Monday, December 1, 2008

Stan The Wine Man (Part 2)

Onto the reds... the lifeblood of Stan's list.

When Stan first came calling 10 years ago at Cafe Allegro, he was smart enough to bring me, what has since turned into one of my top ten favorite wines... Gli Occhi Blu Di Sabrina Amarone. I was hooked! After that, every wine he tasted me on was a "must-have", though often a "can't-afford." I mean I can only sell so many $100 Italian wines, right?

Coming to Soba, I was careful with my picks. The light, fresh, lively flavor profiles in Soba's food, and the subtle crisp flavors of Umi, do not lend themselves to big, hearty, tannic wines. So with that in mind I chose the best of the best that I had been familiar with from past vintages: Palari Faro & Rosso Del Soprano, Poderi La Collina Labbra Di Giada, Cecilia Monte Incognito, and San Rustico Gli Occhi Blu Di Sabrina Amarone.

Start off with the Labbra di Giada (Italian for "lips of Giada": read for a somewhat accurate portrayal of how this wine got it's name). This is a dolcetto di dogliani (dolcetto=grape, dogliani=region in Piedmont). Typically a dry, tannic wine with medium fruit and acid levels, Stan's dolcetto, however is a fruit driven, deep purple colored, easily drinking glass that pairs well with food, but stands well on it's own for those guests looking for an Italian glass that's not to tongue-drying. Retails for $29.42, which makes it a reasonably priced bottle on any restaurant list (mark-up would be anything from $69-$88... I sell it at Soba for $60)

Next up for the staff was the Cecilia Monte Incognito. Incognito is actually a Barbaresco, 100% nebbiolo grape as you'd find in a Barolo, as well as Barbaresco. The high price needed to call this wine a Barbaresco for exporting, persuaded Stan to find an alternate form of marketing this wine... hence "Incognito", so he could sell a Barbaresco at a 1/2 way reasonable price. This is a dynamite Barbaresco at $41.39. Typical flavor profiles of mint, licorice, blackberry and black cherry are all here in this steal of a Barbaresco. I would imagine, a Barbaresco of this quality, if it had the proper DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata: Italy's bureau of wine quality and regulation) designation of Barbaresco, it would fetch a price of anywhere from $70-90 bottle.

The last two we tasted were Palari's Rosso del Soprano (named after the popular HBO series... jus' kiddin') and Faro. The Rosso del Soprano is the poor man's Faro ($42.95) with the same grape sourcing of up to 8 different varietals from Sicily... it's the stepping stone to it's big brother. Dry and dusty, tannic (but not overbearingly so) with some light brick tones and balanced fruit it's a fine bottle... but can not compare with... FARO! When tasting wines with so many different palates as my staff demonstrated, it was no surprise that votes on the "best red" were divided between the Faro and it's contender, San Rustico Amarone. Faro is for the pinot noir lovers in our midst. Gambero Rosso compares it with a "...Chambolle Musigny or a Vosne Romanee from the Burgundy heartlands." The comparison is not lost on any of our palates however. A gentle, feminine red consisting of Sicilian varietals dominated by nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio, with smaller quantities of nocera, cappuccio tignolino, cor’e palumba, acitana, galatena, calabrese and more. Never heard of any of these varietal? Don't be embarrassed, most are unfamiliar to me as well... the important thing to know is that this wine is a stunner. Don't believe me, well Gambero Rosso (again, the Wine Spectator of Italian wine) named the Faro "Wine of the Year". If you're looking for a wine experience that is subtle & complex, graceful, artistic and elegant, than look no further. But it'll cost you at $92.25. Well worth it, when you consider other Italian wines, without the "Wine of the Year" title can fetch upwards of $200-$300 and much higher.

Time to end our little discussion on Italian red wine with my favorite wine in Stan's portfolio: San Rustico Gli Occhi Blu Di Sabrina Amarone, from Veneto. Gli Occhi Blu di Sabrina is Italian for "the blue eyes of Sabrina", who was the winemaker's daughter. This wine is not only my favorite in Stan's portfolio, but one of my top ten favorite red wines, year after year. This is THE wine experience. Every time I've recommended this wine to a guest, I relish the pure ecstasy they find in the bottle and gratitude they afford me for the excellent recommendation. Given time, I prefer to decant this bottle, pour the first glass, and return again and again to the table to revel in their excitement at how much the wine has changed and gotten better and better with each passing hour. Typically amarone is made from corvina, rodinella and molinara grapes which have been "raisinated" in the sun to concentrate the grapes natural sugars before going to press. It leads to a very sweet, prune or raisin fruit flavor that I adore, but in Stan's amarone the balance is perfected to give a great extracted fruit flavor without overly sweetening the wine. Great balance, hearty fruit... just a beauty of a wine. Springer Wine Review rated this wine 100 points (for what that's worth to ya). At $84.82 you can't afford not to have a six pack delivered to your front door immediately! This will forever be a favorite of mine. I hope you get the chance to try this masterpiece as well.

Now these wines are not your everyday bargain wines, but for the quality I'd certainly recommend every one for special occasion dining. Each has tremendous aging potential. As a gift, it will be one remembered for a long time. You can always write to me, anytime, for my home address when you decide to ship these bad boys out to me... until then, I'll keep waiting for new restaurants to work in, so I can hold another Stan "the Wine Man" staff training session, and linger on that last glass of amarone...

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
Pittsburgh PA 15226-2315
TELEPHONE: (412) 341-9463
FAX: (412) 343-8466
CELL: (412) 736-7017

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