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06 January 2008

I can't believe it's not Stelvin!

There are those who cling to the 'romance' and 'tradition' of popping the cork prior to imbibing.  Then there are those who think such 'romance' and 'tradition' are ridiculous if these totems potentially mean stinking, spoiled wine.  Both camps have valid points.  I'm a sentimental, shmoopy sucker for the romance involved in popping the cork.  But then, If I've dropped 40 or 50 clams, and my just-popped bottle of wine smells like a box-full of soggy, old Boys Life magazines, I set up camp amongst the pro screw-cap crowd.

Merlot Must the wine lover chose between faulty corks and sterile Stelvins when it comes to bottle closure?  Would that there were a closure, which could preserve in an aesthetically appealing manner.  Thank the cosmos for Vino-Lock.  This glass stopper is much prettier than a Stelvin and, of course, more reliable than cork oak bark cylinders.

Just a few weeks ago I took home the first glass-stopped wine to appear in the wine shop.  I loved it.  And the wine wasn't too bad either.

Cusumano IGT Sicily Merlot 2006 ($12) - A simple, exuberant Merlot made more appealing by its aesthetically cool glass stopper.  This inky-purple wine offers scents of cherry jelly and baked strawberry.  Its flavors a simply tangy fruit.  Cusumano Merlot is nothing if not pleasant and eager to accompany pizza.

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25 June 2007

Don't Stop Believin

If I were a big fan of The Sopranos, I might throw an end-of-series wake. Naturally I would serve vino Italiano. My crew wouldn't get none of them B's - Barolo, Barbresco, Barbera.  Rather, I'd head to 'the family's' Island - Sicily.  Why should one look to Sicily (just don't stare) for get-together wine?  Two words: cheap wine.  Now hold on a minute; It aint so bad.

Sure, Sicily's vino past is a bit cloudy. With its hot summer temperatures, the island produced generations of highly alcoholic, color-intense wine, which was used as blending juice. In fact, it's a dirty little secret that many French vignerons bought 'protection' for their weaker wines from La Cosa Loro.

More recently however, a few capos decided they would have more success conquering the wine world with style rather than brute strength. These cerebral Sicilians focused on quantity over quality. And believe you me, you should have no problem with that. Nowadays one can procure high fallutin' Sicilian vino at boutique prices (you don't even have to know a guy).  One may also, if one is so inclined, track down rosy pink wine from the island (I happen to know a guy).

Luckily it seems that a few vino consigliori even persuaded their boss to produce good. cheap. wine.  To the folks at Feudo Arancio, I offer a hearty shoulder-clapof gratitude for two Sicilians that should be at every wiseguy get-together on March 12.

A unique white wine full of lemon zest, cucumber, romaine and white pepper scents.  This wine is great with pork chops or baked ziti.  It's even solid enough to stand up to a slice (either New York or Chicago).

'Nero' (Feudo Arancio Nero D'Avola 2005 - $7)
Now don't expect this Nero to move the earth after a sip or three. But as a spicy-fruity sipping beverage to nurse as you ponder Tony's fate, it is just the ticket. And yes, it will pair perfectly with mama's spaghetti or a leftover slice.


Feudo Arancio Nero D'Avola:  Don't stop believin in sub-$10 wine

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29 March 2007

Riesava? Schiesling?

The Kerner varietal was bred in 1969 after such successful (both semi- and un-) German corossings as Scheurebe, Huxelrebe and Faber. It was born in Württemberg, Germany from a red grape papa (Schiava) and Riesling. Rather than being named Riesava or Schiesling, it was named 'Kerner' after a local songwriter renowned for his drinking songs.

Kerner "Neunundneunzig Flaschen voller Wein an der Wand..."

