2010 Grifone Primitivo

2010 Grifone PrimitivoPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s “Grifone Primitivo comes to us from Italy, Zinfandel’s ancestral home. Grapes from vineyards in the Manduria region (geographically, in the boot’s heel) are handpicked at their peak and crafted into a deep, inky red wine with concentrated aromas of red berries and licorice. Not quite as spicy as American Zinfandels, this Primitivo is full-bodied, warm & fruity, with strong, lingering tannins. It’s a wine that’s meant to be enjoyed now”

What I Think:

(13%) 100% Primitivo – Ruby red in the glass with a light strawberry/raspberry, floral nose. On the palate this one is fruit forward with more of those tart red berry fruits. This one turns a tad creamy before an acidic streak kicks in delivering loads of spice on a (slightly hot) tangy, tannic finish. While this one has nice forward fruit it is a bit rough and rustic around the edges which I like. For $4 this is an enjoyable wine I am likely to be buying again (but steer clear of the Toscana…)

Rating: Buy It

Interested in reading more about the Grifone Primitivo?

  • My friends over at Beards & Bellies describe this as “Not an overwhelming wine, but a great and enjoyable everyday drink to go with dinner, although it is more than fine on its own.”
  • The folks over at Cheap Wine Finder call this one a “very complete wine for $3.99.”

2009 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia IGT

2009 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia IGTPrice: $7.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Chateau Ste. Michelle

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines 90 points and a Best Buy from the Wine Enthusiast: “Neprica is an awesome blend of Negroamaro, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon from southern Italy that offers an unbeatable price versus quality ratio. This rising star of Puglia would pair with meats, pasta or aged cheese and offers clean aromas of ripe fruit, spice and leather.”

What I Think:

(13.5%) 40% Negromaro, 30% Primitivo, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon – Tormaresca is owned by the Antinori family, and distributed by Chateau Ste. Michelle. This bottle hails from the south of Italy and opens with lush but rustic fruit (strawberry, sour cherry, red licorice spice) showing nice depth. It comes across as juicy, smooth and balanced with some pleasant earthiness on the edges. Nice acidity and structure on the mid-palate despite the big fruit. Spiced on the mid-palate this one turns dry, meaty and herbal on the finish with smooth tannins and lingering black pepper notes. There is nothing out of whack here. Gets better with time and air so give it an hour if you can. Either way this is still the most exciting $8 bottle I’ve found in some time. I just bought 6 more!

Rating: Bulk Buy

2010 Roccalta Sangiovese

2010 Roccalta SangiovesePrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer “This is a bring-the-family-together bottle. Since the 1800s, the Castellani family has been producing high quality, Italian wines that have become well regarded around the world. With deep roots in antique viticulture and an open, exploratory spirit, the family continues to craft new, exciting wines. Our family has forged strong ties with the Castellanis, and that allows us to bring your families their tremendous wines for prices that feel like, well, family discounts. Take our $3.99 Roccalta Sangiovese. Crafted from Sangiovese grapes from Puglia, the juice is fermented in stainless steel. It’s a straightforward, easy-drinking wine full of spices and flavors of plum and dark cherry that will appeal broadly. To family!”

What I Think:

(13%) Starts soft and smooth with clean cherry flavors showing nice depth. Dried herbs and spice along with a nice acidity on the mid-palate lead to a slight metallic tinge on the finish which is the only perceptible fault here (but blows off some the longer the bottle is open). Too bad they couldn’t have found a big wood cask (or cement) for this puppy as we could have had a true gem. That said still an easy candidate to be the base for all of my sauces moving forward (while sneaking more than a few sips on the side). I had mine out when making chicken cacciatore and would be happy to do so again. Simple and pleasing and for $4 that is more than you can really expect…

Rating: Buy It (to drink while you cook…)

2009 Trentatre Rosso

A long-time favorite the 2007 version of this wine has previously graced the #1 spot in my Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wine List . Back then the label mentioned it was discovered “quite by chance” given that (plus the history, or lack thereof, of Trader Joe’s wines delivering from vintage to vintage) I was somewhat reticent to grab the latest offering. Would my gut read be right? Let’s see…

