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Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

“Born in 1934, Renato Ratti was a larger-than-life figure in Barolo who did much to shape the modern framework of the appellation. He started his career working for Cinzano in Brazil and moved back to Italy in 1965. He immediately founded a winery in the Abbazia di San Martino di Marcenasco. He produced his first vintage of Barolo that same year. Renato Ratti was one of the first to map the vineyards of Barolo and he penned the region’s most elaborate vintage chart. Mostly importantly, he created the Albeisa growers’ association with its distinctly branded bottle in 1973. Renato Ratti died in 1988 and the estate is run by his similarly active and engaged son Pietro. Pietro Ratti completed construction on the new winery in 2005.” Monica Larner, Wine Advocate 

“Quality, research, passion, respect for our history and our land with a window ever open on the future, are the underlying principles of our philosophy and the expression of our wines.” Pietro Ratti, 2003

Our wine Buyer Jeff recently had the opportunity to have lunch with Pietro Ratti, son of Renato Ratti.

I recently attended a lunch with Renato Ratti an old and brilliant winery in Piedmont established in 1965 by my Fathers host Pietro Ratti at Carmines IL Terrazzo in pioneer square. Renato Rati is hailed as the bench mark of the classic La Morra Barolo Let’s jump in and see what I found, shall we.

#1 we started with the 2015 Barbera d’Asti DOCG. WOW! I really like this wine with its black cherry spice and bight acidity. There is a great energy to this wine with layers and perfect balance not to mention lots of fruit.

#2 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo ‘Ochetti’ DOC. If you can’t afford Barolo then don’t miss this wine. Grown above the Tanaro River @ 800 feet with a southwester exposure ideal for Nebbiolo.  The wine has delicate lasting red fruit aromas and is filled with classic strawberry and raspberry followed by pleasant savory and earthly notes.

#3 2013 Marcenasco, Barolo, DOCG. Marcenasco is the site were Renato created La Morra’s first single vineyard in 1965 and historical documents show that the cultivation of Nebbiolo dates back to the 12th century. Today, the Marcenasco a blend of vineyards in the Annunziata subzone. A combination that yields a Barolo of structure and elegance, with those classic markers of dark red fruits rich and full- bodied. 93 WA

#4 2014 Rocche dell’ Annunizata, Barolo DOCG. The Rocche dell ’Annunizata vineyard on a steep hillside is considered one of the most important in all of Barolo. Pietro considers the site a “grand cru” of La Morra for its supreme elegance and aromatics imparted by the rare soil of blue marl with steaks of white sand. This is a slow ripening site which makes for a very complex wine of red fruits darker in color and denser in body. 95 WA

# 5 Conca, Barolo, DOCG 2014. The small Conca vineyard is in one of the oldest sub-zones in Barolo. It is less than two acres and is in the hollow of the Abbey of Annunizata where Benedictine Monks made wine as far back as the 12th century. The name Conca in Italian means basin or dell and the vineyard is a shell-shaped basin sitting with a southwest exposure. The wine is more elegant and dialed back. 94 WA 

“The pedigree of origin of a determined sub-zone and the delimitation of its area, the classification of the characteristics pertaining to the various vintages and the process of bottle refinement to both propitiate and maintain distinction, smoothness, elegance and longevity, are three crucial moments to be lived in the first person, concepts that I consider both as matters of substance and style.” – Renato Ratti, 1971

This is something that isn’t seen every year here in Seattle the distributor gets very little so if you would like some contact me Jeff@esquin.Com or call (206) 682-7374 ask for Jeff. There are no guarantees on this particular wines availability.

Thanks for reading.

Jeff Fournier, Esquin Buyer

A Beer-Themed Lunch

MusselsThe name of the place is Esquin Wine Merchants, but we do love (and sell) some good beer as well. I recently attended a beer-themed lunch (can’t tell you how much I enjoyed typing “beer-themed lunch”) at Quinn’s that recharged my passion for beer and, delightfully, introduced to some unexpectedly excellent beer and food pairings.

As a wine guy, my brain has been programmed to think Muscadet whenever mussels are involved. It’s not a bad thought–especially when Pepiere is involved–but I was really surprised by how well one of the beers paired with mussels. I figured it would be the lightest-style beer (the lager or the Hefeweisen) but the mussels turned out to be sensational with the Orval Trappist Ale.

