Sharing a few summer surprises

Summer is fast closing its doors and autumn is peeking its refreshing head around the corner, giving us a wink and a nod to harvest time and cooler days. I would like to share with you some fun ideas I came across over the summer and see what you think.

First of all, I tasted two wonderful wines from the region of Umbria, Italy, by the very fine winery, Arnaldo Caprai. It has been clear to me, having retailed wine for more than 40 years, that the wines from Umbria, (with the exception of Orvieto, which is a white wine named after this grand city,) are not well known by the majority of American wine consumers. It is fair to say that the wines from their neighbor, Tuscany, are far better known and sought after, especially the well-made and ubiquitous Chianti, which seems the namesake of the region for most wine buyers. Umbria, however, offers not only world-class wine, but also grants the traveler a sense of calm, relaxation and simple, organic beauty not found in the more hustle-bustle regions of this great wine-producing country. Days spent around Assisi and Orvieto will prove my point; this is a magical and meditative region.

The two wines I tasted from Caprai (quite possibly in the top five of Italian winemakers) were the dry white offering, 2011 Grechetto colli Martani, and the profound Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco 2007. The Grechetto from Colli Martani, a region south of Perugia, is a wonderfully crisp, clean, fresh offering unlike just about any white wine you have tasted. Grechetto is a bit of a chameleon and depending on where it is grown can be very different from Grechetto from other areas of Umbria. Orvieto whites are made from this fabulous grape but display, from time to time, apricot or tropical flavors. From colli Martani we feel slate, mineral flavors and, again, a crispness that goes superbly with lighter cuisine, especially seafood and particularly shellfish. This is a very fine offering from about $15 a bottle.

The Collepiano, which is 100 percent sagrantino, is a wine of amazing structure, powerful, dark fruit flavors, a length that puts one into tomorrow and a nose with hints of violets, cedar, cassis and spice. The 2007, which, of course, is six years old, has a warmth and weight on the palate that other winemakers can only dream about. This wine tells us exactly why wine folks lean toward so many nice Italian wines to go with cuisine. The complexity of this lovely red wine begs for well-made cuisine and enhances the effort magically. Those of you who know and understand Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello but are not familiar with the great sagrantino are really missing out; this winery is really making some wonderful wines and has been for quite some time. This wine sells at about $50 a bottle but for that special treat, the perfect romantic evening, Caprai will send you. Five stars.

Talking about romantic evenings, there is a little gem hidden in Bandon. I rarely write about restaurants but I decided to return to a restaurant I reviewed a couple of years ago to see if their high standards were as fine as I wrote about back then. I am very happy to write to you that "The Loft" has really outdone itself once again; the service is impeccable, the cuisine is not only divine but truly memorable on every level and the wine list is unencumbered, innovative and chosen with their finely prepared cuisine in mind. The restaurant sits above the harbor in Old Town and gives the diner a very special treat for the heart as well. Very much worth a special trip to experience.

Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at

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