Recently I attended a wine tasting featuring little-known grapes of Italy. Led by Jan D’Amore of Jan D’Amore Wines, a Brooklyn, NY based importer and distributor, the wines were a mixture of whites and reds from various regions of Italy, personally selected by Jan himself.
A native of Rome, Italy, Jan came to the United States over 30 years ago to pursue a heavy metal music career with his bandmates. Settling in Los Angeles, he lasted six months with them, but refused to return to Rome. After some soul-searching, he headed east to New York to explore the art scene and display his talents as an artist. It was here Jan also waited tables and was exposed to the world of wine; growing up in Rome, he only knew the white table wines of Frascati. At the suggestion of an acquaintance, Jan’s next path took him into wine sales. Working as a sales rep for Viniferia Imports, he learned the ins and outs of the business before finally setting out on his own.
Traveling around Italy and doing a lot of research is what led to his securing the first five producers in his collection. Now, following recommendations is a big part of how Jan finds his winemakers; currently he has over 30 producers in his portfolio. His website highlights each winemaker, the winery and the wines he distributes.
At the tasting, Jan opened seven wines from his portfolio; two whites and five reds. These were two of my favorites:
Made from 100% Famoso grapes, this white wine was the first wine of the evening we tasted and I was immediately in love. Indigenous to the Emiliia-Romagna region of Italy, this grape was long considered extinct, but has been recently revitalized by some small vineyards, one of which is Ancarani. Fragrant and unique, this dry white has fresh floral aromas, ripe exotic-fruit notes, and is light and crisp on the palate.
This Umbrian red is made from 100% Ciliegiolo grapes by vintner Leonardo Bussoletti. The name Ciliegiolo means “little cherry” so it is not surprising that the nose is crazy with fresh red cherries. There are also some floral notes with tones of black pepper. Luscious on the palate with mild acidity and very little tannin, strawberry and raspberry fruit stand out.
If Italian wines are your thing, then take some time and explore Jan’s site; you might discover something new and exciting. If you cannot find his wines in a store near you, then look for the grape from another producer. Or let me know and I would be happy to help!