Lake Garda, Lago Garda in Italian is the largest lake in Italy. Situated between Venice and Milan. Today, it is a very popular vacation spot in Northern Italy but it is the history of the region that is so fascinating. The lake as well as the region, was formed by glaciers toward the end of the last Ice Age. The name itself, “Garda” dates back to the eighth century and is a derivative of the German word, “warda” meaning a place of guard, observation or of safety. The wine takes its name from the town in which it is produced, San Benedetto, or Saint Benedict.
The Zenato Winery was founded by Sergio and Carla Zenato in 1960, so this vintner is still a relative newcomer. Based in San Benedetto di Lugana, this man is credited with bringing this region to the forefront of winemaking using the Trebbiano di Lugana, a local grape variety. Following his death in 2008, Sergio’s children, Nadia and Alberto have brought production to the world while keeping it very much a family operation. Today, the winery operates under a threefold mission: quality, passion and tradition. Wines produced here, both red and white are under total management of the family who have made the vineyards and the winery not only their livelihood, but their lives.
Only the local Trebbiano di Lugana grapes are used in this production. The southeastern/southern exposure of the vineyards gives them a very full day of sunshine so that the grapes can bask and mature at a good pace. They are harvested in September and October by hand and fermented in stainless steel tanks for 20-25 days. Everything about this wine just says care and diligence with a strong nod to tradition and quality. Because of all this, the taste is really quite bold for a white wine. The pale green color gives it a different look, as so many of its counterparts are more pale to opaque. In the glass it is very aromatic with hints of citrus and peach but a slight undertone of herbs. This is a dry wine that can satisfy the most discerning tastes.
It is my feeling and I have often stated that in a family business, one can measure the quality of the product when history is upheld. In other words, produce that which your ancestors and founders would be proud of. This is certainly the case with Lugana San Benedetto. Sometimes awards alone speak volumes and if that is true, well this wine can exceed any expectation. The 2018 vintage itself has received high honors from Vinibuoni d’Italia, Wine Enthusiast, a gold medal at the Berlin Wine Festival, 86 points from Wein-Plus and equally high praise from Viniplus, all esteemed and coveted reviewers of fine wines.
This is an excellent wine to savor on its own. Decant for possibly 1-2 hours before drinking and you will undoubtedly notice the aroma as it fills the room. In the glass as well as on the palate it is delightful with a fresh, clean taste. Pair this with oysters, a meaty fish such as sheepshead, or with a lemon/sage roasted chicken. Try it with a spinach stuffed chicken thigh. Or, if your tastes are more sophisticated, quail or pheasant would do well. At any rate, with food or on its own this wine is an excellent choice. It will impress your guests and will immediately become a favorite for any special occasion.
Okay. So 2020 isn’t working out quite the way we had planned or hoped. That doesn’t give anyone a reason to hide his collective head in some trash bin and just wait around for the new year to explode. On the contrary, this is the dawn. It is Autumn. A new year is coming. Time to plan and we have the right, no, the obligation to look forward with optimism, to take on the new challenges. Time to work on all those resolutions which we’ll break in the next two hours. Time to set a course for our own lives as well as the lives of our loved ones. And we usually do that by basing the new on the old. By addressing our past and boldly going into the future accompanied by a few old friends and making some new ones. Believe it or not, we still have some time for that as we just now are beginning to settle into the cooler side of the year.
Prosecco says CELEBRATION. The most produced sparkling wine in Italy, it is usually based in a pinot grigio so the flavor is bold and fresh but very dry. Drier, in fact than its French cousin, champagne. Made from the grape now known as Glera (formerly known as prosecco but name changed in 2009) Lunetta is a little fruity tasting but as I said above dry. The bubble content is very high, kind of like a newly opened bottle of soda with a surprising tickle on both the palate and the nose.
