“Suzy, please don’t say thank you”. Not words I am used to hearing. When Giampaolo first says this to me, I am a bit startled. And then I think for a minute – thank you is an easy expression – I use it a dozen times a day. Giampaolo doesn’t want to be thanked – he is simply enjoying spending time together – to him this is nothing extraordinary and no reason to be thanked. “Don’t mention it – this is what we do.”
And what they do is spectacular. Over the last couple of years Giampaolo has expanded his cantina into a show stopping beauty. With high ceilings and miles of space to store his wine, a tour of the cantina is endless. And his wines are fantastic.
We arrive for lunch on a beautiful spring day straight out of central casting. The sun is shining high in the sky, a gentle breeze is blowing across the terrace and there is a beautiful, clear view. I arrive a few minutes behind the group and everyone is animatedly talking on the terrace – drinking one of Giampaolo’s collection of sparkling wines.
Today’s lunch is not about showcasing Tabarrini wines – he knows we are all big fans already. Today we are dipping into his private cellar and drinking wines that he has been given or collected over the years. We start with a beautiful Sicilian wine – only 10,000 bottles are produced each year. This one has been aging in the cellar and is extraordinary… Daniele and Teddy pop into the cellar and return with a big Primitivo from Puglia. A friend of Giampaolo’s makes this wine and it holds up perfectly with the beautiful guinea fowl we are eating.
Our visit to the winery today is also a reunion. Giampaolo’s mother Franca had made her first trip to the US in December and spent two days with us at Via Umbria cooking amazing dinners to serve with the Tabarrini wine. Franca comes out of the kitchen to say hello and to kindly let us know that whenever we are ready – her bags are packed.
So we enjoy a beautiful lunch and as we are leaving we pause on the steps to sit for just a minute to enjoy the day and of course more wine is poured and Giampaolo decides that his work in the field is done for the day. We don’t need a facebook memory for this day – the fresh air, the laughter and wine all bring back memories of people and place – of a day enjoyed two years ago that perfectly mirrors today. Two hours later we say our good byes and leave.
But it’s not really good-bye because we are meeting up on Saturday in Verona to taste wine and enjoy another meal together. Don’t mention it – this is what we do.
It is difficult to overstate just how well regarded the name Roscioli is in Rome and throughout Italy. A complex of food businesses (described by Anthony Bourdain as “an empire”), Roscioli is a family affair built over 4 generations that started with a renowned bakery, and now includes a wildly popular salumeria, ristorante, caffe/pasticceria and more recently the Rimessa and wine club. Roscioli built its reputation on unrivaled quality and the breadth of their offerings. They have been recognized through features in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveller and even garnered a visit by Anthony Bourdain on his show No Reservations.
For the past several years they have sought to meet the customer where he is through a program of curated tastings they call Rimessa Roscioli. Sommelier Alessandro Pepe and a team of top rated food and wine experts lead small groups on food and wine tastings in a relaxed, casual setting that they describe as “an educational and convivial lab.” We think it describes perfectly Via Umbria.
When we first met the acquaintance of Alessandro and his partner, American born ex-pat Lindsay Gabbard, we were immediately struck by just how similar our passions were. They, like us, love food and wine because they can create connections between strangers. And they strongly believe that food and particularly wine, can and should be “democratic.” Although an expert sommelier, Alessandro scoffs at wine tastings where the conversation focuses on arcane trivia such as malolactic fermentation. Enjoying wine and getting in touch with your own tastes and sharing that with others is the what sommelier should strive to teach and it is precisely what Alessandro and Lindsay have been doing for the past decade.
Rimessa Roscioli is taking their show on the road and coming to Washington, DC and for one night Via Umbria is honored to be hosting them, preparing a special evening of food and wine tasting in the company of these fascinating and engaging people. Limited seating is available on Wednesday, March 8 at 7pm for an evening that promises to be unforgettable – a small group tasting around a communal table featuring eight hand selected wines paired with a dozen small tastes, including a pasta dish and a dessert and lots of conversation and enjoyment. This is a rare one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience and savor true, authentic flavors imported directly from Italy by one of Rome’s most respected sommeliers. Tickets, which are non-refundable must be purchased in advance and can be bought online or at Via Umbria.
