I climbed the stairs to the tasting area at the Wine House yesterday morning for my appointment with the legendary Lance Montalto(Italian Wine Yoda), and had to do a double-take. There in front of me was this priceless lineup of Bruno Rocca wines, sitting casually on the bar. And in front of the bar were standing… Francesco and Luisa Rocca!
Francesco and Luisa Rocca, flanking their importer Aaron Ainsworth.
For normal people maybe this doesn’t seem like an especially crazy occurrence. However, for an Italian Wine Geek, this is kind of like running into Bob Dylan at your corner coffee shop… or bumping elbows with Prince Charles at the checkout line while grabbing your groceries. Seriously. Italian Wine-making Royalty. Even after 10 years selling Italian wine, I admit I was more than a little starstruck!
It was particularly emotional to taste the wines with Francesco guiding me through. The 2008 Rabaja was truly stunning, and the 2010s across the board are RIDICULOUS. These wines are all about finesse. Fragrant and nuanced- they smell like the stunning hillsides of Piemonte look. A feast for the senses. Elegant tannins, super high-toned minerality and punctuated acidity. They need time in the bottle to develop- they need time in your glass to open like the perfect rosebuds they are. God, I love Nebbiolo.
Francesco and Luisa told me the story of the feather on the label (la piuma), which I have always loved to see on the shelves of various stores and wine shops. He said his father wanted a label that stood out form the rest- most of them being dominated by sketches of their estates, or of the rolling hillside vineyard landscapes common in Piemonte. Bruno Roccaalso wanted a symbol for the enduring life of the wine in the bottle. A picture that could capture the endless preservation of that particular year in each bottle.
What could be more permanent than the power of the written word? The feather- symbol for flight, and for the ancient Italian scribes- was the perfect emblem.
Immortal Dante in Paradiso (Fresco by Philipp Viet)
This in no small way reminds me of the allusion towards feathers and writers and immortality found in Dante’sown name. Alighieri. Ali-ghieri. “Ali“, meaning “wings” in Italian, not inconsequentially made of feathers- for me always represented both the author’s ability to fly. To transport himself away from the mundane and the prosaic, towards eternity through his pen- also made from a single feather.
If humanity’s stretch towards eternity is possible with words, then why not with wine?