The Pirate of Dogliani

 The  San Fereolo Vineyards in Dogliani. (Photo by Joanie Bonfiglio)

The  San Fereolo Vineyards in Dogliani. (Photo by Joanie Bonfiglio)

Sometimes a wine refuses to play to type. Take Dolcetto. Conventional wisdom has it that this classic Piedmont grape makes soft, round and fruity wines meant to be consumed young, while your Nebbiolo is in the cellar maturing. Even the best examples are measured against these modest expectations. Yet after tasting San Fereolo Dogliani, a Dolcetto of structure, aroma, texture, earth and dark austere fruit, this paradigm no longer rings true. Unmistakably a wine of Piedmont, it had little in common with the easy drinking wines normally associated with the variety. It demanded a broader view of the grape’s potential.

The manager at Eataly Vino told me that the San Fereolo needs to be appreciated in context of wines from the town of Dogliani, a DOCG just south of Barolo at the foot of the Alps, where Dolcetto vines are awarded pride of place alongside hazelnuts trees and untamed forests. As I tasted other bottles from Dogliani, it was clear that Dolcetto di Dogliani is a darker, deeper and more structured creature than Dolcetto from its neighbors to the north. Still, the San Fereolo stood out. There was something beyond a sense of place that informed its remarkable depth. So I wrote a fan letter to the estate’s importer, Rosenthal Wine Merchants, and arranged to speak with the owner, the passionate iconoclast and accidental winemaker Nicoletta Bocca.  

Twenty-five years ago, Nicoletta was living in Milan and working in fashion and industrial design when her friend Alessandro Fantino, the owner and winemaker of the Barolo estate A&G Fantino, said, ‘I want to take you to one of the best places I have ever seen to live.’ He drove Nicoletta and her husband to Dogliani where at the crest of a hill covered with overgrown vineyards they saw a fantastic house in complete disrepair next to an octagonal church. ‘It was a dream place for people from Milano,’ she recalls.

Nicoletta's connection to the region ran deeper than agrarian fantasy. During WWII, her father fought as a partisan alongside the esteemed Barolo producer Bartolo Mascarello. The men stayed close and twice a year throughout her childhood she and her father would visit Bartolo to stock up on wine and food. For much of that time Alessandro Fantino was the Mascarello estate’s oenologist and vineyard manager, and the circle of friendship grew.

‘Promise me you won’t clear the Dolcetto vines,’ some of which dated back to 1936, Alessandro told her when she purchased the house. ‘We’ll take care of them the first year and then you can make a choice.’  

Life in the vineyard changed Nicoletta. Viticulture became a kind of Zen discipline. ‘In Milano, if you want to work late into the night, you turn on the light and you work,’ she observes. ‘Here you are not your own master. You are part of nature. You have understand what is around you and work only when the light and the weather permits, on the timetable dictated by the vineyard.’

In 2004, she studied biodynamics to deepen her knowledge of grape cultivation and the vicissitudes of nature, and she now maintains her vineyards according to its strict principles. The practice is essential to her, but also only a starting point, a means to pristine raw materials. ‘If you are working organically or biodynamically and think that is the goal, you are on the wrong path,’ she stresses. ‘Biodynamics help you take character from your terroir. It is a tool for having a wine that speaks about the place, grape and vintage.’

When you ask Nicoletta what sets the San Fereolo apart from other Dogliani, she launches into a description of her winemaking practices. Picking the grapes when the tannins in the seeds ripen; fermenting in large wooden vats using ambient yeast; macerating the juice on the skins for at least twenty days; leaving the wine in barrel on its lees for two years; and then cellaring the individual bottles for another four years before releasing the wine to market, ready to drink.

The regime is grounded in the dual nature of the Dolcetto grape. Translated literally, Dolcetto means ‘little sweet one,’ but it has two faces: one is the fruity side you taste when you bite into it, the other is the polyphenols and tannins that come from the seeds when they ripen. Nicoletta's winemaking practices are dedicated to harvesting the spicy earthy aromas that come from the seeds when the grapes are ready to be picked.