I recently started watching the Netflix series Stranger Things and I really like it. The show, which is set in rural Indiana in the 1980s follows a group of kids seeking to find their missing friend, and involves a secret government program that punches a hole through parallel universes in order to engage in some cold war spying, only to unexpectedly unleash an incredibly evil monster. Some great acting, especially from the kids, some creative writing and some compelling story lines. I would definitely say it is worth a watch.
I mention this because Via Umbria has been engaged in its own project to bridge parallel universes. And far from unleashing monsters, we have only spread deliciousness and joy.
Those two universes are, of course, Italy and America and we are engaged in an experiment to connect the two. We do that by creating an authentic Italian experience in Georgetown. And we do that by hosting American guests on semi annual food and wine tours at our farm house in Umbria, immersing them in the authentic Umbria that we have come to know and love.
On Saturday, we arrived in Umbria with nine guests in tow to kick off our fall Food and Wine tours, and less than 36 hours later, I dare say that they have already begun to understand and share our love of Umbria. Yesterday we introduced them to the wines of Umbria, the same Grechettos and Montefalco rossos and Sagrantinos we import and sell at Via Umbria. They met Elena DiFilippo at her organic and biodynamic cantina and drank wine with her, and will welcome Elena’s husband Roberto when he visits Via Umbria this spring. They dined on a homecooked dinner by Chiara Cicogna and heard her speak of her family’s cashmere business, and will join Chiara and us in Washington on November 16 when Chiara exhibits a selection of cashmere treasures at a special holiday trunk show at Via Umbria. This morning they experienced truffle hunting under glorious blue skies near Citta di Castello with our dear friends Saverio and Gabriella Bianconi, who are readying to ship the day’s spoils back to Via Umbria to take center stage at a pair of special truffle dinners coming up next week.
Nearly a year after reopening our doors as an Italian market, café, restaurant, enoteca and retail store, we are realizing our dream of truly connecting the worlds we inhabit in Washington and in Umbria. This week our food and wine tour group will dine at le Delizie del Borgo, a restaurant lovingly operated by our friends Simone Proietti-Pesci and Ombretta Ubaldi in Bevagna and next month Ombretta, a certified sommelier with an unmatched appreciation for Umbrian wines will return with us to Washington to host a series of special wine dinners at Via Umbria. Later in the month Simone will join us in Georgetown to cook alongside our outstanding executive chef Johanna Heilrigl. We can’t wait for these two to renew their acquaintance and to dazzle us with what they think up and cook up next. A tasting at the Tabarrini winery on Thursday will no doubt be a highlight for our guests, but a command performance in Washington is in the cards, with a special visit by the winery’s owners Giampaolo Tabarrini and his wife Federica Pietrolati for some memorable dinners and maybe a glass of wine or two.
Connecting our guests and our customers to the incredibly rich experiences that we have found in Umbria is what we do, regardless of place. Whether it takes place sotto il sole or under the sun, in Cannara or in Washington, these are the experiences that make up a life and we are proud to offer them to you.
Between the rugged overhead wooden beams and the long elegant glass table, you may feel caught between the modern and traditional in the Enoteca. It’s the perfect starting point for our “Choose Your Own Bottle” or CYOB dinners, where guests can relax in the comfort of family-style Friday night dinners while trying something new. What better way to do that then with a bottle of wine?
As the Wine Program Intern, my job is to help select a wine that not only pairs well with the menu, but also with your own tastes. My advice would be to arrive early so that before the dinner starts I can treat you to a private wine tasting in our Wine Room. Although our Enoteca boasts more than 100 different bottles of wine, I’ll narrow it down to a few for the occasion.
Often when you go to a restaurant there is a separation between the wine list and the guest. There’s a sort of needle in a haystack mania that takes over as you scour the selections and try to find something just right. I think part of why I love CYOB so much is because I can help connect every guest to the wineries. Sharing stories of harvests and visits is just a part of how I am able to take part in a more personalized selection. Though, the best part would have to be the look on their faces when they first taste the wine with their meal in the Laboratorio. Led by the chef, Johanna, the entire evening is focused around Via Umbria’s mission to Discover, Savor, [and] Share.
At CYOB you’re not just having a drink with someone you know. At CYOB you are discovering a new favorite wine from over 100 different bottles hailing from artisanal producers. You are savoring a delicious meal prepared right in front of you. Best of all, you are sharing this entire experience with everyone around you. A modern twist on Friday night dinners never tasted so good!
