Michele and I have decided to have more dinners at home and invite friends to join us. This weekend, we invited old friends, wine writer Tom Maresca and food writer Diane Darrow. Tom said he was bringing a “surprise“ red wine and was sure that I would like it.
We started with Champagne.
Champagne Deutz Rose NV (AŸ) made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. It has hints of red berries, strawberries and raspberries with a touch of cherry.
For a light starter, we had bites of sweet honeydew melon wrapped in prosciutto, plus olives and Sicilian almonds.
Monte di Grazia Rosso 2009 The wine is made from 90% Tintore di Tramonti from very old ungrafted vines and 10% Piedirosso. The Tintore di Tramonti grows almost exclusively in the Monte Lattari Valley. The grape is harvested at the end of September, which makes it an early ripener for this area. This indigenous red grape variety belongs to the Tienturier family. Tienturier means dyed or stained in French. The flesh and the juice of these grapes are red in color. The anthocyanin pigments accumulate in the grape berry itself. The free run juice is therefore red.
This is a complex wine with earthly aromas, red fruit and a slight hint of black pepper and spice with good acidity that makes it a very good food wine. This wine has aging potential. I had the 2009 with the owner of the winery, Dr. Alfonso Arpino, on the Amalfi coast a few years and it may be the best wine he has made so far!
Our first course was Penne with Zucchini, a recipe from Tommaso Verdillo of Tommaso’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. It is made with a fresh tomato sauce, zucchini, prosciutto and pecorino romano cheese. I liked it so much, I ate three servings.
Taurasi Radici 2000 Riserva 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino The soil is poor in organic substances but has a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and microelements. The vineyards are on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard is much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. This is the way I believe the 1998 was produced. The wine was showing no signs of age. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice, smoke and a touch of leather.
Our second course was assorted grilled sausages: cheese and parsley, sweet Italian and goat chorizo, with a mixed tomato salad and potatoes fried with sweet peppers.
Cabernet Sauvignon 1974 Dave Caparone – I first discovered the wines of Caparone a few months ago when Tom Maresca organized a tasting of their Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico from the 2014 and 1996 vintage. Tom wrote to the winery about the 1974 and Marco Caparone asked his father Dave and this was the reply.
“In 1973 decided to make wine. For 6 years I was an amateur winemaker working at home. During this period, I tried to learn as much as possible and I developed ideas about style and method that we still use today. The 1974 Cab was a product of those efforts. Of course, these amateur wines did not have the packaging format of commercial wines. That wine was bottled in 1976 and has not been recorked.
Beginning in the late 1960s there were new plantings of wine grapes in California’s central coast region (Northern Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties). these plantings were in places that wine grapes had never been grown before. Most of the people involved had little or no experience in grape growing or premium wine making. Needless to say there was considerable concern at the time about the eventual outcome of these efforts and the market for wines from such a new region. As you can see from the ’74 Cab, they need not have worried. Tepusquet Vineyards was one such planting. I believe 1974 was only their second harvest. My first commercial wine in 1979 was also from Tepusquet grapes. The vineyard was later purchased by Robert Mondavi and is located about 12 miles East of the city of Santa Maria.” . We are beginning harvest (Zinfandel came in yesterday) and so far everything looks very good. This will be my dad’s 45th harvest.”
This is a lovely well balanced wine, showing no signs of age with very nice dark fruit and hints of eucalyptus and a touch of bell pepper. 1974 was a classic vintage in California and this may be the best example it was my pleasure to drink. Tom can surprise me with wine like this any time/
The 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon, this was the surprise. Tom said it was sent to him from the Caparone winery as a gift with other wines he ordered.
Tom was right, I really liked the wine. With the Cabernet Sauvignon we had two cheeses a soft and aromatic taleggio and a wedge of pecorino Toscano. This last is one of the most misunderstood cheeses I know. It’s a perfect cheese for eating and cooking, full of flavor and has none of the sharp saltiness associated with other pecorino cheeses.
For dessert Michele made Grappa Brownies with chocolate chips and walnuts. These were dark and fudgy and not too sweet. She served them with raspberries and vanilla ice cream, but their flavor was so good, they could really stand alone. A glass of grappa was a perfect complement.
Grappa La Trentina “Tradizional” – Grappa Giovane -Marzaddo Distillery– This is traditional grappa at its best.