Prosecco is produced in the nine provinces in Italy spanning Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia Regions and is named after the village of Prosecco. Up until the 1960’s it was pretty sweet and not really in favor, so very little was produced. In fact, it was fairly close to another sparkling wine, Asti, also considered sweet. Since then however, production techniques have been both revamped and perfected, in part to compete with Champagne, which was far more popular and more widely consumed. As a result, Prosecco is now a major player in the sparkling wine arena.
Price is a usual consideration when purchasing wine, especially sparkling wine, since it is less thought of as an everyday drink. Using a method called Charmat-Martinotti, a method where the secondary fermentation takes place in steel tanks rather than in bottles, tends to keep the price lower than that of similar champagnes. This is also done to preserve freshness as this is a lighter sparkling wine. But make no mistake, there is quality in each bottle whether you prefer Brut or Extra dry, which is slightly sweeter
Lunetta, translated as “Little moon” is produced by the Cavit winery located in Northern Italy. This winery really is mostly known for its pinot grigio, and you can taste that influence here. Hints of ripe apple and peach give way to a very crisp, clean taste, light enough to enjoy with food or on its own. I would say though that it is best with a meal of light fish, like a broiled trout or flounder to enhance those flavors, rather than overtake them. This is a very delicate drink, so it would also pair well with light appetizers, hors d’oeuvres or possibly shellfish. You can almost picture standing among friends, skewered shrimp in one hand, a glass of prosecco in the other. A pale straw color gives way to an effervescence and a freshness which then exhorts a party-like atmosphere that only a “bubbly” can bring to your table. Celebration is the name of the game here.
Wine Enthusiast gave this a rating of 86 points while stating that it has all the fresh fruit flavors you would expect. With an alcohol rating of 11.5% this is a sparkling wine that does satisfy. A tad on the sweet side, but with an unmistakable lean toward dryness, this is a good value wine in the $13 range.
“Amici e vini sono meglio vecchi” (Old wine and old friends improve with age)
Let me begin by saying that a good chianti is by far my favorite type of wine. The color, the aroma and just the appearance in a glass is one of the most beautiful simple sights given to us by the Lord Himself. I have never had that “perfect” glass as there is no such thing as an absolute perfection. But, be assured, I will continue my search for as long as I am able.
Chianti wines take their name from the region in Italy. These superior wines are made, by statute, of at least 70-75% Sangiovese grapes with other local grapes making up the remainder. Internationally grown grapes such as merlot or syrah can also be used in the blending as long as they are locally grown. The wine is substantial, yet simple and makes an excellent companion to a weekday meal or a special occasion. It has been said that there are two types of wine: those that are meant to be tasted, and those that are meant to be drunk. This is an excellent drinking wine, although I would never rule out sipping.
Santa Cristina is a product of the Antinori winery, from a family which has been producing wines since 1385. The family has managed the business for 26 generations now and has always been ruled by the idea of making a good, sustainable product by upholding tradition and family pride. Their standards are very high as the longevity of the winery suggests and shows a passion for producing elite wines. The Chianti Superiore was first produced in 1946 in the ancient town of Cortona, near to Siena and Perugia. Now produced in a newer facility which was constructed in 2006, Santa Cristina has become somewhat of a reference point for wine connoisseurs around the globe.
The wine itself is a very deep red, actually purple in the glass with an aroma even more inviting that its appearance. Open the bottle and you will get the feel of fresh fruits like cherries and plums along with a slightly earthy scent almost like fresh cut hay. On the palate the wine has a long lasting wonderful flavor which invites not only sipping, but also the drinking I mentioned above. But in my view, this is a wine to be savored, so take your time with it. Drink it slowly. It will definitely call you back for another glass. I did allow it some time to decant, almost an hour, which did give it some time to recover from its time in a corked bottle and I can say that it did benefit from that.
As for pairing, this wine calls for a traditional dinner, with a substantial antipasto, strong cheeses, dried sausage and some marinated peppers and artichokes. Follow this with a traditional gravy, some braciole with a firm pasta and you have a feast that will make your friends and family look at your home and kitchen with envy. If you believe that a good meal makes for good company, this wine will certainly add to the experience.
