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…)

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

2003 Gaetano D’Aquino Chianti Riserva

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

What They Said:

Per the winery “With a vinous bouquet of good intensity that refines with aging, a Riserva is barrel-aged at least two years. It consists of a full, dry, slightly tannic, harmonious flavor and is best served with grilled meats, game and seasoned cheeses. Serve at room temperature and open one hour before serving.”

What I Think:

Given my lackluster experience with Trader Joe’s Chianti I was enthused to find a recommendation for this one. Most of the other chatter in the blogsphere was much less glowing so I open the bottle cautiously optimistic.

Now onto the wine. .. A search of the importer’s site showed that this one has some Canaiole Nero and Trebbiano blended in with the Sangiovese. On the nose you are greeted with notes of cherry. The palate starts a bit off with some barrel type flavors up front that give way to a nice light fruit and lead to a minty, slightly tannic finish. This one didn’t work for me but most Chianti’s haven’t historically. Anyone think they have one that can break the spell?

Rating: Skip It

2006 Aquila d’Oro Chianti

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Per corkd.com, via my fellow amateurs as no professional input is available: “Aficionados of dry Chianti may stop reading now, assuming any actually are. Which I doubt. Anyway, this inexpensive Trader Joe’s offering most likely won’t win any awards, but it certainly is a pleasant, easily-drinkable wine. I served it with a pleasant, easily-eatable meal, which was a pleasant and easily-enjoyable experience for my family. The nose has some blackberry and pepper, maybe a little anise, which went well with the fennel in the meal. The taste is at first grapey and slightly fruity-sweet; the finish more tannic and peppery. I like it a lot, but if you read my other reviews, you’ll find that I tend to like nearly EVERYTHING.”

What I Think:

After enjoying a few bottles of the Toscana I thought I would give this Chianti a go to see if it could match the performance. Alas, no was the answer. It wasn’t all that far off. At the end of the day this wine ending up coming off as thin or better said short on fruit. Not bad, but not worth trying unless you love Chianti. Otherwise grab the Toscana or try one of these Epicuro offerings.

Rating: Skip It

2006 Aquila d’Oro Toscana

Price: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Santini Fine Wines

What They Said:

Found some limited coverage on the Chianti that was favorable but nothing on this one…

What I Think:

When I bought this one I actually thought I was getting this Toscana. Later when I matched up the labels I realized that was not the case. Certainly cause for concern given my spotty history with wines from northern Italy. Not to be worried here. This one is a winner, light and fruity with a racy acidic backbone. Perfect match for tomato sauce! Try it with your pasta tonight, I’ll be doing the same as I grabbed another bottle.

Rating: Buy It

2005 Pope Valley Winery Napa Valley Sangiovese

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per the winery, well nothing on the ’05 which appears to be from Haus Creek but I did find an ’06 that is likely a different bottling here

What I Think:

A sangiovese in Napa Valley? If you are like me you’re thinking WTF? On opening the question is not answered. The wine is light and seems thin, almost pinot-ish. More fruit forward than its Italian brethren it started to show some cherries on day 2. Still so light that it is better without food which overpowered this diminutive wine. Perhaps this would be better chilled like a rose, which this winery does make from sangiovese.  I’ll let someone else find out. 

Rating: Skip It

2005 Badia di Morrona I Soldi del Paretaio Chianti

Price: $8.99 @ The Wine Club imported by Vinity Wine Company

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “According to the Wine Spectator: “A soft, fruity red, with juicy plum and berry on a light mineral bed. Simple. Drink now.” (Web only, 2006) 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot.”

What I Think:

Are Italians stubborn? Because I know when it comes to their wines I am. If I were smart I would stick to areas that I am more able to appreciate. That said as friends and the world sing the praises of these wines I feel like I am missing the boat! Nobody wants to be that guy, so I keep trying. Maybe you can only get the good ones if you drop a wad of cash though I don’t think that is the case. My latest strategy was only to pair Italian wines with likewise food so this one was opened to accompany a made from scratch sausage pizza. Check it out if you shop at TJ’s. You get a bag with a ball of pre-made dough, a little bowl of sauce and with the cheese and sausages you are off to the races. I know, not quite made from scratch but that is as close as I am getting. To boot the crust comes in whole wheat crust for those that are more health conscious. So with that in the oven this finds its way into my glass.

