Monday, June 18, 2018

Meeting Three Generations at Azienda Agricola Dino Illuminati

This winery was founded as Fattoria Nicò or Nico's Farm in 1890 by Nicola Illuminati. It would grow substantially by the 1970s under the direction of his grandson, Dino, with the purchase of more vineyard land. Today, the family at Azienda Agricola Dino Illuminati oversees more than 300 acres between the Adriatic Sea and the Gran Sasso mountain.

Dino's son Stefano and his grandson Nicola met our group out in the vineyard where we immediately saw the signs of a sustainably maintained vineyard with every other row alternating between grassy cover crops and vineyard dirt. Baby grapes were taking shape out on the vines under an ominous late afternoon cloud cover that quickly cooled the warm spring temperatures down. We snapped a quick group photo and headed to the winery.

When we arrived to the covered patio, no one was more surprised than me to find the Texas flag on display. There will be more on that in an upcoming issue of Galveston Monthly magazine so stay tuned, the gist is that Dino Illuminati is an official honorary Texan. Dino emerged from the offices where he is still onsite to oversee things and give us a quick meet and greet before our tasting. I took the opportunity to quickly photograph the three generations of Illuminati men who were influencing the wines that we were about to taste.

The Tasting:

Illuminati Brut 2017 - This wine was a delightful surprise with which to start, a sparkling white wine made in the traditional Champenoise method out of 60% Trebbiano and 40% Verdicchio from grapes sourced from their own Controguerra vineyards. Light and fresh with a creamy texture from its 30-36 months on the lees with elegant notes of citrus and apple through the lingering finish. A perfect start to any meal and an excellent choice for simple seafood dishes.

Illuminati Controguerra Pecorino 2017 - Sourced from a vineyard
situated over 800 feet above sea level, this crisp, clean white has citrus, fresh herbs, and a touch of almond with a persistent mineral laced finish.Illuminati Daniele 2015 - This is a fuller bodied white wine blend of Trebbiano, Passerina and Chardonnay, it has rich fruity flavors of apple and pear with a smooth, easy finish, an excellent complement to heavier seafood dishes.

Illuminati Campirosa Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo 2017 - Another dark cherry-colored dry rosé from Montepulciano grapes, this refreshing dark pink wine had mixed ripe berry aromas and flavors with a light floral note, perfect with charcuterie and mild cheeses or poultry dishes.

Illuminati Riparoso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2016 - This approachable red wine is aged in 25 hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels for 7-8 before being bottled and cellar aged for another 3-4 months. Red cherry aromas and flavors with a bit of licorice and a light leathery note make this soft, full bodied red the perfect everyday wine for simple meals like pizza or hamburgers.

Illuminati Ilico Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2015 - Stefano said this wine was made in the more classic rustic style, it had sweet berry aromas and flavors with some vanilla and a raison note, try it with braised red meat.

llluminati Zanna Montepulciano d'Abrruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG Riserva 2013 - One of the first vineyards ever planted on the farm is the source of this fruit, it receives regular cooling breezes from the sea that help the grapes maintain their acidity and keeps the vines disease free. This wine was a favorite of George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Blackberries and a floral note combine with a full body, velvety tannins and an elegant slightly spicy mineral-tinged lingering finish, enjoy with a grilled ribeye or blue cheese burger.

Illuminati Lumen Controguerra Rosso Riserva 2011 - Produced only in the best vintages from a blend of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine had mixed ripe red fruit aromas and black berry flavors with a full body, bigger structure and persistent finish, pair with red meats or game.

Illuminati Pieluni Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva 2011 - The harvest for the grapes for this wine is later giving the wine intense aromas and flavors of ripe mixed berries with vanilla and tobacco, rich, round and lingering, serve this with roasted lamb or mature cheese.

Illuminati Pieluni Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane Riserva 2000 - Brambly, mysterious
and powerful, dark berries and a smoky note continue through the slightly savory finish. The two wines did not appear to have an eleven year age difference.

We also had the opportunity to enjoy the llluminati Zanna Montepulciano d'Abrruzzo Riserva 1987 which was also surprisingly young and a delight to drink. All of the above wines are highly recommended.