Happy Birthday Ben

February 25, 2017

This past weekend was crammed with wine opportunities at the Lieberman household. Ben Johnson, now Director of Performing Arts for the City of Los Angeles (he was just a fresh-off-the-farm Education coordinator at the University of Michigan when I met him X decades ago), decided that a day of cooking seafood and drinking wine together at Chez Lieberman would be a fine culminating event to the numerous festivities commemorating his 50th(!!!!) birthday. OK, fine –

There was a lot of seafood and a lot of wine to be sure. Ben focused on creating a Cioppino that had a multitude of creatures in it. And given the Sicilian direction he took in this, it was an easy choice to pull one of my few remaining bottles of the 2001 Etna Rosso by Calabretta.

A Sicilian wine through and through, the origin of this bottle is more specifically in the steep vineyards of Mt. Etna, where the vineyards exist under the shadow of one of the most  imposing active volcanos of the world. Perhaps it’s the implied threat of a fiery death that gives the wines of Etna their focused structure on which beautifully ripe juice from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio vines combines elegantly in a wine, reminiscent of, but rarely achieved,outside of the rarified vineyards of Burgundy. Think, light on its feet, but juicy and satisfying. I last spoke of another Etna wine, 2014 Terre Nere Etna Rosso, more than a year ago. The Calabretta possesses all of the charming attributes of the Terre Nere, but in a more rustic package; a bit darker in color, some smoke to go along with the cherry fruit, and some forest floor aromatics as one would expect in an older wine like this

Note that the stubborn traditionalists of Calabretta refuse to release the wine until they think its ready to drink, so the miffed government officials have determined that in future releases, since this is in conflict with official guidelines, Calabretta can no longer label the wine as “Etna Rosso”, but must use the more generic term “Sicilia”. The current release in the market place is the 2006. Look for it under the name Calabretta Siciliana. Well worth the search, especially if Ben is coming over to make Cioppino.

2006 Calabretta “Siciliana” about $25 in fine wine shops