Field Mouse Report: Eastern Deals on Ital Splendora

Mouse delivers a new outstanding Field Report covering a couple of Italian varietals tBoW would have never have heard of had he not recently visited San Francisco (a kind of New York and Boston West…but better) where he left with the sneaking suspicion the unusual and unfamiliar wines he sampled were probably found easily on the East Coast.
Since my last report graced this website in June, wifey and I have been submerged in a cauldron of very reasonably priced offerings. Today I offer three fond memories, along with a show stopper that accompanied last night’s Hommard l’Americaine.
We start this never-ending journey in Alto Adige, where along with Trentino and Friuli we find Italy’s (only?) enticing white wines. Yet also there, you will find two northeast Italy indigenous red grapes: Teroldego and Lagrein.
Not altogether easy to find, harder to find special ones. For me, the Lagrein is the better of the two. Kind of a Merlot with a split personality, which makes perfect sense given the schizophrenic political history of that region, where German and Ladin (some ancient Latin lingo) are also spoken.
Lagrein2004.jpg2004 Girlan Lagrein Laurin $16. Never mind that I paid about half that on a close-out. I happily paid full retail about three times earlier. Robust and blackberry, call it comfort wine. Not leather sofa comfortable, but third date comfortable, when you are pretty sure things are progressing and you’re only a little nervous. But no worries, the wine and you want to see this thing to its rightful crescendo . You’ll love the bottle in the morning, too, because the label’s awfully pretty. Nice website, too. Two Shining Mice. 13%

lagrein2005.jpg2004 Elena Walch Lagrein $14 perhaps. Another non-Italian name from this Gerry part of Italia. Actually, it’s the Austrian part, but if you can explain the difference between an Austrian and a German, you’re smarter than I. For that matter, if you can tell me the difference between a typical Canadian and someone who lives in the Central Time Zone, you’re also smarter than I. This Lagrein got bettah the second day, as I popped it initially upon returning from some horrendous high school play. Friends, I cannot emphasize the joy of tasting something new, like a Gruner Vetliner or a Nero d’Avola for the first time. Lagrein beats them both. Almost always UNDER $20!!! These are the best two I’ve had. 1.5 mice.

Now we change our focus a bit, but remain in Italy under the radar in Umbria, whose contribution to wine is the little known but greatly appreciated Sagrantino di Montefalco. Made exclusively from Sagrantino by about 25 producers in 250 acres not far from where Francis of Assisi did his thang. A dark monster, almost black, it was originally used for dessert wines. Of course, back in the day, dessert wines were the most prized, and Sagrantino is an ancient varietal. Paolo Bea and Arnaldo Caprai are the two famed masters of this, but I’ve bought this one by the truckload.
Napolini-SagrantinoMontefalco.jpg2003 Napolini Sagrantino di Montefalco $34 retail, $11 close-out at Mt. Carmel Wine in Hamden, CT. Open this and others about six weeks before you put your knife and fork in it. New World big with Old World charm. (Vin Scully: “The eastern most in quality, the western most in flavor.”) Cannot really compare it to nada. Did I say it’s big? Have a steak, have a burned steak with it. Do not serve to neighbors or drink during college basketball games. Clergy will love it. 2.5 mice. [ed. he did not write clergy will love it.]

Now we shall glide back to the Russian River Valley, whose sun-baked slopes produced a Chardonnnay that accompanied Vermont cheese and Maine lobster last night. Just when I’m about ready to punt on Chard, something like this comes to the table.
mrc_03.jpg2003 Martinelli Martinelli Road Chardonnay more than $20. OK, I was a bit worried, because $20 is a lot for a California white, especially in light of a 2002 Ojai Clos Pepe chardocastrophe we had last month. Used to be that Rochioli Riverblock was the best Chard I’ve had. No mo’. Ms. Helen T. [ed. Helen Turley for those who dropped their Wine Speculator subscription] put this fruit through some rainbow and kissed it with peaches, pears and glycerin. The best of New England and California for a night of Blue State Heaven. Three Happy Mice! 14.8%

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