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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Tour of Italy
By Charles W. Borden
Photos by Alex Gorov

On a full moon-lit night, we headed back to Italy via the Concerto restaurant in Moscow's Swisshotel to review a small sample of the many Italian wines now available in Moscow. The city's wine marketplace has almost recovered from the excise tax fiasco last summer that completely cleared Moscow's wine shelves for several months. Now there are enough Italian wines to provide us with a whole series of tasting; region by region Piedmont, Tuscany, Sicily but this month we took countrywide suggestions from three experts Ksenia Karpenko, Sommelier at Concerto picked some of her favorites from the wine list; the Kauffman wine boutique staff made a few choices from their shelves; and Dmitri Pinski, owner of wine importer DP Trade, brought three super Tuscans and another Italian Bordeaux interpretation from Trentino, the Italian alpine region.

We asked Dmitri Pinski to provide us with his expert commentary, and although he initially resisted the idea of discussing his competitors' wines, he provided a well-balanced and thoughtful viewpoint throughout the evening.

Our first stop was at one of Italy's top producers, Mastroberardino in Atripalda (Campania) about a 45-minute drive inland from Naples in southern Italy. Dmitri raved about Mastroberardino's vineyard as we tasted one of its best known whites, Greco di Tufo Novaserra 2004, which has a Parker 87 and a Wine Spectator 90 rating. Greco di Tufo is a local noble grape that produces a full bodied, light amber white wine.

We traveled north past Rome to Umbria in the center of Italy and arrived at the Antinori estate Castello della Sala in the village of Ficulle, 18 kilometers north of Orvieto. Marchese Niccolo Antinori chose this 14th century castle and its surrounding 483 hectares when he decided to produce white wines in 1940. The Cervaro della Sala Chardonnay, with a touch of the local Grechetto grape, is now one of Italy's top 20 white wines.

We would later return to Umbria's neighbor, Tuscany, but we first crossed to far northeastern Italy near the Slovenian border, a long 538 mile trip to San Lorenzo in the Autonomous Friuli-Venezia-Giulia Region for a visit to the Lis Neris Winery. The Kauffman boutique provided our two last whites, both from Lis Neris. The Lis 2003, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon, was undistinguished. Dmitri commented that the Lis Neris Confini 2004 was rather like a Tocai, but is a blend of Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling, and not the Tocai Friuliano widely grown in the region.

Dmitri arranged our flight plan for the reds, providing a proper sequence for the top Italian wines to follow. We went back to Tuscany for another Antinori wine from the Concerto cellar, Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2001, made from 90% Sangiovese grapes grown on three of the Antinori Tuscan estates. This wine has a Wine Spectator 91 and a Parker 90 score. Dmitri commented that a reserve wine such as this needs at least 10 years to open up; it's for cellaring, to be enjoyed after another 5 years.

Dmitri brought 3 of his top Super Tuscan wines from Ca'Marcanda, a Gaja estate near the village Castagneto Carducci which is close to the coast: Promis, a Merlot-Syrah-Sangiovese blend; Magari, a blend of Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) and Cabernet Franc (25%); and Camarcanda, their top-of-the-line Super Tuscan. The Ca'Marcanda estate is an architectural wonder, designed by architect Giovanni Bo with buildings and caves built of entirely natural materials into slopes now covered with transplanted 60 year old olive trees. Ca'Marcanda's Promis is the entry level wine, ready to drink now. The 2004 Magari is a pure Bordeaux blend, and just becoming mature.

Before getting to Ca'Marcanda's top of the line, Dmitri suggested we make another trip north about 4 hours to Tenuta San Leonardo in Avio, Trentino to try their San Leonardo, another Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Cabernet Franc (30%), and Merlot (10%).

John Ortega and Andrey Abijidi,
Communications Director of Swissotel Krasny Holme,
who welcomed the guests
but had other commitments

Herman Gewert

Jan Heere

Now back to Bolgheri, a DOC in the province of Livorno on the Tuscan coast to try the famous Ornellaia (2002) and the Camarcanda, which both carry the Bolgheri appelation. Tenuta dell'Orenellaia was one of the earliest producers of Super Tuscan wines; blends that favor Bordeaux varieties, leaving out Sangiovese, the traditional base of Tuscan reds. Ornellaia passed through Mondavi hands until 2005 when it was sold to the Italian Frescobaldi family. Dmitri commented that the Ornellaia 2002 was very new world while the Camarcanda 2003 was completely closed and would be for several years. This is a wine for cellaring.

