Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Santa Vincenza "Ventoso" Morellino di Scansano '09

Here is a lovely though obscure wine from the Tuscan coast called Morellino di Scansano. Morellino is actually an ancient name for Sangiovese, the most important grape of Tuscany. It's origins in the region go back to Etruscan times and here it's proximity to the sea, elevation and volcanic soils make very good and under appreciated wines. They can be riper and more monolithic than their more famous relatives from the region that Chianti comes from, but this wine is at once delicate and complex - and it sells for $12.99. This is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo and 5% Alicante. It features very outgoing aromas of smoky cherry, violets and leather. In the mouth, it has bright medium-bodied cherryish fruit and finishes very long. I'm not really sure, but the bottler Santa Vincenza appears to be a negociant or a broker of some sort. Perhaps this is a private label of theirs. Either way, this is a beautiful wine for the price, especially if you favor finesse over size like I do. Enjoy it with grilled chicken, pizza or a light tomato sauce over you favorite pasta. Cheers!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec '09 - Balanced and Beautiful

It's been awhile since I've posted as I was in Wisconsin for a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fund-raising century bike ride. I had a great time but it's good to get back to the east coast where the wine choices are much wider. I've already written up the Crios Torrontes. It's one of the most interesting whites I've had this year and the red wine brother of that wine is the Crios Malbec. Argentinian Malbecs continue to impress me and the Crios is one of the best everyday examples I've had. It leads with complex aromas of chocolatey cherry, licorice and a distinct earthy note. In the mouth it's quite flavorful with fairly large-scaled dark fruit flavors and a long spicy, lightly tannic finish. This is a very nicely balanced wine that comes in at a very moderate 13.9% alcohol. When new world reds start creeping up into that 14.8 or 15% range I start to lose interest. For me, wines that are that high in alcohol can taste over-ripe, raisiny and hot on the back end. Plus, you can end up being kind of blotto by the time you are done with dinner. A great value, this beauty cost me $12.99. Cheers.

Our garden has been yielding a very nice bounty thanks to Janet - and she made us a wonderful meal. We enjoyed the Crios Malbec with sauteed chicken thighs with spicy cherry peppers and escarole (from the garden), a fantastic heirloom tomato (from the garden) salad with feta, olives and basil and zucchini with toasted almonds and parmesan. . The Crios went very well with the spicy chicken. Yum.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pushing the "Reset" Button on California Chardonnay - Foxglove '09

As someone who has spent some time talking to customers in a retail operation, it has become apparent that Chardonnay lovers are becoming more and more enamored of unoaked versions all the time. The days of Chardonnay bottlings dominated by vanilla flavors and buttery textures appear to be waning. They are heavy handed wines that are low enough in acidity that they do not pair well with food and can in fact get "lost in the sauce". This entry level Chardonnay bottling of Varner Wines called Foxglove is a completely unoaked version that has garnered fully deserved accolades from wine writers much more important than me, and I have to agree. It sees no barrel and no malolactic fermentation whatsoever. Malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation that happens naturally and you either allow it to happen or you stop it. It converts the harsher malic acid into the softer lactic acid and it is what gives some California Chardonnays their buttery characteristics. I prefer the style that the Foxglove represents and it sells for an affordable $14.99. It has typical Chardonnay aromas of pear, apple and a note of honey. In the mouth the pear flavors really leap to the front and this lovely wine has a creamy, medium-bodied, somewhat oily texture and wonderful acidity that keeps it lively and fresh. It's bold enough to stand up to grilled chicken and delicate enough to pair with pan seared salmon or grilled shrimp. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Indigenous Grapes, Inimitable Terroir....Di Giovanna Nerello Mascalese

Easy for me to me crazy but I am a fan of grapes that only seem to grow in one or just a few places, and Sicilian wine is certainly not at the forefront of wine consciousness. Yes, everyone grows international grapes like Cab and Merlot but it is from wild places like this that you find great pleasure in wines like Di Giovanna's Nerello Mascalese. It's listed everywhere as a grape that is usually blended with other grapes. But here, it shines all by itself. No costars necessary. This is one of my favorite $12.99 wines. Beautiful aromas of smoky black cherry, nutmeg and a volcanic stoniness mesh with lingering dark berry fruit in the mouth. With excellent lift, it finishes lightly tannic with a note of coffee. I'm sorry, I can't get enough of it. Very few wines of such character can be found at this price point. Pairs great with a roast chicken, some lamb chops, name it. The label says it is produced with organic grapes though the website doesn't mention it. Oh yeah, this was the 2008 but I bet they have very few bad vintages in Sicily. Either way, it's really good. Cheers!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Zenato Pinot Grigio '09

I know it's been awhile since the last post, so humblest apologies. Whenever we think of Italian white wine, Pinot Grigio may be first on the synapses. Let's face it, it's everywhere and I don't think I've ever heard anyone say...."oh I don't like Pinot Grigio". I mean really, what's not to like. It's everywhere yes, but you do see the same factory versions over and over again...and there are differences. If I go to a restaurant and I see oh I don't know, Ecco Domani on the wine list I say, "nobody cares here". If I go to a restaurant and I see Santa Margherita on the wine list (for $45) I say, "they're taking the easy way out." There are versions of this taken-for-granted grape that are delicious and they are recession busting values. Case in point: the '09 Pinot Grigio from Zenato from top importer Leonardo LoCasio. This $9.99 beauty has wonderful pear and apple aromas along with a note of honey. The pear flavors really flow through on the palate along with a slight nutty nuance. It finishes with medium body and excellent balancing acidity. It's an excellent value.

We enjoyed this beauty with herb-stuffed whole grilled branzini, potato salad with curry and peas and grilled escarole with crispy onions. Yum! As Dizzy Dean once said, "It ain't braggin' if you really done it" Cheers!