Tag Archives: Italy

Rosé Roundup IV: Morgan & York

A nice shop on the south side of Ann Arbor (Packard, just south of Stadium).  They usually have something very interesting, but not always the value I’m looking for.  Their spring rosé selection as of mid-May was around 15 wines, so I made a judicious selection of six.

Cibonne Tentations (2016) Cotes de Provence, France – $18

Color: pale pink.

Aroma: yeasty, with raspberry fruit.

Taste: OK – some good berry fruit, and long on the finish.

Palatable; I’d drink this.

Pierre Morin (2016) Sancerre, France – $25

Color: still pale, but slightly darker than the Cibonne.

Aroma: darker fruit notes, mostly berry and cherry.

Taste: More acidity, good strawberry in the midpalate.

Sancerre is best known for its white wines (Sauvignon Blancs) but they also grow Pinot Noir for reds and rosés. This bottling, unfortunately, doesn’t show off the Pinot well – $25 is too steep for this.

G. D. Vajra Rosabella (2016) Italy – 17

Color: light pink.

Aroma: strawberry!

Taste: lots of acidity, like a good strawberry shortcake! Bright and zippy up front, the a long and tart finish.

This is produced in the Barolo region, but no official indication of what varieties they are using – Nebbiolo, Dolcetta, and Barbera would be typical grapes in that part of Italy.

Domaine des Cassagnoles Rosé Plaisir (2016) Cotes de Gascogne – $13

Color: medium pink to copper.

Aroma: berries, a little darker than most, some earthiness.

Taste: richer, with a touch of tannin. Some Grenache in this?

Not quite as long on the finish as the Italian, but a better mouthfeel throughout and much more suitable for food.  My favorite of the bunch.

Pierre-Marie Chermette “Les Griottes” (2016) Beaujolais Rosé, France – $18

Color: pale pink.

Aroma: nice red currants and floral nose.

Taste: Good mouthful of fruit – better balanced than most.  Some tannin on the finish.

Nice; this is better for an aperitif or a light meal.

Chateau de Manissy “La Belle Etoile” (2016) IFP Mediterranee, France – $12

Color: medium pink to orange.

Aroma: sweetish red fruits and berries.

Taste: lots of berry up front, then dull in the midpalate. The finish is short but full of fruit.

Decent, not great.  Also better for cocktail hour.


Out of everything I’ve tasted, the Domaine de Cassagnoles from Gascony is the winner, especially for the money.  I’m recommending it.  I’ve ordered a case and that should last me through the summer.


Italian dinner with Antonio Cabibi

This past Wednesday I attended another event at Paesano in Ann Arbor; Antonio Cabibi is the importer for Sardus Pater, a cooperative in Sardinia. He had some incredible wines to show, and I ordered a half-case. (Note that the first wine is not Antonio’s).

“Sardus Pater” means “Father of Sardinians” in the local language, and all of the wine names reflect some element of history or tradition as well. The Sardus Pater cooperative was formed just after World War II, and today has approximately 200 growers, with only 300 hectares between them – which means lots of individual care for each vine. Most of their property is on the small offshore island of Sant’Antioco, where they have a large stretch of pre-phylloxera vineyards dedicated to the Carignano del Sulcis grape (not related to the mainland Carignan).

20140423_180516Sant’Antioco is very windy, so the vines are head-trained – grown in low bushes, without any trellising. The vineyards also pick up some mineral and salty notes from the soil and the air.

Sciarpa Prosecco (NV) Veneto – $15

Mineral and lemon aromas – and it’s quite dry, probably the driest Prosecco I’ve had in a long time. Very nice and refreshing – it’s not trying to be Champagne.

Sardus Pater “Terre Fenicie” Vermentino di Sardegna (2012) Sardinia – $16

Vermentino is the major classic white grape of Sardinia. It definitely shows a more mineral and briny character when grown near the coast. I even picked up a hint of meatiness – chicken soup or roast turkey. This would be great with a seafood risotto, or chicken with lemons – and it shouldn’t be served cold! We drank it at about 55ºF and it was perfect. Highly recommended.

Sardus Pater “Foras” Cannonau di Sardegna (2011) Sardinia – $17

Cannonau is probably Sardinia’s most well-known native grape variety, although DNA testing indicates that it’s a close relative of Grenache. This was dark, but had a little bricky color, and there was a strong, heady aroma with raspberries and candied-apples.  Not quite as big on the palate, however, but it was clean and round – I find a lot of Cannonau to have an unpleasant muddy edge.

