A wine almost as divine as Santangelo: Triacca Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2002

drinking wine playing tennis prince raquet italian red wineYesterday, I mentioned how dismal the food options were during my week of watching tennis at the Roger's Cup in Montreal. Fast food and catering in a can is how I would summarize eating on the site at Jarry Park. I didn't broach the drink situation though, other than to explain that you really needed to pick your poison and bring it in through the front gates yourself. Here's why...


To be entirely fair, the beverages on the tournament grounds seemed to be a bit better than the food. I did have a Sleeman, which was okay at $5.50, though I made a poor choice in opting for the light-as-tap-water Sleeman's Clear Ale. As for the wine, I recognized a few reliable and modest wines in the SAQ tent. The problem was that their prices were anything but humble.


Take for example, the rosé Domaine de Gournier. This 2005 Cévennes was my delicious pink standby all summer long. It wouldn't fare well with me over the tournament though. The cost of a glorified thimble-full of the stuff was exactly half the price it would cost me to buy an entire bottle at the shop across the street. There were a couple of reds and a couple of whites available as well but they were either New World or Bordeaux, essentially ruling out anything that I would typically choose for a picnic lunch.

So I hustled in a Triacca Valtellina Superiore Sassella 2002. Sassellas are from Lombardy with minimum 90% Nebbiolo. Coming out of such an off year and from a relatively low pricepoint, I expected it to be less than dense. It was. I'd call it a medium-bodied red, with lots of tobacco and underbrush, some well ripened fruit and a dry finish. Not very profound but very quaffable. Being quite less than weighty, the wine was suitable for an Italian sausage and rotini lunch in the sun. And it flowed at the right time: in preparation for Italian Mara Santangelo's second round tie with Swiss Martina Hingis.

mara santangelo first round match at&t cup 2006mara santangelo first round match at&t cup 2006mara santangelo first round match at&t cup 2006

I saw Mara Santangelo win her first match the day prior. She is a deliberate and pensive player unlike any other, at least on the women's tour (but reminiscent of Davide Sanguinetti on the ATP tour). Santangelo has an unusual style, hitting very flat off both sides. Her shots seem to be effortlessly put back into play because she doesn't add topspin to the ball.

Triacca Valtellina Superiore Sassella 2002It's a bit dream-like really, and with her good anticipation she never seems to run, never seems to break much of a sweat. She strikes the ball well in front of her body, especially on her backhand shot, which makes her grip look a bit odd. But the angles that are opened by this are nothing to laugh at, as victim Sybille Bammer of Austria eventually found out. Hingis in the next round was a bit too tricky to overcome. But I do have to say that other than champion Ivanovic, Santangelo was the only Montreal opponent with a real chance to beat the Swiss star, having taken a three-game lead in the second set after a first-set loss in a tiebreak.

As it turns out, Mara Santangelo is resident of Cavalese in Trento, which is situated in the same northern and mountainous region at the top of the boot as Lombardy. I imagine her enjoying her own stash of good regional Italian wine after matches on the road and then fine espresso in the morning before practice. Brava, Mara!

And this just in... Mara Santangelo beat regular Top Ten'er Anastasia Myskina last night in the warm-up tourney for the US Open so she must be doing something right to turn on her game at just the opportune moment.

Casa Vinicola Triacca, Villa di Tirano, Lombardia, Italia. 13%

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