Calabretta Vines

Sign at my gym this Friday:

This is the week most people give up on their
New Year's resolutions. Will you be one of them?

Well, I certainly don't want to be the slacker who gave up less than four weeks into the New Year, so NO.... and I have plenty of company. Almost everyone I know has started a new fitness regimen, given up major food groups, or committed to some kind of 'challenge'. It's a January kind of thing. New year, new you.

On Monday, one of our favorite reps brought me a different kind of challenge: wines made 'out there on the edge' in vineyards situated between the lava flows of Sicily's Mt Etna. In fact, the Calabretta winery re-defines 'challenge', tending old vines of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio in the brooding presence of one of the world's most active volcanoes. The 1981 eruption reached several of their vineyards outside of Randazzo. Winegrowing, like all agriculture, is a dicey business at best. Frost, hail, drought, and disease are constant companions. But a volcano? That's a whole new level of dedication.

The Calabretta estate is 100% organic, family-owned, and known for aging their wines until they are at peak drinkability, often for many years. The wines are, simply, superb. We selected a blend of the two Nerellos, called Gaio Gaio (Joy Joy), after the nickname of the current owner's grandfather, and a rare pure Capuccio that is also 7 years old. These wines could only have come from Etna's lava-strewn slopes. They taste lively and energetic, with bursts of pure red fruit. They also taste like dedication.

I've encountered this kind of crazy dedication in other winemakers. Serge Hochar, founder of Lebanon's Chateau Musar, on his winery's biggest challenge: 'Well, snipers...' (Because during the Lebanese Civil War, they had to leave vineyards unharvested for fear of the pickers catching a stray bullet.) Or Domaine de Beudon, in the Swiss Valais, where workers travel to and from the prohibitively steep vineyards via creaky wooden aerial tram*. It's entirely possible that I'm just a hopeless romantic, but I think you can taste the love for their vines that causes these vintners to take risks both physical and financial. They love this specific vine, that specific taste, and want to share it. Maybe you'll love it, too?

I guess it's a matter of perspective. But hitting the gym does seem pretty simple by comparison. Calabretta's wines will be arriving this week and next. I urge you to pick up a few. Dedication tastes good.

* Sadly, Domaine de Beudon's Jacques Grange was killed while working in one of his steepest vineyards. His tractor overturned, crushing him. RIP.