Carl Kanowsky: International experience in San Francisco

Stefano Frascolla and his wife, Simena Bisti (daughter of the founders of Tua Rita, Rita and Virgilio Bisti). Courtesy photo

First off, a tip of my hat to my bride, Terry. Not only is she excellent company on our wine forays, she’s also very knowledgeable and quite articulate. Her palate and ability to distinguish aromas, flavors and nuances leave my efforts in the dust.

On March 3, we traveled to San Francisco for the rescheduled Robert Parker Matter of Taste. (Originally set for October 2017, it had to be moved because of the devastating Napa/Sonoma fires.)

Let me tell you now, do whatever is necessary to attend the next one when it returns to California. We were impressed by the quality and quantity of wineries pouring. Often at these tastings, there are a few headliners (like a famous Bordeaux or a recognized Napa winery) that share the event with numerous lesser known folks.

Not so this one. There were outstanding Aziendas from Italy, a strong showing from California, and some good quality Chateaux from France.

It was well-attended but not crammed with tasters. The posh City Club in San Francisco hosted the tasting on two floors, essentially one floor international and one domestic. Maybe the swanky setting moderated some of the attendees’ more extreme behavior (we’ve all been to events where for many of the guests the goal was to drink as much as possible, not to experience what the wineries have to offer), but everyone seemed to be delighted and enjoying themselves.

The only negative was the absence of any food outside of some cheese and crackers.

Our favorites were from Italy, Argentina, California, with some notables from Bordeaux and a great value sparkling from Spain.

Argentina does a great job with both Cabernet Franc and Malbec, varietals that can be kind of a stepchild in their native Bordeaux. Aleanna wines were showstoppers. The 2012 Gran Enemigo Gualtallary is a near perfect wine. 100% Cab Franc, strong aromas of strawberry and baking spices, the taste of dark fruit, particularly dark cherries, provides an enveloping experience. We agreed with Parker’s 98+ rating. The 2012 El Gran Enemigo (translated: “enemy”), 40% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, was a disappointment only because it’s not as grand the Gualtallary. Another achievement, it features great balance of tannins and spices for a winning combination.

The Italian winery, Petrolo, did something brilliant. They offered two vintages of their flagship wine, Galatrona, the 2007 and the 2013. Surprisingly 100% Merlot, it shows what that varietal can do. And quite helpfully, by pouring the two vintages, you can anticipate the wine’s aging potential. In the 2007, the tannins had calmed down to where you can appreciate the great structure and wonderful tastes. Tastes like strawberry and cherry but substantial – not to be confused with a Pinot.

Also from Tuscany, Tua Rita has its own take on Merlot with its 2014 Redigaffi. Spicy notes, heavily aromatic, this is a delight. There were hints of shale with a lush, balanced finish. Terry’s comment, “Love this one.” Alongside the Redigaffi was the 2013 Giusto di Notri, a wonderful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Cab Franc and Merlot. Light in color but with some dark fruit flavors, this wine is really perfumed. The combination of the intriguing aromas and cherry and blackberry tastes make for an all-embracing tasting experience. Another 98+.

A side benefit to these types of events, we spent some time with Stefano Frascolla and his wife, Simena Bisti (daughter of the founders of Tua Rita, Rita and Virgilio Bisti) who were delightful and very down to earth.

In my next column, I will cover the California and French highlights.

© Carl J. Kanowsky

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