"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round – brought to you by Aperol, Pinnacle, Jameson, Fireball, Red Stag and Avion. The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Like many non-expert wine drinkers, I was swimming in a sea of varietals looking for something to grab hold of and float downstream with. It took my introduction to my family's ancestral homeland to find it.
In fact, my return to the hilly Monferrato area in northwestern Italy in the 1990s led me to a number of wines I hadn't really known and that I fell in love with instantly: barbera, grignolino, ruche and the white erbaluce and cortese.
I'm especially enamored with the versions Sergio DeMartini and the local farmers make at the Sette Colli coop down the hill from Moncalvo. It's down-home wine that families drink together at table, made from the most local of grapes.
The problem is in Milwaukee the most of these are often impossible to find. Once in a while they pop up here or in Chicago and I stock up a bit. But at the moment, the cellar is dry when it comes to the spicier and rarer in America red varietals grignolino and ruche.
But their absence only makes my heart grow fonder and when I get to pop open a bottle, I'm never disappointed. Instead I'm instantly transported to a table at which my cousins are arrayed, smiling and talking and eating some of the best food I've ever had.
Luckily, America has discovered the acid, low tannin barbera. It's flavorful – rich in red berries – and extremely drinkable. It's no coincidence that despite what the wine-heads will tell you about Barolo and Barbaresco, barbera is THE wine of Piemonte. It's also the third-most planted grape in Italy.
Barbera – which my cousins in Piemonte sometimes call "vino nero" (black wine) – is now synonymous with wine for me. When I think of a glass of wine, I see and smell barbera.
If you'd like try a good barbera, Michele Chiarlo's Le Orme (a barbera d'Asti) is quite easily found in Milwaukee – even at grocery stores – and retails around $12-$14.
What's your go-to grape? When someone says, "wine," what flavor is instantly triggered in your brain? Use the Talkback feature below to share.
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.