The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tenuta degli Ultimi: fast cars, ski resorts, Michelin-starred restaurants. Just another day in the life of a top-notch bubbly maker.

Ultimi is more of a worldview or an experience than a place. Of course the place is Conegliano, and Sebastian Ricci and I would have connected to the land a little more, but I arrived in the late afternoon and the land was more shadow than light. His home is a sprawling hillside compound shared with other family members, its festive pink exterior walls appropriate for a residence inhabited by a producer of exuberant, convivial wines. The town looks small and affluent, dotted with architectural detail, well-maintained old stone buildings, active retail areas. My visit coincided with epiphany, holiday decorations cast silver and blue light on roads and meeting places in the town center. 
Sebastiano was the worse for wear. He’d just suffered a serious shoulder injury. Professional advice is total immobility for his right arm, or risk dire long-term consequences. It does not take long with Sebastiano to realize this advice will run aground in reality. He’s always on the move, a man of ceaseless energy and information. Factual, thoughtful, always in gear. I can’t picture Sebastiano slowing down. For example, for visual emphasis or the conditions that shape Prosecco from Conegliano, Sebastiano enlists his brother (a winemaker at the property) to drive us to the ski resort of Cortina, high in the mountains. For drinks. Even in darkness the landscape is dramatic. A full moon lights white clouds that roll over cliff faces massive enough to shape most of the horizon, pitch black geometric blocks. Everyone from the Veneto is in Cortina to ski it seems, and by nightfall they’ve descended to bars serving apertivos and remarkably tasty Prosciutto di San Daniele.
The town has been in a couple Bond films (one Connery, one Craig) and classic alpine motifs are abundant. Wolf-like dogs rest like expensive white rugs under cocktail tables, clusters of type-A vacationers wander around in designer winter sports wear and BMW X-5s.
We leave town for a brisk walk up a mountain road, to see the city sparkling. After our bones are chilled we head out for a more remote place, for Il Capriolo, a restaurant with archetypal old-school alpine aesthetics, and a Michelin star where we dine in the cellar, a private table surrounded by piles of the top-tier bottles jet-setting sky buffs probably drink on a Tuesday. The meal has memorable moments, white truffles show up on an early course, and an elderflower and hay sorbet is unreal, perfect. The sommelier darting in occasionally seems harried, a little dishevelled.
Ultimi is a winery in motion. They use three different oenologists (and three different bottling lines) to tinker with wines for the future. Oenologist Maurizio Belfi is creating some particularly compelling wine for the estate, the torbido Prosecco that he crafted is easily the most serious wine in development. When wines aren’t serious at Ultimi they are exceptionally pure, focused, bright and enjoyable. They utilize old vines grown on an interesting mineral mix of glacial deposits to make wine like this, dry Proseccos with no additions/adulterations. The template for how Prosecco can be a festive wine that contains real quality is being refined by Sebastiano and his people.


Post a Comment

<< Home