The 2017 vintage is currently considered the finest in recent years. With an alcohol content of 13% and a price in the $12 range, this is an excellent value which tastes much more expensive.
PRIMITIVO a dark skinned grape, naturally sweet and known for producing inky colored highly tannic and high alcohol wines. Its home is generally recognized as the region of Italy called Puglia, very close to the Croatian border which is probably where the grape was first grown. In the early 19th century it was introduced here in the United States under the name ZINFANDEL where it became enormously successful and for a time was known as “the American grape.” It actually became the subject of great debate until DNA analysis proved both grapes to be the same. This was found to be the case in 1994 after years of research, experimentation and arguments on both sides.
Primitivo actually fell out of favor worldwide and in the 1990’s many of the vines throughout Europe were pulled. But the vines proved to be very strong and regenerated while here in the states Zinfandel was booming. The name “Primitivo” translates as “early one” which has to do with the early ripening of this variety of grape. This produces a very robust tasting wine, almost bordering on bitter and in much of Puglia the wine is called Mirr Test or “hard wine.”
The winery is located in Southern Italy. If you know anything of the geography of the country, it is on the heel of the boot. Masseria Li Veli was founded by Marquis Antonio de Viti de Marco, an internationally known economist and university professor. His project was to transform the crumbling region into a major wine producer. Today the winery produces Puglian style wines from local grapes, both Primitivo and Negroamaro while also incorporating in smaller doses the Susumaniello, Verdeca, and Minutolo. All farming and cultivation is sustainable using what is known as the SETTONCE system, that being training the vines in a hexagonal configuration to allow for more sunlight on the foliage, good air circulation, maximum space for roots and ease of cultivation.
The wine itself is a very deep purple with a slight leaning toward the deepest red. The aroma is strong and hints at cherries and cinnamon. Not for those who favor a lighter wine, this has a powerful taste, very strong, no sweetness and maybe a slightly bitter aftertaste. The bitterness can be overcome though by decanting for a long while, I did for almost two hours, and letting it rest, allowed some of the strong tannins to escape into the air before drinking and allowing its taste to grow and fulfill itself.
The wine’s name in this case, “Orion,” does not refer to the constellation of the same name. Orion comes from the Greek, meaning boundary or limit, and a wall that once served as the boundary of Salento when this was a Greek colony is today a country road that runs alongside Li Veli’s Primitivo vineyard.
Reviews are countless and this wine receives some very high praise. James Suckling rated the 2017 vintage as 90 points calling it slightly sweet and commenting that it would benefit from a little less wood.
Wine Enthusiast gave it a respectable 89 points, rated it highly in the under $15 class while commenting on its accents of violet and graphite.
So, this wine does appear to be a dichotomy in that some of the praise almost seems back-handed. Praising while at the same time making some recommendations or or criticisms. Personally, I did find this wine to be very strong, again the alcohol level is over 15%, so it is not good to pair with any delicate foods. While I don’t limit myself to whites only with fish, I would say that in this case, this wine would be far too strong for a fish dinner. Better suited for game, such as venison or wild boar so as not to overtake the meal. I would say that even the vegetables need some body to go along with this, so certainly corn and peas should be avoided. Maybe try some brussels sprouts or broccoli sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Think complements here, not only sides and you will be rewarded with a wonderfully unique and balanced experience.
You know I do mostly write about wine. But this column is really about “the good life.” The kind that Tony Bennet sang about so many years ago. But the good life as we should know it is not a catered affair. It has to be planned, nurtured and cared for. It has to be accomplished through our own efforts and the pain that those efforts can bring can and do lead to successes and ultimate satisfaction.
