Tag Archives: The Wine Thief

Araldica La Luciana Gavi

Cost: Average price $14

Where buy now: The Wine Thief $13.99

Grapes: Cortese

Region: Piedmont, Italy

Vintage: 2010

Araldica La Luciana Gavi

I’m not a slacker. An imbiber, yes, but not a slacker. My day job event planning for a major non-profit in town kept me away from writing a red or white review last week. (Note: not drinking, just writing.) Please accept my heart-healthy apologies.

To make it up to you, let’s kick off the weekend with a white wine that is sure to tickle your fancy parts. This week’s white belongs to Cortese [kor TAY zay] di Gavi, aka “Gavi”. It’s a white wine produced in the Piedmont, North West region of Italy. Cortese grapes live along sloping vineyards close to Italy’s Ligurian region [Mediterranean Coastal area], where Genova resides (in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Well, he didn’t set sail from Genova, but Cristoforo Colombo was from this area)

Why does any of this matter? Because the grapes are going to get hit with wafting, salty seaside breezes influencing their flavor with hints of tartness and a slight dryness.

Don’t get turned off by what I just said, this is a terrific Summer wine that’s just begging to be paired with grilled fish, or my favorite, pesto. Think about it: wine that is made near the seaside is probably best had with frutta di mare (literally translated, fruit of the sea, or seafood). Plus, “real” pesto hails from Genova, so it’s not coincidentally, a perfect marriage.

This white wine is pale straw in color with scents of citrus fruits (think lemons & limes). It isn’t an overly fruity wine, but has a hint of minerality and mild acidic tartness that snaps back. Not strongly-just enough to give the wine some character. It’s lively but in a laid back sort of way. If you are a Pinot Grigio fan, give this a try and I think you may have a new favorite. It’s aged in stainless steel tanks which lends itself to a refreshingly smooth lemony taste and dare I say it transports you to the Mediterranean shores of Italy.  I’m imagining laying out on one of those rented beach chaise lounges. Uninhibited, I take my top off and let the strong Mediterranean sun bake me golden. (Nevermind that I’m a shy, pale redhead; that sun would destroy me.)

So, let’s talk food pairing. I’d soooo dig this with sautéed calamari. Scusi in St. Paul has a nice dish of sautéed calamari that would pair well. This wine is so perfect for pasta with pesto, I cannot stand it. The lemony, refreshing dry-sweetness balances the smooth, herby, garlicy pesto sauce. Mmmmhmmmm.

If you don’t grow your own basil, SHAME ON YOU! But, perhaps I’ll forgive you if you pick some up this Spring and use it to make your own pesto. Throw it in ice cube trays and freeze it for a rainy day. It’s pretty easy and it tastes so much better than pesto from a jar. If you’re real short on time, though, I really like Pesto alla Genova carried at Lund’s & Byerly’s stores. It’s a teeny-tiny jar for a whole lot of money but often it’s on sale for $8.

Here’s the quick, down & dirty pesto method:

A couple BIG handfuls of fresh basil leaves

A handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted

A couple garlic cloves

A small hunk of Parmigiano cheese

Put it all in a blender and slowly drizzle in olive oil until you get a consistency you like.

Toss it over your favorite pasta and grate some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano on top. Pour yourself a glass of Gavi and you have a real meal. So simple, but the flavors will knock your socks off. No restaurant can give you that satisfaction, and we’ll just forget about last week.

Twin Islands Sauvignon Blanc

Cost: Average price $12

Where buy now: The Wine Thief $11.99

Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc

Region: Marlborough, New Zealand

Vintage: 2011

Twin Islands Sauvignon Blanc

This year’s bi-polar Minnesota Spring has left folks like me wondering what to drink. Hell, we’re all willy nilly, and that spills over to our beverage du jour! On warm days, people are busting open beers, whites, and rosés. The dreary, cold days you lean toward, well, heavier/darker beer, whiskey, and/or red wine.

This takes me to the drizzly, dreary day that was last Saturday’s Record Store Day. Record Store Day began back in 2007 to celebrate independent record stores. In collaboration, artists responded with limited release pressings and recordings, mostly on vinyl. Learn more:http://www.recordstoreday.com/CustomPage/614/RecordStoreDay

A group of us went down to Hymie’s to hear some local fave’s, The Brian Just Band and The Cactus Blossoms. In true Minnesota fashion, the weather was not about to dampen this celebration, despite the fact that the primary stage was outside. Folks stood steadfast in rain slickers and umbrellas, sporting their thrift store jackets or REI softshells & fleece while kids danced around in rubber galoshes. The entire scene with homemade art goods, 25-cent record bins, and 20-somethings with giant, freshly grown beards (facial hair, not female companions), made me feel like an extra on an episode of “Portlandia”. All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday.

After all that, though, I needed to warm up with a bevi so I wandered over to The Wine Thief in St. Paul. The place isn’t overwhelming and the staff is appropriately laid-back, but when asked, they’ll steer you well. They are serious about wine without taking themselves too seriously. There was even a nice little three bottle tasting going on. This week’s weather forecast calls for some shaping up, so how about a little New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Since I was impressed with the Marlborough Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc few months ago , I wasn’t very hesitant to give this one a try.

