Saturday, February 23, 2013

Open That Bottle Night XIV

I love Open That Bottle Night - both the concept of it and participating in it. Now in its 14th year, OTBN is the brainchild of former wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal, Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher. They saw their weekly "Tastings" column as a means to show that "wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It's about history, geography, relationships and all of the things that are really important in life" and they noted that "whether it's the only bottle in the house or one bottle among thousands, just about all wine lovers have that very special wine that they always mean to open, but never do."

The idea is that everyone should grab one of those bottles on the last Saturday of February and revel in all the "memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones and bittersweet moments" that are released with the wine. For no other reason than to celebrate the moment - and, hopefully, to ensure that you don't wait so long before opening it that you've let the wine turn to vinegar.

Diving head first into the deep end this year, Boo and I decided to open one of those bottles that are few and far between - at least on our budget - and just scream out for a special occasion. We picked it up during our brief vacation around Italy back in 2008 and it was one of the limited bottles that we were able to bring back with us.

While luxuriating in Piedmont for an extended weekend, our B&B hosts set up a visit to La Spinetta - a winery that we'd been tipped off to by the folks at Marquis Wine Cellars before we left. La Spinetta is a relatively new winery - at least by Italian standards. While this branch of the Rivetti family originated in Piedmont, it took a bit of a side trip when Giovanni Rivetti emigrated to Argentina in the late 1800's with hopes of some day returning to Italy as a rich man to make wine. Giovanni never made it back to Italy, but one of his three sons, Giuseppe, did. The Rivetti family set up residence in the heart of Moscato d'Asti country in Piedmont and began making wines that raised the level of the sweet, light wine. In 1985, La Spinetta ventured into making its first red wine, a Barbera. They then added an innovative, if not revolutionary (for its time), blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo in 1989 and progressed to making Barbaresco in 1996.

Having found itself making a good collection of Piedmont's wines, the family finally purchased some lands in the classic Barolo region. A state of the art winery was built and, voilà, a new star in the Barolo firmament was established.

1264. 2001 La Spinetta - Campè Barolo (Barolo DOCG - Piedmont - Italy)

The 2001 is only the second vintage of Barolo made by La Spinetta and, even still, fewer than 2000 cases of the wine is generally made. Like all Barolos, it is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes; however, La Spinetta subscribes to a newer school of Barolo making where the goal is to produce a wine that is both structured and approachable - and drinkable on an earlier time table. Co-owner and winemaker, Giorgio Rivetti, has been quoted in the Wine Spectator as saying that "some people around here think that if a Barolo or Barbaresco doesn't punch you in the stomach from the high tannin and acidity levels, then it is no good. I don't agree." Rivetti's Barolo sees more oak and the juice isn't left to soak and ferment on the skins as long as traditional Barolos (the latter practice can lead to the incorporation of stronger tannins). His Barolo also sees no filtration or fining when it is bottled as he hopes to accentuate the wine's aroma, flavour, texture and ageing potential as much as possible.

Presuming that our La Spinetta would be up to the task, we cooked up some lamb in olive oil and garlic. It was, indeed, up to the lamb. This wasn't so much a sipping wine as it was one full of gusto, waiting for the next bite of meat. Even with Rivetti's modernist take on Barolo, it was still no fruit bomb. The wine was definitely up Boo's alley when it came to a taste profile as he tends to enjoy a more austere bent to his palate than I do but we were both sorry to see the last of the wine poured out of the bottle.

The winery's website suggested that the wine could age for 25-30 years; so, perhaps we opened it a bit prematurely but, you know, when Open That Bottle Night calls out to you, sometimes you just have to give in baser impulses. Opening this bottle certainly took us back to our time in Piedmont and reinforced the desire to make our way back to Italy - hopefully, sooner than later.

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