European Staycation


April in Paris would have been invigorating. Chestnuts in blossom, holiday tables under the trees and all the City of Lights has to offer. Didn’t happen. Neither did a leisurely wine bar tour on an evening in Roma. A progressive tapas crawl through the streets around Madrid’s Plaza Mayor wasn’t meant to be. This turned out to be the year of no passport required, just a full tank of regular for mini-excursions to nearby vineyards and wine related get-togethers. Not a bad way to spend a summer, but not exactly what was hoped for. Instead of queuing up at checkpoints and customs, the only line I found myself in was at the local state store with a cartful of lower priced European wines…and the usual mixed results of PLCB products.

Worth A Second Trip

columbo-abeilles-rhoneJean Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Cotes du Rhone 2013 ($11.99)
The flowery scents, crispness and mineral lift of Clairette are given fullness and ripe peach and melon highlights from Roussanne to form a perfect day at the beach wine, even if you’re not on the Cote d’ Azure.

Ca'Montini Pinot Grigio 2013 ($12.99)
The reason to look to Trentino for Pinot Grigio-crisp, clean, well delineated flavors sparked by bracing acidity and high altitude minerality. Soft on the palate, but not flabby like so many Pinots, it stays light and energized.

Dezzani OttoBucce 2013 ($7.99)
The ultimate kitchen sink wine, a mosh pit of five Piedmont natives and a trio of international superstars – Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah. And it works, an example of a “drink, don’t think” every day table wine.

Ports In a Storm

Montecillo Crianza Rioja ($11.99)
Appealing in a direct and unadorned way. Maybe a touch more cedar than I’d prefer, wrapped around dark berry aromas and flavors, but not enough to gripe about. And like most Rioja reds it’s food friendly.

Firriato Le Corte del Maharaja Frappato 2013 ($16.99)
Not sure from what part of Sicily the grapes were sourced, but this lacks the verve and pop found in a Frappato from the Vittoria-Eloro region. It opens somewhat in the glass (decanting might have helped) and red berries and cherries come forward as it becomes riper and juicier. Even though it doesn’t present the varietal at its best it has redeeming qualities…but at the price I’d have second thoughts.

Don’t Bother Packing

Danilo Mattei Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi 2013 ($10.99)
Well below average in all the characteristics that define Verdicchio, it more closely resembles its wallflower cousin Trebbiano.

Mura Viura 2014 ($9.99)
Viura is rarely exciting, but the overdose of lemony tartness that takes any edge off the acidity makes this as refreshing as gargling with salt water. Makes you wonder why they don’t just stick to red wine in Rioja.

Elvio Tintoro Rosso Piedmont NV ($9.99)
The non vintage designation should have been the giveaway. Unlike Dezzani’s blend this has no palpable indications of what each of Piedmont’s three main grapes-Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto- bring to the mix. I’m not sure what role Cab Franc is playing. This was an idea whose time not only hasn’t arrived but should be permanently canceled.

Finca Las Cruces Paso a Paso Tempranillo 2013 ($9.99)
Sometimes this is what you get with a Tempranilo not from Rioja – lean, mildly tannic, a strand of vinegary tartness aiding and abetting sour dark cherries. Maybe not a crime, but even at this price a definite misdemeanor.

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