Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Best up and coming Oregon region is not Willamette Valley it’s Umpqua Valley!

The best up and coming Oregon region is not Willamette Valley it’s Umpqua.

The Umpqua Valley of Oregon has 3 separate AVA’s Elkton, Red Hill and Umpqua. It’s approximately 25 miles due east of the Pacific Ocean and extends a further 20 miles east.

“The Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua” because it is made up of a series of interconnecting small mountain ranges and valleys. Umpqua Valley is a result of the collision of three mountain ranges. 

Oregon’s AVA’s are becoming increasingly more popular. One of Oregon’s more diverse climates, the Umpqua Valley can successfully grow both cool and warm varieties. It’s comprised of three distinct climatic sub-zones which makes it very interesting because it’s not only Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris that call attention it’s Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir. The soil is a mix of metamorphic, sedimentary and volcanic rock, though more than 150 soil types. What’s interesting is the Diurnal temperature variations can vary by as much as 25 degrees F. The result is a complex jigsaw of meso climates, aspects and soil mix that create a wide-ranging assortment of growing environments.

Just to know, most of the Pinot Noir grapes produced in the Umpqua Valley are slated for sale as bulk fruit to wine producers in California or Oregon’s Willamette Valley. You are drinking it already! It’s just plain good stuff.  In fact, Copper Cane, with it’s top-selling Elouan, Pinot Noir a Napa Valley, California, winery sells more Pinot Noir made from Oregon grapes than anyone else, and often at a lower price. 

Yep, sounds unfair. That’s why you scratch your head and say How much Pinot Noir can California produce! Copper Cane's owner, Joe Wagner and Jim Blumling their VP of Operations, are meeting with Oregon Liquor Control to try to resolve this imbalance. That’s another story…

Umpqua Valley Pinot Noir would lend itself gamely to the production of rosé. No doubt…A Pinot Noir-based rosé could easily emerge as the region’s signature wine.

As times moves on The Umpqua Valley appellation continues to evolve as new winemakers discover the area to make great wine.

The justifiably popular wineries like Abacela, Spangler, Girardet, Reustle-Prayer Rock, Henry Estate and Brandborg (to name only a few) of Umpqua are being joined by a new group of wineries. Top scores and reviews too! Seek them out or better yet; take a trip and make a visit.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Wines of Spain.- Rioja !!! Wednesday December 11, 2019 - 6:30 – 9:30+ - at Vizcaya Restaurant in South Tampa

Wines of Spain. Wednesday December 11, 2019  -  Rioja  6:30 – 9:30+  at Vizcaya Restaurant in South Tampa

Wine and Tapas - $35 (it covers the wine and 3 or 4 Tapas plus any surprises) ...after that if you want to explore their menu you 're on your own; feel free. It's good and authentic. It will be fun. Good food pairing!
3671 S West Shore Blvd
Tampa, FL 33629

The wines will be CAVA, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva along with some Spanish Tapas. The wines will be from Rioja and there maybe a Ribera Del Duero in there... But it's guaranteed to be a good time and a learning experience. 

Crianza: A wine labeled crianza has spent one year in oak barrels.
Reserva: A wine that says reserva on the bottle has been aged for two years; one of these years has to have been spent in oak.
Gran Reserva: These wines are aged for two years in oak and three years in the bottle.

Cava: Spain's iconic sparkling wine style, and the Iberian Peninsula's response to Champagne    

Most Riojas are red, and Tempranillo is the principal red grape used. The native grapes Garnacha Tinta (Grenache in France), Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano are also allowed in the blend. The Riojas can be in the elegant Bordeaux style, with hints of vanilla from the oak aging; which is the traditional style characterized by lengthy aging and some sweetness; or, gradually, in a more modern style with less aging, which highlights deep and fresh fruit flavors. All this pairs great with food.
White Rioja wines are usually made from Macabeo, Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia grapes. Their will be some of that too.
Hope to see you there.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

This Holiday season do something a little different, host a Holiday themed Wine and Cheese tasting party. Here are some tips.

One way to break up the madness that comes during Holiday season is to do something a little different, host a holiday themed wine and cheese tasting party. Here are some tips on throwing a good wine and cheese party.

