Showing posts with label Tuscany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tuscany. Show all posts

Monday, June 6, 2022

Chianti Comes To Los Angeles

The Chianti Lovers U.S. Tour 2022 hit SoCal in May, setting up shop for the afternoon at The London West Hollywood. The presentation was an immersive exploration of the Chianti wine region of Tuscany, with a sit-down guided tasting of wines and a walk-around tasting which left the trade and media types bumping from table to table, glasses in hands. Here are a few favorites from a handful of producers, most of which are seeking representation in America.

Cantina Sorelli

Their 2021 Chianti D.O.C.G. has a beautiful nose full of roses, lavender and red fruit. Amazing.

Chianti Trambusti 

Their 2019 Toscana Rosso "Sentimento" has lovely, savory notes of cherry and herbs.

Montecchio 

Their 2019 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. is heavy on the Sangiovese, light on the Merlot. Savory red fruit and 12 months in Slovenian oak.

The 2016 Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. Gran Selezione "Pasquino" is all Sangiovese, aged in terra cotta vessels. So fresh still, six years later.

Piandaccoli 

Their 2019 I.G.T. Toscana Bianco is half Chardonnay and half Malvasia. Savory, seashore.

The 2020 Vino Spumante Rosato Brut "Vivendi" is the only sparkling wine in the world made from the Mammolo grape, I am told. It's a very nice step up from Prosecco.

The 2016 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso was the star of the show. It's an extremely savory red wine, while the 2015 Chianti D.O.C.G. Riserva "Cosmus" ran a close second.

Tentuta di Sticciano

Their 2021 I.G.T. Tosacono Rosato "Canto Delle Rose" shows fabulous strawberry and a wonderful salinity, in addition to some great acidity.

The 2018 I.G.T. Toscana Rosso "Indomito" has roses on the nose and a palate that's fruity and savory at once.


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Monday, April 25, 2022

Tuscany - Chianti Superiore

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 Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The 2019 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 took 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 Chianti Classico.  Alcohol ticks 13.5% abv and it generally sells for around $12.

This wine sports a nose that is laced with red and black fruit and earthy minerals.  The palate features plum, blackberry and cherry, with fine tannins and a wonderful acidity.  It tastes so fresh.  The finish is medium long and fruity.  Pair it with sausages or steaks, or a nice marinara sauce.


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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Super Tuscan From Tenuta Luce

Located in Montalcino, Tuscany, - Toscana IGT - the Luce winery specializes in Super Tuscan wines.  La Vite Lucente is the estate's second bottling, a 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Merlot.  The 2018 vintage was marked by rains in the winter and spring, which made up somewhat for the previous year's drought.  The summer was temperate and dry.

The 2018 Lucente was aged for a year in a mix of new and used barriques.  Alcohol hits 14.5% abv and the wine retails for $30.

This brilliant red wine presents itself elegantly, with a nose that marries the fruit of Sangiovese with the smoke of Merlot.  Dark fruit is what you smell, with a bit of vanilla and spice from the wood.  The wine drinks spectacularly, with a full mouthfeel, soft tannins and a long-lasting finish.  My friendly neighborhood publicist feels that it is a great wine with which to toast a strong, bold woman on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022.


Monday, August 30, 2021

Kosher Wine - Italy

The Jewish High Holy Days happen in September, which means you'll need some kosher wines.  Fortunately, Royal Wine Corporation provides what I have found to be high-quality kosher wines.  Royal is owned by the Herzog family, whose wine history dates back to the middle of the 19th century.  Royal imports and distributes kosher wines from all over the world, and the make their own at the Herzog winery in Southern California.

When we think of kosher wine, we may often think of those from Israel, but here is one is from Italy.  Terra di Seta is in Tuscany, near Siena in the Chianti Classico region.  Their winery is on a family-run organic farm, overseen by Daniele Della Seta and his wife, Maria Pellegrini.

The 2016 Pelegríni della Seta Chianti Classico Riserva is made entirely of Sangiovese grapes, harvested from the stony soil of a sunny, windy, low-yield vineyard at an elevation of more than 1,500 feet.  The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months.  Alcohol sits at a lofty 15% abv 

This Sangiovese is a fairly dark wine which smells of cherries, plums and blackberries with a mineral-driven overlay and some sweet oak spice.  The palate has plenty of fruit, too, as well as a savory aspect that lingers on the finish.  The tannins are firm - pair it with meat dishes or sauces and aged cheeses.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Three Gajas From Italy

A recent virtual tasting event spotlighted the wines of the Gaja family in Italy.  Wine.com staged the tasting for consumers and writers, and I was honored with an invitation.  Host Gwendolyn Osborn, a Wine.com wine educator, led the discussion.  Adding to the event were appearances by owner Angelo Gaja, his daughter Gaia and son Giovanni.  The three wines featured were Ca'Marcanda Magari, Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino, and Gaja DaGromis Barolo.  They are imported in the U.S. by Terlato.

