Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tasting with Dominic Nocerino of Sant'Elena in Fruili, Italy

* Tasting Info courtesy of Le Caveau.
We hopped on over to Le Caveau 1-3pm on St. Patrick's Day to taste 5 amazing wines with special guest Dominic Nocerino from Gradisca d'Isonzo, Italy! Dominic is the Estate Manager of Sant'Elena. Situated in Gradisca d’Isonzo, the estate of Sant’Elena was established by the Klodic, a dignified and powerful family of the region, in the late nineteenth century. Acquired by Dominic in the late nineteen-nineties, Sant’Elena now finds herself on the path to modernity, with the singular goal of producing wines of the highest caliber. With over a century of growing history, Sant’Elena became fully dedicated to wine production as early as the nineteen-sixties, yet significant improvements of the past decade have taken the product’s quality level to new heights. Entirely new vineyards were planted in 2000, and a state-of-the-art cantina now exists, constructed in 2004. Sant’Elena’s ceaseless pursuit of quality is monitored from vineyard to cantina under the guidance of Friulian Winemaker Maurizio Drascek and Enologist Stefano Porcinai. The estate is producing some of the best wines from Friuli. This event will feature 2 of their best whites and the 3 Estate Reserve reds!

1) 2008 Sant'Elena Traminer Aromatico - $18.99
100% Traminer
The estate’s Traminer Aromatico presents a rich, textured fabric of jasmine, orange blossom and passion fruit. This soft, caressing white flows gracefully from start to finish. Clean, mineral notes add freshness on the close. - 89pts Wine Advocate

The grapes are first macerated for twelve hours before being transferred to temperature controlled steel vats for settling. The wine is then left on the lees for at least six months. Around late summer, the wine is filtered and bottled.

Abbie's Notes: I felt this wine was light, and not too sweet, which is exactly what I like in a white wine. I was curious if Traminer is the same varietal as Gewurtztraminer, and lo and behold the famous German grape actually originated in Tramin, Italy. You learn something new every day. There is a lovely photo of the estate on most of the bottles. Dominic lives behind the Left Pillar.

2) 2007 Sant'Elena Mil Rosis - $31.99
70% barrique aged Chardonnay, 15% Traminer,15% Riesling Renano
"Here the mineral notes are more in the background, while the opulent fruit takes center stage. Scents of juicy mango, tropical fruit, super-ripe apricots and truffles wrap around the palate all the way through to the textured, creamy finish." - 91pts Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni

After the harvest, the grapes are soft-crushed and the must-wine is transferred to stainless steel vats and allowed to settle. The Chardonnay is then transferred to new French oak barrels, where malolactic fermentation occurs.The Traminer and Riesling continue their fermentation in temperature controlled steel vats. After twelve months, the wines are blended and bottled.

Abbie's Notes: Per Dominic, the Chardonnay gives this wine it's backbone, the Traminer gives aromatics, and the Riesling Renano gives it freshness. I actually liked this wine much more than I thought, as I am usually not very fond of Chardonnay. Mil Rosis means 1000 Flowers.

3) 2006 Sant'Elena Ros di Rol Merlot - $34.99
100% Merlot
"Red berries, flowers, tobacco, sweet herbs and cedar run through this deceptively medium-bodied wine. The finish is delicate, nuanced and totally classy." - 92pts Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni

The first step in creating this cru Merlot is meticulously selecting the best Merlot grapes from their vineyards to create a beautiful wine in the vein of a fine Pomerol.

Abbie's Notes: Like the 1998 Ros di Rol, the 2006 also has a story behind it. I am relaying this as I heard it from the distributer. One of the workers Marizio (I'm only guessing at the true spelling of his name, sorry if any typos), was on a 6-ton tractor doing furrow work in the Ros di Rol vineyard area of the property. Suddenly, he hears a loud DING, and the tractor stops on a dime. He gets to to see what he hit. And there in front of him, about as wide as a bathtub, is an unexploded World War II Bomb still buried in the ground. They call the police immediately. As the story goes, several hours later, an 85 year old man, smoking a Tuscan Cigar, casually arrives. He secures the Bomb with some chains attached to his truck, and then floors the gas pedal. The bomb pops up out of the earth, and into the air, landing on the ground with a loud thud. Everyone cringed in fear, half expecting the bomb to explode and destroying the whole of Sant'Elena. But, luckily, nothing happened. The old man put the bomb in his truck, and drove off nonchalantly into the distance. Drink up sailors, this vintage is special.

4) 2006 Sant'Elena Tato Cabernet - $34.99
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot
Intense ruby color with exuberant perfumes of red fruit and blackberry. Also presenting underlining aromas of licorice and light tones of coffee. Warm and long in the mouth with interlacing softly balanced tannins.

The Cabernet and Merlot in this Bordeaux style blend spend 24 months in new French oak barriques.

Abbie's Notes: Tato (TAH-Toe), is the nickname for Dominic's Grandfather, who he says is a big, austere, Tannic guy. This wine was just delicious! It made me want to puff a fancy cigar in a dark leather living room.

5) 2006 Sant'Elena Quantum l'Autactono Pignolo - $61.99
100% Pignolo
"The 2006 Quantum L’Autoctono (Pignolo) is an absolutely delicious, huge red that explodes from the glass with dark fruit, leather, licorice, anise and French oak. This large-scaled, exuberant wine exhibits remarkable depth and plenty of textural richness. Hints of mocha and espresso frame the huge finish. This is the finest wine I have tasted from Sant’Elena." - 94pts Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni

Once hand picked, the grapes are left on racks for fifty to sixty days for “appassimento” and “surmaturazione.” These processes allow the sugars and flavors of the grapes to concentrate. After the stalks are removed, the wine begins to macerate and ferment for approximately twenty days. The pignolo then undergoes malolactic fermentation and matures for thirty-six months in new French oak barriques before bottling.

Abbie's Notes: The nose on this wine smells (to me) of pickles and olive juices. It's wonderful! I do not think I've ever encountered another wine like this one. Truly a rare treat.

BONUS option: 1998 Sant'Elena Ros di Rol Merlot - $15.99
Abbie's Notes: Le Caveau also carries this unique gem. Dominic explained that this was a very odd year for the wine. The vineyards were hit by a hail storm, and that year they took all the salvageable grapes and created this wine. It is truly delicious, and great bargain for the price, but there's no true telling what percentage of which varietals are in the wine. It has Cab Franc on the nose, and Dominic says it is wonderful (a "Marriage" as he put it) with any cracked black pepper dish. My husband and I absolutely adore this vintage. We asked Dominic to sign a bottle for us, which he did gladly.

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