Holiday Wines from Ten Favorite Winegrowers: 2015

This week, I discovered DomaineLA, which specializes in artisan wines here in Los Angeles. I found wines from some of my favorite winegrowers, all for under $50 and most for under $20. That is crazy value, considering how much time and care (not additives, chemicals or processes) go into making the wines.

In order from least to most expensive:

1) Stefano Bellotti
Cascina Degli Ulivi
Semplicemente Belotti Vino Bianco 2014 (100% Cortese) $16.99
Semplicemente Belotti Vino Rosso 2014 (100% Dolcetto) $16.99
Stefano Bellotti and his biodynamic farm were featured this year in Jonathon Nossiter’s film, Natural Resistance. Bellotti has declassified most of his wines to Vino di Tavola to avoid tangling with government bureaucracy (ex. massive fine because he had too many peach trees in the vineyard where he grew Cortese grapes for his Gavi di Gavi DOCG ). These are his base wines, made naturally with indigenous yeasts and no sulfites. Ready to drink.

2) Luca Ferraro
Bele Casel
Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco “CòlFondo” DOCG 2014 $16.99
Luca Ferraro makes this traditional “on the lees” prosecco with organic grapes from old vines in a mixed grape variety vineyard. A Prosecco with personality.

(3) Elisabetta Fagiuoli
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San Gimignano, Toscana
Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG 2014 $17.99
Elisabetta Fagiuoli has been making organic wine since the 1960s. This white wine is made 100% with native Vernaccia di San Gimignano grapes fermented with the skins (but not an orange wine). Crisp minerality from the soil.

4) Arianna Occhipinti
Occhippinti Tami Grillo Terre Siciliane IGT 2013 $17.99
Dry, very fresh from grape’s acidity and lots of minerality in the soil.
Occhippinti Tami Frappato 2014 Terre Siciliane IGT 2014 $16.99
A light, fresh red, low in alcohol and structure.
Arianna Occhipinti has been a trailblazer in making “natural” wine in Sicily. These are her base wines made with the estate’s youngest vines. Organic, fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement container.

5) Raffaele Moccia
2015-06-10 13.02.46

Agnanum Falanghina “Sabbia Vulcanica” Campi Flagrei DOC 2014 $17.99
Dry, crisp, delicately complex white from the Agnano volcano near Vesuvius.
Agnanum Piedirosso “Sabbia Vulcanica” Campania IGT 2014 $17.99
Native red grape variety, yields less structured wine than Aglianico with more minerality than tannins.

Rafael and his father, Gerraro, maintain traditional terraces using only a hoe on the steep, sandy slope of the Agnano volcano, across the bay from Vesuvius. “Sabbia Vulcanico” translates to “Volcanic Sand”, one distinctive feature of the terroir. There is also the sea, and inside the volcano’s crater, a dense forest whose biodiversity creates complexity and health in the grapes.

6) Marco De Bartoli
Marco De Bartoli
Marco De Bartoli Lucido Sicilia IGT 2014 $19.99
Marco De Bartoli was a pioneer in making quality wine in Sicily. Although he passed away in 2012, his children, Renato, Sebastian and Giusi, continue the family tradition. This white wine is made with 100% organic Catarratto grapes, one of the most widely planted native varieties. De Bartoli’s version of a relatively common variety is both elegant and interesting.

7) Elena Pantaleoni with Giulio Armani
La Stoppa
Emilia Romagna
La Stoppa Trebbiolo Emilia Rosso IGT 2014 $19.99
Elena Pantaleoni and Giulio Armani, who has worked with her since the early days for me at La Stoppa, use organic, native varieties, Croatina and Barbera, to make this wine. Ready to drink now. Made all in stainless steel. No wood. Delightfully fresh.

8) Elisabetta Foradori
Trentino Alto Adige
Foradori Teroldego Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2012 $23.99
Made with 100% Teroldego, a red variety, native to the Campo Rotiliano. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Rich, complex, medium weight.
Foradori Fontanasanta Nosiola Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2013 $45.99
Fermented and aged in clay amphoras on the skins. Indigenous yeasts. A crisp, delicate but complex white wine that can be drunk now or age.
Elisabetta Foradori first set out to validate her native grape variety, Teroldego. In the process, she moved into first organic, then, biodynamic farming. Next, she began experimenting with making amphoras using two other native varieties, Noisily and Manzoni Bianco. Now, she is propagating grape seeds to look for new clones.

9) Giusto Occhippinti and Titta Cilia

COS Pithos Bianco Terre Siciliane IGP 2013 $42.99
Native grape variety, Grecanico, fermented and aged in clay amphora. Wild, earthy, complex.
COS Nero di Lupo Terre Siciliane IGP 2013 $30.99
Made from Nero D’Avola,a native variety that in some parts of Sicily yields wine that is overly big and fruity. Largely because of the high minerality in the soil at COS, it yields a structured by wonderfully drinkable red.
COS Frappato Terre Siciliane IGP 2013 $30.99
The more delicate variety, Frappato, usually plays foil to Nero D’Avola, but here, in purezza dances to its own, more delicate tune.

10) Silvio Messana
Chianti, Toscana

Montesecondo Tïn Toscana IGP 2013
Sangiovese grapes grown on alberello style vines, typical of the south of Italy. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in amphoras. Fresh, authentic, natural wine.

Silvio Messana, who is Italian but grew up in Tunisia, was first a jazz musician, then, worked with a wine importer in NYC, and, finally, decided to farm his family’s Chianti vines with biodynamic agriculture. All of his wines are full of vitality and fresh acidity, especially this one made in amphora.

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