‘You have a choice,’ she says. ‘You can have a short maceration and a fruity wine that tastes like everyone else’s, or you can behave like Dolcetto is a serous wine and focus on extraction. For me, it’s like being in the ocean. You can’t run away from the big wave, you have to dive through it. I dive into the wine and accept all of its characteristics, then I find a new balance.’ The long maceration is the deep dive. The new balance is achieved through the extended time the wine spends in the barrel and the cellar before release, this gives the tannins and polyphenols the opportunity to soften and integrate leading to an elegant wine with restrained dark fruit, structure and persistence.   

'My colleagues complain that nobody understands Dolcetto,’ she elaborates. ‘But nobody is making the effort to show people that the wine can really be interesting.  It’s like being in love with a woman you fear doesn’t know you exist and giving up instead of fighting to get her attention.’

Nonetheless, Nicoletta’s uncompromising vision for Dolcetto is not fully rewarded in the market. Most consumers will pay more for a mediocre bottle of Nebbiolo fermented in stainless steel than the wine she dotes on, and will question why they should purchase her Dolcetto when examples from Alba can be had at at third of the price. Meanwhile, leading Barolo producers often sell fresh and fruity Dolcetto as entry-level offerings, at the same time they are buying prime Dogliani vineyards to make Langhe Nebbiolo, which is also more profitable that Dolcetto made under the Dogliani DOCG label.

Rocca Ciglié I Life with Wine.jpg

‘Nobody in Barolo said, we are going to say that Dogliani is not an important wine so that the farmers will be so poor that we can come and buy their land,’ Nicoletta reflects. ‘But that is what happened. Whenever I can get in the car and turn my back to Barolo I feel relieved. When I can no longer see Monforte d’Alba, I am like a pirate in the Caribbean with my ship!’

That's not to say Nicoletta has limited her efforts to Dogliani. Last winter, she attended a conference in Rocca Ciglié, a town in the Piedmont’s Cuneo province near Liguria. Set at a higher elevation and closer to the sea than Dogliani, Rocca Ciglié has been touted as prime vineyard land for Dolcetto since the eighteen fifties. The event’s purpose was to begin to revive life in the village and to find people to lease the town’s ancient vineyards, because its population is aging and its young people are moving away.  'I bought land,’ Nicoletta admits. ‘I arrived just in time. One year later and the vineyard would not have been there anymore. The man who was farming it couldn't go on being old and without help.’

‘Old vineyards are treasures full of the wisdom of plants. Losing them is painful,’ she adds. ‘I hope to do my best for this place and for the people who worked there long before I was born.’

In the fall Nicoletta harvested the grapes for her debut Dolcetto di Rocca Ciglié.  Given the high altitude and fresher temperatures, the tannins in the seeds were greener than she is accustomed to.  Still, she made a long maceration after which she tasted the wine. The Rocca Ciglié had lower alcohol and more aromatics than her Dolcetto from Dogliani, yet showed no signs of bitterness. Beyond the local climate, she attributes the difference to the region's ancient soils coming from a place deeper down in the ocean.  

It appears that the world of premium Dolcetto is about to have an important new reference point from Nicoletta Bocca, the Pirate of Dogliani. 

  


10 Wines Dogliani


Pot Roasted Leg of Lamb with Garlic & Olives

The dark earthy fruit and integrated tannins of the San Fereolo Dogliani complement this fork-tender lamb with a rich savory sauce of olives and herbs.  

Ingredients for 6-8 servings

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 whole leg of lamb, bone in and trimmed, 6-8 lb.
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup tomatoes, peeled seeded and chopped
  • 1 head garlic, cloves individually peeled and crushed
  • 1 bunch thyme, tied with kitchen twine
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 cup niçois olives, pitted
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade*  

Place a large heavy-gauge roasting pan on the stovetop so that it stretches across two burners. Warm the pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Season the entire lamb with salt and pepper. Once the oil is warm, add the lamb to the pan and slowly sear the exterior, turning occasionally until the roast is golden brown on all sides, about 30 minutes.

Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to take on a straw color, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme and ¼ cup of white wine. Cover with a lid or heavy gauge aluminum foil and braise the lamb for 30 minutes, then turn the lamb, add another ¼ cup of wine, cover and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.  Repeat this for two hours, until all the wine has been used.  Add the olives, cover and braise for another 30 minutes. 

