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The Cantina Del Lupo 2014 Barbera d’Asti is a textured, fruit forward Barbera that feels more serious than many of the Barberas coming out of Asti. Rather than light red fruit, the Cantina Del Lupo shows fairly concentrated dark berry fruit on the nose with an herbal tinge to it. Fairly full and showing some sweet spice on the palate, it has fresh acidity and very soft tannins. Pair it with pizza, tomatoes based pasta dishes, simple chicken dishes. Andy Paynter
I think the 2010 Barolo is a special wine, showing transparent Bussia dark fruit, elegant and austere stoniness, and the harmonious character of the vintage's best wines. The equilibrium and finesse that are part of those best wines is very evident; although the 2010 will age (and improve) for a very long time, it’s quite delicious now. Regarding Bussia, in Barolo MGA, the great cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti writes: “The first cru, along with Rocche di Castiglione, to be officially declared on a Barolo label in the “modern era”, Bussia is not only the best vineyard site in all of Monforte d’Alba, but one of the super-stars of the entire appellation, capable of stimulating the dreams and desires of wine lovers all over the world.” Don't be put off by the low price! We set prices based on what we pay – if we get a good buy, then you do too. The Clerico wines are imported for Chambers Street; with more beaks dipping, the Barolo would normally be 50-60% more expensive in this market, as is the case for many of Clerico’s peers. The favorable exchange rate with the Euro has also helped make this an incredible buy for the quality of the wine. Jamie Wolff
It is a real treat to find a deep, savory Barbera that hasn't been clouded by new oak. The 2011 Clerico Barbera d’Alba is just such a wine. The nose is complex with notes of dark red berry fruit and black plums followed by violets, sweet spice, and a leafy undertone. Fairly full-bodied with a soft but present tannic structure, the palate is lifted by fresh acidity and more forward red fruit. Delicious on its own, it would pair wonderfully with pizza margherita, or pasta with chicken, tomatoes, and artichokes. Open early and enjoy! - Andy Paynter
From the ripe 2009 vintage, Giacomo Conterno's Barolo Cascina Francia avoids the overly rich character of some of the wines of their neighbors. Perfumes of orange oil, earth, grilled meat arise from the glass. The palate while dense and structured shows fine counterpoise between power and elegance, with sweet fruit, soil notes, and savory notes framed by ripe tannins and buoyed by good acidity for the vintage. This is quite pretty and while drinking nicely with decanting, this will benefit from another 10-20 years in the cellar when the fruit and structure should integrate. John McIlwain
A consistently excellent wine — we've been lucky to get to taste this several times in the last few years. It needs a lot of time to breathe, and then it provides a classic example of fully mature Nebbiolo. Jamie Wolff
Barbaresco: “Notu” was Fabio’s grandfather, and the name of the wine means “Notu followed the drops of water.” Although it may not be intended, the reference to water makes sense when you taste the wine, which has a kind of crystalline freshness and clarity that reminds one of spring water. Fabio writes: “48 months fining barrel (the wood Fabio use are not really “toasted,” but vaporized with specific volcanic hot rocks (no any creation of toxic elements after this treatment) and after unique mass for 6 months in porcelain jars (Fabio is the designer and the ceramist of his own porcelain jars; very probably the first one winemaker in the world that uses “no breathing ceramics” for winemaking). 1175 bottles made.”The 2011 is an edgy, dynamic wine, showing ripe fruit balanced by great lift and transparency. It stands out in the vintage, and it’s exciting to drink. Jamie Wolff
What we know: Giuseppe Mascarello, father of Mauro, was named after his grandfather. His father was Maurizio. I've been told that Natale was his (Giuseppe's) uncle. The Giuseppe Mascarello cantina was - and is - in Monchiero. From a logical and chronological point of view, it seems likely that Giuseppe (Mauro's father) made this wine.Maybe someone knows why - assuming I'm correct - the wine is labelled like this? Jamie Wolff
There's a similar litheness and elegance to Nervi's 1964 Gattinara, but the development is more advanced with darker fruit and richer dark chocolate notes and flavors. The tannins have nicely resolved; a solid birth year wine or a vino da meditazione for Nebbiolo's ability to age. Jonas Mendoza
Oddero is one of just a handful of producers who made excellent wine in the past and who continue to do so now. Admittedly our opinion of their current vintages is biased, since we admire Oddero's fidelity to Barolo made in the traditional manner. Anyway, the old wines are great, and we're happy to have old vintages whenever we can.
