Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stan The Wine Man

Just had our first wine training at the new restaurant Soba, with the new staff. The topic of discussion; Italian Wines. The guest speaker; Stan "THE WINE MAN"® Lalic.

I've been a big fan of Stan's wines ever since I got into this crazy game. Every wine is distributed in the U.S. by Stan alone. Each wine is 90+ points, with a few reaching 100 points or tre bicchieri from Gambero Rosso (the Wine Spectator of Italian wines). As soon as I started at Soba I noticed a complete disregard for Italian wines on the list, and instantly called up Stan. Some of his whites were perfect for the Pan-Asian cuisine, and the reds are just too delicious to turn down. In a restaurant that serves cabernet with sushi (that's mostly due to customers preferences... not the recommendation I would make), I thought there was a definite need for a few dolcettos, barbarescos, and my favorite; amarone.

Stan brought us 10 bottles to taste with staff: Manni Nossing Kerner, Borgosan Danielle Pinot Grigio & Arbis Blanc, Volpe Passini Zuc di Volpe Pinot Bianco, Rosa Bosco Sauvignon Blanc, Palari Faro & Rosso Del Soprano, Poderi La Collina Labbra Di Giada, Cecilia Monte Incognito, and San Rustico Gli Occhi Blu Di Sabrina Amarone.

Now, before you get all frightened by the funny names in Italian, don't fret... I'm gonna walk you through this bottle by bottle, and demystify some of these labels for you.

Let's start with the whites. Manni Nossing is the winemaker of the first bottle from Alto Adige, which is in the northern part of Italy, right on the border with Austria. The cooler climate makes for great white wines like this crisp varietal, actually called "kerner". You're not going to find much kerner in the U.S. This particular one is priced at $27.97. Crisp apple, notes and a slight anise (that's anise... like licorice flavor, smart-ass) lingering in the fore palate. Nice quaffing wine and perfect with shellfish.

Next wine should be one you're familiar with, though have probably never tasted when it's done as well as Borgosan Danielle's product; pinot grigio. At $36.95, this pinot grigio had better be good, right? Well Borgosan Danielle's pinot grigio does not fail to impress. It's a heartier wine than the insipid dry white that has inundated the U.S. Forget everything you think you know about pinot grigio. This wine is full of sweet fruit, a hearty backbone from oak aging. It is a great food wine, pairing well with everything from strong fish to chicken... and I dare say it would be a great pairing with any pork dish, as long as the sauce was not too rich.

Borgosan Danielle also produces the Arbis Blanc which is a blend of tocai friulano, pinot bianco, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Mellow, yet full-bodied. Honey and butteriness you'd expect from a chard, but the sweetness of the tocai balances it out and gives it a nice round flavor. Heavy on the tongue and highly drinkable with some great minerality from the sauvignon blanc. $38.50. Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchierri (three glasses) Award. 95-100 Points... for what that's worth to you...

And... the staff's favorite... Volpe Passini Zuc di Volpe Pinot Bianco at $33.95. Springer Wine review says it far more eloquently than I could... and every word rings true for this beauty "gushes with white peach and ripe mango with hints of papaya and pineapple which coats the palate with fruit-filled creaminess from its partial barrel fermentation. All this is placed in a framework of highly structured and perfectly balanced acidity... dry, medium-bodied, rich and opulent and clearly designed to accompany food. This wine should be served just slightly chilled to experience its layered, creamy texture and complex, exotic fruit." This was a wine that I wasn't particularly interested in when Stan broke it out of the carrying case for me to sample. What could I really need a pinot bianco on this limited list for, anyhow... but once I tasted the intricate, incredibly well balanced finesse of this wine, I ordered her up for our list. When asked by Stan "If you were stuck on a dessert island with only one of the white wines, which would you pick?" Majority of the staff raised their hands for this beauty.

I stayed my hand for my favorite of the whites; Rosa Bosco Sauvignon Blanc. This is a powerhouse sauvignon blanc from Italy ("a sauvignon blanc from Italy... you must be crazy!"). Reminiscent of the Bordeaux whites. Built on the powerful sauvignon blanc foundation there is a creaminess you're not likely to find from any other sauvignon blanc purveyor. The highly acidic varietal finds a wonderful balance here between cotton candy, confectioner sugar and yeasty champagne dryness. I loved the many different layers of intricacy I found in this wine... with a lingering palate that touched the senses with faint brushes of vanilla. A far cry from the tart, grapefruity "sauv blancs" that tend to be the current craze. This baby goes for $47.38 . A more impressive "sauv blanc" I have yet to find (though I will say, Orin Swift's Velladora comes pretty damn close).


To order these wines, you may have to go straight to "the man" if you can't find them in your local wine and spirits distributor. Address to follow:

Stan "The Wine Man"® Lalic
1201 Woodbourne Avenue TELEPHONE: (412) 341-9463
Pittsburgh PA 15226-2315 FAX: (412) 343-8466
e-mail: CELL: (412) 736-7017

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