ottoNothing like hype to get you hyped up.  It started with a bottle of 2001 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. In defiance of all the columns on affordable wines that mention Montepulciano as the go-to grape,  (yes, it’s a grape but more on that later) this bottle retails for more than $60. First  I had a bottle then had to give it back. When I went to get it again, the price had increased substantially.

After securing one, I brought it to Cliff and Regan’s house for dinner and of course Cliff, who now sells wine for Michael Skurnik, had visited the winery and started telling an incredible story about the producer, his methods and his daughters politics, as well as something about salsa in her hair.sscn0453aThe story, which I didn’t believe at first, hinted at the outcome. “Ahh, Pepe” said Cliff. “Who knows if it’ll be good, tremendous bottle variation.” He then told of how Pepe and his family rub the clusters through chicken wire — that’s their destemmer — and then the grapes are trod by teenaged girls — because of their lightness — and then the wine is bottled, but not labeled. When an order comes in Mr. Pepe goes into the cellar where the bottles are stacked in high pyramids identified only by tag in front of them. The bottles are then uncorked and poured into another bottle, recorked, labeled and shipped. Thus some bottles, said Cliff, are oxydized to death.

Too convoluted and painstakingly idiosyncratic to be made up? Yes, there’s even evidentiary video on the Pepe website (click on video link in the left column). But nothing about the salsa.

But let’s go back. Parker gives this wine a 92, and Antonio Galloni has reviewed it twice.

In October 2006:

Pepe’s awesome 2001 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a great introduction to this producer’s wines. Richly colored, it offers an aromatic nose and layers of vibrant, sweet dark fruit that open in the glass, revealing a wine of outstanding purity that is full of life and energy. At once delicate and structured, it is one of the highlights of the afternoon. It should also be another long-lived wine from this estate and I imagine that its aging potential is decades. 92/Anticipated maturity: after 2016.

And again in February 2008:

This bottle (#31310) of Emidio Pepe’s 2001 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is incredibly dark in color. It is a rich, concentrated wine bursting with black cherries, smoke, tar and underbrush. This is normally a more restrained wine, but this particular bottle was especially rich and dense. Pepe’s Montepulciano’s are legendary for their ability to age beautifully and I have no doubt that will be the case here as well. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2031.

So we poured it in big glasses, swirled it around and then held it to our noses. And my bottle, bottle sscn0454No. 29067, was corked!

So we had to drink something else with dinner, a respectable Slingshot cabernet.

Mr. Polaner, can I have a replacement?

For “Fish Called Wanda” fans, click here to re-live Otto’s disappointment.


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