The Coast News Group

Bravo to the 3 New Tenors of Italian wine

It’s 1990 in Rome Italy: Italian singer Luciano Pavarotti and Spanish singers Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras begin a concert and record career as the 3 Tenors. It was perfect harmony and musical excitement, creating a popular  movement of the highest tradition of Italian operatic bliss.
Recently in La Costa,  “3 tenors” of Italian wine were introduced at Kris Garrett’s La Costa Wine Company, generating similar excitement: a 2004 Barolo from Piedmont; a 2006 Amarone style Ripasso from Veneto; and a 2005 Nero d’ Avola from Sicily.
Italy is one of the world’s largest producers of red wine with more than 1,000 different varietals, and it’s the biggest exporter of wine into the U.S. Weather has a huge influence on the wines. Winemakers with a heritage of personal care reach back to their roots when wine was carted to market in large kegs, carefully wrapped in heavy straw for protection from the elements. In Italy’s 20 districts, there are some 900,000 vineyards, from backyard  Sicilian families to many thousands of acres such as Tuscany’s Banfi Vintners.
The following 3 Italian “tenors” make music to a wine lover’s palate:
— Renato Ratti 2004 Barolo Marcenasco. Comes from the Ratti family’s Piedmont hillside village of Marcenasco. Steep west-facing slopes provide the Nebbiolo grapes maximum ripening. 15th century abbey serves as the winery. This is a wine suitable for long aging. Smooth and balanced ($54.99).
— Masi 2006 Campofiorin Rosso del Veronese. Deep, dark, ruby red and intense. Pleasing spiciness. Soft and well-balanced tannins. A drink-now wine from Verona with a remarkable value price ($14.99).
— Gulfi 2005 Nerosanlore Nero d’Avola. Spectacular Sicilian red. Beautiful aromatics meld into a taste of dark fruit and spices. Ninety-five points from Robert Parker. 
To check on inventory of these wines, call La Costa Wine Company at (760) 431-8455.
Pinot Noir harvest begins in Oregon
Two years ago, vineyards in Oregon knew they had something special. Nature was being very kind to the 2008 crop of Pinot Noir, and a recent multi-year celebration of Pinot was given new reasons to buy the ‘08s: perfect balance and rich flavors. Wineries like Ponzi, Argyle, Domaine Serene, Erath, Sokol Blosser, Willamette Valley and Four Graces all did well with their releases.
Willamette Valley’s Signature Cuvee Pinot Noir is assessed as the best vintage in two decades with long graceful finishes preceded by bright red fruit and spice. 
The summer was so cool in 2008 that there was worrying that the grapes would never ripen. But when October hit, temperatures shot up and the sun stayed out. “It was a nail-biter harvest. We picked all the way to November,” said Luisa Ponzi. “But it turned out to be a dynamite vintage across the board.”
Sokol Blosser, one of the originals in Oregon Wine Country, is starting to prep for the 2010 harvest by dropping fruit and reducing the number of clusters on each vine, for complexity and mature flavors. It understands that Pinot doesn’t allow for cutting corners or letting the details slide. They constantly taste to determine when to begin harvesting the grapes.
At Four Graces, a recently established 110-acre vineyard purchased in 2003 by Steve and Paula Black in Dundee, their goal is rich, complex, handmade Pinot Noirs.  The wines stay true to the region and the local soil found in the Willamette Valley, which is iron-rich, volcanic and well drained, with higher elevation than most other Oregon appellations. Let the harvest begin!
Wine Bytes
— The Grand Del Mar’s Addison Restaurant has Wednesday Tastings on the Terrace with Red Wine Blends on Sept. 22 and Cabernets on Sept. 29. Time is 6 to 7 p.m. Cost is $20 per person. Call (858) 314-2000 for details.
— Belle Marie Winery in Escondido has an End of Summer Tasting from noon to 6 p.m. Sept. 18. Cost is $15 per person. There will be raffle drawings and a picnic. RSVP at (760) 796-7557.
— Vigilucci’s Seafood and Steakhouse in Carlsbad presents a Darioush Wine Tasting from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 23. Darioush is a Napa Valley Bordeaux style winery.  Cost is $35 each and includes four wines and complimentary food. Call (760) 434-2580 for details.
— La Costa Wine Company holds its second annual Wine Expo on Sept. 25 with more than 40 wines to taste and purchase like Cakebread, Newton, Rosenblum and much more. The cost is just $25. RSVP only at (760) 431-8455
— A full moon Gondola Wine Tasting is planned at Loews Coronado from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. on Sept. 24. The $45 cost gets you six wine tastings and chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. For more information, call (619) 429-6317.