Two exact opposite ends of the Italian spectrum are represented here, in style, mouthfeel, provenance, functionality and variety. In one corner the dark brooding funky cellar-floor of a classic old-Euro and in the other corner a bright, miserably young spritely sweet thing. I love them both.
2011 ILLUMINATI Ilico Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Italy 13.5
Dark garnet with thin bricking edges. Bell pepper and banana rises up out of warm wet concrete and garden hose. A certain oxidation I can’t help but blame on the ‘Riserva’ part mingles with plenty of neutral oak and reduction. Funky and round, it barely gets any fruit out before grasping tannins–and a little heat–over-take. All apple butter and dirt road, this is one of those classic Italian food-wines begging for any source of sauce and plenty of neutral–preferably oily–starch. A visit from grandpa with elbows on red-checkered-tablecloths and heavy old-fashioned glasses. Maybe even a tad chilled. This wine inspires loud talk and maybe even singing. And DEFINITELY: order another bottle.
2015 WIND STORM Zinfandel Old Vine Zinfandel California 14.7
Medium ruby with thin clear edges. Fresh sugar cane, bruised cherry and Welch’s jam in the bouquet with NO alcohol, no prune, no acid, just still, fine simple un-diluted ZINFANDEL. All the warm round old vine concentration and verve, but in a package so clean and fresh and young and undiluted.
You know what I love about this wine? It’s fucking ZINFANDEL! No, I don’t think you read that right. It’s the most Zinfandelly Zinfandel I have tasted in YEARS. Yes, I am aware of my preference for Zinfandels to be more Cab-like and structured, but here we have something SO INCREDIBLY the opposite direction, so NOT Cab-like and structured but so pure, so virginal, absolutely innocent ZINFANDEL unlike any of the *trying too hard* zinfandels all over shelves. It seriously reminds me of Aleanico. This wine glees me to my core with its sweetness and zest and verve and PURE unabashed Zin fruit. It takes me back to the 80’s in Amador and Placerville and Paso Robles where people were not afraid to make wines like this. This is a glass of Cal-Ital heritage right here–I’ve tasted Martinis and Teldesci’s like this in Dry Creek Valley–but not for several decades.
In the mouth, not the slightest hint of alcohol. I guessed “can’t be 15-oh” and wasn’t too far off. Sweet–yes, it is sweet: un-abashedly sweet, not cloying, not pruney, not dessert wine, but definitely SWEET and for once in my life I don’t have a problem with it. Yes, I could blow this wine full of holes quite easily but right now I am not feeling that vibe. It is making me happy with its innocent beauty and unfaltering focus on the young and bright. They are not attempting to cloak a syrupy finish in oak and leather (what the dorks call ‘perceived sweetness’) but instead just letting the whole bright fruity thing hang out there in the wind for all to recognize. So much disgusting fruit in the middle brings in a decent acid and alcohol in the finish. Tannins? Nahhh. This isn’t like any wine you have had all month, but you will LIKE it. THIS is ZINFANDEL.