Balgera Vini, Chiuro, Valtellina

Paolo Balgera is THE protector of the faith in the Valtellina, continuing a tradition started by his Great Great Grandfather Pietro in 1885 and he is still mad that the new DOCG regs allow his neighbors to release their Sforzato after just two years aging when HIS current vintage is 1999!  Despite being the most traditional wines in the zona, Paolo’s bottlings have smoked all comers at several consorzio blind tastings proving elegance CAN win out over sheer extract. Come see for yourself how old dogs still have plenty of new tricks to show your palate and are so shockingly unique they left the Gambero Rosso speechless. Bravo!

Balgera Chiavennasca Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio FRIZZANTE*, Valtellina

Now THIS is interesting: 100% Nebbiolo (the varietal used to make Barolo, Barbaresco and, more importantly, Sforzato) vinified WHITE then fizz-a-fied to about the pressure and refreshment factor of a nice Prosecco but with a bigger mouthfeel and a drier finish. The culinary possibilities of this are approximately infinite so you had better get started tonight. * Sparkling but about half the pressure of Champagne.


Azienda Agricola Martilde, Rovescala, Oltrepò Pavese

Martilde is one of our favorite discoveries in the Brave NEW World of the Oltrepò Pavese: a full service vino-teria making ten or so bottlings ranging from dry and delicate whites to insanely concentrated reds, all grown with molto rispetto for nature by a couple who have become good friends of ours, Antonella Tacci and Raimondo Lombardi. AND they all have fabulous art labels (painted by Antonella) depicting the animals on the estate.

Martilde Oltrepò Pavese Malvasia

Piume 2006, Lombardia  ORGANIC  Sold Out, New Vintage Soon!

“Young man, I nearly fainted with delight when I tasted that Piume Malvasia last night…”. So said a  customer in a lilting Welsh accent as she grabbed a case of this. The sheer audacity of the intense citrus and honeysuckle aromas and flavors of Martilde Malvasia Piume coupled with its bone dry, “give me some more right now!” finish makes it a no-brainer with any Pacific Rim cuisine, Sushi, Fruit & Cheese or just sipping while watching a Scrubs marathon on Comedy Central. Try it! You won’t be sorry and you just might catch a case of the vapors as well. Pass the smelling salts and a spring roll, please…

Here’s a second opinion:

“I have a weakness for dry white wines made from grapes that usually go into dessert wines — think about the alluring dry Muscats of Alsace, for example. So when Robert Rogness, general manager of Wine Expo in Santa Monica, enthused about a dry Malvasia from Oltrepò Pavese, a region in the southern part of Lombardy, I perked up my ears.

Azienda Agricola Martilde’s ‘Piume’ dry Malvasia 2006 smells sweet, with a lush, honeyed bouquet, but drinks utterly dry, with flavors of melon and green apple and a brisk finish that hints of lemon peel. Word of the day: ‘Piume’ is Italian for feathers, and refers to the label’s picture of poultry that live on the farm. This is a wine with the body and taste profile to stand up to challenging flavors, such as the sweet-sour of caponata, the tang of lemony vinaigrettes and marinades, and even the heat of spicy Thai and Chinese dishes.”

Jean T. Barrett, Los Angeles Times 9/03/08


Martilde Malvasia Dedica 2007, Oltrepò Pavese, Lombardia  ORGANIC

Our friends at the cantina explain this wine: “An entirely new Malvasia, completely different from Piume.  Grapes are picked up in baskets and processed with the same technique used for red wines: they are crushed and destemmed and the skins left to ferment with the must and kept submerged.  At the end of fermentation, they are left in the wine during all winter, until the full moon of easter.  After an adequate amount of time, Dedica is bottled. Still showing the aromatic nose of malvasia, this wine has a tannic side and has a pleasant body.  Deep gold color. To be served not too cold, ‘Dedica’ can be enjoyed also in matches not usual for a white wine.  Dishes strongly flavored, salumi, raw fish and shells. On the label, in an appropriate dark setting, our black oriental Medea (nicknamed Dedica, which also means dedication), at full moon.” Our friend Ed Motta (major Brasilian music artist and SERIOUS wine freak) raved about this at a lunch in Rio de Janeiro saying “Wow! It smells like pumpkin pie spices and reminds me of when I lived in NYC…”

How good is this wine? Traveling with two broken arms and under severe airline weight restrictions, this was the ONLY bottle Roberto carried home from VinItaly 2010 out of over 500 tasted. Limited. Worth it.