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A Stunning Cab from Italy

As we transition into fall, it’s finally the season to open up big, earthy, and powerful reds, and Cabernet Sauvignon is a great place to start. Recently, I opened up a bottle of the Mazzei “Philip” Cabernet Sauvignon and was blown away by the combination of both old and new world characteristics. The Mazzei “Philip” is a 100 percent Cabernet blend from top vineyards in Chianti Classico and Maremma, Tuscany.

Beautiful Fall Colors in Chianti Classico

There is also a bit of history here as the Mazzei family have been in the wine business for almost 900 years. This particular wine is named after a family ancestor, Philip Mazzei, who was a close friend with Thomas Jefferson and most famously coined the phrase “all men are created equal”. Philip Mazzei was also very interested in wine and he partnered with Jefferson to introduce the first commercial vineyard to Virgina in the late 18th century.

The “Philip” Cabernet Sauvignon

Like Philip Mazzei, the “Philip” Cabernet is full of intensity and character. This full-bodied Cab shows lots of spice, dark cherries, and cedar on the nose with a great balance of black fruits, earth, and velvety tannins on the palate, closing with a beautiful, lingering finish. The most interesting aspect of this Cab is the blend of old and new world styles. The “Philip” Cabernet has fruit characteristics of a modern Cabernet but also the depth and earthy characteristics typical of legendary Tuscan wines. It’s this intriguing combination that will have you going back for more.

Stop by tonight, Friday, October 3, to taste the “Philip” Cab for yourself. You will not be disappointed!

Marchesi Mazzei
2009 “Philip” Cabernet Sauvignon
Tuscany, Italy
Regular Price: $51.99
This Week Only: $45.99

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Italy’s other “Super” Wine

The word has been out on Italy’s Super Tuscans for some time. And for those of you who have enjoyed a Super Tuscan in the past, you understand the reason behind the hype. Eerily similar to most Italians, Super Tuscans are trendy, inventive and attention-grabbing. But did you know Super Tuscan wines are not the only “super” wine? In the region of Friuli-Venezia Guilia in northeast Italy, winemakers have created a unique and special wine more affectionately known as a “super white”.

Chardonnay grapes ready to be harvested

For years, winemakers in Friuli have been pushing the boundaries by incorporating both ancient and revolutionary wine-making techniques. Falling more into the former category, Friuli winemakers have taken the tradition of their Austro-Hungarian ancestors by blending 3-5 white varietals together to create their own original white wine blend. Known as field blending, this was common practice for farmers in Eastern Italy for years. Today, this same approach is used although each varietal is planted in an ideal vineyard location to obtain the best fruit possible, and winemakers are more precise with their unique blends. So while it may seem strange to mix sauvignon, riesing, ribolla gialla and chardonnay, these sorts of combinations yield wine with finesse, structure, and complexity and have made Friuli-Venezia Guilia the most important region for white wines in all of Italy.

During a recent get-together with close friends, I tried the Vigne Bianca 2012 from Zuani. This particular super white is a blend of the local grape Friulano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. The nose showcases fragrant flowers, exotic fruits and citrus. On the palate this wine is bold and juicy with many layers of citrus fruits, white peach, pears and minerals. The finish is clean yet complex, offering glimpses of each grape in this particular super white blend. I would recommend pairing the Zuani Vigne Bianca with fish, a light risotto, or served as an aperitif.

For those of you who have yet to experience the wines from Friuli, I would highly recommend picking up a bottle of Zuani as its distinctive personality highlights how “super” the wines are from this region.

Josh Thielen is a Wine Shop guest blogger, who learned a few things about wine while living in Milan, Italy.

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O Valpolicella, Valpolicella, wherefore art thou Valpolicella?

Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, Italy

One of my favorite cities in Italy is the vibrant and ancient city of Verona. Located 100 miles west of Venice, Verona has so much to offer to Italians and tourists alike. The city has some of the best-preserved Roman Ruins in Italy and it is said there are more ruins here than any other city in the world except Rome. Additionally, it is one of the few cities in the world with a functioning Roman Colosseum which is THE place to see an outdoor opera or concert. And then there is the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, which is one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable stories and perhaps one of the greatest literary works of all-time. While Juliet’s balcony and the Roman architecture capture the majority of attention, the surrounding region is also famous but for a different reason: the area is home to the well-known Valpolicella wine.

