Showing posts with label Italian Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian Wine. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2024

Oakless Chianti

If all you know of Italy's Chianti region is that straw-wrapped wine bottle with the candle drippings down the side from your college dorm, you need to know more.  First of all, they dispensed with the straw baskets years ago.  Second, the area has undergone a complete transformation since those days.  It is now home to some of Tuscany's best wines.

Ruffino was founded in 1877, when cousins Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino set up a small winery in the town of Pontassieve, near Florence.  Wine had been a thing there for ages, but the two Tuscan natives felt certain that much of the area's greatness had yet to be revealed, what with Tuscany's mineral-laden soils, the cooling influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the dry summers that wine grapes just love. 

Ruffino lays claim to being one of the first major wineries with vineyard estates in Italy's three most famous wine-producing regions – Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The 2020 Chianti Superiore is made from 70% Sangiovese grapes and a 30% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Those grapes really get a chance to shine, since aging takes place in concrete and stainless steel tanks for six months, then another two months in the bottle.  Superiore serves as a sort of midpoint between the Chianti DOCG and the more complex Chianti Classico.  Alcohol ticks 13.5% abv and it generally sells for around $12.

Aromas of black cherry and dark raspberry come forth on the nose, nice and bright due to the oakless aging process. Acidity is refreshing and the tannins are firm. This is a good wine to pair with a spaghetti dinner, with or without meatballs. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A Classic From Chianti Classico

The Sangiovese grapes for the 2020 Il Grigio da San Felice Riserva Chianti Classico were grown at the San Felice estate vineyard in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena. That is the part of Chianti Classico where it is said the wines are the ripest and richest in the region. 

It was a mild winter in the 2020 vintage, but a freeze in the spring lowered the yield of the Sangiovese grapes. Lower yield means higher concentration, so all was not lost.  

Most of the wine achieved malolactic fermentation in steel tanks before being transferred to Slovenian oak casks for a 24-month aging period. The remaining 20% went into smaller French oak barriques. The wine aged for three months in the bottle to justify its riserva status. The label art shows a painting by Titian of a knight in armor who was instrumental in a Siena military victory. Alcohol for Il Grigio hits 13.9% abv and the retail price sits just a bit below the $28 mark. 

This wine has a dark purple color and a complex nose. Aromas of black cherry, violets, anise, clove, leather and earth are plentiful in the bouquet. The palate offers a medium mouthfeel with great acidity and firm tannins. The fruit flavors are carried along by the more savory aspects of the profile. It is a wine which would love a pairing with a steak or a pork chop, or with a meaty stew. 


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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Big Enjoyment From Cheap Lambrusco

Notte Rosso is likely found on the bottom shelf of your grocer's wine aisle. It's an inexpensive wine, but is it a bargain wine? We'll find out here and now. 

The Notte Rosso winery is located in In Salento, in Italy's Puglia region, in the area known as Primitivo di Manduria. The Notte Rosso Lambrusco, however, is from the Emilia region, in Italy's north. The wine has a very low alcohol content of 7.5% abv and generally sells for less than $10.

This wine colors up a medium garnet in the glass. The nose is rather muted, but offers a blackberry aroma draped in an earthy note. It's a slightly fizzy wine with a palate that shows dark blue fruit and a hint of coffee. It is not a particularly complex sip, but it is rather pleasant. The label has a meter pointing to "sweet," but it does not come off that way to me. I would call it off-dry, if anyone were to ask me. 


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Monday, January 29, 2024

A Classic From Chianti Classico

San Felice is an Italian winemaking company which is located in the Chianti Classico area of Tuscany. Their history includes the fact that they were on the leading edge of the development of the Super Tuscan style, decades ago.

Their 2021 Chianti Classico comes from the rolling hills of the Castelnuovo Berardenga area in Chianti Classico. The sandy soil soaked in minerals is good for growing Sangiovese grapevines. San Felice winemaker Leonardo Bellacini is right at home here, since he has worked with that grape variety through much of his career. The wine has 12% abv and sells for less than $20. 

This medium ruby wine smells of black cherry, coffee, mocha and a hint of eucalyptus peeking through. The palate is weighted medium, with dark red fruit flavors mingling among the oak spices. The wood is not overplayed, however. I can taste clove, cinnamon, allspice, anise and oregano in here, yet the feeling is very fresh and lively. I'm usually not a pizza-and-wine guy, but this one goes well with a slice of cheese and black olives. 


Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Gimme A Gavi

People don't give wine importers enough credit for what they do. The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us. Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office about a decade ago. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

Mack and Schuhle say that Riva Leone was a "man of unique character and personality who was an ambassador for the special wines of the Langhe all throughout Europe in the early 20th Century." They are proud to help carry his legacy in wines which they say "uphold the winemaking traditions of Piedmont for a new generation of wine lovers across the world."

The 2021 Riva Leone Gavi DOCG is made from 100% Cortese grapes which were grown in the village of Gavi and vinified in stainless steel tanks, where the wine was aged for a few months before bottling. The limestone soil gives big minerals to the wine's nose and palate.

This wine is very lightly tinted, a mellow yellow-green hue. The nose shows plenty of minerals, housed in beautiful citrus notes - lime and tangerine, mainly. The plate is just as laden with minerals. There is a strong streak of salinity which runs through the sip and a very fresh acidity. The finish lingers with those lime notes hanging in there the longest. 


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Monday, January 15, 2024

A Piedmont Barbera We Can Afford To Drink Every Night

People sometimes don't give wine importers enough credit for what they do. The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us. Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Miami-based importer Mack and Schühle find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office about a decade ago. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

Mack and Schuhle say that Riva Leone was a "man of unique character and personality who was an ambassador for the special wines of the Langhe all throughout Europe in the early 20th Century." They are proud to help carry his legacy in wines which they say "uphold the winemaking traditions of Piedmont for a new generation of wine lovers across the world."

The 2021 Riva Leone Piemonte Barbera 2021 was vinified in steel tanks, where the wine achieved malolactic fermentation. It was then aged for 12 months in American and French oak. The wine's alcohol level sits comfortably at 13% abv and it sells for a mere $12. 

This wine is medium dark garnet in color. The nose is full of brambly cherry and raspberry aromas laced with spice and oak. The palate is fruity and spicy with a generous supply of tannic grip. A long finish carries a bit of sweetness along after the sip. Great with a meat sauce pasta or with sweet Italian sausages. 


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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Sweet Italian Bubbles From Asti

Wine importers do not get enough credit for what they do. The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us. Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office a bit more than a decade ago. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

One fun member of their portfolio is the Acquesi Asti DOCG Sparkling Wine. The Moscato grapes for this bubbly were grown in Asti, in Italy's Piedmont region. The distributor relates the winery's description of the locale like this:

"The vineyards are located on the hilly ridge that goes from Alice Bel Colle to Santo Stefano Belbo passing through the amazing hills of Ricaldone, located at an altitude between 250 and 400 meters above sea level. A large part of the soils that give life to our Cuvée are characterized by light limestone marl while the minority part has a strong sandy component. The different microclimates affected by this selection of musts offer a complete photograph of the expressions of the native aromatic varieties."

Sounds like a beautiful place. I'm ready for a visit. Winemaker Daniele Astegiano produced this sparkler to 7% abv and it retails for $18.

This wine has bubbles galore, for a minute or so. A huge, white, frothy head pours up and hangs around a bit before dissipating. The nose is a beauty, full of ripe peaches, apples, pears and nectarines. The palate is just as sweet, maybe sweeter. It's not exactly a dessert wine, but it  certainly would do in a pinch. The pairing with dessert is a natural, as is its more reserved role with Asian food or sushi. 


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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Sweet Wine From Sicily For The Holidays Or Anytime

The holidays are a great time for dessert wines. The festivities just seem to shine a little brighter with a sweet wine in your glass, which is why I always try to have a few, at least. If you missed your chance at holiday sweets, there is another opportunity on the way. We call it Valentine's Day. 

One of the finest sweeties I have had was from the Sicilian producer Donnafugata. Donnafugata produces wines from a number of vineyards across the island on their estates in Contessa Entellina, Pantelleria, Vittoria and Etna. The historical family cellars in Marsala serve as a center for innovation. 

The iconic 2021 Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria is a sweet, complex, and aromatic wine made of 100% Muscat of Alexandria grapes, also known as Zibibbo. Passito is the style of wine made from dried grapes. Why call this wine Ben Ryé? The name comes from the Arabic term for "Son of the Wind." The wind always seems to be sweeping around the grape vines on the island of Pantelleria.

The wine was aged for eight months in oak and at least a year in the bottle before being released for sale. Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the price is $46 for the 375 ml bottle.

This white dessert wine has a most beautiful, rich-looking copper color. The nose is just as enticing, with big aromas of orange candy and dried apricots. The palate is a sheer delight. It is sweet enough to be dessert on its own, but has enough acidity to pair with your favorite after-dinner sweets or a selection of cheeses. It is pricy, but it is an experience that can be savored. 


