Sicily


Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the largest province of Italy. Its proximity to the toe of the Italian boot and map of sicilyto the coast of North Africa, and its geographical convergence in ancient sea-lanes means not only that the island was settled early by seafaring peoples from eastward — first the Phoenicians, then the Greeks — but that it served as a flash-point for contention, conquest and subjugation, all the way through the 19th Century. It strikes the heart of the history-lover with awe to think that cities like Syracuse and Palermo are among the oldest continuously inhabited population centers in Europe. The former was established by Greeks on the island’s southeastern coast in 734 B.C. The older Palermo, on the northwest coast, was settled by the Phoenicians, who explored the island’s western regions, in the 10th Century B.C. In fact, as you stroll down the long, straight, narrow main street in Palermo’s oldest quarter, still battered by the Allied bombing of World War II, guides will tell you that it was laid out by the Phoenicians, so you are walking where feet have trod for three millennia.

When you travel through western Sicily, you could readily believe that the island was dredged from the sea by Neptune’s trident and hammered out on Vulcan’s forge. The rugged hills stand precipitous, seemingly random in configuration in great blocks of granite and sandstone. Among those green-swaddled hills and valleys, near the commune of Sambuco di Sicilia, lies Stemmari, a wine estate dedicated to producing enjoyable and authentic varietal wines at affordable prices, aimed primarily at the American market. Stemmari is owned by Gruppo Mezzacorona, the well-known producer in Trentino, in the foothills of the Italian Dolomites. Mezzacorona’s other brands include Castel Firmian; Rotari, which makes traditional method sparkling wines; Tolloy; and Feudo Arancio, also in Sicily.

The winery of Stemmari, spread along a gently sloping hillside, looks out to a succession of crests and valleys that march to the sea. The stemmari 1architecture — clean and elegant — echoes the traditional style of the region, and when visitors stand in the palm-shaded courtyard, they have no idea that behind several of those chaste white walls are arrayed the tanks and barrels and other equipment of winemaking. Winemaker for Stemmari is Lucio Matricardi, a man who defines the notions of affability, volubility and good humor. A tour of Stemmari’s estate vineyards — I and several other winewriters on a sponsored trip — is an exercise in education, information, folktale and local lore, all embellished and enhanced by comedic asides that somehow contribute to the overall learning experience.

The winery is completely solar-powered, recycles water and employs sustainable practices in the vineyards. Stemmari was the first winery in Italy to receive EMAS 2 certification on the entire production and is certified according to UNI-ENISO 14011 environmental guidelines. The estate continuously experiments with grape varieties planted in different plots, and if that variety doesn’t perform as anticipated in that particular climat, the vineyard is torn out and replanted. I mentioned to Matricardi that such a procedure must be expensive. “That’s true,” he said, “but we want to get things right. And the money is there. Mezzacorona sells grapes to producers in Trentino that would surprise you, such as –,” but here his importer representative cut him off. The importer is Prestige Wine Imports, based in New York and a subsidiary of Gruppo Mezzacorona.) The implication was clear; Mezzacorona possesses deep pockets since the company controls one-third of the production in Trento and sells surplus grapes to other producers.

And what about the wines?
1432227244Stemmari Dalila NV Bottle
Of the 11 products in the Stemmari roster, nine are 100 percent varietal and two are blends. The indigenous grapes grillo and moscato, for white, and nero d’avola, for red, are made as varietal wines and also blended into the proprietary Dalila (80 percent grillo, 20 percent viognier) and Cantodoro (80 percent nero d’avola, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon). The “international” grape varieties pinot grigio, chardonnay, pinot noir — which Matricardi called “the mother-in-law” grape for its difficulty — and cabernet sauvignon are also made into 100 percent varietal wines. Nero d’avola, in addition, is made into a rose. The use of oak barrels, for the chardonnay and the red wines, is discreet.

As I mentioned, the Stemmari products are designed to sell inexpensively, that is, for about $10 and can be found throughout the country priced from about $9 to $12. Within that range, these are bargains. In fact, I’ll go farther and say that the Stemmari Pinot Noir, stamped with varietal and geographic clarity, ranks among the best moderately priced pinot noirs available in America, followed, in my estimation, by the robust, earthy Nero d’Avola and the charming, fruit-filled Dalila. Stemmari fashions grillo grapes into the delicate, slightly effervescent, wildly floral Baci Vivaci, a delightful quaff our group must have consumed gallons of with our meals. These are not wines intended for the ages or to compete with the world’s prestigious labels. They are, instead, wines made thoughtfully and seriously and offered at a more than decent price.