There are few tasks more daunting than choosing a bottle of wine at a restaurant. Whether you’re an Everyday Enthusiast or simply a Weekend Wino, there’s always something slightly intimidating about being handed a list- or even worse, a book!- of wine names and being asked to choose the perfect bottle for your meal. In my experience, the struggle is attributable to three major factors: the pressure of picking a wine that everyone at the table (with their different tastes and food orders) will love, the impersonality of choosing a name from a page rather than a bottle from a shelf, and the price tag associated with what, nine times out of ten, boils down to simple guesswork.
Don’t get me wrong – I love wine. I love white wine, I love red wine, I love cheap wine, and (much to my bank account’s dismay) I definitely love expensive wine. The problem is, loving wine doesn’t always help matters much when set to the task of selecting wines for a particular setting. Which brings us to the question: how does one choose? What makes one vineyard’s Sagrantino different from another, and how do you know to choose between them? Silly as it sounds the answer seems to be ‘choose the one you like’.
Coming from a family that treats meal time with the same reverence as many would a church service, I have been fortunate to encounter some amazing food and wines. But as we eat and drink our way through Italy, one thing has become increasingly clear: learning the stories behind the wines, seeing where they come from, and meeting the people that created them imparts a special quality on each and every bottle. Even using the same grapes, and following all the same DOC regulations, vineyards all have a slightly different way of doing things, and it shows in their wines. While we may not remember the exact name of every bottle we’ve tried (especially after the second or third), our faces will always light up when we recognize a label, a vineyard we’ve been to, or recount the stories of an afternoon lost together in a tasting room – and this is an experience we want to share with you.
On Friday evenings, Via Umbria is serving dinners CYOB (Choose Your Own Bottle). A step up from your typical BYOB, we encourage you to come a few minutes before your meal, and talk and taste with our wine staff to pick the perfect bottle for both you and your meal (at retail prices!) We’re excited for the opportunity to show you some of our unique bottles, all of which come from small production vineyards throughout Italy, tell you the stories behind them, and help you explore our selection to pick out something that you’re going to love. With nearly 100 distinct bottles to choose from, we’re sure we’ve got something for every palate. Our selection may not be considered typical; everything that we have, we have because we enjoy drinking it and we enjoy talking about it, and it’s meant to be interesting and accessible. You don’t have to know anything about tasting notes, wine regions, or Italian grapes, to enjoy these wines – although it’s great if you do. What’s most important to us in a bottle of wine is that you like it. Plain and simple.
So come join us for dinner at our Ristorante on Fridays, choose your bottle of wine (CYOB), and let’s head upstairs to share a meal. After all, drinking wine is great, but drinking great wine with great food is even better.
It’s impossible to travel to Italy and not drink the wine, which flows as easily as water at some tables. And although Italian wines from all regions have an established reputation, we’re pretty partial to those that come from Umbria. And it’s hard not to be. Once you’ve traveled there and toured some of the vineyards, you’d be loyal to them as well! Here’s what Marco Palermi had to say when we asked him about what to taste in Umbria:
Ah! The wine and beer! Umbria is unique for its small family-run farms, and extensive biodynamic and organic wineries. There are many areas for wine production in Umbria, including Orvieto, Montefaclo Torniamo and Assisi, just to name a few.
The most grown type of grape is the Sangiovese, and Umbria is the center of production for this type. The Trebbiano and Grechetto grapes make delicious white wines, but when talking about wine in Umbria, one cannot miss the Sagrantino from Montefalco. This jewel in the crown of Umbria is the most delicious and prized wine in Umbria, and will change how you view red wine!
Bill and Suzy, your hosts at our vacation rental house, are both wine lovers and wine aficionados. Not only will they make sure you get to sample the full range that Umbria has to offer, but they are a wealth of information, and can answer any questions you may have about the wines – including how best to drink them!
But wine isn’t the only thing to indulge on in Umbria. Umbrian beers have grown in popularity recently, drawing from the monastic traditions of brewing that were popular in Umbrian history. San Biagio beer was one of the first breweries I’d heard of and tried, and they are definitely worth a taste. Lots of breweries thrive near Colifiorito, which is famous for its pure water springs, that enhance the taste and production of beers in the area.
