September. I hadn’t been in Taurasi since September. So I was more than happy to bump into my friends Sandro Lonardo, his daughter Antonella, and her husband Flavio Castaldo during a visit to their town-Taurasi during Anteprima 2007. Three sets of handshakes, three hugs, and three double-cheek kisses. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time to catch up that evening. I was on a tight schedule and would be leaving for home the next morning.
Why don't you swing by tomorrow morning? Flavio asked. There are a few foreign journalist coming and I may need help translating.
Ok…tomorrow it is. I can’t turn down an opportunity for vineyard hopping.
Sunday morning-11 am ish. Cantine Lonardo. I’m here to share the morning with Antonella and Flavio, as well as wine critic from Sweden, another from Poland, and a writer from Japan. The steady January rain limited our visit to indoors, but no problem. We entered the winery, off a side road in Taurasi, off the beaten tracks. Flavio begins by pointing out how small the winery is. Small in size, but man, there is a lot going on here.
So we went straight to the stainless steel vats. Vats that were holding white wine that only Lonardo has been producing since 2003. A white wine named after a grape called grecomusc, roviello, or rovello bianco. This particular grape is grown only the Taurasi DOCG area and had almost totally disappeared from the wine making world if not for the efforts of Cantine Lonardo, Professor Giancarlo Moschetti of Unerversita degli studi in Palermo, Dr. Nicola Francesca, and Antonella Monaca from the Università di Napoli. Flavio shared the 2010 version. This grecomusc, with its intense straw yellow coloring was not unfamiliar to me. I know this wine, so I stepped back to observe how and if the foreign press would appreciate the complex aromas such as flowers, mint, hay, and a smoky flint. A smoky almost sulfur like aroma that is particular to this grape and can be quite intense depending on the vintage. It was engaging to try the different vintages that morning. A mini vertical wine tasting to see how climatic conditions as well as aging are important to a wine. So we sampled their 2009, 2008 and 2007. Each expressing themselves in their own particular way. Each giving an excellent acidity, each very intense, and persistent. Each very different from whites that these wine writers and critics had tried before.
Next, time for the reds. Lonardo uses one grape to produce their reds….aglianico. But when this grape enters this small cantina; it exits as an Aglianico DOC, a Taurasi DOCG, or a Taurasi DOCG Reserve. Glasses ready, a trip around the barrel room, we tried just about everything. It was hard not to get caught up in the spirit of tasting, discussing, and analyzing each glass given to me from the barrel that housed it. Vintages such as 2010, 2009, and 2008. Would these be Taurasis? Taurasi reserves? Too soon to tell, Flavio told us. 2006 was a year where they didn’t produce a Taurasi Reserve. The product that year did not meet their high standards.
Which wines were in the bottle? A Taurasi 2007, this sample just bottled for the previous weekend’s tasting. A young Taurasi with a big future ahead. A remarkable ruby coloring. Dark red fruity aromas and spices that open up and evolve in the glass. Dry, tannic, but not overpowering. We tried a glass of Taurasi Reserve 2003. Dark and passionate in its coloring. Mature fruit aromas such as cherries…dried flowers…caffè. This particular wine impressed the wine critic from Sweden. He described it as elegant, with a beautiful persistence. A fine example of Taurasi, a wine he had discovered this weekend. A wine that he was more than willing to write about back home.
What else was in this small cantina? Two aglianicos from two different vineyards. This is another effort that Lonardo is working on to focus on the importance of the territory. Coste and Case D’Alto. Two different expressions of a territory. And over in the corner? Fiano? Another experiment with Professor Moschetti…and Coda di Volpe? Professor Moschetti? Università di Palermo? Yes, Flavio smiled. But these weren’t ready for sharing.
I would have to come back to visit my friends at Cantine Lonardo. I would have to come back and walk the vineyards on a day that wasn’t cold and rainy. I would have to come back and see how their grecomusc 2010 was doing and maybe get a sneak preview of what else was going on in their small cantina…a look around at what we didn’t have time to see and to taste.
As I was about to head home, Sandro joined us in time to say goodbye…just in time for three sets of handshakes, three hugs, and three double-cheek kisses.
Via Municipio, 39
83030 Taurasi (Av)