Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui

Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’AcquiWe’re checking out another sparkling wine today, but this one is a sweet, dessert sparkler: Rosa Regale
To be trustworthy, I was a small reluctant to review this wine just based on fee.  In my opinion, Banfi wines are overpriced.  For a while I was seeing this wine sell for $25+, but recently I’ve seen it for $20 (I guess one of the benefits of the sluggish economy).  Not that I’ve never spent $20 for a bottle of wine, but for what it is, I’d like to see this one for about $15-16.  But,  this is an fascinating wine and I don’t see much Brachetto from any additional producers, so I thought it deserved a mention.  And for something unique at a party, I might drop $20 to bring this.
The first time I tasted this was at the Cincinnati International Wine Festival, where there where several women “ohhing” and “ahhing” about it.  So guys take note, if you want to make women “ohhh” and “ahhh” but your personality isn’t enough to do the trick, this wine might help you out. Read more

Vigna Dogarina Prosecco Brut

Vigna Dogarina Prosecco BrutA link weeks ago we reviewed the Vigna Dogarina Extra Dry, which I thought was outstanding, and tonight it’s another Prosecco from Vigna Dogarina, this time it’s the Brut.
If you’re not a bubbly wine buff you might not guess this, but the Brut is slightly more dry than the Extra Dry.  So, I guess you can reckon of Brut as Extra Extra Dry.  Now, I’m gonna really toss you off… Extra Extra Dry is in fact sweet! No, I’m just kidding about that. But this is what might toss you off, some bubbly is “Extra Brut”, which would be more dry than Brut and I guess that makes it Extra Extra Extra Dry.  Do you feel like I’m playing a shell game with you yet?  Rest simple, this Prosecco is Brut and Brut is dry and that’s all you need to know for now.
Like the Extra Dry Prosecco from Vigna Dogarina, the Brut is from Valdobbiadene, which as you may recall from that review is one of the most prestigious appellations for Prosecco. Read more

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Review

Say it with me: mon-tuh-pul-CHEE-an-no dah BROOT-zo. 
It’s one of my favorite Italian wines and not just because it’s fun to say.  It’s a very approachable Italian country wine that is often overlooked.  Yet it is very enjoyable and can have as much complexity as more well loved varietals.  It’s much less acidic than many additional Italian wines, such as Sangiovese or Nebbiolo, and it has soft tannins.
Montepulciano is the grape and Abruzzo is the province, which you’ll find 70 miles east of Rome and continuing to the Adriatic Sea.  To be apparent, there is also a community in Italy named Montepulciano, but that is not the source of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Ancient World Meets New World
One of the things that I really loved about many of these wines is that they have a nice blend of ancient world and new world wine characteristics.  They have some of the earthiness and complexity you would expect from an ancient world wine with a fruit-forward palate that you would expect in new world wines.  At times I am a fan of both (ancient and new), so when I can’t choose which I want, this is the perfect choice.
Over the past few weeks I’ve reviewed several bottles of this delightful Italian wine and it’s time to summarize the results.
Top Picks
My top pick from this series is La Valentina from Fattoria La Valentina.  This wine showed outstanding complexity and was enjoyable all around.  At $13 it is reasonably priced.
My second choice is Masciarelli, which shouldn’t be a new name to fans of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  This is a well loved choice for many, and for excellent wits.  It has fantastic concentration, excellent complexity and is a bargain at $9.
Another pick that I’ll have to call the best deal is Farnese Vini – Farneto Valley.  This wine has smoke and cherry aromas on the nose and a berry-filled palate.  This is a fantastic way to try Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for only $7.
Most of the wines I tasted finished up everyplace in the mid 80′s.  So there are several decent choices available.  Here’s the full list. Read more

Rubiro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Rubiro Montepulciano d’AbruzzoRubiro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is (from what I can tell) a second mark from Villa Cervia where oenologist Rino Moretti has been producing wine since 1989.
This would be a excellent choice if you want a red wine that’s not too aggressive.  It’s approachable and soft in each way, building it simple to pair with a variety of foods. 
The nose is rather subtle but has aromas of plum, cherry and a wee bit of barnyard (not in a terrible way).  The palate is very soft and a bit small of concentration.  It’s mostly just plum and a bit of earth.  The tannins are also soft, but prevalent enough to give a full mouth feel.  There is a hint of spice in this one too, but again it is very subtle.  When I first opened the bottle it had a touch of effervescence, but it quickly went away with decanting.
Overall this is a pretty excellent wine that is a bit softer than some of the others I’ve tried in this varietal.  It would pair nicely with a bowl of pasta, pizza, cheese or a number of additional foods.  As I mentioned, this one is quite food-friendly.  I found it for $13.99 and it earned a score of 85.
Wine: Rubiro
Varietal: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Vintage: 2004
Alcohol: 13% 
Rating: 85
Fee Paid: $13.99

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Santi Sortesele Pinot Grigio for Breakfast?