In 2010 Chiara and Michele were living in Milan with their two young children when they decided to buy a small organic farm in Paderna and start making wine. They have 3.5 hectares made up of 10 small parcels of 15 to 100-year-old vines. The vineyards face both north and south at an altitude of about 300 meters, with soils rich in limestone and clay. For the Barbera Superiore, the grapes are destemmed and fermented in cement tanks. Maceration on the skins lasts 40 days depending on the year, with malolactic fermentation taking place in barrels. The wine spends 18 months in barrels and a minimum of 6 months in bottle before it is released. The result is a Barbera with a complex nose of black cherries and cloves. On the palate you get ripe black plums, violets, sage and dark chocolate. This is a really unique and interesting Barbera, and one that I will certainly be drinking more of! Christine Manula
This Rosso is 90% Barbera and 10% Dolcetto. We will drink some on Thanksgiving – we have a miscellaneous crowd of fellow-orphans, and they represent a wide range of taste and interest in wine, or lack thereof. I am not normally a fan of blends from Piedmont, so it’s surprising to me that I love this wine. There is still plenty of old vine Barbera character, but extra vivacity and complexity from the Dolcetto makes it really delicious and interesting. I anticipate it to be a crowd-pleaser, with enough intrigue for wine lovers, easy drinkability for the drinkers, and a very good pick to play well with the crazy range of Thanksgiving flavors. Jamie Wolff
Mint, balsam, on top of full Nebbiolo aromatics and a lot of minerality; very ripe and firm tannins. This shows that it’s not all about 2010! It’s made from younger vines in Boscareto (see below), usually harvested rather later than the neighbors. Principiano thinks that his organic viticulture has made a huge difference in the health of the vines, even in difficult growing seasons. The wine gets about a month of maceration and then is aged in 20,000 and 40,000 liter barrels. It’s a harmonious and deep wine with a long future. Jamie Wolff
Still doing very well at 40+ years, with intense mature Nebbiolo aromatics, dry and savory; the wine is not overly tannic, but no Piemontese would ever serve this except at table, with a main-course meat dish like ossobuco or something grilled; do so and you will have a memorable treat.
Montestefano is one of the great Barbaresco vineyards, producing long-aging, structured wine. Prunotto was making very good wine in the 1980's. This should be a real treat.
Lovely wine with a deep penetrating nose of leather, spice, mineral, cherry and chestnut. Palate has great inner mouth aromas and nice juicy fruit. Great ripeness with good chewiness. Lovely stuff!
For Christmas this year I would like to be given the Giuseppe Rinaldi 2002 Barolo, in magnum. Please. In Piedmont the summer of ’02 saw unprecedented quantities of rain, cool temps, landslides, hail, and downpours of frogs – just about every bad wet weather thing that can happen, and many producers didn’t even make wine. By way of contrast, Giacomo Conterno bottled only Monfortino; I haven’t tasted it for a while but it was pretty spectacular then (it would be very interesting to taste the 2002 Monfortino blind… does anyone with a bottle want to join the experiment?). And G Rinaldi made really good Barolo, which I was first wowed by in 2007, and then again last May. So I’d like that mag, please. Jamie Wolff
Formerly labeled Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera, this is close to same blend / same wine. Early on (from barrel in 2014) the Tre Tine seemed closer in style to Brunate than usual, sharing a dark core of ripe fruit, and very ripe tannin. A year later there was more obvious difference, with the elegance of Cannubi beginning to shine. Out of about 120 Barolos, this is one of the very best 2011s we've tasted. Jamie Wolff
1988 is considered to be a very fine vintage in Montalcino.
Back in 1972 Alberto Carli wanted to make a great Brunello, so he hired the famous Tuscan Enologist Giulio Gambelli to be his winemaker and together they created Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino. They produced about 150-200 cases a year and stored them in an underground cellar, never releasing them on the market. Apparently it wasn’t until he was dying that he told his family about this secret wine they had been making for almost 20 years. His daughter Catarena took over the winery in 2001 and picked up where her father left off. Little has changed in the last 35-40 years: they still use natural yeasts, there’s no temperature control, there are long maceration times, no filtering, and the wine is aged in Slavonian botti. Although I’m sure it will only improve with age, the wine is quite beautiful now, ripe with stewed plums, leather and anise. When you’re ready to cook a leg of lamb or a pot roast, this would definitely be a good choice. Christine Manula
Aside from Gregory Dal Piaz’s fervent recommendation, I fell for Lecci e Brocchi for obvious reasons: the wine tastes like Chianti – very good Chianti, in fact. It’s aromatically quite intense, with bright red fruit bound to stone and savory rocky herbs. On the light side of medium-bodied, the palate follows the aromas – if anything the stony-iron character is more present. This is a very harmonious, long, and quite elegant Chianti. Tasted in the July heat, a little cool, it showed energy and grace (and was fantastic with butterflied leg of lamb from the barbeque). Jamie Wolff
This single-vineyard wine is from a small vineyard (2.5 hectares, Biodynamic viticulture) tucked into the hills south of Panzano, in Tuscany — prime Chianti Classico terroir. The wine is medium-bodied, with rich and lush/concentrated notes of red and black currants that intermingle with violets, clay and earth with a long finish.