The Skinny
Abbazia di Novacella (Stiftskellerei Neustift) Kerner "Valle Isarco" 2004 ($19)

  • From Italy's Alto Adige region
  • 100% Kerner
  • Very pale white gold in color
  • Fresh fruit scents of white peach & pear.  There also seems to be some apple cider notes as well
  • Lush, fresh flavors of nectarines with a little citrus zip. Simple, yet quite pleasant and drinkable. Overall, I would say this wine tastes something like a young, chubby Riesling.  It is indeed hefty, but possesses plenty o' acid to balance everything out

Try it with asparagus soup or pasta and fresh veggies.

14 February 2007

How Do You Like It?

Greetings and happy greeting card industry-generated-remember the chocolate hearts-and-roses day.  Hopefully you and your beloved will enjoy an evening of passion in Eros' honor.

The question is, how do you like your lovin'?  Are you a squeaky clean, polite kanoodler, or  nasty, no-holds-barred kind of Don/Maria Juan?

Nicev For those who like it clean..

Pascal Jolivet 'Attitude' Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($15) - Despite using the cred-enhancing term, "Attitude," Jolivet's Sauvi is the epitome of E. Post politeness (and, as an added bonus, the wine is classified as Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France.  Basically this means Mssr. Jolivet can scrawl the grape variety's name on the label, thus making it tres easy for customers to understand what kind of wine they are getting).  This Sauvignon Blanc is pale yellow-gold with hints of meadow green hues.  It pleasantly presents itself with scents of lime, grassy-field-freshness and a titch of gooseberry.  In the mouth, The 'Tude, proves just how even-handed Sauvignon Blanc can be.  It tingles with fresh acidity, then turns slightly smooth and citrusy on the finish.  Put on your blue blazer/cable knit & pearls, and enjoy this wine with a classic Caesar or Cobb salad.  Then close your eyes tightly and smooch your snookums/teddy bear/precious.

Naughtyv For those who like it naughty..

Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2000 ($40 [375ml]) - Pull out your whips, chains, ass-chaps, fishnets, etc. before you enjoy this decidedly 'dirty' wine.  Classico is a, uh, grape-threesome, of Corvina (75%), Rondinella (20%) and Molinara (5%).  The result of some compressed aging in its half-bottle home is a dusty-red wine with scents of ruby Port, dates, violets and cedar-funk (i.e. damp/burned/chopped wood).    In the mouth, this Valpolicella from Italy's Northeast is surprisingly agile - with some cripsness, a mix of dried & fresh berry flavor and slightly chewy finish, courtesy softened up tannins.  Sample it with some nastyfunk playing in the background and git bizee.

Happy St. V.!  Enjoy the convo candy hearts.

10 January 2007


Queen_margharitha_di_savoia_1 Sometimes elegance and simplicity go hand in hand.  Take the Margherita pizza:

When King Umberto I of Savoy and Queen Margherita visited Naples, they went to  Raffaele Esposito’s restaurant in the heart of Naples and ordered him to make pizzas for the whole Court. Raffaele Esposito made two typical pizzas:  the Marinara, created in 1800, and the Mastunicola, the oldest Neopolitan pizza which dates back to 1660.  His wife made a special pizza for Queen Margherita with tomato, oil and mozzarella. She then added basil to recall the Italian flag. Thus pizza Margherita was born in 1889 in the Italian Queen’s honor. (hat tip to Cafe Porta Alba of Madison, WI).

This most simple of pizzas is the perfect anecdote to the fast-food transmorgification of pizza into something wholly different (cough*CPK*cough).  However, to fully experience the beauty of Margherita, one must track down a wood-oven baked pizza.  And don't forget an easy-drinking glass of vino.  Two of my favorites are Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

04 December 2006

O Noble

Montepulciano There are an abundance of grapes in northern Italy's brooding reds that begin with the letter 'B': Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera. Sliding a bit south to Tuscany, we discover another 'B' - unknown to most wine drinkers.  In fact, in this region where Chianti and Prada-like SuperTuscans reign supreme, this 'B' is altogether anonymous.  Don't believe me?  Take the one-question quiz:

Q:  What is the name of the grape variety used to produce Vino Nobile di Montepulciano?

