May 9, 2013

What did he say?  It’s “vermentino” not “Vermontino”, as cool as that might sound.  Vermontini? No, you might be thinking of the cocktail ‘negroni’ when made with local green mountain bitters.  No it’s not a grape grown in Vermont, at least not at this stage of climate change…maybe someday. And no, it was not named specifically for sale in this this market, although I think it should do do well here.

Uvaggio Vermentino [ Lodi, CA ]

Hailing from the west coast of the US, but sure smells and tastes like the west coast of Italy.

Vermentino is a white grape of Italian origin that is most often found being produced in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean region, but a vintage sampled from California just recently caught our attention during participation in a Snooth Virtual Tasting of wines from Lodi.   Vermentino has been on our radar for several years now, and I’ve been really lucky to taste, acquire and enjoy a few dozen of the variety in that time.

Bright, citrusy, with good acidity, and lot more going on than many other wines in the light-white weight class.  Fun for sipping, and a splendid pairing for fruits of the sea, and grilled vegetables.  Wines can be straightforward and fresh, and when this white grape is fermented on its skins, it can produce wines of truly remarkable complexity.

Back in 2011, I made a prediction that a fresh new white like Vermentino would arrive on the American wine scene, and sure enough it has come to pass.  A couple of months later, Lettie Teague sang the praises of Vermentino in the Wall Street Journal,

Vermont Wine Distributor/Importer Artisanal Cellars has some very nice examples of Vermentino on their portfolio, of which I have had the pleasure of partaking in the last few years.  Just a month after my prognostication, at a dinner with Artisanal Cellars, at Pané e Saluté, I was faced with a glass that completely challenged my notions of white wine.  Prima Terra ‘Harmongé’. Fermentation and maceration on the skins, gave this wine more layers than I could count, and it continuously changed like a chameleon walking circles on a color wheel. And it just kept getting better.  I have since had this wine a few more times, and each with amazement.

A year later they presented me another skin contact Vermentino from Cinqua Terra - Viasso - which also made me wonder why more winemakers do not take a crack at a style that would stop most red wine drinkers, who eschew whites, right in their tracks. Also from Artisanal,  Fattoria Sardi Giustiniani makes a vermentino that completely knocked me out when I first tried it a few summers ago, at a meet-the-winemaker event with Matteo Giustiniani, who we now refer to at home as ‘the kid”.  His youth belies his experience and talent at making lovely wines, and this floral, herbal, honey noted gem is a great example.

Domain Abbatucci in Corsica makes a beautiful Vermentino, the Cuvée Faustine Blanc that I tasted in NYC during “Natural Wine Week” last year, and I’m to understand that it can be acquired exclusively through Dedalus Wine Shop in Burlington. Here in Vermont, the most readily available and reasonable priced wine is the Costamolino Vermentino from Sardinia, which was an excellent pairing for an Aegean/Mediterranean themed “Unorthodox Easter” dinner we had a couple of years ago.

That Uvaggio California Vermentino mentioned earlier, was a hit at our sampling - refreshing, green tinged flavors of pear and lime, and a steal at $14…unfortunately, this is one time where the wine is not distributed in our state, nor does the winery have a shipping permit into Vermont (which is something they should consider changing!).

Subsequent research shows that another Cali producer, Tablas Creek Vineyard also makes a Vermentino, which we will have to get our hands on. Incidentally, although it is not on the menu, co-founder of Tablas Creek, Bob Haas will be leading a wine pairing dinner in Quechee, at Simon Pearce Restaurant, on Wednesday May 15, 2013.

Vermonters, get out there and try some Vermentino, pronto.

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