Just gather several of your closest friends, wine, and a whole lot of unique types of cheese.
The perfect size for a seated tasting, in my opinion, is between 12-16 guests.

Pick seven Wines. Place all of the wines inside brown paper bags and assign a number. This way, no one would know which wine is being poured. Everyone will sip wines priced anywhere from $5.00 to $120.00.  Either provide all of the wine or another way to do it is to have everyone bring a bottle of wine of his or her choice. You can assign the type of wine, vintage, etc. as a guide so that the wines are all comparable. Then sample the wines in no particular order.

Nibble on many cheeses: For example; Midnight Moon, Humbolt Fog, Manchego, 5 Year Aged Gouda, Parmesan, English Cheddar, Stilton, and Guilloteau St. Angel. Cheeses like this will be absolutely delicious! Separate the cheeses by milk type: goat, cow, and sheep.

You’ll find that even friends who swore they strongly disliked certain kinds of cheese will happily fill up their plates with them. It just happens 😉

Serve  cold cuts, breads, crackers, fruit, and jams which are gluttonous pairings for the wines. For the jams, make sure you include included lavender honey, sweet mango chutney, and the very fashionable hot pepper jelly….maybe Pate too.

Printed score sheets on white, linen paper. Numbers 1-7 are added to rate each wine and the instructions were printed at the bottom of the page leaving plenty of space for note taking.

After everyone has a chance to feast a bit on all the delightful food, sit down and began to finally try each wine. Each place setting has 7 glasses. This will allow guests to go back and compare the wines.
What makes it so much fun is you have no idea what you are actually drinking.

After much sipping, debate, and laughter, tabulate the scores. The results get posted and listed from highest to lowest score.

You just never know what the result will be at a wine tasting event given everyone’s different palate. It sure is fun to find out! So, this year, do things differently and have a healthy, delicious, and memorable holiday season.

Here’s a quick idea for a wine list:

Col Solare ($60.00)
Caymus ($65.00)
Far Niente ($109.00)
Darioush ($90.00)
Faustino 1 ($25.00)
Yellow Tail ($8.00)
Tignanello ($80.00)

Friday, October 11, 2019

5 Hand-Picked Red Wines that are Great year in and year out. Give them a try!

Here are some red wines that never skip a beat year in and year out. Tasty and delicious and accessible. While even most wines meant for immediate consumption, several reads with quality improve if they're aged a year or two. These can good to drink now or lay down two or three years! 

Even the best wineries do not produce consistent quality year after year; But these wines I have enjoyed regularly and always seem to be available; which is a big plus… serve these in a big wide glass. They go well with an assortment of food as well. Pasta, Steak, Pizza, Burgers, Fish Tacos.. 

No frills. I have hand picked these 5 red wines.

2017 ‘CS’ Substance Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, Washington
Delicious and structured wine with deep dark cherry, espresso bean, cedar and baked spice flavors. A rich and round wine. Good Length on the finish. Good Stuff from Columbia Valley Washington that continues to impress over the past few years. If it was form California it would be a lot more expensive than it is.

2015 Petra Zingari Toscana 2015 Tuscan Blends, Tuscany, Italy
Savory tobacco notes, earth and herb notes, lots of plums and big tannins. An Tuscan wine with Merlot and Petit Verdot. A juicy wine with cherries, dark chocolate I blind tasted this wine among some solid French Bordeaux and it the comments were fantastic; given that it is about half Sangiovese. It can age too.

2017 Chateau Puygueraud Bordeaux Cotes de Francs, Bordeaux, France
Black fruits, black olives and soy, smoky tobacco and rich. Every year seems to provide a better and better value. A very fine Bordeaux from the Cotes de Francs. Mostly Merlot with a good dose  of Cabernet Franc and the rest Malbec; it’s dense with layers of fruit.

2016 d'Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia
I’ve been drinking this one for over 10 years now. Dark fruit chewy and round tannins. These tannins have a long, spicy, peppery finish. Clean, Oaky and complex wine showing tons of fruit like a blackberry pie along with that fresh mushroom and forest floor you want from an earthy Shiraz.