'A' on the flip....

Continue reading "O Noble" »

14 November 2006

New Music Tuesday: 21st Century Disco

Satnitefever Imagine Disco had never suffered a much-scorned demise.  How might it sound today in ought-six?  Say hello to Ghostland Observatory:

Ghostland Observatory is the duo of front man Aaron Behrens and producer/drummer Thomas Turner. Behrens’ vocal style and stage performances are unique and uncompromising, and he has drawn early comparisons to Freddie Mercury and Prince. Turner is heavily influenced by electronic artists such as Daft Punk, Laurent Garnier and Green Velvet, as well as rockers such as The Animals, David Bowie, and The Clash. With their spectral blend of electronics, drums, guitar and vocals, they have emerged with a sound that is the culmination of past influence and present inspiration, and can only be described as BALLSY [emphasis not mine]

Think those are fairly lofty comparisons?  Have a listen to GO's Sad Sad City (track 1 on the menu).

Granted, I was only six years old when Travolta's hair and white suit made Disco mainstream.  I do however seem to remember around the same time a spate of ads for Asti Spumanti and Riunite on Ice..that's nice! (aka chilled Lambrusco from the Italian wine region, Emilia-Romagna).  So it seems Northern Italian vino had the corner on 70s Disco refreshment.  Perhaps we should give the Sicilians the opportunity to quench our 21st Century Disco thirst..

Regaleali Get down with Tasca d'Almerita's Regaleali Bianco Sicilia IGT, 2005 (~$11).  Big Parks gives this white blend of 3 Sicilian varietals (Inzolia, Cataratto, Grecanico) the magic 90 point score (which means you best track it down now before it disappears).  I do have to agree with his observation that T.d'A.'s bianco is surprisingly crisp and fresh considering how far in Italy's steamy, sunny south the vines are.  Regaleali defies expectations with a zesty mouthfeel coupled to scents that can best be described as a vanilla-peach cream soda-pop minus HFCS.  This wine is indeed simple, but also unique and refreshing.  Give it a go while boogeying to Ghostland Observatory.

PS: Regaleali, imported by Winebow, also makes a fabulously funky rosato.

08 October 2006

Divine Tears, Red Feet & Foxtails

Iconlg Italy may be the global champion in creative naming of grape varietals and wines.  The Campania region (located on Italy's shin) seems to have a special flair for creative vino names.  Take two of its grape varietals - Coda di Volpe and Piedirosso.  According to legend, Coda do Volpe, which means 'tail of the fox,' was named by the famous Roman elder, Pliny.  Apparently DdV's clusters have a fox tail-like appearance.  Piedirosso (literally, 'red feet') refers to this grape's red-colored root-ends.

However, when it comes to Campania and creative names, the hands down winner is, "Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio."  First, let's find out about the name, and then move onto the wine.  There are numerous tales regarding the origins of, "the tears of Christ from Vesuvius."  The most fanciful goes something like this (via Babbo):

When Archangel Lucifer was cast out of heaven, he grasped a small divine chunk of heaven while falling to earth.  Lucifer placed this chunk in what is now the bay of Naples - Campania's capitol.  Missing this little chunk of heaven, the Lord cried over it and his tears rained down on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.  From these 'Lacrima Christi' sprang vines that later produced the grapes for this fancifully-named DOC wine.

Lacrima Christi is produced in white, rose and red versions.  These wines are generally blends of local grape varietals such as 'foxtail' or 'red feet.'  Lacrimas are quite unique and normally well-priced.  Red Lacrima is the perfect accompaniment to a hearty autumn pasta dish like fettuccine with sausage and kale.

