Umbria Uncorked: Arnaldo Caprai Winery, Montefalco

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. - T.S. Elliot

My trip to Campania was both enlightening and transformative; helping to further expand and mold my perception of the vast world of wine. It's wine region rarely explored by many mainstream tourists, but nonetheless, a wine region which you owe it to yourself discover. Whether that discovery comes via an actual on the ground, in the vineyards trip like the one I took, or just uncorking a bottle that's not from California for once. 

The quote from T.S. Elliot perfectly sums up for me, my feelings and impressions about my latest epicurean adventure in Italy. It was a wonderful trip, one from which I had just returned late last night. A good deal of it was spent in Umbria and Campania.

I had the good fortune to hang out with some of the very best food and wine writers [bloggers] in the U.S.; together we sampled through some of the best wines being produced in the world. I don't say that lightly either, as I've always maintained with my iconic catchphrase, "you can pay more, but you seldom get more." The following sentiment also bears repeating; the wines of Campania appear as a mere question mark in the minds of far too many vino-sapiens, who just don't know enough about the bounty of varietals which abide there. With that said, hopefully, this review will bring a renewed focus on one of the unsung heroes of the Italian wine scene.

Frankly, I was guilty of not fully knowing about the many beautiful wines from this region as well, but if this experience has taught me one thing about the wine business and life, it is to never stop exploring. On the topic of exploration and harkening back to the talk I delivered at the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference and Workshop, don't just come to a new land as a tourist, taking snapshots, and visiting the Instagram destinations in some vain attempt to become insta-famous. Instead become a traveler, that's right drill deep down into the bedrock of the place you visit, soak it in and never let that feeling go, grow from it, I'm pretty sure I did. I am thrilled I got the invitation to explore this fantastic part of southern Italy, with the great folks who traveled with me in the IWINETC press pool.

It was on Day two of the Wine Media Fam Trip that our group spent the afternoon with Arnaldo Caprai Winery. A winery that produces wines with a soul, capable of evoking memories of a romp through the Umbrian countryside. Wow, these folks really get it, their [enoteca] tasting room open 7 days a week, making it a great place to get acquainted with their wines. It's not only warm and inviting, but is social media savvy. The wines here, are in a word, wow! I was really impressed and quite taken with each wine we tasted.

If you're keeping score and I know most of you do; then you will be delighted to know that many of the "scores" on the wines they produce average well above the 90 point plateau from varied wine reporting sources. They have become a champion of the Sagrantino grape in Montefalco, and punctuating that success is their Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni Caprai, bottled poetry. A big thanks to our host for the afternoon, Mr. Marco Caprai whose hospitality and generosity exceeded all my expectations.

2011 Grecante Grechetto de Colli Martani, DOC: A 100% Grechetto, the quintessential white grape of the Umbria. A wine that sells for about $8 euros. The nose is brimming with fruit, brilliant apricots, a whiff of almonds, with some floral notes stirred into the mix. The color is hued in gold, leaning toward straw. After the first slurp, bam, tropical fruit, apricots, and flowers, floating on a canvas of rich, round flavors, but with a nice slap of acidity. My score an easy 90 points and makes a great food wine that easily will pair with appetizers.

The 2009 Montefalco Rosso, DOC: is a blend of Sangiovese 70%, Sagrantino 15%, and Merlot 15% was the next wine our group sampled. In the glass, a ruby colored core, on the nose it had a lovely bouquet, intense plum, dark cherry, and spices; espresso and a pinch of cloves, playing nicely with the supple tannins. After the first splash-down, mature soft tannins, playing happily with the mouth-watering acidity, dark, red fruit finish. An easy score of 88 points, a great everyday wine selling for 11 euros and available here in the states.

The 2007 Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano DOCG: In the glass a very dark, near opaque ruby color. A wine produced from 100% Sagrantino grapes, it’s a wine built like an artfully balanced hammer. I found it sturdy, weighty, dense in feel and yet capable of both power and finesse. Each swirl and slurp; revealing ripe wild berries, smoke, underbrush, a light dusting of spice and a touch of Cuban cigar tobacco, meld, which define this excellent example of an Umbrian wine, I scored this wine 91 points

The 2007 Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni [or anniversary] DOCG: a wine produced from 100% Sagrantino grapes. Another rich, multifaceted wine that will delight any vino-sapiens, if you're a fan of explosive, premium Napa Cabernets, then one slurp of this wine will have you hooked on Sagrantino, and you may never look back. In the glass again you have a nearly opaque intensely colored ruby colored core. The nose shoots up from the glass like a blast of potpourri, filled with dark cherry, ripe blackberry, eucalyptus, underbrush, smoke, and leather. I scored this wine 93 points and give it the coveted buy now and drink often recommendation.

The first slurp has gives the taster one of the backward head-snaps, wow. A boatload of finesse, power and concentration, rich spices, dark ripe blackberries and cherries, wrapped in the rich Umbrian earth. This wine will pair effortlessly with just about anything you could throw at from off the grill. Drinking this wine, made me think in nodding approval, yeah this how you do it. 

We also had the opportunity to take part in a cooking class demo, where I learned how to make traditional local pasta from simple everyday ingredients and, we also learned to create a beautiful, traditional Umbrian style ragu, that was in a word fabulous and paired so well with the Rosso. I attacked the dish like a man with his last meal, I can still taste the sauce and remember its vivid textures and nothing like I've ever made for myself, which is not that's saying much.

Well, this article is just a small slice of the many adventures I had in Italy, just nine days ago, hopefully, you'll stick around to read a few more. I will be posting all the pictures on the Cuvee Corner Flicker page, so take a look in the next few days. Until next time cheers everyone, slurp long and prosper!


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