2015 Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rouge Cotes du Rhone, Rhone, France
An always elegant and rich Syrah, from up and down the Western Rhône. Spicy, peppery, and smoky, dark fruit, alive and earthy and more salt notes of black olive on the finish. Year in and year out this wine has always hit the mark. This Côtes du Rhône GSM from Guigal is aromatic and smooth.

Monday, September 9, 2019

What in the world is Orange Wine !?!

Let’s start real quick here “Orange” is not a type of grape or winemaking technique. It’s a color! And it’s just one color in the enormous style, and color spectrum, of skin-contact wines.

Like red and white and rosé before it, people have begun to use the color orange to define and judge wines. Any white-wine grape can be used to make orange wine. It’s true!

Hey! If colors are what open your world up to try wines; more power to you. Skin contact on wines has been around for thousands of years.

If you go to the Wine Folly website…you’ll get this:

The process of making orange wine is very old, but the reinvigoration of this ancient process has only resurfaced in the last 20 odd years. Many modern-day orange winemakers look as far back as 5000 years in Caucasus (modern-day Georgia,–not the state) where wines were fermented in large subterranean vessels called Qvevri (“Kev-ree”) that were originally closed with stones and sealed with beeswax.

Which I am sure will cause debate and confusion.

So just remember this…

1.       It’s not made from Oranges

2.       Orange wines are the product of vinifying white grapes the way red wine is normally made.

3.       Most Orange wines taste like a bolder, savorier version of wines from the same white grape it was made from.

4.       It’s not like Blue Wine which is Blue wine is made from red and white grapes, and gains its strange color from that.

5.       Orange Wine goes with a lot of food and they handle this wide range of flavors well. Especially foods that do not usually go with reds.

6.       All skin contact wines are not orange, but all orange wines are made from skin contact.

By all means, try an Orange Wine. It’s now the trendy thing to ask for…

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Franciacorta! The Champagne of Italy!

Franciacorta! Ever heard of it? Franciacorta is a sparkling wine from the Province of Brescia (Lombardy) with DOCG status, located on the hills located between the southern shore of Lake Iseo and the city of Brescia.

Where’s that? Italy. The top of the boot in the center; in between Piedmont and The Tre Venezie.
If you’re drinking a bubbly from Italy, there is a very strong chance that bubbly is Prosecco, but did you know that there’s another bubbly called Franciacorta, and has more like Champagne than Prosecco?

Honest! And it’s growing in popularity.

The still wines from Franciacorta have ancient traditions and documented in Brescia City council books as "Franzacurta" as far back as in 1277. The Middle Ages! But the sparkling wines are new and only been made since 1961. Prosecco as we know has been around for hundreds.

The difference between Prosecco and Franciacorta is the way each of the wines is made.

In the case of Prosecco, is made using what is known as the Charmat method. It’s a faster and cheaper way to create quality sparkling wine. In this method, the wine is transferred from its first fermentation vat to a large sealed pressurized tank where it undergoes secondary fermentation to create the carbonation. Then the carbonated wine is bottled and shipped to market. The result is a wine that is bubbly with delicious hints of fruit and freshness.

Franciacorta, on the other hand, is made the exact same way winemakers in France make Champagne.

The Method Champenoise or the Traditional Method, Franciacorta receives its bubbles by allowing a secondary fermentation to occur in the bottle. During this fermentation the CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) that’s created is absorbed into the wine, it does not escape and creates the bubbles we’ve come to love in Champagne. This process also usually means the wine is drier with a yeastier and less fruity character than Prosecco. This process of “sur lie” aging is what many say makes wines made in this method more complex.

Furthermore, there is another major distinct difference between Prosecco and Franciacorta. It’s the grapes used to make each of the wines. In Prosecco the grape is Glera, a white grape that has been grown in the Veneto and Friuli regions for hundreds of years. It’s a grape with high acidity, which makes it perfect for bubbly.

