Now I live in California, just north of Napa on a little dirt road where I walk amongst vineyards rows at sunset.  Life is pretty good.  In March I moved from Missoula, Montana, traveled to Italy and now I’ve been in wine country for about a month surrounded by the spring bud break and the cool nights.  Moving is a major transition in life.  I feel bad about not writing more, but my priorities have been finding a job and getting back on my feet.  This post continues the last few weeks of my trip to Italy:

I felt pretty darn special and spoiled to arrive outside Todi, Italy, at the Roccafiore Winery to be ushered into the amazing spa and hotel by its thoughtful staff.  First they asked me if I’d prefer the Turkish steam bath and sauna before dinner, and then offered also the options of the pool and jacuzzi if I wanted.  Dinner and wine would be at 8:30 with Luca Baccarelli in the restaurant downstairs.  What a beautiful introduction to Umbria.

I’ve loved Roccafiore for over the past year.  Actually, their 2007 Rosso was one of my first blog wines.  Then last August, Valentina Davide, was in Missoula, Montana, to share some more wines and vineyard history.  Her visit served as a major inspiration to get myself to Italy, and to see first-hand the charms of her country.  Tasting wine along the way, of course doesn’t hurt.

The 2012 Biano Fiordaliso was just bottled before I arrived.  This was a really hot season, so the grapes were really ripe, taking away the balance of essential acidity.  Luca even said that it comes off a little too flat, more than he would like, and that the palate is a little too round.  Regardless, it shows off tropical and stone fruit:  lots of juicy pineapple, apricot and peach.  Layered with floral orange blossom and honeysuckle.  This wine is supposed to be really fresh and meant to be enjoyed young, within the year or so.  (Don’t put this away in the cellar.) It’s blended with grechetto di Todi and trebbiano spoletino grapes.

Fiorfiore means “best of the best” so it’s no wonder that the restaurant is named this, and that their 100% grechetto release, 2010 Fiorfiore Bianco, comes from the best parcels of grapes on the estate.  Grechetto is a grape with Greek origins planted throughout Umbria, and blended in the Orvieto DOC white wines.  It has thick skins which makes it resistant to mildew, and a good choice for late-harvest wines.  It’s often used in blends of Vin Santo.  Luca’s mission uses the best technology with the region’s traditional grape varieties.  The Grechetto gets harvested in September, steel fermented, and then aged for one year in large Slovenian oak casks called “botté grande.” Those thick skins mean more tannin structure can help the wine age, maintaining its great fruit and giving the wine structure.  The wine exudes floral notes of yellow flowers with great lemon and citrus.  A ribbon of butter is just detectable, imparted from the time with oak, and in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the crisp citrus. Rather it rounds out the mouth-feel and gives it an elevated sense of elegance.  Roasted hazelnuts and almond add another layer of complexity. We tried this next to the 2012 Fiorfiore.  The current release has lots of peach, melon and spicy cinnamon.  Best drinking is 3-4 years after harvest.

The entry-level red wine is blended from Montepulciano (20%) and Sangiovese (80%).  It’s named Melograno, after the pomegranate, and certainly relates to the vibrant red color of that fruit.  This is easy wine meant for easy drinking.  Think of this wine with first courses, pizza, and sliced meats.  It doesn’t spend any time in oak, released young with easy tannins and medium acidity.  Great red fruits in the glass: strawberry, smoky dried cherry and raspberry fruit leather.  We had the 2011 vintage.

100% Sangiovese comprises the 2010 Rosso Roccafiore.  Clean and elegant, brimming with a balance of tart cranberry and ripe, red cherries.  The red fruit carries the wine while a wealth of dry tannins helps drive the wine.  Perfect for pairing with lots of different foods, or should I say meats.  Try this wine with cured, braised, wild and grilled meats.  Or a cheese burger.  This wine spends two years in 5,000 liter-size Slovenian oak botté grande.  (Those are really big casks.)  20,000 bottles are made.  Roccafiore is considered in Italy to be a medium-sized production at 100,000 bottles total.

This wine to me is really special.  One of my favorites since I started seriously started tasting and reviewing wines.  It’s the 2009 Prova d’Autore.   My notes are exactly the same from my previous blog post about the same wine.  I love this wine.  I bought a bottle for my Roman host, Marco.  We never got around to sharing it, but I hope he has opened it for his friends in Rome!  I need to buy a bottle for my house in California.  It feels empty without it.

From leased acreage in the Montefalco region of Umbria, the Baccarelli family experiments with other blends, mostly with Sangrantino, as this is the hometown hero grape.  Sangrantino is a late-harvested grape, powerful enough to warrant a little more time on the vine to soften those big tannins.  Almost like raisins when they are hand-harvested, the grapes often  get blended with some Petite Verdot and Sangiovese.  The 2009 Roccafiore Sangrantino di Montefalco was young and rustic with huge tannins and dark fruit.  This is only the second vintage from this region.   The 2008 vintage was a little more polished and ready to drink–this is 100% Montefalco and spends 36 months in medium-sized barrels called tonneaux.  This is wild wine!  Tons of herbaceous qualities:  juniper, sage, fennel and rosemary.  Aged balsamic, dried cherry and prune add fruity depth.   This wine can age!  I don’t know if Roccafiore has these wines for distribution yet, but look for these for your long-term cellar shelves.

Finally, dessert!  The late harvest wines are grown on the Collina d’Oro,  the “hill of gold” that just lays south of the beautiful pool and spa area of the hotel.  It’s only half a hectacre, and produces about 1,000 bottles.  In the late summer in the lights of sunset, the hill shimmers with a golden glow of grapes, hence the name.  This is from 100% Muscat Giallo in the “passito” style.  Passito means “raisin” in Italian, so they are picked at perfect ripeness then dried on mats for 5-6 months.  When they are finally pressed, the juice is thick and concentrated nectar that exudes great residual sugar edged with great acidity that cleanses the palatte and elevates the sweetness of the wine into perfect balance.  Fig, date, honey, baked pear and toasted walnuts are some of the complex notes you might pick up.  The specific name for this wine is Vigna d’Autore Collina d’Oro Umbria Passito IGT.

Cheers to Roccafiore!  Thanks for making great wine!


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