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Italy's Finest

When I say “Italy’s Finest,” I'm not talking about the Carbinieri, Italy's state police force that’s the butt of many jokes (e.g. "Why do Carabinieri always work in pairs? Because one knows how to read, the other how to write").

Not long ago, I attended a couple of tastings featuring Italy's finest wines—the ones you don't get to taste every day, but are worth writing about when you do.

Our first tasting was a 1998 Soldera over lunch at A-16. Soldera is the number-one producer of Brunello di Montalcino. The grape is a particular clone of Sangiovese that grows around the town of Montalcino. The wines are incredibly expensive (I've only tasted them once before), but, damn, were they good—expressive with massive amounts of perfectly crisp, bright cherry mixed with notes of earth, mushrooms and mineral.

Soldera is famous for having not just a vineyard, but also a highly crafted ecosystem full of all kinds of beneficial flora and fauna, which all benefit the vines. The winemaking is fastidiously old-school—no new oak, years in giant wooden casks before bottling. Who knows when I'll get to drink it again, but file this wine away for your list of  "what to order when out to eat with you friend who has all that Apple and Google stock."

By the way, that pizza in the background is excellent. In fact, the pizza at A-16 has never been better than it is right now, and it goes splendidly with practically any wine—red or white.