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We are honored to launch our first offering from North Berkeley Imports. North Berkeley is a torchbearer in the world of very fine wines produced by storied growers around the globe. Their Italian portfolio is particularly deep in producers from the benchmark growing regions of Italy.
We are so pleased to offer six of these gorgeous wines as our Valentine’s Day selection. We have chosen bottles that work beautifully with a range of foods or on their own, and we highlight some of the most talked-about wine regions of Piedmont, Alto-Adige, and Sicily.
THIS MONTH'S WINES
The first artisans to champion Nerello Mascalese as a sparkling wine and certainly one of Sicily’s oldest winemaking clans, the Scammacca del Murgo family has for more than a century cultivated grapes as well as olive and fruit trees in Santa Venerina. Grown exclusively on the fiery volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, Nerello Mascalese produces not only world-class red wines but also elegant sparkling wines—and is unquestionably one of Italy’s most distinctive grape varieties.
This wine has fine bubbles and notes of wild strawberries, cherries, pomegranate, and even white pepper. It’s the classic sparkling rosato for any occasion, but especially with the cheese plates and strawberries in chocolate commonly served on Valentine’s Day.
There are mountain wines, and then there are wines from wind-swept peaks so high they seem to be grown in the sky. This is the glory of Alto Adige, a dramatic wine region in the northeast Italy and home to the century-old cantina of Kurtatsch. The village of Kurtatsch (Cortaccia in Italian) is particularly blessed when it comes to terroir, with a wide range of soils that suit perfectly both native and international grapes. Kurtatsch since the early 1900s has been the representative for the area’s best growers and the source of its finest, most expressive wines.
While Friuli has long claimed Pinot Grigio as its primary grape, here in Alto Adige, with more altitude and more just about everything, this riveting white grape reaches its true potential. Bold aromas of lime, gooseberry and acacia, with balanced alcohol and thirst-quenching acid. This is the first Pinot Grigio that has really grabbed us in years. This wine is lithe and pretty but keeps giving in flavor long after most PGs fall off. Salad courses, aperitif, and just to rehydrate after dinner are great reasons to drink this.
.Region: ITALY • Sicily • Santa Venerina
Blend: 70% Carricante and 30% Catarratto
Vineyard: Terraced, estate-owned vineyards on the eastern volcanic
slopes of Mount Etna, near the town of Santa Venerina, at 1,600 to 2,000
feet above sea level. Soils are exclusively decomposed lava. Age of vines is 30-40 years.
Winemakers: Michele Scammacca del Murgo
Grown on the fiery volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, this velvety yet vibrant white wine showcases the freshness and pure fruit of Sicily’s native white grapes, Carricante and Catarratto. Carricante contributes citrus fruit and minerality, while Catarratto contributes white fruit flavors and body.
This wine has aromas of jasmine and yellow flowers. It is plush yet lively, with good acidity; rich, intense citrus and apricot flavors. The freshness of this wine screams for seafood or light pasta dishes. It would be great with calamari, spaghetti with clams, or simply bread and olive oil.
.Region: ITALY • Piedmont • Monforte d’Alba
Blend: 100% Dolcetto
Vineyard: Estate vineyards in ‘Bricco Monguglielmo’ in Monforte d’Alba,
facing west, at 1,500 feet above sea level. Soils mix clay and limestone marl. Vines are 10 to 55 years old.
Winemakers: Diego Conterno and son, Stefano Conterno
A rising star in the southern reaches of the Barolo zone, Diego Conterno and his son, Stefano, craft elegant Nebbiolo wines in Monforte d’Alba. Conterno wines “blend the energy and brawn of Monforte with the translucence of traditionally inspired winemaking,” says Antonio Galloni. Rich and potent yet suave in perfume and flavor, Conterno wines are made naturally, fermented on indigenous yeasts and aged in traditional large oak cask (botti). All vines are cared for organically.
A versatile wine redolent of ripe red and blue berries and underbrush, a touch of summer with a hint of fall. Dolcetto, or “little sweet one,” is always a joy to savor with its soft tannins and savory finish. It is an ultimate pizza wine and works with a range of toppings. Also it sings with grilled meats, like grilled sausage or pork ribs. Also delicious on its own after a hard day’s work.
.Region: ITALY • Piedmont • Cavaglio d’Agogna
Blend: 100% Vespolina
Vineyard: A selection of fruit from estate vineyards in Ghemme and Cavaglio d’Agogna. Soils are essentially volcanic, well-draining and high in mineral content, as well as rich in clay. Age of vines is 10-20 years
Winemakers: Tiziano Mazzoni
Inspired by his passion for Barolo, Tiziano Mazzoni in 1999 returned to his family’s roots in Ghemme to prove that the Langhe wasn’t the only source of world-class Nebbiolo in Piedmont. This historic micro-region in the shadow of the Alps, thanks to pioneers like Mazzoni, is now returning to its former iconic status with wines that showcase Nebbiolo (here called Spanna) at its most soulful. Ghemme’s volcanic, clay-rich soils translate into wines with ample body, structure, and character, and Mazzoni’s non-interventionist methods allow grapes here to express themselves fully and without filter. With just 11 acres of land, Mazzoni’s vinous adventure is truly a labor of love; he produces fewer than 1,200 cases per year.
This red wine has aromas of black and red plums, red cherries, light floral notes, and spices. Medium-bodied, fine, light tannins, and good acidic balance. Most of you have not had a Vespolina. After this one you will want to have more. A cousin of Nebbiolo but lighter and brighter. Grilled chicken loves this wine. It also loves salami and ham plates and fresh cheese. Serve a bit chilled and quaff.
Region: ITALY • Alto Adige • Cortaccia
Blend: 100% Lagrein
Vineyard: A selection of fruit from the hamlet of Cortaccia (Kurtatsch), onsouth-facing, lower slopes between 780 and 1,050 feet in altitude. Soils aresandy and loamy with red clay, believed to lend Lagrein its spicy notes. Vine age is an average of 15 years.
Winemaker: Othmar Doná
Lagrein is one of Alto Adige’s oldest red grape varieties, and prefers the warmer, lower and sandier slopes of the valley to develop its characteristic plummy, ruddy flavors and pronounced tannins.
Like a velvet hammer, this potent wine comes across big and brooding but turns out to be more delicate than expected. Grilled steaks and sausages with simple sides, ragu pasta sauces, and hard and savory cheeses all pair beautifully.
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