JULY 4, 2022

OLD GLORY

Today we commemorate the birth of a nation. A nation steeped in a democracy the world has not seen since the days of ancient Athens and Rome. This experiment, as it is called, has managed now to endure since 56 of our Founding Fathers risked their lives and the lives of their families by signing a document, considered treasonous by the mother country, but nonetheless deemed necessary and appropriate by these men. This began our history as a sovereign nation. It was the audacity of these 56 men, their relative insolence to stand up to the most powerful country in the world and declare its independence that gave this country its birth. But it was a war, a long armed conflict, that gave that document teeth. And it was a war, supported by the majority but certainly not unanimously that set up this fledgling nation and began a journey into the unknown. A journey not even attempted anywhere else on the planet.

Today, we have cause, reason to celebrate this nation even as we move forward in such internal conflict. Fact is, we are free enough to express this conflict even as far as some extreme groups have taken this liberty. Yeah, LIBERTY. That is a beautiful word. And nowhere on the planet is it used more frequently, more honorably and at the same time dishonorably than it is allowed to be used here in this country.

Freedom. Freedom to live, to worship and to vote as we see fit. Thousands have died for it and no doubt thousands more will. It is a right that has been earned by the blood of our ancestors, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who gave their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice so we may enjoy what we have. They have not died in vain.

No secret that we are facing some fierce times. I don’t remember a more divided country in my lifetime, even during the turbulent 70’s when the whole system seemed to be falling apart. But we survived then as we will now I’m sure.

American Cemetery, Normandy

I think that people need to be reminded sometimes of what we have here. We are still the envy of every nation on earth. We have survived civil war and internal strife. We have “made the world safe for democracy” more than once. We have fulfilled our commitment to the world whatever you as an individual may think that to be. Our servicemen, our children have fought and died in every corner of the rounded world for a variety of reasons yet we see no new territory, no new states. Not many nations can make that claim and not many wish to.

So, on this day, in direct contrast to some who choose not to celebrate, against what is now the majority of our own people who responded to a poll saying that they are not proud of this country, there are those of us who would respond differently. We ARE proud of this country. Proud of what it stands for. Proud of what it has accomplished. Proud of its history and hopeful for its future. Maybe what some do not understand, or don’t want to, is that without this country it is easy to imagine what this world would be like. Strife, war, famine and disease would be the norm and only because we, this country is not here to address it.

Perfect? I think not. But show me something that is perfect, and I’ll show you something that’s not. Of course we have a darker side to our history. Show me a nation that does not. But then, show me a nation that is more admired and hated at the same time. Show me a nation that has contributed more to the human condition while at the same time been betrayed by nations we have saved.

Yeah. We have a lot to be proud of here in this country and today is a very appropriate day to show that pride and love of country. And for those who disagree, take some solace in the fact that you are allowed to feel that way and express your feelings openly. That is your right. That is even your responsibility. That, in a nutshell, is America.

FATHER’S DAY 2022

“A father is someone you look up to no matter how tall you grow.”— Unknown

Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there.
You know it’s funny. As years go on and kids grow they become men and women. GROWN men and women. How does that happen? How do we go as boys to men? From teens to young adults, from sons and daughters to parents and beyond. I guess this is what is called “natural progression.” So to all you fathers out there…HAPPY FATHER’s DAY!
And remember, it only takes biology to be a father.
It takes love, patience and understanding to be a DAD.

GOOD SUMMERTIME RED WINES

“Summertime. And the livin’ is easy.” From the 1935 opera, “Porgy and Bess.”

Red wines are mostly known for their flavor. The hardiness of a good, solid red wine just oozes from an unopened bottle with aromas and beauty that transfers from there, to a decanter, to a glass and finally to the palate. The color of the wine even says that the essence will stay with you for a while. At this time of year though, some people will shy away from the reds and move to a lighter looking Cabernet or Pinot. But there are many red wines that go very well with summertime. These wines are a little on the lighter side but still deliver the experience one expects. Now, be advised, I do not go for light wines, much as I don’t go for light beer. I want flavor and body. So, here are a few good red wines, not so heavy as you may expect, but still good drinking wine.