Angelo Gaja - a self-described artisan - is the heart of his family wine business, which was started three generations before him.  Wine.com says he single-handedly gave the Barbaresco appellation worldwide esteem, established the use of barrique aging and was a pioneer in planting international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in Piedmont.  His daughter and son represent the fifth generation to enter the family business.  The Gaja winemaker is listed as Guido Rivella.


Ca’Marcanda Magari Bolgheri
2018

The Gaja's Ca'Marcanda property is in the Tuscan commune of Castagneto Carducci, in Bolgheri, in the Maremma region.  The vineyard was acquired in 1996 and is the Gaja home for  international grape varieties.  This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot, although Gaia says the percentages can vary from vintage to vintage.  Alcohol tips only 14% abv

This inky ruby-colored wine offers up a nose as dark as its hue.  Black cherry, tar and old leather mix in with tobacco and vanilla notes.  There is an herbal element, too, which gives a sort of minty framework for the aromas.  The palate is a juicy array of dark fruit with a touch of anise and salinity.  The tannins are fine and smooth and the finish brings those dark berry flavors back for a lengthy review.


Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Pieve Santa Restituta was the family's first Tuscan property, bought by Gaja in 1994.  The white, rocky soils were no good for the crops the one-time sharecroppers planted, but Gaja found that the poor dirt was perfect for grapes.  The estate was named after the parish church - pieve in Italian - of Saint Restituta.  The Sangiovese wine hits 14.5% abv

This Brunello is medium dark red in color.  The nose shows cherry and cassis aromas, draped in anise, cedar, vanilla and a layer of smoke.  The palate is fruity and carries a good acidity and tannic structure.  A spicy streak cuts through with an herbal character.  The finish is long and brings the savory aspect back for a reminder.



Gaja DaGromis Barolo
2016

The Gaja family owns 250 acres of vineyards in Piedmont, in the Barbaresco and Barolo districts.  The Barolo plots - Serralunga d'Alba and La Morra - is where the Nebbiolo grapes grew for the DaGromis wine.  The grapes were harvested and vinified separately, then aged separately in oak for 12 months, then blended and aged further for 18 months in big oaken casks.  Alcohol sits at 14% abv.

This Barolo shows its garnet color turning to that of bricks.  The nose is soft and savory, with an earthy presence to frame the cherry and floral flavors.  The palate shows red fruit and licorice with a hefty dose of citrus minerality.  Oak spice plays a role, as does the wine’s great tannic structure.  The finish is long lasting and centered on the savory side.



Monday, April 19, 2021

A Tuscan Delight - Piaggia Carmignano Riserva

The winery's name is Piaggia, and the wine is the Carmignano Riserva 2017.  The Carmignano DOCG requires that red wines have at least 50% Sangiovese grapes in their makeup.  This one has 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot.  The area's wine quality has been held in high regard for centuries, something the Medici family took great pride in.  England's Queen Anne reportedly placed orders for the Carmignano wines.

Mauro Vannucci bought the property in the 1970s and began releasing wines in the '90s.  The land now spans five Tuscan vineyards.  Mauro's daughter, Silvia now owns the estate.

The Piaggia Carmignano Riserva underwent full malolactic fermentation, was aged in French oak barriques for 18 months and stood another six months after bottling.  The alcohol content is 14.5% abv and the wine usually sells for around $43.

This Carmignano DOCG wine marries Sangiovese and Bordeaux grapes like they were made for one another.  Medium dark in the glass, the wine shows a bright cherry aroma, which turns into black cherry over time, as tar and smoke gather on the nose.  The palate continues the dark theme, with a savory coat hung on the shoulders of the black fruit.  The acidity is fresh, while the tannins provide plenty of power to take down beef, the fattier the better. 


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Two From Tuscany IGT

Tenuta Monteti Toscana IGT 2016

Tenuta Monteti was founded in 1998 by Gemma and Paolo Baratta in the southern Maremma area of Tuscany.  The couple returned to wine after having been in the business in their youth.  The estate was named for the Monteti hill, which protects it from the strong Mediterranean winds.  

They built from the ground up, starting from scratch with vines of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Alicante Bouschet grapes.  The IGT Toscana classification allows them the freedom to choose the grapes they want to grow.  Consulting oenologist Carlo Ferrini has been with them from the beginning, and now their daughter Eva is in her second decade of running the show with her husband Javier Pedrazzini.  The vineyards are managed in sustainable fashion, and they have the government certificate to prove it.

