This Friday I had the opportunity to have dinner with some good friends. When the question of wine came up, my first thought was the weather; 82 degrees and possibility of thunderstorms. Not necessarily the perfect temperate for big reds–and so, it was Sangiovese to the rescue. In my opinion, Sangiovese is ‘THE’ ultimate food wine and great in both warm and cold weather.
Much of this has to do with Sangiovese’s strict acidity, which is balanced by depths of fruit and gripping tannin. Sangiovese, the grape behind favorites like Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, is grown throughout most of central Italy, but finds the majority of its popularity in Tuscany. You can find expressions that are light and juicy, or stern and in need of considerable cellaring. On this evening, we enjoy more of the latter.
The food was incredible as usual at La Vigna, in Forest Hills Queens. La Vigna is a small and comfortable Italian restaurant with a personable staff and an amazing menu. The wines were also excellent. However, I purposely left the notebook at home so that I could really enjoy the company. That didn’t stop me from taking some impressions away from the evening. There was not a bad wine in the bunch and we spent much of the evening in awe of how enjoyable they all were, and in most cases representing great value.
Before moving on to the Sangiovese of the evening, I would be remiss not to mention an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from Larkmead, which we opened the dinner with. Although not available at retail, the Larkmead Sauvignon Blanc is so good that it was one of the main reasons I stayed on the wineries mailing list for half a decade. If you can find it, buy it. It’s one of the best made in Napa Valley today.
2011 Larkmead Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Lillie – The only non-Italian in the dry lineup, but I have been waiting months to pair this wine with a seafood salad, and the day had finally come. There is a truly regal feel to this wine, while still maintaining all of the fresh, citrus, mouth-watering qualities of Sauvignon Blanc. I absolutely love it! (92 points) Only available direct from Larkmead Vineyards.
On to the Sangiovese:
2005 Podere Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione Alta Valle della Greve IGT – My last experience with this wine was nowhere near as good as it was last night. Last night’s bottle showed such purity of fruit and intensity on the palate that it truly makes me wonder how long it will go and what it will taste like 5 to 10 years down the road. The nose alone was worth the price of entry and continued to wow everyone at the table throughout the entire evening. (92 points)
2001 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Antica Chiusina – The nose was dark and seductive with ripe plum, raspberry, and autumnal spice offset by moist soil, crushed fall leaves and chalky minerals. On the palate, it was built like a skyscraper with vibrant acidity and sweet tannin ushering in masses of intense tart black cherry, and herbs with almost syrup-like balsamic note. The finish revealed it’s youth as firm tannin clung to the senses with flavors of tart berry lingering long. (94 points)
2001 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva – Another great example of value from Felsina. It’s amazing to think that this bottle cost 20 to 25 dollars on release and drinks this well 15 years down the road. This was truly classic Chianti from the nose, to the palate, to the absolutely wonderful finish–with all the earth, leather and fruit you could possibly desire. What’s more, this held its own against the ’99 Cepparello, which was probably three times the price upon release. (91 points)
1999 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT – This was a beautiful, mature bottle of Sangiovese. Also a perfect example of how well pure Sangiovese can age in a good vintage from a great producer. Rich, as it fleshed out across the entire palate, yet balanced and still slightly austere–just a beautiful wine in a perfect place. (94 points)
Article at Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido