The Mountains are Calling: A Taste of Foradori Wines
'Long live those who carry the power of the sun through wine into the hearts of men"
Trentino's Foradori wines are highly sought after: 70% of them are exported to 50 different countries. While demand is high, Foradori is committed to never having more than 20% of their wines in any one market. A shame for us in the US, because these wines are a treasure, in more ways than one: On the back of each wine label is a quote from Foradori winemaker Emilio Zierock’s late father, Rainier, who was instrumental in some of the genetic studies that helped Emilio's mother, the legendary Elisabetta Foradori, refine the best Teroldego clones for their wines. For example "Long live those who carry the power of the sun through wine into the hearts of men," or “Respect the land and its fertility as you would respect yourself,” or "Peace is the greatest work of art.
On my visit, Emilio graciously poured a wide range of their wines. You cannot experience Foradori, and sip those wines, without being struck, awed, overwhelmed by the stately Dolomites that throw their majesty across the estate. They reminded me of Yosemite's grand and mysterious behemoths…and of just how small we are, and yet, how connected, as we crisscross the land beneath with vines that sink their roots deep into rockiness, whether in Italy's Trentino Alto-Adige or in California's Sierra foothills. Those mountains get into those wines and impact everything about the terroir for Foradori - the wind, the sun, the rivers, the rocks.....
Yes, there is a school of thought, backed by solid science, that the flavors/aromas of 'minerality,' 'wet stone', 'crushed pebbles.' etc. don’t creep up from granite or rocks or slate into the vines, then into the grapes and into the glass. And yet, the wines I tasted at Foradori not only had a mineral, steely, stony quality, but a kinetic, mystic quality. Could it be the tinajas (amphorae) they are fermented and aged in? Or is it simply the massive power of suggestion of those looming mountains? Maybe it is, but I will take it, whatever it is.
As famed winemaker Randall Graham said, after he performed his own experiment on minerality (by literally putting rocks in his wine): “By all reckoning, there does not appear to be a mechanism of outright mineral transfer from soil to grape. But I think there are still some occult mechanisms that we don’t understand.” I could not agree more!
But I digress, let's get to the wines themselves! All the wines tasted are IGT Dolomiti. Below are my impressions of my favorites (basically the whole repertoire!).
2021 Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco
Manzoni Bianco is a cross between Riesling and Pinot Blanc, developed to be hardy/disease-resistant. It has been an unpopular grape with growers because of its low vigor, small berries, and thick skins. Elisabetta’s grandfather brought cuttings to Foradori from Veneto to be grown on hillsides in the clay/limestone soils at Foradori’s Fontanasanta vineyard near Trento. Fermented and macerated on its skins in tinajas (Spanish amphorae) and aged for 7 months in large acacia casks, it is an unusual, but charming, wine with intoxicating aromas of lemon peel, peaches and chamomile, and a round palate balanced with crisp acid, a touch of spice, honeyed stone fruit, sprinkles of wet stone, and a long finish.
2015 & 2021 Fontanasanta Nosiola
The only white grape native to Trentino, Nosiola reputedly takes its name from the Italian word for hazelnut, 'nocciola', and was historically used for sweet Vin Santo wines; but, today, it is increasingly vinified as a single varietal dry wine. It is notoriously difficult to ripen and many producers switched from Nosiola to the easier to ripen Chardonnay because they were paid by must weight, so it almost went extinct – which would have been a terrible shame, as it makes lovely nutty, fruity, mineral-tinged wines. Fortunately, today, some producers, like Foradori, are making treasured wines with this grape. We tried a 2015 and 2021, both were delicious. And, like the Manzoni Bianco these wines are fermented and macerated for 8 months on skins in Tinajas and in acacia casks.
Fontanasanta Nosiola 2021 - This young wine was a bright burst of blossom and apples, dusted with crushed herbs, a bit of fennel, a touch of hazelnut skin and had an enduring minerality.
Fontanasanta Nosiola 2015 – This older version is more structured, richer and more complex, showing some dried flowers, a windfall of bruised yellow apples, dried bracken, and ground hazelnuts on the long finish.
2021 Fuoripista Pinot Grigio
Fuoripista means, roughly, off the (ski) trail and the wine is a collaboration between Foradori and Marco Devigli a biodynamic winemaker from the area. It is a very lively version of this grape, spending 8 months on the skin in tinajas, and definitely off the traditional Pinot Grigio trail, drinking like the most positive opposite reaction to the antiseptic palate of many typical northern Italian Pinot Grigios. Its flavors and aromas are well-defined, floral, with peaches, pineapple, soft yellow apples, a touch of lemon zest, ginger spice and a vein of salinity.
