WHAT: One of the great things about drinking wine is that when you want to celebrate you don’t have to look far to find a special wine.
I have been learning a lot about Italian wines over the past couple of years because I didn’t know much about them. My wife, Teri, and I even visited a winery in the Veneto region during a vacation last year, where we discovered some wonderful Amarone.
So when my birthday rolled around I wanted to find something special I hadn’t tried before. I found exactly what I was looking for with this single-vineyard Barolo. You wouldn’t drink this every day, or even every week, but when you want a special treat, Damilano Cannubi is spectacular.
It is a gorgeous ruby color in the glass, with powerful aromas of cherry and plum spilling out. The first sip brings an explosion of flavors that bring a smile to your face. It is a dry wine, but not severely so, with a rich, elegant finish.
Everything is in balance. The tannins are there, but they are subdued and mellow. That is a little unusual for a Barolo, which is typically bold and brash. This is the flagship wine of the Damilano winery.
I learned that Cannubi is a special Barolo, grown for centuries on one particular hill.
The sandy soil with high clay and limestone content gives the wine its intense fruit flavors and fragrance.
“In 1753 there was a wine called Cannubi before there was Barolo,” said Paolo Damilano, owner of the winery. “They knew this was the best place to plant Nebbiolo (the grape used to make Barolo).”
“It is a very soft, elegant wine,” said Damilano in a phone interview. “It is completely different than the other Barolo. Cannubi is very sweet, very soft.”
And very special. If you like to cellar your wine and let it improve, Cannubi should continue to develop for decades. I would open this at least an hour before drinking and decant it if possible.
The wine is 100 percent Nebbiolo and is aged in large oak barrels for two years. It spends another year in bottles before it is released.
WINERY: The Damilano family can trace their ownership of the winery in the Piedmont region back to 1890 when Guiseppe Borgogno, great grandfather of the current owners, began to make his own estate wines. Ownership passed along to Giacomo Damilano, the founder’s son-in-law.
He and his children developed a passion for the vineyards, but some decided to try other pursuits. Ownership of the winery moved around the family until Paolo’s father bought the company in 1997.
“The name of the family is important,” said Paolo. “We were afraid that a part of the family might sell to a foreign company. My father was born in Barolo and I was born in Barolo. In our blood there is wine more than water.”
The first vintage exported to the United States was in 1998, when the company also bought part of a distributorship in New York. The wine now is sold throughout the country.
The family owns about five acres of 40- to 45-year-old vines and leases another 20 acres for Cannubi. Since 2008, Damilano has made a Cannubi Special Reserve which is aged seven to eight years before release. Paolo Damilano said he expects the wine to be available in the United States in 2015.
Altogether the winery owns 130 acres of vines. The winery is run by the fourth generation, Paolo, Mario and Guido Damilano.
The winery produces 322,000 bottles a year of predominantly red wines. The cru wines Cannubi, Brunate, Cerequio and Liste are the stars, along with the Barolo Lecinquevigne, a blend of five vineyards from five towns. The winery also produces Nebbiolo d’Alba Marghe, Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba LaBlu, Dolcetto d’Alba, Langhe Arneis, Rosato, Moscato d’Asti, Barolo Chinato and Grappa di Nebbiolo da Barolo.
Paolo has five children and, he says, “We are all working together. It is my dream and the dream of my father to keep this in the family.”
GOES WITH: Cannubi is a wine you could serve with the finest food, such as white truffle-based dishes, or braised or grilled meats. It would go well with most any red meat, game or hard cheeses.
Teri and I drank it with grilled lamb chops that had been rubbed with herbs. I didn’t want the meal to end because the combination of the fresh, fruity flavors of the wine and the tangy lamb chops was superb. We added a baked potato, peas and a salad to create a feast.