In fact, actual Benedictine Monks brew beer up in the monastery in Norcia, and it is possible to buy that beer all year long, or plan a trip around August 15th, when they open the monastery to the public. Now if Norcia is too far away for authentic monk beer, definitely make a stop at Casa Norcia in Santa Maria Degli Angeli in via de Gasperi and try some a little closer to the villa. Other great breweries to try are: Birra Perugia, Khan beer, Birra Dell’Eremo (a close stop between Mt. Subasio and the villa), and Flea Beer.
The popularity of beer in Umbria has definitely gone up recently, and with good reason, the beers are truly delicious, and excellent paired with a slice of pizza or a torta al testo!
We came to Verona on this visit to experience VinItaly, Italy’s biggest and most important wine expo that takes place annually in this northern Italian gem of a city. Housed under many roofs, thousands of exhibitors show off their wines to importers, distributors and retailers. Until this year the show was open to the public for at least one day but the incredible crush of the mass public on those open days caused VinItaly’s organizers to rethink this policy and this year it was open only to “trade” members. Thank you Via Umbria for giving us this modicum of credibility in order to snag a credential and an entry ticket.
But if VinItaly is becoming more exclusive, even more exclusive yet is Opera Wine, which we had the honor of attending on the eve of VinItaly’s opening. Organized by VinItaly in conjunction with the Wine Spectator, Opera Wine is an exhibition within an exhibition, showcasing what Wine Spectator has deemed to be Italy’s “best 100 wines.” Our good friends Giampaolo Tabarrini and Daniele Sassi from Giampaolo’s Tabarrini winery were honorees this year and our meal ticket. When Daniele offered us an entry ticket some months ago, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to sample these A List wines and meet their charismatic proprietors, even if it meant having to don a coat and tie.
Catching a glimpse of Giampaolo Tabarrini in formal dress is about as common as seeing Bigfoot at the Met. But upon entering the Palazzo della Gran Guardia we headed to the Tabarrini table so we could see it for ourselves. And Giampaolo did not disappoint. Among a sea of short, tight fitting fashionable blue jackets with narrow lapels, elegant silk neckties and stylish shoes, Giampaolo stood out in his garish red blazer and Italian tricolore flag bowtie. But it wasn’t just his attire that made him stand out. The man’s gas tank is filled with nitro while others are running on unleaded. A blur of activity with a perpetual smile and a twinkle in his eye that is visible from the next galaxy, Giampaolo tirelessly worked the room after room of producers, buyers and press, laughing, hugging and befriending everyone he could lay eyes or hands on. The secret to his ability to connect? It’s genuine.
After exchanging our hugs with Giampaolo and Daniele the former gave us some great advice that we took to heart for the next two hours. “Don’t miss out on drinking the wines from Piemonte. They are beautiful!” And indeed they were. Barolos mostly, from the biggest names in the business. We tasted and savored, met some of the owners and reacquainted ourselves with some we had met before. We recognized a few labels that we carry at Via Umbria and introduced ourselves, only to find, in the case of Bisol, that their rep had already spent an afternoon in our Georgetown store.
TV cameras lit up, interviews flowed like wine and wine flowed like wine. And for two hours we truly were in another world, one inhabited by what Wine Spectator believes are the 100 best wines in Italy. Some may take issue with their particular list, but one thing is undeniable. To enter Opera Wine is to enter a truly special world, inhabited by truly special winemakers and their truly special wines. And it is a place that one truly does not want to leave.
On Wednesday March 30, passport in hand, our intrepid MELTers traveled through the raclette rivers and fondue forests to visit each of our five amazing cheese stations. First stop? The accompaniments table! A veritable cornucopia of mouthwatering treats from homemade pretzel bites to Gordy’s pickles, to a selection of our favorite charcuterie, this table featured something special for everyone (and every cheese).
Next, our fearless cheese fiends found sanctuary in a down-home Midwestern favorite: Wisconsin Cheese Curds. These ooey-gooey, deep fried pieces of heaven were an instant classic–especially when paired with Chef Johanna’s homemade marinara! Don’t just take our word for it though, stop by Spritz O’Clock soon to taste these mini marvels for yourself.