The dominant force in Sicilian cuisine, not surprisingly, is the sea. Every meal consists of a procession of crustaceans and fish prepared by different methods, though often served raw and lightly dressed. The famous deep-water red shrimp — Aristaeomorpha foliacea— make a regular appearance at the beginning of lunch and dinner, the tiny fire-engine-hued crustaceans bathed in olive oil and lemon juice and eaten au natural. Grilled octopus is a requirement, sometimes accompanied by white beans. Grilled or seared fish are presented simply, straight from the fire or the saute pan, keeping them as fresh as possible. Pasta dishes tend to have a seafood component, sea urchin being a favorite ingredient.

Our introduction to Sicilian fare was dinner at Restaurant Porto San Paolo, located in a 400-year-old fortified tower that looms over ristorante_da_vittorio_porto_palo_1E3-600x300 the harbor of the town of Sciacca, on the island’s southwest coast. Our table on a second-floor balcony gave us a wonderful view of the fishing boats tied up at twilight and the vista of clouds at dusk. Lunch the next day was at the beautiful Da Vittorio Restaurant in Porto Palo di Menfi. It’s a beach-front establishment that allows a breathtaking panorama of the aquamarine Mediterranean, just beyond the windows. (That’s their red shrimp in the image above.) The food here seemed incredibly fresh and briny, deeply flavorful and handled with minimum interference in the kitchen. Our final dinner was in Palermo, at the chic and sleek one Michelin Star Restaurant Bye Bye Blues, where the chef, Patrizia Di Benedetto, a native of Palermo, prepares elevated and imaginative versions of the island’s traditional cuisine.

Here are the websites of these restaurants, all of which I would return to in a heartbeat:

http://www.ristoranteportosanpaolo.it/en/

http://www.ristorantevittorio.it/

http://www.byebyeblues.it/

Consumers can find plenty of wines from Sicily made from the so-called international grape varieties like chardonnay and cabernet grillosauvignon, but it seems more fitting to me to drink wines fashioned from indigenous grapes such as grillo for white and nero d’avola and nerello mascalese for reds. A fine example of that white grape, long a staple in the production of Marsala, is the Tenuta Regaleali Grillo Cavallo delle Fate 2015, Sicilia, a wine that seems to embody the encompassing geography of sea, sky and mountain in one sleek, spare package, mirroring the shimmer of its pale gold hue. Notes of roasted lemon, spiced pear and acacia open to aspects of dried meadowy herbs and flowers and a kind of sunny leafy rasp; there’s a touch of fig and a wisp of salty iodine to a finish replete with burgeoning limestone and flint minerality; acidity bright as sunlight lends vibrant immediacy.13 percent alcohol. We drank this last night with swordfish that I marinated for a few hours in a bath of olive oil, soy sauce and lime juice. The olive oil, infused with garlic and thyme, has been used the previous night in chicken confit, so there’s that. The wine was a perfect foil for the richness of the swordfish. Drink through 2018 or ’19. Excellent. About $20.

A Leonard LoCascio Selection for Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

Last night I made a chili — or call it a soup — of chickpeas, chard, bacon, adobo, onions, garlic, tomatoes. It was pretty quick and easy and turned out even more delicious than I anticipated. Some heat from the chili adobo caused me to speculate about what wine to serve or if bassa_res_Lamùri_2014 we should go with beer, but the Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Lamùri Nero d’Avola 2014, Sicilia DOC, did the trick quite satisfactorily, thank you very much. You don’t have to look too hard to find plenty of rustic, rough-shod examples of Sicily’s signature red grape, but this is not one of those. Cultivated in vineyards that range from 1,476 to 2,460 feet elevation — this is in the hills southeast of Palermo — the wine received 12 months in French oak, 20 percent new, the rest in barrels of second or third passage. The color is dark ruby with a purple-magenta rim; aromas of mint, iodine and smoked plums open to notes of black currants, blueberries and mulberries, with undertones of graphite, flint and loam. It’s a robust wine, bursting with energy and sizable aplomb; part of its attraction is the paradoxical juxtaposition of winsome elements like apple peel, black cherries and white pepper with deeper qualities of tar and dusty tannins, all melded by bright acidity. Some time in the glass brings in more graphite minerality as well as an expansion of a distinctly wild floral/berry nature. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

A Leonardo Locascio Selection, imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.

