Wines of the Week

Let's go, Teroldego

It’s no secret that Americans love Italian wines.  Since we spend so much time in Italian restaurants, and since we love the cuisine, it’s only natural that we usually reach for a bottle of Chianti or something similar to complement our meals.

And it’s also no secret that Chianti and the surrounding regions are the wine regions best known to most of us.  There, and perhaps the Piedmont area where those tasty Barolos and Barberas come from.

Okay, and maybe we’ll be surprised by a bottle of some yummy red like Corvina from the Veneto, the area west and north of Venice.  Well, it’s time to expand our Italian horizons…just a little bit.

First, as I may have mentioned in the past, Italy is the only country in the world where wine is made in every single region.  There are between 17 and 18 regions (depending how you count them) which means that places like Sicily, Apulia, and even Sardinia deserve some attention.  There are discoveries to be made.

A recent revelation is a red wine called Teroldego, which is mainly grown in the Dolomites, the mountains due north of Venice by about 150 miles.  In fact, the region is closer to Austria than to Italy.

Anyway, this is a charming medium-bodied red with soft tannins and flavors of dark berry fruits, like wild cherry, cassis, and blueberry.  In a way it’s a bit like a Shiraz that doesn’t smack you in the face.  It’s softer, rounder, and much more subtle.  One of the new standouts among Teroldego winemakers is Elisabetta Foradori, so look for that name on the label.  It’s a new favorite at our house.

Like most forms of life, grapes can become extinct.  People stop cultivating them and they just sort of go away.  One of those is a red called Piculit Neri, but it’s making a comeback thanks to one single dedicated (obsessed?) winemaker named Emilio Bulfon.  He rediscovered this ancient varietal, and I’m glad he did.  He has also revived other varietals and is actively promoting them.  The wine has flavors of wild berries, with hints of smoke and vanilla.  You might also sense some herbaceous notes.  It’s a bit tannic, which makes it an excellent match for meat dishes and some poultry.

Back to the Teroldego.  Here’s our recommendation, along with some other favorites.

Foradori Teroldego Vignetti Delle Dolomite 2014 ($24)
The deep garnet color in the glass promises richness on the palate with an unmistakably Italian nose of sweet black fruit, red flowers, and hints of earth.  The wine is very round and soft on the palate, with no clinging tannins.  There is warm dark cherry, and a persistent finish that goes on and on.  We bought a case of it.  WW 94

Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Calistoga 2015 ($39) – While this winery is best known for its Chardonnay, the Zin is definitely worth a try.  Very true to type, with smoke, bramble, chocolate and wood notes nicely balanced by bold black fruit flavors.  WW 90

Bruno Paillard Champagne NV $50 – A premiere example of what Champagne is supposed to be.  Drinks above its price point. Fine mousse, with tangy notes of minerals and lemon  We finished the whole bottle.  WW 94

Lucas & Lewellen Hidden Asset Red Blend Santa Barbara 2016 ($29) -- An interesting mélange of Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and a few other varietals, the 16 months of oak aging imparts complex flavors of red and black raspberry, spice, and currant.  Tannins are lush and rounded, for a lingering finish.  WW 92