Duck TerrineAnother great pairing was the Samuel Smith Organic Cider with the Duck Terrine. The sweetness and acidity of the cider was a nice counterpoint to the richness of the terrine; duck is a meat that really lends itself to having a fruit component added. In this case, in liquid form.

Veal BreastThis veal was served with a trio of beers (Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, their Oatmeal Stout, and the Ayinger Celebrator Bock) that were all complimentary with the dish. Definitely a heartier beer was in store for this very rich meat; I’d have to say the Stout and Bock were better by a hair.

Apricot TartFinally desert: an apricot and apple tart. It was served with the Lindemans Framboise, which I have to admit I find too sweet. But the tartness of the fruit seemed to tame the sweetness a bit and bring out the acidity of the Lindemans.

I left Quinn’s very full, and full of respect for how well beer can pair with great food. Am I giving up my Muscadet anytime soon? Um, no. Never! (In fact, I’ve got a bottle in my fridge right now.) But I was reminded that the world of beer has many of the qualities that make wine so compelling. There’s a rich history, full of great stories. And it’s delicious.

Full disclosure: Lunch was provided by the distributor and importer.

Food and Wine Pairing Challenge

Food and Wine PairingThe majority of questions I get asked at work involve pairing food and wine. So I thought I would share some of my insights from many years of eating and drinking at the same time. (Well, not simultaneously, but you get my drift, no?) Let’s start in the upper left corner with the salad. Just a fantastically fresh garden salad enjoyed at the restaurant at Cullen Winery in the Margaret River region of Australia. The generous portion of avocado gave it an extra richness, so I was thinking a white with a little bit of body, but enough zip to handle the greens and dressing. Coincidentally, Cullen makes a fantastic duo of Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (or SBS as they call them there) blends with a perfect zip-to-body ratio. It’s interesting to note that the SB portion of the SBS is oaked and not the S. It’s more typical to oak the Semillon rather than the Sauv Blanc. (And I wish I could recall which one I had with lunch: the Mangan or the Cullen Vineyard. The former only has a small percentage of the SB oaked while the latter oaks 100% of it. Both were delicious; that I can recall!)

So now that you’ve been healthy with your salad choice, are you feeling like a burger? Just a classic beef burger from Built Burger. (I highly recommend you visit, especially for the potato beignets, which are deliciously crisp on the outside and like potato clouds on the inside.) This juicy burger needs a juicy red, so how about a Spanish Grenache? I’d go for either the Tres Picos or the Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica. (The latter has a dollop of Syrah as well.) They’re both under $15. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a fancy-pants wine with a burger; just a solid weeknight-drinker.

But I can’t resist getting a little upscale here, so let’s move on to the pizza from Serious Pie. A simple (and simply delicious) combination of Yukon Gold potatoes, pecorino, and rosemary that has me craving a Champagne accompaniment. Potatoes, especially when topped with a salty cheese, have a great affinity for sparklers. Open up some Champagne with a bit of richness and plenty of refreshing, pinpoint bubbles: Vilmart, please.

I’m a bit stuffed, but a few laps around the block have given me some room for dessert. Bacon brittle gelato from Cafe Juanita? I encountered this at Seattle’s turn hosting pig extravaganza Cochon 555. Hmm. Rich gelato, smoky bacon, toffee-ish brittle? There’s a lot of brawn in this dessert! This calls for an Australian Muscat. A dense, sticky, amber-hued wine that will be like a sweet glaze for the bacon; look for Campbells Rutherglen .

So what would you drink with each of these dishes? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

Label Lust: Hugo Sparkling Rosé

The Hugo

I’m not above admitting that a flashy wine label gets my attention; I appreciate some thought, graphic design, and artistry wrapped around a bottle. It’s nice to have a little sizzle on the outside and deliciousness on the inside, no?

The Weingut Markus Huber “Hugo” Rosé Sparkling (or Sparkling Rosé?) is a true delight. These pink bubbles from Austria are a blend of Zweigelt (a traditional Austrian red grape that I have previously noted a fondness for) and Pinot Noir. I first had a glass of the Hugo at my new favorite restaurant, La Bête, and was charmed by its freshness, elegance, and style. With two of my wine industry brethren in tow, we naturally had to order a bottle. The only thing more clever, playful, and fun than the label of this great bottle of pink bubbles was this trio of dudes at La Bête. We held court at the bar, ate delicious food, gabbed with fellow patrons, and create more than one inside joke. Drinking bubbles just makes everything that much better.

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