100+ degree wine…Pinot Grigio IS THE definitive summer sipper.

Please don't put ice cubes in perfectly good wine

Please don’t put ice cubes in perfectly good wine

HEAT WAVE: A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity. When the weather tops 100 degrees you need to turn to a crisp, light boded white wine, ideally with lower alcohol. One of my favorite summer wines is Pinot Grigio.

Pinot Grigio or “gray pinot” is the same grape as Pinot Gris, just depends upon where it is grown, and how it is described by the locals.

There are many different styles, and wines, made from Pinot Grigio, but some are better than others. The more “important” Pinot Grigio’s have some (grape) skin contact, which gives them a copper hue.

Here are some of my favorite Pinot Grigio’s (all Italian):

Vie di Romans makes clean, expressive white wines. Their Sauvignon (Blanc) would rival some of the finest Sancerres from France. The Pinot Grigio, has more substance than most, but is crisp, refreshing and enjoyable with/without food. Splurge- Around $30


Incredible VALUEBarone Fini Pinot Grigio– easy to drink, easy to find. Between $10-$15..


Livio Felluga, Another classic from NE italy. This is my go to Pinot Grigio. Hey, Howard Stern is worth more than $500 million but when he went to visit Jennifer Aniston in the Hamptons, he and wife Beth took this wine to her house. Around $20.


Please share your favorite Pinot Grigio…


OTBN- Open That Bottle Night- Italian Bordeaux

2010DR_InteregationI had loosely participated in Open That Bottle Night off and on (when I remembered) up until last year. The couple that started this unique celebration of wine, Dorothy J. Gaiter (Dottie) and John Brecher, hosted the event live, in a small restaurant near our home. Although my wife and I were in a room full of strangers it was like having dinner with old friends, as people shared their wine and their stories.

As soon as I read that they would be returning to the same restaurant, I immediately booked a reservation.

The wine I am bringing:

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Southern Italy…interesting wines

SouthernItalianThe wines of Southern Italy tend to be a little more fruit forward, higher in alcohol, and slightly lower in acid, when compared to the Northern regions. This is predominately due to the warmer climate and extra days of sunshine which produces riper grapes and therefore higher sugar for fermentation. When selecting wines for my Southern Italy class I wanted to select some unique wines. These two perfectly demonstrate what the South is capable of producing, interesting, yet very drinkable wines that consumers should be seeking out.

Wine #1-

Calabretta IGT Nerello Mascalese Vigne Vecchie [Etna Rosso] 2005- $25.

This wine is pre-aged before release, and can still be found in retail although it has 10 years of age. The aging helps to let the tannins soften as well as tame the grapes naturally high acidity. It is produced with “Vigne Vecchie” or old vines, (some plants over 100 years old) on the black volcanic ash slopes of Mt. Etna. Predominately Nerello Mascalese grapes but also some Nerello Cappuccio. Nerello wines have a crunchy minerality, along with some complex spice and earthy components. This wine is traditionally aged in large Slavonian oak casts resulting in a wine of structure but yet it is also very elegant, think Burgundy/Barolo.

The Calabretta portfolio of wines is very interesting and the wine descriptions will make you smile.

COSWine #2-

COS Nero di Lupo (Nero d’Avola)- 2013-$30

Notice the shorter squat bottle, that is more common for wines from Sicilia (Sicily). This wine is produced in the Vittoria region- home to the only DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria (always a blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola). Most Nero d’Avola is riper and more concentrated but this 100% beauty is aged in cement which produces a lighter Pinot Noir-like  wine. COS is A biodynamic winery that uses no chemical products, the wines of COS are clean and so easy to drink…


Central Italy- the top 2 grapes


The two most widely grown red grapes of Italy are:

#1 Sangiovese– mostly grown  in central Italy (Tuscany, Emilia Romania).

#2 Montepulciano– mostly grown on the Adriatic Coast (Abruzzo, Apulia, Marche).

The wines selected to showcase their differences, similarites:

2010 Scopone L’Olivare – This wine is a bit on the modern side (produced in smaller barrels with shorter maceration which produces an earlier drinking wine).

Sangiovese is a high acid grape with what some call “gravely” tannins. The name translates to “blood of Jove” and many believe it’s highest expression comes from the specific Brunello clone isolated by Clemente Santi (Biondi Santi ancestor).

It has red fruit flavors along with distinctive flavors of orange peel, tomato leaf and balsamic. The more “serious” Sangiovese wines that are made for aging have pronounced earthy qualities as well.

Brunello di Montalcino, by law is 100% Sangiovese. 2010 is a phenomenal vintage and prices are reasonable but they will need some time to develop. If you want to drink now decant for a few hours beforehand.

2009 Umanchi Ronchi, Cumaro, Rosso Conero– Umani Ronch is a fairly new winery owned by the a Bianchi-Bernetti since 1959 and Cumaro’s first vintage was 1985. This is 100% Montepulciano fermented with natural yeasts and hand picked.

