Italy on top of San Francisco

The venue alone was worth the trip to the Vias Portfolio Tasting. They chose the top, 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis which, despite helping prompt childhood memories of terror in riding in those glass-faced external elevators, was completely worth it. The views are unparalleled and with the afternoon sun setting on a very clear day in San Francisco, it created a great atmosphere to taste some nice Italian wines.

The wines were a smattering from Italian regions including: Piemonte, Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Liguria, Trentino, Toscana, Umbria, Sicilia, and Friuli. We had our favorites in the group, such as the namesake 2006 Rocca di Frassinello which is a blend that is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a very enjoyable, smooth wine that’s strong yet balanced and damned tasty. It has a meatiness to the body with a gentle drift of chocolate flavors, while still being light enough to be had with any number of dishes.

The Feudi de Pisciotto wines were a great presenation. They drifted towards being more dry and fruit forward, but well-constructed, flavorful, and in the case of the Marengo Frapatto, bold in style. They were quite stylish as well in that the labels were designed by artists with a portion of the proceeds going to restoration projects for art and historical structures in Sicily, which is quite cool.

Another wine we enjoyed was the 2008 Malandrino from Cataldi Madonna. It’s oaked, but lightly so and as such, still a light and pleasing wine with mellow body and nose and a gentle berry waft to the flavors and aromas. Most likely, it would be great with foods or just on its own.

On the topic of oak, it’s often the case that a lot of the wine brought to these tastings is what the wineries believe will sell in the export market and to that end, they tend to think that these wines need to be heavy on oak. Thankfully, this trend is slowly changing, but there were still a number of wines at this tasting that slipped on that very dangerous oaken banana peel. One that did not and was really quite good was Luisa.

Luisa is a winery from the Friuli region. If you don’t know about Friuli, whether from the Italian or Slovenian side, you should. We’ve loved just about everything we’ve tasted from there, including the very interesting native varietals such as Friulano or Refosco, as well as other more international ones. The wines poured by the Luisa winery followed in this excellent tradition. Their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc is light, well-balanced, and delightfully refreshing. Probably something more of a warm weather wine, but then again, something to be had with a plate of shellfish as well. What really sparkled was the 2008 Cabernet Franc. This varietal can often come up limp and weak-bodied from some wineries, but theirs was a full body with a defined nose. Still, it was light and a gentle red.

A delightful tasting overall with great attention to detail and breadth of wines being shown.