That’s Mount Etna to you, Bub, the highest and most active volcano in Europe. Not to be bothered by pesky events like eruptions, deadly ash showers and lava flows, the inhabitants of the foothills of Etna, located on the east coast of Sicily between Messina and Catania, have cultivated farms and vineyards since time immemorial. The rich volcanic soil on the north, east and south slopes of the volcano — the area covered by the D.O.C regulations — is especially beneficial in mineral content. The rules of Etna Bianco allow a minimum of 60 percent carricante grapes and no more than 40 percent catarratto; Etna Rosso must consist of a minimum of 80 percent nerello mascalese grapes. All the grapes involved, both in majority and minority positions, are native to the region.

The wines under consideration today are an Etna Bianco and an Etna Rosso, each being, I think, an excellent representative of the style and the grapes. The wines are eminently drinkable and food-friendly but possess plenty of personality and character.

Samples for review.
_______________________________________________________________________________________
erse
The Tenuta di Fessina Erse 2014, Etna Bianco, is a blend of 80 percent carricante grapes and a combined 20 percent catarratto and minnella, and you can add those to your roster of grapes little-known outside their own regions. The wine sees no oak, being made completely in stainless steel. The color is medium straw-gold, a perfect introduction to heady aromas of straw, heather and meadow flowers, with notes of dried pears and apricots and hints of quince and ginger. The whole effect on the palate is bright, spare, dry, transparent, saline and savory; flavors of roasted lemons and spiced pears are deeply spicy and driven by clean, vivid acidity and a touch of a scintillating limestone edge; a hint of dried herbs and flowers and almond skin lingers through the finish. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Gian Domenica Negro. Production was about 540 cases. Now through 2017 with such fare as asparagus risotto, frito misto or, in our case, the Filipino chicken and rice stew called lugaw. Excellent. About $25.

Leonardo LoCascio Selections, The Winebow Group, New York.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
alm-rosso-bottle-nv
Alta Moro is a new label from Sicily’s well-known Cusumano estate. Made from 100 percent nerello mascalese grapes, the wine aged in a combination of stainless steel tanks and 2,000-liter barrels, equal to about 528 gallons. (In other words, not the standard French barrique of about 59 gallons.) The color is the entrancing red cherry hue of a glass of wine in a Dutch still-life painting. Did I say cherries? Oh, yes, red and black cherries with hints of slightly astringent cherry skins and pits, heightened by notes of cloves and allspice, a bit of earth and loam and notes of tobacco, cigarette paper and cedar, with a slightly resinous quality. The wine is quite dry, sporting a lovely open-knit texture and a feeling of lightness and elegance despite the burgeoning dusty tannic quality that turns rather austere through the finish; there’s a satisfying aspect of acid grip here, as well as a bit of pull from the tannins. 14 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 to ’20, not with steaks but with braised short-ribs or veal shanks and hearty pizzas or pasta dishes. Excellent. About $24.

Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill.
_________________________________________________________________________________________

