We had our first significant snowfall last night here in Friuli. Lovely to look at, but tough for driving…
Buon Anno Nuovo friends! Welcome to the new BUZZ… the Official blog of the Bastianich and La Mozza wineries!
We are working to improve the look and the effectiveness of the blog in some ways you can see and some ways you can’t. We are migrating to a new host, new design, and plenty of features “under the hood” that will make it better…
But really, what could make a blog better than creating content?
Well, that’s changing too. The blog is no longer a one-man show (yours truly), but I have some very capable help from Julia Segal in New York who will keep me on time with posts (we have already started filling in an editorial calendar! *gasp*) She will also be contributing on a regular basis, (she has her own excellent blog here) So look for posts about the wineries but also about other wine related stuff…
Lastly we are working on guest posts from Joe and Lidia Bastianich, winemakers and other folks connected with the winery. I know I’m excited!
A Brief recap of 2012…
From a winery perspective, 2012 was a great year. The harvest was very good this year, with the biggest problem being heat and lack of rainfall that lowered yields by 25% and shrivelled a lot of berries. Concentration and ripeness were great though, and early tastings point to some really dense and intense wines. The sorting table was an important addition to the cellar and we look forward to seeing it’s effect on quality.
From a sales perspective, we had a fantastic year in Italy in general, Friuli in particular and we opened more international markets in 2012 than in any other calendar year ever! The US market is always our best and we continue to see growth overall in the States.
We also had a proud moment when Vespa Bianco was voted the best Italian Superpremium white wine in Snooth.com’s “Peoples Voice Awards”… News so exciting it was covered in Italy!
The single most exciting addition of 2012 was the opening of the tasting room at the winery in Gagliano…
You can look out to neighbouring vineyards through the 15-foot glass entrance. It has two Enomatic wine dispensing machines, a serious temperature controlled wine room and a bar complete with a fridge, drawers, glasses and everything – I’m like a kid in a candy shop! It’s what I’ve personally wanted for the winery for years, and a great way to taste wine and meet folks who come to the winery. And with Joe’s success on the USA and Italian MasterChef TV shows, more and more people are coming every day.
All in all, I can’t complain about 2012. The new year brings possibilities for showing the Bastianich wines in such exotic places as Istanbul, Moscow and the Turks and Caicos Islands!
Finally (and possibly most exciting of all) will be the release this spring of the 2011 vintage of Vespa Bianco. Why am I so excited about the release of a new vintage? I’ve been tasting the elements and the progression of the 2011 Vespa for more than a year now and every time I try it, I get goosebumps. It’s that friggin’ good. I’m looking forward to showing the wine at the new and improved 4-day VinItaly in April just to see if everyone else is as enthusiastic about it as I am. Quite possibly the greatest Vespa EVER.
Woke up in the dark this morning to meet Daniele Borghello, pro Photographer, at our Buttrio vineyard for a sunrise shoot. The weather has been astounding recently, and it has been a fantastic vintage so far (more details to come). Today did not disappoint, although Daniele did complain of a little bit of foschia (haziness, light fog) that made the morning light more yellow than red.
Now, I’ll admit (and you may have guessed) that I’m horribly jealous of great photographers who really know how to use those “big clicky cameras”, as my friend Samantha calls them. Someday I’ll get me one of those big clilcky cameras and take some good pictures… For now I entertain myself trying to snap a couple shots here and there, and I thought it would be interesting to take pictures of someone taking pictures… Like the movie “Inception”, but with vineyard photos… vInception!
The sun came up and revealed a gorgeous morning, lighting the vineyards in Buttrio in a way I haven’t seen since I worked the ’02 vintage. I managed to pop off a couple of my own before heading home to shower and properly dress for the office. Daniele stuck around to watch the pickers do their thing and get some poetic shots of the old Tocai Friulano vines in the “Plus” vineyard… Something I have not managed to capture with my small, non-clicky camera.
I’m sure Daniele’s photos will be stunning, but in the meantime, I’ll hit you with my best shot…
When the heat is on (like it is here in Friuli these days) our thoughts always turn to eating light and enjoying the bounty of summer fruits and veggies. We also think of drinking light… Fresh whites are “de rigueur”; crispy sauvignons with our crispy salads, fresh Friulano with our fresh fish… and Rosato (or rosè, as the French would call it).
