Where buy now: Stores nationwide
Grapes: 80% Merlot, 4% Syrah, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Petite Sirah and 8% “other”
Region: Wild Creek Canyon, California
It’s a new year, full of possibilities. New exercise regimes, new dieting fads, new budget dedication, and any other new resolution that will most likely fade as we enter the second month of the new year.
My biggest resolution this year is to get my budget in check. I’ve been spending like an asshole on wines all in the name of “research” [burrrp]. If I EVER want to put in that oh-so-desired wine cellar and continue my international travels, I need to reign it in! But I will not sacrifice taste. Well…
Just as I’m committed to tightening up my budget, I’m committed to drinking wine, dammit. I’m kicking this year off with a CK Mondavi Merlot. With a mere $6.99 price tag, this has weeknight “skank” wine “sampling” written all over it. It’s a no frills bottle of red that’s as easy to drink as it is to open (thanks to the twist-off cap).
This wine is a burst of cherry and plum flavors. It’s quite fruit forward but not like actual grape juice. (I found the CK Mondavi Cab Sav to, ahem, embody more of that fruit juice flavor.) This, at least, has some oaky hints, which provide some structure.
Again, this CK Mondavi Merlot isn’t some Master Sommelier-caliber, complex, expensive, multi-layered vino. It is however, shall we say, community college-fortified. It’s practical and will give you what you want without breaking the bank.
Happy New Year’s and now, I’m off to visit the gym. . .for the THIRD time this year.
Region: Yakima Valley, Washington
You’ve sat down and gobbled up a hearty meal. What are you going to have next? Sure, the obvious and easy choice is to serve pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin parfaits, pumpkin Oreos, pumpkin Pringles and any other tweaked out form of pumpkin you can think of. Perhaps one of those goddamned pumpkin spice lattes? You know those things are laced with carcinogens, right?
Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. The more I say that word, the more it sounds like some kind of penis enlarger you’d find in a SPAM email (probably from someone named “Tabitha” or “Emmanuelle”).
So, what do I associate with the Fall season? Apples, hay rides, leaves changing colors, new school year, knee hight boots, hot tea, football, soothing soups (and yes, my mom’s pumpkin squares) are what come to my mind. Not to mention, the Autumnal color scheme is a Redhead’s best friend.
I have a new addition to that aforementioned list: Airfield Estates Late Harvest Riesling. Late Harvest Riesling is a dessert wine that is made with grapes that have stayed on the vine as long as possible without a frost, until they’ve shriveled up into grapes chock-full of concentrated sugars.
Airfield Estates is in Yakima Valley, Washington and they’re making some goo-ood wines; their Late Harvest Riesling being one of them. This wine is luscious. It’s thick without being syrupy. It’s sweet without being flabby. It’s seasonal without being overly determined.Honestly, it’s smooth and honeyed with peach and apricot tastes and smells. It’s not all candy, though. There’s enough acidity to help give it structure and make it a pleasant after dinner palate pleaser. I don’t typically gush about dessert wines but I’m in love and that’s why Airfield Estates Late Harvest Riesling is my white wine of the week!
Switch it up a bit after dinner, serve Late Harvest Riesling alongside a cheese course. (How European) It’s simple and it will make you shine in front of company. You can make your cheese board pretty by adding some hazelnuts, almonds and dried apricots. Visit my trusted friend and certified cheese professional, Liz, at Lunds NE.
I love these cheeses with this wine and I recommend sampling them in this order:
1.) A creamy cheese such as Shephard’s Way (Northfield, MN.) Brie.
2.) An earthy goat cheese such as Cowgirl Creamery’s Truffle Tremor. (Point Reyes Station, CA)
3.) A Blue cheese such as Saint Agur. (Monts du Velay, France)
Or, if your sweet tooth is nagging you, creme brulee and flan are both great options. I recently had panna cotta and that knocked my socks off of my ass. The only thing that could’ve made it better would’ve been pumpkin. A pumpkin to smash, that is.