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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Kosher Barbera D'Asti

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

Geller says that the newly arrived Lovatelli wines are a treat. The line from Piemonte includes a Primitivo ($16.99), a Barbera d’Asti ($24.99), and an Orbaio Rosso blend ($29.99), as well as two vermouths ($24.99). The Lovatelli Barbera D’Asti clocks in with alcohol at 14% abv. It is mevushal. 

This wine is quite dark in the glass, almost indigo with a violet hue around the rim. The nose is heavy with black fruit - plums, blackberries, black raspberries. The palate is loaded with those fruit flavors, as well as savory notes of earth, leather, cigar and allspice. The tannins are firm and ready for a steak. The acidity is mouthwatering. 


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

An Italian Red From The Heel Of The Boot

The Susumaniello grape is a rarity. It is found growing only in the southern reaches of Italy, in Apulia, Puglia, the "heel of the boot" if you are looking at Italy on a map. It is a grape which is usually used for blending, but this bottling offers a full varietal version of it.

The 2021 Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello came from Trader Joe's in a squatty bottle. As with many of the wines I have tried from that store, it is surprisingly good. Maybe I should stop being surprised after shopping at TJ's for decades. 

There is not a lot of information out there about this wine, or at least I didn't find much. It is reportedly aged in both steel tanks and oak barrels and it definitely shows the oak effect, although not to distraction. Alcohol sits at 4.5% abv and the bottle costs $12.

This wine is as dark as ink in the glass. It smells dark, too, with notes of black cherry, blackberry, clove, cinnamon, forest floor and hints of vanilla and cedar. The palate is bold and fruity, with cherry flavors hitting the tongue first. The sweet oak spice is enjoyable, not overdone. Tannins are firm and the wine has a good tannic grip. The overall feeling of sweetness is beautiful, but don’t expect a dessert wine. This is a truly enjoyable red wine at a truly affordable price. 


Monday, July 24, 2023

Buying A Rosé In PA

This 2021 Famiglie Rosé was purchased at Wegman's grocery, in Pennsylvania. They do a pretty good imitation of Whole Foods Market there, right down to a generous wine selection. This marks a huge step forward for the Keystone State, from the old state stores where wine lovers used to have schedule an extra shopping stop to get a bottle of vino. 

This store, however, still had some odd rules concerning wine sales. "I can’t check out wine at this register - you have to go to 14 or 15." Maybe the checker wasn't old enough to consume alcohol, and therefore wasn't old enough to sell it, I don't know.  And I was carded. I'm 67 years old. But I get it - "laws is laws."

Anyway, the Famiglie rosé was made in Italy's Veneto region from the Corvina grape. Alcohol is nice and easy at 12% and it sold for $12.

The color is a fairly rich salmon, with a beautiful nose of cherries, strawberries, citrus and slight spice. The palate shows a mineral-driven lemon/cherry/earth pattern that paired quite well with a plate of Italian cold cuts and stuffed artichokes. 


Monday, June 19, 2023

Sweet And Innocent - That's Moscato

Sweet wines sometimes get short shrift in the wine-osphere. They are not considered to be "serious" wines and are relegated to also-ran mentions, if not met with out-and-out jokes. But there are plenty of times when a sweet wine - not a dessert wine, but one that is not dry - is just what the sommelier ordered. They serve well as aperitifs, icebreakers at parties, even palate cleansers between courses if you are really fancy. Sweet wines also pair well with spicy dishes.

The 2022 Matteo Soria Moscato d’Asti Cascinetta is made from 100% Moscato Bianco grapes, grown in the Asti Spumante DOCG of Piedmont - specifically in the hills of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato. Alcohol is barely there, at 5% abv. The wine sells for less than $10.

The wine is straw-colored and has a beautiful nose - sweet and floral, with ripe peach and pear notes. The fizziness adds a lively and festive note while the palate brings the same fruit found on the nose. Acidity is decent, but there is more pleasure from the bubbles than the freshness. It's a delicious wine - simple, but sweet and lovely. 


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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Mixing Wine And Fashion

The Donnafugata winery was founded in 1983 by Giacomo Rallo, but there were three generations of winemaking experience before him. A fifth is now helping to create quality wines from five estates of Sicily.

The winery is thrilled by their partnership with the fashion boutique Dolce & Gabbana. Donnafugata has no problem expanding their reach from wine into fashion, just as they have done with art and music.

The 2019 Donnafugata Dolce & Gabbana Tancredi was made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola and Tannat grapes. The wine came from the Terre Siciliane IGT. Aging took place over 12 months in oak and three years in the bottle. Alcohol hits 14.2% abv and it retails for $48.

The wine is very dark. The nose is quite expressive, with bright blackberry and blueberry aromas drifting in and out of oak spice and wonderful notes of licorice, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. On the palate, dark fruit bursts forth, with notes of tobacco, spice and earth playing supporting roles. 


Wednesday, May 31, 2023

From Sicily With Nero D'Avola

The Donnafugata winery was founded in 1983 by Giacomo Rallo, but there were three generations of winemaking experience before him. A fifth is now helping to create quality wines from five estates of Sicily.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the first and only red wine in Sicily which has DOCG status. It is made from Nero d'Avola and Frappato grapes, vinified in steel tanks and aged there for eight months before maturing for another 10 months in the bottle.

The Donnafugata website describes the front label art as "a fantastic figure of a woman who is giving the gift of … flowers and fruits." It is a lovely and eye-catching illustration to go with the lovely wine inside the bottle.

This wine is medium tinted in a violet hue. It sports a nose of raspberry, but the fruit is just about covered up by a savory blanket. There is a strong earthy element to the aroma package, and even a bit of barnyard funk. The palate is quite dark - black raspberry, blackberry, bramble - with an extremely savory aspect. It is a very tasty wine, the acidity is dead-on perfect, and the tannins are firm, so it will pair well with your meaty dishes or pizza. 


Monday, May 22, 2023

Barolo In A Family Way

Pio Cesare has been producing Barolo and Barbaresco wines in the Italian city of Alba for more than 135 years. They are now in the fifth generation of family winemakers. The man named Pio Cesare began it all by making wine just for family and friends. He was so good at it, though, that it turned into a career.

Those who followed in his footsteps have held the quality high. They have been doing wonderful things with Nebbiolo grapes for well over a century, and it doesn’t appear that they plan on stopping anytime soon.

This Barolo wine has a medium-dark violet color, with a sort of brick red tint to it. Aromas of plums, blueberries, cassis and flowers come forth on the nose. The palate is black fruit and earth, with a peppery note and a firm set of tannins. A savory aspect rides along with the fruit, and there is a fine acidity which will make for some delicious pairings with food. 


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A Twist On The Super Tuscan Recipe

San Felice is an Italian wine estate situated a half hour from Siena, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. Their flagship wine, Vigorello, has grown and matured along with the winery. It started off in 1968, as a 100% Sangiovese wine. It was the first wine from Tuscany to incorporate international wine grapes, making Vigorello the first Super Tuscan wine. 

Today, Vigorello is crafted from 35% Pugnitello grapes, 30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Pugnitello is a grape native to Tuscany. Once thought to be Montepulciano, but DNA research showed that it is its own grape. Pugnitello languished almost forgotten for years before being resurrected by studies at the University of Florence. 

The grapes sprouted early in the 2018 vintage for San Felice. A warm March and April were followed by a rainy May and the usual mix of heat and showers for the summer. September brought about sunny days and cool nights, which helped the grapes along to their proper maturity.

The fruit was vinified and aged for 24 months in French oak barriques, then aged another eight months in the bottle. Alcohol tips 14% abv while the wine retails for around $60.

Vigorello is a dark wine, allowing almost no light to pass through it. The nose holds a savory shield over the fruit aromas of plum, blackberry and raspberry. The palate is a complete joy - full of dark fruit which is colored by a rustic earthiness. The wine isn’t afraid to flex its muscles. The tannins are firm, but fine. That, plus the refreshing acidity, makes for a wine which is literally made for the dinner table.


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Monday, March 6, 2023

A Red Wine From Sicily's Volcanic Soil

Duca di Salaparuta is one of the oldest wineries in Sicily, producing fine wines since 1824. Their  Vajasindi Estate - in northeastern Sicily, on the slopes of the Etna volcano - has given the Reina family two native grape varieties for a pair of new wines. Lavico Etna Rosso DOC 2020 and Lavico Etna Bianco DOC  2021 are made, respectively, from Nerello Mascalese and Carricante grapes. The winery says that these wines exhibit "the grace of the mountain, the warmth of the sea, and the minerality of the volcano." The wines of Duca di Salaparuta are sustainably grown.

The 2020 Lavico Etna Rosso DOC is aged partly in concrete tanks and partly in French oak barrels, for a total of 12 months. Alcohol hits 13% abv and it sells for $34.

The color of the wine is a very light ruby, very elegant looking. On the nose, there is a beautiful bouquet of cherry candy, ripe strawberry and roses. The palate offers more of the same - delicate red fruit flavors are tinged with minerals and the tannic structure is very fine, almost dainty. The finish leaves a lovely impression of the fruity side of this wine, with enough of the savory side present to make one wish for more.

The 2021 Lavico Etna Bianco DOC is aged in stainless steel tanks for four months, on the lees, before getting another three months in the bottle. Alcohol tips only 12.5% abv and the wine retails for $34.

The pale wine has a nose that screams savory - salinity and minerals abound. Despite that, there is plenty of fruit to go around - stone fruit, lemons and mango. The palate is where that minerality really lives, with a taste of the ocean meeting all that citrusy fruit. Acidity is in full force, while the finish is lengthy and memorable. 


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Monday, February 27, 2023

A White Wine From Sicily's Volcanic Soil

Duca di Salaparuta is one of the oldest wineries in Sicily, producing fine wines since 1824. Their  Vajasindi Estate - in northeastern Sicily, on the slopes of the Etna volcano - has given the Reina family two native grape varieties for a pair of new wines. Lavico Etna Rosso DOC 2020 and Lavico Etna Bianco DOC  2021 are made, respectively, from Nerello Mascalese and Carricante grapes. The winery says that these wines exhibit "the grace of the mountain, the warmth of the sea, and the minerality of the volcano." The wines of Duca di Salaparuta are sustainably grown.

The 2021 Lavico Etna Bianco DOC is aged in stainless steel tanks for four months, on the lees, before getting another three months in the bottle. Alcohol tips only 12.5% abv and the wine retails for $34.

The pale wine has a nose that screams savory - salinity and minerals abound. Despite that, there is plenty of fruit to go around - stone fruit, lemons and mango. The palate is where that minerality really lives, with a taste of the ocean meeting all that citrusy fruit. Acidity is in full force, while the finish is lengthy and memorable. 


Monday, February 20, 2023

Not Barolo, But Nebbiolo

This wine - Ebbio Langhe Nebbiolo - is produced by Fontanafredda, in the Langhe area of Piedmont. Established in 1858, they are the largest certified organic winery in Piedmont. The Nebbiolo grapes for Ebbio were grown in hillside vineyards on the 250-acre estate. The wine was vinified in stainless steel tanks, then aged eight months in neutral wood, then finished with another few months aging in the bottle. 

Aging makes the difference between a Nebbiolo wine and a Barolo, which is also made from Nebbiolo grapes. The Barolo will age in wood for about three years. Winemaker Giorgio Lavagna brings the Ebbio in at an alcohol level of 13.5% abv. It sells for around $25. 

This 2019 wine is ruby red, but with a tinge of brick around the edge of the glass. The nose is full of ripe cherry and some very fresh spices, cinnamon and nutmeg. The palate shows full red fruit with a hint of orange peel and a minty herbal slant. The tannins are smooth and the mouthfeel is full. As always, Nebbiolo is a pleasure. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

A Fantastic White Wine From Sardinia

The Sella & Mosca estate - I Piani - holds some 1,200 acres of vines, reportedly the second largest contiguous vineyard in all of Italy. The scenery is beautiful but the climate is hot and dry on the island of Sardinia, where the Torbato grapes for the 2018 Sella & Mosca Terre Bianche grow, in the Alghero Torbato DOC.

The Torbato grape is not indigenous to Italy. It traveled from Spain to France before being brought to Sardinia by the rulers of the day. It is a white grape - known in France's Côtes du Roussillon as Tourbat - and is known for its smoky notes.

This wine was vinified by Giovanni Pinna in stainless steel tanks. Alcohol hits only 12.5% and it sells for a ridiculously low price of about $15. I got mine on sale at Eataly for a few dollars less.

This white wine has the color of light onion skin - a nice hue for a white which has been in the bottle for some five years. The nose is immediately familiar to me, even though I have never tasted this grape before. It smells like the white wines of the Midwest and northeastern U.S. There is a strong fruit aroma - apricot and Meyer lemon - and an even stronger mineral aspect. A little bit of melon brings what little sweetness I pick up. The palate shows a basket full of savory notes - lanolin, minerals, citric tartness, pepper, spice and sage. Acidity is fine - not too tingly but not too flat. The finish is lengthy and focused on the fruit. I am impressed. 

This wine paired magnificently, by the way, with the turmeric and lemon bowtie pasta I bought at Eataly. I mixed it with cabbage and onions in butter. So simple, so good. 



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