Taking a look at the wine it looks medium bodied and colored, the upfront fruit seems to initially be that of black cherries and plums before it gives way to what I think of as the barrel characteristics. I’d describe these along the lines of minty, spicy and tannic. On the palate this wine seems almost backwards. It starts with a heavy mouth of closed tannins that gradually start to show sour cherries before opening up to match the initial aromas. Strange…what does it mean? I have no idea so I drink on. As I put the cork in and grab a bottle of Carmenere from the rack I find myself wondering, why do I keep trying?

On day 2 I pull the cork out and am greeted with the same nose but as the wine meets the tongue it is a whole different story. This is a much better wine. Rich, dark fruit has come to the fore and the wine now seems well integrated. The sour notes of the cherries have disappeared and the mint and tannins appear more pleasantly at the end (which is where I always thought they belonged). Perhaps it need more time in the bottle…

This led me to two new thoughts on Italian wine; maybe they are like left over spaghetti. I always enjoy it more the second day after the flavors have had some time to meld in the fridge. The second going back to my thesis at the top is that these wines should only be had with very authentic Italian food; I am thinking more the sweet savory type. When I tried that with the Nero d’ Avola and the Rubino a few weeks back I was pleased with the result. Being the stubborn man that I am (and I’m not Dr. Suess) I’m sure we will see how this revision effects my results. We won’t be doing so with this bottle though, if you have any ideas of which to try do let me know.

Rating: Skip It

2004 Bulichella Rubino Blend

Price: $12.00 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per the winery Found this write up in regards to their 2003. “Fermented in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature of 28°C. Maceration with the skins is for 12 days, with frequent and delicate pumping over. The malolactic fermentation takes place immediately after racking. About half of the product is aged for six months in 2nd and 3rd cycle oak barriques, the other half ages in stainless steel vats.This wine can be appreciated when young, but can also be left to mature in bottles for a few years. The Rubino goes well with entrées, boiled and white meat courses.

Composition : : 50% Sangiovese, 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet
Colour : Fairly intensive ruby red with violet nuances.
Bouquet : Intense and ample, prevalently of red berries, flowery.
Flavour : Light tannic structure, smooth, with a lasting back taste.”

What I Think:

I consider finding any information about this wine on the internet one of my greatest research tasks to date. A co-worker brought this back from Italy for me a few years ago so I had little info as to what it was to work with and the bottle didn’t provide much more. For a year I thought the winery was Rubino and the winery name only appeared in small print on the foil around the cork. I could make quite a detective if I wasn’t spending all my time on this blog…

Onto the wine, on opening this you were immediately greeted with multiple levels of fruit, both red and of the darker variety, along with a very strong sense of a dry, flowery backbone. Once in the mouth the fruit comes forward but quickly fades to peppers and continues to become dryer working its way towards a flowery, violet finish. As an aside I try not to check the notes on what my research found until after I have tasted the first glass of a wine and recorded my impression. And drum roll…this was the first time I have ever been able to identify violets! My wife thinks I just got lucky. I had this wine open over a five day period and what was amazing is that with each day the different stages of this wine became more prevalent with the peppers on the mid-palate quickly disappearing and the fruit leading straight to the flowers. By the last day the fruit was around for what seemed like a split second before the tongue smacking dryness took over. Surprisingly, I think I liked it. Given that this is $12 and therefore should be rated on the more expensive scale I will call it Pricey. That being said, given that I am usually quite disappointed with Italian wine this one was an uplifting experience and if I see a wine like this in the future at a reasonable price point I am likely to give it a go

Rating: Pricey

2005 Il Tarocco Chianti Classico

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by American Beverage Group (could be wrong on this price, I’ll check next time)

What They Said:

Per the winery “Grapes: selected grapes Sangiovese (90%) and black tuscany Canaiolo (10%) coming from vineyards more than 20 years old; bottled since 1992.

Characteristics: Intense ruby colour. Elegant smell of beautiful mature red fruit with floral notes and balanced taste, full, intense and persistent.

Il Tarocco conserve his own characteristics for 10-12 years.

Combinations: tasty pasta, white and red meats, stewed meat, matured cheeses and rich plates of flavour and substance.”

What I Think:

I think I have had most of the Chianti that has come through TJ’s. They are usually drinkable but not memorable. This one certainly matches that profile. I did notice that the blend was 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo Nero. It seemed like they were going with the truly classical style of a balanced wine but they didn’t quite hit the mark.

Rating: Skip It