Monday, May 30, 2011

I Am a Sommelier…Finally

I am finally a card-carrying, bling-wearing, uniform-sporting, sommelier. I began this journey at the urging of one of my Italian teaching colleagues, Eleonora, who helped me find the course, found out the details for me, and gave me the courage to start on this journey. It was only fitting that she and her husband attend the graduation ceremony with us. Most graduations are significant as defining moments, but this is my re-defining moment. I have always been defined until recently as a teacher of languages: French and English. My recent studies have enabled me to inform about the language of wines. My major, you could say is Italian wines. Tassels and mortarboards were exchanged for tastevins and corkscrews.

The AIS graduation ceremony was held at the Feudi San Gregorio winery in Sorbo Serpico, Avellino, an hour and half drive from where we live. A half hour through Naples traffic, taking the A1 autostrada Bari/Salerno exit to the A16, and finally a 20 minute ride up and around rolling, and lush countryside. As you approach the winery from the parking lot your only access inside is through what looks like a rusted out space age cubicle, which had all of us, puzzled about what could await us on the other side. The entrance is definitely meant as a statement--“this is no ordinary Campanian winery”. There will be no castle, no antique old presses in the yard. The only thing aged here is the wine.
As you make your approach, the sliding doors open “Get Smart style” to finally reveal the conception of the Milan based, female architect, Hikaru Mori. At this point the statement made at the entrance begins to reveal itself as prose: a man-made brook and small pools accompany you on the paths through the herb garden, and the rose garden all surrounded by pastoral hills of vineyards folding into one another, a little reminiscent of Cote d’Or in Burgundy. Even their vines are kept short and close to the ground as they are in Burgundy, perhaps because of the elevation and coldertemperatures in Avellino.

Here is a photo by Tom Hyland, used with permission, of part of the estate or the Cutizzi vineyard.

Hikaru Mori is known for integrating nature into buildings and those man-made brooks somehow meandered their way inside the winery where it is said they keep the barrels moist.

The wine and the winery, however, are not the only draw to Feudi San Gregorio. There is a lot of competition among winery owners to get people to their winery and Feudi seems to have the drawing card: their Michelin star restaurant, Marenna’. Our 3-year-long sommelier course culminated with the perfect pairing of 6 of Feudi’s wines with a 7-course meal. Each plate was subtle yet flavourful in a room that was equally as understated. I did not take any tasting notes that evening, and photos were an afterthought but none of the wines nor the food, were a disappointment. Careful thought by chef Paolo Barrale went into the pairing of each course on the menu that night with the wines to masterfully highlight the best in both. The menu was as follows:
Antipasti of local goat cheeses and homemade salumi. This was served with the DUBL Falanghina 2007, Metodo Classico. Winemakers at Feudi, Riccardo Cotarella and Mario Ercolino teamed up with French champagne maker Anselme Selosse to produce this dry, persistent citrusy sparkling wine.

Homemade breads and breadsticks with a second Sparkling: DUBL Greco 2006, Metodo Classico

Zeppola di baccala' con verdure in carpione e pepe limonato served with Pietracalda 2009 Fiano di Avellino DOCG
(sorry I ate it before thinking to take a photo)

Risotto al pomodoro, ghiaccia di basilico e Olio followed by Ravioli di ricotta, fave e guanciale Extravergine d'Oliva di Ravece all topped by Taurasi 2007, Taurasi DOCG

Controfiletto di vitello affogato al Taurasi e cipolle di Montoro followed by Il Maialino...peperoni e patate in concert with Montevergine 2004, Taurasi Riserva DOCG.

Predessert and Caffe' e nocciola were crowned with Privilegio 2008, Campania Bianco IGT.

After this meal, which is one of the finest I’ve ever had in Italy,…no make that anywhere… came the speeches and finally the presentation of diplomas and tastevins.

So here then is Cathy re-defined in simple terms: teacher of languages and wine, vineyard owner, and sommelier.

Of interest to viticulturists:
Pierpaolo Sirch, a transplant from Friuli is Feudi’s in-house “agronomo” (vineyard manager). He runs a one-of a kind vine pruning school held at Feudi: Simonit and Sirch’s Scuola Italiana di potatura della vite.
Their philosophy is to maintain the integrity of the vine using a combination of modern and traditional pruning techniques in order for the grape to show off its true character.