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Archive for the ‘Reds’ Category

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!


2004 Longview Vineyard Black Crow Nebbiolo – Save it for Later!

From: Adelaide Hills, Australia

Price: $40 marked down to $19.99 “Last Call”


Most so-called wine experts will tell you that nearly 95% of the wines made nowadays are meant to be consumed within one to three years of their labels’ “born-on-date”, or vintage.  Unfortunately for wine collectors, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for options (or error!) when making their selections.  Otherwise, a mouthful of dissatisfaction will be swallowed after they have waited patiently for greatness to occur.


I recently stumbled across the 2004 Longview Vineyard Black Crow Nebbiolo at one of my familiar stomping grounds.  This wine originally retailed for around $40-$45 back in its hey day.   However, the last remaining bottles that sat on the shelf collecting dust over the last few years were just marked “Last Call” and slashed down to $19.99 to make room for new product.  I decided to pick up a bottle to see if this baby still had some mojo left in its tank, or if I would find out that it was marked down because the sun had set on this Aussie red.


2004-longview-vineyard-black-crow-nebbioloAfter sitting on this wine for about two months, I finally popped the cork.  What this wine unveiled completely caught me by surprise.  To start, this red wine is not your usual Aussie specimen (i.e., Shiraz/Syrah, whatever you like to call it).  This wine is made with 100% Nebbiolo grapes.  Nebbiolo grapes have been grown and used for centuries to produce fine wines in Northern Italy, and recently many Australian growers have started working with this noble grape because of its drought resistant capabilities.  To this point, Australia’s drought problems have been well publicized in the news over the past years; and as a result, Shiraz plantings have not faired well at all.  However, Nebbiolo has proven to be much more tolerant to the heat and lack of water and has adapted very well to its new surroundings.


The back label of this particular wine offers would be buyers this cellar note:


“No other red wine rewards cellaring than a great Nebbiolo, the high tannin and acid of this wine ensures it will develop more complex qualities with careful cellaring of 5-10 years”.


After tasting this wine over a 4 night span, I’d say that the peeps at Longview Vineyard certainly know their wine.  This wine is still so very young.  On the first night, I could barely drink this brawny beast.  By night two, it had calmed down a bit, but it was still ornery.  By the third night, maraschino cherries, dry herbs, and black pepper were beginning to show through.  And finally on night 4, it had surrendered and was approachable.


The 2004 Longview Vineyard Black Crow Nebbiolo was reminiscent of a 25 year old tawny port wine to me.  It bursts with big fruit, spices, and nut flavors, and really socks you with the cedar.  The alcohol content is listed at 14.7%.  I mention this, because it tasted extremely hot on my palate, just like an aged port wine.  Additionally, this wine received 18 months in 2-3 year old French barriques prior to being bottled.


If you’re looking for a bruiser of a red wine that you can “forget about” for say 5-7 years at least, this $20 gem is a good bet for all you cellar rats!      



Wine Review – 2004 Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah

trumpeter-malbec-syrahFrom: Argentina
Price: $8.99


This wine review was a tough one for me.  I personally love many different styles of red wines.  However, one group of reds that I’ve never been able to totally embrace as a whole is Italian Chianti.  The reason for my love-hate relationship with this style of wine is that I find many share a dominating and strong characteristic that I like to describe as an astringent, “alcoholly” aftertaste.  In other words, a peculiar burning or hot sensation that comes out on the back end of tasting these wines makes me feel as if I just swallowed rubbing alcohol or jet fuel, and leave me feeling like I should be calling 911 to get treated for alcohol poisoning.  But being the wine trooper and occasional “flame swallower” that I am, I’m not about to let a few “alcoholly” experiences stop me from finding a nice Chianti to pair with a plate of fava beans. 


Which leads me to a rather interesting experience that I recently had with one 2004 Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah.  This wine had me guessing from the first sip whether or not I was drinking an “agreeable” Italian Chianti or something that just tasted like Chianti that I really liked.  Here’s a wine experiment that I’d love for you to try – grab a Chianti Classico from Italy priced under $20.  Then grab a bottle of this Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah at under $10.  Taste them both blindfolded.  I’ll bet that your taste buds think that they’re both from Italy.  The 2004 Trumpeter Malbec-Syrah tasted like an “Argentinean Chianti Classico” to me, but without the astringent, “alcoholly” aftertaste.


All in all, I really enjoyed the oddity of this Italian tasting, Argentinean-born, red blend of 50% Malbec and 50% Syrah.  It had good ripe fruit, integrated very nicely with oak, to give it a full and rounded taste both on the front and backend.  It certainly wasn’t at all what I was expecting to taste, and at under $10 bucks a bottle there’s a lot to like about this wine.  If you enjoy Italian Chianti, I think that you’ll enjoy the value that this wine brings to the table.  Give it a shot one night with a plate of traditional spaghetti and meatballs (or even some fava beans) and taste for yourself.






3 Stars out of 4.

Wine Review – 2006 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso

From: California

Price: $10.99


I, like so many other people, have truly enjoyed watching many of the cinematic masterpieces that Mr. Francis Ford Coppola has directed, produced or written over the years.  Some might argue that movies like the Godfather Trilogy, The Outsiders, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Apocalypse Now are some of the greatest films ever made.


Sadly however, it only took two sips of the 2006 Rosso blended red table wine for my taste buds to admit that this public offering was not going to be one of Mr. Coppola’s finer pieces of work.  


The 2006 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso is comprised of 48% Zinfandel, 27% Syrah, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It delivers a rather disappointing and mediocre script of cherry-vanilla flavors.  To my palate, this wine seemed to lack solid fruit concentration and gusto to take it from being a snore to making it yet another Francis Ford Coppola hit.


Oddly enough, I did however find this wine to be more enjoyable on the second night when I paired it with a thick juicy piece of steak.  And based on how it tasted with the steak, I’d imagine that this red would probably deliver a decent performance with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. 


In the end though, the 2006 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso was a dud for me.  It just didn’t  “make me an offer that I couldn’t refuse” to award it a higher WineLife365 rating than 2 stars out of 4 – even after two nights of convincing.






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