Monteti, their flagship wine, is a blend of 40 to 55% Petit Verdot, 25 to 30% Cabernet Franc and 15 to 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The percentages varying from vintage to vintage.  The wine is aged for 18 months in medium-toasted French oak barriques, 70% of which are new, followed by another two years in the bottle.  They say the Petit Verdot is the personality of the wine, "the rebel horse," while the Cabernet Sauvignon brings structure and longevity.  The Cabernet Franc provides an elegance which softens both.  Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the Monteti has averaged through the years at a price of $36.

This wine carries a dark ruby color and a nose of dark fruit, blueberries and blackberries mostly.  There are also aromas of mocha, white pepper and oak spice to be found.  The palate displays the blueberry flavor, and a lip-smacking acidity which really feels refreshing.  It feels a touch light in the mouth, despite having spent a year and a half in oak.  The tannins are firm but not overwhelming - there is plenty there to work on a steak, a rack of lamb or a pasta dish with meat sauce - or a mushroom risotto, for that matter.

Caiarossa Aria di Caiarossa 2016

The Caiarossa company logo is an Etruscan clay head of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, dating from the fourth century B.C.  The winery's story dates back only as far as 1998.  In 2004 the estate was bought by Eric Albada Jelgersma, who brought with him the experience of creating wines in two Grand Cru vineyards in the Margaux neck of the Bordeaux woods, Château Giscours and Château du Tertre.

Caiarossa is located near the Tuscany coast, in the southern part of the Province of Pisa.  The vineyards are biodynamic and certified organic, and winemaker Lorenzo Pasquini is charged not only with making the juice, but also with cask selection.

The 2016 Aria di Caiarossa is an IGT Toscano Rosso wine made from the noble grapes Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was fermented in concrete tanks, then aged for 14 months in 15% new wood barriques and tonneaux, then back into the concrete for six months before being bottled.  Alcohol is 14% abv and the average cost of a bottle is about $30.

This dark wine has fruit aromas to match - blackberries, currant, black cherry - and I love the way those smells power past the oak effect.  The oak has indeed left its mark, with vanilla, cedar, tobacco and a hint of tar on the nose.  The palate shows vibrant fruit and earthy notes, with a healthy dose of tannic strength and a racy acidity.  I'm having it with chicken Dijonnaise, but thinking of a pork chop to pair with it.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Brunello Di Montalcino

The Tenuta di Sesta vineyards are in the southern part of Montalcino, where the warm Tuscan breezes keep the cold north winds off the grapes.  The winery has been managed since 1995 by Giovanni Ciacci, who has now brought his children into the business the way his father and grandfather did.

The 2015 Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is made from Sangiovese grapes known locally as Sangiovese Grosso, Brunello di Montalcino - or simply, Brunello.  The wine is fermented in steel tanks, then transferred to oak barrels for aging that takes 30 months.  Traditional aging occurs in Slavonian oak barrels, which is thought to be better wood for lengthy aging as the aromas are imparted more slowly.  The wine ages another twelve months in the bottle.  Alcohol tips the scale at 14.5% abv and the average price for a bottle is about $40.

The wine shows a medium ruby tint in the glass.  The nose gives off aromas of black cherry and licorice, plum and tobacco.  It is as complex as one might imagine for a wine which spent two and a half years in oak.  On the palate, there is red fruit along with some savory notes of earth and oak spice.  The tannins are supple and the acidity is refreshing.  This is a wine to pair with a special steak or game dish.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Trio Of Chianti Classico

Here are three fine examples of Chianti Classico wine from Italy's Tuscany region.  They were tasted and talked about during a recent virtual masterclass staged by wine guide Gambero Rosso International.  

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Badia A Coltibuono has been making wine since 1051, which is a long time to be open for business.  It makes waiting a year for a wine to age seem like not such an inconvenience.  The 970 years since the building housed a monastery have crawled by like snails in the morning dew.

This 2018 Chianti Classico is mainly Sangiovese, with a small amount of other supporting grapes in the blend.  Roberto Stucchi Prinetti says that he feels "Sangiovese needs a gentle hand" in the cellar, and he feels the nature of the grape is better displayed with lightly colored wines, which look more elegant.  This wine was aged 12 months in French and Austrian oak casks.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv.

This Chianti Classico is rather lightly tinted for a red wine, and if I had tasted it blind I might have been tempted to guess it was a rosé.  The nose has a basketful of fresh cherries in it, with a floral angle and just a hint of mocha and tobacco.  The sip reveals more luscious red fruit, leaning just off center into tartness, assisted by a bit of limestone chalkiness.  It sneaks along a little lighter than I expect a Sangiovese to sneak, and ends up making me think of the elegance of Pinot Noir crossed with the rusticity of warm-climate Syrah.  The acidity is fresh and the tannins firm.  Pair it with your favorite Tuscan dish.

Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2017

The Ricasoli winery has been guided since 1993 by Baron Francesco Ricasoli, who says he always keeps an eye on the ways of founder Baron Bettino Ricasoli, known as The Iron Baron.  He was a Prime Minister of the newly unified Italy in the 19th century.  For some 600 years the Ricasoli nobles defended Florence at Brolio Castle.  Times are a little easier now, so winemaking takes its proper place among priorities.  

The 2017 Ricasoli Colledilà Chianti Classico Gran Selezione was made from Sangiovese grapes which were grown in the rocky, limestone rich soil of the Colledilà vineyard.  Fermentation happened in open steel tanks before the wine was aged for 18 months in 500-litre Tonneaux, 30% of which were made from new wood while the rest were second-use.  Alcohol tips 14% and its average price is reported to be nearly $75.

The wine is colored a medium-dark ruby red and features a rich nose of black cherry, cedar, mocha, vanilla and tobacco.  The palate is hefty and dark - beefier than the Badia A Coltibuono - with flavors of cherry and currant joined by a dollop of licorice and some savory oak notes.  The tannins are fine and the acidity is refreshing.  There is a lingering sense of savory cherry on the lengthy finish.  I paired this wine with a roasted tomato and parmesan focaccia bread, although it probably would have been better suited to accompany the marinara meatballs I had for lunch.

Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva 2017

Tenuta di Arceno is located near the medieval village of San Gusme in what was the heart of the Etruscan civilization.  Grapes have been turned into wine here since the 16th century.  In the 1990s, Jess Jackson bought the property, which had changed hands only a few times in a millenium.  It was the first non-California property purchased by the late vintner.  

The estate runs from an elevation of a thousand feet to more than 1,700.  Most of the vineyards face the southwest, making for a warm climate in which the grapes can ripen.  Founding winemaker Pierre Seillan and American-born resident winemaker Lawrence Cronin have worked together at the estate for nearly two decades

The winery produces three Sangiovese wines under the Chianti Classico DOCG heading and three others under IGT Toscana, made from international grape varieties.  The 2017 Tenuta di Arceno Chianti Classico Riserva is composed of 90% Sangiovese grapes and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine aged for two years total, ten of those months in French oak barrels.  It has an alcohol level of 14.5% abv and retails for $30.

This wine has a medium-dark garnet hue and offers a nose of black cherry, anise, vanilla and cedar.  On the palate, we find red fruit, a bit of tart cherry and savory notes from the ten months of oak aging.  The tannins are a little toothy, but will do a nice job on a steak. 


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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Masterclass - Part Three

Virtual wine tasting events are no stranger to me, especially in the era of COVID-19.  Get the box, open the box, log on and taste from home.  No social distancing to strain the process, no mask needed.  I was invited to take part in a Zoom gathering recently along with two dozen other wine writers.  The event was called the Tre Bicchieri Web Show, which featured twelve different Italian wines from various producers.  My shipment was delayed several times - it came from Italy, after all - so I didn't get to take part, but the box finally arrived and I was able to taste the wines inside.

The Tre Bicchieri Web Show was presented by Gambero Rosso, a Rome-based Italian wine and food magazine that was founded in 1986.  It was their first-ever Master Class, which indicates that there are more planned.

The interactive event was hosted by Lorenzo Ruggeri, the wine guide's international editor, with comments along the two-hour journey from each winery's representative.  This is the final of three articles on Now And Zin Wine which feature the wines that were tasted.  

Tenuta Monteti Caburnio 2015 

The Baratta family owns Tuscany's Tenuta Monteti in Capalbio, in the southern part of Maremma, very close to the sea.  The winery was founded in 1998 and it deals exclusively with international varieties like Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Alicante-Bouschet.  All the Monteti wines are aged in small wood barrels. 

The 2015 Caburnio was made from 50% estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Alicante Bouschet.  The individual grapes were vinified and aged separately, then blended, then aged a year in the bottle.

Ruggeri says the area is in the wildest part of Tuscany, where the forests are populated mostly by wild animals.  The region, he says, is too warm for Sangiovese or white wine grapes, but great for the Bordeaux varieties.  Caburnio has alcohol at 14% abv and a retail price of $21.

This wine is dark enough, that's for sure.  It is a blend of Cab, Merlot and Alicante Bouschet.  No light gets through it when I hold it to the light.  It smells dark, too.  Cassis and tar fight for first place, while blackberry and oak spice aromas jostle from behind.  The palate is stately, with a muscular elegance structured by firm tannins, flinty minerals and a lively acidity.  Bring on the steaks, as big as you like.

Coppi Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore 2015

Now we come to Puglia - the heel of the boot, the land of Primitivo.  The winery which is now Cantine Coppi was founded in 1882 and taken over by the Coppi family in 1976.  It sits between Turi and Gioia del Colle, where the vineyards feature. traditional varieties like Primitivo, Aleatico, Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera, Malvasia Bianca, Falanghina and Verdeca.  On the label, you'll see an artistic representation of an elevation map of the property.

