But, before I do that, 2015 went out with a bang.
On New Years Eve, I had the opportunity to experience the wines of Velenosi, a landmark in Le Marche, a province two hours east of Rome.
My first visit to the area was about ten years ago, when I was helping Marco Scapanini market wines from Le Marche in the United States. The task was difficult. Trying to sell wines with the pecorino and passerina grapes. Most people think that pecorino is a type of cheese, not a variety of grapes that only grows in the provinces in and around Le Marche.
And passerina is another story.
It was difficult to educate the public.
Our attempt failed, even though we spread the word.
That was ten years ago.
Today, people do know about the pecorino and passerina grape. Fortunately, the grapes have been sought out by a number of wine geeks, who in-turn praised the grapes and passed the message on to consumers. And that is what happened to me--guests (the consumers) brought bottles of pecorino and passerina wines to our annual New Years Day Party, held at our house in Massachusetts. Ironically, other guests brought bottles of red wine from the same winery, Velenosi,
As memory goes, I was invited to a luncheon with Velenosi co-founder, Angela Velenosi, some time ago. She showed her wines, spoke to us with the help of PR Guru Susannah Gold, acting as translator. We sampled eight memorable wines.
I had the opportunity to re-examine the same wines, in a new environment--our home, with friends and a variety of foods for pairing. I became the professor and our guests were the students. I found a photo of Angela Velenosi on my phone and shared it with our friends and now with you.
Le Marche is one of my favorite provinces in Italy. Close to Rome, but, totally undisturbed, this province, with its rolling hills, gentle slopes and vineyards with proximity to the ocean help create an environment with happy, hard working people whose goal is to please the tourist with hospitality, local cuisine and amazing wines.
At the forefront of the wine world is the Velonosi Ercole farm, created in 1984 by Angela and Ercole Velenosi. Today, the vineyard has grown into one of the most respected winemaking houses in Italy. Thanks to hard work, innovation and state-of-the-art technology, this project has blossomed into an award winning winery that has been recognized on twelve occasions by Gambero Rosso,as one Italy's best. When you sample their wines, your palate explodes with expression of the terroir. The grapes tell the story of the province and specifically the plot of land just outside the beautiful town of Ascoli Piceno, home to the best breaded stuffed olives I have ever eaten.
The winery has the advantage of being located in the Rosso Piceno Superiore subzone, an area that has been cited as the best in the province. Winemaker Attillo Pagli has created a name for the Velenosi family and the wines that he produces.
My favorites include:
NV Sparkling Passerina Brut ($23) (remember the indigenous Passerina grape?)
2014 Offida Pecorino Villa Angela DOCG ($18) (a white wine with attitude, tropical, vegetal and green)
2014 Verdicchio Classico Dei Castilli di Jesi DOC ($16) (called the Chablis of Italy)
2013 Lacrima di Morro d'Alba DOC Querciantica ($21) (medium bodied red wine with strawberry overtones)
2012 Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC Il Brecciarolo ($19) (oak aged wine made from 70% Monterpulciano & 30% Sangiovese)
2008 Rosso Piceno Superiore DOC Roggio del Filare ($55) (red, French oak aged for 18 months. Made with over ripe grapes from old vines)
2010 Offida Rosso DOC Ludi ($86) (a Bordeaux blend that is unlike any red wine. Silky, earthy and playful)
Vino di Visciole ($22)( an unusual dessert wine made from 80% Lacrima and 20% sour cherry syrup)
The brand name Velenosi means something special to the wine community. It means that the commitment that Angela and Ercole Velenosi made has paid off. All of the wines from the vineyard (I sampled eight) are wines that stand alone within the large wine producing world that we live in. Velenosi stands for quality, consistency and uniqueness.
Isn't it time to sample their wines?