Viva for Vietti Wines

img_5519I went to a wine tasting today and I knew I was in for a rare treat because A) it was an Italian wine maker B) hit included Barolo and C) when I went to do a little research in my stack of wine books, I found accolades for Vietti wines.  You know the winery is held in high regard when Karen MacNeil includes a multigenerational photo of the Vietti family in her recent edition of The Wine Bible.  Honestly, she could have chosen a  photo of a Vietti wine label, but instead she has a photo of the whole family.  To me, that says something!  The Wine Bible also lists Vietta on the list of best producers for both Barolo and Barbaresco (both wines are made from Nebbiolo… in case you were asking) and Barbera (just to confuse you with all these B words).

Luca Currado is the current generation of Vietti’s long history of family  wine makers .  As he spoke, his passion for grape growing, wine making and wine drinking is front and center.  He says he was born to make wine and is convinced he was conceived in the wine cellar of the Vietti estate.  He is an educated enologist and has tended to his personal and professional wine growth in France and California before taking the reigns at the Vietti estate.

We tasted six wines today.  One white and five reds.  All were excellent.  The hardest thing for me to do was dump the remaining wine from my first three glasses so that they could be refilled again.  I really would have liked to continue to revisit them throughout the afternoon.  So I will revisit a few of them in my mind as follows:

Our first wine was 2015 Vietti Roero Arneis.  This is a white wine.  You COULD think of it as an ugly step sister to the tremendous red wines produced in this area, but you would be foolish.  Take another look at this not-so-shy beauty with dry wit and a full body.  She carries a gorgeous floral aroma and gives up hints of pear.  And all of that body is achieved without the use of oak aging, so her freshness shines through.  Arneis plantings were in serious decline, but she is a bit of a come back kid as people have discovered all her attributes!!

The next wine to make me really happy was the 2011  Vietta Barbera d’Asti ‘La Crena’. Barbera historically has been the wine of the locals.  It is considered simpler than Barolo and Barbaresco, but sometimes simple is pretty darn smart.  Barbera grapes have naturally high acidity.  The acid helps preserve the wine for aging, helps keep its fresh fruit flavors, and allows the wine to go with almost any dish you want to put on your table.  If Barolo is the Wine of Kings and we must prepare a meal worthy of a king, than Barbera is your best friend coming over to join you for a casual meal.  ‘La Crena’ is no slouch, however.  ‘La Crena’ is a single vineyard Barbera from vines greater than 80 years old.   Both French oak and Slovanian oak are used for aging and this Barbera has a richer mouth feel than most I’ve experienced.  Delicious.  I’m ready for some winter beef stew and root vegetables.

Along the lines of  Burgundy, the Barolo region is working to determine the best vineyards for its world reknowned Barolo wines.  Unofficially, there are about 20 vineyards worthy of being “Grand Cru” and about 40 worthy of being “Premier Cru”. Vietti owns part of 15 top vineyards. Officially?  Well, I would imagine making an official determination would be a political nightmare.  However, it could happen eventually.

The 2012 Vietti Barolo Castiglion is a blend of 11 single vineyards (cru).  High tannins and good acidity make for a beautfully balanced wine with flavors and aromas of tea, violets and balsalmic.  This wine is a fine example of Barolo.  Each cru was fermented separately and aged in Slovanian Oak.  Then 5 or 6 are chosen to make the ‘Castiglion’.  The other 5 or 6 are blended to make Vietto Nebbiolo ‘Perbacco’, which was not included in the tasting.

Our final wine was the 2009 Vietti Barolo “Roccha di Castiglione”.  This beautifully perfumed wine had full body and a smooth expression.  The tannins were high but they were nicely integrated into the wine so the result was quite harmonious.  I was humming!!!  Only 300 caes of this single vineyard wine were made from 2009.  I felt quite honored to be able to taste it!!

These wines are not available at your grocery store or big box wine store.  But if you ask Jim Veal about these wines, he has tried them, remembers what they taste like and likely has a few bottles at his house.  Yea Jim!

I am so grateful that Luca Currado came to share his wine and his passion with us. I hope I have shared his infomation accurately!   And, although we didn’t discuss the wine labels, I have to say, I really like them!!  Almost as much as the wine… but not quite!

Wine meets Whiskey!

1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel 2014

Picked this up at Trader Joes for $17.  Everyone loves a story and storytelling comes up often in wine marketing.  So this wine quickly found its way into my grocery cart.  

I’m sitting here sharing this with friends as we watch Alabama whip up on Washington State.  Laura says, ” Roll Tide!!”  (She brought Pom-poms.) Everyone has found this to be an easy drinker….and the bottle is GONE!!  

If I wanted to buy a ruby, I would want it this beautiful crimson color.  Nice tears, barely stained.  Aromas of Blackberry, Smoke and Maple Syrup.   Flavors of the same plus dark cherry, coffee, black pepper and more maple.  

