For those of you who read my column on a regular basis you’ll have noticed a series of name changes to it culminating in the latest “Sul Tappeto Rosso.” Why this change? I’ve moved to Los Angeles, a dramatic change for a San Francisco Bay Area native, and I have really loved the speed and diversity and sheer number of things to do here in L.A.! “Sul Tappeto Rosso” is “On the Red Carpet” in Italian, and being that our store is in Hollywood, what better way to manifest my move. I’d like to explain a little about how we at K&L look at Italian wines. We travel to Italy two or three times a year visiting up-and-coming as well as storied producers. We import directly from thirteen wineries in Italy from well known, to unheard of but all with a tremendous quality-to-price ratio. In Tuscany we import many wineries, two in Chianti Classico: Rocca di Montegrossi and Poggiopiano, and six in Montalcino: Sesta di Sopra, Baricci, La Fortuna, Pian dell’Orino, Poggiarellino and Ferrero. All of these wineries focus on growing the best quality grapes their soil can produce with the least amount of winemaking possible, letting the grapes make their own statement. From Emilia Romagna we now import Ca’ Berti who produces Lambrusco. No, not that fizzy soda pop you remember from the ’70s this is real wine, yet with a bit of bubbles grown on hillside vineyards and harvested by hand! Our longest relationship has been with Ermacora, the brothers Dario and Luciano, whose much heralded white and red wines from Friuli offer some of the best wines of the Colli Orientali del Friuli. Not far away in Isonzo another young Friulian winery, Blason, is making white and red wines with outstanding price-to-quality ratios snuggled up against the Slovenian border. They are one of our largest suppliers; we buy more than 30% of their production. Silvano Follador is one of most popular new imports. Everyone loves Prosecco, and this Prosecco is really something to crow about! At $10.99 there isn’t another Prosecco that can compare. Lastly in Piedmont, one of the region’s rising stars is Ruggeri Corsini. Nicola Argamante is a vineyard consultant for many of the big names in Barolo. His tiny estate in Monforte d’Alba is making superb wines, with classic expressions of the grape varietals. All of our wineries produce excellent quality wines but many are from “newer” wineries that don’t often get the press that the more famous wines do. A lot of times this has more to do with understanding how to get your wine in front of some famous critic than whether your wine is good or not. Some critics don’t like to review wines that aren’t imported nationally to all markets or with small productions. Some of our wineries are so small you wouldn’t believe it; Poggiarellino produces a total of less than 500 cases a year! For those of you in Southern California, we’d love you to drop by our new Hollywood store and let us show you some of these wines! —Greg St. Clair
2005 Ermacora Tocai Friulano ($14.99) As most of you know these wines from past vintages let me just put it plain and simple: 2005 ROCKed in Friuli! The “Friulano” is medium to full bodied with ripe pear and red apple on the palate. On the finish I find a hint of almond balanced with crisp acidity. This will work well with ham or barley and bean soup. 2005 Ermacora Verduzzo Friulano ($15.99) 2 Glasses Gambero Rosso! This is a classic dessert wine without being cloyingly sweet. Baked apple and pear with a touch of apricot and honey and a candied orange peel mingle on the tongue with beautiful length. Try with mature cheeses or a big piece of cheesecake with your valentine. 2005 Ermacora Refosco ($15.99) This vine originated in Friuli and was the most important red variety in the region until merlot and cabernet entered the picture at the end of the 19th century. That said, this wine will remind you of a Graves, with great structure, showing cassis and black fruit, a little spice and gravel and tobacco on the finish. Enjoy with a big bowl of goulash. 2005 Ermacora Schioppettino ($16.99) The Ermacora Schioppettino is another indigenous Friulian variety and is one of our favorites. It tastes like a Pinot Noir with structure and spicy black pepper. This 2005 has a long middle focus that slowly unwinds across the palate. An extraordinary wine for the price. When serving this, think game or roast beef. —Mike Parres
Let’s be honest, when you have 7,891 wine selections to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming. Everyone has their favorites from their area of expertise, and I surely have mine. So, let’s start with some thoughts on Bordeaux and then move around the wine world. Always remember, the duty of every wine is to taste good; and wine does not have to be outrageously expensive or highly rated to taste good. One of the greatest quotes I heard last year was made by a supremely confident friend of ours, Anthony Barton, owner of Léoville and Langoa-Barton. “I hope my wine doesn’t get too many points! If it does, everyone will want it, the price will go sky high, and nobody will drink it!” Moral of this story, Barton is the wine you buy first in every Bordeaux vintage—a great wine and always reasonably priced. The 2003 Bordeaux vintage is loaded with tasty wines, and a few really stand out, including the killer trio of second wines from the great 2nd growths: 2003 Clos du Marquis ($39.99) from Léoville-Las-Cases, 2003 Pagodes de Cos ($31.99) from Cos d’Estournel and 2003 Reserve de La Comtesse ($31.99) from Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. There is no question in my mind that the very best wine of greatness from 2003 for the money is the ancient estate of 2003 Malescot-St-Exupery ($48.99). This 3rd growth is the third best wine in the commune of Margaux today after Ch. Margaux and Ch. Palmer. Very rich and deep textured, regal, serious and supple at the same time. Outrageously good. 2003 Ch. Lynch Bages ($64.99) and 2003 Ch. Poujeaux ($27.99) are close behind for value, and the quality of wine made today at 5th growth 2003 Ch. Pontet Canet ($69.99) rivals or betters every famous wine in Bordeaux today! Buy these wines, and you will thank me later. In my opinion, the 2003 vintage was the best ever from Lafon Rochet, Duhart-Milon, and Domaine de Chevalier. Don’t miss the 2005 Rosé de Chevalier ($10.99) my favorite pre-dinner appetizer wine along with the 2005 Domaine de Pepiere “Vielles Vignes” Clos de Briords Muscadet ($12.99) 2000 Denios Chardonnay Sainte Marie ($14.99) and looked at the cost, my heart rate sky rocketed! Seriously, I had to control my emotions, I calmly looked up at Clyde and whispered “Buy everything he’s got of this, it’s incredible. I’ll sell it all, this taste like great Meursault!” Also, the 2001 Brunellos are the real deal, and every well-rounded wine collection should have a cross section. Fine red wines and well priced. And I can’t leave out the fat, lush and ultra-sweet 2003 Sauternes! Another fantastic vintage that flew under the radar of the monumental press generated by 2001; a little less acid and more creamy sweetness is the difference! Buy some for your sweety! Please feel free to contact me anytime at ex 2723 or Ralph@klwines.com with any questions or advice on the wines of Bordeaux. Cheers and Toujours Bordeaux! —Ralph Sands
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