Lots of folks don’t know that we make a lovely, fresh rosato from refosco (i think we are the ONLY ones making rosato from 100% Refosco). Refosco is naturally high in acid so it makes a zippy and refreshing rosato. Perfect chilled and sipped with those summery tomato salads or simple grilled chicken. In fact, this week this New Orleans-based blogger wrote a great review of the Bastianich Rosato with paired with an Italian-Style Chicken Paillard. Check out the Blackened Out blog for this recipe and some lovely words about our Roasto.
Thanks Rene @ blackenedout.com!
I wanted to post a couple more pictures from yesterday’s shoot at the Bastianich winery…
Just to give a little background, MasterChef USA with Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliott is going into it’s second season on FOX. The ITALIAN version including Joe and two famous Italian chefs (can’t tell you who right now!) is filming in Milano. For Joe’s biography segment, they decided to shoot some scenes of Joe in the cellar and in the vineyard. Here are some more pics I took during the filming… MasterChef Italia airs in September CIELO television in Italia!
Last year we had the pleasure of creating and launching a very unique line of wines callled “Adriatico”. This line was envisioned by Joe Bastianich who wanted to express the terroir of the northern Adriatic Sea through 3 native grape varieties in their native lands: Friulano, from Friuli Venezia Giulia, Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia and Malvasia Istriana from Croatia.
Obviously, the Friulano is Home-Grown here on the Bastianich vineyards in Friuli. We enlisted the help of local winemakers for the other wines… Marjan Simcic is our man in Brda for the Ribolla and the Malvasia Istriana is made by a group of 3 producers in Istria: Moreno Degrassi, Gianfranco Koslovic and Ivica Matosevic.
The line has been a big hit, with healthy sales (retail in the mid-teens is the sweet-spot) and great reviews. Online, Wine is a Condiut really hit the nail on the head in a great post and Frederic Koeppel also wrote a great review of the Friulano and also named it one of his 25 Great Wine Bargains of 2010.
Most recently, Antonio Galloni bestowed 89 points on the Malvasia and 88 points on the Friulano, calling both outstanding values. Good stuff.
Last week we started the process of selecting the ines for the 2010 version of Adriatico, tasting some wines from Simcic. Yesterday we drove down to Istria to meet with the producers and coordinator Glauco Bevilaqua (who also imports our wines to Croatia and Serbia)…
It was a lesson in the beauty of blending wines… Matosevic’s Malvasia was all aromatics and brightness with flowers and minerals jumping out of the glass… Koslovic’s example was less aromatic, but spicy on the palate with white pepper and a hint of cardemom, very mineral, almost salty… the Degrassi Malvasia was all about ripeness and rotundity caressing the palate, finishing dry and almost chalky… Blending the three brought out all the goodness and filled the mouth with flavor and texture while remaining incredibly lithe and fresh.
We were very pleased. We were even more pleased when Moreno Degrassi brought out the most delicate and delicious Calamari Fritti I’ve had in YEARS…
Paired with his 2007 Malvasia Istria, it was like lunch in fish heaven…
So it has begun…
The bloggers have landed here in Friuli and today begins our adventure together as the COF2011 blogging team.
We all met up at Il Roncal yesterday to meet in person and break bread together in fine Friulian style. A light lunch of pasta and local affettati paired with Roncal wines. Things were quieter than expected, but I’m sure we’l loosen up… The bloggers were jet-lagged (Nicolas said he was hallucinating), and after lunch we all retired to rest up for Dinner…
Before things get started with tasting notes and beautiful photos and praise for my Friulian friends, I’d like to explain a little the past of Friuli (as it was explained to me, so please excuse any small inaccuracies) as I feel it may shed some light on the wines:
Friuli has an ancient history of winemaking, going back pre-Roman. For this there is no dispute. That isn’t much different than the rest of the Italian peninsula.
What separates Friuli from the rest of Italy starts a little bit later.
First, the name of the region tells you a little about it’s past: Friuli VENEZIA Giulia. This area is really composed of at LEAST 3 distinct sub areas united (more or less) under the Venetian empire. The Venetians were sailors and traders. They were not great fans of wine, considering it something of a peasantly pursuit, along with the rest of agriculture.
Therefore the nobility wasn’t a great sustainer, follower of cataloger of wines and their best sites, as the Tuscans and Piedmontese were. Every family had its vines, along with other produce, that was grown for sustenance. Wine was not a noble’s beverage. It was a source of caloric content, fueling the working-class’ need for energy.