They say the best things in life are free. Well, I can attest to that as I age and learn to appreciate my past and my future. At 67 years old now, I’ve seen and done a lot. Had my share of ups and downs, but thankfully, the downs have been few. So many songs, so much of life is measured by what we own, what we can handle rather than what we should cherish.
Now I know that this column is supposed to be about wine mostly, and what makes up the Good Life. When I started it, I felt like I had so much to say, so much to learn especially about wine and it has been a great, fun run so far, and I hope to continue it long into the future. Because, you see, this is an education of sorts for me. And I truly believe that education is life. You can’t have one without the other. And as the wisdom of age settles in, my education just grows and grows. And life gets, as I learn every day, more and more precious. Show you what I mean.
Growing up in the Bronx you get the experience of a lifetime in just a few short years. Going to Yankee Games was always special. Getting dressed up on Sunday for mass and a later movie at the Loew’s Paradise Theater is a fond memory as are the hours long dinners that preceded such a trip. Memories. Memories made as my mind and personality developed. Education. How to act in public. How to get along, not just get over. How and what to appreciate as a kid. Family. Friends
Last week, my son and daughter-in-law were here to spend some time with us. Kind of brighten our perfectly adequate lives. But they brought with them this little tiny two-year old. Now I have to admit, I never really noticed kids before. Heaven knows I didn’t spend nearly enough time with my own, but now, I have a grandbaby. A girl at that! Where exactly did I suddenly get all this time? Heaven knows she wore my wife and me out. I hadn’t been so glad to see my bed since my honeymoon! But there she was. This little person, part angel, part princess and part monster. And when she called me “Papa,” you could hear my heart melt. By the way, my wife is called “Bana.” Not entirely sure where that came from, but I know that it goes right to her heart like Cupid’s arrow.
Now, I do have two sons and I could not be any more proud of them. They are independent, professional gentlemen, raised to be so mostly by my wife, although I’d like to think I did have some hand in it. My biggest regret there is that I don’t tell them that often enough. A few years back, my elder son married and gave me the daughter I never had. A sweeter, kinder, gentler person than her just does not exist in my opinion (except for the girl I married). You’ll hear more about her in the future because when she was here, she raided my wine rack and went through it like a buzzsaw through butter! But in fairness, I guess, she had to stop drinking wine because of a little thing called pregnancy. Good enough excuse I suppose.
So, where does all this lead? Why all the schmaltz? Because, my friends, this is what life is all about. This is the good life. Kenney Chesney has a song where he has an argument with his wife and leaves. Goes to a bar and asks the bartender for “the good stuff.” The bartender tells him that he can’t get that here and then lets him know what the good stuff is. It’s a great song by the way. Yeah, my friends. The good life. It is made up of good friends, family and memories. Education comes in when you become smart enough to realize that you may not have what you want, but you really do want what you have.
So, now, with this knowledge and perspective, go. Go out and make your mark. Drink the wine, don’t just pour.
Anne Marie, would you get me a glass of wine please. This column really knocked me…What? WHAT?! What do you mean there is no more?
SHE DRANK ALL OF IT??
“Count your nights by stars, not shadows; count your life with smiles, not tears.”
Nestled on the “Boot” of Italy, Tuscany is a region known as one of the most beautiful on earth. Rolling hills, native vegetation, and the scent of history are all around. The region is known not only for its beauty though. It is one of the centers of wine production in Italy and the world. Hearty reds and delicate white wines are produced with a nod to history and tradition as well as a view to the future, as most of the wineries have evolved over time and become earth-friendly in their growth and sustainability. So many of the wineries here date back centuries and are still family owned, which almost guarantees a quality product which seems only to come directly from the heavens. In fact, the roots of this community go back to the Bronze Age and it still thrives today thanks to wine and olive oil making.