FANTINI SANGIOVESE
Part of the Farnese family of fine wines, this wine comes from the Abruzzo Region of Italy. Being a Sangiovese, it is lighter than a Chianti but still delivers excellent flavor. Fantini employs six top winemakers to work in perfect harmony with the grapes and ensure they are turned into great wines. With a history dating back to the 16th century, Princess Margaret of Austria and her husband, Prince Farnese produced wines that were served to all the crowned heads of Europe and at official state dinners. Then as now, only the finest grapes are used, locally sourced from mountainside vineyards grown under strict supervision with a bow to quality and tradition. This is a medium bodied wine with firm tannins and good balance. Hints of wood come through in aroma and taste with added essences of strawberry and black cherry. All this makes for excellent pairing with grilled meats, ribs, steaks and the like but also for the pool party crowd. The label is kind of dark, almost mysterious. But there is nothing mysterious about the flavor and the quality.

BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATES SHIRAZ
Nestled away on the Southeastern side of the continent is the Barossa Valley. Small by comparison to most of the more famous wine growing regions, the Barossa has been producing wine, red only, since 1985 which makes it a relative newcomer. However, this valley is not, as its name may imply in Italy. Nor is it in Europe at all. It is located in Australia which is now producing some excellent vintages. The climate here is warm with lower humidity but higher sunshine hours. This combined with the rich soil is perfect for growing wine grapes and produces a smaller berry and a smaller yield which results in a higher concentration of juice. Australia is a relative newcomer to winemaking but they have done an excellent job and do produce some nice wines. The climate here is warm and dry which enables the fruit to ripen with a vibrancy and depth not really expected. Again, this wine pairs well with grilled meats like steaks and chops cooked over hot coals so that the richness of the meat is washed down with a wine that challenges a steak to be more daring.

TAVERNELLO VINO ROSSO
Labels are such a funny thing and are the ultimate sales pitch. They can be ornate or plain, bright or dark, even busy or calming. But they all have one thing in common, that being the label is the ultimate shelf talker. This label is no different as it states, adorned with black lettering on a bright golden background, it is the #1 selling wine in Italy! (Why would they lie, after all?) This is a true “vino di tavola,” or table wine, light tasting with a good aroma and excellent flavor that really rivals much more expensive wines. Dry, with a slightly fruity taste, it has no room for sweetness or acidity. Rather, it is pretty well balanced and therefore very welcoming. Noticeably lighter in color than most reds, it is pretty deceiving because of the punch it can deliver. This wine, as with the others, is good with charcoal broiled meats but is probably the best of these three for patio or poolside. Quite pretty in the glass too because natural sunlight will shine through it rather than be absorbed by it, so it makes for some very interesting reflections. The flavor is definitely there and trust me, no one will believe what you paid for it!

So, be bold. Be daring! Share a red wine this summer. It may be a totally new and unique experience, but it will also be very rewarding and possibly, yes, quite possibly, give you the reputation of being someone who bucks the trend and dares to be different. Someone who doesn’t only march to the beat of a different drum, but beats the drum.


THREE SUMMERTIME WINES

Here in the Carolinas the summer can come early. Even in this part of the state, inland and a little elevated, summertime begins in mid-April and lasts until it decides to leave. Mornings can be cool with temps in the 50’s but by about 10:00 we are moving up into the 80’s and higher, with an afternoon rain forecast almost every day which rarely comes, by the way. These days call for a nice cool drink, and since I really don’t care that much for beer, a nice white wine will do just fine. Lower alcohol and less sugar than a mixed drink, wine is the perfect accompaniment for relaxing, reading, writing or just being lazy. So here are three wines I recommend for a day like that.