The influence of Napoleon and the Austro-Hungarian empire can’t be overlooked. It was the Austrian nobility, with their close familial connections to the France that truly popularized the use of French Varieties in Friuli, like Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Native varieties suffered and many were lost.
Next, there was the impact of two world wars fought on Friulian soil. The first being the most devastating. The impact of these conflicts destroyed most of Friuli’s vineyards and almost ALL OF ITS MEN… who were the principal winemakers.
So it was’t until a generation AFTER World War II that viticulture and winemaking began making a comeback in Friuli Venezia Giulia… We’re talking about 50 years ago. FIFTY YEARS. Nothing when compared to Bordeaux, Tuscany, etc…
Friulian viticulture is young. It has not had the historical stability to gain a foothold in the global wine mentality, even though it IS Italy’s premier white wine producing region. It’s a technologically advanced wine culture: The first to use stainless steel and to control the temperature of fermentation. That technology REVOLUTIONIZED white wine production in Italy. Previously italian whites were heavy, oxidized and lacked delicate aromas.
But… it’s a viticulture that hasn’t had the time to hone it’s intrinsic style…and that can be liberating. There IS a beauty in not being hemmed-in to a certain style. Experimentation is common, change is not considered a major break with history.
As we begin our journey this week, it’s important to keep these things in mind.
(Todays blog comes from Caroline Salz, National Sales Manager at Dark Star Imports. Thanks Caroline for contributing to the blog and for the fine field reporting!)
It has been a while since I’ve blogged here and thought this wine dinner was worth sharing! As busy as Joe’s schedule has become, it is not every day that he can commit to hosting a wine dinner. However, when we were contacted by Victor Rallo, the owner of Undici restaurant in Rumson, New Jersey, we knew it would be worthwhile. Undici has a Wine Spectator award winning, all-Italian wine list; the kind of list that we want our wines to be on. Apparently Victor had been hoping for a visit from Joe for quite some time, and promised Joe that if he came in for a dinner, our wines would be well represented in both of his restaurants. This was not a deal breaker, but definitely an added bonus. The night of the dinner, we found out that Joe and Victor have more in common than just being restaurateurs! They both compete in triathlons, not to mention they have the same hair style! (ok that was really cheesy). The dinner was sold out right away, with a waiting list of a couple hundred people. Joe knew the second he walked into the restaurant that this was going to be a superb event. He explained it as a kind-of sixth sense that restaurateurs have, and he was right. The food and wine pairings were spot on, and fun was had by all.
Here are some of my favorite shots from the evening, taken by Victor’s good friend Ron Sulak.
After the fun and games at the Merano Wine Festival I returned to the winery to entertain a group of guests staying at the foresteria. Kim Esch, ex-Events Manager for the Las Vegas B&B Restaurants and her Mom Elaine and sister Jen, along with Kim’s dear friend Heather from Munich, had the pleasure of experiencing the great wine and food here, along with the ENDLESS FRIULIAN GLOOM, for 5 days.
In order to bring a little bottled sunshine into their dreary vacation, we decided to go see our pal Valter Scarbolo at La Frasca for dinner and vino…
(L to R: Jen, Heather, Valter, Kim and me)
Valter was, as always, the most charming and accommodating host. Jen documented every plate with a meticulousness I wish I had. For fun I brought a bottle of 2000 Pinot Plus. I was curious to see how this Pinot Grigio/Pinot Bianco blend (if my memory serves) has held up.
The first bottle was corked. So corked that Joe Bastianich woke up out of a sound sleep and called me from New York to tell me he smelled TCA. The second bottle though, oh the second bottle… was marvelous. Creamy vanilla crema pasticcieria on the nose morphed into hazelnuts and vanilla extract with lots of mineral and citrus backing it all up. It was a truly sexy bottle of vino vecchio.
(Wine: Sexy. Me: Not.)
Old White Wine is one of the banners I wave about wine, and this was more vindication that well-made white wine with age becomes something truly remarkable. Similarly, we opened a bottle of 2000 Vespa Bianco that had just a hint of that petrol nose and spice and apple on the palate with a creamy finish that went on for ages…
The Ladies lamented the wet weather, but they managed to set the record for “Most Wine Consumed by Guests at the Foresteria” in compensation for their soggy sojurn. (Disclaimer: They had plenty of help, me included.)
Before leaving the winery, they all stopped in to say goodbye. We joked about how the sun would come out right after they left.
Thirty minutes later blue skies emerged… For 4 hours.
It hasn’t stopped raining since.