Things often get lost in translation when traveling. So when my friend Brenda, owner of Bibenda wine bar in Assisi (and author of a great blog, Italian Winestyle) told me that we would be visiting a “garage winemaker” called Fattoria Colleallodole di Milziade Antano, I wondered the true meaning of the term. I thought perhaps “garage wines” was a cutesy term in Italy for a small production winery with the owner’s home on the premise, with a quaint little tasting room for visitors who pop in from time to time… maybe a lazy dog who serves as the winery “mascot” sauntering through the vineyards and napping in the vines? A little gift shop, perhaps?

Nope. It’s wine made in a garage.

Now we’re talking!

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I did manage to find this lazy little squirt, though. 🙂 Love my travel buddy!

Antano is a small production, family-owned winery outside of the small town of Montefalco, which is in the Central Italy region of Umbria.

Like the majority of producers from this region, Antano focuses on Sagrantino, a bold, tannic grape pretty much only grown in this part of the world. (For more on Umbria’s wines, click here; for more on Sagrantino, click here.) They hosted us for a beautiful tasting of their wines, any which I would be ecstatic to serve at my table. The following is a break down of each of the wine’s flavor profiles and suggested pairings.

Grechetto dei Colli Martani 2010

We began with the Grechetto, a varietal that is originally from Greece and was popularized in Italy, where it comprises the majority of the white blend, Orvieto. Grechetto can be very light and acidic, but Antano’s Grechetto has beautiful body, delicate floral aromas and citrus flavors, and a slightly nutty finish. It would be a wonderful wine with light appetizers like cheese plates, flatbread, crostinis with tomatoes, or light pastas with asparagus or even–gasp!–artichokes, the wine claimed to be “unpairable”.

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Montefalco Rosso Riserva DOC 2007

We moved on to Montefalco Rosso Riserva DOC. I know what you’re thinking: that is a LOT of words I don’t know! Don’t panic: Montefalco is the city where Antano is from, and a Montefalco Rosso means it is a red blend of certain grapes, the grapes and percentages are determined by Italian law. In this case, the wine is 65% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 15% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a pretty typical blend for a Montefalco Rosso. Oh, and the “Riserva” part just means that it was aged a bit longer than usual, and the DOC means that it gets the special Italian government designation that it is a wine typical of the region, using grapes typical of the area and age-old practices in the vineyard and during winemaking. (Read more about the Italian system and DOC wines here).

The 2007 Montefalco Rosso Riserva had big fruits aromas and flavors, and a candied fruit flavor that is traditional of Sagrantino. It also had a beautiful eucalyptus nose from the Merlot and big tannins that lingered and was a powerful wine. It would be wonderful when paired with the region’s stews, rabbit, wild boar, and other braised dark meats.

Montefalco Sagrantino 2006 DOCG

We moved on to the Antano Montefalco Sagrantino. This is a really big, really concentrated wine, but definitely more refined and seamless, and would probably age better than the other wines we sampled. Although it is a big wine with intense flavors, it still has a nose of some lighter fruits like blackberry; on the palate, it has more dark fruit flavors like plum.

Montefalco Sangrantino Colleallo 2007

We then sampled the Antano Montefalco Sagrantino Colleallo from 2007. Unlike the Montefalco Rosso, which is a blend of many grapes, this wine is primarily Sagrantino. We had thought that the Montefalco Rosso Riserva was a robust wine, but this one knocked our socks off! HUGE fruit aromas and alcohol heat that hits you (and at this tasting, which was at 11 am, it REALLY hits you!) and gripping tannins. What was shocking was the wine’s ability to still remain balanced despite having such big flavors. It was absolutely beautiful. I suggest pairing the wine with the same dishes recommended for the Montefalco Rosso Riserva, and I also suggest giving the wine at least an hour to breath.

Montefalco Sagrantino Passito 2007

All wineries in Umbria who have the DOCG status are required to make a Sagrantino Passito, which is the traditional way that Sagrantino was made up until the 1970s. (For more on the Passito wine and its history, click here.)

Passito wines are made from grapes which were dried on bamboo mats for roughly two months. The water evaporates and the grapes turn into raisins, and wine is made from these raisin-y grapes. The juices which are extracted have a higher sugar content than typical winegrapes, and result in a wine with high sugar content.

Many confuse passito wines with port, but passito is not a port: ports have other alcohol added to them (called fortification) and have a much higher sugar content.

Passito does share a lot of flavors in common with passito, however. Antano’s 2007 Montefalco Sagrantino Passito had the dried fruits (dried plums and raisin) that are consistent with port wines, but it does not have that syrupy consistency. In fact, it is a wine that you could have fun pairing with various dishes: Brenda suggested either a prime cut of fillet or some aged cheeses, both would be delicious.

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Truth be told, I’d trade the gift-shop laden wineries selling shirts that say “It’s Wine O’Clock!” in glittery letters for a visit to a garage winery any day. That’s not me being snobby: it’s me loving the authentic feel of small production, mom-n-pop wineries, and the passion that these people have for their wines. With a garage winery, there is no fluff, and the wine speaks for itself. I appreciate and respect that simplicity! Can you blame me?

Antano’s wines are available in the U.S. Check out Wine-Searcher.com for the distributor near you.