Further into the cafe, our daring patrons were treated to the dazzling spectacle (and mouthwatering aroma) of raclette being melted to order. When paired with Gordy’s Pickles and starchy potatoes, this station was a #MELTy indulgence beyond compare. For those of you looking to recreate this moment at home, stop by and pick up a Partyclette machine from our cheesemonger and be the host with the most at your next dinner party.
Before following the scent of cheesy goodness upstairs, our noshing nomads made a quick stop in the wine room for a triumphant taste of American Pub cheese. This beer based bite of bliss paired perfectly with the Port City Porter and Chef Johanna’s homemade pretzel bites. Pretzels, porter, and pub cheese? What more could a party provide?!
The answer to that question lay waiting for patrons upstairs in our laboratorio where Chiara was serving an Italian Fonduta over perfectly toasted baguette. This truffle infused #MELTy masterpiece was clearly a crowd favorite, as it was the first to disappear. Fortunately, Federico came to the rescue and delighted our dauntless diners with handmade cheese ravioli. For those who missed it, he will be hosting an encore pasta performance in the Cafe every day at lunchtime.
Last, but certainly not least, our gallant and engorged guests found themselves faced with a meal of mountainous proportions…or at least flavors. The Alpine Fondue station, featuring smooth, garlicky, Swiss flavors had everyone yodeling for more.
We would like to say a special Thank You to all of our courageous cheese connoisseurs for making this event such a success. We went through fifty pounds of cheese, but our cheese counter is still stocked! For those of you who weren’t able to attend (or want to relive the night), we have a special treat: visit our cheese counter and take home a fondue kit, specially curated by in-house Cheesemonger Alice Bergen Phillips and make a little #MELTed magic of your own.
Today we sat down to chat with resident Chef and Certified Sommelier Vickie Reh. In addition to her work as Wine Director at Via Umbria, Vickie is the culinary powerhouse behind our Thursday Comfort Food dinner series. We talked about her favorite way to prepare a rare heritage grain, the place of comfort food within Italian culinary tradition, and what it means to cook with restraint.
In your opinion, what is comfort food really all about? How do Italian food and comfort food intersect?
Comfort foods are the foods you dream about, the foods that warm your soul. They aren’t necessarily winter dishes. They’re dishes that evoke memories and emotions. I think that one of the basics of comfort food is that there aren’t a lot of complicated ingredients. Comfort food centers traditional combinations that make people feel happy and because you are using very few ingredients, the ingredients themselves must be perfect. That’s how Italian, and in particular, Umbrian food works.
In a way, Umbrian food is humble. Umbria is a landlocked region in Central Italy and Umbrian cuisine eschews more luxurious ingredients like lobster for grains, legumes and vegetables. You can certainly find some rich ingredients there, like gorgeous black truffles, but for the most part Umbrian cooking uses foods that can be grown or foraged in the surrounding countryside. When I travelled to Umbria, I was particularly fascinated by their use of this stunning variety of vegetables, legumes and grains.
Did anything surprise you about how they used these ingredients?
When I travelled to Umbria with Bill and Suzy, we tried grains and legumes I had never seen before. Some of the Italian chefs I later spoke to hadn’t even heard of them either. One of my favorites, which we cooked with Ernesto Panziani from Cannara, is called cicerchie. It’s sort of like a combination of a chickpea and a fava. It’s amazing but very obscure outside of Umbria.Via Umbria is working to import it through Il Molino, an organic grain producer we visited just over the border of Umbria in Lazio.
Ernesto did something very interesting with the cicerchie. Typically, cicerchie are made into soup or served cold in salads. But Ernesto cooked them until they were quite soft and then sautéed them with shallots and garlic in this beautiful olive oil. I’ve done that now five or six times at Via Umbria as a side dish for lamb. It’s so beautiful. The texture is fabulous—because the cicerchie are cooked until fairly soft, the texture when sautéed is similar to that of homemade refried beans. It’s not crunchy.It’s got just a little chew, and this whole lovely chickpea-fava flavor mingled with the shallots and garlic. It’s such a good recipe. Although I serve it as a side dish, it could easily be a great main course for a vegetarian.
Your passion for Italian cuisine shines through in everything you do here. What makes Italian food special to you?
I love Italy and I adore Italian food.It tends to be simple and classical. Italians have adhered to their traditions and classical roots. You’ll notice that’s how Ernesto and Simone cook. And that’s exactly how I have always cooked. I always say, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel: I’m trying to make the perfect wheel.