2009 Trentatre RossoPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Per the bottle “This unique wine comes from the Apulia Region located in the depth of Southern Italy. The blend is an equal amount of three different varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon 33,3%, Merlot 33,3%, and Montepulciano 33,4% collectively aged six months in oak barrels, hence the name “Trentatre” which in Italian means Thirtythree. The color is a deep purple-red with a pleasant fruity nose with hints of plum, cherry, and chocolate. Full bodied, it has a supple finish with soft tannins. Enjoy it with pasta, pizza, grilled meats, seasoned cheese…or even on its own!”

What I Think:

(14%) 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 33% Montepulciano – An old time favorite that I haven’t revisited I was surprised (and happy) to find this one is still as easy drinking as ever. Nice clove spice on the nose. The palate is smooth with nice fruit (perhaps a touch sweet) and a balanced acidity. From there the clove spice emerges and leads to a dry, warm, lingering finish with hints of dusty cocoa powder. Not nuanced or complex in anyway but a well-made wine without the rough edges or cloying sweetness you find in many similar wines at this ($6) price point. Any early favorite to grab a top spot in my 2011 Holidays Edition of the Trader Joe’s Top 10 Wines List…

Rating: Buy It

2007 Mezzacorona Cabernet Sauvignon

Italian Wine Map: Trentino - Alto Adige

This wine sent me down a bit of a rat hole as they say in my business. You see the label states this wine is from “Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT”. As I am headed to (very) southern Switzerland later this summer of course my curiosity was piqued. So where to start? How about from the top… This IGT is part of Trentino – Alto Adige which is one of the twenty wine regions of Italy. Trentino – Alto Adige, which covers a large part of the Dolomites, is on the alpine border with Austria directly to the north and Switzerland to the west. As you might guess by the name it is actually comprised of two areas. Trentino to the south and Alto Adige to the north.

To understand this further we have to go back to the middle ages and Charlemagne who planted the seeds that resulted in these two distinct areas that still exist today. Trentino, thrives on polenta, and is steeped in the Italo-Venetian traditions well known for an alpine takes of pasta including game, mushrooms and cheeses distinctive to the area. On the other side Alto Adige has more ties to German and Austrian culture and its gastronomic pride is Speck. German and Italian were both made official languages of the region shortly after WWII in 1946 and most residents of the region are still bi-lingual today.

Regional Map of Trentino - Alto Adige

Okay, back to the vino. Trentino-Alto Adige produces less than 1% of the Italy’s wine (but about 10% of its grappa). There are three grapes native to the region; Nosiola, Teroldego Rotoliano and the Marzemino, and loads of international varietals (here’s a full list) like this Cabernet Sauvignon. Of interest most of the wines made in the South are made by larger wineries for international export. In the north most wines are still made by small family wineries where the product is mostly consumed locally with limited exports to Germany and Austria. That said as of late many of these have been developing a niche following here in the United States. This is the area I am most keen to visit should I find the time later this summer…

As for this wine specifically I never did find anything definitive on Vignetti delle Dolomiti IGT. How’d it end up in my house? Good question. I know something inspired me to buy this and figured it was one of those rascally K&L wines emails that regularly drain my wallet. If it was I can’t seem to find; guess that is why I should record these things when I purchase the wines ;-) How’d it go?

2007 Mezzacorona Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $6.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Prestige Wine Imports

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Leave it to the Italians to make a dirt cheap and super tasty Cabernet that is meant for food. This one offers an intense bouquet, complex with vanilla notes characteristics from oak aging, a dry flavor, lightly tannic, full-body. Pretty much everything you want from a ‘house red’ and all for $7! This is definitely the best cabernet deal in the store- the perfect every-day cab with rich fruit and cedar edges!”

What I Think:

(13%) dark purple, ruby at the edges this one starts juicy (and medium bodied) with tart cherry and spiced currant notes. It is balanced by a pleasant acidity before giving way to toasty, vanilla (all barrel) flavors that show light tannins on a warm, short finish. This wine fades quickly so I would certainly recommend drinking it within the first day if not two. Luckily this one makes that easy. Soft and food friendly with a low abv (13%) this is all you can expect for $7. That said while good it isn’t great. I won’t be buying again but feel free to give it a try if you can find it for $8 or so. For more information on this one or the winery in general head on over to the Mezzacorona website.