Inexorably we drift from Spring into Summer, so in honor of this transitional state I offer a dozen savory, zesty white wines. The grapes range from the familiar — sauvignon blanc, riesling — to the unfamiliar and exotic — grillo, gouveio, while the geography takes us all over the place. Prices rise from about $12 to $28, giving space for some real bargains and great values. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew all technical, historical, geological and personal data — as interesting as those items may be — for the sake of quick and incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebook, and designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Unless otherwise noted, these wines were samples for review. Enjoy!
________________________________________________________________________________________
haberle_label
Alois Lagerder Haberle Pinot Blanc 2013, Südtirol Alto Adige, Italy. 13% alc. Production was 1,125 cases. Very pale straw hue; ripe, spice, macerated and lightly roasted stone-fruit with a halo of white flowers; notes of dried thyme and fennel; lithe and supple texture, offering vivid acid cut and limestone dimensions of structure; very dry but juicy with peach, pear and yellow plum flavors; real personality and character. Now through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $23.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
erste-neue
Erste + Neue Pinot Grigio 2015, Alto-Adige. 14% alc. Pale gold color; very appealing, with notes of green apple, pear and lemon balm, heather and meadow grass; heady and floral; lovely silken texture; quite dry, with pert acidity and shimmering limestone minerality; nothing complicated, just altogether irresistible. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by T Edward Wines, New York.
________________________________________________________________________________________
assobio
Esporao Assobio 2014, Douro, Portugal. 13% alc. 40% viosinho grapes, 30% gouveio, 20% verdelho, 10% arinto. Pale straw color; pear and acacia, heather and thyme; a bracing aura of sea-breeze and salt-marsh; very dry, with pert acidity, layers of damp flint and shale minerality; an exotic spicy-herbal flare; lean and supple. Now through 2017 to ’18. Very Good+. About $14, marking Great Value.
Imported by Aidil Wines, New York.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
semillon
Esporao Private Selection Semillon 2013, Alentejano, Portugal. 14% alc. Medium gold hue; elevating aromas of quince and ginger, spiced pear, lemon oil and orange rind; slightly honeyed in aspect but quite dry and spare; a fragile infusion of tropical fruit and flowers with a hint of fig; lovely silky texture, moderately lush but honed by limestone. Now through 2018. Excellent. About $28.
Impoted by Aidil Wines, New York.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
Gewurz
Lazy Creek Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2014, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 14.2% alc. Production was, alas, only 65 cases. Pale straw color; classic notes of lychee, pear, jasmine and rubber eraser, with hints of cloves and ginger; lithe texture, with crystalline clarity, acidity and limestone drive, great vibrancy and appeal; the limestone-flint minerality builds through the dynamic finish; grapefruit finish with a touch of bracing bitterness. A terrific example of the grape. Now through 2019 or ’20. Excellent. About $22.
_________________________________________________________________________________________
Matetic EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13.5% alc. Pale straw color; Matetic EQ Coastal SB 14 Ftgrapefruit, lilac, greengage; celery seed and fennel with back-notes of lime peel, quince and ginger; crisp and lively, with riveting acidity and a plangent limestone element; a lithe, almost sinewy texture with depths of fruit, spice and minerality bolstering a scintillating, transparent finish. Now through 2017. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa Calif. The label image is one vintage behind.
________________________________________________________________________________________
puyanche-blanc-sec
Chateau Puyanché Franc 2014, Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Pale straw-gold hue; assertive notes of dill and celery seed, caraway and lime peel, with pink grapefruit and ethereal back-notes of melon and apple skin; just a lovely wine in every way: slightly powdery texture, stone-fruit and citrus scents and flavors, bright acidity and limestone minerality; sleek, chiseled finish. Now through 2018. Excellent. About $15, a Real Bargain.
Imported by Twins America. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
______________________________________________________________________________________________
plotzner
St. Pauls Plotzner Weissburgunder 2015, Südtirol Alto Adige. 13.5% alc. Very pale straw color; spice pear and roasted lemon, hay and autumn meadows, chalk and flint; a little earthy, as if its toes were still in the vineyard; clean and incisive acidity and chiseled limestone minerality. An exhilarating pinot blanc for drinking through 2019 to ’20. Excellent. About $20.
Importer N/A.
_________________________________________________________________________________________
Tascate Buonora 2014, Sicilia. 12% alc. 100% carricante grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; a rich, Stampagolden wine, with spiced pears and yellow plums, sage and thyme, green tea, quince and acacia; scintillating limestone and flint minerality; sea-salt and meadow; spicy and savory. A great deal of charm. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $20.
Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
blanc
Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc 2013, Russian River Valley. 12.9% alc. Roussanne 50%, marsanne 25%, viognier 13%, grenache blanc 6%, grenache gris 6%. Production was 100 cases. Pale straw-gold hue; peach, pear and quince, bee’s-wax, dried thyme and sage; apple skin and pear nectar; lilac and acacia; yellow plums and a bare hint of mango; all these elements inextricably encompassed in a package that feels irrevocably vital, vibrant, real, bound to the earth yet ethereally delicate and delicious. An extraordinary wine. Exceptional. About $30.
______________________________________________________________________________________
grillo
Vento di Mare Grillo 2014, Terre Siciliana IGT. 12.5% alc. Made from organic grillo grapes. Pale straw-gold hue; savory and saline, with yellow plum and roasted lemon scents and flavors, notes of heather, dried thyme and sea-grass, clean-cut acidity and limestone minerality and a chalk-flinty element that increases through the herb-and-spice laden finish. Drink up. Very Good+. About $12, an Amazing Bargain.
Imported by Middleton Family Wines, Shandon, Calif.
_________________________________________________________________________________________
wakefield riesling
Wakefield Riesling 2015, Clare Valley, Australia. 12% alc. Pale straw gold color; peach and pear, lychee and jasmine, with a hint of zesty grapefruit and its pith; very dry, with a burgeoning limestone and chalk element, all wrapped in delightful vitality. Now through 2017. Very Good+. About $17.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

