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Real Deal Pinot Grigio and Dinner Alfresco at My House

Posted: Jun 20, 2008 4:23am ET

I had this year's first outdoor dinner in my courtyard in Tuscany last Wednesday. The weather has been so cold and wet so far this summer. As one wine producer told me the other night at dinner, “If the weather doesn’t change for the better, we are going to make water and not wine in 2008.”

Indeed, work in the vineyards have been hampered due to the abundance of rain, which makes it difficult to get equipment in to spray for mildew, till the soil, and cut back the leaves. It’s just too damn muddy.

Anyway, there was no mud in my courtyard on Wednesday night and I invited some friends over for dinner, including my colleagues Jo Cooke and Rosanne Quagliata. Jo is working on a full-production video on Italian white wines for a big report of mine with more than 1,500 tasting notes that should be coming your way soon. But I snuck in an impromptu video tasting for this blog.

I did the cooking ... and drinking! I went to Cordon Bleu in London in the early 1990s and I still love to cook, but I don’t have much time these days. Anyway, I made three courses for the dinner: a warm chickpea salad with large poached prawns, tagliolini pasta with a lemon, tuna and fresh herb sauce, and grilled monkfish on a bed of green beans, shallots and tomatoes tossed in Tuscan virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Yummy!

We had a nice lineup of some of the top whites of Italy, including a 2006 Cantina Terlano Sauvignon Alto Adige Quarz, 2007 Suavia Soave Classico, 2003 Jermann Venezia-Giulia Dreams, 2006 Jermann Venezia-Giulia Vintage Tunina, 2007 Terredora Terre di Dora Fiano di Avellino, 2005 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Vorberg, and a 2004 S. Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio Alto Adige Sanct Valentin.

I think that the two favorite wines were the Terlano Sauvignon and the S. Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio. The latter was great with the prawns. I love the fresh and minerally Pinot Grigio with its tropical fruit and apricot character. It was so crisp, yet rich, and cleansed your palate with every sip.

It’s a shame that most Pinot Grigios sold in the states are dull and tasteless. If you want to see what real Pinot Grigio tastes like from Italy, try one from one of these producers and you won’t be disappointed: S. Michael-Eppan, Vie de Romans, Cantina Tramin, Branko, Schiopetto, Alois Lageder, Cantina Valle Isarco, Abbazia di Novacella, Attemis, Livio Felluga, and Volpe Pasini.

Sam Chen
The Golden State —  June 20, 2008 5:23pm ET
Hi James,You are right on. One of my favorite Pinot Grigio producers is Cantina Tramin. It is the real deal. I have been trying to get my distributor to bring some into California. They are not cheap (over $30.00 a bottle), but they are worth every penny.
Jimmy Hwang
Atlanta , GA —  June 20, 2008 6:02pm ET
James, this is off topic, but I was looking through some Bordeaux reviews and saw the 2004 Lagarosse "Les Comtes." I just purchased this great value wine for my store. The review mentions that it is NOT imported into the US. According to the label, the importer is Cannon Wines Limited. Just thought I'd let you know. Thanks for all your reviews and insights. Cheers! -Marshall Parker
James R Biddle
Dayton, OH —  June 22, 2008 7:16am ET
James,Another off-topic comment, but one some of your readers will appreciate. THANKS for the recommendation for Corte Gondina in La Morra, Piemonte--we were there for 6 days and the hotel was wonderful. (Unfortunately, it was wet and cool like the rest of Italia!) We highly recommend ristorante Bovio--newly opened by the former owner of Belvedare and by most accounts, far superior to the current Belvedare. For those who've never been to Barolo country--GO! It is very compact, beautiful, and not full of tour buses!So, thanks again for the recommendation.Salute!James Biddle
Steven Balavender
Tampa, Fl —  June 22, 2008 1:47pm ET
James I just got back from my Italy visit yesterday, which included a week in Tuscany. All I heard while I was there was everyone saying how weird the weather this spring has been. Being from Florida I for one was glad to see the cooler weather. It was much cooler in Tuscany than it was in Venice or Rome, wore a light jacket almost daily and yes we did see pretty much daily afternoon showers. One family I talked to that was in Venice only a few days after us said they had a hail storm while they were there....go figure. Things seemed to have settled quite a bit though as we left Rome in 85f temps with plenty of sun....looked like the weather for Tuscany has improved quite a bit from what I see also....will be interesting to see how things turn out for 08. The wineries I visited didn't seem all that concerned as of yet.....however talking to producers in Montalcino about the Brunello scandal was another thing....lots of concerns and worries there.
James Suckling
 —  June 22, 2008 2:24pm ET
I am looking forward to the summer in Tuscany now! The summer is finally here!!
James Mccusker
Okemos, MI —  June 23, 2008 7:02am ET
James, my wife and are are getting ready to leave Florence after spending 4 wonderful months here. Of course, just as we're leaving summer has finally arrived! I agree with you 100% on the St. Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio - fabulous stuff which shows what the right person with the right grapes can do with this varietal. The most eye-opening wine experiences we've had over the past few months have been discovering the northern Italian whites: in addition to the St. Michael-Eppan, we've had terrific bottles from Russiz, Schiopetto, Terlan, and Castello di Spessa. We're now realizing that our cellar back in Michigan (which is >75% California) may need some geographic adjustments. Enjoy the Tuscan summer!
C E Phillips
Pawleys Island, SC —  July 10, 2008 4:47pm ET
My favorite whites are from Cantina Terlano up in Alto Adige. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed them as well. They are nice people and could use the exposure here in America. I only wish there was a distributor here in South Carolina. Matt Whitman, Pawleys Wine & Spirits
Marco Laico
charlotte n.c —  July 11, 2008 12:05pm ET
that terlano quartz 2006 is out of sight...also try ,somebody, terlano pinot bianco of the classic line 2005-2006 at $17.00/18.00 a bottlethanks james for your articles that give some justice to those great whites you mentioned

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