Drink Here Now: St. Marks Ale House
You’ve read plenty this week about the past weekend’s outstanding 5th Annual New York City Food Network Wine and Food Festival. And while the burger parties and food tasting events were each distinctive and fun, the Festival also perennially offers some more refinement for those of us seeking out a classier, more luxurious style of sampling. It was with great intrigue and fascination that we quickly signed up for one of the Festival’s more informative wine seminars presented by the Fontanafredda winery property in Serralunga d’Alba. Hosted by General Manager Giovanni Minetti, the hour plus long class was entitled “A Vertical Tasting of Barolo Vigna La Rosa” as attendees would sample and explore the flavors of six wine vintages from the past thirty years.
Playing host to the session would be posh Meatpacking District hotel The Standard, with a room of clientele that looked the part to say the least. Guests were encouraged to ask questions and even interact with each other in terms of their vino preferences and their perspective profiles of each tasting glass. The La Rosa vineyard, of which each glass would be poured, is among the most prestigious land areas for growing grapes in Italy and as such, the Barolo Vigna La Rosa is the only vineyard wine produced from this place. With bottles priced up to $145 a pop, we knew we’d be in for a truly unique experience.
The session began with a lengthy discussion about the region, the winery, the property, and the rich history of the Barolo La Rosa Wines, amid a Powerpoint presentation behind the speaker. With annual production of just 20,000 bottles, the space only utilizes roughly 40% of its potential, which yields each bottle as its own commodity. With the informative portion out of the way and based on Minetti’s acknowledgement of the anxious faces leering back at him in the room, the tasting portion of the evening was set to commence. Sitting on the placemats in front of us were all six glasses as we arrived, equipped with small wicker baskets of crackers to cleanse the palate between each sip and swirl. Minetti would encourage each of us to sniff, splash, and taste each glass and become familiar with the distinct feelings that our senses would imply that we were feeling. Beginning with the most recent 2006 vintage, the vertical tasting began.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the learning experience was the detail that went into attributing the tastes of each wine vintage. With the grapes plucked primarily during autumn, Minetti outlined the climates for each of that year’s prior seasons, as well as describing the turnout of the final product. Although we are hardly wine tasting snobs (pinkies up), we were admittedly most impressed by the 1982 La Rosa. Soft and mildly acidic with dashes of hay and coffee (his words), the glass was wonderfully drinkable. While we’ve been known to use a cliche here and there, what they say about fine wine is certainly true, at least in this region, for few things in life taste this good after some three decades. We also went wild over the 1999 vintage which was less acidic, but more full bodied with floral notes lasting through each taste. With our minds now full, our glasses now empty, and our crackers nowhere to be found, it was time to head out to the next event of the Wine and Food Festival- one likely to be as interesting, but certainly not as tasteful.
– Jane Van Arsdale