The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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100  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2018 APERTIFS Los Angeles in 1917—thus establishing his family's legacy in the wine business. Colombatti, along with Winemaker Anthony Riboli, make up half of the fourth generation of Riboli Family Wine Estates, which, with the creation of Rosa 22, now expands its portfolio to include apéritifs. In an effort to create what Riboli describes as "something unique, something special," the company worked closely with botanists and producers in the Piedmont region to craft a recipe containing all things quintessentially Italia: mandarin orange, peach, cardamom, gentian, coriander, and other native ingredients. "It's amaz- ing how this product is made: in a truly artisan fashion and all steeped on-site," Riboli said. At 16% ABV and with a suggested retail price of $25, Rosa 22 functions as a sort of halfway point between Campari's bitterness and Aperol's sweetness and viscosity. "Hopefully, this product fits a niche that's not yet filled," Riboli said. While it's a natural fit for a spritz, Rosa 22—the name being an ode to Riboli's Stella Rosa portfolio of northern Italian wines, as well as to the 22 botanicals, fruits, and herbs in the formula—is as versatile as can be. To prove that point, Riboli and Colombatti gathered with more esteemed judges—Tasting Panel Publisher/ Editorial Director Meridith May and Michael Ploetz, Food and Beverage Director at Las Alcobas in Napa Valley, California—for a cocktail competition in the newly renovated Palms. Each of the eight competitors—most of them bar managers, owners, and beverage directors and all official judges of the WSWA spirits and wine competitions—were invited to prepare their submitted recipes live for the panel. (Read on for Q&As with each.) Decked out in eye-popping pink right down to the crystal chandeliers, the debut affair was also attended by roaming Venetian carnivale ladies. "I was blown away by what we saw and what we tasted," Riboli said of the event. Several submissions focused on Rosa 22's delicate floral qualities and easy-drinking character, such as the "quintes- sential 'patio pounder'" created by Cari Hah, Bar Manager at Big Bar in Los Angeles' Los Feliz neighborhood. Her delightful cocktail, Got 22 Problems but a Peach Ain't One, combined the bright aperitivo with peach tea–infused gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, egg white, and aromatic bitters to tie for third place with Jason Asher, owner of Barter & Shake in Phoenix, Arizona. Asher, who declared that "Rosa 22 is unlike anything [he's] ever tried," highlighted the aperitivo's rose, grapefruit, and gentian elements with a Moroccan spiced gin, strawberries, rhubarb and lemon juice, rhubarb bitters, and a foam made from Stella Rosa Imperiale Prosecco in his Belle of the Ball cocktail. Another competitor seemed particularly excited to be in Las Vegas, as it provided an excuse to soak up some sun. "We don't have spring in Chicago," quipped second-place winner Jon McDaniel, Beverage Director at Gage Hospitality Group in the Windy City, but he could imagine himself enjoying two, three, or even more of his refreshing entry, Prendi il 22. The drink quadrupled down on Rosa 22's Italian heritage, combining the aperitivo with Cynar, amarena cherry syrup, Lambrusco, lemon juice, and rhubarb bitters. It was, however, a less obvious casting of Rosa 22 that caused the judges to sip up and take notice. Jared Sowinski, Director of Beverage at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, aimed to look past Rosa 22's warm-weather appeal for his cocktail. "I was impressed with the refined elegance that Rosa 22 possesses and the immense layers of flavors and nuances captured in the spirit," he said. "I decided that I wanted to truly showcase the diversity and complexity of Rosa 22 with a confident and timeless cocktail." His submission, Inverno—the Italian word for win- ter—serves as an ode to the Manhattan, Boulevardier, and Old Fashioned as a split base of Rosa 22 and Punt e Mes vermouth, bourbon, and orange cream bitters served with a flamed orange peel. "This cocktail embraces any occa- sion, yet evokes the comfort of winter," Sowinski said. The judges hardly required convincing, unanimously declaring Sowinski a winner and his Rosa 22 creation a cocktail for all seasons. The judges for the Rosa 22 competition: Riboli Family Wine Estates Winemaker Anthony Riboli; Michael Ploetz, Food and Beverage Director at Las Alcobas in Napa Valley, CA; Tasting Panel Publisher/Editorial Director Meridith May; and Dante Colombatti, Marketing Director for Riboli Family Wine Estates.

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