Dalla Terra: A Guide to the Best of Italy

Brian Larky, Dalla Terra’s chairman and founder, is a pilot, deep powder skier, white water guide, and dive master. He is also a UC Davis trained winemaker who after five years at Ca’ del Bosco in Lombardy returned to the US to become a winery agent. In 1990 he started Dalla Terra (meaning from the earth) under a business model called Winery Direct, which foregoes the importer and sells directly to the distributers. None of this would matter if all eighteen producers in Larky’s portfolio of family-owned wineries weren’t superb representatives of the styles and traditions of their respective regions. But when you look at his list—Tenute Marchesi di Gresy in Barbaresco, Alois Lageder in Alto Adige, Casanova di Neri in Montalcino, Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico, La Valentina near Pescara, Masseria Li Veli in Puglia, to name a few—you realize that Dalla Terra is all about delivering the highest quality wine at the best value.

A standout in the Dalla Terra portfolio is the Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco. Founded in 1873, Vietti is one of the oldest family owned estates in Barolo. Its winery, which is built into the hillside of Castiglione Falletto, contains dusty bottles originally intended to be rations for the commanders of Napoleon’s forces. While Vietti is famous for its single vineyard Barolo bottlings, their grand cru Nebbiolo can be sampled for a relative song with the Nebbiolo Perbacco, an entry-level wine made from a blend of their grand crus. “Perbacco,” fittingly, is an old-Italian expression for “Wow!”

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.

The Genesis of Louis / Dressner

When Long Island son Joe Dressner met Burgundy native Denyse Louis at NYU, the two were studying for their masters’ degrees in journalism. At the time, they had no idea that one day they would start a wine importing business together. Yet with their partner Kevin McKenna, they have created one of the most influential wine portfolios in America. Today, Louis / Dressner represents over a hundred properties, mostly in France and Italy, but also in Spain, Portugal and Croatia. Advocates of organic and artisanal practices long before it was fashionable and simply because the practices made wines taste good, they have introduced some of the most characterful wines available in the country. When they imported the Didier Dagneau Pouilly-Fume Silex, it set a new standard for the level of complexity one dared to expect from a Sauvignon Blanc. With Arianna Occhipinti they revealed the potential for Frappato and Nero d’Avola to capture the wild elegance of southeast Sicily. Their Alice et Olivier de Moor A.O.C. Chablis “Bel Air et Clardy” is ethereal in its clarity. Dressner passed away in 2011, but his spirit is very much alive in the catalogue of passionate vignerons he assembled during his lifetime.