Red Wine of the Week | Red Wine Reviews

Reds and Rosés you can grab in the Twin Cities for under $15. Expect a new wine to be revealed each Thursday(ish).

Giacomo Vico Langhe Rosso

Cost: Average price $13.99

Where buy now: Surdyks – $10.97

Grapes: 70% Barbera, 30% Nebbiolo

Region: Piedmont, Italy

Vintage: 2009

Giacomo Vico Langhe Rosso
Giacomo Vico Langhe Rosso

The tall, dashingly handsome Italian wine rep at the store made it impossible to pass by with only a glance. Right dapper in his pin stripe suit, well-coifed hair and slight Mediterranean tan, I was completely entranced as he regaled with details about the Giacomo Vico vineyard and their wine. He even smelled like he came straight from a Versace fashion shoot: cypress, smoke, spice and everything nice. As I stood with five or six other patrons, the crowded store made it difficult for our little gathering to remain in one place. When we shifted around to make room for other patrons, I would stealthily lean in to catch a hint of his aura. I know that’s downright creepy, but I was addicted. Oh, how I wanted to channel my inner Sophia Loren!

With his heavy, dripping accent he described this Langhe Rosso blend. The Giacomo Vico vineyards are in a hilly area, South of Torino and East of the River Tanaro in Piedmont, called “Roero”. Barbara and Nebbiolo wines are created separately, then fused into barrels to age. This blend creates a smooth, slightly tannic but not too dry libation. The deep color and smooth nature is evident as it is 70% Barbera. The slightly tannic, woody dry flavor is due to the Nebbiolo. I figured I’d like this wine since I love Barbera, and the introduction of Nebbiolo gives it a little bit drier quality. It has enough character to stand alone- perfect for sipping and gossiping with girlfriends (or Italian boyfriends). It is not, however, too strong to drink alongside spaghetti and meatballs or a grilled hamburger. Ooh, or pick up some truffle cheese at Trader Joes- that mushroomy smokiness would gracefully bring out the Nebbiolo flavor.

When this romance novel of a gentleman finishes telling us all the details, I stand there like a deer in headlights. I don’t speak. I can’t speak! I merely extend my hand hoping he will take it, whisk me away to his villa, perhaps speeding on windy hills in his convertible Alpha Romeo. He smiled and asked if I’d like a bottle. As I mutely nod, he places one in my desperate, outreached hand and moves on to the next patron.

Estancia Pinot Noir & Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

This is a special Surdyk’s sale report so I’ll [try to] be brief. You have until 10 pm Saturday (1/28) to take advantage of several great deals but I’ll talk about a couple.

Estancia’s Pinot Noir – here is a pleasant, unassuming Pinot from a big wine producer in Central California found near Monterey’s Pacific Coast.  Normally I stay away from Estancia. I don’t know why. I think I attribute big corporate California winery to sub-par wine. Oops, there is the snob coming out.

However, I made an exception because this Pinot is normally $17.99 and right now it is $9.99 at Surdyks. The store advertised they have a surplus due to an overloaded inventory and they got a smokin’ deal from some sales guys who haven’t met their 2011 quotas. What does that equal? A friggin’ great deal for us! They actually have deals on Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. I should have picked up a couple others to review but this sale runs quickly and I saw a few other deals I wanted to try.

Let’s bring this review back to the Pinot. I’ve been seeking a budget Pinot [under $15]. This one is mild – flavors of black cherry, plum and possibly blueberry. The finish isn’t long, meaning the taste doesn’t linger. I have to say this is a “Plain Jane” Pinot Noir. But hell, a Pinot that is decent for $10? Buy a couple. If you are a huge Pinot fan and you buy bottles around $25 or more [ie: Four Graces – a personal LOVE] you may find this incredibly light and boring. Perhaps this could be your everyday Pinot. But for the rest of us, it’s pleasing and unpretentious.