Deangelisrossolacrimachristi A red Lacrima to try: De Angelis Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio Rosso 2004 ($17; 13% alcohol; 60% Piedirosso & 40% Aglianico; imported by Vin Divino).  This ruby red wine is a unique scent collection for your sniffer - cranberry, blood orange, clove and dried herb.  In the mouth Lacrima initially offers intense fruit flavors followed by light tannins and a long, earthy finish.  Very nice - not moved-to-tears nice, but nice nonetheless.  Try this wine - we don't want the Lord to have cried for no good reason (and you don't even want to know what happens when god gets mad - think of the kittens).

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25 September 2006

beni's baby b

Barbaresco is the more graceful sibling of Barolo.  Both wines, made from Northern Italy's Nebbiolo grape, are often very austere and quite pricey. Thus they are not readily sipped by wine newbies.  In addition to the price and style factors is the age factor.  Many Nebbiolo-based wines aren't approachable within the first decade of bottle-life.  Thus, if you are new to the 'killer b' scene, it's wise to kick off your Barolo/Barbaresco exploration with a less-expensive Barbaresco.  While budget-Barbs don't offer the depth and complexity of luxe Barbarescos or big Barolos, they do provide the budding oenonaut with a taste of Nebbiolo's distinct flavor profile.  So, if you've never had Nebbiolo, try Beni's Barbaresco and see if Nebbiolo is for you.

Barb_2 Beni di Batasiolo Barbaresco 2000 ($30)

  • Imported into the US by Boisset America; 13% alcohol
  • 100% Nebbiolo from Italy's Piedmont (northwest)
  • Rusty ruby in color with a wide, orange-brown rim
  • Scents of graphite, violets, dried cherry and a touch of birch beer (really)
  • This wine is what I would call, "slow acting."  After sip numero uno, It seems smooth and submissive.  Yet as the wine washes across the plate its tannins begin to grip.  While in the grip of Beni's tannins, subdued flavors of tart cherry, herbs and earth are revealed.
  • While this isn't an earth shattering Nebbiolo by any means, Batasiolo Barbaresco is indeed a very nice introduction to the nuances of Nebbiolo.
  • Verdict: Recommended

Try this wine with slow roasted lamb - the perfect match.

Read more about Northern Italy's b's (Barolo & Barbaresco & Barbera).

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20 September 2006

Lent List

Tikigoblet My wine lent list thus far:

Jeriko Estate Sangiovese 2003 ($16-$20) - I'm surprised at how often I enjoy Italians raised in California.  This Mendocino red, while powerful, offers some righteous complexity.  Red & black berry scents spiced with dried herbs and a hint of clove.  The tannins are a bit grippy, which makes it a great choice with something roasted.  Organic. Verdict: Recommended

Quinta dos Roques Garrafeira 2000 ($35) - An old world throwback.  Flavors of just-ripe red cherry mixed with hints of cedar and earth.  Jaggedy, slightly wild tannins that haven't yet softened with age.  Have you ever tried red wine from the Dao region of Portugal?  It may just inspire you to talk like a pirate.  Yar. 
Verdict: Recommended

Qupe Marsanne 2004 ($20) - What do you get when you pull Viognier out of a white Cali-Rhone blend?  Less honeysuckle and more fresh melon tang.  This Santa Ynez Valley white wine is the perfect California expression of two of the Rhone's unheralded whiteys (75% Marsanne & 25% Rousanne).  Slurp it with a little spicy Asian stir fry.  Verdict: Highly Recommended

Bonny Doon Erbaluce 2004 ($17) - This resurrected northern Italian varietal produces charming wine.  It's been known to save relationships.  Doon's Erbaluce exhibits a nifty combination of lemon zest, white pear and herbal scents.  On the tongue, the wine is deceptively rich and hearty - it'll stand up to spicy Indian curry.  Verdict: Highly Recommended

Thus far the grape varietal roster for wine lent reads:

  • Sangiovese
  • Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz and Jaen (Portugese grapes)
  • Marsanne & Rousanne
  • Erbaluce

Do you have any exciting, lent-approved discoveries to add?

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