Villa Arvedi Amarone

Current price: about $50

Last night we enjoyed an earthy, soulful dinner at Pane e Salute, the Italian osteria in Woodstock, Vermont where Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber hold court. Deirdre started us with a pour of Prosecco by Cima di Conegliano, a fulsome, toasty sparkler, and we raised a belated toast to her December birthday, and mine. First came a salad of baby spinach, with tiny roasted potatoes and crispy fatback from a Vermont pig that had led a happy life. The fatback was miraculous, the burst of sweet, clean fat beautifully countered by the oxalic acid of the spinach and the Prosecco's cleansing finish. Then she produced a Calabrian Cirò, Nettari di Abramo, a light-bodied, salty red made from 100% Gaglioppoa grapes. This wine beautifully complemented our primo of polenta with wild mushrooms, and took us through the secondo of calamari roasted in oil and garlic. As if that weren't enough, Deirdre poured us some of her rosolio, redolent of rose petals, lemon, and ginger, plus the background of brandy, while we enjoyed sour cherry tart and crema gelato with macerated blueberries.

Driving home, sate and happy, we realized we wanted more Italian wine, and soon. We remembered this Amarone in our cellar, and Sunday lay before us.

I structured the meal around it: beef stew with fennel and porcinis. I worked through midday to put the stew on to simmer, and by seven, the stew nearly done, we opened the Amarone and poured it out. At first it struck us as young and somewhat bright, but after a little time in the glass it started to open up, blooming into dark, raisined fruit and spice and a mellow, sweet earthiness. It was quite hot (14.5% VAC), and the nose and palate weren't as full we've found in some Amarones. But it shared many qualities with the rosemary and fennel in the stew, and married beautifully with the tender braised beef. A salad of watercress and pomegranate, and crusty focaccia with rosemary and olive oil rounded out the meal.

Shall we try for three?


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