PICPOUL de PINET

This is a lovely wine from the largest wine producing region in France, Languedoc-Roussillon. The name of the wine itself refers to the grape used to make it, Piquepoul blanc, rather than the region. Light in color with a slight shade of greenish-yellow, it is a citrusy wine that balances both sweet and tart perfectly with a hint of grapefruit and lime with a splash of melon to cut the acidity perfectly. More flavorful than a traditional Pinot Grigio, this is a wine that will become a favorite as it blends so well with trout or poultry, but really drinks best on its own. I took a chance on this wine a while back as I was drawn to it by a very attractive bottle. Since, it has become a family favorite.
The wine consists of 100% Picpoul (Piquepoul) grapes, a very traditional, local variety grown on sun drenched hillsides with vines averaging between 15-20 years old. A very generous nod is given here to tradition and history as harvesting is done at night at perfect maturity. In France it is considered to be the go to pairing for shellfish and seafood. At about $11 this is not only a value, it is a treasure.

PROPHECY PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE
The slogan of this company is “See the unseen. Try the Untried.” This is a different type of company in that it is not restricted to any one country. Rather, it imports grapes from the finest wine-growing regions of the world, Italy, France, California, and crafts them into certain varietals using the appropriate grapes. What strikes you first is the unusual art on the label. Designed by Victo Ngai, an award winning illustrator herself, the label shows a woman, a STAR, blending inspiration and intuition with flowing pure water and the strength of the eight pointed golden stars surrounding her. What strikes you about the wine though, is its purity of flavor, and it’s surprisingly clear appearance. Although it clearly has the taste of citrus, a pinot grigio staple, one can also get a taste of pear and apple which gives this wine a very crisp taste bordering on natural carbonization. Don’t misunderstand, this is not a carbonated beverage. But, the purity and complexity of it almost lends itself to feel that way. The bouquet is light but fragrant, and it would benefit from a few minutes before pouring. Legs, while almost invisible are definitely there, and coat the glass with a nicely clear to opaque effect.
I have enjoyed this wine often, having been attracted to the bottle because of the label. After drinking it, I think it would pair well with a flaky, tender fish such as flounder or trout, though it may be kind of lost with something more substantial like a cod or some shellfish. I think though, its finest use would be as a pure sipping wine, served with some cheeses and very interesting conversation. A romantic evening with that special someone also would not be out of the question.

MATUA SAUVIGNON BLANC
A beautiful wine from New Zealand that just says summer. Light, airy and fresh with a fragrance of citrus that escapes from the bottle from the moment it is opened. I don’t know what summertime is like in the lands down under, but if there are any wine drinkers there, this must be a sellout. Sauvignon Blanc is a very special wine, and here at Matua, even more so because back in 1974, it was the first of its kind produced in this country. Grapes are chosen from across Marlborough giving you the most crisp, clean flavors. These vineyards, located at the northern tip of the country’s southernmost island, benefit from stony soils, sunny climate and wide temperature ranges giving the grapes a rich and hearty flavor that stands up so well to foods such as poultry and shellfish. But it is the influence of the citrus, the unmistakable hint of grapefruit and passion fruit that really makes this a superior wine to enjoy outdoors. Bring out some cheese or fuss over some risotto and this wine will exceed any expectations. Each step of wine enjoyment is a superior experience with this wine as it is nice in the bottle, pleasing to the eye, fragrant upon opening and an almost explosive taste that rewards the senses. This is a truly outstanding wine at a value price.

There you have it. Three wines to add to your summer enjoyment. So kick back, relax and enjoy. And if you have friends over, impress them with your wine choice by serving any of these chilled or over ice. In fact, impress your guests with your “drink fussiness,” and instead of ice cubes, freeze some white grapes and use them in place of cubes. It’s a real nice touch. We will discuss some reds next time.