2004 Ca'Marcanda Promis IGT (Wine Advocate 89)
The 2004 Promis; a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese, opens with pretty aromatics followed by plenty of plump sweet dark fruit, earthiness and black pepper notes. Medium in body, it displays excellent length on the palate as well as a fine, fresh finish.

2004 Ca'Marcanda Magari IGT (Wine Advocate 91)
The 2004 Magari; 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, is a rich, ripe effort. It offers notable concentration in its sweet dark fruit and toasted oak flavors, with excellent length and plenty of freshness on the finish. It is a stylish, highly enjoyable wine to drink now and over the next five to seven years.

2003 Ca'Marcanda Camarcanda (Wine Advocate 89)
The 2003 Camarcanda, 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, is the estates top wine. A deep ruby, it is a super-ripe, full-bodied wine packed with masses of dark fruit, spices, minerals and toasted oak. Although it offers excellent freshness for the vintage, its overall balance remains penalized by the hard, coarse tannins that are typical of the 2003s.

Alberto Maiorana and Mukhamed Evloev

Charles Borden

Galina Likhacheva

Dmitry Pinski

Source: Wine Advocate

The last two legs of our journey brought us north and west to Alba in the Piedmont region for a Barbaresco, Marchesi di Grecy Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga 1998, and finally over to Vinicola Fabio near Verona to try their Amarone, both ordered from the Concerto wine list. The Barbaresco did not make much of an impression and was a disappointing representative of this fine Piedmont super wine region. Amarone is a specialty of the Veneto region, made from several varieties of local grapes held over to dry in large open halls, and finally fermented to a high alcohol level, leaving them somewhat sweet. Dmitri commented that Fabio was not among the better in the region.

It was a long trip, but as Knight Herman Gewert commented the next day, With Dmitris guidance, it was a very nice evening under the full moon. I howled the whole way home.

Ortega easy rating system

I love this wine! 5 pts.
I really like this wine! 4 pts.
This wine is good! 3 pts.
This wine is not that good! 2 pts.
I dont really care for this wine! 1 pt.

Knights of the Vine

John Ortega, Managing Director, International Apparel
Charles Borden, Director, Meridian Capital
George Voloshin, International Business Director
Jan Heere, General Director, Inditex Zara Group Russia
Dmitry Pinski, Owner, DP Trade (wine importer)
Mukhamed Evloev, Lawyer, Hellevig, Klein & Usov
Alberto Maiorana, Sicily Wine Valley
Galina Likhacheva, Editor, Magnum Wine Magazine
Herman Gewert, Director, IKEA Mega Mall

The ratings

Retail USD Retail RR Retailer Rating
White wine
1. Mastroberardino Novaserra Greco di Tufo 2005 $95.33 2,450r. Concerto 3.70
2. Antinori Cervaro Castello della Sala 2004 $223.74 5,750r. Concerto 4.40
3. Lis Neris Lis 2003 $55.76 1,433r. Kauffman 2.98
4. Lis Neris Confini 2004 $64.82 1,666r. Kauffman 3.22
$439.65 11,299r. 3.57
Red wine
1. Antinori Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 $105.06 2,700r. Concerto 3.57
2. Gaja CaMarcanda Estate Toscana Promis 2004 $63.04 1,620r. Vinum 3.95
3. Gaja CaMarcanda Estate Toscana Magari 2004 $94.55 2,430r. Vinum 4.08
4. Tenuta San Leonardo, San Leonardo 2000 $106.23 2,730r. Vinum 3.53
5. Tenuta dell Ornellaia, Ornellaia 2002 $197.12 5,066r. Kauffman 4.14
6. Gaja CaMarcanda Estate Bolgheri Camarcanda 2003 $202.72 5,210r. Vinum 3.80
7. Marchesi di Grecy Barbaresco Camp Gros Martinenga 1998 $166.73 4,285r. Kauffman 3.40
8. Fabiano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2001 $175.49 4,510r. Concerto 3.51
$1,110.93 28,551r. 3.75

Note: Prices from Concerto are wine list prices expect them to be about twice retail shop prices.

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