Memories of an Arnaldo Caprai Winemaker Lunch

  25 Anni Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG  2009.

Wine has the lovely side effect of sending me on frequent trips down memory lane. Drinking and researching Sagrantino for my last post got me reminiscing about a winemaker lunch I had the chance to attend a couple of years ago exploring the wines of Arnaldo Caprai at Oliveto, here in Oakland. Inspired by the topic, I thought I’d share a quick post now sharing a few details from that lunch. I always think it’s fun to see how others, particularly restaurants, decide to pair similar wines. 

This pic and the one above, courtesy of my friend Paige Carnwath.

The Caprai family were key figures in the modern history of Sagrantino. As I very briefly mentioned in my last post, despite its long history, Sagrantino was on its way to extinction in the middle of the last century. Luckily that’s right about when the Caprai’s got into the wine game. Arnaldo Caprai had been a textiles entrepreneur, but decided to buy a small parcel of about 12.5 acres in Montefalco in 1971. Right away they started reviving the grape, and the family was instrumental in establishing the DOC for the wine in 1979, followed by the DOCG in 1992.  

Arnaldo’s son Marco really made it his mission to improve and promote Sagrantino, so when Marco took over the management of the estate, he kicked things into high gear. He increased the winery’s premium wine production offerings and built recognition for their own brand and as well as for the grape. He built up their vineyard holdings in order to increase production. Nowadays the estate encompasses 370 acres, 220 of which are used for wine production. He also dedicated major resources to scientific research and technological innovation, looking at everything from clonal selections, to trellising systems, and experiments high-density plantings. All of which led to a better understanding of the grape and has resulted in major improvements in the quality of Sagrantino wine.

The winery has also put a major emphasis on environmental practices. Beginning in 2008, Marco began his “New Green Revolution” to improve agricultural techniques and encourage more sustainable farming practices (including organic and biodynamic methods). The project tries to use energy judiciously, limit carbon dioxide emissions, limit the use of pesticides in the soil, and looks to increase biodiversity, among other goals.

Caprai wines with skirt steak with Yukon gold potatoes and wax beans at Oliveto. Photo by Nicole Ruiz Hudson.Caprai wines with skirt steak with Yukon gold potatoes and wax beans at Oliveto. Photo by Nicole Ruiz Hudson.

I had the chance to try several of the wines during this lunch. You can see the insanity of what my notes look like below; however, I will do my best decipher them for you. (Of course, these were from a couple of years ago, so there will be more current vintages now available.) 

Nose: Orange blossoms, chamomile, peaches.
Palate: Pink grapefruit, floral notes, green apples, light hints of white peaches with cream, and hints of stone. More tart on palate than on the nose.

Worked really nicely with the salad and vegetables.

Nose: Charcoal, black cherries, and pepper.
Palate: Tobacco, black pepper, black cherries, and red plums.
Smooths out as it sits in the glass and gets air.

This would be great with salumi, pizza, or Bolognese.  

Nose: Smoked meat, licorice, red plums, and tobacco.
Palate: Similar notes to the nose. Meaty. Tannic, but should smooth out nicely with time. 
Paired very nicely with the steak. 

Pictured up top.
Nose: Lilacs, licorice, berries, and dark plums.
Palate: Similar notes on the palate joined by hints of mocha, spice and olives. Refined and elegant with velvety tannins that were already quite smooth.  

Also delicious with the steak. Would also work well braised meats. 

Skirt steak with Yukon gold potatoes and wax beans at Oliveto. Photo by Nicole Ruiz Hudson.

Nose: Licorice, dried flowers, mocha, and tobacco.
Palate: Tobacco, mocha, black cherry sauce, with spiced black fruits, both fresher and dried. Nicely structured and was still showing fairly youthful characteristics for its age.

This was surprisingly delicious with the chocolate cake. I tend to think matches between chocolate and red wines are overplayed, and don’t often actually work all that well together, but this was a magical match. 

Tech sheets for all of these wines available online on Wilson Daniel’s Website.



  1. Looks like quite the meal and you can't go wrong with Arnaldo Caprai wines.


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