The head sommelier and chef at Boulder, Colo., restaurant Frasca have announced plans to make their own white wine from the small Friulano region of Italy. Master sommelier Bobby Stuckey and chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson plan to call the wine La Scarpetta, the Italian term for the act of wiping up the last of the sauce on one's plate with a piece of bread.
The duo is getting winemaking and logistical help from Richard Betts, sommelier at the Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Little Nell in Aspen and partner in wine brand Betts & Scholl. The wine will be made at Antico Brolio, an old-world winery in a remote Friulian village called Prepotto, then imported by Betts & Scholl and made available at Frasca, the Friulian restaurant owned by Stuckey, his wife, Danette, and Mackinnon-Patterson.
"We're in love with Tocai--we call it our porch-sipper of Friuli. That's what you start off with, along with Prosciutto San Daniele," said Stuckey. "Over the years, I decided [making wine] was something I'd like to do, and Richard was able to walk me though how to make connections in a winemaking sense." The partnership with Antico Brolio is not likely to be finalized in time to make a 2006 Friulano, but the 2007 vintage is expected to retail for about $24.
Betts, like Stuckey, is a master sommelier. Stuckey was head sommelier at Little Nell in Aspen (the position Betts now holds) when he left to handle the wine program at the French Laundry, where he met Mackinnon-Patterson.
Despite the fact that Stuckey is American and Mackinnon-Patterson is from Canada, Friuli is "Bobby's and Lachlan's home court," said Dennis Scholl, a Miami-based art collector who started the wine partnership with Richard Betts in 2001. "They're there four times a year. They've based their restaurant on this little region. Frasca is all about Friuli--Friulian cuisine, Friulian wines. They are doing, in America, for Friuli, what Richard and I aspire to do for Grenache in Australia--to make noise about it and show people how wonderful it is."
Betts & Scholl is best known for its outstanding South Australian Grenache, but also recently released a red and a white wine from France's Hermitage appellation in the Rhône Valley (in partnership with Jean-Louis Chave), as well as a California Syrah made with Randy Lewis in Sonoma. They are part of a growing trend among producers that have diversified their portfolios to include wines from several regions around the world.
La Scarpetta is not the only sommelier-driven wine the Betts & Scholl team has planned. They are also in the process of creating a new label for Shelley Lindgren, owner and sommelier at San Francisco's A16. Lindgren is working on a wine in Italy's Ischia region as well as in Sicily, where she may make a Nero d'Avola. Betts and Scholl are also in talks with a third sommelier for yet another brand, but wouldn't say at this time who they're working with.
"Somms, generally, taste more wine than anybody else in the world, and that gives them such a distinguished palate," said Scholl. "To be able to transfer that into making wine was something that I was really excited about doing. These sommeliers have the ability to take that palate skill that they have, what they've learned by tasting many, many thousands of wines, and go to a place that they love and come up with a style, a brand, something that really, really sings to them."