Franciacorta uses Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, which are the grapes also used to make Champagne. Just like Champagne... Franciacorta — it’s the name of the wine and the name of the region where it’s made Just like Champagne... it's a warmer region than the chilly Champagne region, so the grapes are riper and fuller, which results in a wine that is not as racy and/or have the minerality that the Champagne region does. It’s a rounder profile but with the the designations for dosage exactly like those in Champagne.

Do the differences really matter? Only if you try them and enjoy how one, or both, taste.
Seek it out.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

2018 Bordeaux Futures - it’s a very good vintage with several incredible wine values; I dig this vintage’s potential.

2018 Bordeaux wine is complicated. In a nutshell, the buzz is it’s a very good vintage with several incredible wines! When you look at the scores awarded, you can see how much I dig this vintage’s potential.

The news is that 2018 Bordeaux is a very opaque vintage. Almost every wine is inky or dark; the wines are complex with all sorts of red and blue fruit aromas.

The 2018 Bordeaux is concentrated, richly textured and full-bodied. Pure fruit; the wines will be mouth filling heavy and dense. Yet with all that the vintage will be vibrant and big at the same time.
As the story goes, the best wines come from the Left Bank in Northern Medoc, where the roots were able to dig incredibly deep into the soils. Plus the Clay rich terroirs make a difference. Cabernet Sauvignon is the mainstay and it comes from St. Estephe, Pauillac and St. Julien which are exceptional. 

Likewise, the Cantenac highland of Margaux is another excellent area as well as parts of Pessac Leognan for the red wines. There are spectacular wines from each of these appellations, that Bordeaux wine lovers should take seek out.

In the Right Bank, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the focus and depending on the soil can be of astonishing and sometimes of unexpected beauty. 

In the 2008 vintage successful wines at least from the Right Bank slopes and elevation of Pomerol and in Saint Emilion, the wines produced the in limestone soils; the gravels near Pomerol and the clay rich soils close to, or in Saint Christophe des Bardes contribute.

By the way, Saint Christophe des Bardes is becoming a major hot spot in itself.

Here’s a list of reds and whites 2018 Bordeaux to look for; along with influential notes. Granted most of these wines will not be available until 2020 and 2021. The scores are phenomenal on these Bordeaux values.

2018 Fleur la Mothe, Medoc (750ml) »FUTURES« From Medoc, Bordeaux, France
Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2018 Fleur la Mothe opens with plums and earth with herbs, fungi and a waft of olives. Full-bodied, rich and seductive, it has a plush texture and great length. 91-93 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Wine Advocate (Issue # Interim - Apr 2019)

2018 Clos des Lunes Lune d'Argent Blanc (750ml) Semillon from Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Brightness and serenity to this white with lemon rind and pear skin, highlighting the cooked-apple character. Medium to full body, bright acidity and a vivid finish. 92-93 points, James Suckling (Apr 2019)

2018 Chateau Larrivaux (750ml) »FUTURES« Merlot from Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France
The 2018 Larrivaux is quite pretty and expressive in this vintage. Freshly cut roses, red berry fruit, mint, and savory notes give the 2018 brilliance, energy and expressive aromatic persistence. Silky tannins add nuance. Two thousand eighteen is an especially fine vintage for this mid-weight, gracious Haut-Médoc. Larrivaux is 64% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. Tasted two times. 88-91 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous (Apr 2019)

2018 Chateau Les Gravieres (750ml) »FUTURES« Merlot from Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France
Made from 100% Merlot, the 2018 Les Gravieres is deep garnet-purple and rocks up with gregarious blueberry pie, chocolate-covered cherries and plum preserves scents with nuances of violets, spice cake and mocha. Big, full and decadently fruited, it has a firm frame of super ripe, grainy tannins and wonderful freshness, finishing very long and layered. 94-96 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Wine Advocate (Issue # Interim - Apr 2019)

2018 Chateau Lilian Ladouys (750ml) »FUTURES« Cabernet Sauvignon from Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux, France
This has a very pretty lilac note out front, followed by fresh plum and black cherry fruit flavors. Juicy in feel, with the minerality buried at the very end. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Drink now. 90-93 points, James Molesworth, Wine Spectator (2019)

2018 Chateau La Vieille Cure (750ml) »FUTURES« Merlot from Fronsac, Bordeaux, France
This is so delicious already with wonderful, tight and polished tannins, medium body and a long, flavorful finish. Always excellent quality for the money. 92-93 points, James Suckling (Apr 2019)
2018 Chateau Lagrange Les Fiefs de Lagrange (750ml) »FUTURES« Cabernet Sauvignon from Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France
The second wine of the Lagrange property which was established in 1985 following the acquisition by Suntory group.

