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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

25 Days of Christmas: Day 13

It’s official:  Christmas is upon us.  How do I know?  We’ve caved in and tuned the radio, in our kitchen, to one of those stations that plays the same 25 holiday songs back to back to back…

Coincidentally, this always seems to happen each year, on one monumental day in December, when my wife and her BFF spend all day in the kitchen, 100% focused on baking Christmas cookies; all the while, listening to Christmas music (the same 25 songs over, and over, and over again…).  Although I’m not a fan of the coma-inducing repetition, I must admit that I do have a favorite Christmas song.  Turns out it’s my 7 year-old’s favorite, too!  He has great taste like his old man.  :)

What’s our favorite Christmas song you ask?  It’s the Italian classic, Dominick the Donkey” sung by Lou Monte.  If you’ve never heard it before, it’s about a donkey that helps Santa Claus bring presents to children in Italy.  Last night was the first time I heard it on the radio this year.  When it came on, my son and I sprang up, danced and shouted for the entire block to hear, “Hey! Chingedy ching, (hee-haw, hee-haw) it’s Dominick the Donkey. la la la-la la-la la la la la.  La la la-la la-la la-ee-oh-da!!”

As we danced and sang our celebratory song together, I envisioned a large helping of my wife’s amazing lasagna, along with several Italian Chiantis to wash it all down!  (Because I never stop thinking about food and wine!)

Here, my friends, are a few Italian gifts that can be shared with family and friends or paired with your own incredible lasagna recipe.

If you’re “a Virg,” to Chianti (my sister-in-law’s terminology), consider these two friendly, fruitier style Chiantis:

  • 2010 DaVinci Chianti ($10.99) – Possessing sweet, jammy flavors of super ripe plums and cherries, this Chianti is perfect for newbies or a great primer before heading for a more complex Chianti.
  • 2010 Farnese Sangiovese ($8.49)  – This is an amazing wine for $8.50 and also, like the2010 DaVinci Chianti, a great starting point if you are unfamiliar with this wine.  It’s soaking in dark cherry and strawberry flavors, and really sexy stuff at this price point!

Looking to go off the beaten path to taste some earthy tones?  One interesting and affordable option is:

  • 2008 La Maialina Chianti ($10.99) – This Chianti is very different from the ones previously mentioned:  it’s loaded with that dusty, musty, Old-World characteristic, paired with notes of dried red fruits.

How about something much more multifaceted, with a touch of spices and a warm sensation in the back of your throat that really lets you know that they’re drinking Chianti?  Try these two on for size:

Finally, If you’re looking for an intense Chianti experience, here’s one that’ll surely give your palate a serious workout:

  • 2009 Fattoria Di Basciano Chianti Rufina ($14.99) – A killer value @ $15 bucks. Full-bodied, yet silky smooth after letting it breath for a while (like a whole day).  This Chianti delivers the goods with black cherry notes, supported by licorice and an intriguing smoky undertone. 

  À votre santé!

25 Days of Christmas: Day 12

Like it or not, as you’re making the party rounds, there’s a high probability that you’re going to see a bottle (possibly many!) of Italian Pinot Grigio sitting out for your imbibing pleasure.  After all, it is the most popular imported white wine in the United States.   :) Having said that, there’s a great divide between those that suck this stuff down as if it were water and those that would rather have water!  The latter crowd view Italian Pinot Grigio as being too simple, bland, or tasting like nothing more than expensive lemon spritzer.  While the former group simply love the fact that it’s easy-drinking and refreshing – perfect for unwinding at the end of a long day. 

I’ll be honest:  I haven’t spent a significant time in the Italian wine aisle of late; so I thought it might be fun to conduct an informal blind tasting with six popular, widely distributed Italian Pinot Grigios that can be found in just about any Wine & Spirits shop and/or grocery store across the country.

As our group of tasters went through each of the six brown-bagged Pinot Grigios, two wines stood out much more positively from the other four.  Conversely, two of the six Pinot Grigios received downright scathing comments, due to their nearly “un-drinkability.”

