Juicy Fruit

1225919388I attended two very different tastings this past week, each terrific in its own way, one fancy, one rustic.

Let’s start with the fancy, shall we? Like many of you, I’m feeling expansive today.

Let me start by saying that I’m no great scholar of Italian wines. I’ve spent more time exploring France and California, thanks to a stint in San Francisco. My limited exposure to southern Italian wines has yielded to many sips that were harsh, acidic, and forgettable.

All the more delight, then, to sample the wines of Sicily’s Tenuta delle Terre Nere—paired with lovely food by the young chef Justin Melnick—last Thursday at Tomasso Trattoria.

Produced by brothers Marco and Iano de Grazia from grapes grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna—some of which are the highest vineyards in Italy—these reds, whites, and rosés (or, rather, rosatos) were complex, aromatic, and wholly elegant.

My favorites: the 2007 Etna Bianco ($20), with just the right blend of acidity, minerality, and fruit, and an almost flowery/marigold finish.

The 2006 Feudo di Mezzo “il Quadro delle Rose” ($56), which was tight at first pour, but opened up into a lush, ruby-colored, cherry-tobacco mouthful.

And finally, I loved the 2006 Etna Rosso Calderara Sottana ($56), which is often compared with Burgundy reds, but which has its own peppery, smoky, Italian characteristics. This wine was the group favorite, from what I could hear.

The good news is that Tomasso (or, rather, its adjacent market Panzano Provviste e Vino) will continue to carry these incredible, small-batch wines as they are released. But if you’re interested in buying them, move quickly: there are just a few bottles left on the shelves.


Tasting number two happened by the orchards at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in West Deerfield, as part of the annual Ciderdays celebration. I’m working on an apple cookbook in my spare time, and the folks at Clarkdale had laid out about 20 apple varieties to taste, along with their assorted cider blends.

I tasted a nearly inedible crab apple (not bitter, just mealy to the point of tasting like powder in the mouth) and some wonderful Roxbury Russets and Northern Spys. A new favorite: the Suncrisp, a gorgeous sunset-colored cross between a pippin and a golden delicious.

It tastes like lemon custard, with just enough acid and a honeyed sweetness. There’s a bag of them in my fridge, and I can’t wait to get home to have another one.