Last summer, I had the good fortune to not only visit Tuscany, but to stay near Cortona and become friends with inn owner Alessandro Maresca at Poggio Sant’Angelo. The very first night at dinner, I wanted to try as local a wine as possible, and had the Clanis syrah from Dal Cero Winery. The area is known for it’s syrah production as Cortona has a DOC designation. For what I tasted, I thought the 30 euro restaurant list price was incredibly fair and immediately thought this was a syrah I would drink at home or be glad to see on a winelist back home. I wasn’t able to meet with the folks from this winery…Alessandro and I visited together the gracious hosts at Olivi and Poggio Antico (and tasted their beautiful wines) but I didn’t get hyper-local with Dal Cero or any other Cortona syrah producers.
A couple of days later, while visiting the Enoteca Italiana and befriending their public relations and events director Niccolo Petrilli, I noticed a display of empty wooden wine cases, and among the big names, I was curious to see a Clanis case.
I am not an importer, but I do like to pour it forward, as has been a recent theme in some of my writing, and share the good word of those who have been good to me. No, I won’t recommend something or someone just as some sort of payback…I have to truly be appreciative and believe in the quality of their product or establishment, which is why I have been happy to speak well of Poggio Sant’Angelo and the Olivis, not just for the kindness and hospitality they showed me, but for the quality of their businesses.
When I got back from my trip, I was speaking with Bruno Brunetti, an Italian expat wine importer (you do see a pattern developing here don’t you? It’s easy to make friends with Italians, especially over great wine and food). I met Bruno awhile back at a food and wine festival and his enthusiasm really stood out to me. Its easy to go through the motions at these wine dog and pony shows, but I have been fortunate to meet a number of people who have a noteworthy combination of passion and intelligence about the wines they are representing, and Bruno is definitely in that group. I told him about this wonderful syrah I had in Tuscany. I couldn’t give him much more information since I had not visited the winery and made any contacts there. I mentioned the wine to some others, but Bruno seemed intrigued, looking to expand his book of business in Italy.
Bruno and his equally passionate business partner at Santa Armosa, Gal Keren, did their research and made contact with the Dal Cero family, and a short time ago, visited with them and tasted their wines. As of this week, they are importing and distributing not only their syrah, but a chardonnay and a Super Tuscan blend. I got a UPS delivery on Tuesday…it was a box of wine from Bruno that included the syrah and chardonnay. I wasn’t sure I had a picture still of the box display from the Enoteca Italiana so I reached out to Niccolo who gladly took some pictures for me, so I could post a picture of from Poggio Sant’Angelo, the Enoteca Italiana and the Zona household.
Bruno shot me a note on Facebook that night saying “I am actually having now a glass of Clanis….so good! Thank you again for your precious suggestion.” It’s been a busy week but I am looking forward to opening a Clanis syrah tonight and I am confident I will share Bruno’s opinion of the wine. It was admittedly a nice confirmation of my own palate that someone agreed with it enough to bring the wine into the country and represent it in what is an increasingly difficult market to do so with so much good wine being made around the world.
From that first taste my first night in Cortona, less than ten months later, I will have that same first taste of Cortona tonight in my own home. I speak often of the personal and social and connective nature of wine…all of those will be in my glass tonight. It’s what I love about wine.