Thursday, May 02, 2013

A Pair of Basignani Lorenzo Reserves and I Am the Winner (MD)

I’ve met Bert Basignani three times. Each time he has no idea who I am. It really doesn’t matter. I just like him. He’s a big bear of a guy, with a Hemingway-esque kind of feel.  And while it’s fun and interesting to focus on some of the newer wineries in Maryland, I think it’s also important to stay true to those who’ve been making quality wine in the region for decades. Bert and his family are part of the later.
For twenty one years, Bert and Lynne Basignani and their children have been growing and making variety of exceptional wines on their vineyard located off Falls Road in Sparks, Maryland. After a successful career in the construction business, Bert decided to begin a winery.
The grapes were planted nine years prior to the winery opening in 1986. The Basignanis were encouraged by other Maryland wineries and friends to continue their growing and winemaking. "We became caught in the whole aspect of making it and starting up the winery, but people were interested," Lynne says of she and her husband turning their interests into a lifestyle and career.
Each year, Bert produces 4,000 cases of wine. On the 18 acre vineyard, Bert grows a variety of different grapes that produce eleven different varieties of wine. Bert manages two vineyards off-site, allowing for many more winemaking options. Along with Bert's favorite, Cabernet Sauvignon, he also makes Merlot, as well as three sweeter wines, Riesling, Vidal and Blush.
More importantly for Bert, and me, I like his wine. And one of my favorites is Lorenzino Reserve. So I was very thrilled when at the Drink Local Wine 2013 conference and I got to try two of them! The end of the first day, for the dinner, they served a delicious lamb chop, and we were treated to a Basignani Lorenzino Reserve 2005.
Mid-Atlantic and in general east coast wineries older vintages, as I have written, have only just started to come into vogue. Maybe it’s just me. But I always love to have a chance to taste an older wine. It’s the geek inside me.
Basignani was among the first to get the whole red blend thing going. Basignani was also among some of the first east coast wineries to make great drinkable dry red wines. And it has always been my experience that Basignani’s reds have aged well.
Lorenzino Reserve has long been the cutting edge of Maryland and Mid-Atlantic red wine. Bert was winning gold medals and Governor’s Cups back in the day, and the wine still performs well. His 1999 won the Governor’s loving cup back in 2003 with a 1999 Lorenzino Reserve.
“This year's award, presented at the Maryland Wine Festival, is long overdue. Bertero Basignani's flagship Lorenzino, made only in the best vintages, has been one of the state's treasures for more than a decade but had never won the state's top honor before,” reported the Baltimore Sun in 2003.
Michael Dresser continued his article, writing of Basignani, “Among the wines I tasted, the one that best exemplifies the appeal of Maryland reds was not this year's medal winner but the 1998 Lorenzino Reserve (also $22). Those who insist on blockbuster reds will be disappointed. This wine has neither the weight of California cabernet nor the hardness of young Bordeaux. It's a medium-bodied wine, but with full-force flavors of black cherry and cassis. There's enough tannin to give it structure, but they're soft - making this an inviting wine to drink right now. There is emphatically a place in the world and on the table for a wine like this - not only complex but fun to drink. Compared with the typical California cabernet or Bordeaux in this price range, it's a bargain.”
Lorenzino is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, but it is not a big inky wine, rather there is no question it is done in more of an Italian style with a medium-bodied finish. The color is a garnet color, with a deep red feel, but not inky dark. Its color and its feel is more of a medium-bodied Tuscan feel. This is a love wine with pork, veal, chicken, or even lamb.
Bert spoke at the dinner. I almost didn’t recognize him. It’s the first time I had ever met him without his trademark baseball cap. The 2005 had nice flavors of ripe and dark cherry, hints of vanilla, spices, a hint of dust and a whiff of cocoa. A twinge of tomato. This wine went beautifully with a lamb chop.

Later at a separate tasting the next day, I was thrilled to find Basignani sampling the Lorenzino Reserve 2007. The experience was completely different. The cherry flavor, bright and ripe was front and center, with good acidity an nice tannins. Whiffs of minerality, cassis, again some spice and herbs, with a lovely finish that lasts and lasts.
Now, it doesn’t matter if Bert and I meet another ten times, as long as Basignani still makes Lorenzino Reserve the way they have in the past, I’ll be a happy man. I love Lorenzino. How much? I made sure I stopped in a liquor store and bought a bottle on my way home to the Hudson Valley. I wanted to make sure I had a bottle to enjoy on my back deck with another nice lamb chop. That’s how much I like Lorenzino.  And I promise you will too.

Read all of Dresser’s article: