Sept. 28 2005 - Rufina, Italy: Parker and Nicole Kennedy wind up steep Tuscan hills past endless vineyards and olive groves to meet with Marchese Ferdinando di Frescobaldi at the Castello di Nipozzano to honor Kennedy who's Raleigh restaurant, Caffé Luna sells over 600 cases of the Frescobaldi label annually, more than any other single source in North Carolina.
Two days prior to leaving on their trip to Tuscany, Parker Kennedy receives a surprise email from District Sales Manager, William Butcher III from Folio Fine Wine Partners’ in Virginia with an itinerary to meet and have lunch with the Marchese at Castello Di Nipozzano (one of nine Frescobaldi vineyards), located about 20 kilometers Northeast of Florence in the Rufina region. After having driven from Rome the day before and admittedly jet-lagged, the Kennedy’s were not sure what to expect when they followed the Nipozzano sign into the estate and were immediately taken aback by to the castle and surrounding villas visible two miles up the “driveway” with a stunning vista of vineyards and olive trees leading the way.
The elegant, charming and most gracious host, Marchese Ferdinando Frescobaldi greeted the Kennedy’s in front of a large villa (the Nipozzano estate consists of a castle and several villas many with cellars for maturing wines). The Marchese lead them inside and pointed out some beautiful scenery for artist, Nicole Kennedy to photograph for her paintings. They dined on a Tuscan farm table in the what was the original kitchen of the estate dating back to the 1400’s with a huge fireplace where the cooking had originally been done. A four course unpretentious Tuscan lunch was served by staff and included a starter of spinach timbali, ravioli - pecorino in pomodoro sauce, sauteed pork tenderloins with Frescobaldi olive oil and rosemary, grilled Tuscan vegetables and torta di mele (apple tort).
The Frescobaldi wines poured throughout lunch were; Attems Sauvignon Blanc, Nipozzano Reserva (Oct. 05- Wine Spectator Smart Buy (90), Mormoreto, followed by dessert wine, Frescobaldi Vinsanto. Descriptions and details of these wines can be found on the Marchesi De' Frescobaldi web site.
Marchese Ferdinando who mostly spoke in English was delighted if not relieved when Kennedy started conversing with him in Italian. Kennedy described the Raleigh restaurant which includes three private rooms, a main room, patio and serves authentic Tuscan cuisine which can be produced in quantity while retaining quality. Special upscale menu and wine dinners designed for exclusive private functions, expanded catering facilities to handle large weddings on and off site and a wine list where the house wines are a higher quality and lower price than most other Raleigh establishments a fact which contributes to the volume of wine sold. The Marchese seemed impressed upon learning Caffé Luna sold over 600 cases of Frescobaldi wines in a year.
Parker Kennedy, was born in Raleigh NC and later lived in New York City for 25 years working as a top wine salesman specializing in Italian labels learning to speak Italian with the help of his restaurant clientele before returning to Raleigh in 1996 to open Caffé Luna. The downtown Raleigh restaurant, grew from 80 seats to 250 seats in nine years.
Caffé Luna's ability to serve up to 700 on a single night ensures that house wines, like Frescobaldi's Danzante and Remole will move in quantity. Currently the restaurant includes in their house wines; Frescobaldi Remole Chianti and Danzante Pinot Grigio. In reserve Luna carries Montesodi and Brunello di Montalcino from Frescobaldi's Castelgiocondo estate, which just received a prestigious distinction in Wine Spectator Oct. 05- top 100 wines (97).
By contrast, the Marchese's knowledge of wine spans seven centuries of family history in the wine production. He described with great passion and detail the fascinating history of the Frescobaldi lineage and environmentally friendly viticultural techniques employed by the vineyards. He gave an overview on replanting many of the vineyards in the 70's for greater density yet pruning the vines closer to the stem yielding better quality grapes opposed to quantity, aging in French oak barriques, harvesting by hand and/or machine, roots seeking water deep in the hills, the importance of climate controls from Italy to the USA docks where they are imported. He also spoke with passion of the nearby but higher altitude Pomino vineyards that also produces exceptional wines (there are nine estate vineyards around Chianti Tuscany region in the Frescobaldi family). He described exporting opportunities to the ever evolving Chinese and Russian markets who's countries are creating an increased demand for fine wines. This lead to further discussions about wine consumption comparisons within the United States and of course, North Carolina.
Afterwards, The Marchese's gracious staff, Nicoletta Piccini and Giacomo Fani, respectively, took Parker and Nicole on a tour of both the beautiful Nipozzano and Pomino vineyards, which is located about 12 kilometers north at a higher altitude from Castello Nipozzano. Giacomo Fani, PR also explained the Frescobaldi family history which is as fascinating as their wines and is highlighted on the Frescobaldi web site.
Parker Kennedy is currently planning two special Frescobaldi wine dinners; one in November and one to coincide with the Marchese's visit to Charlotte for a wine convention in spring 2006 where hopefully he can arrange a side trip to Raleigh for a special wine dinner in his honor. Nicole Kennedy, known in North Carolina for her paintings of Italy (http://www.nicolestudio.com) is currently painting scenes from the trip to Tuscany including imagery from the Frescobaldi estates.
Parker Kennedy at Caffé Luna: 919-832-6090
email: Parker Kennedy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Caffé Luna 136 East Hargett Street,Raleigh, NC 27601
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