The 2015 Coppi Senatore was named after Senator Antonio Michele Coppi, who founded the company and makes the wine.  It was made completely from Primitivo grapes which were grown on their chalky, clay hillsides.  The de-stemmed fruit was crushed and put into fermenters before being transferred to steel tanks after separating the juice from the skins.  Aging took place in barrels of Slavonian oak for about a year.  Alcohol hits only 13.5% abv and the price is $30.

This Primitivo shows a medium-dark tint in the glass and a nose that is all fruit, all the time.  Cherry aromas are joined by notes of plum and cassis, with just a hint of oak.  After it sits for a bit, a whiff of smoke gathers at the top of the glass.  The palate shows a lot of earthiness and a chalky quality, which we can chalk up to minerality.  There is a lengthy finish that turns slightly tart on the fade.  I would love to have this wine with some nice Italian sausages and pasta, or a meatball sub. 

Còlpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino 2012 

Còlpetrone is in Montefalco, right in the middle of Umbria, which is right in the middle of Italy.  Under the umbrella of Tenute del Cerro, they are known for producing wines of note from the ancient Sagrantino grape and the white Grechetto.  The winery was founded in 1995 in the hilly region of clay loam soil.  

The 2012 Còlpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino is a full varietal wine, 100% Sagrantino, which was racked into French oak barrels after fermentation for a full malolactic fermentation.  It was aged in the wood for a year and another six months in the bottle.  The winery rep noted the big spiciness in the wine, adding that it is unusual to think of Sagrantino as elegant, but that this one earns the description.  Ruggeri said, it is "not showing off, the wine speaks in a low voice."  One of the participants commented that it is like meat in a glass.  Alcohol sits at 14% abv and the list price is $30.

This 2012 wine is extremely dark in the glass - inky - and bears a nose of beautiful blackberry and black plum.  There is a savory ride-along for good measure.  The sip reveals a wine with a tingling acidity and very firm tannins - eight years old and it still has plenty of fight left in it.  Bring on the rib eye, bring on the porterhouse… this wine will tame all of them.

Tenuta Sant'Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli 2015 

The Castagnedi brothers' estate extends along a ridge in Veneto that separates the Mezzane and Marcellise valleys.  They also have vineyards to the east, towards the Illasi valley.  Tenuta Sant’Antonio was represented on the virtual event by Armando Castagnedi, who said the property's marly limestone soil is so deprived of nutrients that it is white.  Accordingly, the vines have to work to stretch their roots deep to find the richer dirt.  

The 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella was made from a mix of Italian grape varieties: 70% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina and 5% Oseleta.  The grapes were dried for three months for raisining before being pressed late in the year.  The wine was vinified in new 500-litre French oak casks.  Afterward, the aging process took place in new casks for three years.  Tasters mentioned barbecue notes, cinnamon and fruits.  The alcohol content is 16% abv and the retail price is $73.

This wine speaks loudly through its minerals, but does not need to shout.  The dark liquid gives off aromas of meat, fine cigars, dried fruit and a slight raisiny note.  It is a complete joy to smell, let alone to drink.  The palate is silky smooth, with tannins on the back end.  Dark fruit dominates the flavor profile, but there is a hefty chunk of savory minerality that elbows through - ever so elegantly.  Pair it with pasta, marinara, Bolognese, or just sip it and make dinner wait.


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Monday, October 21, 2019

Tuscan Vermentino

Lunch in Los Angeles is a beautiful thing, when the weather cooperates.  That's not a lot to ask in a city where the main export - behind entertainment - seems to be sunshine.  Those days right at the beginning of autumn, when the temperatures barely crack 70 degrees, are the best lunch days.  A calamari and scungilli salad at our favorite place at the top of the Hollywood Hills is made for those times.  Oh, and a glass of Vermentino.

Antinori says they began producing Vermentino from the Guado al Tasso vineyard in 1996, just a year after the Bolgheri DOC was approved.  The wine resulted in an effort to reintroduce an indigenous grape variety from that part of the Tyrrhenian coast.

The 2018 Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Vermentino shows great salinity, for a Tuscan Vermentino.  The savory nose and palate are a delight, as are the wonderful citrus notes.  The acidity is a bit light, but there’s enough there to allow for pairing with salads or pasta in oil.


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Friday, February 1, 2019

Nuts To Dry January - I'm Drinking Wine

Dry January is so unnecessary.  And so unhappy.  If someone drinks so much that they need to take a month off from it, I feel for them.  Please, drink less and enjoy more.  It was during this social media-driven hiatus that I was given a wonderful Italian wine by Elizabeth and Joe.  I don’t think they were dumping it because it was January, though.  It was a very nice New Year's gift from them.  Movie buffs - especially fans of the horror genre - will want find out more about them at Trailers From Hell.