Since 1893 the Cecchi family name has been known for producing quality wines. In the region in fact, this family has established the tradition which has brought the art of making, and of drinking wine, from the farmer’s table to a part of every celebration known the world over. It was then, in 1893 that Luigi Cecchi, a man known for his wine-tasting talents began the journey both he and his descendants would take as leading, world wide producers. It was in the 1970’s though that the family moved its operations to Castellina, in the province of Chianti. Later, they established smaller satellite wineries in some nearby towns and it was back in 2014, when my wife and I visited the beautiful town of San Gimignano, we did pass their winery where Vernaccia, a very delicate DOCG status white is produced. The family also produces a Morellino di Scansano in La Maremma, also in Tuscany.
The Cecchi Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% other grape varieties. However, this is not an annual production as most wines are. It is only produced in years when the grapes reach a high enough quality so that the standards of the family are not only maintained, they are exceeded.This is a delicious red wine with a touch of a vermouth flavor, so it goes well with dinner or after. Dark, ruby red in color with aromas of leather and tart cherries. I did decant this wine for about 20 minutes before serving and frankly, it would have benefitted from maybe an hour or so just to allow the air to soften it a little bit. But this is a rich tasting wine which would pair well with red meats, say, lamb shank, a NY strip or a bison steak for the more adventurous. However, it would also compliment most game birds such as goose or wild turkey because their stronger tastes, much stronger than a farm-raised bird, would not get overtaken by the wine. And with an alcohol content of about 13%, you can easily go for the second glass with little chance of that wine headache!
I was fortunate enough to find the 2014 vintage which is excellent now but may be even better with another year aging in the bottle. However this vintage did drink well enough to win a Bronze medal at the 2017 Texsom International Wine Awards and a Silver at the 2016 Mundus Vini Competition. Be all that as it may though, the most important award, and the most satisfying at that is serving a wine to cherished guests and watching their reaction. When one of your guests takes a first sip, looks at the glass and says, “What kind of wine is this?” you know you have a winner. In the $18-20 dollar range I consider it an excellent value and a true crowd pleaser.
I have always said and truly believe that any product that you can produce today can be judged by the original one. Can you make a product of which your grandfather would be proud? Can the original founder of your company feel good enough about what you are making now be comfortable enough to put his name on it? In this case, the answer is a resounding “YES.” Luigi Cecchi has a lot to be proud of.
Beaujolais is a French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. The wine takes its name from the historical wine producing province of Beaujolais. First cultivated by the Romans who established the region as part of a trading route, the tradition and expertise associated with winemaking was kept up long after the fall of the Empire. From the seventh century through the Middle Ages the art was kept alive by the Benedctine Monks. In the tenth century the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu until the fifteenth century when the region was ceded to the Duke of Burgundy. The wines actually stayed local and only began expanding with the establishment of the French Railroad in the nineteenth century which brought it to a very lucrative Paris Market.
The winery was founded in 1859 by Louis Henry Denis Jadot who had already established himself as a substantial producer in the region with his purchase of the winery Clos de Ursules back in 1826. The family tradition of winemaking stayed intact for more than a century until its sale in 1985 to Rudy Kopf, Jadot’s U.S. Importer. The original family does keep an interest in the company with Pierre Henry Gagey holding the position of president.
France has long been known as a wine-producing country and it does produce a wide variety of fine wines. Although we here in the states mostly think of France as the home of champagne, which it is. However, a good French red or white is really of very high quality and very satisfying, although lighter than its Italian cousin. Originally produced as a celebration of the harvest once the Beaujolais AOC, a regulatory body was established in 1937, it could only be sold after December 15 in the year of the harvest. Taking its name from the region, as I said, which is just north of the city of Lyon, it is still relatively unknown, but in some vintages Beaujolais will produce more wine than the regions of Cote d’Or and Chablis combined.
I found this wine first because I liked the label, which is usually a draw for me. It is a dry red wine with a slightly acidic taste, again, indicative of the region, but does manage to add a slight touch of sweetness. It is very refreshing and light bodied, so it stands well on its own as an aperitif with very slight hints of strawberry, black cherry and spice. But the dominant taste is that of the light-skinned Gamay grape, the main ingredient. I guess that sometimes, the additional flavors can be fun and add some body or a more distinct personality to a wine. But a good quality grape and a correspondingly good fermentation process defines wine.
