Long Live the Assemblaggio !
To the individual using the extremely popular application Google Translate, the Italian term "assemblaggio" means "assembly"; simply put it is a "gathering". But to devoted and informed patrons of the Raffaldini Vineyard and Winery located in Ronda, NC http://www.raffaldini.com however the term has a vastly different translation. As someone who just attended his second assemblaggio this past weekend I would define it as "the most educational and informative wine tasting experience most people will ever experience".
Raffaldini Vineyard and Winery is aptly named “the Chianti of the Carolinas”. Located in a picturesque Tuscan style villa nestled in the foothills of the Swan Creek AVA this winery produces wine from dry Italian varietals under the under the skillful vision of owner Jay Raffaldini and winemaker Chris Nelson. Together along with their dedicated staff they transform varietals like Vermentino and Sagrantino into delicious, captivating wines.
What is the assemblaggio? How does it work? What can I expect? Well, over the course of a mere couple of hours, owner Jay Raffaldini and his staff informatively guide their guests through several wines from Sangiovese to Sagrantino, Montelpuciano to Petit Verdot, all the while examining each wine under the skilled tutelage of a second level sommelier. Think of it as the most structured wine tasting a novice will ever get to experience.
The event appeals to individuals with different levels of wine knowledge and by no means is dominated by "wine snobs". As my daughter who has joined us the last two years will attest, she and her friends had an outstanding time to be relished and remembered.
For each of the wines we sampled we first discussed the appearance paying particular attention to clarity, color and intensity. Terms like ruby, tawny, brilliant, dull, cloudy, and even purple were used to describe each wine we scrutinized. Next, we smelled each wine and looked for nuances of fruit, jam, flower, and spice along the way. Finally, at the moment of truth when we actually get to taste the wine we look for acids, tannins, fruit and spice. Finally, we took note of the finish or the duration of the flavor and intensity after swallowing the fruit of the vine.
Then the fun begins when Jay and his staff bring out graduated cylinders and beakers and allow participants to actually blend their own creation from the previously sampled varietals! At the conclusion of the blending, Jay personally takes the time to sample and critique each blend eventually declaring a winner.
Being veterans of the event and aware of Jay's personal preference for highly tannic wines we concocted a blend of primarily Sagrantino with just enough Sangiovese to produce some background acidity. Although he was impressed with the blend our effort was not judged the best. Nor was it judged the worst which Jay will jokingly select.
Not only is this an outstanding opportunity to sample multiple grape varietals and compare and contrast them, but this event is always educational and provides a peek behind the curtain into the world of the winemaker where words like "appassisemento" and "cold fermentation" are a regular part of the vocabulary.
To be a part of this event is also an opportunity to hear multiple phrases from Jay that I have respectfully dubbed "Jayisms". These are simple phrases or saying he uses to teach certain basic principles about wine making. For example, you will surely hear him say "know the grape, know the wine" or my favorite "what grows together goes together" to explain what wines pair well with what foods.
After attending multiple versions of this event, I can attest to not only it's educational value but it is quickly becoming a "happening" and an event that will find a regular place on our annual calendar. To Jay and all the staff at the winery I commend you for your efforts...molto bene!