When you’re a guest of the Kesslers, you’re assured of good hospitality, food, and wine, and our most recent visit was no exception. Rather, it was exceptional, even by their standards.
“Just pizza,” said BettyLu. But some great pizza, and matched with two great bottles of wine.
Our appetites were whetted by the 2013 Cuvée Faustine Rosé from Domaine Comte Abbatucci, a delightful, crisp, cranberry-lively mouthful of tartness and flavor base on the Sciacciarellu grape variety of Corsica, from the area of Ajaccio in the southern part of the island.
The Faustine (named after Abbatucci’s daughter, who one hopes is as lovely as her wine) was pure serendipity because just the previous day we had descended on the Kermit Lynch shop in Berkeley, to be immediately informed that this was the ‘shoulder season’ for great dry rosés and that only one or two were left in stock. Kermit had sold almost every bottle of their rosé offerings and were waiting anxiously for the new allotments to arrive.
So, with hopes dashed (no Domaine Maestracci E Prove!) and no good substitutions available, we resigned ourselves to other wines. Then, of course, Lou serves up the delicious Faustine.
We were both stunned, however, with the next wine, a magical red from the slopes of Mt. Etna, 2007 Passopisciaro (the fisherman’s path) by Andrea Franchetti. The wine was absolutely captivating, with a bright bouquet of fragrant rose petals, raspberries, and strawberries. With such enticing aromas, the entry at first seemed like a middleweight, then rapidly expanded in the middle-palate to a full, robust and richly textured, chewy, almost meaty, savory delight.
The Passopisciaro was hugely enjoyable, and quite unlike anything I had experienced before. With its initial charming allure shifting to the umami explosion of flavor in the mouth, it was sort of like an aged Barolo---but not quite. No, I thought, it’s more like a regal Cote de Nuits Burgundy…but not quite.
Afterwards, while trying to comprehend this fascinating and utterly drinkable Sicilian red, casting about for analogies and metaphors, and looking for descriptive parallels, I came across Antonio Galloni’s near-ecstatic review. With a score of 94 points, he described the 2010 Passopisciaro as
“…deceptively mid-weight, but behind the light color and seeming fleeting structure lies a deeply expressive core of perfumed red berries, crushed rocks, flowers and mint. A burst of deep salinity frames the bracing finish. Quite simply, this is a stunning wine. Think of the Passopisciaro as a cross of Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin and Gattinara….” [highlighting mine]
Okay, somehow he missed the rose petals, and I still think Barolo, but Gattinara is not bad at all. Otherwise he totally nailed it. And, hey, maybe the rose petals came out more in the 2007 than the 2010. I’m prepared to be generous.
The grape: Nerello Mascalese.
I’ve had, and enjoyed, Nerello Mascalese before. The wines were good, but not as utterly compelling as the Passopisciaro. Now I am convinced that Nerello Mascalese is capable of greatness.
The Passopisciaro is assembled from a patchwork of small vineyard plots, many of them composed of 80—100 year old Nerello Mascalese vines. Most plots are not large enough to bottle separately, so they are gathered and blended by Franchetti. Priced at a mere $35, this is an outstanding value and well worth buying by the case lot for long term unabated enjoyment.
Cuvée Faustine Rosé from Corsican Sciaccarellu and Passopisciaro Nerello Mascalese from the high slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily
…ah, well, just another day with the Kesslers.