We drank the Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2013, Sicilia, with Saturday’s pizza of sweet peppers and Ghiaia Nera 2013 FRONTtomatoes, basil and radicchio, hickory-smoked bacon, mozzarella, parmesan and pecorino. The wine is composed of nerello mascalese grapes grown on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, at just under 2,000 feet elevation. The vines are fairly young, planted in 2004 and 2007. The wine aged 12 months in 60-hectoliter oak barrels, that is barrels of a capacity of 1,585 gallons, considerably larger than the standard 59-gallon French barrique. Nothing elegant here, nor would we expect such from the grape, but rather an expression of directness, of the countryside and the year’s hot, dry summer. The Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2013 is robust without being bumptious and rustic without being rough-shod. The radiant transparent ruby hue is attractive, as are the aromas of ripe black and red cherries and raspberries permeated by notes of briers and brambles, pine resin and hints of mint and garrigue, that well-nigh indefinable aura of meadowy Mediterranean wild grasses, herbs and flowers. On the palate, the wine is juicy with black fruit flavors but quite dry, lively, lithe, bristly, turning shades darker with dusty tannins and graphite minerality. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 or ’19 with grilled pork chops, roasted leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, braised short ribs or hearty pasta dishes. Very Good+. About $20.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

The Sicilian estate, Tasca d’Almerita, with vineyards at various locations on Mount Etna, dates back to 1830. It is operated now by Count Lucio Tasca and his sons Giuseppe and Alberto. The white wine under review today is made from a little-known indigenous grape, the carricante, and perhaps it’s the volcanic soil in which the vines grow, but this wine is unique. The Tascante Buonora 2013, Sicilia, made all in stainless steel, offers a pale straw color and notes of damp straw and heather, grapefruit and spiced pear, jasmine and yellow plums; a few moments in the glass bring out touches of quince, ginger and dried thyme. A few moments more, and you begin to appreciate the savory and saline elements that provide the wine with its foundation and dimension; it’s clean, fresh and bracing, with a crisp, lively presence, yet deeply imbued with earthy-limestone-seashell qualities; it’s a wine of both the marshy, sea-blown shore and the rocky uplands. For all that, there’s something chaste, delicate and chiseled about it. 12 percent alcohol. We happily consumed this bottle last night with a pasta LL made that was pappardelle with kale, baby leeks, mint, ricotto and walnuts. Drink through 2016 or into 2017. Excellent. About $20, and Worth a Search.

Imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

In days gone by, we legions of wine-writers would lament the fact that nobody but us appreciated rosé wines and how wonderful they are and how versatile. We would deplore the notion that everyone in America associated rosé wines with sweetness — and the worst were sweet — when actually the best rosés are quite dry. That’s not the case now, when rosés have grown immensely popular and many wineries all over the world turn out the things as major or side projects, sometimes very seriously. Rosé wines have improved too, being generally made in clean, fresh, crisp mineral-infused fashion. Don’t worry about rosés, friends, they can take care of themselves. I offer today 10 examples of rosé wines made from a variety of grapes in differing styles, most tending toward pleasure and delight, although a couple invite more thoughtful contemplation. They’re not just for Spring and Summer either; several of these models carry enough heft and character to be consumed throughout the year, though you can’t beat them for picnics and backyard fetes in fine weather. Enjoy! In moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Domaine Saint-Aix AIX Rosé 2014, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France. 12.5% alc. Grenache, cinsault, syrah, counoise. Very pale pink, like the inside of a seashell; ineffable fragrance of dried strawberries and red currants assisted by mild notes of cloves and thyme; brisk acidity blows through it like a sea-breeze on damp limestone; lavender and orange zest in the background, all delicately chiseled and faceted. Excellent. About $19.
Imported by Massanois LLC, Scarsdale, N.Y.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chateau Notre Dame du Quatourze Rosé 2014, Languedoc, France. 13% alc. Cinsault, grenache, syrah. Salmon-peach color; peach and strawberry, nicely ripe, slightly dusty terra cotta touch; pomegranate with a notes of cloves; limestone and dried herbs. Tasty and attractive. Very Good+. About $NA .
Imported by Val d’Orbieu America, New York.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chateau de Jonquieres Cuvee Cersius Rosé 2014, Languedoc, France. …% alc. Cinsault, grenache, syrah. A pale pink shimmer; delicate and elegant, fine bones; rose hips and strawberries, notes of raspberries and orange zest; crystalline acidity and gravel-like minerality; quite dry but distinctly though ethereally flavorful. Lovely. Very Good+. About $NA .
Imported by Val d’Orbieu America, New York.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Los Vascos Rosé 2014, Colchagua, Chile. Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 13.5% alc. 90% cabernet sauvignon, 10% syrah. Light salmon-pink color with a tinge of magenta; a summery burst of pure strawberry and raspberry; warm and spicy, racy acidity; a touch of plums garnished with dusty graphite and a dash of dried thyme; lovely shape and presence. Excellent. About $14, representing Great Value.
Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