Foradori Lezer, which means light, was one of those happy wine-making accidents: born of a hailstorm that blasted the vines and destroyed 40% of the crop, it was made from what was left. Its lighter, fruity touch, low alcohol, early drinking vibe and its distinctive label added up to surprising commercial successful for Foradori. With Lezer, Emilio has created a lighter Teroldego that he often blends with other grapes, with short maceration in a combo of tinajas, cement tanks and large wooden barrels. Originally meant to be a one-off, it is not made every vintage. The unusual label was inspired by Emilio's father, who was, says Emilio, an ‘old school super leftist.’ The label by a German artist is an homage to fighting farmers, with one represented on a tractor playing the violin with a sword. The 2021 that we tasted was 70% Teroldego, 20% Schiava and 10% Lagrein and Merlot and was fresh and bright with cranberries, black raspberry, a dash of white pepper, and minerals – a light, chill, fun wine.
Foradori – 2021
This 100% Teroldego, is “representative of us, our style and vision and shows what Teroldego in an alpine climate can do," says Emilio. "It is full of freshness, and its time in cement brings out the spirit of the place and the alps.” The grapes are grown in alluvial, gravel and sandy soils in Campo Rotoliano. This solidly ruby wine balances crisp acidity with smooth-as-a-pebble tannins, has a nose that is slightly floral, flecked with pomegranate, black raspberry and shows a touch of bacon on the palate. It also has a shake of Syrah’s black pepper, some bramble and those crushed rocks.
Sgarzon 2021 and Morei 2021
I tasted these two single vineyard wines from Campo Rotaliano side by side at Foradori with Emilio and then, the 2018s in a dedicated tasting in Los Angeles with friends. The difference they show in terroir felt even more pronounced when drinking them in isolation from the other wines, with all the beautiful fruit and even more complexity from age.
Sgarzon means shoot and is a single vineyard wine. Vines are grown on Campo Rotaliano's coolest, sandiest sites and spend 8 months on the skins in tinajas. The wine is lean, elegant, tensile, with fresh berries (blackberries and blueberries), sour cherries, strawberries, spices, dried flowers/herbs and mineral traces. The finish is long and electric.
Morei means moro or dark and the grapes from this vineyard reflect this. Grown on soils that are sandy but much more pebbly than the Sgarzon, the wine is fuller, and rounder, with plush tannins, pronounced red (pomegranate) and black berries. It also shows a touch of earthiness, dried herbs and rock dust. Like the Sgarzon, it has a long finish.
With 24 more months in amphora, the fruit - red cherries, pomegranate again, red currants, black raspberries - was still pronounced, the zippy acid balanced with softer tannins and enduring complexity from savory tertiary notes and touch of ash.
Foradori Granato 2020 and Foradori Granato 2003
The wine that changed it all and put Foradori firmly on the map. More robust than the Morei and Sgarzon, the 2020 Granato is full of red and black currants, tart pomegranates, crushed violets. It is earthy with slippery tannins and great acidity. The 2003, which had already broken away from Granato's ‘signature’ use of new French barriques, was aged in used barriques (this ended in 2008), and displayed Granato’s powerful primary red and black fruit and some spice, but also showed, in the best way, its age with truffles and smoke on its very long finish.
We were very lucky to sample these wines with some of Elisabetta’s aged alpine cheeses from Foradori's herd of 6 Tyrolean Grey cows that graze in mountain meadows, and the vineyard at the end of harvest. The cheeses were sublime, dripping (some literally) with unctuous, tart cream and rich, complex umami flavors – I really felt that I could taste the grass and mountain air in them. I preferred the whites with the cheeses, especially the Nosiolo and Manzoni Bianco – their fruitiness complementing the umami and bringing out some of the fruitiness in the cheeses. But the Teroldegos do well with them as well. I brought back a wedge of their ‘Alm’ which is “produced in the months when the cows graze at an altitude of 1700 metres in the meadows.” Nutty, almost mushroomy it was delicious with both the Sgarzon and the Morei and unlike any other cheese I have tasted.
I asked Emilio for some food pairing suggestions for the Teroldego based wines and he suggested traditional Trentino dishes: Risotto with Teroldego and Radicchio, a simple risotto stained purple by the wine; Beet Canederli, rib-sticking dumplings made with leftover bread, beets, and cheese that are soaked in milk; and local venison. I am not sure I can find Trentino venison in LA, but the wines definitely will pair well with a variety of meats and I cannot wait to make both the risotto and the dumplings.
Where can you buy these wines? Many high end wine shops carry them – I found some of them in my two favorite wine shops in LA, The Wine House and Stanley’s Wet Goods, as well as in my favorite Asheville, NC wine shop, Metro Wines. Not the easiest to find, and not the cheapest (but compared to prices of premium wines in California, so reasonable in my opinion @ around $30 - $60).
I highly recommend sussing them out – they will show beautifully on your holiday (and on any other) feast table! In fact, I paired a 2021 Foradori with this year's Thanksgiving dinner, and it was just lovely with my plate of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes!
To read Part One of The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go, click here
For more information on Foradori, click here.
For more information on Foradori's cheeses, click here.