Free tasting | Friday, November 2, 2018 | 5-7PM
We’ve got Southern Italy on the brain. Recently back from a trip to Rome, I took the train from Roma Termini for Pomezia-Santa Palomba where Antonio Cosmi met me with his white van and drove five minutes up a windy dirt road to his vineyard Casale Certosa. Antonio has a gentle demeanor, a big smile and sparkling eyes, and spoke passionately about his 8 hectares of grapevines as we walked through the vines and enjoyed a ‘bella chiacchierata’ - beautiful conversation - throughout the cloudy, but dry, afternoon. His three small terrier dogs joined us on our walk and bounced through the vines and dirt like little rabbits.
Antonio grows mostly white grapes including Malvasia Puntinata, Grechetto and Trebbiano, and has a separate plot full of red grapes of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil composition is authentic to the Castelli Romani; Casale Certosa is located in the underbelly valley of a non-active ancient volcano. Volcanic white rocks layer the ground as we walk through the vines, and then the rocks darken in certain rows indicating a plethora of rocks, gravel, and types of earth that layer the unique climate of Casale Certosa.
As we walk from the vines into the winemaking facility, I notice how the small property is spotless and everything has its place. Almost two decades ago, Antonio and his brother Fausto meticulously reconstructed their old family home (casale) as well as the monastery (certosa) next door. After a tour of the amber-painted cantina full of stainless steel vats, pumps, and the aroma of grape must, I learn that only minimal sulfur is used upon bottling, and Casale Certosa is Demeter certified. Having first bottled in the year 2000, Antonio made is his mission to farm organically, and subsequently biodynamically, and he told me how his family’s vines, which were planted in the 1960s and sold to larger cooperatives, were brought back to life when he started to use organics (no pesticides or herbicides) in the vineyard. The result was astounding! Casale Certosa achieved bottling Castelli Romani wine that had a taste of place, tasted clean and pure, and it was more unique and delicious than the commercialized, ubiquitous Lazio wine that unfortunately litters the market.
Fausto (darker haired with big blue eyes) joins me and Antonio inside their office for a glass of their newest sparkling wine made of Trebbiano grapes. It was fresh with soft bubbles and we talked about the aromas of golden apples and chamomile. It tasted of Casale Certosa - pure, slightly unctuous, honeyed and Roman. You’ll get to experience Antonio and Fausto’s wine with us this Friday as Casale Certosa’s importer, Nick Mucci, pours the Casale Certosa Trebbiano and Malvasia Puntinata.
2016 Casale Certosa, Lazio Malvasia Puntinata Convenio (Lazio, Italy) | Extended skin contact gives this Malvasia Puntinata an amber hue. Notes of honeysuckle, pears, and apples.
2016 Casale Certosa, Lazio Trebbiano Convenio (Lazio, Italy) | An elegant white wine. Unctous, tropical floral.
Other wines featured, and all from the neighboring region of Campania:
2015 Casa di Baal, Fiano di Baal (Campania, Italy) | The Salerno family makes certified organic wine and olive oil in the foothills of Campania. Annibale has been bottling olive oil for over 50 years on top of raising five kids. His grown children now run Casa di Baal vineyards and winery, growing mainly the Aglianico and Fiano grape varieties, with smaller plantings of Barbera, Malvasia and Moscato. This Fiano is full of tropical fruits, piercing acidity, and elegance.
2016 Masseria Starnali, Maresa Falanghina (Campania, Italy) | Maria Teresa purchased the property of Masseria Starnali over 30 years ago. The property was originally used to hunt starnali, a local pheasant-like bird, but that has stopped ever since it became a protected part of the Roccamonfina national park. Since 2005, this growing operation now including 30 hectares of vines including this Falanghina – a darker Falanghina than most. It’s an orange wine (i.e. ‘extended grape skin contact white wine’) that hits all the right notes, and has been one of our best sellers this fall season.
2012 Masseria Starnali ‘Santo Sano’ Aglianico/Piedirosso (Campania, Italy) | Elevation, volcanic soil, and cool nights, all help Maria Teresa achieve an Aglianico that’s the best I’ve ever tasted. This big red wine rivals that of Taurasi reds with full tannins and the aromas of roses from the native grape Piedirosso.
2014 Cantine Rao ‘SilvaNigra’ Pallagrello Nero (Campania, Italy) | Franco Rao and his tiny 5-hectare farm fit right into this Campania ecosystem. He has been on the front lines of bringing the grape Pallagrello back from near extinction. Today he has 20 hectares of this varietal planted, all of which can be seen from the hill above Rao’s cellar. Pallagrello has historical ties to Caserta dating back to the 1200's, as the wine was known to be a favorite in the court of the Bourbon king. This is a hearty, and chewy dry wine that can handle a rustic lamb stew or roast beef. This is an Italian alternative for Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon fans.