On the Trail

On the Trail at Le Battistelle

John Downing

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Italy alongside my colleagues Greg St. Clair and Mike Parres and subsequently visiting the wine producers we import directly into California. It’s one thing to taste the wines after they’ve arrived in California and share those with our customers, but setting foot on the estate, meeting with the wine growers, and seeing their vines makes a lasting impression. We definitely import outstanding wine from some very special people here at K&L.

One of the more prominent highlights of my journey was our visit to Le Battistelle. Greg met with owners Gelmino and Cristina Dal Bosco in 2015 during a trip in Italy and returned with a reignited passion for Soave. This was somewhat of a surprise in that the three of us had never really understood the excitement afforded Soave and the category itself has greatly lagged here for many years. If there is one expression that best describes many a Soave I’ve had over the years it would be “meh”. Whether too blousy, overtly sweet, or just lacking in anything interesting, Soave has been pretty much off the radar. Like Greg has said, “I just never got it” when it comes to Soave. Our first drop of their wines arrived earlier this year and although we liked them, they were tightly wound and affected by bottle shock. Once we had the opportunity to taste them at the winery: game on. 

Le Battistelle’s vineyards lie on an inactive volcanic zone just outside of Verona. Until 2002, the Dal Bosco’s had been selling their grapes to a local cooperative but decided to bottle their own wine thereafter. Unlike many Soaves we’ve tasted over the years, their wines offer an increased complexity, longevity and sense of place that has convinced us of their quality. This is especially true of their Roccolo del Durlo produced from one hundred year old-plus vines seen in the photos above. This picturesque property is on the top of a green hillside with vines that resemble solitary soldiers on continued watch over the land. It’s remarkable that neither time nor war has touched them. There is a subtlety and resonance to these wonderful white wines and we understand why after having walked through these very old vineyards.  

After returning to the winery and tasting their current bottling we were already sold, but Cristina prepared a memorable lunch in order that we truly appreciate and understand the wines where they shine the most. Rediscovering Soave with the delicate flavors of local cuisine was sublime. The gnocchi were especially memorable having been prepared from a very old local recipe with ricotta milk and smoked ricotta cheese which required a lot of effort on Cristina’s end. Also, the Dal Bosco’s opened up a couple of older vintages and we were shocked by the freshness and youthfulness of their wines. 

Since returning, many of our customers have picked up a bottle or two of Le Battistelle’s wines having heard our stories, and now share our passion for these very special whites.

-John Downing