Monday, December 27, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas Indeed

A few weeks ago, Colangelo and Partners PR, an agency that represents several Italian wineries, offered to send me a few bottles of "Umbrian wine, a Holiday alternative to Tuscan Sangiovese."

I received 2 bottles from the Arnaldo-Caprai winery a few days before Christmas so I decided to bring the bottles with me to Christmas Eve dinner at my friends' house.
We started the meal with a plate of cured meats - pepperoni, salami, prosciutto and coppa - providing the perfect opportunity to open the first bottle: Montefalco Rosso 2007 made primarily from Sangiovese with a bit of Merlot and Sagrantino (a grape found only in Umbria, as far as I know).

The Montefalco Rosso was a beautiful deep ruby color with a pleasing nose of red berries and a little earth. Before I dipped into the meats, I decided to try the wine on its own. It was slightly thin, farily dry and a little acidic, but the red berry fruit came through. The wine really began to shine once I indulged in some of the prosciutto and salami. The oil and fat from the meat cut through some of the acid showcasing the ripe fruit. This is exactly what this wine was made for and at $23 per bottle, I'd gladly bring this to a gathering or a dinner where I knew some hearty food would be served.
Before we finished the first bottle, I decided I needed to open the second bottle under the guise of wanting to taste it before my palate was shot. Truth be told, I was just curious and eager!

The second bottle was a Sagrantino di Montefalco Collepiano DOCG 2004 made from 100% Sagrantino. Other than the small amount of Sagrantino in the previous bottle, this was my first experience with the grape so I didn't quite know what to expect. I generally assume Italian wines will be slightly more acidic and earthy than other wines as they are made to be drunk with food. I also knew from the "DOCG" designation, that this wine had achieved certain standards in cultivation and processing in order to receive a top ranking from the powers that be within the Italian wine world. It didn't necessarily mean it would be better, but in general, wines with a DOC or DOCG designation have had to pass stricter regulations and have generally had a bit more care put into them. Simply put, I expected the wine to be good and I expected it to make the grilled filet mignon sing.

The Sagrantino was a deep ruby, almost purple color and had a beautiful nose of bright red fruit with a hint of oak. I also sense some gamey notes. This nose was right up my alley! As with the previous bottle, I decided to taste the wine by itself first. The Sagrantino held up a bit better on it's own. It had more balance than the Montefalco and the acid seemed to creep up slowly. Moreover, though it had 1% more alcohol than the Montefalco, it was well muted. Now you know why older wines and wines with DOC and DOCG designation cost more - generally they're better. And it only got better once I paired it with the filet. The red berry fruit absolutely shined and the spicey nutmeg notes just popped. Moreover, the gamey flavors that I detected on the nose came out on the finish and for those who've been following, you know I dig the game. Like the Montefalco, the body was a little thinner than I like, but all in all, this was a terrific wine. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd pay $60 for this, BUT if I had, I wouldn't have been disappointed.

Ultimately, I was impressed by Caprai's Umbrian wines and I was so glad I had the opportunity to taste them. I could see the Montefalco Rosso being a good "go to" wine for a party - especially if you need to drink a good amount to put up with with certain other partygoers (as i did on Christmas Eve). This is definitely a winery and a region I will look for in the future.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or the need to share my thoughts on Sparkling wines and Champagne,


Alli M.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To Each His Own (and if the each is me, we're talking lower acidity and alcohol)

The other night I enjoyed a lovely dinner with a couple of my friends who I affectionately think of as the "Queens of the 'Boken." We went to one of our favorite Hoboken restaurants, Bin 14. I've written about dinners and wine flights there before. I really like the food, but I've found the wine list a bit hit and miss. Last night, it became clear to me why I don't love their wine list.

Over the course of dinner, we ordered two bottles of wine: Quinta Nova "Pomares" 2008, a Portuguese wine made from the Touriga Nacional grape, and Ala Nero 2009, an Italian wine made from Nero D'Avola. I've had both grape varietals before and I'm a particular fan of Touriga Nacional (which many feel is truly the national grape of Portugal), but this one had a "little too much heat on it," or as a non-wine snob would say, "I tasted way too much alcohol." In fact, that was the first sensation on my tongue. When I looked at the alcohol content, 13.5%, it was high, but typical for what you'd see from a hotter climate like Portugal. To me, it was "unbalanced," meaning that one of the key elements; in this case alcohol, over powered the acid, tannins and sugars of the wine. The Nero D'Avola was a little better balanced, but was a bit too acidic (Italian wines are supposed to be acidic, but it felt like my tongue was growing hair).

The sommelier and/or owner seems to have a penchant for wines that pack an alcoholoic and/or acidic bite to them. Though I joke about being a snob, I truly believe that "to each his own." If the sommelier likes these wines and as long as I'm aware, I can better navigate the wine list.

The point is that it's o.k. to disagree with someone else's palate. My friend, Tom, and I almost came to blows over a Sauvignon Blanc earlier tonight (o.k., more like a fake butter knife duel, but still, it got heated). That doesn't mean you or the other person is wrong or has a faulty palate. Wine is as subjective as most other foods. My palate seems to have a narrow point of view when it comes to alcohol and acid, but you may find you love them. This doesn't mean you should stop reading my blog, of course. It just means that you should avoid what love and drink what I don't.

