At Vino Italiano with Giovanni Bertani
With the pandemic shutdown a fading memory, Vino Italiano in Waltham has begun hosting winemaker dinners again, and I, for one, am absolutely thrilled. The shop, located at 669 Main St. is a bastion of Italian wines, showcasing a well-curated selection in an authentically rustic space that suggests the tasting room of a Tuscan cantina. For more about Vino Italiano, follow this link.
Recently, Giovanni Bertani of Tenuta Santa Maria visited for an exploration of his wines, accompanied by the wonderful food at La Campania restaurant. Tenuta Santa Maria traces its roots far back into Veronese wine making, with evidence of the family’s first winemaking activity in 1567. Construction of the “monumental cellars and walled vineyards in Arbizzano di Negrar in Valpolicella” began in 1735. Arbizzano di Negrar is a breathtaking Venetian-style neoclassical estate, where, in 1936 Amarone was born. The weight of history is heavy at Tenuta Santa Maria and underscores the dedication and passion that the Bertani family put into the production of these world-class wines.
Thirty lucky souls were able to take part in a wonderful display of Italian culture, guided artfully by Giovanni Bertani, who, along with his brother Guglielmo are the heirs of this impressive wine estate.
Guests were received and feted with an array of assorted regional antipasti, accompanied by the estate’s 2021 Lepiga Soave DOC. The Lepiga is a lightly fruity, focused wine with a crisp, refreshing palate and subtle overtones of yeast and limestone. The wine is composed of 100% single vineyard Garganega that is harvested and fermented three different times based on ripeness level. This unique approach creates a wine with depth and complexity like very few Soave wines. Sur Lees maceration during the fermentation further enhances the complexity of the wine. Overall, the wine was a charming introduction to what was to come.
Guests were seated and the fun really began. The five-course menu was as follows:
Insalata di Porchetta – Slow-Roasted Loin of Pork on Frisee Salad Drizzled with Vin Cotto
Risotto con Funghi – Forested Mushrooms, Creamy Aborrio Rice Risotto, Parmigiano, and Truffle Oil
Anitra alla Confit – Duck Leg Confit, Roasted Sweet Potato, Pan Wilted Swiss Chard
Tournedos di Manzo alla Brace – Beef Tornedos, Potato Lasagna, Garlicky Broccoli Rabe, Black Truffle Cream sauce
Crostata di Rabarbaro e Fragola – Crispy Pastry with Rhubarb and Strawberries with an Orange Cream Anglais, Honey Oat Crunch, Vanilla Ice Cream The food was simply amazing and was a perfect complement to the Tenuta Santa Maria wines.
The Insalata was served with the 2021 Pràgal Veronese IGT. The Pràgal is a proprietary blend of Corvina, Syrah, and Merlot, producing a fruity, spicy red with red currants, violets, crushed rose petals and dried herbs on the nose. The palate is medium-bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannins – well-balanced. Straightforward and direct.
The Risotto was served with the 2019 Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC. The Valpolicella is a blend of the traditional Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone grapes, grown in low-yield vineyards at elevations of between 1,200 and 1,500 feet above sea level. The first harvest of grapes is placed on wicker mats to begin the drying process for the Amarone wine. Second harvest grapes are crushed and individually fermented in stainless steel with long macerations. These techniques bring out the complex characteristics of the varietals and vineyard soils. The Valpolicella features dried cherry, wild strawberry, and dried floral on the nose. The palate is medium-bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannins – well-balanced. A dark core of fruit with sour cherry and anise notes. Good length with black pepper and saddle leather on the finish.
The Anitra was served with the 2019 Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore DOC. The Ripasso contains the traditional Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone grapes, made using the classic extended maceration and second fermentation over the Amarone lees. The resulting wine is smoother and more complex than the Classico Valpolicella, with glimpses of the magnificent Amarone wine. The nose of the Ripasso is vibrant with loads of exotic spice, and dried fruit hints. The nose suggests Oloroso Sherry with notes of burnt orange rind and toasted vanilla. The palate is full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, but well-integrated tannins – very well-balanced. Deep, dark core of fruit with layers of complexity. Great length with baking spice and cooked, macerated fruit on the finish. Very impressive.
The Tournedos were served with the 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG. The Amarone is made in the traditional appassimento process, wherein the Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone grapes are dried for three months on wicker mats in the winery. The drying process concentrates the sugars and flavors in the grapes, thereby increasing the resulting alcohol and creating a wine of massive complexity and character. After a long fermentation in stainless steel, the wine is aged for a minimum of five years in large oak barrels. The size of the aging barrels gently softens the phenolic components of the wine without imbuing too much wood-character. The nose of the Amarone explodes from the glass with exotic spice, dried fruit and dried floral hints. The palate is full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm, velvety tannins – very well-balanced. Youthful and vibrant, despite the age of the wine, with lush fruit and endless, unfolding layers of flavor. Massive length – simply incredible – suggests 25 – 30 years of aging. Wow!
The Crostata was served with the 2020 Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG. The Recioto is made by drying the Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone grapes and extended two months (for a total drying time of five months). The ensuing fermentation and maceration is a long, slow process taking no less than thirty days to complete. The resulting wine is then aged in traditional French Barriques to create an immediately recognizable character of complexity and elegance. The nose of the Ripasso is truly unique with honeyed, exotic fruit, suggesting botrytis-affected grapes. The palate is full-bodied with moderate acidity and moderate, well-integrated tannins – well-balanced. Jammy fruit with great intensity and focus. Great length with evolving complexity – contemplative – evocative. A master effort!
The evening was a truly wonderous occasion. David Maione and his staff have created an oasis of fine, Italian wine and culture. If you have not visited the shop, you really must stop by. Be sure to visit their website and sign up to their newsletter. You will be rewarded by receiving notices about amazing, must-have wines, as well as invitations to not-to-missed events like the above.