Transfer the lamb to a cutting board tented with aluminum foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, over a low flame, whisk t1/4 cup of chicken or vegetable stock at a time into the sauce that has accumulated at the bottom of the roasting pan, until it has the consistency of a thick gravy. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a small bowl.

Slice the lamb against the grain. Arrange on a warm platter. Ladle just enough of the garlic and olive sauce over the lamb to keep the meat moist, and then pass the remainder of the gravy around the table for guests to help themselves.

*If you don’t have homemade chicken stock on hand, while the lamb is cooking combine 3 cups of water, a peeled carrot, a celery stalk and one leek, onion or shallot.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.  This stock will be far more flavorful then prepackaged chicken stock, unless you have access to fresh made stock from a specialty market. 

Stephen Carrier on Harmony in Mature Red Bordeaux

Few people understand what distinguishes the red wines of Bordeaux from their New World counterparts better than Stephen Carrier, the winemaker at Château de Fieuzal in Pessac-Léognan. The son of grape growers from Champagne, Stephen began his career as the winemaker for Newton Vineyard in the Napa Valley before honing his skills crafting Bordeaux blends at Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac. Here he shares his passion for mature red Bordeaux.

Sophie Menin:  What makes for a great red Bordeaux?

Stephen Carrier:  In one word? Time.

SM:  We’re surprised you didn’t say vintage or terroir.

SC:  Bordeaux has sixty appellations each with a distinctive terroir. Every year the potential exists for great wines to come from the Medoc where the presence of clay gives the wines the potential to be bold and lush, or the exacting gravelly soils of Pessac-Léognan, or the merlot based wines of St-Émilion and Pomerol. But in all these regions, the young and old wines taste very different.

SM:  How so?

SC: Young Bordeaux is like a bright child in need of a good education. It is alive with aromas of fresh fruit and spice. If you hold your nose to the glass, you will experience the heady scents of blackberries, red currants, tobacco and vanilla. I assure you that you will want to drink this wine, but I don’t recommend it. All you will taste are the building blocks of a wine that has not yet reached its potential. A wave of fruit will be followed by the drying sensation of tannins on your tongue and gums. 

SM:  What changes over time?

SC:  With time the fruit flavor grows deeper, the tannins become silky and aromas of spice and earth begin to dominate the wine’s perfume. This experience of depth, harmony and balance is what great Bordeaux is all about. Depending on the vintage, this transformation can happen after five, ten or twenty years in the bottle. 

Many wines go through an intermediate stage when the tannins have softened and integrated into a wine that still possesses the expressive bloom of fresh fruit. I like these wines very much as well.

SM:  What do you drink when you are waiting for the wines to mature?

SC:   In France we drink the less celebrated vintages while we are waiting for the great ones to come around. Many of the less celebrated years produce wines with more delicate fruit. These wines are less tannic and mature earlier. Right now, the 2007s are very good!

The Vogue for Amphorae

Photo by PolSun/iStock / Getty Images

Winemakers and fashion designers share the habit of combing styles and techniques from the past with an eye toward improving their current works. For designers it might be a skirt length, stitch or fabric. These days, for winemakers, it is often the use of clay vessels called amphorae.

Amphorae are ceramic vessels that were used by the ancient Greeks for the storage and transport of wine, as well as other liquids and dry goods. Typically, they have a large oval body, a narrow cylinder-shaped neck, two handles and a pointed base. The average height of amphorae is eighteen inches, but they could be as tall as five feet.

What attracts winemakers to amphorae? In a word: purity. Like steel, clay is flavor neutral, and like oak, it allows for the beneficial passage of tiny amounts of oxygen. Winemakers who swear by the use of amphorae believe it expresses the unique characteristics of the grapes without adulteration.

Amphorae wines tend to be darker and cloudier than their counterparts made in steel or oak. The best have the same kind of inner complexity you expect of a deep satisfying broth. They are popular with the natural wine movement because the types of corrections that happen in a modern cellar are not possible with these wines. Their deliciousness depends entirely upon impeccable practices in the vineyard.

