Posted by: tomciocco | April 14, 2013


The great, and indeed most of the “lesser” wine regions in the Old World all have one thing in common: tradition. And in places like Georgia, Greece, and Italy, literally thousands of years of it. Practically this means evocatively named, thousand year-old vineyard sites, direct claims to the actual “invention” of wine styles that have spread around the globe (like Port), and constellations of grapes born and bred in, and completely peculiar to their respective regions (like Sagrantino is to Montefalco). And though limitations undoubtedly unleash creativity, all of the Frankenstein blends made lately in the Old World from grapes planted in the wrong places mostly because their names have traction in the market, attest to the limitations of limitations, as well as everyone’s desire to try something new from time to time.

And for so many people from the Old World  – from winemakers to tanners to seamstresses – places like California and Argentina and Chile afforded a great opportunity to leave old perceptions and “limitations” back on the other side of the pond. Some winemakers took the opportunity to make something completely new in a place without preconceptions and traditions. Sadly, most didn’t, ironically preferring instead to mimic the great wines from the places from which they had emigrated…

Well here’s a wine that in a way, splits the difference. Clearly inspired by the “Calitalia” movement in California which seeks to promote the cultivation of a wide array of Italian wine grape varieties in California, this wine (cleverly named “Caliberico) takes up the same concept for Spanish varietals. This wine is a white made from a trio of grapes from western Iberia – Verdelho from Portugal’s Madeira Islands, Galicia’s signature white grape Albarino, and Torrontes, which though it earned its (somewhat limited) fame in Argentina, is also believed to originate in Galicia. But though these three varietals speak roughly the same language, there is no wine that has ever been made anywhere on Europe’s western edge that would have included them together under one cork. Too bad there aren’t more producers in the New World availing themselves of the freedom to make blends like this, or ones based solely on matching grape to terroir regardless of origin, or even completely fantastical blends that might include 3 or more varieties from as many different regions…Why not embrace the opportunities?

In creating a menu to match with this wine, I took my own advice of to embrace opportunity by whipping up a Old World-meets-New World tapas of a hash of fresh baby artichokes, shallots, cheese, and mayonnaise spread on bread and broiled, and then a composed plate of smoked salmon, a potato torta with marjoram, avocado slices, and a scallion and garlic yogurt sauce for dipping.












Urbanite Cellars Lodi “Caliberico” White 2011

Greenish, bright pale golden color. Forward, piercing nose of gooseberry, white peaches, apple blossom, cut grass, flint, pine oil, marzipan, and honey. The entry into the mouth is clean, with a crisp, zippy acidity that leads into a quite plump mid-palate and flavors of subtle grapefruit and lime, papaya, walnut, dried ginger, sea shells, roasted corn, and tonic water. Dry and pleasantly bitterish yellow cherry finish.


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