Fortunately, I hadn't stopped drinking for the month so I opened it right away and swigged from the bottle.  Just kidding.

Here's the story Il Valentiano tells of its history, made short and sweet.  Savino Ciacci got married at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Then came a child, Dino, then a world war which claimed Savino's life.  Ten-year-old Dino became the head of a family, and later a tenant farmer.  Silvano was born, then another war.  After WWII, Dino was able to buy the land he'd been working for so long and handed it over to his son.  In the 1970s, Fabiano was born and now leads the business as the next generation in the town of Montalcino.  His wife, Valentina, is reortedly one of the only true scientists in the area.  "Il Valentiano" is a mashup of her name and her husband's.

The 2013 Il Valentiano "Campo di Marzo" is a Brunello di Montalcino, a Sangiovese wine made in Tuscany.  The grapes are crushed by foot, fermented and aged for two to three years in oak.  A bottle retails for around $30.

This wine is a beautiful Sangiovese, dark and smelling of cherries soaked in vanilla, spices - the whole rack - and leathery tobacco pouch.  The mouthfeel is lively and tannic, with cherry and plum flavors on the palate.  A a savory taste goes hand in hand with the fruit, earthy and brawny.  I'll have it with a Bolognese dish, or steak.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Italian Wine With Italian Food

Everybody loves a good wine value, and I find great values over and over again in the wines of Italy.  The Italian restaurants of Los Angeles - there are so many great ones - are particularly adept at finding wines that offer a lot of quality for the money.

When you drink wine in a restaurant, especially by the glass, there simply is no way to think of it as a deal.  So today’s wine - at $9 a glass on the wine list at Da Pasquale in Beverly Hills - may not look like such a great deal at first glance, but it sure does taste like one.  And, considering that you can find this jaw-dropper for under ten bucks a bottle, the value is definitely there.

The 2011 La Maialina Chianti - named “Little Pig” to honor a centuries-old Tuscan pig breed - is crafted by respected Tuscan winemaker Attilio Pagli, who now also creates wine in Argentina’s Mendoza region.  This wine offers a great expression of the Sangiovese grape and yet another good reason to pair Italian wine with Italian food.  The grape's acidity makes for a perfect meal accompaniment.

The wine has a medium ruby tint and beautiful aromas of cherries and roses, hot from the sun, dominate the nose.  Tobacco notes come forward after it has been in the glass a while.  On the palate, there is more great cherry expression, also turning darker with time.  Great tannins, nice acidity and a medium-full mouthfeel make for a wine that’s easy to drink and pairs well with food.  It was particularly nice with my lasagna Napolitana.


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Going Italian At Whole Foods: Verrazzano Rosso Mini Tuscan

Attention Whole Foods shoppers - through April, Whole Foods Market shines the WFM spotlight on Italian wines at great prices.  The grocery chain is also hosting a pair of virtual tasting events to help spread the word about their great Italian value wines.  Get the details on the wines and the April 10th virtual tasting event on Twitter here.

You can search the hashtag #WFMWine on Twitter to see how much fun we all had on the previous virtual wine tasting on March 13th.  We hope you can join us on Twitter on April 10th!

Today we sample one of the wines to be featured on the April tasting event.


Twitter Tastings

Thursday March 13, 7:00-8:00 p.m. CT:

Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi 
Ruffino Orvieto Classico
Gran Passione Rosso
Donnafugata Sedàra

Thursday April 10, 7:00-8:00 p.m. CT:

Presto Prosecco
Caposaldo Pinot Grigio
Monrosso Chianti
Verrazzano Rosso


Verrazzano Rosso Mini Tuscan $15.99

Castello di Verrazzano is in the northern part of the Chianti Classico D.O.C., with its limestone-rich soil imparting a luxurious minerality to the wines made there.  Wines have been made there, by the way, since the 1100s, while the castle itself dates back to the seventh century.  With a timeline that long, you might think they would have plenty of old vines on the property.  That's not the case, though.  Their farming technique has them "renewing" plants so that the average age of the vines us only twelve years.

If the estate's name looks familiar, maybe it's because it's the name of the famous navigator and explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano.  He was born in the castle in 1485.  As an adult, Verrazzano explored much of the east coast of what we now call America.  So grateful for his work was New York City, they named one of their big bridges after him.  They even start their marathon on it every year.

The Verrazzano Rosso Mini Tuscan 2012 is made in a way similar to that of Chianti: a blend of 80% Sangiovese grapes and the rest a mix of red Canaiolo grapes and white Trebbiano and Malvasia varieties grown in the Greve district.  Aging takes place over ten months, in large Slavonian oak barrels.  The Mini Tuscan's alcohol content is only 12.5% abv, and the restraint is appreciated.  The wine comes bottled with a stylish, black artificial cork.  Mini Tuscan, I suppose, is a humorous homage to the Super Tuscan label used by maverick Chianti producers who wanted to put Bordeaux grapes in their wines and Bordeaux prices on the sticker.

