116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In Wine We Trust
Artistry, in its infancy, is intangible: an idea floating around a writer’s head or a musician strumming a guitar. If that idea is to become a story or a song, the artist must trust the creative process. One such artist, Tuscan winemaker Bibi Graetz, took his talent for expression on canvas and applied it to wine. At my wine store and lounge, SOMM Wines in Fairfield, I carry his greatest achievement, a pure illustration of Sangiovese, Bibi Graetz, “Testamatta,” Tuscany, Italy 2018 ($125.99), which earned 100 points from Decanter Magazine – truly perfection in a bottle.
Having no formal training in winemaking, Bibi Graetz’s success is an anomaly. He was born into a family of artists and spent most of his early adult years making abstract paintings at the family estate, Castella di Vincigliata, outside of Florence, Italy. His passion for painting was not a surprise; however, his choice to begin making wine definitely raised some eyebrows. In the late 1990s, the vineyard had fallen into disuse and needed much repair. During a meeting to decide the property’s fate, Bibi spoke up and declared he would replant, revitalize, and restart his life in wine.
Looking back, it is not hard to see why his wines are such a tour de force. He approaches winemaking the same way he confronts a blank canvas: all heart, no head. Crazy-head to be precise, as Testamatta translates in English. Instead of relying on hard data, Bibi trusts his senses to create his wines. He selects which barrels will ultimately be blended for different bottlings according to smell and taste, sampling hundreds of unmarked beakers at a time. He may look like a mad scientist at work, but his choices are purely subjective. His talent in art translated into a sixth sense for wine, combining his two passions. Bibi paints all the artwork decorating his bottles, and he continues to trust his instincts, rather than science, to create his wines.
The deep-dish pizza recipe featured also combines artistry. Two foods that Chicago is famous for are Italian beef sandwiches and deep-dish pizza. Why not combine both into one mash-up masterpiece? It is savory, spicy, and sinewy in all the right ways, but also comfort food galore. “Testamatta” is the perfect pairing for this dish in its duality. Structured, yet floral. Defined and expansive as it opens in the glass. The earthy components compliment the vegetables and peppers, while the intense structure, acidity and dark cherry and fig flavors lift the weight of the meats.
Not only do I adore Bibi’s wines, I also consider him a friend. He attacks life, and the dance floor, with the same unbound artistry that guides his painting and winemaking. If there is one piece of advice I can give oenophiles in their wine journey, it’s to be like Bibi! Trust your instincts. Trust your palate. Trust your local sommelier to help guide you in this wonderful world of wine.
102 E Briggs Avenue, Fairfield, IA
702-528-8101 • sommwines.net