Monday, December 28, 2009

Viva Italia

Apparently this was the year for me to buck the trend of Asian food over the holidays as I found myself at another Italian restaurant on Saturday night. Clearly it's fated that I get to know and appreciate Italian wines a bit more.

Giotto's is a restaurant around the corner from me that I've been wanting to try for quite some time. It's always packed and as one might expect it's a BYO so obviously it's been calling to me! I've tried to go before but I haven't been able to get in (perhaps I should try making reservations rather just dropping by, eh?). Saturday night when we could actually get a table, we had to jump on it. Who cared if it was my second night of Italian in a row? It's the holidays - live a little!

Before heading to the restaurant, my friend and I stopped at a local wine store and after a brief "discussion" with a member of the staff about the placement of their Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, we ended up a bottle of Villa Antinori (brand, not a grape varietal) blend and a Vino Noble de Monetpulciano (grape varietal and as you might suspect, a very close relative to Montepulciano D'Abruzzo).

Villa Antinori has been an Italian label I've relied upon since my friend, Pam, introduced it to me several years ago. Their standard red table wine is a lovely, aromatic and hearty blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese (the key grape in Chianti) and smaller quantities of a few other grapes. Bright fruit with a medium finish and slight tannins. It's a great wine to eat with a variety of foods. I enjoyed it with balsamic glazed scallops while my friend paired it with one of the largest Ribeyes I've ever seen.

We have yet to drink the Vino Noble, but as soon as we do, you'll be hearing all about it.

And for those wondering, Giotto's did not disappoint. For those in North Jersey, I recommend a visit.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Last night I ventured into New York City to meet a fellow member of the tribe for a not so Christmas dinner. Thanks to Open Table, I was able to determine which restaurants would be open. I was so proud of my methodology and I'm such a foodie geek that I actually created a spreadsheet of the various restaurant information. As ridiculous as this sounds, it actually came in handy because we knew exactly where we were going as we headed into the cold, windy night.
We ended up at Trattoria Dell'Arte, which I'd heard good things about, but had never visited. The place was packed, the service was very friendly and the food was quite good, though a bit pricey. They have an extensive list of wines by the bottle. Their lists of 1/2 bottles and wines by the glass are short, but they are good lists that cover a range of tastes.

Since I've been trying to learn more about Italian wines and find ones that are a little more accessible to my palette, I chose the Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, an Italian varietal I've enjoyed before. Montepulciano D'Abruzzo is a wonderful vairetal for someone like me who has trouble with the more acidic,"dustier" and more structured Itlaian wines. I can appreciate these wines, but I have a hard time truly enjoying them. Montepulciano D'Abbruzzo, on the other hand, is just fun in a glass. Lower acidity, light tannins and a lot of bright, young fruit. The Dario D'Angelo Montepulciano D'Abruzzo did not disappoint. It went down very easy and I did not complain when the bartender refilled my glass (without my even ordering it).

If you're looking for a nice, easy Italian wine to drink with or without food, or you're like me and wine lists at Italian restaurants scare you, just look for Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. You won't be disappointed. Plus, it's usually one of the better values on the menu. Mangia!

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A very Gary (Farrell) Christmas

Last night I had some friends over to celebrate a not very Christmas-y Eve. Of course wine was involved. I wanted to start with something a little lighter so I went with one of my favorite whites - Erath Pinot Gris. Medium bodied with a lot of refreshing acid and wonderful fruit flavors of apricot and a hint of pear.

We then moved on to our first red - Benton Lane Pinot Noir - another excellent value. For those who've been keeping up with their reading, it's the wine I enjoyed at a family dinner a few weeks ago. Dry cherry yumminess.

Though it was late in the evening, I was able to "twist" my friends' arms and convince them to go for a 3rd bottle. This is where we decided to take it up a notch and I uncorked a bottle of Gary Farrell's 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir that I'd picked up in Sonoma this past June. Gary Farrell's labels are pretty standard and boring so rather than include a picture of the bottle, I attached a picture of the view from Gary Farrell's tasting room. This is what they should put on their label because it's one of the best views in Sonoma.