Just as an aside, the Gamay grape, from which this wine is made exclusively, is a cross between a pinot noir and the ancient white variety, Gouais, a central European fruit, most likely introduced to the region by the Romans. Seems as though wherever the ancient Romans travelled, they left behind a trail of wine grapes. I guess they are more attractive than the standard road sign.
Now, as a French wine, this vintage has it all. It is a bit on the lighter side, but that by no means is to say that it lacks flavor. With a slightly acidic taste and an alcohol content of 13% it pairs well with light cheeses and is perfectly suited to a wine and cheese party or a holiday get-together. It also enhances dishes such as duck, goose or game birds, as well as white fish. Because it is a red wine you would not expect such suggestions, but remember, this is light enough to enhance the flavors of lighter fare, rather than overtake them. And in the $12-14 price range, it is perfect for someone just starting out on their own wine journey.
Growing up in the Bronx, NY you get used to certain things. You know that there is a pizza place on almost every corner and every one is different. Some have more cheese, some a little tangier sauce. So you go to the one that caters to your taste on that day. We knew where to get the best egg cream, or where to get the best Coke (back in those days the coke was mixed at the counter. One tap for the syrup and the other for the seltzer). We knew which deli made the best sandwiches and which one would even “trust” you to pay later. But these are different times now. The Bronx is only a memory and my wife and I have settled into this foreign country called North Carolina. No more egg creams or Manhattan Specials. We traded that off for bar-b-cue and a one pot meal called a Low Country Boil. My grandfather is spinning in his grave right about now!
Originally called Frogmore Stew this dish originated in a small fishing community on St. Helena Island named Frogmore, near Hilton Head and Beaufort, South Carolina. It is also sometimes called Beaufort Stew. There are many variations of it ranging from Louisiana to New England, but the idea is the same all over: a meal for a bunch of people who don’t mind getting a little messy as long as the flavor and the fun of being together is more important. That is why this is so often used after a church function or for a fundraiser.
Here in North Carolina this is a simply prepared meal which takes just a few minutes. Ingredients are pretty basic but you can add some things to suit your taste. What is important though is the timing. You do have to be careful not to cook it too long, which I will go into in just a little bit.
INGREDIENTS: (forget the how much. That is not important)
GOOD kielbasa cut into ½ to 1 inch pieces
Shrimp ( cooked and cleaned is OK, but raw is better)
1 large onion, sliced
Potatoes, preferably small yukon gold, but red is the best, cut into 1 inch cubes
Old Bay Seasoning to taste about 2-4 tablespoons is plenty depending on the amount of water.
Less if you don’t like it
Corn on the cob (don’t DARE use frozen)
1 bottle of beer (optional)
Now, as I said above, timing is everything here. Normally the longer you cook something the better it comes. But with this, too much cooking will give you pulverized potatoes, mushy corn, tough shrimp and tasteless kielbasa. Timing! The name of the game.
Fill a large stock pot about ¾ full with water and the beer, give or take depending on how much stuff you want to add. Add the potatoes and sliced onion. Boil for about 10 minutes and no longer.
Add the corn on the cob. Bring this back to a boil and let it simmer for about 3 minutes, That’s all. Keep in mind that the potatoes are still cooking here. Now add the kielbasa. Then the shrimp and let that go for about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and just let it rest for about 5 minutes more. Drain off most of the water, leaving just a bit to keep everything hot and hold the flavor.
Serve on a plate with plenty of good spicy mustard (try the one with bourbon). Actually if we are really following tradition, this is eaten outside on a picnic table. If you are lucky enough to do that, line the table with a few layers of newspaper and, after you dump out the water, pour all the ingredients onto the newspaper to serve. Everyone can then just dig in. The aroma will call everyone to the table and the mixture of all the ingredients will make a nice, simple presentation. No fuss here. Just timing. Remember, we’re not making MASHED potatoes here. But cook it too long, and that’s what you’ll get.