This wine's medium ruby color and sweetly floral, slightly spicy nose are inviting enough, while the palate shows pretty cherry, currant and pomegranate. Nice acidity and a soft tannic structure fit together well.  There us a hint of tartness and a bit of cranberry on the finish, which I like quite a bit.  The aromas and flavors are great, the structure is wonderful.  With the flavors and spices, plus great acidity and a medium mouthfeel, I thought it would be a great wine for a Thanksgiving feast - even for a backyard barbecue.  Put it on ice for a little bit to give it a chill and you've a nice, easy-drinking red for the summer.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Vermentinos


Wine made from the Vermentino grape is one of the more refreshing experiences in life.  Often a Vermentino wine will come from the Italian island of Sardegna - or Sardinia - but the grape is also cultivated elsewhere, like in France, California and Virginia.  Vermentino has been found through its DNA to be identical to the Pigato grape in Liguria and the Favoria in Piedmont.  

There are few true Italian grape varieties planted on Sardegna, and Vermentino is one of the few.  The grape varieties found on the island tend to be those with more of a tie to France or Spain - Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malvasia and Bobal are plentiful, as is Cannonau, a Grenache clone.

A new restaurant in Los Angeles - Gusto, on 3rd near the Beverly Center - specializes in homestyle Italian with wines to match.  Chef Victor Casanova says the place is designed as a "cool neighborhood joint with an informal vibe and intoxicating aromas," and he has succeeded in those efforts.

Gusto has a nice wine list, too.  It’s tidy and well-stocked with good Italian choices.  I had the Villa Solais Vermentino, from Sardegna, with my meal.  The golden color is lovely and the nose - rather than being all about the aromas of the ocean, also shows traces of wood and an herbal note that is intriguing.  The wine has a great acidity - great with food - but it also feels somewhat full and creamy in the mouth.  It’s $8 by the glass.

We had appetizers of tomatoes stuffed with burrata and fried squash blossoms stuffed with cheese, followed by the roasted chicken and a side of rosemary potatoes.  The freshness of the food is simply amazing - Gusto instantly became our favorite Italian food in Los Angeles.

The Vermentino, unfortunately, did not hit the mark for Denise with the tomatoes - a little too much acidity in that mouthful - but it was excellent with squash, the chicken and the potatoes.

Some Vermentino was poured in Las Vegas, too, at the Terra Rosso restaurant at Red Rock Resort.  The Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Vermentino is part of the Antinori wine group.  It comes from the Guado al Tasso estate on the Tuscan coast .  The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks.

The pale straw color tips me off to the fact that it might be a stainless steel wine, since wood usually imparts more of a golden shade in a white wine.  Smelling the wine offers that wonderful “oceanesque” salinity, but there’s also a nice presence of apricots here.  The acidity level is wonderful, and it feels vibrant in my mouth.

It would have been a better match with seafood, but it did alright with the late-night snack of arancini bolognese - fried, mozzarella-stuffed risotto.


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Sunday, October 9, 2011

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO SIP - WE SALUTE YOU


AC/DC The Wine

Baby boomer rock'n'rollers are exploring wine as an additional revenue stream these days.  The California Bordeaux blend Doobie Red is spearheaded by the Doobie Brothers longtime manager B.R. Cohn, while Whitesnake Zin brings the '80s hair band back intothe spotlight.  Tool and Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan makes Arizona wine under his Caduceus label and DaveMatthews has his Blenheim Vineyards right outside his Virginia recording studio.  Sting produces Chianti at his Tuscan estate.
Now, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees AC/DC have joined forces with Australian winery Warburn Estate for a national release of AC/DC The Wine.  This rockin' vino is sourced from Australian wine regions in the Barossa and Coonawarra.  The line will include Back in Black Shiraz, Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon and You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato.  What, no Whole Lotta Rosé?



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Monday, September 12, 2011

FRESCOBALDI REMOLE TOSCANA


Frescobaldi Temole Toscana

Brunello Trattoria is a cozy little Italian restaurant on the stretch of Washington Boulevard in Culver City, California which has been undergoing revitalization in recent years.  Art and design studios and restaurants have dotted the formerly bland strip, making it a bit of a destination in the Los Angeles suburb.

My lasagna napolitana was meaty and delicious, with sausages and meatballs under the just-right pasta.  I chose a wine which suited the meal, Frescobaldi's Remole Tuscan Sangiovese blend.  It's $9 by the glass at Brunello.

Frescobaldi is one of Italy's oldest wineries, with wine production dating back to the 1300s.  Their empire encompasses nine estates in Tuscany.

