For Women’s History Month here on Wine Predator, we are focusing in on WOMEN IN WINE as much as possible, particularly, women we’ve met who wine! Last Wednesday March 8 was International Women’s Day and we featured Erica Crawford of New Zealand’s Loveblock Wine who we met at Wolf on Melrose in LA, CA.
On Monday, March 13, Que Syrah Sue and I had lunch at Obica on Sunset with Lisa Anselmi; her grandfather began making wine from the family vineyards in the Veneto region of north eastern Italy 80 years ago, her dad changed direction to produce higher quality wine, and now Lisa is getting their story out to the world.
The Anselmi story goes back to 1948 when Lisa’s grandfather founded the winery to produce massive amounts of wine to meet the demands of the market for light sweet wine that was light on the wallet too. The idea common in Soave at the time was to produce quality not quality using the indigenous grape Gargenega (“gar-GAN-nehgah”).
In the early 70s, Lisa’s dad Roberto decided to go into the family business but after a few years, he wanted to renovate the label to make it about quality, not quantity. He focused on buying vineyards that would achieve his goals, and to use estate fruit where they could control every aspect of the wine making process.
Because 80% of the production in the area was focused on quantity, this was quite a radical idea, and it required changes in all levels of wine making starting with in the fields where they changed how the vines are trellised and more so that while the yields were much lower, the quality is much higher. After they had the yields down and the quality of the grapes up, they worked on using the most up to date methods in the winemaking process. The current stage is to tell this story to the world — that there are wines coming from Soave that are significantly better in quality than what most people think of from the region– and that’s Lisa’s role in the Anselmi story.
Just because Anselmi focuses on quality not quantity doesn’t mean that Anselmi is small production: they produce 750K-800K bottles a year of five different wines and with two single vineyard designates. Most of the wine they produce is white made 75% or more of gargenia, the indigenous grape of the Soave region, but they also grow a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon that is not made into a wine for export.
Because of the shift in focus, and to show how these gargenega wines are distinct from the typical wine from Soave, Anselmi wines are named after places, and instead of having Soave DOC on the label, the wines say Veneto IGT. While more expensive than a typical wine from Soave, Anselmi wines are still quite affordable offering a very nice wine for the money that goes exceptionally well with food.
We tasted three of the Anselmi gargenega wines first with Lisa, learning the story, then we tried the wines with a delicious assortment of appetizers. Mozzarella is flown in wine weekly from Italy, and they make their own bread and pasta also from grains flowing in from Italy. In addition to family style appetizers, Sue went with a kale ravioli and as I had been craving squid ink pasta, I happily ordered that (so much crab as well as sea urchin!) and excellent with the Croce. We also enjoyed a selection of desserts with espresso (to help with the drive home through LA traffic!)
Anselmi San Vincenzo 2015 12.5% alc. SRP $18
Named after an altar on a nearby hill and using grapes from both vineyards to combine grapes from volcanic and calcareous soils, the Anselmi San Vincenzo entry level wine brings florals on the nose and a fresh crispness to the palate that makes it a lovely wine for poolside, brunch, lunch or dinner. A blend of 80% gargenega, 10% chardonnay, and 10% sauvignon blanc, this easy drinking wine is very aromatic, with a nice medium body and luscious mouthfeel. Pair with seafood, finger food or spicy food. This wine made Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list for 2016.
Anselmi Capitel Foscarino 13.5% alc. SRP $25
Made from 90% gargenega (“gar-GAN-nehgah”) and 10% chardonnay grown on volcanic soil on a mountaintop with nice cooling breezes, then barrel aged in neutral oak, this wine offers white flowers like jasmine and tropical fruits including banana and pineapple. As it ages, these notes drop out leaving minerals and citrus. Pair this wine with white asparagus risotto, a traditional Easter dish; join us on Sat. April 1 for a post about Italian Easter traditions where we will discuss this pairing and share the recipe for Sue’s family’s Easter bread!
Anselmi Capitel Croce SRP $30
Grown on calcareous soils full of diatoms and other elements of limestone that indicate that this land was once underwater, the Croce made primarily of gargenega brings more minerals, fullness, and richness to the palate but without sacrificing the aromatics. This one was my favorite of the three, and it paired wonderfully with the richness of the crab and sea urchin. What is funny is that when I look at our notes about this wine all I see is ideas for food to pair with it! This is clearly a wine that captured our imagination and inspired us to consider meals we’d love to pair with it! I would love to see this wine on a restaurant list by the glass or the bottle — it is versatile and would be enjoyable by the glass during happy hour, with a salad or with a meal — it would be really nice with sand dabs… or roast chicken with lots of lemon!
Anselmi I Capitelli Passito SRP $40 (375 ml)
To make this wine requires rigor in every step: each gargenega grape must be perfect. We will be writing more about this wine Saturday April 1 in our Italian Easter traditions post and that’s where we will delve in to this intricate process!
The best time to visit, according to Lisa, is now through May. We’re ready to pack our bags! In the meantime, look for this wine, and if you’re on Sunset near Hollywood in LA, stop at Obica for a glass– it’s on their list!