A few weeks ago I experienced one of the most enchanting evenings that I have had in a long time. I was invited to taste a mini vertical of Falesco’s flagship wine, Montiano, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the wine with their 2013 vintage. This tasting was unique in that it took place in an exquisite Manhattan townhouse off of 5th Avenue, at the Kiton Bespoke Clothing store. The Cotarella family, who owns Falesco, and the Paone family, who owns Kiton, are long time friends and are both in the business of creating captivating products that elevate one’s existence.
Stairway to Heaven
As I walked into the stunning Kiton store, a little excited and a little nervous, I was given a warm welcome by the hosts that would show me the “stairway to heaven” in a sense. As I slowly ascended each step of the grand staircase, I could see large columns made of marble, an intricately shaped wrought iron balcony, carved ceilings and luminous chandeliers. As I reached the top there was laughter, smiles and the bewitching Dominga Cotarella, who gently grabbed me by the arm to lead me to her family’s wines. It was a surreal experience that perfectly represented the supernatural spell that one experiences when you drink the Montiano wine from the surprisingly lesser known region of Lazio in Italy.
A Family Affair
Falesco is undoubtedly a family affair, as Riccardo Cotarella and his brother Renzo are both winemakers. Riccardo gained the nickname “the Wizard” for being instrumental as a wine consultant, by not only raising the quality of his own wines but also the overall quality of the region of Lazio as well as other lesser known regions. His brother Renzo and his daughter Dominga have been devoted to focusing their efforts on running Falesco for years, and many of the other family members have become part of the daily operation of the winery as well.
Even though so many family members are involved with helping to create such a gorgeous wine as Montiano, one cannot help but associate the wine with Dominga Cotarella. She is the face, the voice and the spirit of this transcendent libation. From the first moment I heard her speak, at a conference last year, I was taken by her very being. Her energy, self possession, gratitude and pure infectious love for life inspired me to write about her and her family’s wine.
It is true that the experience and the people can alter our own perception of a wine. As someone who already knew the high quality of the wine and the people involved in making it, I was just happy that the evening lived up to the incredible visceral experience of drinking Montiano and being in the presence of Dominga Cotarella.
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
2014 Donnafugata Sedàra Rosso DOC, Sicily, Italy ($14): Mainly Nero d’Avola grape with a few other varieties blended. When I think of Italian wine families where the daughter has taken a significant role in the business, I cannot help but think of José Rallo of Donnafugata, and the intimate lunch I had with her last year. She spoke about her father encouraging her to help with the marketing aspect of the family business, and it is bittersweet to think of our lovely discussion now, since her father, Giacomo Rallo, passed away earlier this year. This Sedàra Rosso offers a lot of warming flavors such as stewed cherries and cardamom with a soft yet robust body. It reminds me of my warm, inviting experience with José and her touching words about her father, her mentor and her biggest supporter.
Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)
Last year, I wrote a piece about the first time I saw Dominga Cotarello, in a seminar, and gave a tasting note for the 2011 Falesco Montiano. I was swept off my feet by her charm, as well as the wine’s stunning quality, and so it was a delightful treat to taste the following vintages with her: 2013, 2010, 2005 and 2001. All of these vintages are available via wine-searcher.com and range in price from $40-45 for a 750ml bottle.
Falesco Montiano IGT, Lazio, Italy, 100% Merlot:
2013: This wine had a splendid light quality even though it certainly delivered the goods when it came to a pretty expression of Merlot, with rich dark berry fruit, coco powder and an intriguing incense note. The tannins were evident yet their silky texture gently danced on the palate.
2010: The 2010 marks the first year where Falesco changed the label for Montiano to the new label that was designed by Dominga. Her sense of style and talent for knowing what connects with people is evident in this new label. This wine is at a stunning stage of its life with a fleshy body, well integrated tannins and intoxicating aromatics of tar and leather.
2005: This vintage seemed to hint at the volcanic soils the most, with a smoky ash quality that found harmony with spicy oak and sweet herb notes. The structure had an overall elegant style with fine tannins that still had an exciting grip on the finish.
2001: The 2001 was the most savory initially, with dried thyme and truffles, but after leaving it in my glass for an hour, it gave dark chocolate and raspberry flavors. The body was full and generous with fine tannins.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
2011 Corte Sant’Alda Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, Italy (2004 is currently on the market for $130): 40% Corvina, 40% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella and 5% Altre. I had the unique experience of visiting the only certified biodynamic winery in Valpolicella during a visit last month. Another dynamic woman, Marinella Camerani, has been revitalizing her family estate, Corte Sant’Alda, with not only an emphasis on biodynamics but also rediscovering abandoned techniques. She may look like your grandmother but don’t be fooled, she is one of the hottest producers around in Valpolicella. I have never had an Amarone, or any wine for that matter, like it, with a combination of mint, wild cherry and mangosteen. It was rich yet fresh and bright…I have never had an Amarone that had such an overall bright quality to it. This is a must for any Amarone lover who wants to have their idea of Amarone challenged.