To all Best Winers,
More fun from the balmy, smokin’ hot slopes of Mount Etna!
Sicily, literally, is on fire right now with this current eruption of wines from the terraced vineyards of Etna. Sales of our previous offering from Passopisciaro were brisk to say the least and everybody that bought the wines seemed to react the same way, with a “what the heck is this stuff?” look on their face and an empty bottle in front of them.
Love it. That’s what we do. And now we’re going to do it again with the explosively delicious wines of Don Michele, an estate that no longer exists, just as their first shipments are coming to the United States.
Confused? So were we.
Here’s the deal. We first bumped into this winery when we were at the Vinitaly wine show in Verona back in 2009. We were already fans of the wines from Etna and we were looking to taste wines from a few new faces that weren’t being imported at the time to get a stronger feel for both Etna and the Nerello Mascalese grape.
We stopped at the Don Michele booth, tasted the wines, and had a remarkable experience as they were very nice people and the wines were great. Typical Etna formula applied, including very old vines, Burgundian-inspired winemaking and teeny-tiny production. It was one of our best visits during the trip, and we had been keeping our eyes open for them ever since, hoping they would find an importer someday.
That day finally came, but under an unfortunate set of circumstances. Don Michele’s proprietor recently passed away, leaving a bit of a cloud over the distribution of his wines. Prior to his passing, he had made a deal with Marc DeGrazia, owner of Tenuta delle Terre Nere (one of Etna’s new guard, pioneering estates), to become his new winemaker. However, after the patriarch’s passing, Marc purchased the estate from the family instead, but with the finest of intentions.
The vineyard that the family farms is called Moganazzi, and is considered to be one of the finer sites on the north slopes of Etna. The vines are 60+ years old and the location is ideal, it was simply too good a vineyard for Marc to pass up.
For now, Marc is going to use the grapes from this vineyard for his Vigne di Eli project, from which a percentage of the proceeds go directly to the pediatrics department of the main hospital in Florence. A truer, finer use for this terroir you will not find.
In the meantime there were two vintages of the awesome Don Michele in the pipeline, the 2008 and 2009. Lucky for us both of them were picked up by DeGrazia’s longtime agent in California! We tasted both, both were awesome, but we chose the 2009 for its more seamless integration of fruit.
The wine straddles old world and new, delivering that sweet core of red cherry, flowers, tar and savory spices, that beautiful mash-up of Zin/Pinot and Nebbiolo that is the Nerello Mascalese grape. We are consistently baffled by the lighter-handed nature of the wines yet the quiet power and intensity of flavor they exude.
At $21.88 per bottle the 2009 Don Michele Etnba Rosso is one of the best Italian wine values we have in our warehouse, and a unique ‘one-off’ opportunity to taste one of the region’s finest sites crafted by the people who knew it best…
Kyle Meyer and Tristen Beamon, Proprietors, BestWinesOnline.com