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Archive for April, 2010

Now That’s Italian?

When thinking of Italian red wines, names like Amarone, Chianti, Montepulciano and Sangiovese certainly come to mind for many wine drinkers.  However, there is one lesser known (at least to me!) Italian red wine, called Lacrima, that you just might want to consider looking for the next time you’re out shopping for wine.

Lacrima dates back to ancient times and is not considered a true grape varietal because it generally includes the addition of either Montepulciano and/or Verdicchio grapes in its production.  This wine is mainly produced in the village of Morro d’Alba in Ancona Province, Marche.  The profile on this Italian wine is that it is a medium body wine with moderate acidity and mild tannins, and it possesses big floral and red-fruit aromas, while displaying earthy and herbal characteristics.  The flavors can also be somewhat sweet for a red wine.

About a week ago, I was looking for a red wine under $20 to go with our traditional Friday dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.  While I was talking it up with a buddy of mine, he suggested that I give the 2008 Velenosi Lacrima di Morro d’Alba a try.

Not being familiar with this particular style of Italian wine, I was expecting it to display a dried cherry/fruit characteristic, accompanied by a mild astringent finish that would tell my taste buds, “Hey buddy, you’re drinking an Italian red!”  What I didn’t expect to happen was to taste an Italian red wine that would break all of the “rules” of how I thought an Italian red wine was supposed to taste.

The 2008 Velenosi Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is a complete detour from your typical Italian red wine.  To start, when I smelled it, flowers was the first thing that came to mind – lavender, maybe?  As far as taste goes – it totally bails on the commonly used dried cherry/fruit component, and there is absolutely no hint of the familiar astringent aftertaste.  Instead, the folks at Velenosi opt for a massive blast of vibrant sweet berry flavors (an explosion of blueberries and boysenberries), then they lay the smack down on you with a velvety smooth, long finish that seems well… downright “Un-Italian”. 

I must say that it doesn’t quite jive with spaghetti and meatballs the way a traditional Italian red would, but don’t let this discourage you in the least from trying this fabulous, well-crafted wine.  It totally rocks on its own and seems to be an ideal match for rack of lamb, roasted chicken, duck, or any other gamey stuff.  A big high five to Frank for sharing this magnificent discovery with me!

 4 Stars out of 4.  The 2008 Velenosi Lacrima di Morro d’Alba is a big, juicy, and unique Italian red wine!


Gimme that Fish!

Certified Sustainable:  Yes! 
Salmon Safe:  No Way! 

This is the second bottle that I’ve had the pleasure of sampling from the folks at Willamette Valley Vineyards (WVV), and I must say:  There ain’t no salmon gonna be safe with this tasty “salmon wine” sitting on the dining room table!  The 2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards ‘Tualatin Estate Vineyards’ Pinot Noir possesses very good fruit flavors of crushed cherries, cranberries, raspberries and strawberries, with a gentle touch of spice and oak that pairs perfectly with fresh salmon and steamed mixed vegetables.  About the only thing that’s going to keep these little guys safe in the water and not on a dinner plate, is possibly a hefty-sized barbecue pulled pork sandwich!

All kidding aside, this particular Pinot Noir comes from the winery’s Tualatin Estate Vineyard, which is home to some of the oldest plantings in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Tualatin Estate Vineyards was established in 1973 and is situated on 145 acres in the coastal rain shadows near Forest Grove, Oregon.  Both Willamette Valley Vineyards’ estate vineyards and those at Tualatin Estate are Certified LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon Safe, and all of the vineyards’ equipment uses bio-fuel.  WVV’s founder and owner, Mr. Jim Bernau’s philosophy is that “wines made with consideration for the environment, employees and community simply taste better and are necessary to maintain and grow a sustainable company for the future.”  After tasting the 2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards ‘Tualatin Estate Vineyards’ Pinot Noir, I couldn’t agree more.

3 Stars out 4.  Conscious about environmental issues and sustainable practices, while still being able to achieve an enjoyable wine.

(SRP $40 USD)

Oh Baby…What a Terrible Fall!

In the immortal words of ABC’s Wide World of Sports announcer Jim McKay,

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat…


Was I so naïve to think that it was impossible to have a bad Argentinian Torrontes wine?  I know it must have been foolish thinking on my part, but it almost seemed automatic that whether it cost 8, 10, or even 20 dollars – I knew I was going to have a beautifully floral, fresh and electrifyingly acidic bottle of wine.  I believed this because I’ve been batting nearly a thousand with this fantastic type of wine for over a year.  With this in mind, I was really looking forward to opening the 2009 San Telmo Esencia Torrontes. 

As the saying goes, “there’s a first for everything” and inevitably I would have to taste the agony of defeat with my beloved white wine.  The 2009 San Telmo Esencia Torrontes really let me down.  It’s odd, uneven, lacks mile-high acidity and possesses tropical banana and coconut flavors that reminded me more of Tropical Flavored LifeSavers (in a bad way).  Incidentally, it also didn’t possess the signature floral bouquet of Torrontes wine.  Crash!


1 Star out of 4.  Shaken by the experience, but not deterred.
(Price: $8.99)

Time in a Bottle…

One would think that three sips of any wine would be enough time to render a personal assessment of either “Hey, I like this!” -Or-Nope, this wine’s not my cup of tea!”   However, as with most things in life, it’s not always good to rush to judgment. 

I was given the opportunity to sample the newly released 2007 Concannon “Conservancy” Petite Sirah, and by the third sip of this Petite Sirah I thought that my mind was made up.  I was leaning more in the direction of Nope…  My reasoning was pretty simple – it didn’t Wow my taste buds.  It seemed a bit soft, unconvincing, and way too short on the finish.  I personally thought that this “stand alone” juice was better suited in a blended wine and not bold enough to stand on its own two feet.  So I stuck the cork back in it and moved onto another wine that evening.

Two nights went by and as I was getting ready to make dinner, I spotted the bottle of Concannon Petite Sirah on my kitchen counter.  As I glanced at the label, I noticed that it read: 

“Pairs as well with barbequed chicken as your favorite lamb recipe.” 

MMM…lamb!  Ok, so I didn’t have any lamb in the house, but I did have chicken and decided to fire up the grill.  While grilling up dinner, I thought…maybe this wine just needs some food to go with it.

Guess what?  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

On this night, the 2007 Concannon “Conservancy” Petite Sirah was expressing big black cherry flavors and nice spice that I didn’t pick up on night #1.  Yup…the folks at Concannon know their Petite Sirah.   I only wished that I’d taken notice of this nice little tip on the first night.  The third night, along with a little extra breathing time, and some barbecue chicken proved to me that it was much better than “just ok.”  I just needed to follow the directions provided on the back label!

3 Stars out of 4.
(SRP $15 US)

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