MEMORIAL DAY 2022

This is Memorial Day weekend. This at one time was a solemn, sacred time in our nation, dedicated to those who gave their lives so we could live the way we do. Those brave men and women, a whole lot braver than I and too many others, dedicated a part of their young lives to travel to far away places to fight and die against an unseen, unknown enemy who threatened the world, who tried to force their dictatorial will on the rest of us. It is for them that we have this time. For them, for the soldiers, farmers and statesmen who fought to establish this nation. For those who fought and died to preserve the Union. For them, we set aside one day in their honor. A nice thought.

We are now engaged in a period in this nation where these values have been sadly forgotten. In my mind, that disgraces the memory of all who have gone before us. We desperately need to remember our past, what we were, and how we got here. How they earned the rights we now enjoy and take for granted.

The Battle of Gettysburg

But imagine the world without this country. Imagine a world where the United States is not here to send millions of dollars in aid overseas. To send help to those starving or battling the effects of an earthquake, drought or famine. Imagine a world where we, the American people, are not a part. For the better part of a century we have been the planet’s “go-to” country and we have responded admirably. That is us. That is this country.

American Cemetery at Normandy Beach

So, I am asking you to take a few minutes this weekend to think of that. To say a short prayer for our American ancestors, without whom I cannot imagine a world. It annoys the hell out of me when I hear some people with the gall to refer to our forefathers as “misogynist jerk-faces,” as was recently stated on a national news channel. It annoys me when I see the disrespect, the hatred for which we stand. Sure, we are not perfect. We have a history, as every nation does, of times when we have a right to be disappointed. But on the whole, we are a nation of very generous people. A nation where we can live freely to grow and to prosper. We are a great experiment that has become a model for the rest of the world. That gives us a reason to celebrate, to be proud. That sets us apart.

Remember our past. Build on it. Learn from it. We are American. And from sea to shining sea we are the nation, the people, to which every other country on the planet aspires. Remember that this weekend.

“…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863.

This is Memorial Day weekend. This at one time was a solemn, sacred time in our nation, dedicated to those who gave their lives so we could live the way we do. Those brave men and women, a whole lot braver than I and too many others, dedicated a part of their young lives to travel to far away places to fight and die against an unseen, unknown enemy who threatened the world, who tried to force their dictatorial will on the rest of us. It is for them that we have this time. For them, for the soldiers, farmers and statesmen who fought to establish this nation. For those who fought and died to preserve the Union. For them, we set aside one day in their honor. A nice thought.We are now engaged in a period in this nation where these values have been sadly forgotten. In my mind, that disgraces the memory of all who have gone before us. We desperately need to remember our past, what we were, and how we got here. How they earned the rights we now enjoy and take for granted.

EVENUS ZINFANDEL PORT 2008

“ Education is not a part of life. Education IS life.” One of my college professors

Before going into specifics about this wine I have to tell you that this was really a unique experience. Since I am not really a fan of dessert wines and I normally don’t like anything too sweet, I was reluctant to say the least. But this wine was served at a dinner party with some good friends and they had held it for a long time waiting for the right moment and the right people to serve it to. They even recommended that I write about it. As I stated above, education is life. Be bold. Be open. Never be afraid to try something new and different. You just might get a very pleasant surprise.

Candlewood Cellars produces this wine in the Paso Robles wine region of California. This is a very scenic area of the Golden State with about 26,000 acres devoted to more than 180 wineries growing 40 different winegrape varieties ranging from Italian, French and Spanish. Situated just about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this is a part of California wine country that should never be missed. Like most of the state the climate is ideal and the working soil continually yields consistent crops. But this vintage presented a challenge because of an abnormally cold April which destroyed much of the crop with frost. Later, winds caused uneven flowering on the vines which was followed by a hotter than normal August and another frost in early October. But it was the nicer weather in later October that saved the crop although yields were less than normal. The later ripening grapes though produced a very rich tasting wine that was well balanced and flavorful.

