waiting for a train

Friday, May 21, 2010

Missing from the ranks of prestigious Tuscan winemaking families who have projects in Washington (Antinori/Col Solare; Folonari/Saggi) is Frescobaldi. But maybe – just maybe – the groundwork is being laid for a collaboration to occur.

Last night, in Walla Walla, Michael Corliss and Lauri Darneille hosted a dinner at their Corliss Estates winery in honor of Marchesi Ferdinando Frescobaldi. The Marchesi is visiting the Northwest as a guest of tomorrow’s Poncho Wine Auction. He had never been to Walla Walla, and spent the day touring vineyards, meeting winemakers, and getting a first-hand look at our local industry, which is only about 2300 years behind his own.

The Frescobaldi portfolio is imported into the U.S. by Michael Mondavi’s Folio Fine Wine Partners. Yes, they are California-based, but have already made forays into Oregon to make wine, and with a little nudge from their Italian partner might consider a jump across the Columbia river.

In any event, the dinner last night, attended by a number of winemakers and orchestrated by talented chef Andrae Bopp (wouldn’t you love to be named Bopp? – I sure would!) – was highlighted by a 1999 Ornellaia from a three liter bottle. Before dinner got underway, I tasted through some new releases from Frescobaldi with Ferdinando and Thomas Vogele, the Folio rep for this region.

I have had the pleasure on several occasions to review many of these wines, and I always find them elevating. Tasting a 2008 Attems Estate Pinot Grigio ($16) – the only non-Tuscan property in the portfolio – I described it as transparent, with the sort of shimmering depth that you might find in a clear and deep mountain pool.

It was followed by a 2007 Pomino “Benefizio” Riserva Chardonnay ($37) – barrel fermented from a tiny DOC northeast of Florence, at an elevation of 2000 feet. It reminded me that the best Italian chardonnays – and surely this belongs with the best, including Gaja – seem to be both under-appreciated and, in this instance, a superb value. When you consider what the most prestigious California chards go for (think Peter Michael or Kongsgaard), never mind premier cru or grand cru Burgundy, this is a genuine bargain, beautifully rich with lemony, lightly candied fruits and backed with generous acidity.

We next tasted the Tenuta di Castiglioni 2008 IGT ($24), a cabernet/cab franc/merlot/sangio blend done in a SuperTuscan style, but priced for every day consumption. The lush aromas, loaded with spice and incense, led into a wine with beautiful definition and breed. It stood up nicely alongside both the 2006 Mormoreto IGT ($64) and the 2007 Ornellaia ($180), sleek Bordeaux blends with decades of life ahead.

As we sipped I asked Ferdinando for his impressions of the day’s touring, and he was particularly enthusiastic about the care and condition of the vineyards he’d seen, which included Corliss estate and Northstar. On the possibility of a North American wine project he was gracious and encouraging. “No plans at this time,” he said, “but definitely we are open. We have a good rapport with Michael Mondavi. It’s possible with him we’ll do something. We want to have a relation with family. In Italy we say ‘when the train is passing, you have to be ready to jump on’” he concluded.

I’m sure it sounds better in Italian, but I get the gist. All in good time – but maybe not this century.


Unknown said...

Sounds like a great dinner Paul. Would be great to have the frescobaldi coming to Washington. Where are the French companies by the way?

Anonymous said...

how was andrae's food--sounds like the wine worked well---Tiny

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