Many of you know that I attended college at The University of Dallas, a small Catholic, liberal arts school in Irving, TX. Many of you likely know that while at UD I studied a semester in Rome at the University's Rome campus. Some of you probably know that in 1995 I went back to the Rome campus and bummed around helping the current students with travel plans.
What most of you likely do not know is that the University of Dallas campus at Due Santi near the town of Marino in the Castelli Romani (hills just outside of Rome) is home to 5 lovely acres of vineyards. This little nook in the region of Lazio has been planted to Bordeaux (red) varieties since the 1970s and wonderful wineries like Colle Pichioni have led the way with their delicious Il Vassallo, which has long been one of my favorite Italian reds.
The University of Dallas produces this Rosso da Tavola from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Unlike Il Vassallo there is no Cabernet Franc in the blend.
I remember the UD vineyards being sparse, overgrown with brush, and quite poorly maintained in 1995. When I interviewed for a position with the Rome program in 1999 my interest and experience with wine was likely my biggest selling point to the University as they really wanted to get their wine program off the ground and I wanted very much to be a part of it. As it was, I did not get the job back then and I went on to more wine enterprises.
In those 10+ years since I last had knowledge of the UD wine program, the University has made huge strides in their vineyards and now, not surprisingly the quality of wine produced is excellent.
My dear friend Peter Blute who is a current Resident Assistant in Rome delivered a bottle of Due Santi Rosso da Tavola to my front door in Ennis, TX as a holiday gift. My mom made some very simple pork cutlets one evening and I decided to open the Due Santi Wine and see what was happening with it.
I was shocked! While I had high hopes for the wine program at UD I always remained a bit skeptical that they could pull something off that truly spoke of the region and the local style. I was amazed when I discovered this wine was both.
Like Il Vassallo there is an immediate dose of pencil lead and ripe cherries on the nose when I first opened the Due Santi wine. Immediately I think of right bank Bordeaux with a bit more warmth and something saddle-like. With a first sip the texture of the wine is weightier than I expect from the nose and it gives way to a rocky component and another dose of pencil which I find greatly appealing. The fruit remains on the palate throughout the drink and over the course of a meal the wine continues to shine. I have no idea what UD charges for this wine and I would gladly pay $25 for it any day of the week.
A huge thank you to Peter Blute for turning me on to this wine and I am very hopeful my alma-mater will allow me the honor of photographing the vineyards and tasting the wine at the source sometime this year. I am very excited to know that not only did I get a great education at UD I can now also get a great bottle of vino and that is the biggest surprise of the year.
I love how the back label describes the wine in classic UD understated prose.