The 2018 Les Fiefs de Lagrange is deep garnet-purple colored with earthy, mushroomy notions and savory meats over a cassis and plums core plus herbs hints. The full-bodied palate is rich and packed with fruit, with firm, grainy tannins and a long finish. 90-92 points, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Wine Advocate (Issue # Interim - Apr 2019)
2018 Chateau Taillefer (750ml) »FUTURES« Merlot from Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
The 2018 Taillefer is very pretty. Succulent dark cherry, spice, leather, tobacco, licorice and menthol develop in a mid-weight, understated Pomerol that will drink well with minimal cellaring. Silky tannins round out the polished finish. This is very nicely done. Tasted two times. 88-91 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous (Apr 2019)

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Just found a little terrific Perubian restaurant ...Terra Sur

Just found a little terrific Perubian restaurant in Carrollwood , Florida called Terra Sur. Thanks to some good friends...My style.

It has your traditional Spanish Perubian fare such as Octopus, Shrimp, Clams with baked cheese, Chicharron de Calamar,  Lomo, Beef Tenderloins, Tapas... rice dishes, the whole 9 yards.

To me the best part is the winelist which includes wines from California like Plumpjack, Justin, Austin Hope, Peju, Provenance and a slew of others Spanish and Argentinian at a good price point. If you like wine with your grilled meats; this is the place. Plus, the staff is always talking up the wine offering a taste hear or there.

Not to mention that next door is a Cafe owned by the same people which is more bistro than restaurant and it's worth trying as well.

It's definitely a place you can go to several times for pairing...mixing and matching food and wine.

Desserts too!

Terra Sur is located at 5358 W Village Drive Tampa ,FL  33624

I like it.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Red wine is King in Spain...Three main Sources to know are Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat

Red wine is King in Spain. It's a staple of every day life, every day meals. Delicious red wine is found all over the country. Just like France and Italy, Spanish wine is full of history great regions and history.

But to be clear; there are three premier sources for red wine in Spain that every wine fan must know and that's Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat. Now that's not saying that La Mancha or Catayuld or even Montsant are not doing good stuff. They really are!

The main three to know are Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat.

Here's a little tidbit of info on the characteristics of  wine of each place; enough to be dangerous on each region and one wine to look for from each.

Rioja: Rioja wine has a elegant cherry nose and has a dusty spice notes They are aged well. They are often blended from dozens of vineyards. There are 15-20,000 grape growers but about only 700 wineries. That gives you an idea of what is going on in general. Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja. Crianzas are aged 2 years with at least 6 months in oak barrels. Reservas and Grand Reservas much longer

Ribera del Duero: Ribera del Duero has the distinction of being the second most famous wine region in Spain. Rioja does not let them live that down. It does not mean their wines are any less spectacular. On the contrary. As in Rioja the grape used is Tempranillo. But they call it Tinto Fino. Ribera's climate is hotter, more sun. So the wine is more intense but no less complex to Rioja's. It's just a different interpretation that blows your mind. More than often the same methods are used as Rioja's but not always which adds more creativity sometimes.

Priorat: Priorat is the latest and greatest new best region. Southwest of Barcelona and not very big on the map, yet mountainous. But holy smokes it's powerful wine. In the 1980's a bunch of renegade wine makers went there and started making incredible wines. Great food wine too. This place was abandoned for years adfter the Spanish Civil war.  Using grapes like Carignane and Garnacha started to make these luscious and exotic wines that got the worlds attention in a big way. Like a big bang! Instant classic wine region. Just like that! Unbelievable but true.

