’05 Castellada at Androna…

Last Friday I obeyed the directive handed down by my wife and reserved a table at a fish restaurant for our anniversary. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 9 years of marriage, it’s the magic of saying “Yes, dear” (or in my case, “Si, amore”)…

I had heard many times about Tavernetta all’Androna in Grado as having the best seafood around. If you’re not aware, fish and seafood is the “luxury” food item in Italy, and especially in Friuli. It’s basically what you go “out” to eat (along with pizza, but that’s another story…). Therefore, if you hear great things about a fish restaurant, it has to be great.

Grado, a famous Hapsburg seaside resort (and the only truly south-facing beach on the Adriatic sea) was deserted, but Androna was full. Allan Tarlao was a great host and got us started right away with antipasti Crudi e Cotti. After some deliberation I choose a bottle of Nicola Bensa’s 2005 Ribolla Gialla from La Castellada (I can’t find their site, but here is some info from their US importer).

First sniff, I got scared…

“Aw, crap, this is an oaky monster,” I thought.

I knew that Castellada’s Ribolla wasn’t going to be the minerally, brisk and (often overly) light and neutral Ribolla that seems to be all the rage… I was expecting some richness, some tang from judicious maceration… But not THIS MUCH wood…

21019043-photo-3Lots of swirling and sniffing later, the engine warmed, the choke opened, and this racecar started to accelerate… the oak burned off, layers of balsamic and stone and mineral and white peach and soy… all backed up with that expected dryness and almost tannic bitterness from time on the skins… It just got better and better with air, seeming to change color (darker in the middle, lighter at the end?) and was absolutely stunning with with the raw scampi… It’s pleasant bitterness playing, contrasting the sweet scampi…

The meal ended up with Androna’s signature “Boreto”, which is an ancient dish from Grado of various fish cooked with vinegar and herbs. The Ribolla  was a great match to this dish, where lesser wines would have faltered.

With just 5 years under it’s belt, I feel this Ribolla falls just into the “Old White Wine” category: How many other ’05 Ribollas would drink this well, and this complex today?


2 thoughts on “’05 Castellada at Androna…

  1. Brilliant. Old red wine is underappreciated in general, old whites are, unfortunately, ignored. In Canada, we don’t see a lot of older Italian whites, however, it is an area worth exploring. my favourite old white experience was while on an intense tasting tour of Napa. We stopped at Grgich Hill where Mike Grgich keeps European styles alive in the new world. While discussing with the tasting crew what they were offering, they reached to the ‘bottom shelf’ and came up with an early vintage of Napa Riesling. The wine was an ’81, the year was ’95, my friends and I were astounded that this wine had ever existed, let alone was being brought out for a taste. It smelled like my grandfather’s kerosene lantern, not very enticing, pretty close to low volitility jet fuel. Once it was in your mouth it was another story! Started a bit like it smelled, but then the flavours evolved and ended, a long time late, with a burst of pure clover honey. I’ve always been willing to try anything and never drank my whites too fresh, but this wa an eye opener. Care for your wines and if they’re made well, they will amaze you for years!Cheers.

  2. Great story, Ken. Old White Wine is now my personal mission and I’m glad that there is a segment out there that "gets it"…I had a similar experience in NY while I worked at the ‘tator. Hanzell came in and did a special tasting for us and I was lucky enough to taste Chardonnays back to the 1960’s… stunning!Stay tuned for more good stuff!

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