Now port wine is originally from Portugal, where tradition dictates that it must be crushed by foot, and many enthusiasts still feel that this is the true, real port wine product. It is a sweeter wine with tastes of raspberry, blackberry, cinnamon and chocolate which makes it perfect for after dinner. The two major styles are a Red port which is slightly less sweet, and Tawny port which is more complex which with an injection of caramel, is the sweeter of the two. But what makes Port wine unique is the blending of the grapes. To be a true Port wine, grapes must be of Portuguese origin and can actually contain up to 52 varieties of grapes each of them adding a different look and taste. Port wine is also very fragrant with noticeable essences of dark berries, vanilla and cinnamon.

Evenus Zinfandel Port is the first port wine I have tasted in years and I have to admit, I’ve been missing something here. Not too sweet but with a smoother, richer texture than a table wine, I thoroughly enjoyed it much to my surprise! After a dinner of grilled meats we found this to be a very nice addition to dessert. A very pleasant diversion from coffee, it was served with a lemon cake topped by a limoncello glaze and some berries and the combination was absolutely perfect! Thinking back, I kind of think that the rich taste of the meat was a good lead in to the wine as the heartiness was a compliment rather than a contrast.

Sporting a simple, yet well done label showing a very demure woman on a pale background, there is a “come hither” look to her. Not mysterious but still arousing a curiosity. This is a sipping wine, meant to be savored and meant to be something different. Wine is always best when it is shared with friends, but you also have to consider that wine has friends too! And this particular wine will count among its best friends, both blue and goat cheese before dinner, and some dark chocolate for after. Keep in mind that this is a Red, or Ruby Port, so it is only slightly sweet and that is where it will really shine as it blends with the bitterness of a dark chocolate. And what is a better combination than that? Two of God’s greatest gifts, wine and chocolate with good friends and good company thrown in for good measure. That’s called a can’t miss. Also, keep in mind that this wine is meant to be stored. It should be drinking very well for the next ten years, at least.

Yeah. Education. It’s a great thing.

Alcohol – 18% by volume
Price – about $28

LOUIS BERNARD COTES du RHONE 2017

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Nestled in France is a region where winemaking is more than an occupation. It is an art. Much the same as creating a sculpture or painting a portrait or landscape, making a good wine takes dedication and commitment, as well as a love and respect for the process and the history behind it.

The vineyards of the Rhone Valley are some of the oldest in France and follow the path of the Rhone River. Vines have been cultivated there for centuries, but it was in the fourteenth century that the region really hit its stride with the arrival of the Popes. For most of the first half of the century the center of the Church was located here due to the influence of the French King Philip IV, or “Philip the Fair.” Times being what they were, church officials were accustomed to certain luxuries and wine was certainly among them. But the Papacy did eventually find its way back to Rome and it was not until 1937 with the creation of the Cotes-du-Rhone A.O.C. by Baron Le Roy, that the vineyards were finally recognized for the richness of the soils and the special characteristics of the native grapes.

Wines produced in the north and south of the region are distinctive and excellent, enjoying a reputation the world over. While the north is known for the Syrah for red wines and Marsanne for the whites, the main grape in the south is Grenache which is blended with other varieties to produce wines that are perfectly balanced. Here, the Mediterranean climate bathes the vines in just enough sunlight, the perfect amount of rain and consistent temperatures, while the soil, rich in minerals, is a mixture of clay-limestone, pebbles and sand. This part of the Rhone Valley is the home, the birthplace of Cotes du Rhone. In 1729 a royal edict required that each cask produced in the region be branded “C.D.R.” or Cotes du Rhone, and it was here in 1976 that Louis Bernard established the partnerships with an unconventional and inventive approach.

The Cotes du Rhone designation allows winemakers in the region to choose from about 21 different varieties of grapes to blend into their final product. Some of the partnerships will add their names to the label which assures an even higher quality, kind of like an artist attaching his name to a painting. There are also two other designations of the wine where the words “Villages” or “Cru” is added to the label with the former having lower yields but higher alcohol content, and the latter being of the highest quality level.