After everyone had a chance to taste through all six wines and made their comments, the Pinot Grigios locked inside Brown Bag #2 and Brown Bag #5 were chosen as the favorites within the bunch.  Meanwhile, the Pinot Grigio concealed inside Brown Bag #6 really took a beating as being the most disliked in the group, and Brown Bag #3 wasn’t too far behind in giving tasters belly aches and nothing to cheer about.

3rd Place:

Our distant 3rd place finisher in Brown Bag #4 was the 2010 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio (Price paid $16.99).  Tasters didn’t have much to say about the 2010 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio other than it was “nice,” “easy drinking,” and “smooth.”  “I’m ok with drinking this,” was the common theme.

2nd Place:

Our runner-up was Brown Bag #2.   Tasters called it, “good and juicy,” “bright with good acidity,” and “a juicy mouthful, refreshing – very nice.”  When we revealed its identify, this crowd-pleaser turned out to be the very inexpensive and popular Cavit Pinot Grigio 2010 (Price paid $7.99).   

*(Editorial Note: The number #2 was written on the bottle, after the reveal, to signify a 2nd Place finish).

1st Place:

We were all excited to see what was lurking behind our favorite, Brown bag #5.  Tasters called this Pinot Grigio:

“A refreshing mouthful of citrus flavors.”
“I really LOVE and want to drink this wine!”
“Has somewhat of a Riesling quality to me and I mean that in a good way.”
“It definitely has the most elegance and finesse of the six wines.”
“No tight edges from start to finish.  I like #2 a lot, but this Pinot Grigio just tastes more refined to me.”

Here’s the fun part:  Our 1st Place finisher turned out to be the least expensive Pinot Grigio in the entire group.  The unanimous winner was the 2010 Monte Campo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT priced @ $6.99.

*(Editorial Note: The number #1 was written on the bottle, after the reveal, to signify a 1st Place finish).

Finally, we were all pretty eager to find out what Pinot Grigio was inside Brown Bag #6.  Why, you ask?   Unfortunately for this Pinot Grigio, it received scathing remarks such as, “Undrinkable,” “HORRID,” “Get that funk out of my glass,” “Moonshine,” and finally, “F&%k me awful!!  This is the worst ever!!”  

Ouch!!  :(

So what was the awfulness swirling around in Brown Bag #6?  It turned out to be the 2010 Banfi ‘Le Rime’ Pinot Grigio IGT (Price paid: $8.99).

Finally, there weren’t a whole lot of pleasantries either for our second least favorite wine, which was Brown Bag #3Brown Bag #3 may have been the biggest shock.  Words like “Awful,” “Dreadful,” “burnt wood,” “petrol,” “Makes me want to gag –but just not as much as #6” were used to describe the most expensive wine in our tasting.  Any guesses?  It was the 2010 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio (Price paid was $19.99 on sale from $27.99)!?  Needless to say, @ $20/bottle we were shocked and disappointed.

If you’re planning a holiday gathering, both the 2010 Monte Campo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT and the 2010 Cavit Pinot Grigio are affordable, reliable and should satisfy a wide spectrum of white wine lovers!

Final Results

1st Place: 2010 Monte Campo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT ($6.99)
2nd Place: 2010 Cavit Pinot Grigio ($7.99)
3rd Place: 2010 Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio *(Not shown) ($16.99)
4th Place: 2010 Bertani Velante Pinot Grigio IGT *(Not shown) ($12.99)
5th Place: 2010 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio ($19.99)
6th Place: 2010 Banfi ‘Le Rime’ Pinot Grigio IGT ($8.99)

25 Days of Christmas: Day 7

On Day 5 of my 25 Days of Christmas countdown, I asked the question on the WineLife365 Facebook page, “What eases the pain of holiday wrapping?”  One reader said, “Grappa!!!”  I laughed out loud when I read that response because it’s not something that had I even considered.

