The Excellent Wines and Super Values of Bottega Vinaia and the Cavit Collection

This past week i-WineReview Editor Don Winkler and Publisher Mike Potashnik lunched at Eric Ripert’s West End Bistro with Andrea Faustini, winemaker for Bottega Vinaia and the Cavit Collection in Trentino, Italy and Massimiliano Giacomini, Export Manager. The luncheon was arranged by Cavit importer, Palm Bay International.

Cavit is one of northeast Italy’s largest producers of wine. It includes 11 wineries that joined forces in 1957 to collectively improve winemaking and marketing. Cavit has had a long relationship with one of Italy’s most important center’s of viticultural research, the Instituto Agrario provinciale at San Michele all’Adige. Institute students frequently intern at Cavit’s wineries, and Andrea Faustini is himself a graduate of the Institute. The estate-bottled Bottega Vinaia wines are sourced from a select group of family-farmed vineyards in the Trentino region.

Our luncheon got off to a magnificent start with the elegant sparkling wine Altemasi Riserva Graal 2000 ($36). Given Andrea Faustini’s winemaking experience at what may be Italy’s most famous sparkling wine maker, Bellavista, we had high hopes for this wine, and we weren’t disappointed. Produced by the metodo classico Italy’s version of the methode champenoise, the Graal 2000 is a rich and tasty sparkler made of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Nero. Spending 48 months sur lies before disgorgement, it offers a rich creamy palate of ripe fruit flavors, hazelnuts and nuances of toast. It reveals moderately high acidity and a rich elegance on the finish. It was also terrific with some Kumamoto oysters on the half shell some of us had for starters.

Our next two wines consisted of the Bottega Vinaia 2007 Pinot Grigio ($18) and the 2007 Estate Bottled Pinot Noir ($20). Both wines were beautifully made. The starbright Pinot Grigio showed floral aromas an minerality on the nose and a lovely, round texture in the mouth that is not often found in Pinot Grigio. The Pinot Noir was one of our favorites of the tasting; it’s produced from Dijon clones and has fresh dark cherry and raspberry aromas that carry through to the medium weight palate. This easy drinking wine has good acidity, excellent balance, and is a great value. The Pinot Noir was divine with the restaurant’s tasty roast salmon.

The bigger red wines of the tasting consisted of two relatively unknown 100% indigenous varietals–the 2004 Teroldego Rotaliano ($20) and the 2005 Lagrein, ($25)—and a Bordeaux blend. Both the Rotaliano and Lagrein showed pleasant and tasty plum and black fruit flavors and were silky smooth on the palate. The Lagrein, which spends 12 months in old barriques, was especially noteworthy for its depth of flavor. Our favorite of the big reds, however, was the 2004 Quattro Vicariati ($25), a juicy blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot that displayed perfumed black cherry, cassis fruit and smoke on the nose and a silky smooth and richly textured palate black fruit with licorice notes. This is a beautifully balanced wine that spends 18 months in medium toast French oak barriques and may be the best value of the portfolio.

The final wine of the afternoon was a superb 1997 Arele Vino Santo ($90) made of 100% Nosiola, Trentino’s only indigenous white grape variety. Only 50 hectares of this varietal remain in the Trentino area. This lovely Vin Santo is amber in color, with aromas and flavors of dried apricot and is a perfect accompaniment for rich desserts and creamy cheeses. The Nosiola grapes are traditionally dried on mats until Holy Week in the spring, at which time they are made into wine. Hence the name Vino Santo, or the Holy Wine of Trentino.

These are all versitile food wines and authentic expressions of the Trentino region.

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