MacPhail Family Wines Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma Coast. 14.5% alc. 100% pinot noir. 492 cases. Brilliant copper-salmon color; tomato skin and lime leaf, strawberries, raspberries and rose petals, hints of graphite and sea-salt, briers and brambles; a spicy, savory and fairly robust rose that doesn’t neglect delicacy and elegance in the upper register; lively, supple finish drenched with red fruit (hinting at the tropical) and mineral undertones. A superior rose. Exceptional. About $22.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Il Poggione Brancato 2014, Rosato di Toscana, Italy. 12.5% alcohol. 100% sangiovese. Vivid smoky topaz hue; strawberries, raspberries and peaches; a dusty, dusky minerality, like paving stones warmed by the sun; hints of cloves and dried thyme; beautiful balance between bright acidity and a moderately lush texture, but altogether spare and elegant. A gorgeous rosé, very much a presence on the palate. Excellent. About $18.
Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chateau Ribaute “Senhal d’Aric” Rosé 2014, Corbiéres. 12.5% alc. Carignane, grenache, syrah, mourvèdre. Smoky topaz hue, slightly darker than onion skin; peach and strawberry, with a touch of raspberry in the background; warm and stony, damp roof tiles drying in sunlight — the whole “South of France” thing; ethereal but with a grounding in loam. Nicely layered for a rose. Excellent. About $NA.
Imported by Val d’Orbieu America, New York.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Stemmari Rosé 2014, Sicily. 12% alc. 100% nero d’avola grapes. Entrancing light ruby color with violet undertones; red fruit all round, with prominent strawberry and raspberry followed by notes of cherries and currants and touches of tart pomegranate and pink grapefruit; sunny, leafy, warm and spicy; refreshing and attractive; finish emphasizes brisk acidity and limestone-like crispness (with a hint of orange candied orange peel). Very Good+. About $10, a Real Bargain.
Prestige Wine Imports, New York.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Toad Hollow Vineyards “Eye of the Toad” Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County. 11.5% alc. 100% pinot noir. Vivid salmon-copper hue; notably fresh, clean and crisp; strawberries and rose petals, notes of pert cranberries and pomegranate; hint of orange rind; flinty texture for under-tones of minerality but lovely satiny flow on the palate. Very Good+. About $12, marking Great Value.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Two Shepherds Grenache Rosé 2014, Sonoma Coast. % alc. 100% grenache. 90 cases. The blissful incarnadine of bright ruby-cherry hue; pure raspberry with a suffusion of cherry-berry, melon ball and sour cherry; marked limestone minerality, very dry yet drenched with tart, slightly candied red fruit flavors; almost tannic yet never less than delightful and ethereal in the high notes and gradually unfolding depth unusual in a rose; finish brings in hints of apple, dried cranberry and thyme. Perfection. Exceptional. About $24.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I was jesting a few days ago when I posted my “50 Great Wines of 2014” and urged people to get their shopping lists ready. Obviously not many consumers are going to make note of a hundred-dollar cabernet sauvignon or a strictly limited, hard to find grenache gris. Here, though, is the roster that you’ve been waiting for, the “25 Great Wine Bargains of 2014,” a list of fairly widely available, well-made wines that will not but a strain on your budget. You will notice that a wine doesn’t have to be expensive to earn an Excellent rating. Seventeen of these products, priced from $10 to $20 have Excellent ratings; the rest are Very Good+. Not a one would you regret buying, some of them by the case. Now that fact that a number of these wines are from 2011 and 2012 means that they probably ought to be consumed quickly, especially the white wines and rosés; most of the reds can go for a year or two. The point is that these are terrific over-achieving wines that offer more personality and complexity than their prices might imply. The order is descending cost. Enjoy!

