January 6th in Italy is the Feast of the Epiphany. It is the day that La Befana, a kindly old woman, brings gifts to the good boys and girls or a lump of coal if they are bad. We have been celebrating the arrival of La Befana at the home of our friend Lars Leicht for a number of years. However we missed it in 2019 and again in 2020, so Lars decided to celebrate in August to make up for the ones we missed. In all there were 12 of us and lots of very good food and wine.
Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG “Cuvée Des Paladins” Brut Sparkling 2013. Tappero Merlo This sparkling wine is made from 100% Erbaluce with refermentation in the bottle (Classic Method). The wine is aged for 60 months on the lees. Soil is strongly acidic of morainic origin composed of 80% sand, 15% silt and 5% clay. The vineyards are at 970/100ft. Harvest is in early September. Fermentation of the must is partly in steel and partly in very old barrels. The base wine is ready to become a sparkling wine in the spring following the harvest. The pied-de-cuvee (process using wild yeast from the vineyard to ferment the wines) is prepared which starts the second fermentation in the bottle in a temperature controlled environment. After a slow passage over the pupitres (wooden frames for traditional riddling), the sparkling wine is ready for disgorgment which usually takes place in the spring. The wine rests for a few months and then is ready for release. The wine has hints of brioche, dried fruit, honey, and hazelnuts with citrus notes and complex minerality. This is the first time I tasted a sparkling wine made from Erbaluce di Caluso and I really liked it.
Note:The name of the wines comes from the 12 loyal knights of Charles the Great, who on Christmas Day in the year 800 was crowned by Pope Leo III “Emperor of the Romans” and the Holy Roman Empire was established. There is a legend that during this time Erbaluce might have come from the Rhone Valley into Canavese in Piedmont, or vice versa, thanks to the agrarian reforms of Charles the Great.
Vernaccia Di San Gimignano 2018 “Kalós kai Agathós Campochiarenti” made from 100% Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The vines are 25 to 30 years old. The grapes are hand picked the second week of September. The vineyard is at 180 to 240 meters. Soil is yellow sand and sandy clay with layers of tuff, a light porous rock made from volcanic ash, over the “mattaione”(contains rock salt and gypsum) with variable percentage of clay. The destalked grapes are softly pressed and after 18-24 hours the must is clarified and stored in steel vats for fermentation at a controlled temperature. The wine is cold stabilized, filtered, and stored until the spring. The wine remains in bottle for at least 3 months before it is released. This is fresh wine with hints of citrus fruit, good acidity and nice minerality.
Fiano di Avellino DOCG Reserve “Brancato” 2017 Cavalier Pepe made from 100% Fiano from south facing vineyards in the municipality of Lapio. The grapes are hand harvested at full ripeness, undergo a strict selection, and are pressed whole. Cold settling is followed by alcoholic fermentation in barriques and later in stainless steel at a low temperature. The wine is aged in wood and steel followed by a minimum of 6 months in bottle before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of mature tropical fruit, apple, and hazelnuts with a hint of spice and a touch of toast.
Fresh Tomatoes from the Garden
We started with fresh Mozzarella, roasted peppers dressed with olive oil and herbs and bread baked by Lars
Seafood Salad prepared by two of the guests
Tomatoes and rice
Litina Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2016 CascinaCastlet made from 100% Barbera grapes from hillside vineyards, which are more than 30 years old. There are about 5,000 vines per hectare. Grapes are hand picked the first weeks of October. At the winery the must is fermented in contact with the skins at a controlled temperature for about 10 days. This is followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in medium sized oak casks for about 8 months and then in bottle for more than one year. The wine is released the second year after the harvest. The wine has hints of woodland fruits a hint of spice and a note of vanilla.
Lars’ “Timballi di Bonifacio VIII”. — A unique and historic family recipe from Lars’ relatives in Anagni, a town outside of Rome.Valpolicella Superiore 2015 l Saltari made from 60% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 10% Croatina and 10% Corvinone. The grapes are grown in the Mezzane Valley in the region of the Veneto on terraced hillside vineyards in calcareous and alkaline soil. After a careful collection of the grapes, vinification takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. After racking, the wine is transferred to different size barrels for malolactic fermentation. For 12 to 14 months, the wine goes through regular racking and topping up of the barrels until blending. The wine is unfiltered. It has hints of small berries like currants and blackberry with tobacco, leather, and a touch of cherry.
