Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pio Cesare Dolcetto d' Alba 2005 (Piemonte)

An outstanding Dolcetto from the world-class Pio Cesare winery. Their Dolcetto grapes are grown in selected vineyards around the village of Treiso, Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga and Madonna Como. The wine is a beautiful ruby-red with purple hues. Aged for 5 months in stainless, the wine has a terrific nose of berries and pepper. Nice, smooth finish. A solid everyday wine.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

David Cook; Italian Wine Lover, 2008 American Idol Winner

The following is an imagined and partially plagiarized interview with Italian wine lover and 2008 American Idol winner, David Cook:

David, congratulations on your being voted 2008 American Idol. What was the first wine that made you realize you loved wine?

Damijan Ribolla Gialla 2002 made me change the way I look at white wine, and the first time I had Quintarelli Amarone I knew I’d never tasted anything even close to that before. However I have to say that the wine that did it for me, that truly made me realize that I love wine was Bartolo Mascarello’s 1989 Barolo (out of magnum). Like the Quintarelli it possessed layers and depth that I could draw few comparisons to, and definitely had the "what was that?" impact on me. However the one thing that made this one truly stand out was it’s elegance. To this day if you asked me to describe my idea of “elegance” I would have to say that that wine is an example that I would use.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you'd pair with it.

Well, prior to Idol, I was in Piemonte, so how could I not mention white truffles on Tajarin with aged Barolo. But there is also something to be said about the simplicity of a white like Verdicchio from Le Marche (look for Sartarelli) that work their magic with the seafood of the Adriatic on a summer day. The zing and citrus nuances bring just about any fish back to life - no sauces needed here - just some grilled fish and lemon. A Rosso di Montalcino with some pici topped with wild boar ragu is also a nice, simple classic pair.

Were you wearing eyeliner on the final episode?

Yes, I was.

It looked kind of creepy. Well, congratulations again, and thank you for your time.

It was my pleasure.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


As summer fast approaches, ones thoughts tend to stray to the sizzling sounds and smoke of the outdoor barbeque grill. With its lush red fruit and bright acidity, I can think of no better Italian red that goes better with outdoor grilling than a Barbera. Barbera is the most heavily planted grape in Piedmont, accounting for more than 50% of the total red wine production in the region. Depending upon where in the three DOC’s its grown (Alba, Asti, or Monferrato) a broad range of styles can be displayed. In addition to climactic variations, differing winemaking techniques can also bring about changes in the wine. Barbera’s constants are a deep, ruby-red color, vibrant acidity and a low level of tannins. The variables are the level of fruit extraction (high levels are achieved from growing the grapes on choice south-facing sites) and the amount of tannins added to the wine by aging it in oak barrels. As a starting point in choosing a Barbera, you could select a “baseline” bottling; one simply labeled as Barbera d’Alba, Barbera d’Asti, or Barbera del Monferrato. These wines are more likely to be simpler, with no oak aging. A step up from the “baseline” wine, would be a Barbera from a benchmark Barolo or Barbaresco producer such as Pio Cesare, Vietti, or Renato Ratti. Here you can experience a fine winemakers deftness and skill in handling the grape. Moving further up the scale, you could choose a Barbera carrying a “single-vineyard” designation which would be even denser, fruity and rich from time spent in oak barrels. Hilberg Pasquero, Aldo Conterno, and Prunnoto are some examples of this top tier of Barberas. No matter what level you choose, you will be rewarded with a delicious wine that has the heft and class to complement and enhance your summer grilling.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre (2001) Veneto

A classic Valpolicella from Allegrini, one of the largest vineyard assemblages (350 acres, producing nearly 1,000,000 bottles annually) in Veneto. Their Palazzo della Torre contains the usual blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Sangiovese. It has a deep, ruby-red color and a full nose of blackberries and licorice. From 2000 to 2005, Palazzo della Torre has been selected by Wine Spectator as one of the "Top 100 wines of the world". The wine, which is aged for 15 months in both barriques and barrels, and then aged for an additional 7 months in the bottle prior to release, uses 30% dried grapes for a Amarone Jr. feel. This rich, full-bodied wine is a great accompaniment to anything roasted or grilled.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Italian Rose Wines - Easy Summer Drinking

Ever since White Zinfandel left its scourge upon the wine landscape, Rose wines have been looked down upon. But because they are a perfect warm weather drink, lying somewhere between refreshment and flavor, they needn't be. In fact, in the coastal regions of southern Italy, a good Rosato is a prized wine. The history of Rose wines in the south of Italy dates back to a time when fermentation could not be controlled by refrigeration. To make a red wine, time is needed for the wine to macerate on their skins. Because the heat of the day would stop the fermentation process cold, these "half-made" reds became Roses by default. Today, Rose wines are made by either macerating a red wine for a short time or blending a red and white wine together. Abruzzo's famous red, Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, is known as a Cerasuola (meaning cherry-red) when vinified in the Rose style. In Puglia, the Negroamoro and Primitivo grape are used as a Rose base. Some Abruzzo producers to look for: Spinelli, Mascigelli, Cataldi, Madonna, Illuminati. Some Puglian producers: Leone de Castris, Damiono Calo. While the south dominates the Rose scene, the north of Italy also is represented with the pink. Catalupo, a Piedmontese winemaker produces a great Rose from the Nebbiolo grape and Bastianich from Friuli vinifies the native Refosco varietal. Because of their lack of tannins, look for young Roses. They are best consumed the summer after their vintage; when their fruit is bright and their acidity vibrant.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Seghesio Barbera d’ Alba (2005) Piemonte

Brothers Aldo and Riccardo Seghesio, who produce solid Barolo’s on their Monforte estate, miss the mark with their entry-level Barbera d’ Alba. The wine, which is aged in stainless, has a harsh edge that could be softened with some oak aging. A better choice from this winemaker would be their “La Chiesa” Barbera d’ Alba which receives twelve months of aging in new oak barriques.