Further reading and articles referenced while writing this article:

Revisiting the Epicuro red wines

I remember when these wines burst onto the scene late 2007/early 2008 and how much I enjoyed them back then. I’ve certainly drank more than my fair share of these over the years but haven’t posted my thoughts in quite some time. Given I slotted the Aglianico into the 10th position of my Top 10 list and the 8th in the classics I thought it would be prudent to revisit the lineup. With that here we go….
Revisiting the Epicuro red wines

  • 2008 Epicuro Aglianico ($5) – (13.5%) Juicy blackberry and clove notes on the nose. The palate starts with lots of oak and big fruit completely lacking of acidity and/or balance. A jammy mid-palate serves tart blackberries and sage, herbal spice on a quick finish with harsh tannins. Such a shame it makes me wish I had more of the ’05 left. This serves as a textbook case study in the economics of Trader Joe’s wine. It generally follows these steps: 1) Source a new wine. 2) Wine sells well. 3) Ask winemaker to produce more quantity next year but price can’t change. 4) Next vintage is not as good as previous vintage. Snowball that by a few vintages and you have a sad story. Unless you are just looking for something to cook with (and steal a few sips from) I’d steer clear of this one…
  • 2008 Epicuro Nero d’Avola ($5) – (13%) Light fruit and wood on the nose. Juicy with soft, warm fruit on the palate, Despite being only 13% this one seems to be lacking the acidity I would like to see. A bit flabby all the way to the finish before grippy tannins appear in an attempt to rescue this one. While quaffable and fine for everyday “drinking” I would steer well clear if you are looking for a wine to spend some quality time with…
  • 2006 Epicuro Salice Salentino Riserva ($5) – (13%) 80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera – Dark purple in the glass, ruby on the edges with dusty, warm fruit and barrel spice on the nose. The palate starts with a mouthful of sweet, juicy cherry and raspberry flavors shrouded in oak which is readily apparent throughout. Despite this shortcoming this wine is light bodied and well balanced with a firm acidic structure that makes it food friendly and a fine companion for cooking. The finish is of dry, tongue smacking tannins that lingers moderately. At this price there is little to complain about…

So there you have it. Disappointing but can’t say I didn’t expect it. My little rant within the Aglianico review rings true for many offerings that start out as great values at Trader Joe’s dating back all the way to Charles Shaw. That one will definitely be falling off both of my lists and the Salice Salentino could be a potential replacement. How about you? Have you had any of the Epicuro offerings as of late? If so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

2006 Donna Laura Bramosia Chianti Classico

2006 Donna Laura Bramosia Chianti ClassicoPrice: $14.99 @ Vintage Wine & Spirits imported by Banville & Jones

What They Said:

Per Banville & Jones “With a deep ruby color and intense aromas of cherry and red fruit, this Chianti Classico balances ripe fruit and acidity with well integrated accents of wood and spice. A great match with roasted meats and flavorful pastas, this wine is also delicious to sip on its own without food.”

I also found this from the Wine Spectator “This shows slightly cooked fruit character on the nose and palate, with a medium body and a simple finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.” – JS

What I Think:

On Saturday we decided to make pizza and headed down to town to grab the makings. Being in the mood for an Italian wine other than what I had in the house I decided to cross the street and grab a bottle from the local wine store. I walked in and asked them for their favorite everyday Italian, when they handed me this one I had my reservations (given the price point) but decided to roll the dice anyway…

How did it go? Cherry and herb notes greet you on the nose and welcome you on the palate as well. Good acidity emerges to deliver a balanced, food friendly wine. The finish is short with hints of cedar on top of soft tannins. This is a simple, easy drinking wine. At the end of the day I got exactly what I asked for when I walked into the store. While I found it enjoyable, for $15 I also found it to be overpriced. Lesson learned! Next time I need to do a better job communicating my expectations…

Rating: Pricey

2008 Il Valore Sangiovese

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Americal Beverage Group

What They Said:

2008 Il Valore SangiovesePer the bottle “This 100% Sangiovese wine from the Puglia region is smooth and fruity with a touch of red berries.”

