A Little Italian Wine Magic in Silver Lake (Los Angeles)

How does an empty garden table in Silver Lake become a trip to Italy.

With a little (organic) wine magic.

A week ago, I opened some favorite wines for friends and as the sun sank below the hills and the lights twinkled on the across the canyon, we got closer and closer to Italy.

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The “magic” wines were all in the range of $20-25, all made with natural methods (organic or biodynamic agriculture and minimal intervention in the cellar). All tell a distinctive story of people and place in three very different parts of Italy from south to north: Sicily, Emilia-Romagna and Trentino-Alto Adige.

1) Marco de Bartoli “Il Rosso di Marco” Terre Siciliane IGT 2012

Marco de Bartoli, who grew up in western Sicily near Marsala, was a race car driver and iconoclastic vintner. He had the nerve to drive fast on the track and break all the century-old norms the British had laid down for making Marsala wine. (read more)
Il Rosso di Marco (Marco’s Red Wine) is a dry red made from the local grape, Pignatello, also known as Perricone. Both words mean “little pine cone” because of the shape of the grape. De Bartoli’s three children, Renato, Sebastiano and Giusy, now run the winery and named this wine after this model, which is still among his vast collection of antique cars.

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The family ferments the organic grapes in steel containers with indigenous yeasts, then, allows the wine to rest for a year in large oak barrels. The wine has an intense ruby red color and dark fruit aromas/flavors, but it’s not overpowering or tannic as might be expected of a southern wine. With only 12% alcohol, its light structure and acidity means that it pairs easily with many foods, even white meat or fish.

2) La Stoppa “Trebbiolo Rosso ” Emilia IGT 2012

Elena Pantaleone, owner of La Stoppa, and a kind of revolutionary herself (read more) named this wine for the Trebbia River near her vineyards. She has pulled up international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir in order to plant local grapes like Barbera and Bonarda (Croatina) (60/40 mix in this wine). The organic grapes ferment in steel containers with indigenous yeasts, never touching wood. The result is a transparent, ruby red wine, light in structure (12% alcohol like De Bartoli’s but with an even fresher, lighter feel). It is a perfect summer red that pairs easily with many foods but can also be quaffed on its own.

Here is Elena holding one of the vintage bottles from the estate.
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3) Foradori “Fontanasanta Nosiola” Trentino-Alto Adige Vigneti dei Dolomiti IGT 2013

Elisabetta Foradori, another maverick vintner, uses biodynamic growing methods in the vineyards and clay amphoras in her cellar (read more).

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She leaves the delicate native variety, Nosiola, to spend a long time resting on the skins in these ancient containers. Their porousness allows the wine to breathe while it absorbs color and flavor from the skins. The result is a delicate but complex white wine that, again, pairs easily with a range of foods. To appreciate the depth and breadth of the wine, it should be drunk warmer than most whites (15C/60F) and allowed to breathe like a red.

Elisabetta’s amphorae…

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Each of these three wines has its own “story in the bottle” that connected us that evening with the history, traditions and culture of three different regions in Italy and with the specific aromas and tastes of native grapes and terroir as interpreted by exceptional vintners.

I’m back in Italy now, but I continue to marvel at the way that wine has the capacity to be a liquid recollection of one time and place while, at the same time, joining people around the conviviality of a table in another. Wine magic indeed.

NB. I purchased the wines at Silver Lake Wine whose selection of artisan Italian wine is small but high quality. I also found these wines on Wine Searcher using the Pro Version (although Silver Lake Wine was not listed as a source).

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