Sardus Pater “Nur” Carignano del Sulcis (2010) Sardinia – $16

This is produced in 100% stainless steel, then bottle aged for a few years before being released. The wine is very dark and purple, with blue and black fruit aromas and a hint of earth on the nose. It’s much bigger and rounder than the Cannonau, with rich fruit, some herbs, and good food-friendly acidity. The tannins are soft and this wine is perfect for drinking right now. Recommended.

Sardus Pater “Is Arenas” Carignano del Sulcis Riserva (2008) Sardinia – $25

The riserva bottling of Carignano del Sulcis sees a little oak. It’s even darker in color, and the20140423_191845 oak lends a little toastiness to the nose. This is even rounder and lusher, and has a very big mid-palate. The fruit is extremely pronounced, along with some medium tannins along the gums and on the finish. This is extraordinarily long. It’s drinkable now, but I’m curious about what another 5 years in the bottle will do.  I’ll have a tough decision to make when I pick up my wine later this week!


Wine-Tasting Report: Paesano’s in Ann Arbor

I found a great Italian place that does weekly wine-tasting events with distributors and importers. Paesano’s has a very interesting menu, and the wine events are a steal. Wednesday 6-8 with 5 wines and a selection of appetizers and shared entrees, all for just $25. Most of what they feature is not on their regular wine list, and you can order for retail pickup the next week. I had a blast last night, and I’ll be back their regularly!

This week’s selection were all from Nicola Biscardo – some are wines he makes, others are wines that he imports.  I ordered bottles of three of them – here’s the rundown!


Veneziano Sprizzzissimo (NV) Veneto – $10.50

This is a pre-mixed Prosecco-Aperol cocktail, a nice alternative to Campari and soda. Served over ice with an orange slice, it’s only 6.5% alcohol, has a beautiful orange color, and is very pleasant. Just bitter enough to wake up your tastebuds, just a touch of sweetness so it’s still refreshing. A neat find.

Castellari Begaglio Salluvii (2012) Gavi – $18

Gavi is a white from the far northwest of Italy, made with 100% Cortese grapes. The owner of this brand has 9 separate Gavi properties that he vinifies and bottles separately – the Salluvii bottling is a careful blend of all 9 vineyards. It was served with Ahi tuna in pasta shells with a variety of house-made condiments, including pickled onions and smoked salt.

Color: very pale.

Aroma: lemon, lemon zest, and minerality – maybe a hint of lanolin?

Taste: Creamy, higher in acid by balanced and with a light texture. Citrus fruit and some stone fruit. This is a good pairing for poultry in cream sauce.

Tenuta Curezzo Nerosso (2011) Salento – $17

A ‘secret’ blend of Uva de Troia, Primitivo, and 2 other traditional southern Italian grapes. It was served with rabbit orzo.

Color: very dark – ‘nerosso’ means black-red, and this lives up to its billing.

Aroma: a very big nose, with jam, spice, and some alcohol notes. Reminds me quite a bit of Grenache. With some air, you detect notes of fresh mulch.

Taste: good acidity, and softer on the palate than the nose would lead you to believe. Lots of plummy fruit and some tar. Recommended.

Marchesi Biscardo Corvina (2011) Veneto – $16

Corvina is one of the three grapes that make up Valpolicella, and this is produced in a Ripasso style, but it can’t be labelled Valpolicella because the appellation rules require that the wine be blended. This was served side-by-side with Niccolo Biscardo’s Valpolicella, accompanied by lamb stew.

Color: purple-black in the core and purple on the edge.

Aroma: chewy and chocolatey.

Taste: excellent fruit. Fresh and with good acidity, would be a nice pairing with charcuterie. Also recommended.

Marchesi Biscardo Ripasso (2010) Valpolicella – $24

Ripasso means that it uses the leftover skins of the Amarone pressing to add some additional flavor to the partially-fermented Valpolicella wine (the juice is ‘re-passed’ over the skins). This adds some extra complexity and depth without the big cost bump of drying the grapes to raisins, which is how Amarone is made.

Color: just a little older looking – red instead of purple.

Aroma: spice and dried fruit, plus a little smoke.

Taste: a classic Ripasso profile, softer and smokier with an easy finish. He may have used some newer oak in this as well. With food, the herbal notes pop out as well as the soft structure into the finish. Also recommended.

Ambasciatore Silvanum Chardonnay-Raboso

A very unusual and interesting blend from northeastern Italy. This is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Raboso Bianco – a crossbreed of the ancestral red Raboso variety with Marzemina Bianca to produce a dusky-skinned white grape. I’m having this with some baked flounder. I got this as a Christmas gift and thought now would be a good time to pop the cork.

Wine-016Ambasciatore Silvanum Chardonnay-Raboso (2009) Veneto, Italy – $10 to $20.