These wines were samples for review. This post is the seventh of 2015 on BTYH.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $20.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Joseph Cattin “Brut Cattin” Crémant d’Alsace, France. Variable blend of pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling and chardonnay. Excellent. About $19.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nieto Senetier Nicanor Blend 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 34 percent cabernet sauvignon, 33 percent malbec, 33 percent merlot. Excellent. About $19.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry, nv, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain. Excellent. About $18.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

McCay Cellars Rosé 2013, Lodi. Old vine carignane with some grenache. Production was 253 cases. Excellent. About $18.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand. Excellent. About $18.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jean Ginglinger Cuvée George Pinot Blanc 2011, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $17.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Livon Pinot Grigio 2013, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $17.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________

J Pinot Gris 2013, California. Excellent. About $16.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prazo de Roriz 2010, Douro, Portugal. Tinta barroca 37%, “old vines” 18%, touriga nacional 16%, touriga franca 15%, tinta amarela 7%, tinta cao 7%. Excellent. About $16.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio 2012, Dolomiti, Italy. Excellent. About $15.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

CVNE Monopole 2013, Rioja Blanco, Spain. 100 percent viura grapes. Very Good+ verging on Excellent. About $15.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fratelli Chianti 2011, Toscana, Italy. 100% sangiovese. Very Good+. About $15.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Domaine Les Aphillanthes Rosé 2013, Côtes du Rhône, France. Cinsault, grenache, counoise, mourvèdre. Excellent. About $14.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2011, Western Cape, South Africa. Excellent. About $14.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dry Creek Fumé Blanc 2013, Sonoma County. Very Good+. About $14.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Palacios de Bornos Verdejo 2013, Rueda, Spain. 100 percent verdejo grapes. Excellent. About $14.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Stemmari Dalila 2012, Bianco Terre Siciliane, Italy. 80 percent grillo grapes, 20 percent viognier, Excellent. About $14.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wolfberger Pinot Blanc 2013, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $14.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2013, Toscana, Italy. With 5 percent viognier grapes. Very Good+. About $12.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Pedroncelli Signature Selection Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2012, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Li Veli Passamante 2012, Salice Salentino, Italy. 100% negroamaro grapes. Very Good+. About $12.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Trim Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California. With 15 percent merlot, 3 percent malbec. Very Good+. About $11.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mandolin Chardonnay 2012, Monterey County. Very Good+. About $10.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tres Ojos Garnacha 2011, Calatayud, Spain. 85 percent grenache, 7 percent each cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo, 1 percent syrah. Very Good+. About $10.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here’s a white wine from Sicily that will serve you well in a variety of functions, whether as aperitif, as a picnic quaff or with meals based on seared or roasted fish and other seafood dishes like shrimp risotto or cod stew. It’s the Stemmari Dalila 2012, Bianco Terre Siciliane, a blend of 80 percent grillo grapes, indigenous to the island that gets kicked by the toe of the Italian boot, and 20 percent viognier, occurring more usually in France’s Rhone Valley. The grillo sees only stainless steel, while the viogner is aged in new French oak barrels. The color of this engaging wine is pale gold with a slight green shimmer; there’s a burst of sea-breeze and salt marsh, bracing and enlivening, with notes of roasted lemons, spiced pears, almond blossom and dried rosemary; under all this lingers a hint of orange rind and pine. For the price — or any price — the tone and presence are lovely and impressive, with attractive poise between crisp acidity and a cloud-like texture and tasty citrus and stone-fruit flavors. A touch of limestone minerality bristles in the finish. Drink through 2015. Director of winemaking for Stemmari is Lucio Matricardi. Very Good+, edging toward Excellent. About $14, representing Great Value.

Prestige Wine Imports, New York. A sample for review. Image from isaacjamesbaker.blogspot.com.

Next Page »