This is a fantastic straw hued Soave (Garganega) from the mother-daughter team at Adalia in the Veneto. Crisp and dry with a hint of grassy texture and a long mineral finish. Eben Lillie
Giovanni Arcari and Nico Danesi set out in 2006 to make Franciacorta in a style that paid more attention to the terroir of Lombardi than that of Champagne. Arcari e Danesi Dossagio Zero is the fruit of those efforts. Made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Blanc, both harvested for ripeness, the wine is powerful on the nose with golden apple, ripe peach, layers of floral notes and a pronounced toasty note. The wine is full, smooth and very dry with a lively mousse, ripe orchard fruit, kiwi, and a mineral undertone. Rich and forward, Zero Dossagio would pair beautifully with washed rind cheese, pear and Gorgonzola salad, soft scrambled eggs, coconut curry, or other assertive dishes. Andy Paynter
From an estate that dates back to 1785, the Bera family farm organically and make wine in a low-interventionist manner. This white is made from Favorita, Arneis, Cortese, and Sauvignon Blanc. The 2015 is ripe and complex with lovely aromas of lime-flower and honeysuckle, with white and yellow fruits and almond. The palate is supple and pretty with the lush fruit balanced with refreshing acidity. Really a lovely and versatile wine that is a delicious aperitif and will pair well with fish and chicken in sauce, Asian foods and mild cheeses.
Crivella is made with fruit from Bianco’s oldest vines, including some planted in the mid 1800s by Riccardo’s great-great-something grandfather; such old vines are extremely rare, and while they produce very little fruit, it’s impossible for Riccardo to even think about replacing them. At a tasting in the shop a customer said, “Like Sauternes with bubbles!” which was a lovely way to describe the wine and its rich and unctuous character. made lively with fizz. While there’s no botrytis, Crivella is much more complex and detailed than all but the very best Sauternes. I’ve certainly never tasted anything like it — a stunning wine. Jamie Wolff Moscato d'Asti is usually a fairly light and simple affair, but this bottling has gravitas to stand up to the most complex, aged cheeses. If an old Stilton and Port sounds a bit much, try this invigorating Moscato for a bit of a lighter approach. John Rankin
After graduating with a degree in Economics in 2003, Francesco decided he wanted to make wine and found a farm in the foothills of Abruzzo where his family was originally from. The first time he saw Agricola Cirelli he fell in love. It’s now an organic farm where there are vineyards, olive trees, garlic, spelt, wheat, barley, figs and geese. Francesco has two hectares of Trebbiano that are grown on calcium and clay soils. Both fermentation and aging are done in stainless steel, and the wine is not filtered or fined. The wine is straw yellow in color and tastes of waxy green apples, pear and cured lemon peel. Try it with shrimp and orzo salad, Vietnamese food or even a veal schnitzel. Christine Manula
Mirco and Gloria Gottardi starting making wine back in 2002 on the Saint Michael hills, just outside the town of Bassano del Grappa in Veneto. For almost 12 years their property was covered in scrub brush, but over the course of two years they managed to plant 50,000 vines and 1,000 olive trees on 12 hectares. The vines are densely planted on volcanic soil to insure low yields, and the nearby mountains create significant temperature shifts between day and night. Although Vespaiolo is more commonly used to make Breganze Torcolato, a sweet wine, it also makes a fantastic dry white. Straw yellow in color, it has an intense nose of white flowers and citrus fruit. It’s lush on the palate, but has enough acidity to keep it fresh and cut through richer dishes. Try pairing it with asparagus, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, or really anything you would want to drink white with – it’s super versatile and delicious! Christine Manula
Unfined and unfiltered and so a bit cloudy — this wine is one of only two Proseccos that we know about that’s made with indigenous yeasts — and it's also totally natural in terms farming and all aspects of the winemaking. This has a ton of character (especially considering how bland most Prosecco is) — a little grassy on the nose with pear and apple aromas, and somewhat yeasty. The wine is very dry and actually quite elegant, with a good long finish; it’s really intriguing, perhaps a bit challenging, but the more I taste it the more interesting it becomes.
