Italians end the holiday season by celebrating the Epiphany, also known as 3 Kings Day. The story goes that the 3 Kings, on their way to visit the Baby Jesus, stopped at the home of an old woman and invited her to join them on their journey. She said no, because she had too much housework to do. She soon regretted her decision and took off on her broom to search for the Christ Child.
The old woman is called La Befana, and according to tradition, she arrives on the Epiphany on her broomstick to bring gifts to the good Italian boys and girls and coal to the bad ones. It is a national holiday in Italy also the opportunity for one last holiday feast. This year, our friends Lars and Karen invited us to their home to share a meal that would have made the Befana very proud.
We started with grilled purple asparagus seasoned with sea salt from Marsala,
followed by thin, crispy fried root vegetables with more of that sea salt,
and fried calamari.
We had two wines with the appetizers
Vermentino “La Pettegola” Toscana 2017 IGT made from 100% Vermentino. Following a very soft pressing, fermentation takes place for about 13 to 16 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine has hints of citrus fruit and peach and a touch of sage with good acidity. It is a very easy drinking wine and it worked very well with the appetizers.
Cuvee Aurora Rose Metodo Classico Alta Lange 2014 DOCG 100% Pinot Noir Banfi Piemonte. The grapes are grown in the hilltop vineyards of the Alta Langa, south of Alba in Piemonte, in a mix of clay and calcareous soil. There is one hour of skin contact and cold maceration, which prepares the grapes for soft crushing. The must is clarified and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The final cuvee consists of 90% clear wine and 10% of the previous vintage wine. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. Fermentation takes place in the bottle (Classic Method). Yeast contact is extended for at least 24 months followed by a traditional hand riddling (remuage) and degorgement a la glace. A period of brief aging follows. The wine is pink in color, with small bubbles and hints of strawberry and apple.
2002 Merlot Santa Maria Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard from Caparone. The wine is unfined and unfiltered and the style of wine is more European that California. The wine was showing no signs of age.
Chianti Classico “Fonte Alla Selva” 2015 DOCG made from mostly Sangiovese with Canaiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon from over 40 hectares of estate vineyards in Castellina the heart of the Chianti Classical zone with alluvial soils, limestone and clay. Fermentation with traditional maceration on the skins for 8 to 10 days, followed by short aging in French oak barrels. Bottling takes place the summer after the harvest. The wine has hints of cherry, plum and blackberry with a touch of spice.
Lars preparing main course Osso Buco with polenta, which he served in the traditional wooden trenchers used in the Lazio region for serving polenta
Brunello Di Montalcino 1998 DOCG 100% Sangiovese grown on hillside vineyards at 220 meters in stony, calcareous and well structured soli. There is a meticulous grape selection (yield not exceeding 6 metric tons/ha) is followed by vinification in temperature–controlled Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks, with skin contact for 10 to 20 days. The wine ages for two years in various sizes oak barrels, 305-liter barriques, 60 and 120 hl barrels; the wine is then aged in bottle for an additional 8 to 12 months.The wine is released 5 years after the harvest. This is the information for the current release. I believe that the 1998 was not aged in this way.
Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva “Poggio All’Oro 1988 Made from 100% Sangiovese, estate selection. The Poggio all’Ora vineyard is on the southern slopes of the Montalcino hillside at 250 mt. The wine is produced only in excellent vintages based on a meticulous selection of the harvested grapes. Temperature controlled vinification is in Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. Aged in barriques for 30 months, and at least 12 to 18 months in bottle. The wine is kept for a total of 6 years before release. This is a wine with notes of violet and hints of plum, jam and a touch of coffee. This is the information from the current vintage.
Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 1979 Villa Banfi 100% Sangiovese, select clones from estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino. This is an elegant and complex wine with hints of red fruit, violets, and a touch of licorice and spice. This delightful and wonderful Brunello one of the best I have ever tasted and still has a lot of life left. Lars said this was the first Brunello produced by Banfi and I am sure it was made in a very traditional style. Banfi did not begin their clonal research project on Sangiovese until 1982.
We finished the wine with cheese
There were 3 desserts, including Panettone and two traditional homemade cakes made with dried fruits.
The final wine of the feast was
Recioto della Valpolicella Classico IGT “Regolo” 2015 Sartori made from 100% Corvina. The vineyards are in the hilly area of Valpolicella with clay and calcareous soil. Only the best grapes are selected. A gentle pressing is followed by skin maceration at low temperature for 8 to 10 days. In February the wine rests on Amarone pomace, which enhances the wine’s aromatic and aging potential. After malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged for about 18 to 24 months in medium to large-sized oak casks followed by a minimum of 4 months bottle refinement before release. This is a complex dessert wine with hints of red and black berries and cherry with nice ripe fruit on the finish.
To finish a great meal, we had grappa and cafè
Grappa di Brunello “Torre” made from the pomace of Brunello di Montalcino (Sangiovese). This is an intense grappa with a hint of wild berries and sour cherries on the finish.