crowds that gather around him at the fair — for the first time this year at Vinitaly. I’ve included here a clip in which he explains the etymology of Cannonau.

Great stuff… thanks to David and Alessandro for taking the time for this and sharing this wonderful ampelonym with us. And thank you, if you’re reading this, for speaking Italian grapes!

The 06 Dettori Romangia Vermentino just keeps on giving

One of my favorite things about the Do Bianchi Wine Selections wine club is sharing wines with the folks who buy wine from us. And one of the fringe benefits of running the program is that sometimes my clients generously open some of my favorite wines when I visit to deliver their wines.

Such was the case when Chrissa and Dan popped one of my all-time favs, the 06 Dettori Romangia Bianco yesterday evening.

Man, that wine just keeps getting better and I imagine it won’t hit its peak for another 5 to 10 years, at least. It was crunchy and salty and its acidity was nervy (as the Italian say), with dried and fresh citrus notes and even richer tones of honey than the last time I tasted this stunner…

Chrissa and Dan have begun raising their own pigs on a San Diego County farm and they treated me to some Pig Pickin’ with apple-cider Bogue sauce and corn spoon bread. The pig, I was told, was a “red wattle.” The couple have launched a home butchering educational program called Carne Knowledge and they make some mean pickles, too (from homegrown cucumbers).

Thanks again, guys! LOVE LOVE LOVE that wine…

In case you want to taste the Dettori, I have a few bottles left on my list at Sotto in Los Angeles, where I’ll be working the floor tonight and tomorrow. If you happen to be in town, please stop by…

Good things we ate and drank at Sotto in LA

The Neapolitan pizza at Sotto is imho one of the best in the U.S. today. Just had to share this photo of chef and pizzaiolo Zach Pollack and his bubby.

Panelle (Sicilian chickpea fritters).

Griddle-fired sardines with Sicilian winter citrus salad, shaved fennel, crushed olive-pistachio vinaigrette.

Grilled mackerel in scapece with cauliflower, cured lemons, pesto pantesco (Pantelleria’s tomato and basil relish for fish).

Grilled pork meatballs. I believe that chef Steve Samson’s extraordinary talent in all things pork-related is owed to his Bolognese origins (he and I have been friends for more than 20 years, stretching back to our college days in Italy).

This was one Tracie P’s favorites and mine, too. Ciceri e Tria, chick peas and long noodles, a classic dish of Apulia. Chef Zach strays from tradition here by deliciously folding in baccalà, adding another layer of flavor and texture.

Squid ink (long-noodle) fusilli with pistachios, bottarga, and mint. This dish is a true show stopper. Extremely difficult to photograph well and utterly delectable.

One of my privileges as wine director is that I get to put some of my favorite wines on the list! The 2006 skin-contact, wild fermented, unfiltered, and impeccably Natural 100% Vermentino by Dettori continues to “astound” me (to borrow Saignée’s tasting note). Alessandro Dettori wrote me earlier this year explaining that one of the things that makes this vintage stand out is the fact that he chose not to destem and he macerated for two days with the stems as well as the skins. The wine is gorgeously fresh and bright and its balance of fruit and minerality is stunning. And… It makes you poop good the next day… No joke… I LOVE LOVE LOVE this wine.

Devil’s Gulch fennel-crusted pork porterhouse with green tomato mostarda.

Are those some good-looking cannoli or what???!!!

In case you haven’t heard, I curate the list at Sotto and work the floor there a few nights each month. The list is devoted exclusively to southern Italian wine, with a short appendix of rigorously Natural California producers (chemical-free farming, wild fermentation). My next visit is scheduled for June 21 and 22. Hope to see you there!

Signor Tannino vi sono obbligato (two deceptively tannic wines)

Saturday night found Tracie P and me on a double-date at one of our favorite dinner spots in Austin, Trio at the Four Seasons, where Austin’s very own celeb sommelier Mark Sayre generously allows MOT (that’s members of the trade not members of the tribe for the Hebraically inclined among you) to bring their own wines.

I always point to Lettie’s article, “Corkage for Dummies,” as a great rule-of-thumb guide to the etiquette of corkage. I’d only add to it, that beyond bringing a bottle that’s not on the sommelier’s wine list, I always try to bring something that I think the sommelier will enjoy tasting — a bottle or label that might just surprise her/him.

On this occasion, we brought along two deceptively tannic wines: the 2006 Romangia Bianco by Dettori (Sardinia) and the 2009 Grignolino del Monferrato (above) by La Casaccia (Piedmont), two of our favorite wines from two of our favorite producers.