On Christmas Eve I'm going to be trying some Italian wines with my friend, Anne, and her family. So until that sniff, sip and quaff,


Alli M.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Domaine Nebout St. Pourcain Rouge Tradition 2008: Another GREAT Crowd Pleaser

While shopping for a party the other day, my friend, Will, who is also the manager of Amanti Vino and my sometime wine instructor, recommended Domaine Nebout St. Pourcain Rouge Tradition 2008, a blend of (primarily) Gamay and Pinot Noir. He described it as bright and full of berry fruit - just the type of wine that's perfect for a party because it can go with many foods or be enjoyed by itself.

The wine was delicious and a big hit. At $14.99 a bottle, I found a new favorite "every day" red. True to Will's words, the wine was a tasty, bright red with lots of red berries on the nose and palate. That said, I wouldn't call this a fruity wine. It had just the right amount of restraint and enough acid to hold up to many types of foods.

If you're looking for something for an upcoming holiday party or to enjoy at home over the holidays, look no further than Domaine Nebout St. Pourcain Rouge Tradition 2008.
And if you're looking for a fun holiday activity, I have one suggestion: Accordian Sing-A-Long. Nick, Liz, Maria and Moray really know how to host a rockin' party.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or holiday get together,


Alli M.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Last weekend I made my way to Bar Veloce, an Italian wine bar in Manhattan that I've wanted to try for some time. I'm happy to report it did not disappoint. As always, I tried a few different varietals but my absolute favorite of the evening was a Primitivo called Orion made by Li Veli.

Primitivo is an Italian grape that many believe to be a close relative of the Zinfandel grape. Primitivo can be juicy with notes of cherries and red berries. Li Veli's Orion was absolutely delightful. With the first sip I enjoyed a chewy mouthful of bright red cherry follwed by some subtle nutmeg notes. It was a joy to drink from the first sip to the last (and the first glass to the third!).

I've been thinking about it ever since so I recently looked it up on and found a store in Jersey City that carries it. Even better, it retails for $12.
For those of you looking for something a little different for an upcoming holiday party, Primitivo, and if you can find Li Veli, this particular wine, is for you. 'Tis the season to drink juicy red wines with berry and spice notes.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
-Alli M.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Get to Know Eric Orange, Founder of Local Wine

Look to the right of this article. Hopefully, you noticed the list of my favorite wine websites. Among that list is, a site I've been telling friends about for years. It's a wonderful resource where you can find food and wine events as well as wine educators in your country, your state and your town. This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak with the founder of Local Wine Events, Eric Orange.

Eric grew up in Wichita, Kansas and after a stint in the Navy, he started working for a wine distributor in Colorado. That led to a position with, a start-up that had $35 Million dollars in funding from, but "failed miserably" according to Eric. However, from that experience, Eric came up with the idea for Local Wine Events and on July 1, 2000, he launched the site. The restaurant industry drove its initial success, but it has gained a large following over the past 10 years and now boasts 130,000 subscribers and a widely read e-newsletter called "The Juice."

For those who have never used the site, it's a great tool for finding all sorts of food and beverage events in your town and neighboring towns. You'll see listings for wine dinners, beer making courses, chocolate tastings, cheese classes, coffee events and pretty much any type of food or gourmet gathering you can imagine.

As good as the site is now, Eric keeps working to improve it. He will be adding geo location software and utilizing newer display and pop-up technology. Additionally, he hopes to expand the listing of non-wine food and beverage events.

So if you're looking for a great wine resource or just something to do on a Tuesday night, check out Local Wine Events. And keep your eyes out for their ongoing improvements. Personally, I think the site is already excellent, but I appreciate Eric's passion for continuous improvement.

Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,
Alli M.

Monday, December 6, 2010

And on the 4th night of Hannukah, I enjoyed a split at a bar

This past Saturday I celebrated the 4th night of Hannukah at a good local bar, Egan & Sons which has good food, very good beer and a really good wine list for a pub. I hadn't been to Egan's in quite some time and I was excited to find that they'd added splits to their menu. A split is the fancy, wine snob way of saying half bottle.

Splits are great for many reasons:

-Splits are cheaper than buying by the glass. At a bar or restaurant, a split usually costs about 2x that of a glass of the same wine. You get about 2 1/2 glasses of wine in each split.

-Splits are fresher than ordering by the glass. When you order a split, a fresh new bottle is opened for you. This rarely happens when you're ordering by the glass.

-Splits allow for variety. If you can't decided between two wines or two varietals and the wine is offered in half bottles, order both and see which one you prfer.

-Splits save you from yourself. How many times have you been at restaurant and though you were full and finished drinking, you sucked down another 1/2 glass or glass of wine because you didn't want the rest of bottle to go to waste?

Of course some nights call for a full bottle (or three). Plus, some friends may look at you funny (as mine did this weekend) when you belly up to the bar with your own mini bottle and a fileld glass to boot. However, for all the reasons listed above, it's worth it to order a split now and again.

As for what split I ordered? King's Estate Pinot Noir. Medium bodied, fruite forward, easy drinking pinot noir. Always a good standby.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff or split,


Alli M.