1000 Stories is Aged in French and American oak and batches are then put in used Bourbon barrels.  

Plenty of happy people here.  Fred, I hope they have it in your Trader Joe’s.  

Happy New Year All.  

Christmas Issues Solved with Eggnog

Sometimes wine won’t cut it and you need to climb into a glass of cold, creamy, comforting Egg Nog–preferably with a good dose of amber liquer.  Deep South Egg Nog has got you covered with Rum, Bourbon AND  Brandy!!  

For those who would only drink homemade… good for you.  But this only had to have the top twisted off just prior to being poured in my glass.  And if it’s not gourmet enough for your standards, I’ll have you know I judiciously seasoned it with Cayanne pepper!!  Ya!!  Just right to light my Christmas night on fire!!

Deep South is 12.5% alcohol.  Comes in a 750ml bottle which costs less than $10. 

Cheers and Feliz Navidad!!!

Well Marketed Wines: Like a Gateway Drug


While in my grocery store today, I passed this wine display.  And I found it to be BRILLIANT.  Who wouldn’t be intrigued to taste wine that has flavors of chocolate, caramel or coffee?  Even newbie eonophiles would be compelled to see if they can discern the nuances of these rich flavors.  I see Apothic brought into my restaurant all the time as a BYOB Wine.  I purchased a bottle of the Apothic Dark 2015 to assist me in pulling all my Christmas decorations out of their boxes.

img_4847The pros:  What a great introduction for someone to red wine.  Its super-purple opaque color and glass staining show its immense concentration.  Its got plenty of ripe dark fruit– Blueberry, blackberry and Cassis.  It has oak flavors of vanilla and smoky leather.  It lives up to its claim of dark chocolate and, espeically, coffee.  It has tannins but they are surrounded by richness.  Some folks describe their favorite wines to be those with very little tannins.  This would be a nice jump into something a little more mouth drying.  It is inexpensive, so many people can afford it.

The cons:  I have to assume this wine has been deeply massaged (added sugar, grape juice, additives, etc) to make sure it obtains the richness and flavor profile the “company” desired.  I am having a hard time saying “winemaker” although I’m sure they have one.   This is  a large production wine.  Alcohol is listed at 14%.  A velvet hammer.  My issue with a wine like this is that it doesn’t leave me wanting more.   I compare it to a  too rich dessert that has to be pushed away with some left on the plate.  But for someone else it could be an easy-to-drink guzzler.

Apothic Dark is a blend of Petite Syrah, Cabernet Syrah, Petite Verdot and Teroldego.  The grapes can come from anywhere in California.

The Apothic Winery website is like a hybrid between a video game and a website.  They are definitely catering to young wine drinkers!!  You can have your palm read ( if you have an updated Browser) or you can learn about Apothic cocktails.  The Apothic Dark cocktail contains Apothic Dark wine, Bourbon, lemon juice, cinnamon bitters and ginger beer, stirred and garnished with a cinnamon stick.  Very pretty to look at, but I haven’t tried it!  Inferno is another Apothic wine on the website, but not one I saw in the store.  It is aged in used whiskey barrels for 60 days “layering the wine with maple and spice notes.”  Interesting or weird??

Would I serve this to my  wine educated friends?  No.  But it is a great introduction to the world of red wine.  It is marketing genius.  Bold and beautiful label.   Easy to pronounce. Clear indication of what to expect in the bottle.  And it’s about $10.  Savvy marketing!!

There is a wine for every glass and I like to help you find it.

Wine Judging at Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo

img_4818Because sometimes wine is a loose term!!

I used a photo from the delivery carts with the word wine painted on it… because looking at the green glass, the one that looks like anti-freeze… you might not be sure!!

Wine isn’t always vitis vinifera!!  Last weekend I had the extra-ordinary opportunity to try seventeen (17!!) fruit based wines.  I say extra-ordinary because that denotes rare and unusual.  And I am hoping I don’t revisit these anytime soon!!  But I am grateful to have had the experience!  The wines on cart  (above) are fruit based wines.  Even fruit might be a loose term because the green one had definite flavors of jalapeno.   We all worked hard to find a winner amongst those we tasted and we were intrigued by the one that tasted like cake.  Pound cake or white sheet cake with amaretto frosting.  Hard to say.  But cake… as opposed to fruit cake.

In addition to these beauties, our panel judged a flight of Mead (5) and a flight of flavored Meads (7).  Mead is a fermented beverage… I just can’t bring myself to say wine… made with at least 50% honey.  It can have flavors of clove and cinnamon and I think those are the better ones.  You start adding some other flavors and, to me, they just taste weird!!   Of course, I still can’t comprehend the flavor of banana in beer.

img_4821 In addition to these very unique “wines”, we also tasted flights of Zinfandel (47), Viognier (12), and Unwooded Sauvignon Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc based blends (41), New World Temprnillo and blends (13), Sparkling Red (2) and Very Sweet White (8) wines.  I am officially done with sweet wines until after the 2017 holidays.