Pinot Noirs from California tend to have a lot more of a cooked fruit nose and taste as the grapes are grown in a warmer climate than in Burgundy or in Oregon. This turns some people off, but when done right, I find it tasty and warming. Gary Farrell's Carneros Pinot Noir has a nose and a palette of stewed plums and it's absolutely delightful. Luckily my friends are lightweights because I still have a glass left to enjoy later today (after I get back from the movies of course)!

I hope all of your holiodays are as merry or as Gary.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alli M., Sommelier (seriously?!?)

Yesterday I found out I passed the Intermediate Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education trust (the wine class I was blogging about a few months ago). Apparently I can now officially call myself a sommelier, though what this class made me realize is how much more I have to learn and how easy it is to gain the title of sommelier.

That said, these feelings won't keep me from throwing out this term now and again to impress as needed!

We'll see how haughty I'm feeling when I'm in the midst of trying to pass the Advanced Certificate this spring.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff, tasting, class, or random opinion,


Alli M.

Vanity Wine Labels - not so much

I attended a wedding at a fancy hotel this weekend and they were serving their own label that was made for them from a winery in Sonoma. The label did not specify the winery. I tend to be a bit weary when it comes to wines made specifically for a venue or an already existing brand. I have a theory that the grapes used in these wines are those deemed inferior for the previously existing labels the winery makes. It's even more suspect when the winery is not mentioned on the label.

Unfortunately the wine at the wedding did nothing to change this point of view. The Merlot was a thin fruit bomb and represented the reason why Milo didn't drink any "f***in" Merlot in the movie "Sideways." The Cabernet was slightly better but still had way too many spice flavors (tasted more like nutmeg than anything else) leading me to believe it was over-oaked like most "value" Cabernets from Napa/Sonoma. The upside is that I was able to focus all of my attention on the dance floor, which is really how it should be at a wedding!

Up next I'll be sharing my opinions on wine gifting for the holidays...A little late, but better late than, well, who am I kidding, my five regular readers would have already asked me anyway....

Until the next sip, sniff or quaff (or latest wine opinion/frustration),


Alli M.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another good value to check out

Last night my family and I were at a restaurant and as usual, they handed the wine list to me. It's always a bit daunting choosing a bottle for a table of people, but I know my parents are fans of Pinot Noir and I saw Benton Lane on the list so I decided to go with it. Benton Lane makes a lovely, dry pinot with some nice cherry notes. Moreover, at approx. $20 a bottle, it's a really good value. Of course we paid $55, which is (sadly) a typical markup you get at restaurants (and the reason I love frequenting good BYOs).

That said, if you see it on a list or in the store, it's worth a try.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,


Alli M.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Happiest of Holidays

That about sums it up for me*

*Of course I say this as someone who celebrates Christmas with some good Indian food and a movie or two (as far as I'm concerned, Indian pairs a lot better with wine).


-Alli M.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bad Blogger, Bad

I've been a complete lazy bum. I've been involved in all sorts of wine activities the past few weeks and haven't made any time to type them up. Rather than give a short synopsis of each activity, I'll write about my experiences over the next few entries. Since I have no big dinner plans this week, I could use the material.

Saturday night I corked a bottle of Four Graces Pinot Noir - a wonderful, layered wine that tastes more like a French Burgundy than an American Pinot. Gamey, dry and with a slight hint of plum and berry. It's something I probably would have hated 10 years ago when I was first getting into the big, bright and jammy California wines. I absolutely love it now. Through the WSET class, I found that I have a real taste for gamey red wines. It has to be the Francophile in me!

If you get the chance to pick up a bottle of Four Graces, Pinot Noir, go for it. For $25, it's an absolute gem. And their Pinot Gris is also quite good.

Tomorrow I'll tell you all about putting together a gift case of wine for my friends' wedding.

Until then,

Alli M.