Big. Bold. Earthy. Tannins. Dry.
These are the words I often hear and associate with Italian wines, and a good one (like an I-live-in-Italy Italian man who doesn’t live at home) is hard to find. And these words have often been quickly followed up by, “I’ll have a French wine, please. Or maybe a Pinot” in my experience. Many consumers don’t often like a side of WWF red wine with their dinner–you know, the kind that might beat you up with a developing palette bruise as you sip it?
It’s true that in some circles Italian wines that you might want to drink within the decade they are bottled are hard to find. During the past month, I’ve tried about five different Italian reds, ranging from $24.99 to $49.99. I consider myself an expert-in-training, or at least an advanced novice, but I have to say–I was disappointed in my recent red italiano picks (My whites have been spectacular! More in a later post). As such, I hate to say it, but one of my favorite Italian reds and the topic of this post was given to me by a co-worker. The twist? It’s from Trader Joe’s. While not a two-buck chuck, I knew it was not going to be super spendy, as my co-worker somewhat giggled when describing it.
The day before this bottle, I had thrown away a Chilean wine after first sip. I don’t do bad (those calories add up, and why should my face look like an overcooked baked potato when “enjoying” a glass after work?) As is common practice, I was alone (again) on a wintry Minnesota night (this description is way too kind this 2014), so I thought, why not? Let’s open the gift bottle now–my frozen pizza deserves some spruce. So, I waited a couple months for the right moment. This was it.
The wine: Villa Cerrina Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2012. Montepulciano is one of the most planted grapes in Italy, grown in regions such as Abruzzo (shocker, I know), Marche, Molise and Puglia. Because of overproduction in recent history, many have shied away from the wine because of a perceived dip in quality. However, I would say like other Italian varietals that are undergoing careful planting, this wine is on the rebound.
The nose was pleasant off the bat: fruity with some hints of spice and oak, it was fruit-forward more than the 13% alcohol in a 2012 Italian wine led me to believe. The first sip? Surprising! It was fresh, fruit-filled and accessible, with notes and flavors of red berries, blackberries a little more into the sip, and lightly dusted in oak, spice and earth notes (I would hazard a guess at vanilla, too). Medium in tannins and acid, I found this wine delightful on its own, and even fun and fruity with food. Two days later, I’m still drinking this wine, and find it as good on this day as the first.
The kicker? If you look up the price, this wine comes in at a whopping $4.99. And yet, like it’s earlier cousin, there was no throwing away of this wine. I say, Bravo!, and please pick up a few bottles to have on hand for a wintry night, party night, loner night or a night that you want to share something enjoyable with a friend.
Prego. E mille grazie, Pamela.
A rose by any other name sometimes smells, and tastes a bit sweeter.
Given the holiday season, temptations with sweet foods abound, but I’ve successfully avoided most office gatherings and cookie exchanges. But there is never a good time to give up wine, especially those that go with heavy foods and big tastes. So when my friend drove in from DC, made some sausage-laced spaghetti in a big, rich and well-cared for sauce, and then asked, do you have any wine that would go with this, I of course dove into the Italian style of an Amarone.
Cue the wine: “Enamore” (“to be in love”) by Allegrini and Renacer in Mendoza, Argentina. Even though not from Italy, you’ll still fall in love with what those in the southern hemisphere can do with this style of wine.According to other bloggers, Renacer means, “Rebirth” and this take on the Italian style Amarone, or appassimento (to dry and shrivel in Italian) is a rebirth of a classic. And true to it’s name, I’m in love with it. The wine is comprised of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda grapes, and the color is a deep ruby red that borders on purple. If love hurts, this is the color I want it to be. (I know–I needed to save this post for Valentine’s day if I keep making bad puns and references).
On the nose are notes of deep red and blackberry fruits and baked sugar, raisin, oak, and hints of chocolate, smoke and other earthy spices. While the wine is full of tannin, acid and body (and alcohol at 14.5%), it has well-balanced, rich and complex flavors of dried baked plumbs, raisins and the spice and chocolate notes mentioned above. This is your favorite red wagon you had as a kid, lined with velvet and fur, driven by horses. The wine has power and elegance and is an affordable take–at $20 a bottle– on an old favorite. (In Minnesota, I found this at the downtown Minneapolis Haskell’s location).
Grab a bottle and share with your friends or spend the night in watching your favorite black and white movie. You know you’re in love with it if you, too, miss the workout. I did.
You know moving ranks right up there as one of the top “stressors”, right?
Add being a wine snob to the mix, and having to give up all good wine avenues. That’s what this move felt like (especially since you can’t go to a Whole Foods on a Sunday for a last-minute wine purchase). T.Jefferson once said, “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.” As one moves freely about the country in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, boozelessness proves to be a bit too turbulent at times, donchyaknow?
Tonight I found an awesome store in South Minneapolis. Elevated.
Located at 4135 Hiawatha Avenue, I was slightly dismayed when I walked in and was greeted with a wall–yes, a WALL, of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans. This was the store recommended to me by a wine buyer?
Walking through the first aisle, and barely a wine in the $20 range, I knew I was going to be impressed. These are not bottles of Barefoot or Yellowtail that litter a $3.99 bin, but rather had drama, intrigue and all the darkness of a goth’s angst-ridden teen years one wants to see on a label. (I was obviously walking through the reds. I left behind the rainbows and ponytails of the whites for now).
