While working in the wine business I get the chance to meet a lot of interesting people- it’s the best part of the job.

A couple of my favorite locals, Tristen Beamon and Kyle Meyer of BestWinesOnline, invited me to join them for dinner the other night.  These guys helped shape my path in the wine business- they are the kind of people who manage to teach you something every time you stop in to see them.

I was so excited to see the boys from BestWinesOnline… and then the panic set in.

What wine do you bring to dinner with a such momentous wine geeks?

This is the kind of situation where Italian wines provide such wonderfully esoteric solutions.  Italy has thousands of indigenous grape varietals, each unique and authentic in their own ways.  It’s almost overwhelming.

When I perused my wine cellar closet, I found an interesting bottle from Val d’Aosta I had neglected for awhile.  I am fascinated by the region of Val d’Aosta.  Anchored by Mount Blanc and covered in ice and snow, the steeply terraced rocky, unbearably high vineyards of this mountain region are extreme.  Add to this Val d’Aosta’s cornucopia of cryptic and unknown grapes such as Prie BlancCornalin, and  Petite Arvine, and you find yourself in a wine geek’s version of Disneyland.

One grape I had never heard of before, and had been itching to taste, was Vuillermin (I believe, pronounced “Vwee-yair-meen”).  This varietal was believed to be extinct- Vuillermin was referenced in several obscure 19th century botanical texts, but had never been found.  Thankfully it was discovered in the 1980’s and was subsequently cultivated back into production.

The wine was delicious- bright and balanced with a silky, velvety mouthfeel.  There was a very floral kind of violet quality to the aromatics, which were also charged with wet rocks and minerality.  Like a lot of reds from high, sunny, cold-weather terroir, the wine was deep red; showing signs of a long, slow ripening on the vine.  In a few ways it reminded me of Piemonte’s Nebbiolo, perhaps from northern Piemonte where the temperatures drop and the exposure is high.

The moral of this story: when in doubt, Italy will inspire you with something fun and unfamiliar.

It doesn’t have to be expensive- it just has to be charming and curious.  And preferably Italian.