Ahhh… The Sweet Life of a Wine Importer

Protocol Wine Studio, Justin Gallen and Rinascimento Wine Company
One of my favorite wine books is Kermit Lynch’s account of his early days as an importer.  Wouldn’t it be exciting to travel all over Europe, searching out great wineries, meeting the winegrowers and soaking in all that wine culture? Thanks to Protocol Wine Studio , a group of bloggers had the opportunity to meet (virtually) with Justin Gallen of Rinascimento Wine Company in September. We got a glimpse into the reality of the life of an importer. Picture this: the pressure of your first 1200 cases arriving on the boat, now you just have to sell them all! And this: realizing it takes years to actually start turning a profit.  Justin explained that “it’s easy to find wine, it’s difficult to find customers”.

Over the course of a couple of sessions in the #winestudio, we had the opportunity to interact with Justin, and generously, had the opportunity to taste several of the wines he imports.

rinascimento text

If you live in California, look for the Rinascimento Wine Company sticker on the back of the bottle.

Justin works mostly with Italian wineries, usually small family wineries who practice sustainable,organic or biodynamic farming. First and foremost, Justin told us, the wines must always taste good and bring joy in every bottle.  Our first two wines to sample were a Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo and an Aglianico del Vulture.  Quite the contrast!

First, I sampled the wines on their own, then before a meal with a bit of salumi.  The Cerasuolo, being a rosé, was delightful before the meal started and held its own quite well with the salumi.  The Aglianico del Vulture was so powerful, it seemed to be asking for more than just a scrap of tasty salumi!

Salumi with the wines

Salumi with the wines

Then it was on to the dinner table. I was curious to see whether either of the wines would pair nicely with the roasted vegetables.

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Testing the wines at the dinner table

Az. Agr. Francesco Cirelli Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo DOC 2013
Eye: Bright garnet, transparent, rose color
Nose: Bright strawberries, cranberries but not candied
Mouth: Bright sour cherries with a touch of bitterness in the finish.  Tames right down with any kind of food.  Nice with a bit of a chill, also just fine as it warms up.  I was a little puzzled at first, as the wine was labeled as a red wine, but it clearly looked and acted like a rosé.  After a little research, I found that the DOC regulations describe a wine I would call rosé. I thought the Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo was very nice as an apertif, but I would serve it with a bit lighter fare for dinner.

Cerasuolo text

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC wine: make no mistake, rosé

Az. Agr. Musto Carmelitano Serra del Prete Aglianico del Vulture DOC
Eye: Dark red with a warm toned edge.
Nose: Dark, smoke and leather.  A bit of raisin/prune in the background, but definitely not fruit forward
Mouth: Dark with strong tannins.  A bit sharp & mineral by itself, much better with salumi or hard sheeps milk cheese.  Surprisingly, excellent with roasted fall vegetables: butternut squash, eggplant, onion, parsnip, celeriac, brussels sprouts.  With the fruit in the background, this wine was wonderful with the roasted veggies. Nice!

Aglianico text

Aglianico del Vulture was superb with roasted vegetables.

Round 2: Piemonte wines from Az. Agr. G.D. Vayra
The Piedmont (Piemonte) region of Italy is a special favorite of mine, so I was very excited to learn more from Justin and to sample the wines he thoughfully provided. We tried to pair the wines on day 1 with typical apertivo fare.  Apertivo is the time you meet up with friends after work, before dinner.  Most wine bars provide a bit of something to enjoy with the glass of wine you buy.  A great tradition celebrated daily in Italy!

barbera wins the salumi text

Trying to recreate true apertivo time

Az. Agr. G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba DOC 2011
Eye: Dark red opaque center, purple at the edge
Nose: Blue fruit, blueberries, rich aroma
Mouth: Rich and lush without being overripe, very good acidity, definitely lip-smacking.
The Barbera d’Alba showed beautifully on day 1 and was great with the apertivo.

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G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba comes in the local distinctive “Albeisa” bottle

G.D. Vajra Barolo “Albe” 2009
Eye: A bit dark for typical Barolo, but still nice and translucent, a bit more purple than orange at the edge
Nose: Day 1, very shy, tough to pick as Barolo.  Day 2, Barolo shining brightly! Bright red cherries and roses on the nose.
Mouth: Day 1, quite closed. Day 2: Red fruit, plenty of tannins, seems like a bit low acidity for Barolo, but very nice and smooth for drinking now. Nice persistence and long finish.  A nice wine, just needs time or a day to open up.

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Barolo is always a surprise, so light in color but so powerful in flavor

Non-Traditional Pairing
Do you need to pair Italian wines exclusively with Italian foods?  Absolutely not!  When there’s time, we love making handmade pasta with a traditional Piemonte sugo di carne.  On a weeknight, why not try these wines with the foods we eat everyday.  Know what?  They work beautifully. This was our day 2 meal, and the Barolo was just singing, I thought it was perfect.  If Barolo tannins are too much for you, go with the Barbera, it was just fine with the meal.

barolo barbera text

Local bison burger with heirloom tomato, roasted veggies and oven fries.  Traditional Italian fare?

Whether or not you live in California, you should check out Protocol Wine Studio.  They have a variety of interesting programs, organized around wine education and social media.  I participated in the September version of #winestudio, a series of twitter discussions organized around a monthly theme.  Bloggers are welcome to participate, you can join the fun!

Rinascimento Wines
The wines for this post were generously provided by Justin Gallen of Rinascimento Wine Company.  Thanks Justin!

All opinions expressed are my own.

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