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It’s Bar Month again at OnMilwaukee and what’s Bar Month without a little wine, right?
Here are a few interesting reds I’ve tasted recently, all of which should be available in the Milwaukee area. Call your favorite wine purveyor to check availability.
Prices are all suggested retail and actual prices may vary.
Raimat Pirinenca Tempranillo, 2016 ($14)
This organic 100 percent tempranillo from Spain is medium bodied and laced with juicy black cherry fruit and elegant tannins. This versatile red tastes like a much more expensive bottle of wine and will pair nicely with almost anything. Interestingly, Raimat is working to open a free-to-the-public nature reserve park this spring across nearly 1,750 acres in the Costers del Segre denomination zone.
Veramonte Pinot Noir, 2018 ($13)
Another organic red, this one from Chile’s Casablanca Valley and vinified with 100 percent pinot noir, that’s gotten reviews above 90 points from some critics. The result is a gorgeous garnet-colored red with a nice round mouth feel and sweet fruit like blueberries and cherries and a snappy finish. Super drinkable and when it gets warm enough to chill on the patio, you’ll wish you bought two bottles.
Primus The Blend, 2017 ($19)
Another high-scoring, affordable, Chilean red is this Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Petite Verdot and Cab Franc from organic vineyards in the Colchagua Valley. Beautifully balanced tannins and acidity, it’s got tantalizing layers of flavors, licorice, dark red berries, spice and a touch of oak. Pair it with a grilled steak or a cheese tray.
Mas Martinet Bru, 2018 ($40)
At a little pricier point, this Spanish red from the DOQ Priorat in Catalonia is a blend of Grenache, Syrach, Carignan, Merlot and Caberneet Sauvignon, and the minute you pop the cork you’ll whiff that fresh nose, leading you to blackberries and black cherries, with a touch of herbal rosemany and a dash of minerality, with a lovely long liquorice finish.
Cantine Florio Marsalas
This past holiday season, I also did a little Marsala tasting, having had very little experience with these Sicilian fortified wines. I tried a 2015 VecchioFlorio Superiore Secco ($15), which is anamber-hued blend of Catarratto, Grillo and Inzolia, with a weighty 18 percent ABV and flavors of dried fruits like raisins, figs and apples, with a touch of nuttiness. Meanwhile, the dolce 2017 VecchioFlorio Superiore ($15) is a little darker in color, with similar dried fruit on the palate, but, of course, a syrupy sweetness that’s balanced with a bit of cinnamon and spice. Both were aged between two and three years.
New to the U.S. market is the 2017 dolce Oltre Cento Superior ($20, 500ml) made from Grillo and Catarratto, aged at least two years in oak. This dark amber gem lures with sweet vanilla and black liquorice on the nose and that familiar Marsala dried fruit combo on the palate. This is the sweetest of the bunch and perhaps the best entry point of the three for those new to Marsala, which can be used in cooking, but also as an aperitivo (especially with a nice cheese and charcuterie board) or as a dessert wine.
Two Nebbiolo gems from Italy
Finally, a pair of Nebbiolo gems at two different price points from Italy’s Piemonte region.
Riva Leone’s 2016 Barbaresco feels like a steal at $25. One-hundred percent Nebbiolo, this full-bodied, brick-colored red is a beautiful blend of fruitiness and earthiness, with ripe red cherry smack and rich tobacco and leather. Best of all, with its nice acidity and base of tannins, it works as a casual drinkable wine, say with a cheese tray on the patio, or as an accompaniment to an elegant dinner for two.
Rooted in the legendary Nebbiolo grape comes the more splurgy Gaja Sita Moresco 2016 ($65) from the equally legendary Angelo Gaja and family in Barbaresco. A blend of 35 percent Nebbiolo, 25 percent each of Barbera and Merlot and 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a lush, regal wine that starts of a perfect balance of acidity and tannins, with an herbal earthiness that adds sweet red berries and a hint of citrus bite, before waltzing out in a haze of spice and smoke. Close your eyes and and you’re drinking it out in a fog-enveloped vineyard in the rolling hills of the Langhe. (Please don’t wake me up quite yet.)
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.