Next Stop: Domenico Clerico

Notes from February 20, 2010.

I’m putting him at the top of my list for my next trip!  Maybe he’ll take me in for a taste at Vinitaly this year…

I had never had any of his wines, except for L’Arte 2003 back on my very first night (ever) in Barolo.

But after returning from Italy a couple of months ago, one of my fellow wine buddies, Brian, told me he was itching to open his bottle of 1998 Domenico Clerico Percristina Barolo.  So how about Jeff and I meet him and Stephanie for dinner and crack it open?  Um.  You do not have to ask me!  Bien Sur! Certo! Of course!

So I set up a reservation at a restaurant called Tigelleria in Campbell for this past Saturday and the five of us met: Brian, Steph, Jeff, me, and the wine.

So, a 1998!  When I am blessed with such an “aged” wine, I pause for a second considering what I was doing when the grapes for said wine were plucked off their vine.  I appreciate the wine’s patience, just sitting there evolving in the bottle, waiting for me running around living my life, until it finds me, or I am ready for it, or we are just simply supposed to meet…

Tigelleria is fairly authentic regional Italian restaurant. I was surprised to find such a place around here, which was neither within the city limit of San Francisco, nor in one of the nicer parts or Oakland or Berkeley.  While they don’t claim to be true to any one region, as I far as could tell, they correctly represent many authentic dishes.

Brian asked our waitress to decant the Percristina right after we all sat down and it became my task to pick out the starter wine.  But after perusing the list and realizing the bulk of the reds were in the Italian heavy-hitter category (Valpolicella, Brunello, Chianti, Sagrantino de Montefalco, Taurasi, and of course Barolo), I decided we had better stick to white to get our palates warmed up.  I was interested in the Cappuccina Soave San Brizio and our waitress further recommended the Feudi San Gregorio Greco di Tufo (which I was mainly trying to avoid because their importer/distributor is a downright behemoth and I like to support the little guys).  But she graciously brought us all a taste of each.  I liked them both for different reasons but we landed on the Greco di Tufo.  The wine, a perfect match to the crostini ai porri (leeks, extra virgin olive oil, hazelnuts, lemon zest, mint, white truffle oil; served on toasted pugliese bread) went down quickly for all of us and by the time the next course arrived, we were ready for another wine (- but not yet the Barolo!  We were giving the Percristina some time in the decanter, you know, letting her get to know her surroundings, before we interrogated her.)

At this point, we all admitted we were ready for a red, and decided there must be something on the list that would go well with the cheeses and meats.  Jeff gave the Cantina di San Patrignano Sangiovese di Romagna a try, which I saw as adventurous, knowing the (bad) reputation of Emilia Romagna Sangiovese, but he simply wanted a decent Sangio.  No one else really liked it except for me.  “Pick something else, Marci!” they said, so I went with something I knew (having learned my lesson at Enoteca San Marco in Las Vegas last month with that COS!   (   and asked her to bring a bottle of Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittorio.  I had chosen this one to pour for my Italian Wines class last fall and everyone had loved it so I felt like it was a safe choice.  For the next course we had picked out a charcuterie board called amarcord consisting of prosciutto di parma, pancetta, mortadella,  stracchino, caciotta with chives and cimbro; roasted zucchini, green bell peppers, cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil; walnuts, black cherry spread, and wildflowers honey.  Its great – they have many combinations of these from which to choose, or if you prefer, you can build your own.

Finally, we were not only looking forward to the main course, but ready to end the suspense with that wine!  Brian poured us all a glass…

Domenico Clerico Percristina 1998. Barolo DOCG from Monforte d’Alba.  A beautiful wine – both in appearance and personality.  It showed a dark ruby-brick color with some noticeable rim variation.  It smelled of black licorice, maraschino cherries, and sweet cigar smoke mixed with that earthy smell of a fireplace fire.  Giving a richly amazing texture in the mouth, it was still bold, but not too bold or young.  I got redwood earth and buttery tannins throughout, offering a finish with abundant stamina and a generous display of clove, raspberry, kerosene, and kirsch. ★ ★ ☆

Brian said it reminded him of a Bordeaux, and that’s his forté so he should know.  I was just reading Robert Parker’s descriptions of the various vintages of this wine and he compares it to a Pauillac!  Well, will someone pour for me a left bank Bordeaux that tastes like this, please!

I had ordered the Sformatino Piemontese (something in between a soufflé and frittata, made with lots of cheese) but Jeff’s entrée went better with the wine, the Bucatini all’Amatriciana (diced pancetta, tomatoes sauce, chili pepper, ground pecorino romano dop).  Brian and Steph’s lasagna was also great with the wine (egg and spinach pasta sheets, bolognese ragú, besciamel and parmigiano reggiano dop).  As much as I hate to admit it, being a pseudo-vegetarian, a dish with meat in it is the only thing that can defend itself again a Barolo like this from Monforte.

… I tend to prefer the feminine and floral La Morra style of Barolo but am learning that I also can be just as taken away by the characteristics of Monforte (like how I always love all the Conterno Fantino wines), and also Serralunga (Enzo Boglietti and Bruno Giacosa).

I couldn’t find exact technical notes on the Percristina but I do know he tends to use more new French oak (in the form of barrique) for this wine compared to his others.  He also tends to follow a shorter-maceration regimen using rotary fermenters, but in recent years has begun moving away from radically modern techniques and utilizing some of the traditional ways again.

The other wines:

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2007. Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG.  Nero d’Avola 60%, Frappato 40%.  Very cherry and sweet red berry character with a hint of mineral, some chalky tannins, and a hint of stinky earth.  But mainly, a spicy and smooth, easy drinking wine.  ★

Cantina di San Patrignano Sangiovese di Romagna 2007.  Sangiovese di Romagna DOC.  This wine comes from a commune of eight producers in the Emilia Romagna region.  The only other producer I know who does a good job with Sangiovese in this region is Fattoria Zerbina, and they are a member.  So that makes them reputable in my book.  The wine displayed the lovely juicy dark red cherry fruit character that I love about a good Sangiovese but instead of being balanced by sweet oak, it did have a bit of a bitter stem flavor, which I have found to be true of Sangios from this region.  Still good though.  ★

Cappuccina Soave San Brizio 2005.  Soave DOC.  Garganega 100%.  Hand-picked, destemmed, macerated on their skins and gently pressed.  Maceration and fermentation is done on the lees and take place in 500 liter oak barrels which are new to one year old.  It is bottle-aged for 10+ months.  Very perfumed with nuts and flowers, a medium-rich texture with a smooth honey-like character, fishing fresh but full.  ☆

Feudi San Gregorio Greco di Tufo 2007.  DOCG.  A crisp wine balancing sweet apricot with tart apple leading to a supple yet bright finish with marked minerality.  ★

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