The first good decision was to eat at Trattoria Stella, an off-the-beaten track restaurant in Traverse City, located in a restored mental hospital building at Grand Traverse Commons. This is a place that takes food and wine seriously, and every bite and sip I had at Trattoria Stella was heavenly. The second good decision was to order the gnochetti pasta dish made with slow-cooked shoulder of wild boar, caramalized onions, coriander and a fried edgg. And the third good decision was to order a 500 ml carafe of this Ripasso to accompany it. The wine was as rich, intense and delightful as the gnochetti--reduced, powerful scents and flavors of blackberries, dark cherries and licorice. Great fruit concentration and structure. Any restaurant offering a wine like this by the glass or carafe ($24 for 500 ml) is worth numerous return visits.
I've since learned that the wine can be purchased for about $20 to $22 a bottle retail--worth every penny. If you're not familiar with Ripasso, it is a cousin of Amarone, the rich, highly regarded and highly priced Italian dessert wine. The traditional way of making Amarone is to spread the grapes on a rooftop to dry, then using the highly concentrated produce to make the wine. With Ripasso, grapes dried by a similar process are added to the fermenting must of a dry wine. According to Lonardi, each plant yields only one-half to one bottle of Ripasso--and even less for Amarone, which loses 30 to 40 percent of its mass in the drying process. The result is a wine concentrated enough to stand up to the richest dish you can place on the table, such as gnochetti made with shank of wild boar.