Archive for May, 2010

It’s been hot and humid in the City Of Lakes as of late.  This week saw a record temperature shattered by 13 degrees, and when the mercury is flirting with triples my wine jones is for crisp light whites [like Vinho Verdes and Sauv Blancs].  I personally enjoy light bodied super-acidic white wines, so I really enjoyed the 2008 Anton Bauer Gmork Gruner Veltliner [$10.99 on sale at France 44 a few weeks ago, lists for 13.99].  This gem is from the Wagram sub-region of Donauland, a well respected area for Gruner Veltliner [herein GruVe] just north-west of Vienna.  A large majority of Austrian wine is white, and the fresh, fruity acidic GruVe is the dominant variety.  This particular GruVe typifies the style.  It sports a light straw color and a very light nose, just herbally perfumed.  The sip, though, slaps you across the mouth with racy acidity from start to finish.  It’s loaded with fresh green fruit in a light-medium body, crisp as an October breeze.  Fresh and bright with a sharp edge, this wine is a like a painfully cute woman who spurns your advances but secretly wishes you to keep trying.  A heat-beater of the first degree, GruVe is famous for being one of the only wine that pairs well with asparagus.  I drank it with this asparagus/arugula laced ricotta gemelli – incredible.

Looking forward to a Memorial Day weekend filled with Twins ball, grilling and chilling//#spareribsunday. Good wine and good friends – what more is there?

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A while back, a friend texted for wine list assistance.  He was taking his girlfriend to Bar La Grassa for her birthday and needed a good white.  A few weeks prior I instructed him to buy a Cusumano Insolia for a trip to the gf’s – it ended up going very well with sushi.  Insolia [or Inzolia] is the paragon of the collection of grapes that make me crazy for Sicilian whites.  Insolia is bright, fresh, lemony, often with luscious, tangy acidity.  Much the same can be said of the other Sicilian whites, like Fiano and Grecanico.  Grillo and Catarratto are, along with Insolia, major grapes in Marsala, but make a simple and lively still wine on their own [try Ajello’s blend]. I also like Feudo Principi di Butera for a good Insolia at around $12-13.

I scanned La Grassa’s wines online, figuring you have to drink Italian wine at the best Italian restaurant in town [except Broders, that is]. Based on the successful feedback from the Insolia pick, I recommended the 2008 Donnafugata Anthilia Bianco, Sicily [87/WE].  The wine is an 80% blend of Ansonica and Catarratto, with 20% mystery grapes ‘according to the vintage’.  I found it recently at France 44 [$15.99] and I believe it was on La Grassa’s list for about $23, so that’s not bad at all.  It sports a light gold color, a salty and slightly herbal nose, a bright lemon/green melon flavor that quickly fades to a mineral-dominated sip.  It’s medium bodied with not a huge amount of acidity, but the minerally tang you get on the finish makes up for it.  It’s a fine example of the region and, as you might suspect, it absolutely begs to accompany seafood.  Try it with this summery calamari preparation.  My friend and his gf called it a great selection, and if your tastes tend towards Sauvignon Blanc over Chardonnay, I think you’ll like it too.

It’s gotten hot in MSP – it’s 90 and humid as I write this.  Good thing I still have half this bottle left.

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From the gsheaves tasting notes journal.  Get this semi-Chablis at Surdyks [$11.99]

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I recently ate at the lauded cathedral hill outpost La Grolla with the family after seeing the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Science Museum.  Their wine list is a decent mix of recognizable big brands and many of the usual Italian suspects (Il Poggione, Banfi etc.)  We were seated in the corner under two large paintings of Venetian canal-scapes, and I can’t think of that cloudy sinking lagoon without craving Valpolicella.  For the uninitiated, Valpolicella is a red blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes from the Veneto region [east of Lake Garda] in NE Italy.  In his [widely panned] Venice-set novel ‘Across The River and Into The Trees’, Hemingway describes Valpolicella as ‘light, dry, red and cordial, like the home of a brother whom you get along with’. Regular Valpolicella is usually lightish-medium bodied with fruit-forward style, but for my money [in this case, my dad’s money] Ripasso [lit. “repassed”] Valpolicella is worth the extra few bucks.  It’s made by taking the grape pommace left over from making Amarone and steeping it in a fresh batch making the wine more tannic and concentrated. La Grolla’s list included the 2007 Villalta Ripasso Valpolicella for $36 [I believe it retails for about $20].  It had a very nice inky purple hue, medium body with a delightful core of plum-prune fruit.  It was not as thick and concentrated as many Ripassos I’ve had.  It did begin to deliver that Amarone-like raisinated flavor as it sat in the glass, while remaining rather light on the palette.  It’s not mind-blowing, but it’s very satisfying.  My only real gripe was La Grolla’s IKEA-looking stemware that rendered the wine almost aroma-less.  Most of their list is between $26-40 – i’d say the Villalta had fair QPR in that range.  [And my Linguine alle Vongole was very good, if a little garlic-laden for my tastes//#moltoaglio]