I stopped in the cheese shop on the way out to treat myself. I asked the cheesemonger (love that term) seems so medieval. Anyway, I asked her what she’s been enjoying lately and pointed me toward this Vermont Clothbound Cheddar and said it paired well with Pinot, so I picked it up. Mild, hard and a little crystallized; it is a Plain Jane cheese that went well with this Plain Jane Pinot. I’m not inferring that “Plain Jane” is a bad thing; sometimes all we want is simple and not labyrinthine. Go buy a hunk to eat all weekend along with your Pinot Noir. I have to admit, bypass the lines of folks cramped into that little cheese shop like rich sardines and walk a block East over to Lunds. Talk to Liz, the cheese gal. She’s very personable, zany and knows her cheeses! Plus, she’ll give you a nice sized sample, unlike the sophomore cheesemonger at Surdyks who sliced a cheese so thin you could see right through it like a veil and could hardly taste it. Lastly, the prices are a bit better at Lunds, too. Hmm – better service and better prices, seems like a no brainer.

In truth, if I could choose my night all over again – pick up this Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for $6.99.

I am taking you from Cali to the East Central region of Italy for this red that is a bit dry but not too strong, acidic or fruity. It is really drinkable and goes with so much. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is Italy’s equivalent to Argentina’s Malbec. You can drink this now and it is a great value! I suggest pairing with some gorgonzola dolce or pecorino fresco from Lund’s. Or, tell Liz what you are drinking and she’ll shave a few samples for you to decide. She will probably tell you about the farm where the cheese is produced. You’ll really enjoy a red wine with more depth of flavor along with a sweeter gorgonzola [dolce = sweet in Italian]. It’s less money, yet so much more rewarding!

Santa Ema 60/40 Reserve

Cost: Average price unknown

Where buy now: Costco – $7.99

Grapes: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot

Region: Chile

Vintage: 2008

Santa Ema - 60/40 Reserve
Santa Ema – 60/40 Reserve

I’m fortunate that my younger brother, his wife and their new son, live four blocks away. When he called and invited me over for dinner, I said “yes” because A.) I didn’t have to cook and B.) I could get some cuddle time with my nephew. Then, he told me he made slow roasted pork shoulder, braised broccoli with garlic and sautéed mixed potatoes. Score! I grabbed a couple bottles and ran right over.

When we sat down to eat, you could tell my 8-month-old nephew is one of us. He ogled our food, and sat in dismay as he played with this sad rice cracker that looked like baby raw-hide. Sorry, buddy, soon enough you’ll be enjoying the high life and eating real food. I poured three glasses and we dove in. Mmmm, yeah. The pork fell apart as I tried to gather hunks on my fork. Then, I took a sip of the wine to wash it down. EUREKA! It was awesome.

I picked up this beauty at Costco, and it is called “60/40”. It’s an oak-aged wine that is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. It is luscious, well-rounded and finishes strong. We were all impressed at how well it tasted with the pulled pork (that is, with the exception of my semi-toothed nephew). I noticed how the original wine-maker was from the Piedmont region of Italy who immigrated to Chile. Ah yes, Italy. I know I’m biased but c’mon, Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world with some of the most spectacular wines, and Chile is no slouch in the wine department, either.

We converse about life, food, and philosophy as we continue to enjoy the meal, bite by bite and the wine, sip by sip. Though my brother and sister-in-law aren’t huge [wine] drinkers, they are enjoying this libation with ease. The wine has a deep ruby hue with the usual red fruit flavor, slightly dry but with round tannins, meaning it wasn’t too bitter or sharp. It finished long enough to complement the food and leave you wanting more. You’d swear this wine was worth two to three times more than what I paid. Costco rotates their wines so often you’d think an 8-year-old with a leash and a helmet was the sommelier. Therefore, I plan to go back and buy a few more before this one becomes a thing of the past. I strongly suggest you do the same. Run, don’t walk.

Someday when my nephew is of age, I hope to be enjoying some fall-apart braised pork shoulder and a red wine like this – a moment to be shared between an aunt and a nephew where the tables are turned; he has all his teeth and no load in his pants.