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…
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…