FRANCIACORTA, Italy--Monte Rossa means Red Mountain, more or less, It's actually an estate that belonged Rossa family, a hilltop property topped by a tiny church. Today, Monte Rossa is one of the top wineries that make Italy's most prestigious sparkling wine, Franciacorta. It's run by Emanuele Rabotti, a cheery, hospitable gent with a curious mind and an artistic bent who had invited our delegation of wine writers and sommeliers to taste his top cuvées.
Not one to leave his guests hungry, the visit included a light lunch, for which Rabotti called in Franciacorta's best freelance catering chef, 37-year-old Francesca Marsetti. (She's one of two women on the Italian national team that will compete in the International Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany, this October, by the way; over 1,000 chefs representing 33 countries will compete.) In the upstairs kitchen, Chef Marsetti had set out fresh burrata along with a variety of cold cuts. She tossed together curlicue Vesuvio pasta with sautéed scallops, shellfish stock, asparagus, olive oil and a splash of Monte Rossa cuée brut. For dessert she brought forth an apple cake with homemade meringue gelato.
Ah, yes, the Cabochon. (In gemology, it's a stone that's polished, not cut.) An anniversary cuvée, first released in 1990 to celebrate Monte Rossa's 20th anniversary with an embossed silver label. A young Emanuele Rabotti flew to Hollywood to present the first bottle personally to Frank Sinatra. "When my parents bought this property, it was a farm, and they raised cattle," he recalled. "But they were friends with the Berlucchi family, who believed there was a future here in sparkling wine, and they convinced my mother she should make wine, too." Today Monte Rossa has 85 acres of vineyards on the morainic soils of Franciacorta and produces half a million bottles of sparkling wine a year. And not a single cow.
Our visit to Franciacorta was hosted by the association of wine producers known as the Consorzio per la tutela del Franciacorta. Many thanks indeed!