On this Halloween Thursday, yours truly is thinking of drinking red.
No, we’re not vampires at Trev’s Bistro drinking blood (or are we?…) as dusk turns to dark. There is no better time to consider the excellent red wine being produced in Sicily. When you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is no better place to sample these Sicilian wines (or for that matter, any Italians), than amidst the excellent burrata with sea salt and olive oil, maccaronara with ragu Napoletana, and Shelly Lindgren’s magnificent almost entirely Italian wine list at the now decade-old A16 in San Francisco’s Marina district.
It’s the type of wine list that makes you forget about your date for 15 minutes as you’re immersed in the fascinating world of varietals and regions you’ve never heard of. I’m sorry, did you say something?
Yet all will be well because the excellent service staff provides exactly the nurturing insight to help you find that perfect decision. They could even make calculus seem simple. Don’t be surprised if after perusing the list for 15 minutes, you receive a 15 minute story about the wine you should choose.
That was the case when I was pointed towards the 2010 Etna Rosso from Alberto Graci. Graci grows his grapes over about 62 acres on the north slope of Mount Etna, near the town of Passopisciaro. Mount Etna’s high altitute and volcanic soils provide real vibrant character and exceedingly high energy in its grapes that should really reveal strong tannins, and bode very well for aging. At the same time, the 2010 Etna Rosso is ripe and ready right now.
The Etna Rosso involves the not so commonly known Nerello Mascalese varietal. Cabernet Franc immediately sprung to mind with its rustic feel and distinct jammy texture. Except unlike many Sicilian wines, the Etna Rosso was much more poised and didn’t lean heavily on a fruit-forward palate. Not that I’ve eaten much volcanic ash in my life, but I could really sense it. The bushes from the slopes, salty olives, and sage brush all came through, mixed with very mature stone fruit. This very balanced, poised trait of the wine might come from not being fined or filtrated. This is straight up Sicily, presented as a rugged and fragrant terroir at its uncovered best.
Definitely let the wine breathe. After a half an hour sitting in its glass, everything really opened up.
You can definitely sense the energy of the Etna Rosso’s young winemaker, who is one of the island’s new guard game-changers with Ariana Occhipinti (I’m an enormous fan of her wines, but the Graci Etna Rosso outshone the 2012 SP68 Bianco at A16 that dinner). Graci’s grandfather grew grapes, though focused more on quantity over quality. After beginning a career in Milan as an investment banker, Graci traded the suits in the city for the quiet life back home in Sicily. However, he chose to grow grapes on Mount Etna instead of where he grew up, because of the distinct terroir and the riveting wines being produced there.
Not that we need to be convince of the merits of volcanic soil for terroir (see Canary Islands), but it doesn’t get much more exciting for a medium bodied Italian red than the Graci Etna Rosso.
Meanwhile, yours truly is still basking in the glow of his Boston Red Sox winning the World Series last night for their third baseball title in ten years. This was the first time the Red Sox actually won at home at Fenway Park though in 95 (!) years. I remember that series.
In the Red Sox locker room, David Ortiz opened and sort of drank, sort of sprayed (wasted) an estimated $100,000 15 liter bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne (often called “Ace of Spades”). Just another weeknight value wine.
More reasonably but just as celebratory, I celebrated with the excellent 2011 Liquid Farm “White Hill” Chardonnay, a beautiful, slightly oaky, very mellow Santa Rita Hills bottling. On the cocktail from, I kept with the Boston theme and served “The Maximilian Affair,” a beautiful sweet, nutty, smoky, and floral affair that’s not TOO boozy. It was created by Misty Kalkofen of Drink in Fort Point, Boston, the city’s premier craft cocktail bar, and arguably one of the best in the whole country.
The Maximilian Affair, for 1 serving:
1 oz. Mezcal
1 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 oz. Punt e mes
1/2 oz. Lemon juice
Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice, strain, and serve up in a coupe.
Continuing with the wine theme, today the publication “Vineyard and Winery Management” released its list of the “20 Most Admired” figures in the wine world. I’m No. 19…maybe in a few years. Congratulations to the winners! Drum roll please…the 20 are:
Eric Asimov, Chief Wine Critic, The New York Times
Ted Baseler, CEO, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Andy Beckstoffer, Chairman/CEO, Beckstoffer Vineyards
Dan Berger, Wine Writer/Publisher, “Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences”
Jean-Charles Boisset, President, Boisset Family Estates
Cathy Corison, Founder/Winemaker, Corison Winery
Paul Draper, CEO/Winemaker, Ridge Vineyards
Merry Edwards, Founder/Winemaker, Merry Edwards Winery
Randall Grahm, Founder, Bonny Doon Vineyard
Jerry Lohr, Founder, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Larry Mawby, Proprietor/Winemaker, L. Mawby Vineyards
Dr. Carole Meredith, Professor Emeritus, UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology/Co-owner, Lagier Meredith Vineyard
Lucie Morton, Viticulture Consultant/Ampelographer
Luca Paschina, General Manager/Winemaker, Barboursville Vineyards
Joel Peterson, Head Winemaker, Ravenswood Winery
Johannes Reinhardt, Winemaker, Anthony Road Wine Company and Kemmeter Wines
Jim Trezise, President, New York Wine & Grape Foundation
Carolyn Wente, CEO, Wente Vineyards
Dr. Jim Wolpert, Viticulture Extension Specialist Emeritus, UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology
Kevin Zraly, Wine Educator
And of course to conclude tonight, it’s Halloween. I spoil my trick-or-treaters with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Italian Spicchi lemon hard candies, and the addictive Goetze’s maple caramels from Baltimore. Yes, you want to trick-or-treat at my house. Better be sure to dress up! Tcho chocolate for the best costumes…
Happy Halloween everyone and talk to you in November!