The use of amphorae in winemaking dates back 6,000 years to the Republic of Georgia where their contemporary, distinctive orange-colored wines are still made in beeswax-lined, terra-cotta amphorae, called quervi. The ceramic containers are buried up to their necks in the earth while the wines macerate and ferment.

If you subscribe to the notion that everything old is new again, we recommend giving amphorae wines a try. Some notable producers are Elisabetta Foradori in Alto Adige, Italy; Josko Gravner in Fruili, Italy; Movia in Slovenia; C.O.S. and Frank Cornelissen in Sicily, Italy; and Beckham Estate in Oregon, where the winemaker is a ceramics instructor who makes his own vessels. 

Cloudburst Reveals the Potential of the Margaret River

Cloudburst owner and winemaker Will Berliner just netted the chardonnay he will harvest in late February. The meshwork protects the fruit from three types of birds: silver eyes, which take a sip out of each berry; ring neck parrots, which lop off whole grape bunches to exercise their beaks; and honey birds, which actually eat the fruit. He guards his tiny crop jealously, given that after three vintages, Cloudburst Chardonnay has earned coveted placement on the wine lists of three New York City dining meccas-- Tribeca Grill, Le Bernardin, and Eleven Madison Park, a remarkable accomplishment for a novice winemaker with a vineyard in the Margaret River of Western Australia.

Cloudburst’s unlikely genesis began with Will’s homesick Australian wife, Ali, with whom he used to travel to Australia regularly to visit family. When Ali became pregnant and sleeping on floors was no longer possible, they drove the Australian coast in search of a home. Coming from New England, Will found it difficult to imagine living in the country’s arid climate. Then they visited the Margaret River, a wine community among ancient hardwood forests five miles inland from the point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, and it just felt right. They spent their savings on a property abutting Aboriginal land and a national park, which also happened to be on the local wine route near the well-known wineries Leeuwin Estate and Moss Wood Winery.

For seven years, Will listened to the land and developed a deep affinity for biodynamic practices. Meanwhile, he studied viticulture long-distance at the University of California at Davis, educated his palate and began planting experimental blocks of chardonnay and other varieties. He released the first vintage of his expressive chardonnay in 2010, followed by a leaner, more complex bottling in 2011 and an elegant, fleshier wine 2012.  All in all, it is an auspicious debut for an adventurous spirit from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

“You taste and you taste and you taste until you see the light!”

How does one understand Burgundy? According to Jacques Lardière, who spent forty-two years as Louis Jadot’s technical director before officially handing the reigns to Frédéric Barnier in 2012, “You taste and you taste and you taste until you see the light!” It’s a deceptively simple aphorism that cuts through the usual wine jargon to underscore the essential truth that a wine can only be known through your senses – seeing the color, smelling the aromas, tasting the wine and experiencing how it feels in your mouth.

Sampling enough Burgundy to begin to know the wines requires a strategy for sourcing bottles that are both affordable and compelling. Wine from the high-integrity producers in Burgundy’s southern appellations, the Mâconnais, Côte Chalonnaise and Beaujolais, are an excellent place to start. The Domaine Leflaive Mâcon Verze is a chardonnay of exceptional complexity and finesse. The Domaine Francoise & Jean Raquillet Mercurey exhibits the classic wild strawberry and violet aromas associated with Burgundian pinot noir. The Cru Beaujolais of Stéphane Aviron are lucid expressions of vineyard site. When choosing wines from marquee villages on the Côte d’Or, the négociants Louis Jadot and Joseph Drouhin consistently offer value and quality, both are major landowners throughout Burgundy and leaders in organic and biodynamic practices.

Women in Wine: The Young Guns

For the latest generation of women winemakers, there has been no single path to success. The spectacular career of Ntsiki Biyelais a case in point. Raised in the rural South African province KwaZulu-Natal, Ntsiki Biyela had never tasted a sip of wine before South African Airlines offered her a full scholarship to study oenology in Stellenbosch. Afterwards, in 2004 she joined STELLEKAYA as a junior winemaker, where she was given responsibility for the entire cellar a year later, becoming the first black woman and first Zulu in South Africa to hold the title head winemaker. It was a bold choice for the winery, but a wise one. In 2009 the agricultural magazine Landbouweekblad named Biyela South Africa’s Woman Winemaker of the Year.

