Usually a highlight of the Wine Media Conference is tasting wine at various educational sessions, while visiting wineries, during wine pairing meals, and of course, at the ever popular and often ridiculed speed tastings. Over the years, I enjoyed all of this and more, including getting to know and spending time with my wine writing colleagues.
I missed going in 2019 as I was in France competing in the World Wine Tasting Championship, and in 2018 I had a paid poetry performance, so I was really looking forward to going to Eugene for the 2020 edition.
But this year, due to COVID, my colleagues and I could only chat along the sidelines of the sessions, instead of between sessions, and the tasting opportunities were limited to what was in our own cellars– and, if we were lucky, and already signed up for the now postponed 2020 conference, we had the opportunity to join one of four at home tastings.
I was fortunate enough to score a spot in the Velenosi Vini at home virtual tasting led by Italian Wine Ambassador, the Italian Girl herself, Laura Donadoni. She was at home in San Diego, Thea Dwelle was in Sonoma, Liz Barret joined us from Chicago, Pinny Tam from New York, Teresa Nozick and Melanie Weber tasted from LA, I was at home in Ventura on my deck along with Sue Hill and Gretel Compton, and others joined us from their homes scattered across the US. Sue prepared bruschetta and a charcuterie plate, and later my spouse grilled up eggplant. Yum! I also sampled the wines with takeout from Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant –manicotti with meat sauce and salad with gorgonzola dressing.
“WINE IS AN ART CAPABLE OF MAKING PEOPLE DREAM.” Velenosi Vini
I’m sure you’ve heard of Tuscany, one of the more famous wine regions of Italy (and pictured in green in the map above). Marche (in orange) is just on the other side of the Appenine mountains which form a spine along the middle of Italy– kind of a bumpy zipper along the side of the boot.
Like Tuscany, Marche is famous for its seaside beauty, rolling hillsides, and steep mountains which in Marche take up almost a third of the landscape and where people ski in winter. In Marche, 10% is protected with two national parks, four reserves, and four regional parks.
With this landscape, less wine is produced here than in other regions of Italy, which contributes to the wines being less well known.
Changing this landscape to help the region become more well known is Velenosi Vini. Located in the southern end of Marche near the coast and Abruzzo in Ascoli Piceno, Velenosi Vini was started from scratch in 1984 by Ercole and Angela Velenosi with nine hectares and two wines.Today Velenosi Vini is is one of the most awarded in the region, they produce millions of bottles including organic wines from 145 hectares, and the wines can be found in 52 markets worldwide.
In this virtual tasting, we had four wines from Velenosi Vini:
- 2019 Velenosi Vini Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Marche
- 2018 Velenosi Lacrima Di Morro D’Alba DOC Marche
- 2017 Velenosi La Brecciarolo Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC Marche
- 2015 Velenosi “Roggio del Filare” Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC Marche
They also make a sparkling passerine, a pecorino, and other wines too. Wines are available from VIAS.
2019 Velenosi Vini Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC La Marche
ABV 13%; SRP $17
“The Chablis of Italy.”
Harvested by hand, and kept at a low temp to preserve aromatics. This wine sees no oak: it spends 3-4 months on the lees in stainless steel. Unlike many white wines, this one has aging potential. A typical grape of the region.
Color: Pale lemon
Nose: Eureka lemon, dune grass, sea breeze, citrus blossoms.
Palate: Tart, nice acidity, lemon blossom, Meyer lemon, orange zest, creamy mouthfeel, some salt on the finish.
Pairing: Fantastic with La Tur, great with the eggplant bruschetta, loves cured meats like prosciutto. It can handle salt, really nice with the gorgonzola as well as a salad with gorgonzola dressing.
To Try: oysters, shellfish, crudite, grilled fish, seafood risotto.
2018 Velenosi Lacrima Di Morro D’Alba
ABV 12.5%; SRP $16-18
“A red gewurztraminer!”
They say you either love or hate this wine; well, the virtual tasters plus Sue, Gretel and I loved this aromatic, bright, lively wine. With no oak treatment, the grape shines. The grape is indigenous to the locale.
The name refers to the grape’s shape, the fact that the skin tears easily, and droplets of juice make tear shape.