Color: very dark for a white; this reminds me of an Amontillado Sherry, and I could swear there’s the tiniest hint of red in there as well.

Aroma: Apple and citrus blossoms, plus a little toastiness. I can’t find any details online, but I suspect this saw some malolactic fermentation in oak.

Taste: Loads of juicy apple, both fresh and dried fruit, along with some soft vanilla and hazelnut. The Raboso contributes a firm, tannic kick at the end. This is a surprisingly complex wine for the price, and it big enough to go with a hearty risotto, mackerel, or pork. Recommended!


Villa Cerrina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a temporary assignment (arranging a short-term lease, getting packed, etc. is a big part of the reason I haven’t blogged much in the last 2 weeks). Fortunately there’s a Trader Joe’s here where I can stock up on food & wine. I need to do some price comparisons, but I believe that Ohio and Michigan are usually priced about the same. I also have a recommendation from my friend Patty about a great wine store which turns out to be less than a mile from my office. I’ll be reporting on that shortly.

Today’s wine in a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which is an easy-drinking varietal red from the south-central portion of Italy’s east coast, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Don’t confuse this wine, made from the Montepulciano grape, with the sub-district of Chianti known as “Vino Nobile di Montepulciano” – the US equivalent would be Portland, Oregon vs. Portland, Maine. Many people refer to the Tuscan wine as just “Vino Nobile” to prevent any ambiguity. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is what I call my “training-wheels red”; if you’re stuck on whites and want to branch out, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a good first step; it’s low in tannin, has a soft, fruity mouthfeel, can be enjoyed without food, and isn’t too heavy. Plus it’s not hard to find a very respectable bottle in the $10 range.

I’m popping this open with a simple pepperoni, mushroom, and onion pizza.

Villa Cerrina (2012) Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy – $5

Photo0357Color: ruby verging on purple; dark for a Montepulciano.

Aroma: a little earthy and spicy, then lots of fresh plum and cherry fruit.

Taste: relatively full up front, but not over-heavy. More fruit, plus a little licorice and truffle earthiness. The finish is just a little stemmy; I need to look up the 2012 vintage report to see if there were ripening problems with the harvest.

This is a fair introduction to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but I was disappointed in the finish. You can rapidly graduate from this into other producers from the same region, as well into other light-bodied red wines such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.

Recipe: Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables)

Whenever I’m at an Italian place that offers an antipasto buffet or salad bar, I look for the giardiniera. It’s that spicy pickled vegetable concoction that usually includes carrots, cauliflower, and green beans, and always has some kind of pepper. I recently finished off a big jar of jalapeños, and thought I’d try to make some giardiniera in the refrigerator. It worked great, and here’s the recipe!


Makes 2 quarts. Prep time 20 minutes. Total time 2 weeks.

  • Jalapeño juice (a half-gallon jar of sliced jalapeños should yield about 1 quart of liquid)
  • 12 oz frozen cut green beans
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets and washed
  • 2 carrots, washed, peeled, and sliced thin
  • 1 bell pepper, washed, cored, and diced
  • White balsamic vinegar to top off (white balsamic is mild and sweet-tart; Trader Joe’s has a good one)
  1. Place all vegetables in the jar of jalapeño juice – pack them in firmly. Top off with vinegar if necessary.
  2. Place in refrigerator.
  3. Shake vigorously once a day, for 2 weeks.
  4. Open and enjoy as a snack or antipasto.

This version is medium-spicy. You can punch it up by adding pepperoncini or cherry peppers. Or you can make it more mild by removing some of the jalapeno juice and adding extra vinegar and a quarter-cup of sugar.






Drinking Tonight: Epicuro Primitivo

This is a 2012 from Puglia, in southeastern Italy.  DNA tests show that Primitivo is identical to Zinfandel, but some growers – notably Tony Coturri – maintain that they have different phenotypic expression. We’re still trying to piece out the story of how this grape got to Italy; the best we can tell right now is that it was brought from Croatia to California sometime in the mid-1800s, and then was brought back to the Old World by Italian immigrants to the US who decided to pack it in and head back home.

This is the stablemate of the Salice Salentino and Aglianico that I’ve tasted from Epicuro in the last few weeks.  I’m drinking this with pan-seared steak and mushrooms.

Color: a nice purple-red; a little lighter in color than typical for a California Zin.

Aroma: berry fruit, with some licorice and black pepper. Nice.

Taste: jammy, but not too heavy – blackberry, raspberry, and cherry fruit, with some dusty pepper notes toward the finish. Good balance, well-suited for food. A little hint of cocoa on the finish as well, with sufficient acidity throughout to stand up to tomato sauce.

A nice choice for Italian or hearty American cuisine.  Winner!