Oenology school followed by travel has been an effective formula for the young, talented and ambitious. After studying at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand, and working stints in the Margaret River of Australia and in Sicily, Italy, Tamra Washington was invited to return home to Marlborough, New Zealand, to launch YEALANDS ESTATE WINES. Molly Hill studied at the University of California at Davis then cut her teeth at DOMAINE CARNEROS and SEA SMOKE before becoming the winemaker at SEQUOIA GROVE in the Napa Valley. Renae Hirsch spent a decade acquiring skills at wineries across the globe before being offered a position at the helm of HENRY’S DRIVE in Padthaway, Australia.

In recent years, young women vintners have earned distinguished international reputations as leaders in minimalist winemaking, as witnessed by the fine wines produced and the acclaim bestowed upon Arianna Occhipinti of OCCHIPINITI in Sicily, Italy; Magali Terrier of DOMAINE DES 2 ANES in the Languedoc-Roussillon, France; and Nadia Verrua of CASCINA TAVIJN in Piedmont, Italy.

It seems counterintuitive, but women born into the world’s most prestigious wine making families often have to work the hardest to prove themselves worthy of a hand in cellar. Alix de Montille of DOMAINE DE MONTILLE in Burgundy, France, was required to study law before earning her diploma in oenology. Today she crafts the white wines for DOMAINE DE MONTILLE and MAISON 2 MONTILLE, the boutique négociant label she established with her brother. María José López de Heredia earned degrees in both law and theology before learning viticulture and winemaking. She is now the general manager of her family’s venerated Rioja estate R. LÓPEZ DE HEREDIA. And in perhaps the world’s longest audition for the role, fourth generation Argentine vintner Laura Catena graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University then earned a degree in medicine from Stanford University before becoming part of the winemaking team at BODEGA CATENA ZAPATA, her family’s winery in Mendoza, Argentina, where she is now general manager.

Celebrating Napa's Mexican-American Wineries

The birth stories behind the growing number of Mexican-American wineries in the Napa Valley and Sonoma tend to follow a similar dramatic arc. It begins with an ambitious young man journeying to the United States in the nineteen sixties or seventies to work in the vineyards and bringing his family with him. After decades of acquiring expert viticulture skills, he opens a vineyard management company of his own or assumes a supervisory role at his place of work, assuring the leading lights of the industry that they will have high-quality fruit. As his children come of age, they join the business, vineyards are purchased and the family begins making wine under their own label. Such is the case for producers like Ceja Vineyards, Robledo Family Winery, Renteria, Bázan Family, Madrigal, and Maldonado.

Sometimes this wine country version of the American dream happens even faster. Rolando Herrera began his vineyard career laying stones for Warren Winiarski at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. He went on to become the winery’s cellar master, the winemaker at Vine Cliff Cellars and the director of winemaking at Paul Hobbs Consulting before founding the winery Mi Sueños.

These producers are poised to serve one of the fastest growing segments of the wine drinking population in the US. A recent report by Rabobank’s Food & Agribusiness Research Advisory Group posits that if wine consumption in the Hispanic community grows to the same level as the broader US population, it will increase by close to fifty million cases over the next twenty years. According to Wines & Vines this means sales in the Hispanic community could account for 40% of the total growth in US wine consumption during the same period.

The Wines of Boroli

Italy’s Piedmont region not only borders France and Switzerland, its food and wine embody many of the finest qualities of the three nations. “Piedmont” means foothills, specifically the lush green slopes beneath the Alps, where pastures yield world-class cheeses and veal so tender, crudo is a local staple. It is an epicure’s heaven: the fish is caught fresh in nearby Liguria, the roots of oak trees are a favorite hiding place for truffles, butter is used as liberally as olive oil, and the most important local grape variety, nebbiolo, is the foundation for Barolo, one of the most collectible wines in the world.

Nebbiolo is a thin-skinned red grape that, with enough time on the vine, develops ripe cherry flavors anchored by a bouquet of roses, violets, tar and forest floor. What sets the variety apart is its texture, the penetrating dry tannins accompanied by high acidity. It is the reason Barolo ages gracefully for decades, and why Barolo traditionally takes a good ten years to become approachable.