For example, if I’m making Spaghetti with Cacio e Pepe, I’m not going to say, “For this new twist, I’m going to use a different type of cheese in my Cacio e Pepe!”Instead, I willuse exactly what is traditionally used—Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and black pepper.” I want to use as few ingredients as possible because that’s how it’s made in Rome. When you’re in Italy, you’re eating amazing food that doesn’t have 5,000 different ingredients. It tastes really good and it’s not complicated.
I think it’s actually harder to cook well with fewer ingredients. It is all about restraint.If you only have three ingredients in a dish, you have no room to hide. Each ingredient must be perfectly sourced, perfectly ripe. When I was head chef at Buck’s Fishing & Camping, I used to say, “Have the guts to buy a perfect tomato in season, add superb olive oil and the best sea salt, and call it a day.” One of my rules is to buy the best ingredients possible and get out of their way. To me, that’s what cooking is about. Letting the ingredients shine. I feel that’s very much an Italian concept.
Join us for Vickie’s next Comfort Food dinner on Thursday, March 31st at 7:30 pm. Her beautiful meal will feature tagliatelle Bolognese, meatballs, raviole (a jam-filled tart), and more. We hope to see you there!
Here at Via Umbria, we’re more than fond of fondue. Cheese is amazing any way you slice it, but something inexplicably delicious happens when you add a little melt to the mix. On March 30th, we will be throwing a Fondue Festto celebrate all things melty and cheesy. Here’s a taste of what we’re serving up!
FONDUE. Named Switzerland’s national dish, this delicious way of eating melted cheese has been adopted by much of the world. “Fondu,” the past participle of the French verb “fondre,” means melted. To keep fonduetrue to its name, a candle must be placed beneath the fondue pot to ensure the cheese remains in liquid form. Long forks are then used to dip bread or vegetables into the pot. Simple, cheesy, and amazing! Our party will take a look at three different sorts of fondue: the Alpine classic, made with Swiss cheese and white wine; Fonduta, an Italian-style fondue made with Fontina and truffles; and American pub cheese, a beer-and-cheese combo traditionally served with soft pretzels.
RACLETTE. Another Swiss cheesy treat. Racletteis one of my absolute favorite ways to consume melted cheese. Derived from the french word racler, meaning “to scrape”, Raclette is both the name of the cheese itself and the dish it’s used for. Traditionally, half a wheel of Raclette is heated in front of a fire, and then the melted part of the wheel is scraped off over boiled or roasted potatoes. In lieu of an actual fire, we’ll be using a Raclette machine to melt our amazing Swiss Raclette over potatoes (or potato chips, if you prefer a bit more crunch).
FRIED WISCONSIN CHEESE CURDS. Hailing from the midwest, this dish is near and dear to my heart. Cheese curds are the first form that any cheese takes. See, in order to make cheese, milk must be separated into curds(the solid part of the milk) and whey (the liquid part). After that, most cheese curds are formed and aged to create different styles of cheese. But you can also eat the curds themselves! They taste fresh and feel squeakyunder tooth. You can also take those fresh curds, dip them in batter, and fry them into decadent melty nuggets. This, in my opinion, is where cheese curds reach their full potential.
When it comes to these fabulous varieties melted cheese, you simply can’t go wrong. At MELT: A Fondue Fest, we’ll have a different dipping station dedicated to each style, complete with accompaniments and wine or beer pairings. It’ll be the cheesy evening you’ve always dreamed of!
Tickets will be $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Purchase your ticket before Saturday March 26 and you’ll be entered to win a prize in our #MELTsweeps: Third Prize: Via Umbria’s limited edition Just Fondue It t-shirt; Second Prize: A fondue pot to craft cheese creations (and maybe even host your own cheese party!); First Prize: A custom cheese board; Grand Prize: A complimentary wedge of cheese each month for a year!
As a sommelier, when I lead a wine tasting, I start from my passion. I began studying wine in 2008, which is also when I began to look at the journey of wine from producer to glass. That’s really how I came to understand wine. It’s important for wine lovers to know about where their wine comes from and how it’s made. Wine can taste very different when you know these things.
