Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

2006 Castello Monaci Liante Salice Salentino

28 Nov

Here we have another Sicilian red, although this is a blend made from two somewhat unusual grapes – Negroamaro (meaning black and bitter) and Malvasia.  It’s big and bold, with huge notes of prunes, leather, smoke and a bit of tar on the nose and dark ripe fruit and vanilla on the palate.  It’s more balanced than the Spadafora Don Pietro Rosso, with a long and pleasant finish, but is still a bit heavy handed for my tastes.

This wine is available at for just $13.49/bottle and is definitely worth a try if you like your red wines to pack a punch.  All in all, I’d give it about 3.5 corks popped.



2004 Spadafora Don Pietro Rosso

26 Nov

I am sad to report that I have never actually been to Sicily.  Don’t get me wrong.  I would love to go.  It’s such a mysterious and ruggedly beautiful place.  But I did most of my traveling through Italy on my own, and it was just one of those places that didn’t seem like the safest place for a 20-year old girl to be wandering through alone.

So for now, I am content to just “virtually” travel to Sicily through its wines.  They’re big and rich with a huge punch (that hot climate makes for some high sugar content in the grapes, leading to highly alcoholic wines) and lots of tannins.  This wine in particular wasn’t my favorite.  Although the flavors were less tart and more smooth than the Morgante Nero d’Avola, the tannins were a bit overwhelming, making the mouth extremely dry (and later causing a headache that actually woke me up in the middle of the night).  In short, while I would turn down a glass of this wine if it were offered to me, I don’t know that I’d necessarily seek it out either.  That said, it’s available at for $15.99/bottle.

The verdict?  2.5 corks popped…



2007 Morgante Nero d'Avola

26 Nov

J and I had some serious trouble getting into this bottle, and after a REALLY long day at work for both of us, I was not happy about it.  First, the cork broke on me (as you can imagine, I am practiced enough at opening wine bottles that this rarely, if ever, happens).  J was able to get the cork out rather than pushing it into the bottle, but, in the process, he chipped a shard of glass off which ended up impaling his finger.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t impaled, but he certainly bled like he was.  Oof.

Anyhoo, we did finally get into the bottle.  It was big and chewy, with lots of tart dark cherries and smoke, and went quite nicely with our Indian food (chicken tikka masala and lamb vindaloo).  It definitely needs to breathe a bit and could probably use a bit more age, but it’s definitely a decent bottle of wine.  If you’d like to try it yourself, you can find it at BevMo for $17.99/bottle.

Bottom line: 2.5 corks popped



Week 13: Southern Italian Reds

24 Nov

Phew!  After a crazy weekend participating in G’s Birthday Surprise-a-thon and what is turning out to be a crazy (albeit short) week at work, I’m afraid I’m a bit behind on the blogging…. Woops!

That said, I’m very excited about this, my last week “in” Italy, when I’ll be tasting three reds from Southern Italy.  So, without further delay, here’s the list….

First, a 2006 Castello Monaci Liante Salice Salentino, which was given 90 points by Robert Parker and is available at for just $13.49/bottle.

Second, a 2004 Spadafora Don Pietro Rosso, which received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast and can be purchased at for $15.99/bottle.

Finally, a 2007 Morgante Nero d’Avola, which garnered 89 points from Robert Parker and is available at BevMo for $17.99/bottle.



2007 Conterno Fantino Vignota Barbera d'Alba

20 Nov

Now, I know what you’re thinking… $22.99 isn’t exactly a “budget” wine, especially during these days of economic difficulty.  And while I generally agree and have made every effort to keep the prices down on the wines reviewed on this blog, I have had this wine before and couldn’t pass it up this week.

This wine is inky purple in color with a big, bold aroma of juicy dark fruit that washes over the tongue and fills the whole mouth with luxurious complexity.  In other words, this wine may be $22.99/bottle, but it drinks like a wine that costs two to three times that.  So don’t let the price tag scare you….go out and get a bottle.  Enjoy it now or, better yet, save it for a special occasion.  Your patience will only be rewarded.

4 corks popped!


P.S.  I’m headed up to the Bay to visit the girls this weekend, so there is a chance that there won’t be a CorkPopper dinner on Sunday.  My apologies, but please stay tuned for next week.  We’ve got lots in store for Thanksgiving!!!


2006 Vietti Tre Vigne Barbera d'Alba

19 Nov

Here we have the second of this week’s Barbera d’Alba, the 2007 Vietti Tre Vigne.  With lots of super-ripe dark blackberries and plum, some earthiness, and a bit of smoky leather, this wine has a lot of amazing depth, especially at this price point ($19.99/bottle from Wine Exchange).  Though it’s a bit tart on its own, it’s a great wine to pair with food…. I had a glass with crackers and a St. Andre brie, and the creaminess of the cheese balanced out the tart acid in the wine wonderfully.