The judging of these wines is done on an all volunteer basis. The wines are double blinded by having separate teams of volunteers that pour, volunteers that deliver the wines on carts, and volunteer judges that taste. There are fun, yet very professional, volunteers to help with tabulating scoring, running information and food,  glass washing and polishing, pulling wines from the warehouse, driving forklifts, working with the wineries on entries, and I know I am leaving a ton  of groups out.  img_4803All these efforts help determine who wins Gold, Double Gold, Class Champions, etc. from a pool of 2,850 wines.  Many of the winning wines are served in the Wine Garden at the official Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (HLSR).  A wine auction is also held as part of the fundraising process.  I am not on a rodeo committee, so I do not know all the ins and outs of the planning and execution.  What I do know:   HLSR is an impressive labor of love to promote agriculture and raise money for education via scholarships for Texas youth.  I do know that I am excited about participating in this process, even on a small level.  All of this makes every wine I taste while judging, a wine deserving of responsible contemplation…. even if it is green.








The Rise(?) of Italian Syrah

So when we set our for the evening, I can’t say I was thinking about Syrah!  We are in Italy after all.  We are in Florence specifically.  And this region of Tuscany is the renowned for their Chianti Classico, their Brunello, and, of course, their Super Tuscans.  img_2264
The Wine… (sigh)

So when it came time to look at the wine menu to find something to go with our Involtini, thin slices of beef stuffed with cheese and asparagus, there were several wine list options to choose from.  Ruffino, Frescobaldi and Antinori are largely present on Florence restaurant wine lists, so I was up for other options.   We chatted with our waitress, who recommended the Sommelier to come to the table.  Using a trifecta of languages, English, Italian and some kitchen Spanish, we came to the brilliant idea of Syrah.  Tenimenti Luigi d’Allesandro “Il Bosco” Syrah 2011.

I didn’t take proper wine notes during dinner!  But I haven’t forgetten how good this wine was on this night!  Dark, dark fruit kept fresh and bright with  lively acidity.  Firm tannins balanced out the acid and gave the wine pleasing balance and structure.  And pepper–the wine had some black and green pepper notes that you would expect from Syrah.  This wine has some similarities to Rhone-grown-Syrah.  The price was 40-50 Euro. The wine paired well with the Involtini and our entrees of grilled steak and roasted duck.

It turns out that the Cortona area of Italy has proved itself well suited to the Syrah grape varietal.   It has long, hot summer days with cool nights.  The climate is considered similar to that of the southern Rhone Valley.  James Suckling and Janice Robinson have found favor with Syrah wines produced in this area, but I can’t say the wines have gained great traction here in the United States.  Not to mention, Syrah is certainly a bit of an outlier in the Tuscany region.  Luckily for me, Tenimenti Luigi d’Allesandro has been experiementing with Syrah since the 1980’s and has increased its plantings.  The Il Bosco is 100% Syrah and all Rhone clones grown in three different estate vineyards.  it is aged in used barriques and casks and is aged a total of 36 months.

I’ve done my due diligence on my favorite wine-about-town website: and found only one offering of 100% Syrah from Tuscany.  Favorite Brands distributes Le Macchiole Toscano Scrio from the Bolgheri region.  It looks to be $100+ and therefore a little out of range for the EveryDayCabRene collection of wines.









The World is full of Simple Wines

But again I will say the atmosphere of their consumption can elevate a wine to a whole new level!  I LOVE WHITE WINES FROM THE CINQUE TERRE!  Some of this may be the atmosphere.  Some of this love may be the fact I can’t find these whites stateside.  And the other is that this is a case of local wines pairing perfectly with local cuisine.   I’m a seafood girl so I am in briny, sea salt, fresh, fresh, fresh heaven. 

And I would love to stay ensconced here in my coastal paradise until after the election. Wifi is everywhere but I feel joyfully insulated from the tackiest election and election coverage EVER!!   That’s as political as I will get…. it’s just another reason I’m not ready to go home!!

Wine with a View

Where we drink our wine and the people we share it with can heighten a wine’s expression. Cinque Terre Costa da’ Posa 2015. This white wine is produced from vines grown on the super steep slopes rising out of the Ligurian coast.  It shares some similarities with Riesling–off dry with flavors of ripe peach and a rocky salinity. It sold for 18 Euro at the Ripa del Sole restaurant in Maggiore, 5Terre, 25 Euro at Bar Vertical, and 14 Euro at a little market on the Main Street of town. Perfect with the view and my marinated anchovies.  I COME TO THE ITALIAN COAST FOR THESE LITTLE BABIES!!!

I confess I ate a cone of fried calamari and anchovies this morning…for breakfast. Life is good.