What I Think:

I had this one a while back and promised to revisit it. I did so, beginning with the label. Sangiovese traditionally hails from Tuscany, the center of the Italian wine world. This one, however, comes from the heel of the boot in Puglia which is located on the southern Italian peninsula. Wonder what the difference in terroir might mean…

With spaghetti squash pasta on the table I decided to take the opportunity to find out. The nose is muted. The palate delivers racy acid that settles nicely with food showing dried cherry & herb notes. This likely isn’t one those new to wine would enjoy and I wouldn’t recommend drinking it on its own. While complimenting its merits I was reminded of a comment I saw from joshiemac on RJ’s Wine Blog. Prior to that I would have called this one a nice table wine, but think joshiemac’s nice cooking wine is much more appropriate. This isn’t something to impress your friends with but it is a perfect wine for sipping while simmering some spaghetti sauce…

If you’re interested in another take check out what The Gourmez had to say about this one.

Rating: Buy It

2007 Trentatre Rosso

2007 Trentatre RossoPrice: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Per the bottle “Trentatre in Italian means: Thirty-three. We came up with this belnd of three exciting varietals quite by chance when barrel tasting “TATA” a Montepulciano is the winemaker’s cellar. Amongst the barrels of Montepulciano ageing in the wine cellars, we discovered Merlot and Cabernet which had been sitting in oak barrels for quite some time used on occasions for blending. We were of the opinion that if one was to make a wine using Montepulciano (earthy, tannic with hints of cherry) with Cabernet (rich, intense and long lasting) and then add Merlot (soft, ripe and juicy) we may have reinvented the wheel (just kidding). Blending an equal amount of these three varietals, barrel aged for six months and bada-bing you get 33! Hence the name Trentatre.”

What I Think:

Another one I’ve been drinking for a while, this was bottle three or four, but been slow to review. As mentioned above, Trentatre is Italian for “33” which represents the blend percentage for three grapes that make up this wine; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Montepulciano. This one is super Tuscan-“ish” compared to my standby Italian offerings which are bright and acidic. On the nose you get dried cherry petals and a hint of mint. The palate starts with the same cherries before delivering a coffee (grounds) component. The body is full and plush and the wine is well balanced with tannins throughout. The finish is dry, a bit chalky and shows some oak along with lasting, dusty chocolate notes. It seems to have more age to it than the “2007” listed on the bottle. Perhaps the Cab and Merlot were truly sitting around for “quite some time”. Either way, I’m sure I’ll grab another bottle or two of this one on my next Trader Joe’s run.

Rating: Buy It

2007 Epicuro Vermentino

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by D’Aquino Italian Imports

What They Said:

2007 Epicuro VermentinoPer the bottle “Made only with Vermintino grape, this is a great wine with a straw yellow color and fruity, fragrant, well orchestrated aroma. The flavor is full, soft and rich. Perfect with pasta, unmatured cheeses, traditional dishes of fish or white meat.”

What I Think:

Joe’s Sears recently covered this one and given that I have had it before and had another bottle in the house I figured it was due time I give this one a review. For your random fact today I offer that this hails from the region of Lazio which includes Rome. As many readers know, the Epicuro label is a favorite of mine so when this showed up six plus months ago I was quick to grab it. Since then I have received numerous recommendations, thanks to all, to make sure I didn’t miss this one.

So why did it take me so long to review? Frankly because I still haven’t passed a final verdict on this one. At times I like it and others it seems like a quaffable and innocuous wine. On the nose I never seem to get much, a bit of mineral and grass at best. On the palate, if you really pay attention, you get some melon rind flavors over a stony, metallic backbone that leads to a nutty almond finish that intermingles with herb flavors. This is an easy quaffer but difficult wine to taste. If you grab it try pairing it with shellfish.

Rating: 12th Bottle