Some variations do include crab or crawfish. But best to keep it simple the first time. You can always play around with it later. This is a dish you will probably want to go back to anyway. Oh, and keep some hot sauce on the side. Gives it a nice touch.
And there you have it. A simple meal prepared in minutes and ready to enjoy. And enjoy it you will. I am not really a beer fan, but a cold one goes real good here, or an ice cold coke. I can think of it as kind of a substitute for a plate of spaghetti or a really good meatball and a glass of wine. But here in the south, this is down home cookin’ that satisfies the senses and just says “Have a good time. Dig in, y’all.”
In the past I’ve written a few times about what I call “the good life,” and pretty much that is what this column is supposed to be about. What’s good in our lives and in our hearts. Our memories and our future. And just when you think you can’t stand it anymore, what’s good about me, you, yourself. So easy to be negative these days and seemingly so in style. But look around. There really is good all around you if you just take the time to notice it. It takes more work, more effort to find it sometimes, but that is only because it is so easy to find fault, the negative, the down side.
So, life isn’t treating you fair? Think again and go deep. Hey, there’s a positive thought right there. You can think. It may be a lost art, it may be something to wish we have grown somewhat unaccustomed, but it can be done. Think about your life, your hopes and dreams. Maybe things didn’t turn out as you planned in your youth, but you’re here now. Make the best of it. For example, A naval engineer named Richard Jones was trying to make a meter designed to monitor power on battleships. He was working with tension springs at the time and happened to drop one. Voila!
The SLINKY was born. I think his failure turned out pretty well for him.
Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn was baking a batch of her famous chocolate cookies. She happened to run out of baker’s chocolate. She broke up a bar of sweetened chocolate into small bits expecting them to melt and the chocolate chip cookie was born. Similarly things like potato chips and silly putty were invented either through frustration or as a by-product. These are pretty insignificant, but then, the pacemaker and even penicillin were not the intended product either. See? The veritable silver lining which started as the fly in the ointment.
So many times and maybe even too often for our personal taste, what we get out of life is not exactly what we want. Maybe there’s a plan there. Something out of our control, Call it a divine power or whatever you’d like, but there does seem to be a force that directs us to what we need to know or to learn, or for that matter, to have and to hold. Don’t you think there’s a reason you didn’t marry your high school sweetheart.
Or maybe you did. There is an old movie, The Strawberry Blonde, with James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and Olivia De Havilland that deals with this subject exactly. If you don’t know the movie I recommend it very highly, but if you do, you can easily see that Cagney’s character is so much better off with the wife he ended up with as opposed to the one he thought he wanted. It worked out for the best, as life usually does. Whether we know it or not.
So often, TOO often in fact we take things for granted. Our life itself, our freedoms are products of the past coupled with happenings of today. But if you take the time to think past your problems, relate to others, give some aid and comfort to someone less fortunate, it becomes pretty easy and rather rewarding. Kind of a feel good moment when all around you is turning to rot. How can you focus? How can you accomplish this? Too many ways to mention here, but a few come to mind. Don’t take me the wrong way here, but sometimes being a little self-centered is a good thing. If you can look at the guy sitting under a tree on a 90 degree day wearing everything he owns and has some bottle and cans in a shopping cart, you can bet that you are better off than he. Learn to appreciate what you have, rather than want for more. Remember the old soulful song by William DeVaughn that said “Though you may not drive a great big cadillac…just be thankful for what you’ve got.” (This was later covered by Curtis Mayfield.)