In the past, Barolo producers looking to quicken the process made wines in the “international style,” a shorthand for ample use of new oak barrels and intensely concentrated fruit. These Barolos were easy drinking in their youth but an anathema to purists, since flavors of toast and vanilla along with a perception of sweetness masked nebbiolo’s bewitching aromatics.

Today, a more modern approach to making accessible Barolo has taken hold. Wineries like Boroli are using contemporary fermentation techniques to soften tannins, while crafting wines with fresh fruit, clarity and precision. These wines, while not the classics, open a beautiful window into Barolo for nebbiolo lovers keen to enjoy a bottle upon release, pronto!

The Boroli Barolo 2008 is a particularly good value. The cool wet vintage meant fewer single-vineyard bottlings and more top lots of nebbiolo in the blended bottling. It goes beautifully with braised veal or wild mushroom risotto.

Women in Wine: Trailblazers

Just a few decades ago, it was rare to find a woman winemaker at the helm of a world-class winery or vineyard. It took a generation of female vintners with vision, talent and perseverance to change the math. Many were inspired by the example of women like Zelma Long, who was the only woman in her class in the 1960s when she studied viticulture and oenology at the University of California at Davis. Long went on to be the chief oenologist for ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY in its heyday from 1973 to 1979. Since then, women have become responsible for many of the finest wines available. From Cathy Corrison, whose CORISON “Kronos” in the Napa Valley sets the regional standard for elegance in cabernet sauvignon to Chiara Boschis of E. PIRA AND FIGLI who helped define the modern style of Italian Barolo, women winemakers now make coveted wines informed by their own values and style. The albariñios by Alexia Luca de Tena for BODEGAS AGNUSDEI in Rias Baixas, Spain, are known for their depth and complexity.

Because of Laurence Feraud, the word “blockbuster” is synonymous with DOMAINE DU PEGAU Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Elisabetta Foradori of FORADORI in the Italian Dolomites single-handedly resuscitated teroldego, the delicious smoky indigenous grape variety. Véronique Drouhin upholds DOMAINE DROUHIN’S impeccable standards in Burgundy and Oregon. Heidi Schrock’s old-vine blaufränkisch from her eponymous winery in Burgenland, Austria, has won awards the world over. Through her respect for nature, Emilia Nardi transformed TENUTE SILVIO NARDI, her family’s property in Brunello di Montalcino, Italy, which now produces some of the most terroir driven wines in the region. These trailblazers produced memorable bottles vintage after vintage as they broke the glass ceiling, making it possible for the next generation of women winemakers to pursue their dreams in wineries from Cape Town to Mendoza to Burgundy. 

A Cinderella Story in Chianti Rufina

The story of Selvapiana is a fairytale come true. It begins with a beautiful hilltop castle surrounded by olive trees and sangiovese vineyards. Once a summer residence for Florentine bishops and later under five generations of family ownership, the property eventually came under the stewardship of Count Francesco Giuntini Antinori who had no children. As he grew older, the count looked around the castle and at all the villagers and decided that the future of the property would be best served if it was placed in the hands of his estate manager’s two children who were born there. In 1994, four years after his estate-manager passed away, the count adopted the brother and sister and made them his heirs in perhaps the ultimate example of loving the family you choose. The story even has a happy ending. Today the count’s adopted children, Silvia and Federico Giuntini A. Masseti are the winery’s managing directors, leaders in organic farming and international spokesmen for the wines of Chianti Rufina. And if that weren’t enough, the Selvapiana “Bucerchiale” Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG is a benchmark for elegance in Chianti Rufina and one of Italy’s great wine values.

The Count turned 80 years old on September 13th and celebrated with a grand lunch at the winery with Silvia, Federico and 150 of his closest friends and relatives. Guests came from throughout Italy and from as far as India, New York, and Denmark. As Selvapiana was one of several Tuscan estates owned by the count’s parents, cousins from Badia a Coltibuono in Chianti Classico and Capezzana in Carmignano and a niece from La Parrina in Maremma were at the heart of the festivities.