As for the characteristics of this particular blend, it is a bit on the lighter side. Deep red in color without the purplish hues sometimes seen in red wines. After decanting for almost two hours, there is an aroma of red cherries and plum. On the palate it is very well balanced with a full, pleasing taste that lingers just long enough. Be assured that the second sip is just as good, and even compliments the first as the flavor builds to a light crescendo of grape and dark fruits. This is a very versatile wine. As we approach the warmer months I think that too many thoughts move to white wines because of a lighter taste and look. But here is a red that can also fill that bill nicely. Light enough for an aperitif. Light enough to accompany poultry or lighter cheeses. But with enough of an influence of blackberry and plum, enough body and taste to pair with stewed or grilled red meats. . We found this paired very well with a grilled rack of lamb. The tenderness of the meat with the succulent flavor of lightly seasoned lamb was a wonderful combination. Added to that was a lemon roasted broccoli and the trio went together perfectly.

This wine is drinking well now and will be for the next 3-5 years. It is made to be aged. We found it to be a very nice wine, as I said, versatile and could become a go-to wine for gatherings and holidays.

Alcohol – 14%
Price – about $14

If you are familiar with this wine or something similar, I would welcome your thoughts.

CHÂTEAU HAUT-DUVERGER 2014

When it comes to red wines, Bordeaux is a true classic. Usually a romantic blending with a base of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and melded with varying percentages of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot this is a wine which is truly international in scope. Bordeaux has its roots in France but blends are now produced in virtually every wine-making country in the world including here in the States.

This house is for sale in St Ciers de Canesse

The winery is based in a farmhouse in the town of Saint Ciers de Canesse and lorded over by the Gravino family as it has been for four generations. Bruno Gravino brings a lifetime of experience as he learned first from his parents, from whom he took over the operation, and later employed by several other companies close to the family business. The vineyard straddles two communes, one being Saint Ciers de Canesse, the other Saint Trojant. As an aside, a French commune is a small rural community, where landowners share ownership of the property and the division of work. These particular communes are nestled on gravel slopes and clay and limestone valleys with a north/south facing which are just bathed by the sun. It is a region that can trace its wine production back to the third century. Using a method of cultivation known as “Reasoned Struggle,” this can be classed as a semi-organic wine because chemical fertilizers are only used when absolutely necessary. In fact the only thing governing each grower is his own conscience and none are subject to any checks as to what is permissible.

This wine, as is true with Bordeaux, is a very deep red/purple color with a distinct aroma of dry black fruits. As it settles into a decanter, which I highly recommend, it sits nicely as it allows the air to mellow it out. Do allow it ample time, about an hour or so to aerate. In the glass it reflects light beautifully as the color deepens in response to the light. On the palate, it is bold, with hints of cherry and leather. Just a note here: a Bordeaux from France is quite different from that produced anywhere else in the world. It is far more earthy and dry, much more so than say its California cousin, which is more on the fruity side. The flavor is more balanced, with more minerality, yet are actually a little lighter in alcohol.

Now, with all of this in mind, keep in mind that this is a French wine which, since its inception, has catered to French tastes, French cuisine and the French lifestyle. So even though this is lighter than an American Bordeaux it can still stand up to a hearty meal. Pair it with something special like a Beef Bourguignon or grilled, well seasoned tenderloin. With an appetizer, I have to admit it would overpower some lighter cheeses like say goat cheese, but would go well with more pronounced cheeses like a vieux lille which is soaked in brine for three months, or with epoisses. Both are soft and strong. Also, both are described by the normally very proper French as “stinky.” Deservedly so, by the way.

Interestingly, the winery is open for tours and gatherings. Guests are welcome for daytime tours and rooms can be had in the castle. Dinners are served in very formal French fashion and are truly an experience to be cherished and remembered.

