For the first time in 2,000 years, wines are being made in Pompeii.
On the afternoon of August 24th in 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, enveloping the coastal Southern Italian towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in lava and ash. Both towns were buried until rediscovered in the eighteenth century, and digging began. Over the years, the excavations at Pompeii have uncovered a town that is mostly intact, and visitors from around the world can now see what a medium-sized town in ancient Rome’s provinces was really like. Monuments, the Roman forum, baths, temples, shops and the amphitheater (where animals and humans were routinely slaughtered on a massive scale) all tell the rustic tale of ancient Pompeii.
But travelers eager to imagine life as it once was can now go one step further: by tasting the kind of wine Pompeiians prized. In 1999, on five tiny vineyard lots within the walls of the old city, the Mastroberardino family began to make wine after a gap of nearly 2,000 years.
The Mastroberardino winemakers spent a year studying varieties before coming up with a combination of 85 percent Piedirosso and 15 percent Sciascinoso that was close to the original ancient Campanian wine, but would yield a top-quality modern product. Research suggests that most wine in the times of the Romans was, while widely drunk since clean water was not always available, strongly sweet. It contained additives such as resin, which were used both to preserve it, and as it began to oxidize, to disguise the taste. Even the prized Falernian wines (also from Campania) which the Romans aged for up to twenty years would have tasted like Sherry.
The first vintage 2001 Villa dei Misteri was released in 2003 and sold to raise money for the preservation of the town. Big, rich and very intense, it sold easily at auction, and set the price for future releases. The per bottle price of the wine is $250.
The Mastroberardino family already knew the regional varieties of Campania well; in fact they were largely responsible for preserving many of them just after the war, when there was real danger that some would become extinct. Vincenzo Mercurio, the winemaker, showed similar care in his approach to the Villa dei Misteri project.
“My main goal with the project was to create a cultural link between our history and modern times, just to show how the ancient viticulture techniques were similar to the modern ones,” he says. “The Villa dei Misteri project shows how skilled and clever ancient Romans were in the vine growing process.”
Two cases of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945 have each broken the same world record for most expensive case of wine ever sold. The first sold for $290,000; the second for $345,000.
· Burgundian winemaker Henri Jayer passed away at his home on September 20 at the age 84. Jayer’s wines are still some of the most sought-after in the world. For the full story, click here.
· Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc., will collaborate with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to make a series of scholarship endowments. In recognition of these endowments, the CIA will rename The Learning Strategies Center to “The Southern Wine & Spirits Learning Strategies Center.”
· Benziger Family Winery has welcomed Rodrigo Soto as its new director of winemaking. Soto has been hired to take the winemaking lead on Benziger’s new certified sustainability program titled Farming for Flavors, an advanced certified sustainable farming program. All Benziger growers are expected to be fully certified under the Farming for Flavors program by 2008.
· According to British firm ISWR/DGR, the United States is expected to have the highest wine consumption in the world by 2008.
· Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery has promoted Kellie Schneider to culinary garden manager. Schneider is responsible for planting, maintaining and harvesting the culinary garden, which features antique specimens and heirloom cultivars, all grown using 100 percent organic farming principles.
· Live like the King…of rock and roll, that is. Win a trip for two to Elvis Presley’s Graceland courtesy of Graceland Cellars. gracelandcellars.com/sweepstakes
· James Trezise of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation has been named the Wine Industry Integrity Award honoree for 2006 by the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. Created in 1998, the award honors individuals who have conducted their careers with integrity while making significant contributions to the wine industry.
· Archipel Wines of Healdsburg, California has appointed Olivier Rousset to vigneron and winemaker.
· Wine industry veteran David Francke has been named General Manager of Folio Fine Wine Partners.
· Miami-based The Other Wines & Spirits (OWS), producer of Chamarre wines, has appointed Hubert Surville as President and CEO. Surville most recently served as the president of the Spirits Division of Boisset America.
