Quite frankly I am embarrassed to admit this. I’ve never been to Umbria.
But since my lifetime goal to is cover every corner of Italy and understand every Italian grape before I die, well, if I’d been everywhere already, it would be over. And I’m not ready for it to be over! (i.e. life)
[insert lovely picture picture of Umbrian vineyards: HERE … (of which I have none—YET! But I will once I go!)]
There were plans to go last year but those fell through. A few years back when I taught classes on Italian wines, I always included a Montefalco Sagrantino, the top red wine of Umbria. (Sagrantino is a red grape and it grows best in Montefalco, a small town/zone in the region.) I’ve tried more Sagrantini (plural of Sagrantino) than the average wine professional so I know the grape in general—enough to know I love it! But let’s be real. In the South Bay, where I live, it isn’t so easy to find Sagrantino anywhere. Whether you’re a buyer at a shop or restaurant, or just shopping for yourself, you have to know where to look. If you do, you can taste a few. But I know from experience that you can’t become intimately aware of a wine’s true essence until you’ve been to where it comes from. Without going directly to Umbria, I’m certainly missing the entire message.
But a few weeks ago, my Umbrian friend, Matteo Pastori (someone I actually met† under the context of Ribolla gialla, which is not an Umbrian grape (it’s from Friuli)), invited me to a dinner at 54Mint in San Francisco hosted by the Consorzio Tutela Montefalco. There I was able to meet seven top Umbrian producers and discuss their wines over a delicious meal. That’s the closest I’ve been to Umbria without actually going there! And now I wish to go even more than before!
An unexpected bonus of the night was sitting across from Brian Cronin, Master Sommelier. We discovered that not only do we share an obsession with wine, but also trail running, and a love for Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about. But in breaks from talking about our canine companions, and running, we tried some vino.
Below are my highlights from the dinner combined with the Vini Montefalco tasting at Press Club the following day. Most can be located online at wine.com or through a simple search with wine-searcher.com. I also list importers below. Go find some of these! They won’t put you in Umbria but at least you’ll feel that much closer.
Scacciadiavoli Brut Rose NV. Sagrantino 100%. I love it! I’m not shy about being a cheap date when it comes to sparkling—though yes I can get cerebral about Champagne if required—but I quite honestly always love a good sparkling made from a grape with some tannins (Nebbiolo, Nerello Mascalese, … Sagrantino …). The winery uses their youngest vines to make this wine and harvests while the grapes are still high in acid. Pressing lasts about six hours and a temperature controlled, first fermentation preserves the delicate aromas and flavors in the grapes. Second fermentation in the bottle lasts for over 18 months. This little rosé is friendly and full of texture. With a soft mousse, it is completely refreshing and charming.★★
Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso 2011. Montefalco Rosso DOC. Sangiovese 60%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 15%. Harvest lasts from mid-September until mid-October. The wine spends 12 months in neutral French barrique and large barrels, and then 6 months in bottle before release. Unctuous while highly structured; mouthwatering & clean. Lots of red fruit. Why am I not drinking wine like this more often? ★☆
Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco 2008. Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Sagrantino 100%. Harvest is in the last half of October. The wine macerates & ferments in large French oak, ages in new barriques for 16 months and in the bottle for 9 months. Tons of cherrries: both big and ripe as well as candied. Intense, complex, dark, and with tannins well-integrated into every other aspect.★★
Vinity imports Scacciadiavoli wines.
Perticaia Trebbiano Spoletino 2014. Spoleto DOC. Trebbiano Spoletino 100%. This wine is full of evolving phenols. Starting with bubblegum and tropical fruit, it opens to be quite floral, also with a lemon rind character. Harvest of this very unique variety of Trebbiano, growing only in the village of Spoleto, occurs at the end of October. Skin contact is minimal. The wine is made in the absence of oxygen and aged 6 months on the fine lees without stirring.★★
Zigzagando imports Perticaia wines.
Antonelli Montefalco Rosso 2011. Montefalco Rosso DOC. Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, Montepulciano 15%. Very pretty and well-integrated; fruity with soft tannins.★
Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino 2009.Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Sagrantino 100%. Perfumed with brandied cherry, mint, truffle. Ripe and fruity on the palate with jerky, teriyaki, cherry marmelade, and baked crust. There is complexity but not a complete balance.★☆
Toscowines imports Antonelli wines.
Colpetrone Rosso DOC 2011. Montefalco Rosso DOC. Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 15%. Juicy and delicious with raspberry, plum, autumn spices, and vanilla.★
Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino 2009. Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Sagrantino 100%. Highly perfumed with violets, Christmas spice, wild blackberry, cedar bark, forest, and river cobble. Great structure & full in the mid-palate.★★
Contact Vias Imports to find Colpetrone wines.
Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso 2012. Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, Merlot 15%. Rich and full-bodied with black and red fruits, tobacco, and polished tannins.★
Arnaldo Caprai Sagraninto di Montefalco “Collepiano” 2008.Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Sagrantino 100%. Mint, ripe red cherry, a big structure, and gravelly tannins.★★
Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco “25 Anni” 2008. Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Sagrantino 100%. More modern style than the Collepiano—more extracted, higher alcohol. Great wine but I prefer the former.★
Caprai‘s importer is Folio.
Terre della Custodia Passito 2010. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG Passito. Lots of red fruit and a bright acidity.★
Terre della Custodia is seeking an importer on the west coast.
I can’t wait to traipse through the vineyards and discover hills, trees, trails, cellars or whatever the actual place has to offer—one day! My photos will certainly be more interesting once that happens!
† Matteo was promoting the Primosic wines in San Francisco last summer when we met. Ribolla Gialla: Ribolla di Oslavia & George Vare Ribolla