I found this wine to be a very pleasant, drinkable wine. A bit on the light side, but with a taste and a smooth feel so it does satisfy. It may never become a go-to wine. I would not hesitate to buy it again and serve it even to most discerning guests.

Blend – 60% Merlot, 30% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Price – About $12.00

SAN GIUSEPPE VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO CLASSICO SUPERIORE

St. Joseph. Note the lily

Saint Joseph is most often thought of as the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus and also his earthly, or foster father. But over the years as Christianity grew he was given many other hats and responsibilities. He is considered the patron saint of workers, with a feast day of May 1, patron saint of families, teachers, furniture makers (he was a carpenter by trade), travelers and a host of other things way too numerous to list here. His feast day is celebrated on March 19 which I grew up holding sacred as my name day as I was given his name at birth. In Italy and to Italians all over the world, “La Festa di San Giuseppe,” is a major holiday. And so it is that when I saw this bottle of wine it kind of called out to me. Kind of like hearing someone in the old neighborhood yelling “Hey, Joey Boy!!!”

Juliet’s Balcony, Verona

Valpolicella is an excellent wine from the Veneto region of Italy but specifically from the area around Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet as well as two gentlemen from Verona with whom Shakespeare was acquainted. It is made from three distinct grapes, Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and amd Molinara, each contributing a unique characteristic. But this particular wine is made from 70% Corvina Veronese, 15% Corvinone and 15% Rondinella, allowing for a uniqueness, a slight variation. There are also a few tiers of Valpolicella with this one being a Classico Superiore meaning that it is made only from grapes grown in the original production zone, has an alcohol content of at least 12%, is aged for at least one year and is made with partially dried Amarone grape skins in the second fermentation, or the ripasso.

Founded in 1989 by Robert Musoforiti and Frank Gentile, this was a typical wine importing business. But when they lost their largest selling brand to another importer they decided to begin again and create their own brand of premium wines exclusively from Italy. Thus the new, more exciting and personal brand was born, dedicated to quality and personality, and a devotion to the saint they prayed to. On each label you will find a lily, a flower usually being held by the saint, as a silent tribute to him.

Negrar Hills, Verona

Ripasso Valpolicella is a dry red wine made from the grapes grown in the Negrar Hills of Verona. This area is considered to be the finest spot for grape growing due to its microclimate. Harvesting at just the right time is just one of the many secrets to making this wine a true Classico Superiore. After the initial fermentation, the young wine is mixed, as I said above, with just pressed Amarone skins to undergo a second fermentation in oak barrels. This is what produces a stronger bouquet and a rich, velvety smoothness.

Now, Valpolicella wine is an excellent table wine. Good on its own it will also complement either a lighter meal of say lamb or pork, but will also pair very well with more robust dishes like a beef roast or tenderloin, or an old-fashioned Sunday gravy with all the usual trimmings like sausage, meatballs and the like. But it will also go well with hard cheese and dried meat appetizers like fresh mozzarella with prosciutto and arugula or soppressata.

Now, maybe I am a little prejudiced because of the name, after all, what is a greater honor than drinking wine with your name on the bottle, but I found this wine to be a real find. Rich ruby red color with a slight hint of violet. On the nose there is a hint of red berries and an equally slight hint of spice, pepper mostly which almost adds a mystery to it. On the palate, it is dry and full bodied, more so than other wines of this type, but velvety smooth with an ever so slight taste of vanilla. Because of the body of this wine it may not be the perfect selection for a hot summer day on the patio or by the pool. But for a dry, cool day outside, or when you crank up the A/C, it is perfect.

Alcohol – 13.5%
Price – about $17

By the way, your comments are always welcome and appreciated.