Just north of Verona, in the foothills of the Alps, the region of Valpolicella (meaning “valley of many cellars”) overlooks the ancient city of Verona. Valpolicella wines are typically made with multiple grapes, with the corvina grape providing the backbone to any Valpolicella wine. To make things even more complex, there are three primary types of Valpolicella wines:

- Valpolicella Classico: Only “fresh” grapes are used. Meant to be consumed young.

- Valpolicella Ripasso: “Fresh” grapes are super-charged by mixing with wine from dried grapes. Sometimes referred to as “mini-Amarone”

- Amarone della Valpolicella: Only dried grapes are used. Stunning wines which typically improve with age.

A Typical Vineyard in Valpolicella

A Typical Vineyard in Valpolicella

What I like about Valpolicella wines is each type offers a distinct style. The classic Valpolicella is great with pasta or a lighter meal while an Amarone requires a more robust, hearty meal. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy the Valpolicella Ripasso as it tends to be more versatile and offers many of the characteristics of an Amarone at 1/3 the cost.
One particular producer I really like is Tenuta Sant’Antonio. I recently tried their 2010 Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso ‘Monti Garbi’. This particular Valpolicella Ripasso appears a medium-colored violet in the glass, a bit darker than I expected. There is an abundance of spice and clove in the bouquet which gives way to robust fruit with a hint of smoke on the palate. I would recommend pairing the Monti Garbi with risotto, pork, or hearty pasta.

By the way, does anyone remember how the Capulet-Montague feud started? Perhaps Romeo and Juliet would have lived happily ever after if there was more Valpolicella wine to go around 500 years ago!

Josh Thielen is a Wine Shop guest blogger, who learned a few things about wine while living in Milan, Italy.

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One of Italy’s 10,000 Grapes: Refosco

2007 Fantinel Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

2007 Fantinel Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

Being a native Minnesotan, I am extremely proud of how many pristine, beautiful lakes we have scattered throughout the state. We modestly exclaim we are the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” but we Minnesotans are quite modest and we do not want to boast the actual number of lakes is closer to 15,000.

As Minnesota is known for its many lakes, Italy is famous for their variety of grapes. Italians tend to exaggerate so while they may proudly boast having 10,000 distinct grape varieties, their actual number is probably closer to 1,000 with 300-400 used regularly to make wine. There is no doubt Italians should celebrate their immense grape and wine diversity, even if it makes choosing an Italian wine completely overwhelming!

For some time I have been meaning to try some of the more obscure indigenous grape varieties originating from Italy. Feeling adventurous, I recently purchased a bottle of Refosco, one of the ancient, native red varietals from the overlooked Friuli Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy. Unlike most Italian wines, Refosco is named after the grape used in the wine instead of a geographical location.

For my tasting I selected the 2007 Fantinel Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso.

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Tuscany’s Trendy Morellino di Scansano

Sangiovese vines budding in the Spring.

Sangiovese vines budding in the Spring.

Sangiovese has evolved immensely over the past 30 years. It wasn’t long ago Sangiovese-based wines were viewed as watered-down, harsh, and something served in a large straw-covered jug. Literally meaning “blood of Jove”, Sangiovese has come a long way since the 1980’s as wines from Bolgheri, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico are among the most coveted wines in the world.

As a not-so-secret admirer of Sangiovese wines, I’m always looking for new ways and styles to enjoy my favorite Italian grape. One of the trendiest Sangiovese wines is the Morellino di Scansano from the Maremma region in southwestern Tuscany. Morellino di Scansano is a relative newcomer on the Italian wine scene, having been produced since the late 1800’s but only taken seriously within the past 20 years.

To see why others are buzzing about this wine, I recently opened a bottle of Moris Farm’s Morellino di Scansano. This classic Morellino di Scansano is an un-oaked, medium-bodied wine primarily consisting of Sangiovese (90%) with some Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) and Syrah (5%) added as well. With a bright ruby-red hue and aromas of dark fruits and licorice, I was impressed with the freshness and distinctly Sangiovese characteristics of cherries, blackcurrant, and smoke. Priced at $17.99, the Moris Farm’s Morellino di Scansano should not be missed!

Josh Thielen is a Wine Shop guest blogger, who learned a few things about Italian wines while living in Milan, Italy.

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