3 corks popped!!



2007 Guido Porro Vigna Santa Caterina Barbera d'Alba

17 Nov

As you can imagine, I spend quite a bit of time these days seeking out good yet reasonably priced wines, and I’ve found that sometimes the best way to find something good is to ask.  There are lots of great local wine retailers these days, especially in California, and many of them actually allow you to order online.  Brilliant.  A few of my current favorites are The Wine House in West Los Angeles, the Beverage Warehouse in Los Angeles, K&L Wine Merchants, which has retail locations in Hollywood, San Francisco and Redwood City, and Wine Exchange in Orange, California.  It’s the nice folks at Wine Exchange (Jason, in particular) that recommended the first of this week’s Barbera d’Alba – the 2007 Guido Porro Vigna Santa Caterina.

Dark garnet in color, this wine has a nice aroma of red plums, cinnamon and red clay.  It’s a bit tart on the palate but has some good acidity, with a lingering finish of ripe red fruit.  While it’s not an especially complex wine, it is certainly decent and easy-drinking, especially at just $12.99/bottle.

I’m giving it 3 corks popped…



Week 12: Northern Italian Reds (Barbera d'Alba)

16 Nov

This week I’m headed north from Tuscany to the Piedmont (“Piemonte” in Italian) region of Italy, from which I’ll be tasting three different wineries’ Barbera d’Alba.  Piemonte, not Tuscany, is actually the quintessential premium red wine region of Italy, producing the country’s two finest red wines – Barolo and Barbaresco.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, quality comes at a price, and Barolo and Barbaresco wines simply are not within the CorkPopper budget.  But don’t fret.  There are plenty of other delicious Piemonte reds that are still affordable, including, but not limited to, Barbera d’Alba.

Barbera is actually a grape varietal native to Italy, and Alba is a town within the Piemonte region in the very northwest corner of the country near France.  Though Barbera d’Alba currently only has DOC (denominazione di origine controllata) status, it is widely rumored to be under consideration for  DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita) status.

The Barbera grape is related to the French-Spanish Mourvedre varietal and generally produces lighter red wines with good acidity and balance.  We’ll see how these three stand up…

First, we have a 2006 Vietti Tre Vigne, which was given 90 points by Wine Spectator and is available at Wine Exchange for $19.99/bottle.

Next, we have a 2007 Conterno Fantino Vignota, which received 90 points by Wine Advocate and is available at Wine Exchange for $22.99/bottle.

Finally, we have a 2007 Guido Porro Vigna Santa Caterina, which is $12.99/bottle and was recommended by Jason at Wine Exchange when he discovered that my first choice was out of stock.



Week 11: What to Eat with the 2006 Badia di Morrono Teneto

16 Nov

There are few things more delicious than Italian food.  It’s so simple yet so soulful, with an exacting focus on fresh, quality ingredients that is rivaled by few other cuisines.  And though I wouldn’t necessarily say that, on average, the best Italian food comes from Tuscany, I can absolutely say that one of my favorite dishes does – Tagliatelli with Wild Boar Ragu.  Tagliatelle is a wide, long pasta that looks much like a thick ribbon while ragu is a traditional Italian meat sauce.  And, as I’ve mentioned previously, wild boar (cinghiale in Italian) is a Tuscan staple.  This rich, savory dish may just be the ultimate in comfort food, and will pair perfectly with the big complex flavors in the Badia di Morrono Teneto.  In short, there was really never any question that it would be this week’s CorkPopper recipe.

As you can imagine, wild boar can be difficult to find, so it’s probably easiest to order it online.  I got mine from Broken Arrow Ranch, a specialty site that sells only wild boar, antelope, venison and elk meat, and if the sausage is any indication, the loin I ordered for this dish should be amazing.  So, without further delay, here’s the recipe.  Be sure to start the sauce several hours before dinner so that it has time to really simmer.  If you don’t want to make your own pasta dough, the fresh pasta you can buy at the grocery store is fine, although you’re unlikely to find tagliatelli (fettucini will probably be the widest you can get).

Tagliatelli with Wild Boar Ragu

Ingredients for the Sauce:
1 3/4 pounds wild boar loin
1/4 pound pancetta, cubed
1 large brown onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 bottle dry red wine
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped
8 basil leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and salt

Preparation for the Sauce:
Season the boar with salt and pepper and dust with a bit of flour.  Brown the boar on both sides and set aside.

