I recently had the opportunity to attend a luncheon with the LA Wine Writers featuring the wines of the Montalbera Winery, from the Morando family. Montalbera, a family-owned winery, is located in the Monferrato DOCG in the southern part of Piemonte, Italy (immediately south of Barolo/Alba). The area received DOCG status only in 2010. Montalbera produces 60% of the Ruche grape in this region. Ruche came to Piemonte, and probably arrived in the medieval times from France. Fun fact: its genetics have 70% in common with Pinot Noir. This is a very small production grape and only recently has this wine made its way out of the region and started being exported.
Montalbera has a full portfolio of wines from sparkling, white, red, and dessert wines. We tried their sparkling and a lineup of reds.
Cuvee Blanche Extra Dry Sparkling
100% Barbera in the Charmant (tank) method. A crisp and easy sparkling wine with an excellent value at a $19 retail.
Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG La Tradizione 2015
This is Montalbera’s their flagship wine and is a Tre Bicchieri winner (see my post about Tre Bicchieri HERE). Serve this wine a bit chilled to retain its aromatics of red fruit (cherry, raspberry), dried violets, and a smoky, black pepper note. A perfect, easy-drinking summer red. $21 retail.
Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG Laccento 2015
The grapes are picked slightly overripe and partially air dried directly in the vineyard before harvest. This wine is smooth and silky; I’d call it my “Italian house red”; this wine does not need food and can stand on its own, $29 retail.
Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOCG Limpronta 2013
This wine is more sophisticated and complex than the others. You can smell Italy in this glass (a bit dusty, but in a good way) and this wine worked incredibly well with the pizza (see menu below). $32 retail.
Barbera d’Asti DOCG Lequilibrio 2014
Juicy red fruit, sweet baking spices, vanilla, and tobacco/cedar notes. Good acid (the mark for a food-friendly wine!). The grapes are harvested slightly overripe to soften the high natural acidity of this grape. $28 retail
Barbera d’Asti DOCG Nuda 2013
“Nuda” means naked and is called so because this wine is unfiltered (also unstabilized and no stainless steel time before bottling). I’d describe it as a Rhone-like red with savory notes of barnyard/animal. This wine really brightened up with the lamb chops (see menu below). $35 retail.
As always, the special menu prepared by Chef David Vilchez was impeccable. Brian tells us that Chef Vilchez creates new dishes specifically for this luncheon and sometimes tries out possible new menu items on us!
Cream Leek Pizza, Brussels Sprout Leaves, Corn, Dried Plum Vinaigrette
Roasted Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Salami, Burrata, Olive Oil
Grilled N.Z. Lamb Chop, Grilled Fennel, and Summer Squash Risotto
Seasonal Sorbet, Fresh Fruit