The party began in the garden with an aperitivo of wine and cheese from La Parrina, then moved indoors for lunch. There was a primi (first course) of risotto with sangiovese grapes and Chianti Rufina, a secondi (second course) of roasted wild boar and a dolci (dessert) showcasing a giant napoleon topped with 80 candles. Selvapiana “Bucerchiale” Chianti Rufina Riserva was served with the main meal and a special library vintage of the Bucerchiale accompanied dessert.

SELVAPIANA “Bucerchiale” Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG, 2007 (Italy) $31 
Made from 100% old-vine sangiovese grown at high altitude in limestone and schist, the wine is concentrated with wild cherry and tobacco flavors, great length and liveliness. Delicious upon release, with time, it softens and develops aromas of truffles, berries, and the scent of the forest floor. Available here

Recipe:
Risotto with Red Grapes and Chianti Rufina
Serves: 4
Preparation time: approximately 30 minutes

Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cups Italian short grain rice, such as Carnaroli or Arborio
¾ cup Chianti Rufina or other dry red wine
2 cups ripe seedless red grapes, cut in half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer. Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and butter in a large heavy-bottom pan over a medium-low flame. Once the butter melts, add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes until translucent. Add the thyme and the rice, sauté for 2 more minutes using a wooden spoon and stirring frequently. Add the red wine and stir constantly until the liquid has been absorbed. Be sure to scrape the side and bottom of the pot ensure the rice doesn’t stick. Add the warm broth to the rice in ½ cup increments. Stir until the broth has been absorbed before adding another ½ cup. After about 18 minutes the rice will be tender but firm to the bite. Add the grapes and grated Parmesan, cook for two more minutes, stir gently until the grapes soften. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Challenging Conventions in Bordeaux

At 41, Stephen Carrier of Château de Fieuzal may be among the youngest head winemakers at a Bordeaux Cru Classé winery, but that has not stopped him from challenging the conventions of the historic appellation. The son of grape growers from Champagne, Carrier’s first job as an oenologist was at Newton Vineyard on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. 

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Preserving Spain's Classic Wines and Terroirs

A Valencian who adopted California as his home, José Pastor is a tireless advocate of handcrafted wines made from Spain’s indigenous grape varieties in classic and up-and-coming regions. He has cornered the market on fine wines from the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago seventy miles off the Moroccan coast, where wine has been grown for more than five hundred years. He has helped resurrect the red wines of Galicia and offered a window into what terroir driven wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero could taste like. In a country that has no shortage of wines that are robust and modern, José Pastor Selections is the source for wines from organic vineyards that favor the use of indigenous yeast and minimum filtration. A great introduction to his portfolio is the Frontón de Oro Gran Canaria, a Canary Island red made from tintilia, a local variety cultivated on terraced slopes. The wine’s fresh red fruit, delicate floral aromas and hints of white pepper evoke the sense of dusk in a Mediterranean garden.

When Wine Tells a Family Story

When Nelson Mandela’s daughter and granddaughter, Dr. Makaziwe (Maki) and Tukwini Mandela, considered a foray into the wine business, two factors propelled them to go ahead with the venture. The first was socioeconomic: South African wine is a three billion dollar a year industry, employing 350,000 of its citizens with less than two percent black ownership. The second motivator was storytelling. The Mandela women want the world to know Nelson Mandela as a product of a culture, a descendant of a royal Thembu bloodline, not a phenom of higher-consciousness dropped from the sky.

The House of Mandela has two labels, the Royal Reserve and the Thembu Collection. All the grapes are sourced from family owned fair-trade certified vineyards that respect the biodiversity of the Western Cape. The Royal Reserve wines are supposed to represent the best of South Africa. The label features a bee with tangled vines for wings, a kind of family crest. Nelson Mandela’s tribal name Rolihlahla, means bee. To the Thembu, bees are symbols of courage, compassion and agents of change. The vines are the tangled Mandela family tree. The Thembu wines are for everyday drinking and are intended reflect the hospitality and warmth of the Thembu people. The label features swatches of bright batik prints of Nelson Mandela’s signature Madiba shirts 

If all goes well, Dr. Makaziwe and Tukwini dream of planting vineyards on the Eastern Cape, which the Thembu traditionally call home. “We are people of the soil,” says Dr. Makaziwe. “Making wine is natural for us.”