Santi Sortesele Pinot Grigio for Breakfast?Why would I be having wine for breakfast?
A. Because I can
B. Because it’s the best beverage to pair with the dish I had for breakfast
C. Because it’s Wine Blogging Wednesday and that’s the theme
D. All of the above
The answer, of course, is D. All of the above.  OK… so I did this over the weekend, so answer A only applied then.  But, today is Wine Blogging Wednesday, a monthly event when wine bloggers around the world all write about a common theme and one lucky blogger (the host) get’s to summarize all the contributions.  The host today is El Jefe at El Bloggo Torcido, and the theme he has chosen is Wine For Breakfast.
When I first read about the theme I thought it would be a challenge, but then I got thought… I tend to have some honestly savory dishes for breakfast that would pair well with wine.  I could try to pair a wine with pancakes, french toast or some additional sweet breakfast food, but while that would be a challenge it’s not really what I like to eat.  And so the first part of this challenge for me was to figure out what dish I wanted to have for breakfast.  I chose to make an Italian Strata with Arugula Walnut Pesto.  This is a baked egg and cheese dish with caramelized onions and mushrooms inside it and it’s topped with the pesto—the recipe is below.  It’s a tasty dish and screams to be paired with wine.
My choice of  a wine to pair with this dish was the 2007 Santi Sortesele Pinot Grigio.  Yes, it’s an Italian colorless wine for an Italian breakfast dish. Read more

A Passion for Piedmont Wines

A Passion for Piedmont WinesOnce each month, wine bloggers around the world all write about a common theme.  It happens on a Wednesday and is called Wine Blogging Wednesday.  Today is the 54th installment of this event and the theme is “A Passion for Piedmont” (i.e. wines from the Piedmont province in Italy).  Dozens of bloggers will write up their thoughts on wines from Piedmont today, and then in a few days the host of this month’s event, McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail, will post a summary of it all with links out to everyone’s contribution so that you can find—and read—them all.
The first thing that comes to mind when I reckon of wine from Piedmont is Barolo, an outstanding wine made from the Nebbiolo grape.  To me, Barolo is the most majestic and enjoyable red wine around.  It also tends to be quite pricey… much more pricey than we can afford with our $20 per bottle limit on Cheap Wine Ratings.  And so, I had to choose some wines additional than Barolo in order to stay right to the principles of affordability this website is all about.  I finished up choosing three wines to try, a Barbera, a Dolcetto and a Gattinara.
This month I did something a small different.  I picked up three different bottles of Piedmont wines and in addition to taking my own notes, I shared them with some colleagues from my day job after work one day and got thier impressions as well.  They were shy about recounting the wines (or perhaps just not as geeky as me) but I did find their preferences to be fascinating.
Beni di Batasiolo – Barbera d’Alba
Barbera is considered one of the “lesser” red wine varieties in Piedmont—along with Dolcetto.  But don’t let that mark steer you away because you can find some very nice wines made from Barbera at much more affordable prices than additional wines from this province.  In fact this bottle was only $10.
Barbera is known for having a high level of acidity, which can be particularly pronounced when the wine is fermented in stainless steel rather than oak.  This particular Barbera was oaked, which softened the acidity but the aromas and flavors don’t indicate that it was heavily oaked.
By the way, the “d’Alba” part of the name is a regional designation.  Alba is a town in the Piedmont province and that’s all that means. Read more

Sopranos Chianti Lineup

Sopranos Chianti LineupBrand licensing is a huge business in some lines of products, such as clothing and toys, but I haven’t seen much of it in the wine world. I was curious when I heard about Sopranos wines: Is it pure marketing shtick or is there some substance to the wines? The folks that produce Sopranos wines sent me a few bottles to try so I could find out.
My first impression is that it’s a risky play from a business perspective, but potentially a smart go. Some wine brands launch with a “huge name” winemaker and have immediate cachet—at least with the wine geeks. But many wine brands try to build brand equity by growing a following gradually over time, as consumers learn their wine and like it they develop loyalty. New brands have a hard time standing out in an overcrowded shelf. And most wine marketing, in my opinion, is full of cliche, building it even more hard to stand out. So it would seem that licensing a name that has a lot of clout in consumer’s minds would help you stand out.
And stand out is one thing the Sopranos wines do well. The artwork on the marks is eye catching. It jumps out and catches your attention straight away. I have a shelf at home where I organize the wines that I have in queue for tastings, and when guests were at the house while these wines were in that mix it was the first thing they would comment on. They ooo’d and ah’d at these wines, without ever tasting them. That’s some valuable brand equity. But while a gimmick may get a first time buyer, if the taste of the wine disappoints you’re not going to get repeat customers.
The first thing I had to try was the Chianti lineup (additional Sopranos wine reviews will be forthcoming). I like a excellent Chianti, but surprisingly this is the first time I’ve reviewed any on this site. Sopranos has three different Chiantis, at increasingly higher fee points. The Chianti ($10.95), Chianti Classico ($23.99), and Chianti Classico Reserva ($29.99). The last two are higher priced than the wines we usually review, but since we had them to taste why not post the reviews?
When I taste different “grades” of wine from the same producer I’m always hoping to find the low-priced one to be the best, but I have yet to see that happen. And this one continues that trend, with the more expensive being the best of the three.
Sopranos Chianti Read more

Mazzoni Toscana Rosso

Mazzoni Toscana RossoAt times I’ve heard some wine lovers contemplate their preferences between ancient world and new world wines.  Personally, there are things I like about both.  Each style can be enjoyable in its own way.
But what if you could get the best of both worlds in one wine?  That’s the thought with Mazzoni, a Super Tuscan that’s the result of a collaboration between the Franceschi family in Montalcino, Italy and the Terlato family in Napa, California.  The grapes were all grown in some of Franceschi’s oldest vineyards in Montalcino and they were vinified in Italy using new-world winemaking equipment.  It’s a blend of 72% Sangiovese and 28% Merlot. Read more