$*&^.00 later, I walked out happy. And with a wine bag that will score me 10% off future purchases. I already met my maximum amount for the discount, as Chuck and Jim were great–as excited about my wine buys as they are about the upcoming Vikings game. (Pssst. I even bought some Minnesota whiskey and beer. In cans.)
Ever have those years that just seem hectic?
Try moving during Ironman season (note: I’ve been off the saddle and on the wagon awhile). Between driving, interviewing, biking, and getting my heart rate down after being sick, I decided I needed to dive back into a bottle (or 7–just went shopping tonight) and get my groove back on.
Repos0 2008 is part of the Pago Casa Gran winery in Valencia, Spain. The wine is an blend of equal parts Gewrztraminer and Moscatel, and while any Andrea-abiding friend knows that sweet isn’t her forte, my spicy chicken curry needed something more soothing than a red wine to bitch-slap that heat. (I’ve had enough mental anguish this year. I need not more).
The wine has delicately blended flavors of yellow apple, pear, grape, honeysuckle, and something akin to fresh smoke lingering over wet slate–it’s enticing, but the veil is not pulled back to unleash an assault on the senses. It was off-dry, but not sweet and paired nicely with the spice of curry.
A gift from a friend for the wine of the month club, this wine is a great deal at $6.99. Great. Deal. I enjoyed the wine, and didn’t want for anything else afterward. I would give the wine a nice 2-3 solid stars, and yes, am getting up early for tomorrow’s ride.
…but not of whine.
There is just one thing to fear above many others for the traveling asthmatic: a plane ride with lots of sick people. Sneezing, coughing, other indignant sounds coming from nearby passengers, and of course, the obligatory germ-clad child sits scattered about the cabin.
I had just finished a grueling (emphasis added, please) 102 mile bike ride on a mountain bike in Minnesota. The Almanzo 100 (named for Manly on the once popular and innocent show of “Little House on the Prairie”) started out on a beautiful 70 degree morning in southeast Minnesota. Gentle rolling hills of white, grey and brown gravel punctuated side-views of open farm land, tree-lined parks and forests, and in places, a horizon that would never be met by our two-wheeled steeds. To put into words by Louise Erdrich (MN author, of course), “some people meet the way the sky meets the earth, inevitably, and there is no stopping or holding back their love. It exists in a finished world, beyond the reach of common sense.” It was a ride of nearly 1000 people looking to spend a day beyond common sense, and people met passion of life and an expression of freedom on untamed roads.
And it was beautiful, it was unexpected, and it tired the shit out of me, so much so, that I felt a dreaded sense of fatigue coming over me at mile 77, at mile 89 I felt my legs yearn for oil like the Tin Man in the “Wizard of Oz” and at 99, my chest collapse inward on my lungs, ordering me to limp into camp the back way with no shame at having taken the road more traveled for 3 miles. I crossed 100, and then some.
So: Airplane+bike exhaustion=really, really sick this week.
My tasting notes, therefore, this week are like the palette of colors of the Minnesota landscape: green tea of the hills; whiskey of the woods, orange juice like the jerseyed-peloton of riders, lemon peels the color of the waxing sun leaving an exposed landscape, and the clearness of water that surrounds all other colors.
I finished the ride with one Newcastle Brown Ale. What I wanted, had any ounce of energy remained in my body, would have been a big, bold jammy red from California to steady the weariness and help outline the bigness I felt around me from riding 10 hours in the openness without boundaries. Twin rebels with a sense of complexity. I’m still waiting for that wine, as it were, but will get back up on the horse as soon as the herd of germs have whimpered out of me as I did the great MN ride of gravel.
Sometimes I need “a little help from my friends.” The Beetles had it right, and with a little help from my sister, I was able to fly into Minnesota for a last minute meeting.
It doesn’t get any better than Spring in Minnesota–like a fine wine, the weather is balanced with the longer days; the air is crisp, but doesn’t border on cold; the sky is blue without the haze of humidity or mosquitoes, and people are just nicer, dontchya know?
Greeting me at home after a nice swim was also a bottle of Shiraz from Barossa Valley my sister had purchased the last time I was on the front. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I love me some reds from Barossa–the heat produces some lovely, and I think, complex, wines that are a great deal.
The Wine: “Two Hands” has the nose of a jammy shiraz–red, baked plum, blackberry notes, and oak–if you get your nose deep down into the glass. Upon tasting, though, the first subtle note is the sharpness of the alcohol (14.8%) followed by the black fruit notes of blackberry, a little baked plum, and slight pepper and vanilla flavors. However, the body is medium-light; the flavor only lingers slightly, and the big, bold summer jam in a glass doesn’t come through. It loses the kaleidoscope of flavors I love in a Barossa Valley wine, and wish this was a little more bold, had more dimensions, and danced a little more on the palette.
But, sometimes as the saying gets tweaked, Two Hands are better than one, and this is the case, especially if given as a gift. (I believe she was able to get this at Costco). This is not a wine I would write home about, but good thing I am already here to enjoy it. Have a glass, or two, especially if it’s around, but don’t miss the workout.