Twin Islands Sauvignon Blanc is a stimulating and damn smooth white wine. There is no alcohol bite to it. You could hand this out after a marathon it’s so refreshing and thirst quenching.  This beauty is crisp, yet smooth with light citrus fruit and peach undertones. Like a Roy Orbison record, you could serve this to anyone, from full-on snobs to your White Zin-loving mother-in-law, reasonably confident that they’d dig it. I have visions of drinking this alone in the backyard patio while thumbing through one of my zillion copies of Sierra Trading Post (honestly, must they mail so many?). Me? I enjoyed it with some fried chicken. Say what you will, but that $4.99 8-piece fried chicken deal (you could also get it grilled, but, c’mon) was calling out to me, so I ordered it up. The key is to get a fresh batch, not the sad, stale chicken parked for hours under a heat lamp. Out of the fryer, into my container! I was giddy with excitement.

Fried chicken awesomeness

I poured a glass of the Twin Islands, then got full-on cro magnon with a drumstick before I could even sit down. Alas, sat I did, and took a swig of Sauvignon to wash the breaded poultry down. (Thank God I was alone.) Soon, my fingers were all shiny, glistening from the grease. I even smudged up the wine glass stem with delectable chicken fat awesomeness. All the while I kept eating, I savored each sip. It went together so swimmingly well, the gleam never dulled.

This is the white wine for people who don’t like white wine. Period. Thankfully, due to Record Store Day, I now had a bitchin’ new soundtrack for my consumable induced coma.

Wine and Record Bliss

Castaño Monastrell

Cost: Average price $9.99

Where buy now: The Wine Thief for $8.99

Grapes: 100% Monastrell

Region: Yecla, Spain

Vintage: 2010

Castaño Monastrell

What do you think of when you lust for the golden green of Spring? That’s right- BBQ. You can be anyone/thing: carnivorous being, gluten-free, vegan, Atkins dieter, you name it. As long as a fire is sounding off Pavlov’s dogs, you’ve got yourself something.

A BBQ is an event, it’s a reason to gather, nay, _the_ reason to gather, and likely the oldest meaningful reason.

Grilling is so fun! I love grilling vegetables. Eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers, mushrooms- line ’em up! Lamb chops seasoned with salt, pepper and rosemary- head ’em up! Smoke some chicken, perhaps? We use whiskey barrel chips, soaked in water, then surrendered to the fire. Oh, let’s not forget about the quintessential American standard, the almighty hamburger – ride ’em in! Sure, have it your way: angus burger, kobe beef burger, turkey burger, bison burger, ostrich burger. Or hell, I love me a black bean burger! To blow your mind, my old pal Jer grills huge portabellas, slathers on the BBQ sauce, then slaps it on a bun. (Ooooohhhh. *Ahem* Are we still talking about BBQ?) Or, the mother of all things grilled & smoked, RIBS! Oh, sweet Sally Struthers, they’re good. All I can say is thank goodness Ted Cook’s isn’t in my neighborhood because within 48 hours, I’d be relegated to wearing a moo moo.

Simply stating that eating and drinking wine is complementary is almost missing the point. I get transformed, truly. My husband has caught me doing what he refers to as “the happy food dance”. Mid bite to final swallow, I’ll sit and bob my head back and forth, sometimes even humming. It’s like I’m possessed by the Adephagia http://www.goddessaday.com/greek/adephagia/Adephagia poltergeist. I’d rather be “big boned” and indulge in this stupor, than face an alternative.

Do you know what I ended up pairing with the red of the week? A Spanish Monastrell and… BBQ chips. Yep, dinner du jour. If it hasn’t yet occurred to you, let me enlighten: I was Homer Simpson in a former life.

This is a bottle off the “under 10” section at The Wine Thief. It’s a Spanish wine (surprise, surprise) but it is decidedly not Rioja. This one is a Monastrell (Spanish for Mourvedre). It’s a popular grape, second only to Garnacha in Spain. I’m not going to dive into the history, but will encourage you to: http://www.i-winereview.com/NonReportTastings/0910montastrellSelections.php/Monastrell

Lately, I’ve been chatting up Rioja’s value. Many of the best bang-for-buck wines are going to continue to come out of Spain, according to my sources. A departure from my beloved Rioja region, which is North Central Spain, I moved Southeast to the Yecla region. These wines are gaining in popularity as the wine making continues to improve. The Monastrell grape is a thick, black skinned fruit and they are finicky little buggers. They grow in very hot climates so the trick is letting them grow and stress enough, then cultivating them quickly before they go bad. The wine these grapes produce can really vary, mostly depending on seasonal temperatures.

The Castaño Monastrell is dark rich red in color, not as dark as the Graciano http://www.thesavvylush.com/red-wine-of-the-week-|-red-wine-reviews/rio-madre-rioja.html/Rio Madre (or as full bodied). However, this wine has character. I’m declaring this “The Spanish Zin”- sans the jamminess, but with lively juiciness. It reeks of dark berry, earth and smoke. Like a Zinfandel, it has more tannins in the flavor, which my husband refers to as “stank”. The finish isn’t long, but it teases you with a bit of spicy sweetness. This wine, like a Zin, is begging you to drink with some smoky BBQ. Or, in my case, the sad-clown snack of BBQ Pop Chips (which are surprisingly delicious, especially with this wine).

Buy up a bunch because you’ll swill this guy all Summer long! It’s so easy-breezy, drink-it-on-a-Tuesday night while catching up on your new favorite TV series or on the patio with the family. It’s going to give you an interesting and fun twist to the Rioja (Garnacha, Tempranillos, etc.) you’ve already been enjoying at a great price.

Blaze away, you golden green cowpoke, you.