Alcohol – 13.5%
Price – about $17

A MUSICAL TRIBUTE TO GREATNESS

I think that Rock and Rock n’ Roll music has a life all its own. I can remember the last generation calling it “Jungle music” and “Garbage” as they compared it to the music of their youth with performers like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and the like. I guess that some of that could be true, but in the end, each generation has a message, a soul that is fed by music, by lyrics and by our own revered performers. No doubt the movements of the sixties and the seventies brought a message to our songs and influenced it heavily. But later, that era has been immortalized further if that can be true by songs paying homage to the songs and the performers. Now I hope that I have piqued your interest. If so, then read on and you’ll see what I mean.

LIFE IS A ROCK – Reunion/Joey Levine
For those of you who don’t know, Joey Levine was a singer who gave us such great hits as, “Yummy, yummy,yummy, I got love in my tummy” and some other bubblegum type tunes. “Life is a rock but the radio rolled me. Gotta turn it up louder so my DJ told me,” not really a composition that gets remembered like others, but here, Levine and his backups really dove into some history and sort of in rap fashion lines up a wild roster of rock and roll legends like Nilsson, Mott the Hoople, Richie Valens, and then goes into some period dances like the locomotion and the shimmy, and then goes further and hits on FM and AM radio, greeting and salutations, take me higher and rolls right back into Leon Russell. Even Doris Day gets a mention. It is a very imaginative song that reflects music and trends as well as a life long past.

ROCK & ROLL HEAVEN – The Righteous Brothers.
“If you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand.” This is the opening line to a song that lovingly brings you to a few musical eras. It is a tribute to so many great performers like Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Bobby Darin and others. Each mention is of a different genre, a different style but a simple, unique measure of greatness and influence. Delivered masterfully by this blue-eyed soul group this is a tribute like no other because of the range of artists it covers. Listen to it a few times so you can really appreciate not only musicians named, but also to listen to a really great song, two perfectly blended voices and a journey through a time in music that has since not been matched.

EMPTY GARDEN – Elton John
The ultimate tribute to John Lennon. The music, the lyrics and the symbolism all merge into what is actually an excellent tune that tugs at your heartstrings. There were a few songs released about Lennon’s murder the best known other than this, “All Those Years Ago” by George Harrison, but this is the definitive one, personifying Lennon as a farmer, “A gardener that cared a lot…a gardener like that no one can replace. Elton John wrote and recorded tributes to Marilyn Monroe and then rewrote that one for Princess Diana, but this one song of his really hits home and uses symbolism just perfectly which is kind of a symbol in itself for that time in our lives.

VINCENT – Don McLean
Think of Don McLean and your immediate thought goes to “American Pie” a song about the day the music died in a plane crash taking the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. A great song it is but I think that with this one, about the tortured life of Vincent Van Gogh, McLean hit an even higher point. Maybe because of the subject matter which opened our eyes to mental illness and how it had been a problem for so many in the past. Here he paints a picture of the artist and his work while all the while Van Gogh lived in virtual poverty and suffered immeasurably. One of the last lines of the song, “I could have told you Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you,” is an even sadder comment than the one that mentions the fact that Van Gogh did kill himself. But the lyrics, the background music and McLean’s voice all blend to make this a very powerful ballad, a tribute to a man whose greatness was only realized after his death, and a soulful almost haunting comment on his life and struggles.

ABRAHAM, MARTIN and JOHN – Dion DiMucci
Better known only as Dion, formerly as Dion and the Belmonts, this Bronx born Rock and Roll idol put it all together in one of my favorite songs of all time. Often called the “Liberal’s Lament” this song deals with the tragic deaths of three American leaders, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy. Each one is praised in this song as a leader, as a person who fought for freedom and was killed before his dream could be realized. It is kind of a quirky song though because each verse is virtually the same and it ends with the three of them walking over a hill as they wander into history. “Didn’t you love the things that they stood for…”

So, there you have it, a nice list of songs you can listen to on maybe a rainy day to bring back some memories of your youth. In a way they may bring a tear to your eye, but that’s okay. They were written and performed as a tribute, and like any tribute, those being feted were no longer with us. There are a lot of others too. Maybe some other time.