(Today being Dan's 50th birthday, I firmly suggested he take the day off and let me try my hand at this email thing. Not sure I can begin to emulate his passion, but I'll give it a shot. I hope you'll read all the way through. Perhaps our favorite wine of the trip is offered forthwith...)

Why I married a 13-year-old.

The Dan Beekley you know is a serious geek. Full of quirky energy and quick wit, he's as apt to wax poetic about baseball stats as wine grape varieties. Ask him a question about any World Series in the last 50 years. I dare you.

At home, Dan is a kid at heart. His business owner persona and all its gravity (and his shoes) get dropped at the door, in a heap, like some 13-year-old coming home from a long summer day of ramming around with good friends. He shakes off the dust, looks for a snack, and settles in. 

Cue the Dad jokes. Bathroom jokes. Bad puns. Our teenagers roll their eyes, but I know they are secretly delighted, as am I. It's fun living with Dan. Chronologically 50, Dan's real heart and soul is that of a 13-year-old boy - full of excitement and energy, and hopeful of all that lies ahead.

Wondering what the heck any of this has to do with wine? 

Well then. The only time Dan ever gets serious is when he crosses the threshold of a winery. It's rather spooky to observe, truth be told. From the moment he arrives, Dan begins to silently assess every atom and every attitude. It's palpable (and a bit disconcerting, if you are his wife.) 

Is the winery clean? Dan is a stickler for clean wineries - that's why he never buys wines that reek of brettanomyces or volatile acidity. Clean wineries make fruit-forward, delicious wines. And while a chicken wandering near the barrels might be "quaint," it's not a sign of a winemaker who cares about cleanliness. And that mold growing up there in the corner? No way. 

How about attitude? Do the winemakers seem enthused about what they do? Are their opinions on winemaking rooted in science? Do their vines look well-tended? How do they treat their employees and family? Will they openly discuss things like disease pressure and weather-related issues?

There is an ocean of "good" wine out there. But there are finer points that differentiate good from excellent. And to get there, you have to pay close attention to everything around you. And while Dan might have a severe case of refrigerator blindness at home, he has a PhD in OCD when it comes to wine.

Enter the Südtirol - where Swiss precision meets Italian warmth

Making your way up the steep hillsides to Maso Thaler is a head-scratching experience. As you climb higher and higher into the Dolomites, you start wondering where the heck you are, and why anyone would try to grow grapes up here. The view is breathtaking, no surprise. But from a practical, winemaking standpoint, this seems masochistic.

Not our winery!

Just a few miles down valley, you'll encounter the tank farms of Mezzacorona and Rotari, where yields look something like this photo on the left, where we counted 25 clusters on one vine. ONE vine. These grapes will find their way into one of several tank farms in the region, and eventually to every mini mart in the U.S. Totally uninteresting wine.

Back at Maso Thaler, brothers Philippo and Francesco Motta struggle to keep fruit on the vine. At an altitude of nearly 700 meters (2300 feet,) they grow Manzoni Bianco, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a little Pinot Noir. The wines belie their position - they are elegant and fragrant, reflecting the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding mountains.

The Motta brothers have something to crow about, but this is not their way. Soft-spoken and shy, centered on family and community, they make wines of which they can feel proud. The tiny little corner of Italy where they reside has a heavy Swiss and German influence. The winery is eat-your-dinner-off-the-floor clean, and perfectly ordered.

Back in February Dan called home and nearly screamed into the phone about the 2013 Pinot Nero at Maso Thaler. Then, two reward me, brought a single, solitary bottle home to try. (jerk) But he was right, it was great. Really great. 

But last week, the Motta brothers busted out their 2012, a year older, a year wiser, a year better. I'm not joking, it is one of the best Pinots I've tasted in years. Whoa. Four years in the bottle have done this no harm. Then I watched Dan wrestle away 96 bottles from their 300 remaining. And, they bought us lunch.

Nice job, dude. 

Maso Thaler Pinot Nero 2012, regular $45. On pre-arrival at just $29.

He tells me that you know the drill...Want some? Please reply directly this email. Wanna read more about it and order on-line? Click the link above and do your thing. The wine will arrive around mid-October. 

Thanks for listening!



Road Cru Wine Imports
339 NW Broadway Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
T: (503) 226-9463

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