Made from grapes grown in Remole, in the northern part of Tuscany, this blend is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's fermented and aged - five months - in stainless steel.

The wine's color is a fairly deep ruby red and the body is medium-full.  Its nose shows smokey black cherry and a gorgeous note of tar.  Dark fruit comes on strong on the palate - plums and currant - with smoke, tar and anise flavors meeting a vibrant acidity.  The tannins are fairly aggressive and fit well with a meat dish.


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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BANFI CENTINE ROSE TUSCANY 2009


Banfi Centine Rose Tuscany

A restaurant which never lets you down is something to be cherished.  In Los Angeles, Denise and I have dined at any number of establishments with up and down results.  Dishes may vary in quality from meal to meal, the food's good but the service isn't, hype doesn't deliver - we've encountered each of these issues all over Southern California.

One restaurant where we have never been let down is Il Buco, on Robertson Boulevard.  This small branch of the Drago family Italian restaurant empire always delivers.  The food is excellent - never less - and their soups are an experience for which my wife lives.  The service is efficient without hurry and the staff is friendly in a familial way.  Waves and smiles always greet us and see us out the door after dinner.

The wine list - as I have written about before - is one of my favorites in Los Angeles.  There's plenty of choice in both Italian and California wines, and my selections always seem surprisingly good - although the surprise really shouldn't be an issue.  "Good" has become expected here.

On a recent lunch visit, a new entry on the list caught my eye - Banfi Centine, a Tuscan rosé which I decided to enjoy with my meal.

This pink wine is quite pink, and looks very pretty in the glass.  A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is vinified for 14 days with minimal skin contact in stainless steel.  The alcohol content is 12.5% abv.

The nose of the Centine Rosé shows a beautiful fruit salad of raspberry, strawberry and sweet watermelon.  A light strawberry flavor is rooted in minerals.  The acidity doesn't quite seem to be there on the palate, but shows nicely on the finish.

Paired with carrot soup, it's a hit.  The thyme in the soup really sets off the delicate flavors.  The wine also provides a good match for an endive salad with walnuts, pears and gorgonzola. Rosemary chicken also fits very nicely with this lovely rosé.

At Il Buco, the Centine is $7 by the glass, and it sells for around $11 a bottle retail.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ANTINORI SANGIOVESE SANTA CHRISTINA 2009 AT PANE E VINO


Antinori Sangiovese Santa Christina

Pane e Vino, on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, has been a nice Monday evening dining option lately.  The food's great any night, but Monday the restaurant has been offering half-price wine from their list which features a healthy assortment of Italian options.

The Antinori Sangiovese Santa Christina is from Toscana IGT.  The Tuscan red doesn't bowl you over with brawn, but it drinks easily even for a young wine.

Medium dark color, this wine offers a nose of cherry and licorice with a tar component.  On the palate, I find cherry to be the dominant flavor.  It's not too rich, even a bit thin for my taste.  It does pair well with pasta, though, especially the dish I had with Italian sausage browned almost crispy.  At $7.75 it's a good deal. At half price, a steal.

My friend Chris commented that he had taken his Italian mother to Pane e Vino, and she was quite impressed with the food. He added that the cooking tastes as good as his mother's, which is high praise.

Monday, September 6, 2010

PRELIUS VERMENTINO MAREMMA 2008 AT GRICO IN EXETER, PA


Prelius Vermentino

Another night, another family and friends gathering in northeastern Pennsylvania for my wife and me.  This dinner found us at Grico's  in Exeter, PA.  We were advised to grab one of the curtained, private booths, but they are best for smaller, more romantic tete-a-tetes.  Our party of six ended up in the Library Room, a private dining room in the front of the restaurant with pictures of books on the walls.
Owner/chef Pat Greenfield maintains quite a reputation in the Wyoming Valley and her restaurant is recommended by locals as a dining hotspot.  The food certainly deserves recognition.  It's good enough to keep people dining there for 75 years - much, much longer than she's been around.  The Grico's wine list showed plenty of imported - and expensive - choices by the bottle.  Maybe as a nod to the hard times the area has seen in recent years, there was a separate "20 Wines For Under $20" list.  That's $20 per bottle, by the way.  Our wine for the evening came from that list.
The Prelius estate is in Tuscany's hilly Maremma region.  The grapes are organically farmed and the estate has Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Vermentino growing in the sandy soil of a slope just two miles from the sea.
The Vermentino is only 13% abv, and is aged three months in the bottle.  A 100% varietal wine, it is very pale in color and has tons of minerals on the nose, along with a hint of sea shells.  Tropical notes dominate the palate and a bit of lemon zest adds a nice zing.  The acidity level is plenty high for food pairing, but maybe a little too high for sipping.  It matched quite nicely with my sea scallops.  Despite the acidic edge, the mouthfeel of this wine was actually somewhat creamy and full.