In another pan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until almost smoking.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook a couple minutes longer before adding the carrot and celery.  Cook until the vegetables are soft.  Add the boar and pancetta to the pot and cook for about 10-15 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, wine, parsley and basil.  Simmer for several hours if you can, stirring occasionally.  After a couple of hours, start trying to pull apart the boar meat.  (Leaving it in large pieces will make it dry.)  You should be able to do this just with a wooden spoon.

Ingredients for the Pasta:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten lightly
3/4 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation for Pasta:

In a food processor blend the flour, the eggs, the oil, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water until the mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water drop by drop if the dough is too dry.  (The dough should be firm and not sticky.) Blend the dough for 15 seconds more to knead it.  You can prepare the dough up to 4 hours ahead of time.  Just keep it covered in the fridge.  It needs to stand, covered, at room temperature for an hour before being rolled, however, so keep that in mind.

To roll pasta dough, set the smooth rollers of a pasta machine at the widest setting.  (If you don’t have a pasta roller, you can use a rolling pin; it’ll just take some elbow grease and you may not be able to get it very thin.)  Divide the dough into 3 pieces, flatten one piece into a rough rectangle, and cover the remaining pieces with an inverted bowl.  Dust the rectangle with flour and feed it through the rollers.   Turn the dial down one notch and feed the dough through the rollers.  Continue to feed the dough through the rollers, turning the dial one notch lower each time, until the dough has reached the desired thinness.  The dough should be a smooth, long sheet about four or five inches wide and about 1/16-inch thick.  Roll the remaining pasta dough in the same manner.

Using a knife, cut the sheets of pasta into 1-inch wide ribbons.  Once you have all your tagliatelle cut, cook in a large pot of boiling, salted water.  Fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes to cook, and it’s done when it floats to the top, so be sure that you’ve already set the table and are ready to eat.

Drain the cooked pasta and divide into large pasta bowls.  Cover with sauce and sprinkle with some freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese.  Serve with crusty grilled bread and a simple side salad.


Wild Boar on Foodista


2006 Tenuta di Biserno Insoglio del Cinghiale

14 Nov

The wild boar (“cinghiale” in Italian) is a staple of Tuscan cuisine – and not just because its meat is lean and tasty.  The wild boar is actually a bit of a nuisance, given its ability to wipe out an entire vineyard in just one night, so hunting it (and eating it) has become a bit of a necessity.  Well, while I’m not a fan of anything that puts beautiful and bountiful vineyards at risk, I LOVE wild boar meat.  So with an entire week dedicated to Tuscan wines, I couldn’t help myself but choose a wine that not only has wild boar in its name but even has a picture of one on the bottle…. my mouth started watering just thinking about it.  And when I read the reviews, I was sold…

“Medium crimson hue. Intensely brambly aromas of raspberry and pencil shavings. Lovely mouth-feel frames juicy flavors of strawberry and earth; perfect balance. Clean, tart finish.”  Wine News, 94 Points, October/November 2008

“The 2006 Insoglio del Cinghiale possesses inviting, super-ripe aromatics that lead to notes of earthiness, smoke, black pepper and ripe dark fruit that develop in the glass. This supple, plump red is a great example of the bold, racy wines that were made in Tuscany in the 2006 vintage. Insoglio del Cinghiale is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.” – Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate, 89 Points, June 30, 2008

“A focused and briary nose of red currants, petrol, black pepper, and cinnamon take you on a flight that lands you in a world of blackberries, strawberry, and peppercorn flavors that persist from tip of tongue to back of throat. On the finish the primary black and red fruits relent just enough to show a creamy snap of chocolate. The youthful, tightly wound structure is balanced beautifully by the fine tannins and will be welcome at a table filled with braised wild game. A blend of equal parts syrah, cabernet franc, and merlot, this is a chewy wine of excellent finesse.” The Italian Wine Report, 89 Points, April 1, 2008

Needless to say, I had some pretty high expectations for this wine, so I came home on Friday after a long week of work and popped the cork as soon as I walked in the door.  At first whiff, it smelled a bit stuffy, so I decided to decant it and give it some air.  Unfortunately, I am sad to report that it never quite lived up to my expectations.  Though the stuffy smell lessened after a while, I get more old leather and must on the palate than blackberry and pepper.  And I actually found the tannins to be a bit overwhelming, leaving me more interested in a glass of water than another glass of wine.  That said, this wine is certainly not undrinkable.  It’s just not making it onto my top ten list any time soon.

I’m giving it 2.5 corks popped…

If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can find the Insoglio del Cinghiale at for $19.99/bottle.


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