Not many folks know that Trebbiano is the most widely used white wine variety in the world's top two wine producing countries - Italy and France. In Italy, it is commonly used for white blends and in France (Ugni Blanc) it is used to make Cognac and Armagnac. Corrado de Angelis started making wine back in 2002 on this small estate in northern Abruzzo, just east of Rome. The farm is eight hectares of vineyards, all south and south-west exposure, and 250 meters above sea level. They are certified organic and in the process of converting to biodynamic farming methods. Corrado harvests the grapes early to capture the aromatic quality of the Trebbiano grape. The wine undergoes spontaneous fermentation using indigenous yeasts and matures in stainless steel. This is a Trebbiano with incredible depth, but a good amount of acidity keeps the wine fresh. It's loaded with ripe pear, citrus, some vegetal notes, and a nuttiness that lingers on the finish. Delicious! Christine Manula
Giol’s Sur Lie Prosecco is consistently one of my favorite bottles of bubbles. Its organically farmed, vinified without sulfur, dry, and very refreshing, not to mention the fact that it costs well under 20$. Some people might be put off because the wine is fairly cloudy in the glass due to never being disgorged; but, the nose is bright and lemony with a slight salty note. The palate is bone dry with a refreshing mousse and tart green apple notes. It is lifted and very clean, well suited to food with its slightly bitter finish. Try it with oysters on the half shell, bacalao on toast, olives and cheese, or with eggs for brunch. Andy Paynter
Bettigna Vermentino is a classic example of the grape from a region known for Vermentino (or is it known for Pigato?): the Colli di Luni straddling the border of Liguria and Tuscany. Fairly deep and golden in the glass, the nose is dense with ripe stone fruit and golden apples with subtle notes of honeysuckle and thyme and a whiff of zesty citrus. Medium weight on the palate with real focus, the acidity and mineral tones of the wine make the fruit seem leaner but in a refreshing way with a saline and slightly bitter finish. Fairly bracing by itself, the wine shines with food; it would suit flounder simply fried, skate with pesto, or any delicate fish quite well. Andy Paynter
When confronted with a sparkling wine made from a grape that usually isn't carbonated, I have to say that I am pretty tentative about taking the plunge; but time and again my skepticism proves to be unwarranted. Such was my experience with Garg’n’go, La Biancara’s sparkler made from Garganega, which is frankly delicious. A slightly turbid straw gold in the glass, the nose shows pronounced notes of ripe stone fruit, a yeasty character, preserved orange zest, and pear blossom. The texture is lush and creamy braced by a tight bead and great acidity showing more orchard fruit and a slight tropical note. Refreshing on its own, try Garg’n’go with summer salads, soft and washed-rind cheese, sashimi, or fried fish. Andy Paynter
La Stoppa’s Ageno cuveé is named for the original founder of the estate, Giancarlo Ageno, who planted the first vines here in the 19th century. Those cuttings, originally all french varieties, have since been replaced by varieties indigenous to the region in a process that also saw the estate convert to organic agriculture beginning in the 1990s. While certainly not made with the french varieties planted 100 years ago, the Ageno Bianco is a stunning wine. Primarily Malavasia di Candia Aromatica blended with Ortrugo and some Trebbiano, the wine is macerated for 30 days on the skins, rested for a year in a mix of stainless steel and old barrels followed by two years in bottle. The color is striking, showing deeply bronze and slightly turbid with some sediment, but still quite vibrant. The nose is, as you might expect from a grape called Aromatica, intense with deep ripe Cara Cara oranges, layers of baking spice and mid-bloom apple blossom with hints of honeycomb. The palate is dense, and there is a nice balance of fine-grained tannin with refreshing acidity. The wine is bone dry but not austere or astringent with very ripe citrus fruits, juicy yellow peaches and a long finish. Recently enjoyed with shrimp scampi, this wine would pair well with rich but not oily fish: think scallops seared in butter, monkfish torchon, or squid. Serve very slightly chilled and enjoy. Andy Paynter
