Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best Wines I Drank This Year, 2009

I imagine that New Year’s Day must be the slowest day in the year in regard to internet traffic on alcohol-related blogs. To curb the effects of this yet-to-happen-blogging hangover I’m posting the all-star list of 2009 wines today.

It’s time to take stock in our successes and our failures and to smile and grimace with new wisdom. 2010, still untouched, promises 365 days of possibility which you an either let wash over you or take by the scruff of the neck in search for opportunity. One opportunity that I look forward to in the upcoming year is drinking these wines again. Another is finding wines that are as good or better. I want to know what your favorite wine of 2009 is, so friends, family, and gentle readers, please leave comments telling about your best wine memory. Here are mine:

Top 10 Red Wines

#1 “Divoto” 2001 Apollonio Winery (Negroamaro/Montepulciano)
#2 “Vigna Elena” Barolo 1999 Elvio Cogno Winery (Nebbiolo)
#3 St. Emillion 1998 Chateau Simard
#4 “Suavitas” Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2004 Ionis Winery (Negroamaro/Malvasia Nera)
#5 “Elegia” 2006 Consorzio Produttori i Vini Winery (Primitivo)
#6 Central Coast Petite Sirah 2005 David Bruce Winery
#7 “Notarpanaro” 2003 Taurino Winery (Negroamaro)
#8 “Cappello di Prete” 200 Candido Winery (Negroamaro)
#9 “Ottavianello” 2007 Botrugno Winery (Ottavianello)
#10 “Patriglione” 2003 Taurino Winery (Negroamaro/Malvasia Nera)

Top 5 White Wines

#1 “Galatina Bianco” 2008 Valle Dell’Asso Winery (Chardonnay)
#2 “Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio” 2007 Vinosia Winery
#3 “i Sierra” 2008 Taurino Winery (Chardonnay)
#4 “Alticelli” 2008 Cantele Winery (Fiano di Puglia)
#5 “Donna Lisa” Bianco 2008 Leone De Castris (Malvasia Bianca)

Top Rosé Wines

#1 “Fanali” 2006 Apollonio Winery (Negroamaro)
#2 “5 Roses 65th Anniversary” 2008 Leone de Castris Winery (Negroamaro)
#3 “Scirocco” 2008 Pirro Varone Winery (Negroamaro)

Best Dessert Wine

#1 Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG N/V Araldica Winery

Top Sparkling Wines

#1 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC N/V Mionetto Winery
#2 “Sergio” Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC N/V Mionetto Winery
#3 Proseccco di Valdobbiadene Vino Spumante Extra Dry – V.S.Q.P.R.D DOC N/V Santa Margharita Winery

Note on Rating: Unlike my usual rating system, which takes price into account, these wines are simply the best wines in regards to the 5-category rating system of Karen MacNeil: Expressiveness, Connectivity, Varietal, Complexity, and Integration.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Simplest and Best Mulled Wine Recipe

The holiday season has sapped posts from this blog, but it hasn’t done so in any other areas of my life. My writing goes well. Further, an onslaught of baked goods and mighty spirits has filled our Italian apartment, including croissants, Russian tea cakes, an apple crumble, a tremendous roast chicken with vegetables cooked in the drippings, and an American-style vegetarian chili with stovetop cornbread (if you’re interested in the recipes, just leave a comment or email [photo from here]).

I’m writing with a fantastic mulled wine recipe that only takes 2 minutes to prepare and is ready to serve the moment the wine is warm. The type of wine is not very important, suffice that it is red. If you’re looking to go the cheap route, I suggest the good ol’ jug wine Carlo Rossi or Almaden’s Mountain Burgundy. Here’s the recipe, you will need a tea ball:

1 orange
10 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup of sugar
2 shots of brandy or whiskey
1 liter of red wine


1) Pour wine into a pot and begin to slowly heat (do not boil, or the alcohol will evaporate). Zest ½ of the orange using a peeler and making sure that very little of the pith (white stuff) comes off with the peel. Try to take off large chunks of the peel so that you will be able to identify them easily when they are in the wine. Bludgeon the peel to release flavor.
2) Put peel in the wine and squeeze a little juice from the orange as well.
3) Put cloves into the tea ball and into the wine.
4) Add the cinnamon sticks, sugar, and brandy.
5) When the wine begins to steam it is ready to serve. Depending on your preferences, you may want to let the ingredients steep a while, add more of this or that, or simply pour it all into a mug and say Cheers to Our Enemies’ Enemies!

If there are any ingredients you add to your mulled wine that I’ve left out, I’d love to hear about them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Ongoing Mushroom and Wine Pairing Experiment, Experiment 3

Grape: Refosco
Mushroom: Shiitake

For this stage of the experiment, I left Puglia and tried a wine from the Friuli region (in the north of Italy, near Venice) made using the Refosco grape: Azienda Agricola Poggiobello's 2003 Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso. On the mushroom side of things, I used “shiitake” mushrooms (quotes because the mushrooms in no way resembled the shiitake I find in California, yet the farmer calls them shiitake) to make risotto. I chose risotto because I wanted a dish that wasn’t smothered with cheese or any other dairy products that might mask the mushroom flavor and thereby create a better match with the wine, e.g. artificially. The experiment again is to pair wine with mushrooms, which have high levels of umami, a flavor that often makes wine more astringent, bitter, and tannic, and conceals good aromas.

The risotto was wonderful, and the mushrooms filled the kitchen with a scent of honey and wood. They had a very fleshy texture that reminded me of fish, lobster, and chicken all in one. I did use a little butter to finish the risotto, probably a tablespoon, and about 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.

The wine showed very little change when paired with the mushrooms and certainly no negative change. The wine was so masculine and even that it was like trying to stop a battering ram with mushrooms. I think that the only effects were positive: the strong flavors of black licorice and blackest of the black cherry were subdued slightly. Also, the wine’s finish was enhanced but an even and intense flavor of mushroom. Strangely, the mushrooms drew out the wine’s tannins, resulting in a more dynamic structure.

Because I do not like black licorice, I would not personally buy this wine again. However, the wine itself was respectable and pairs very well with the dish, so I recommend it as a good wine to pair with mushrooms.

Please comment with any questions. Salute!

Other Characteristics of the Wine: Deep nose of black licorice and watermelon. Medium body, which does not correspond with the wine’s overall heft. Flavors of black licorice, very black cherry, and freshly broken fruit, though not jammy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I guess I've been busy with the holidays, but don't fear, lots of Puglia-wine info on the way. The mushroom and wine-pairing experiment is still in full effect. Kristin and I have been drinking a lot of the highly-refreshing novello wines around here, but I'll soon be diving back into bottles that you can find in the States. More reviews, debacles, and photos soon. Salute!

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