If you’ve ever dreamed of moving to Italy and opening your own agriturismo or small-town trattoria, you’ve probably imagined the wine you would serve at lunch alongside your saucy tagliatelle ai funghi or tender prosciutto crudo. You want something juicy, versatile, and joyous: a red with some good acidity to complement your simple home cooking and just enough tannic spine to stand up to the meat-forward dishes on your table. It needs to be light and vibrant enough to leave you with postprandial energy. You just might not have known precisely which bottle from which region it would be. Well, here it is: a Piemontese red made mostly from Barbera and its supporting cast of Bonarda, Dolcetto, and Freisa, grown in sand and limestone soils around the picturesque hillside town of Cisterna d’Asti. In contrast to the exalted Baroli made to the south, Tenuta La Pergola specializes in the humbler side of Piedmont’s wine culture, which can be every bit as satisfying. The azienda’s Monferrato Rosso is the quintessential house wine, whether it’s my apartment in the Bay Area or your future casa in Italia. It is the red to always have on hand.
The story of Monferrato Rosso began in a simple trattoria. Dixon and Kermit were on their way to Alba when they stopped for lunch. They were served a pitcher of Arneis that pleasantly surprised them and got the address of the producer. When they visited, they tasted several cuvées of Monferrato Rosso. It has quickly become a staff favorite, not only for its smooth earthiness and genuine regional typicity, but also for its versatility in pairing with a wide variety of dishes. We have high hopes for this everyday cuvée, because it has the finesse of a much grander D.O.C. Kermit says that it reminds him of the Piedmontese wines of old. Simple label, low price, totally satisfying!
Kermit’s love affair with the great reds of Piemonte dates back to the early days of his career: the very first container he imported from Italy, in fact, featured legendary 1971 and 1974 Barolos from Vietti and Aldo Conterno. Regular visits since then have seen our portfolio grow to now twelve Piemontesi estates, with a strong focus on the rolling hills of the Langhe.
Nebbiolo rules these majestic, vine-covered marl slopes, giving Italy’s most mystifyingly complex, nuanced, and age-worthy reds. When crafted via traditional production methods—long macerations and extensive aging in enormous oak botti—the powerful, yet incredibly refined Barolos and Barbarescos provide haunting aromatics of tar, raspberry, incense, tea, roses, and more. At times austere in their youth but well worth the wait, they pair beautifully with the hearty local cuisine starring veal in many forms, braised beef, pastas like tajarin and agnolotti, and of course, Alba’s famous white truffles.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Piemonte’s climate is continental, with baking hot summers and cold winters. Nebbiolo is only part of the story here: juicy, fruity Barberas and Dolcettos represent the bread and butter throughout the region, and other native grapes like Freisa, Croatina, and the white Arneis are also noteworthy. Value abounds in the Monferrato, while Alto Piemonte also has its share of thrills to provide.
Every corner of Piemonte is rich with tradition, especially when wine is concerned. It’s no wonder we have been singing the region’s praises for over forty years.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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