Chianti Colli Senesi 2017 “San Nicola” Az Agricola Campochiarenti, San Gimignano, Tuscany, made from 85% Savgiovese and 15% Canaiolo, Colorino, Foglia Tonda and Mammolo. The exposure is south, southwest along a hill at 180/230 meters. The soil is composed of silt and sand with a little clay. Harvest is by hand. Fermentation is in glazed cement basins of 90hl at a controlled temperature with pumping over and delestage. Maceration lasts for 12/15 days in order to obtain the highest extraction of color from the skins. The wine is naturally clarified, without adding any chemical products. Aging is in 20hl oak barrels for at least 9 months. The wine is bottled and stored in the cellar until release. The wine has hints of red berries, spice, tobacco and a touch of jam with a long finish and a very pleasing aftertaste. This wine will age.
It reminds me of the old style Chianti, with all the local grapes and traditional fermentation and aging which I loved, but few producers make any more.
Pork Loin on the Grill — The pork was flavored with garlic, rosemary, fennel and other herbs
Roasted Broccoli Rabe with garlic. Roasting brings out all of the bittersweet flavors of the broccoli rabe.
Ready to be served
Chianti Colli Senesi Riserva 2011 Az. Agricola Campochiarenti made from 85% Sangiovese, and 15% Canaiolo, Ciliegio, Mammolo and Foglia Tonda. The exposure is south, south-west at 180-230 meters. Soil is composed of silt and sand with a small percentage of clay. The grapes are manually chosen and selected at harvest. Fermentation is in glazed cement basins with a capacity of 90HL and are temperature controlled. There is pumping over and delestage. Maceration is for 20-30 days with frequent delestage and pumping over. The wine is naturally clarified without adding any chemical products. The wine is aged in oak barrels (20HL capacity) for 30 months, then at least 4 months in bottle before release. The wine is drinking now but can last for another 10 years.
Michael Apstein, a wine writer from Boston said it was the best Colli Senesi he had ever tasted and I have to agree with him.
Uceline Monferrato Rosso 2013 CascinaCastlet Made from 100% Uvalino. Harvesting is carried out towards the end of October when the grapes reach a perfect ripeness. The bunches are hand picked and carefully selected and then go into a well ventilated, temperature controlled room called a “fruit house.” Here they stay for over a month and become slightly overripe and begin to wither. The must from the pressing is partially destemmed and undergoes fermentation and lasts for 20 days. Frequent stirrings causes the total dissolution of the anthocyans and the various phenolic components that for this wine play a very important role. Malolactic fermentation and aging take place in 5HL oak barrels.
The bottles rest for about a year before they are released. This is a full-bodied complex aromatic wine with hints of black fruit, prunes, blueberries and sweet spices. It is tannic with good acidity and has a certain rustic quality. It is a wine that can age.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Vigneto Edoardo” 2012 100% Montepulciano d” Abruzzo. Zaccagnini. Bottled in honor of Ed Lauber, of Lauber Imports, a dear friend, who participated every year in the harvest at the Zaccagnini Winery. His image appears on the label. This is a big wine with hints of cherries, leather, prune, and a touch of almond in the aftertaste.
Desserts included a fresh raspberry pie and a peach cream pie both made with locally grown fruits.
Some tempting chocolates followed.
Grappa Marolo “Dedicata Al Padre” made from a blend of several pomaces in the Roero area, This is a full-bodied, clear, pure grappa. At 60% alc/vol (120 proof) it is the in alcohol clear grappa. It is non-vintage and un-aged. The grappa was brought by wine writer Tom Maresca, the only person I know that drinks grappa between courses to help his digestion.
Grappa Marolo “Barolo” an aged Grappa
Our host for the evening with his friend . Carmyn