Thanks to what must be significant maceration time for the Vermentino (I’m still trying to get Dettori to send me some tech notes on this wine and will post as soon as they arrive), this wine is TANNIC with a capital T. In fact, it was MORE tannic than it was on at least two other occasions when we tasted it between the fall of 2010 and last Saturday. Crunchy and salty, with layers and layers of white and pitted fruit (dried, cooked, and gloriously ripe), it’s time IMHO to put the rest of my allocation down in the cellar to be revisited in a year or so. It’s such a great value for people like us who like to age white wine.

The Vermentino was FANTASTIC with the caramelized and dolce amaro flavors of chef Todd Duplechan’s pork belly, which he seasons with the same ingredients used to make Coke. (I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it gladly again: in Texas, where pork belly is de rigueur at nearly any venue that caters to carnivores, I’ve found no one so far who does it as well as Todd does, with seasonal pickled vegetables and a flair that takes it from A to A+. Be sure to eat it when it’s still hot and the unctuous character of the fat sings like Tammi Terrell to the crispy crust of Marvin Gaye.)

Even chef Todd was surprised by how tannic the Grignolino was: “It’s so light in color,” he said when he came out from the kitchen to chat with our table, “I wasn’t expecting so much tannin.”

Very little Grignolino makes it to this country and honestly, I didn’t fully grasp what an amazing and powerfully tannic wine this grape could deliver until I visited the folks at La Casaccia. The first time Tracie P tasted it late last year, she looked up at me from the dinner table and asked plaintively, as if she were a Texan Oliver Twist, “can there be more Grignolino in our future?” The wine was sumptuous (not something you would expect from a wine so light in color) and delicious, with that characteristic rhubarb note that you find in classically vinified Grignolino. The wine was stunning with my Brooklyn-cut pork chop.

O Signor Tannino, vi sono obbligato!

Emozionante! Produttori del Barbaresco Pora 2004

Above: No mixed emotions for me when it comes to 2004 Produttori del Barbresco. This is the stuff dreams are made of…

Last week took me to Dallas where I attended the Vias Imports tasting at the Italian Club of Dallas. It was an emotional occasion for me: I still hadn’t tasted any of the 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco crus and I was entirely geeked to taste the Pora (the only cru presented). I’ve been drinking 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco classic Barbaresco (i.e., blended from different vineyards) and the wine — from a cool and climatically balanced vintage — is showing gorgeously now. It’s going through a beautiful, open period in its youth. (Tracie B and I opened a bottle the other evening for dinner but finished it the next night with her killer nachos as we watched the Golden Globes: the wine actually became more tannic the next night!)

In my experience, Pora is among the softer Produttori crus and can be more approachable in its youth. No mixed emotion for me about this wine: I was thrilled to taste it and it’s sure to be one of the greatest expressions of this wine in my wine-drinking life.

Above: Always the gentleman, Alfonso Cevola jumped behind the tasting table to pour for food and wine writer Renie Steves.

I was also excited for my first taste of the 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco classic Barbaresco. The wine from this warmer vintage is more concentrated and not quite as elegant as the 2004. It is already very approachable and leans toward fruit flavor more than its older sibling.

Above: Salvioni’s 2003 Brunello di Montalcino is probably the best 2003 Brunello I’ve tasted.

Other highlights for me were the 2002 Gravners (Breg and Ribolla, less extreme than in previous vintages I’ve tasted — thank goodness!), Damijan 2004 (always), Dettori 2004 (probably my favorite wine from Sardinia, totally natural in style), Salvioni 2003 Brunello (incredibly balanced alcohol for this super hot vintage, so elegant and terroir-driven), and the 2006 bottlings of Dolcetto by Pecchinino (classic vintage for this wine, I really dug them).

Above: The Italian Club of Dallas has a busy social and cultural calendar.

One surprise was a wine that Robin really likes, Tenuta San Leonardo (Gonzaga) 2004 San Leonardo. I’m never such a fan of Bordeaux-style wines from Italy but this was showing nicely. It was interesting to taste it side-by-side with the 2003: I think that the cool summer of 2004 made for some great wines in Italy.

In other news…

Don’t forget to come see me, Tracie B, and NNP at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on Monday February 9. I’ll be posting updated info for our France 2009 mini-tour next week: we got bumped up to a better show than we thought in Paris… details to follow…

Above: Pickled jalapeños at a wine tasting? Only in Texas!


The 1980s Richard Simmons look didn’t really work so well for Mick, did it?