—Samara D. Genee
Savor your time on and off the slopes in this energetic Idaho resort town.
It may be the oldest ski resort in America, but in terms of style and sophistication, Sun Valley is—pardon the pun—far from being over the hill. Steve McQueen and Papa Hemingway called the area “home” way back when; now Demi, Ashton, Tom and Rita are keeping the glamour alive. There’s good reason why Sun Valley’s popularity has never waned: the landscape and outdoor activities are, quite simply, paradise. And to fuel all that skiing, skating and snow shoeing, there’s great food and drink. Sure, you can indulge in classic alpine food (fondue, French onion soup) but you can also order up trendy saketinis and fusion fare.
At Ciro (230 Walnut Avenue, Ketchum, tel: 208.727.1800), you can nibble on homemade breadsticks while you peruse the extensive wine list (30 wines by the glass and over 70 by the bottle). The light, airy, modern interior—sleek blonde wood, white slip covered bar chairs—is lively and welcoming. Sit by the roaring fireplace while you decide what type of thin-crusted Neapolitan style pizza to order. Owners Tracey and Mark Caraluzzi—and three of their offspring—make sure the service is friendly and efficient. Oh, and the food is good, too.
Go early for a table at Cristina’s (520 Second Street, 208.726.4499), where a rather genteel lunch crowd gathers daily for exceptional fare and civilized comfort. The menu ranges from the simple (pizza margherita) to more complex (ahi with marinated cucumbers and wasabi sauce). But no matter what you select, Tuscan-born owner and cookbook author Cristina Cook will make sure it’s seasonal and deliciously simple. For dessert, don’t miss the panna cotta with raspberry coulis; it is, quite simply, heaven in a bowl.
If you’re thirsty and hungry, opt for Rickshaw (460 Washington Avenue North, 208.726.8481). You may see ski bunnies sipping Sofia sparkling wine (out of the bright pink can) or gal pals chatting over a pot of “Buccaneer,” an aromatic blend of black tea, chocolate bits, coconut and African rooibos (red tea). The wine list is easy to navigate. It’s divided into four parts: bubbles, whites, reds, and a “hush list,” which includes wines over $24 per bottle. The menu is also logically arranged with dishes organized under appropriate headings: vegetables, seafood, chicken, and meats. Still, how to choose? Most dishes are labeled vegan, spicy, or spicy, spicy; that should help. We took the owner’s advice: the cool sake mojitos ($4.50) are a tasty choice with Andreas’ Pot Stickers or Thai Beef Salad (both $8.50).
Wine, Champagne and beer are sold by the glass, by the bottle, and by the case at the Sun Valley Wine Company (360 Leadville Avenue North above the liquor store, Ketchum, 208.726.2442). This wine bar/wine shop also serves up superb soups, sandwiches, salads and other light fare. Locals recommend the tuna melt; it’s not on the menu, so you’ll have to request it. Panini and quiche du jour (both $10.75) are also tasty, wine-friendly choices.
What about breakfast? Sure, you can grab a granola bar at the ski rental shop, but your mother would want you to have something more substantial before heading outside for the day. Check out Java on Fourth (191 Fourth Street, Ketchum, 208.726.2882) for a hot cuppa and some local color. The place always seems to be crowded, and for good reason: the Bowl of Soul (coffee, cream, chocolate and cinnamon) and homemade pastries are worth the wait. In a hurry? Go next door to the Java annex, where you can grab a coffee, a muffin, and not waste a second of precious vacation time.
For a more relaxed beginning, head over to the Coffee Grinder (in the Leadville Complex, Fourth and Leadville, Ketchum, 208.726.8048). It’s a bit more Zen, and getting a table is actually a possibility. Don’t miss the yummy homemade blackberry oat scones (big enough for two) and the Grinder Cappuccino. This sunny coffee house is terrific for afternoon tea, too.
—Sarah Bell King