The first thing I tell people at a wine tasting is, “trust in your mouth.” What do you like? If a certain kind of wine agrees with your palate, explore that. If you’re just starting to seriously learn about wine, know that your tastes will change over time. Initially, I drank only simple wines, but eventually my preferences shifted. It takes time to develop a sense for all the components that make up a complex wine.
So, trust in your mouth, and your other senses, too. When tasting wine, start with your eyes. Look into your glass and observe the color of the wine. See how the light hits the wine in the glass.
Then, you must listen to the wine. How does it sound when the sommelier pours the wine into the glass? From this information, you’ll start to put together some ideas about the wine, which you must then confirm with your nose and, last of all, your tongue. It’s simple, but also very complex. All the senses are engaged and working together to determine what you are drinking.
As a sommelier, I’m very interested in matching wine and food. In Italy, we have lots of traditional foods to pair with traditional wines, and many different kinds of indigenous grapes from the North to the South. We are very rich, from this point of view. Umbria has an especially beautiful variety.
Grechetto, for example, is a white grape typical of Umbria. Although sometimes we may expect white wine to be thin, Grechetto is very structured, with an almond finish. In some ways, it’s similar to a red wine: it’s wonderful with beef, for example.
Trebbiano Spoletino pairs well with Umbrian cereal soups made of slightly sweet, nutty grains like barley and faro (with a little olive oil on top). They go together nicely because Trebbiano Spoletino delivers a fresh, fruity finish. Both Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletino are white wines, but your tongue will react quite differently to each!
The two traditional red wines of Umbria are Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino. Both are perfect with beef, pork, and fresh black truffle. Montefalco Rosso is a blend of about 70% Sangiovese, a widely cultivated grape in Umbria, and 15-20% Sagrantino. Each winery can choose which kind of grape makes up the last portion. Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon are typical.
Sagrantino is somewhat astringent and robust, but it’s also long and elegant, leaving room for notes of fruit and spices. The Italian laws about production are very clear: a Sagrantino must age for 37 months. When it comes to rich, complex wines, it’s not so easy to maintain elegance, but a good Sagrantino does. Wine is like an orchestra. All the instruments have to play at the right moment, in perfect time, to create a symphony.
To learn more about Umbrian wines (and taste some yourself) join us for Ombretta’s wine tasting class on Wednesday 3/9! Test out what you’ve learned with a wine dinner afterwards.
Above, watch Ombretta do a quick swirl and swish in the Via Umbria wine cave.
To prepare for tomorrow’s Montefalco Rosso wine tasting class with visiting Italian sommelier Ombretta Uboldi, we met up with Sommelier and Chef Vickie Reh in the Via Umbria enoteca to learn about the Wednesday night wine line up. Here’s what Vickie had to say about what you’ll be tasting:
In the town of Montefalco in Umbria, they produce a Montefalco Rosso and a Sagrantino. One is not a lesser version of the other. Sagrantino is simply 100% Sagrantino, and the Montefalco Rosso is primarily a Sangiovese. Tomorrow, we’re featuring a selection of Montefalco Rosso wines.
It’s nice, I think, because the Sagrantino is a super deep, dark, extracted wine, and you can’t have something deep, dark, extracted, and tannic with every food. Sometimes you need a lighter wine, and the Montefalco is a lighter wine. It’s still by no means thin, but it’s something that can go with light pork dishes, chicken, vegetarian dishes, and cheese.
So that’s where we are tomorrow. Ombretta is going to show you wines from 4 different producers: Pardi, Tabarrini, Plani Arche, and Sololoro. Most of them are 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, and then each one has a different combination of the last 15%. The Pardi is probably the lightest, and the Sololoro is probably the deepest and darkest. The Tabarrini and Plani Arche are more in the middle, even though they are on the darker side.
Two are organic, and two are sustainably farmed but not “certified organic.” To a certain extent, you have the same grapes in all of them, but some are fuller, some are lighter, some have different oak treatments, or different soil types and sites. Some are deeper and some are lighter. You really have to taste them side by side to get it.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, because we think the best way to learn about these unique wines is to taste them for yourself. That’s why we’re offering several unique opportunities to learn about Umbrian wines in March with Umbrian food and wine experts Ombretta and Ernesto: three interactive wine classes and three dinners featuring Umbrian dishes perfectly paired with the wine’s you’ll learn about. Join us for a class, a dinner, or a combination of both for the ultimate Umbrian wine experience!