Bottles to try...all clearly under $35

1. Rioja - La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva

2. Ribera del Duero - Tinto Pesquera Crianza

3. Mas Alta Black Slate Vilella Alta

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Babbalucci is a new Italian restaurant in South Tampa and there’s going to be a focus on Southern Italy. Let’s talk about the wines of southern Italy

Babbalucci is a new Italian restaurant in South Tampa and there’s going to be a focus on Southern Italy. I like this place. Brought to you by Chef Felix from the popular Spanish Tampa restaurant Viscaya; I have previewed the menu and the wine list  and I recommend you get in there to try this food and wine while they are getting their feet wet. It’s great. The veal dishes are great, so are the pork chop dishes. The pasta is homemade...The best Sea Bass in town. Yes, it's Italian! 

There’s a bar for cocktails upstairs and an outside view. Very Cool. Feels like a Bistro in places. Now that does not mean that there won’t be your traditional fair of pasta dishes…but expect something truly different and expect some interesting wines. The best time to try restaurants is when it first opens. You’ll get a sense of how things really are as they get everything in gear.

Chances are you’ll eat something that you’ll love and it won’t be on the menu too long. It’s all about getting everything started. It’s the same with the wine. Italian wines are vast and they go great with food. Totally recommend it. Good place to eat and hang out. With the good food, bar, cocktails, music  and dancing. It makes you wonder if spirit of Viscaya will blend into this restaurant somehow; because it has that feel.

So, let’s talk about the wines of southern Italy in some detail. The wine is a lot different that the Central and Northern Italian wines….To me they are more voluptuous; more memorable.

Three regions to look at are Campania, Puglia and Sicily…


Campania, the region surrounding the city of Naples, is at the center of southern Italy’s wine renaissance. This is home to the Amalfi Coast, the isle of Capri, Mt. Vesuvius, and of pizza. The rich soil and temperate climate here are ideal for growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Grapes are no exception.

Campania’s top three wines come from the Irpinia hills area, just outside of Naples: the red Taurasi, and the white Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo wines.
Taurasi is a full-bodied red that requires aging, like its northern cousins, Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello. Good vintages of this powerful, tannic, complex wine are at their best when aged 15 to 20 years. Taurasi is made of mostly Aglianico grapes with the majority of better Taurasis containing 100% Aglianico. By law, Taurasis must age at least three years before bottling with one of those years in wood.

Fiano di Avellino is Southern Italy’s leading dry, white wine. It is delicate with overtones of pear and almonds. Unlike most white wines, Fiano di Avellino improves with at least five to six years aging and good vintages are drinkable up to fifteen years. Fiano di Avellino is required to be made of at least 85% Fiano grapes.

Greco di Tufo, both a grape and a wine, was introduced to Italy by the Greeks over 2000 years ago. It thrives in the volcanic soil just outside the small village of Tufo. This wine is crisp and intensely fruity. Greco di Tufo is usually ready to drink in three to five years and can age up to about twelve years.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (literally: the tears of Christ at Vesuvius) is grown on the terraced slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, the infamous volcano that looms over Naples. The area’s rich volcanic soil produces very good red, white, and rosé wines. All three are designated “Lacryma Christi.” There is even a sparkling (spumante) version.


The region of Puglia, along the Adriatic Sea, is another southern Italian wine mecca. Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Malvasia Nera – all red – are the three main grapes grown here. Also noteworthy is a historic, sweet, high-alcohol dessert wine, made with Aleatico grapes, called Aleatico di Puglia. The wines of Puglia carry the following place designations: Salento, Daunia, Tarantino, and Valle d’Itria.
Salento wines are dark, robust, and full-bodied with ripe fruit flavors and a high alcohol content. The Salento peninsula is arid and flat with palm trees and cactus plants. This difficult soil combined with the cool evening breezes from the Adriatic are perfect for producing complex red wines.

Castel del Monte was first made in Puglia in the 13th century. This wine’s namesake, medieval castle still stands. Castel del Monte can be a blended red, white, or rosé wine. The red (rosso) is a dry wine made from mostly Uva di Troila or Aglianico grapes. Aglianico is one of those historic wines that could have been on the table during the “Last Supper” ….Think about that for a moment. The white (bianco) is made from Chardonnay or Pampanuto, a local grape. Both wines are soft and very dry.


Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, also has a rich wine history. For almost 4000 years, Sicilians have been producing wine. Today they produce about 1/6 of Italy’s wine, the majority of it white. This is a perfect accompaniment to the fresh seafood and fish that abound in Sicily. Sicily is also noted for its fortified wines, like Marsala, and its dessert wines, such as Moscato.

Catarratto Bianco is the island’s most-planted white wine grape. Nero d’Avola is the main red grape. In general, Sicilian wines are light-bodied and dry. They go well with the cuisine of the island: pasta, veal, and seafood. Cannonau is terrific and wine tastes like ripe berries, plum, cranberry, and white spice.

The wines of southern Italy are improving their quality and their production with each vintage. They are much more affordable and increasingly available in the United States. Ask for them….better… Demand them.

Watch for them at Babbalucci or a wine store near you.

Babbalucci is located at S. Westshore Blvd 33629

Monday, March 11, 2019

Yes! Wine and Texas Chili Dogs, New York and Chicago Dogs…Polish Sausages too.

What can be better than a good hot dog. Some folks like them fully loaded. There’s really nothing that can go wrong with a dog if you really think about it. Growing up we had a place called ‘Orange Julius’ and the toppings you could get on a hot dog were unlimited. Onions, Cole Slaw, shredded pork with BBQ sauce. Whatever you wanted.

Times have changed a little. Somehow, the Hot Dog police got involved and made it so it was not as cool or healthy to be able to do that. I still don’t get it because when you go to the ballpark or have a BBQ or party. It’s tops on the menu…along with wings and chips!

For some reason every time I visit Napa Valley I get reminded of how great hot dogs are. It’s one of these things. Either a food truck or some event is pairing up hot dogs and wine. I learned early on that I nice big red Zinfandel is incredible with a hot dog with a  lot of Cheddar Cheese and Jalapenos.
But that’s not the only pairing that’s phenomenal. It’s got me thinking of the basics. Chili Dogs, New York Kraut dogs and nice spicy Chicago dogs. Nevermind that when you go to Chicago, they are hard to find…which makes no sense. A lot of Pizza though…

Let’s start with the New York-frankfurters, with mustard and sauerkraut, Nathans, go great with a Rose or a refreshingly crisp white Zinfandel. It’s affordable too. Yes! white zinfandel the wine that’s usually pushed to the side…Let me tell you, iced cold white zin and a crisp hot dog is fantastic. You can totally quaff it.

Moving out west, we find the Chicago hot dog, with its trademark peppers, pickles and celery salt, which scream for a medium to bodies wine crispiness out for a light-to-medium-weight wine with substantial crispness to match the acidity and spiciness of the toppings. A Sauvignon Blanc or dry German Riesling are a great match — both of which are dry and have a zip to them. A Chardonnay from Burgundy would be delicious as well. The green, grassy component of the wine or the steely unoaked wetness goes well with the pickles, peppers, tomatoes and saltiness.

I also want to mention that at the Sate Fair there’s always Sausages and peppers. Polish Sausages are my favorite. There’s an earthiness to them that just screams out for a big Merlot or Cabernet…just saying.

Lastly for this piece, I think of Texas and a hot decadent chili dog, with maybe beef and beans… chili sauce, onions and cheese. A full-bodied wine like an Australian Shiraz from the Barossa or a big Zinfandel from California hits the spot; even better if it is in a style that has that bit of sweet-blackberry juice and oakiness…sometimes a zin has hints of BBQ grill marks that help wash down the spices or any sliced jalapeños that you pile on. 

Really, It’s all good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Check out the Wines of Virginia...A road trip is in order!

Virginia has been producing wines for centuries. So it should not be a little known fact…But I guess it really is.

The most popular grapes are French varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Viognier.

American varietals and hybrids are also produced such as Norton, Vidal Blanc, Traminette, and Chambourcin. Virginia also produces a variety of fruit wines.

Very early on in Virginia, there was attempted production. In the early 1600s, the settlers in British colonial Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas which is located on the northeast bank of the James (Powhatan) River about 2.5 mi southwest of the center of what is now modern Williamsburg.