So, okay. What is this leading up to? Simplicity. Getting back to basics. Sure, I normally write about wine here and I am obviously not a sommelier, nor am I a connoisseur. But a simple thing like a glass of wine, good wine, in a reasonable price range can add to a mundane day. A good recipe can add some spice and I have put up a few of those too. But more to the point, look around. We have been given a beautiful planet with so much good all around. All the niceties. But if you don’t take the time to enjoy them, to savor all the flavors life has to offer you have missed out on so much. Don’t let negativity rule your life or burden your soul. You have problems, of course. We all do. But in the end, I’ll take mine over anyone else’s because they are in fact, mine, my own doing. Take responsibility.
Wine helps of course, as does good food and family. But the idea of a good life, of THE good life starts from within and works its way outward. It’s a glow that you never notice or a smile you don’t realize you have. It can be a twinkle in your eye or a spring in your step. Just know, you’ll get through this whatever it is. And you’re not alone. There’s a world of strength and companionship out there just waiting for you. So get a glass of wine and a salami sandwich. Throw some olive oil, lettuce and tomato on it and enjoy. That’s what it’s for!
Brunello di Montalcino is a red wine produced in the Tuscany region of Italy in the vineyards surrounding the small medieval town of Montalcino about 100 miles south of Florence (Firenze). Originally the Brunello grape was considered to be native to the area and the only place it was grown. But through some extensive research and testing which finally ended back in 1879, yes, that’s right, the grape was found to be of the same variety as Sangiovese and this was made the official designation. The name Brunello di Montalcino then evolved within the town of Montalcino to mean any wine made with 100% Sangiovese grapes. In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino was among the four wines awarded the first Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation. Today it is one of Italy’s best-known and most expensive wines.
So, as I said, this wine is a product of Tuscany, the area of Italy most known for fine wines of distinction. Produced and bottled by Azienda Agraria Mocali, this is a less expensive vintage than what the family normally produces. However, again, since it is made with only 100% Sangiovese, this is an exceptionally fine, yet value priced product. The Mocali Farm along with the winery was purchased in the 1950’s by Mr. Dino Ciacci who was one of the founders of the consortium, a free association of winemakers intent on safeguarding their wines and accentuating their qualities.
This was one of those bottles that caught my eye because of its attractive simplicity. However, one can easily see the words “Rosso di Toscana” along with the DOCG designation so I decided to give it a try as I do prefer wines from this region. Have to say here, great choice. This is a truly rich, ruby red wine in the glass. Its boldness comes from slight hints of dark chocolate and vanilla, kind of an odd combination because you may expect one to cancel out the other and possibly tilt a little toward the sweet side. In fact, this is a very dry, robust tasting wine with a strong, delectable aftertaste which lingers just long enough. This is attained through eight months of aging in oak barrels and another eight months in the bottle. Not for the faint of heart, nor is it for lovers of a lighter wine, this delivers quality and flavor with a punch. From the look in the glass to the first sip to the bottom of the bottle, this wine delivers! I would say that it does benefit from maybe 45-60 minutes in a decanter which will also allow the aroma to escape and have your guests waiting with some anticipation.
As an interesting aside, the name, PIAGGIONI, is derived from the hillsides, the escarpments, which are steep slopes usually found at the edge of a mountain ridge. Utilizing mountain slopes to control ripening requires some grapes to grow facing north where coolness makes them ripen slowly while those facing south will mature more quickly. Blending them together produces a more complex, aromatic wine and is a process used by the top producers in the area.
Awards for this wine are many gotten from Wine Spectator (2012,13,15), Wine Enthusiast (2008,10) and Vini Buoni d’Italia (2016) and more. Because of the richness and body, this wine would be best served in colder months or with foods which can match its texture. Beef ribs, maybe a rare porterhouse or an aged filet would be perfect, as would a traditional Sunday gravy with braciole and all the usual accompaniments. Bison or wild boar would also pair well, if you are the adventurous type. But when there is a fire in the hearth and snow on the roof, this wine would be a most welcome friend for an afternoon or evening with dried sausage and some locatelli cheese. At about $15 it is a value wine with history, flavor and good company adding to an experience.