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For many wine drinkers, myself included, a taste of a certain wine transports you through space and time to the very instance you first experienced it.  Epicuro Salice Salentino [$5.99 at Trader Joe’s] does somewhat in that I remember tasting it first after a G&T fueled video poker binge at the Sahara in Vegas, followed by a double-double at In n Out //[it tasted good].

In my never-ending search for good, cheap wine, it’s easy to rely on my local Trader Joe’s [Excelsior & Monterey].  TJ is a seductive option to fill a case of wine from France 44 that has dwindled to six and Epicuro is one of their brands I can say I consistently enjoy for the price.  They make a Vermentino from Lazio that has a fresh-rocky-citrus tang [my TJ also carries this], and I’ve heard their Nero d’Avola and Aglianico are good as well, though I have not had them.  I would not doubt both of those have great QPR as well.

Salice Salentino is a D.O.C. blend from Puglia [heel of the boot], made from a majority of Negroamaro grapes with some Malvasia Nera [Epicuro’s is 80-20].  Negroamaro is almost exclusively grown in southern Italy where it produces rustic, earthy tasting wines.  In concert with the more aromatic Malvasia Nera, it makes a delicious, easy-drinking lighter bodied blend.  Epicuro’s 2006 riserva [in this case meaning a 24 month aging, i think] sports an inky dark color with a dusty nose and a cherry-sweet attack with some body on the back-side.  For $6, it sports straightforward, honest fruitiness – I can’t complain.  For a bit more serious effort, i recommend Taurino’s Salice Salentino [Surdyk’s, usually for around $10-11], maybe a bit lighter bodied but much more perfumed [smoky].  I would also recommend this wine to you white-whinos as a good, fruity cross-over wine for the tannin-shy [same goes for Parducci Sustainable Red].

Waiting for the sun to come out.  I heard possibility of 80s this weekend//#dontfailmebelinda// that’ll mean some Wine@MSP shots, hopefully.

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The first week of December 2008 in Venice was cold and rainy.  On the morning of the 2nd, small boats rowed through Saint Mark’s Square as the locals stood around in groups, chatting and gesturing at the water with righteous indignation.  Our hotel, conveniently located near the base of the Rialto, held a foot of water by mid-day.  My friend and I managed to escape to a dry patch of sidewalk behind our hotel and found a jovial English speaker intent on drinking the flood away.  We chased the tide back into the canal, frequenting cantinas as they dried out and reopened.  Tony seemed to be the unofficial mayor of that neighborhood.  Each inter-bar stroll, each more circular than the next, would be prolonged by run-ins with family, old friends, and complete strangers – the way Tony greeted them, it was impossible to divine the difference.  After more than a few house reds, most of them Bardolino, we told him that the rest of our group would be expecting us for dinner.  He suggested Campari – because, in his words ‘F—‘in A, man, gonna have dinner, gotta have a Spritz first’.

I don’t like Campari & Soda, it’s too dry for my tastes.  I much more prefer an Americano or Negroni, the former tall and very cold, the latter only in New Jersey.  I tried the gamut of Campari applications that week.  I found one bar whose take on the Spritz was tart and dry, yet bright and enlivening.  I recommend drinking this before a barbeque dinner over a game of Bocce on a hot day in June.

CAMPARI ALLA BATTISTI (build in a red wine glass in this order)

Handful of ice, 1-1/2 oz Campari, 3/4 oz Dry Vermouth, splash of Prosecco (or your favorite dry sparkling wine), splash of Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice.  Garnish with a lemon wheel (in the glass, not on the rim).

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