Montepulciano has some riper red and black fruit flavors like plum and (sour) cherry. The wines can also have a boysenberry flavor which I happily associate with childhood camping trips.

Lower in acidity than Sangiovese the wines are also a little softer and easier to drink, especially Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which I often suggest to the closet Merlot drinkers.





Northern Italian Reds


Dolcetto_NizzaWines of the Week

wines chosen for the 2nd Italian Wine Professional class: The red wines of Northern Italy

starting in the North East the best known grapes are:


• Barbera

premiere regions: Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Barbera d’Alba DOC, Nizza DOCG.

• Nebbiolo

premiere regions: Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Roero DOCG, Ghemme DOCG, Gattinara DOCG (Piedmont), Valtellina Superiore DOCG (Lombardy).

To discover less expensive regions click here…

• Dolcetto

premiere regions: Dogliani DOCG, Ovada DOCG, Diano d’Alba DOCG, Dolcetto D’Alba DOC, Dolcetto d’Asti DOC, Dolcetto d’Acqui DOC.

The wines:

PioCesare_DolcettoDolcetto means little sweet one but the wines are not sweet. Dolcetto is the least “serious” of the Piedmont wines and is the everyday wine in this region. You drink Dolcetto while your Barolos and Barbaresco’s are aging. This wine from traditional producer Pio Cesare- 2012 Dolcetto d’Alba is stainless steel fermented and aged. It is an elegant wine and like all of the other Dolcetto denominations it is 100% Dolcetto (not a blend).

Prunotto_NizzaBarbera is the most widely grown grape in Piedmont. It can be used to produce various styles of wine depending on the wine maker. The 2009 Prunotto Costamiole Nizza is pretty spectacular on it’s own but is even better with food. The Nizza denomination was a sub zone of Barbera d’Asti until 2014 now Nizza is the only denomination that requires 100% Barbera (also not a blend).


Excellent Value “Barolo”

1982BriccoAsiliI have often told people looking for value Barolo or Barbaresco to buy one now (and wait 10-20 years), or look elsewhere. Sorry but many believe this expression of Nebbiolo is built for aging and needs much time to soften.



However…if you like the Nebbiolo grape here are some lesser known (less expensive) varietal alternatives:

Roero DOCG- Minimum 95% Nebbiolo

Gattinara DOCG– Minimum 90% Nebbiolo (locally Spanna); maximum 10% Uva Rara; maximum 4% Vespolina

Ghemme DOCGMinimum 85% Nebbiolo (locally Spanna); maximum 15% Uva Rara and/or Vespolina.

Some other Piedmont regions to look for on the label:

*Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC100% Nebbiolo (best pure Nebbiolo value)

Langhe DOC– Nebbiolo labeled- Minimum 85% Nebbiolo

Alba DOC–  70–85% Nebbiolo; 15–30% Barbera; maximum 5% other reds

Some others from Lombardy:

Valtellina Superiore DOCG– Minimum 90% Nebbiolo

Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG– Minimum 90% Nebbiolo

best value for drinking now- Valtellina Rosso/Rosso di Valtellina DOC- Minimum 90% Nebbiolo

2013VilladeiLadri 2013VilladeiLadri_backHere is a beauty of the Langhe that I discovered at the Wine Cellar, visiting a friend in Red Bank, NJ- Villa die Ladri (House of Thieves)- 80% Nebbiolo and 20% Barbera.


More reading:

A great article on Alto Piemonte which is another source of value for Nebbiolo based wines.

Excellent maps of Barolo

Itunes download

How to buy the best Barolo

WTF…Montepulciano grape, or region?

Another installment of what IS this wine

2010Contucci_VNdMVino Nobile di Montepulciano is produced in Tuscany, around the town of Montepulciano. The wine name translates into “Noble wine of Montepulciano”.  Since the most noble red grape in this region is Sangiovese (called Prunolo Gentile here) the wines are a traditional blend of mostly Sangiovese. The grapes must make up at least 60–80 percent of the final wine, and may be complemented by Canaiolo (10–20 percent) and other local varieties permitted in the province of Siena, including the rare, violet-scented Mammolo (Sciacarello). This wine is 80% Prugnolo Gentile, 10% Canaiolo Nero, 10% Colorino. Purchased on WTSO for $20.

Some have described Vino Nobile as having the perfume of Chianti Classico’s with the richness of Brunello di Montalcino. This is a great description for this wine.

Montepulciano is also the name of a grape which is primarily grown on the eastern shore of Italy in Abruzzo (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG) and Marche (Conero, Rosso Conero, Offida).

Both Montepulciano and Sangiovese make excellent wines but they are very different.

Further information:

proper pronunciation for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

a thorough article on the Montepulciano grape.