Legend has it that grappa was originally created by a Roman soldier in a town called Bassano del Grappa, located in Italy’s Veneto region, hence the name.  The long and short of it is, that to be called grappa, it must be produced in Italy and made with the pomace, or leftovers from winemaking – discarded grape seeds, stalks, and stems.  It’s also fermented and distilled with no added water, creating a highly potent concentration:  up to a blistering 40 to 45 percent alcohol content. That equates to 80-90 proof octane!

I had the opportunity to try several different grappas from Italy’s Distilleria MarzadroThis family distillery dates back to 1949.  Their grappas are a result of 100 days of work, 24 hours per day, from September to December.  During this period, tons of freshly selected pomace is distilled each day.

If you’ve never tried grappa before, or if you’re looking to give a very unique and special gift to a wine lover in your life, consider checking out Marzadro Le Giare GrappasI particularly liked the Le Giare Chardonnay.  “Giare” was created to commemorate the women of the Giare locality, in the province of Nogaredo, who were unjustly accused of sorcery and later condemned to death, around 1646.  (Nice…a gift with an intriguing story to go with it!)  Marzadro offers three different grappas to choose from:  Amarone, Chardonnay and a Gewürztraminer.  They also offer a cool little “Mini Giare” grappa gift set that comes with all three Grappas in 0.1 liter bottles – so you can try ‘em all!  :)

Keep it 100

There’s an old urban saying Keep it 100!

Keep it 100 means to stay real and true to yourself, and to be honest…no matter what anyone else thinks.  I’m going to Keep it 100 when I tell you that it’s been one mighty tough year for red wines in the under $20 category.  If I’m keeping it real, true and 100% honest – many that I’ve tried so far in 2011 just haven’t been worth the time it took to pull the cork; let alone worth jotting down painstaking notes to tell the whole wine drinking world, “Hey people, this wine is the shiz…you really have to try this!”

The sad truth is that so many offerings, although drinkable, have just been rather boring and character free for me; and even fewer have been DELICIOUS like the 2008 Foppiano Vineyards Russian River Valley Estate Bottled Petite Sirah or even the 2009 Château La Clotte-FontaneMathierou’.

After powering through cases of mediocre red wine over the past few months, my friend Steve at Teller Wines in Lewes, DE came to my rescue.  On a recent visit, I asked Steve if he had anything that would rock my world for less than 20 bucks.  He proceeded to take me over to a spot where a totally inconspicuous bottle of red wine from Sicily was lying. Steve repeatedly told me, “You’ve got to try this wine.   It’s not a knock you over the head blockbuster, but it has a lot of finesse and outstanding fruit inside that bottle – it’s 100% pure goodness.”  He also mentioned that this 100% Nero d’Avola, made from organically-grown grapes, has been high on the list of his customers who are prone to red wine headaches:  they’ve had no problems drinking it and had no bad effects the next morning. 

I gave the 2009 Lamura Rosso di Sicilia IGT ($11 US) a shot this past Fancy Dinner Friday.  Rather than our usual Friday night fare of spaghetti and meatballs, I decided to go a bit more stripped down:  making a simple creation of sautéed minced garlic in olive oil, mixed with chopped up prosciutto and a can of crushed tomatoes on a bed of thin spaghetti, topped with fresh Basil from my herb garden.

Two words that best describe this wine and food pairing:  Bellissimo and Yummy!!

The 2009 Lamura Rosso di Sicilia IGT was packed with 100% fresh crushed, organically grown Nero d’Avola.   Bursting with pure, unadulterated, big red-berry fruit flavors and a soft flinty herbaceous component on the finish, this very approachable red has tons of juicy character!  It was awesome all by itself and delicious with a clean and simple pasta dish like we had that night.

4 Stars out of 4 for the 2009 Lamura Rosso di Sicilia IGT.  You can tell when something’s real:  THIS is the real deal at this price level!

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