Sat 10 Nov 2007
For months I had been eying a bottle of Fattoria le Fonti’s Vito Arturo 1997 (about $45) at Buster’s, my neighborhood wine and liquor store. Finally, when we were scheduled to have dinner last night with a friend at one of our favorite restaurants, I thought, “Now’s the time.” The fact that a 10-year-old bottle wine was still lying on the shelf seemed neither here nor there, though I had to wonder why nobody looking for a special wine had been encouraged to buy it; anyway, the wine has a great reputation — I had tried the fabulous 2001 in New York last year — and the store takes care of their products, so I wasn’t particularly worried. The wine is 100 percent sangiovese, made from a single vineyard from the estate in Tuscany. The wine ages 16 months in barriques, that is, small French oak barrels.
The restaurant is Bari, which specializes in the cuisine of southeast Italy, with emphasis on seafood, though the menu includes simple pasta dishes and a couple of red meat entrees, polpette (veal meatballs) and a beef filet, one of each of which LL and I ordered. After appetizers and a bottle of white wine — the engaging Inama Vin Soave 2006 — we asked the waiter to open the Arturo ’97.
The first whiff brought a burst of mint, cedar and eucalyptus, almost as if we were smelling an old-style Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. Then the bouquet revealed touches of toasted hazelnuts, dried lavender and violets and macerated black currants and cherries. While we ate our entrees, the wine continued to expand and develop, so by the time we were onto the cheese course, it really started showing firmness and character.
For cheeses, we chose a Gorgonzola, a Piave Vecchio and an aged Pecorino. All the cheeses were good, but the Pecorino was memorable, rich and dry, a little nutty, a little waxy, almost caramel-like but notably clean and earthy. By now the Vito Arturo ’97 was in its element, broad and generous, taut with acid yet soft in texture, filled with notes of spiced plums and spiced currant jelly with hints of orange rind and black Pekoe tea. It was fabulous with the Pecorino, a truly balanced marriage of wine and cheese and all their elements.
The store where I got the Vito Arturo ’97 has a magnum of the wine. I’d better go buy it Monday before someone else gets it.