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OCTOBER 16, 2009: The 10th Annual Wine House Italian Fest

Italwinefest2.jpgNow that I'm taking a break from my formal wine education, I haven't spent much time exploring or drinking wines outside the confines of the Central Coast. It's an easy weekend getaway for us and we really enjoy the wines and people. Sure, I'll open a random Spanish or French bottle depending on what I'm making for dinner, but opportunities for focused tastings haven't come along that often in the past year. Plus, after drinking so much California wine, I've been wondering if I'm losing my ability to actually enjoy Old World bottlings. Most in my collection fall in the everyday drinking category, but lately I've been more disappointed than pleased, which never used to be the case. Of course, it's not fair to compare $10 wines to $25+ wines, but it's more than mere quality that's been lacking. More like the overt taste of fruit. Have I spoiled my palate? Ruined my ability to embrace the distinctness of terroir all for the sweet joy of in-your-face, ripe fruitiness? When I found out about this festival, I decided I had to put my palate back to the test. I needed to get out of my little wine box and explore other avenues of taste before it was too late.

Italwinefest.jpg I used to love Italian wine – The Wine House has one of the best Italian selections in Los Angeles – so this seemed like the perfect event to find some new favorites. Dalle Terra Imports was the host of the festival, which showcased some of the top Italian wineries they represent, including Alois Lageder (Friuli), Casanova di Neri (Tuscany), Inama (Veneto), Marchesi di Gresy and Vietti (both from Piedmont). With over 40 wines to try – with many over $50 – from all over Italy the $45 ticket price was a great deal. Especially, since the fest included endless amounts of cheese and hor d'oeuvres prepared by the onsite restaurant Upstairs 2. The event was kept to a fairly small group (75-100ppl) so you never had to wait too long for a pour or felt crushed by a mob. We, of course, went straight for the most expensive wines, the Barolos of Vietti, which were still quite young, but amazing nonetheless.

Following are our favorites from the day.

2005 Ajello Furmint
2008 Alois Lageder Muller Thurgau
2005 Alois Lageder Pinot Nero
2007 Casanova di Neri Rosso di Casanova di Neri
2006 Casanova di Neri Pietradonice
2007 Coltibuono Chianti "Cetamura"
2006 Inama Carmenere Piu
2006 Inama Soave Classico "Foscarino"
2007 Marchesi di Gresy Dolcetto d'Alba
2005 Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco "Martinenga"
2007 Riff Pinot Grigio
2007 Russiz Superiore Pinot Grigio Collio
2008 Saracco Moscato
2006 Saracco Pinot Nero
2007 Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne
2005 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito
2005 Vietti Barolo Rocche
2005 Vietti Barolo Brunate
2005 Vietti Moscato D'Asti

It was very interesting being able to taste wines from every region side by side. Since each region ages their wines for different amounts of time, the vintages were all over the map, making it hard to grade which years were better than others. While we were certainly impressed by some of the more expensive wines, we tended to like the everyday numbers the best. I wouldn't mind having a few of the Vietti Barolos in my collection, but at $130+ they are out of my price range. The great thing about an event like this is we got to try wines of this calibar that we would never have the chance to otherwise. It was a fun, casual affair that I would definitely do again. I didn't find many wines I just had to buy, but I enjoyed pushing my palate outside the boundaries of California...if only for a few short hours.

FINAL NOTE: While events like this are great opportunities to taste a wide swath of a region, there wasn't much instruction going on or information being disceminated. There were brochures and you could certainly ask questions about the wines, but if you really want to learn about a region, formal classes are a better way to go.

The Wine House – 2311 Cotner Ave Los Angeles, CA 90064-1803 – (310) 479-3731

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