Well those settlers ventured to produce European grapes as a way of boosting the British economy to rival wines from France, Italy, and Germany. But they failed in making them flourish due to a number of diseases and early the onset of what was later detected as Phylloxera, the mites that ended up devastating the world’s vines centuries later. But that’s a whole different story for another day.
Due to the difficulties in growing wines, interest shifted to tobacco crops. 

But, in the 1770s, future president Thomas Jefferson attempted to grow vines at Monticello without much success, as did George Washington at Mount Vernon.

In the mid-1800s, successful farming was possible working with indigenous North American grapes, though still never as popular as European ones. By the turn of the 20th century, grafting American to European root stock, the technique proven to ward off the invasive Phylloxera, came into practice to strengthen vines. So, grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay could now be grown successfully in Virginia.

As the wine production began to get traction; prohibition in the 1920s put a sudden end to what was finally becoming a thriving industry and it wasn’t until the 1950s that wineries began to produce again in with any real seriousness.

Two of the top Virginia wineries, Barboursville and Waverly Estate were established in the 1970s, inspiring others to follow suit. Today, there are nearly 200 wineries in production.

The terroir, the climate and soil conditions in Virginia vary extensively. Areas such as those around the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountain ranges are cool and rocky, further inland summers in the flat lands can be very hot and dry.

There are six AVA’s within the state:

*Shenandoah Valley - the largest and most diverse
*Monticello - where Thomas Jefferson’s viticultural dreams are finally being realized
*Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace - along the Chesapeake Bay
*Eastern Shore - scenic and sandy, with free-draining soils
*North Fork of Roanoke - higher elevations with great ripening potential
*Rocky Knob - as the name suggests, along the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Williamsburg and Jamestown are 15 minutes far apart, if you drive non-stop. Jamestown and Charlottesville are 2 hours 11 mins far apart, if you drive non-stop. The drives are great for site seeing and wine. In Charlottesville you’ll find the Monticello Wine Trail. Today, there are more than 35 wineries within a 30-mile radius of Charlottesville as part of the trail. Which makes for a great road trip and into to the Wines of Virginia.

Monday, January 7, 2019

It's 2019 and these are three of my favorite Cabernet Sauvignons - a Schug, Grgich Hills and a Frog's Leap

By Ralph Del Rio, Wine Correspondent

These are three Cabernet Sauvignon that I have been drinking a lot of lately. Three of my favorites; Definitely 2018 Top Wines

My last visit to Napa Valley afforded me to taste these wines and I have been partaking a lot over the 6- 8 months. So I have gotten to know them fairly well; I have described them in depth and can recommend them to you without reservation. 


2014 Heritage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Totally violet in color. Really nice. Not really big on the palate but it is a big wine. Aromas and flavors of figs, dates and dried orange, dried flowers, bakes spices, vanilla roasted notes, with a clean supple, bright, dry yet fruit compote medium body. It has a medium-length finish evoking notes of cassis, spiced nuts and beets, It is chewy, earthy tannins and moderate oak flavor. It’s not like a Caymus or Silver Oak Okay…but it’s a complex and alive red blend that will go with a lot of spicy meat dishes.

Grgich Hills

2015 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon
It has a Garnet black color. Aromas of dried cassis, cranberry, spiced plums, blood orange, and sweet smooth tobacco, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body with a medium-length suede, a bit of star anise de mono, and coffee. cherry tea finish. It has chewy tannins and good oak flavor. A toast red with plenty acidity to spare. It can be paired with a grilled steak or BBQ ribs.

Frog's Leap

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown
This Cabernet Sauvignon is dark, bold and luscious, with generous dark cherry, plum spice, chocolate and leather. Forward but supple, it will drink well right out of the gate, on its own. and you can tell yet it also has enough freshness to age nicely for a number of years. It has a gorgeous depth to play off a classic, mid-weight sense of structure. It flows with layers of enjoyment. This is positively a knockout wine. I like it with hard cheeses and nuts. I just don’t want anything to distract me.