Color: Surprising density, magenta with a fuchsia rim.
Nose: So, so pretty, with lovely florals, roses, rose geranium, violet, raspberry, spice.
Palate: Rose water, rose geranium, wild raspberry, balanced, so amazing that this has not been in oak. The finish drops off fairly quickly, but leaves minerals that bring on salivation.
Pairing: When Sue asked where do you want to go first in pairing this wine with food, I said eggplant and bruschetta; what a great pairing. Referring to the LaTur, Gretel asked “Is there anything that doesn’t go with this cheese?” So fantastic with the tomato and basil, if you added fennel pollen it would be over the top. The roasted eggplant worked great, but Gretel liked it better with the LaTur. It works with the cured meats like rose works with smoked meats. We all loved this with the grilled eggplant bruschetta. Sue could totally imagine this wine with caponata.
To Try: Asian food; avoid greasy food; teriyaki salmon. It wasn’t the best pairing with manicotti.
2017 Velenosi La Brecciarolo Rosso Piceno Superiore
ABV: SRP $18
70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangiovese
In a Syrah glass this wine is so much more expressive than in a cabernet glass.
For under $20, this is an amazing bargain. Widely available in the US, this would be a great wine by the glass in a restaurant.
Color: Garnet, a tinge of brown.
Nose: Black and pink peppercorn, cherry, black current, tea, fennel, anise, as it opens up there is a nice bramble fruit quality Gretel “definitely dark fruit”
Palate: Black current tea, pepper, carnation, medium tannins, nice acidity that you count on in Italian wines
Gretel: “I don’t think this is a complicated wine. It is easy, I would love this wine at a burger joint or with pizza.”
Pairing: Sue really wanted this to work with the eggplant bruschetta, but don’t think it did. It was lovely with the black pepper crusted toscana. Liked it with the cured meats. Sue and Gretel did not like the LaTur with this wine, but I did. They felt it needed the saltier aged cheeses like gorgonzola and the toscana.I tried it and it was like eatting milk chocolate with the wine they went so well together. I still liked the LaTur better (maybe I am just in love with this cheese!) Wonderful pairing with a salad with gorgonzola dressing as well as manicotti.
2015 Roggio del Filare “Rosso Piceno”
ABV SRP $50
30% Sangiovese, 70% Montepulciano
Beautiful bottle, beautiful bottling, but super heavy weighing in at nearly three pounds! (The other bottles weighed less than one pound each, and yes I weighed them!) The 2015 is said to be one of the best vintages; current 2014 is $50. Cellar! Flagship wine, many awards, most awarded wine in Italy. Last vintage rated sixth most important wine in Italy. Vineyards are higher altitude at over 700 feet. Montepulciano, and Sangiovese made from 50 year old vines. The grapes are “over ripened” on purpose to create these specific characteristics. Aged in new french barrique for 18 months following a long maceration on the skins. Old vines means low yield which contributes to the price and rareness of this wine.
“Comfort wine – so luscious and delicious – after a bad day have a sip, it is like chocolate cake” says Laura Donadoni.
Color: So very dense, deep garnet, mauve rim
Nose: Cherry, florals, cherry snuff, pipe tobacco, cocoa nips
Palate: So so smooth, there is a lusciousness from the alcohol, but also such a lusciousness from the fruit.
Gretel describes the wine as “Satin sheets and the whole nine yards!”
There is a sensuality to this wine perfumed with fruit and woodsy florals like violets and iris. Super enjoyable wine, complex, conversational, nice cocktail wine, can be enjoyed on its own even without food.
Pairing: While I could drink this wine on its own forever, the wine really brings the food to life. The wine complimented the grilled eggplant beautifully enhancing the grilled vegetable, the richness of the garden tomatoes, the fresh garlic and basil, brought out the cherry snuff and tobacco characteristics in the wine. I liked the gorgonzola with the wine, but Sue loved it with the pepper crusted toscana. The wine also went nicely with the LaTur, they do not fight at all, but the wine becomes fruity. Very nice with the salami and prosciutto.
To Try: While delicious with manicotti with meat sauce and the salad with blue cheese dressing, I’d go for a meatier main course like a rib eye steak with blue cheese dressing!