Grapes: Casavecchia, Pallagrello, Falanghina, Aglianico
Region: Campania, Italy
Vintage: See below.
Any time an Italian man comes to town, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be bellied up at the tasting bar trying my hand at broken Italian, slurring the few phrases I can still recite from my two years of University study. I always begin with my favorite, “Guarde le stelle, la luna e tu; tutte le cose belle delle notte.” Translation: “Look at the stars, the moon and you; all the beautiful things of the night.”
Off the record, in my early 20s, this phrase garnered lots of Italian tail. (By the way, that’s not true. At all.)
Ahem, I digress, I’m here to tell you about an Italian winemaker, Massimo Alois (Ahl-oys), from Campania, Italy. He was recently in town pouring samples of his family’s wines at Zipp’s Liquors.
Here is Fred (from Rootstock Wine Company, responsible for Massimo’s precious cargo) & Massimo.
Here is Massimo, Peter (from Thomas Liquors) and me. Psst – 25% off sale right now through Oct. 18!
Massimo is a lovely man who speaks terrific English. He’s ready and willing to answer any questions and explain about the wines, family history and vineyards.
Massimo, along with his father, Michele Alois, have a rich history. I’ll spare you the full-on nerdery in favor of the Cliff’s Notes version. After all, there’s wine to drink, people.
The Alois name is synonymous around the world for it’s rich silks and tapestries. This is evident in places such as the White House, Italian Parliament and even the Louvre. The Alois factory, located in Caserta, began in 1885 and continues to this day. In 1992, Michele decided to begin foraging and planting native grapes. In concert with the Universities of Napoli and Firenza, he started cultivating a forgotten strain of indigenous ancient Roman grapes. I think it’s incredible that grapes such as Casavecchia or Pallagrello (Ferdinando IV of the Bourbon family, King of Naples from 1751 to 1825, fave) survived the Phylloxera outbreak of the late 1800s! [Man, I LOVE that Brad Mitt movie!] Today, the Alois family still has ties to the silk factory; however, winemaking has become the main family passion.
The vineyards are situated about 15 miles from Mt. Vesuvius, which is still an active volcano. (Yikes!) Because of this proximity, much of the vines grow from volcanic soil, giving the wines an added layer of minerality. Some say “ashy”, but I think that sounds gross, and frankly do not detect that in these wines.
I would have bought them all if I wasn’t saving for a NYC vacation. Alas, I came away with these three:
Caitî 2012 – 100% Pallagrello Bianco. Gold in color, rich in tropical fruit, and followed up with balanced acidity. This reminded me of a tart Chablis. Patio perfect to have alongside a nicoise salad, grass fed llama reduction foam, or tuna tartare. (Who am I kidding, I’ve never eaten any of that on my patio.) Drink it with any salad or a tuna fish sandwich. Very palate pleasing!
Settima 2010 – Blend of Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. Oh Madone! This gal is a-spicy little a-number. Hints of smoke swirl among the spices, red berries, toasted plum skins and strong tannins. Drink this Old World hottie up with fatty sausages or meatballs.
Murella 2008 – 100% Pallagrello Nero. This red wine is smooth, voluptuous, even. If Helen Mirren was a wine, she’d be Murella. This wine has such finesse and grace. She doesn’t need to slap you across the face; she, alone, draws you in with her charm, leaving you wanting more.
The real importance here is your bragging rights to say “I am drinking like a king.” Thanks King Ferdinando IV!
The tides are turning along with the leaves, get out your pot (cooking vessel) and make a big ‘ol vat of chili, Italian “gravy”, beef stew or some other classic stick-to-your-ribs dish. Ladle it up in a bowl, tear a hunk of bread and pop one of these wines.
Now, for a taste of full-on nerdery, including a regional map, list of varietals and wines, read below. Otherwise, as my husband might say: “BON APPETITO!” (He has literally never once said that.)
Read in detail here.