Timorasso is a golden-colored grape from Piedmont's Colli Tortonese. Aside from Gavi and Moscato, Piedmont is not well known for white wines, and Timorasso has a bit more richness and weight compared to most white wine grapes. There's a bit of spice and an almost nutty character that complements marmalade and orange fruit tones. This wine is very interesting to try as an example of an heirloom variety that almost went extinct, and it is extremely capable at the dinner table for anything from seafood, Middle Eastern food, or rich pastas. John Rankin
The 2014 Sant’Erasmo Bianco is a striking wine grown on the island of San Erasmo within the lagoon of Venice. Premised on Malvasia Istriana but comprised of a number of other local cultivars all planted on its own root stock, the wine is deeply colored in the glass, with a nose reminiscent of ripe golden apples and honeysuckle undercut by a salty tone. The palate is bold, with an initial attack of juicy orchard fruit and rich texture, followed by a honeyed note giving way to a long savory finish. More than anything else, the Orto shows a stern backbone of minerality bracing its mellow acidity and weight on the palate. I served it with shrimp cooked with their own stock and butter, but this wine would pair beautifully with anything out of the sea, soft cheese, or rich vegetable dishes. Open early and serve slightly chilled. Andy Paynter
Solouva, The side project of Giovanni Arcari with Andrea Rudelli, shows a more opulent side of Franciacorta. The nose shows very ripe fruit with notes of white peach and golden apple alongside guava and passion fruit with a slight brioche note from 3 years on the lees. The palate is fairly dry with good acidity but more than anything it is fleshy with juicy peaches and tropical fruit lifted by an active mousse. A luscious wine to try with grilled peaches and herbed goat cheese, chicken salad, bagels and lox, or rich soups. Andy Paynter
Famoso di Cesena, a native grape of Romagna, was first documented in 1437 but had all but disappeared by the early 1900s. In 2000 two old rows of vines were spotted in Mercato Saraceno (Forlì) and the owner knew it was Famoso. Today the grape is being revived by a group of winemakers who are convinced that the unique features of this grape variety should not be lost. Davide and Mauro at Villa Venti are growing Famoso on red clay and Messinian-age sand. Serenaro is fermented in stainless steel and aged six months on the lees then matured four months in bottle. No added yeasts and minimal sulfur is added. The result is a very aromatic wine with floral/lavender notes and hints of dried fruit. On the palate, it’s refreshing with citrus peel and nice minerality. Perfect with fish, fresh cheese and all'ascolana (fried stuffed olives). Christine Manula Just last night we opened a bottle of Serenaro at home - it had been a while (and I'm not sure my wife had never tasted it) - and it was stunning. We had seconds, and thirds, and then the rest - not usually the pattern since my exuberant glugging is usually balance by my wife's more modest consumption, but she loved the wine. And it was incredible with the clams I'd bought from Alex at Blue Moon - it was great to see them back at the market! I made risotto - Vialone Nano rice (about 1.5 cups), 2 dozen steamed and chopped clams, one clove of garlic, 1/2 chopped red onion, a TON of chopped parsley, and about a cup of cooked sweet corn. I sauteed the garlic and onion in olive oil with some Espelette pepper (ground, that is) and used the broth from the clams stretched with vegetable stock. The whole thing took 30 minutes and with the Serenaro it was... I think the technical term is killer. Welcome back Captain Alex! Jamie Wolff
I fell in love with the Bonavita estate originally through their indomitable red wine, a delicate, spicy, and intense red wine. It is continuously one of the most fascinating reds I’ve tasted from Sicily. Happily, the rosato holds as much allure while being even more accessible. Fairly deep ruby for its quick maceration of 12 hours, the nose is packed with rich red fruit, purple florals, notes of cardamom and allspice or cinnamon with an undeniable freshness and lift. The wine is effusive on the palate with fresh strawberries, Ripe cherries, and red apple skin, a persistent spiciness, and just a whisper of ripe tannin quickly relieved by bracing acidity. I find the wine mesmerizing and stellar with all kinds of food. Andy Paynter
The Greeks started producing wine in Cirò about 3,000 years ago and used to offer it to winners of the ancient Olympics. The Calabretta family has been growing grapes in this part of Calabria for four generations, but in 2008 Cataldo and his sisters Maria and Michela decided to start their own estate and refurbish the family cellar. Cirò Rosso Classico is made from 100% Gaglioppo, which is the main grape variety of the production zone of Cirò DOC. Their vineyards are situated on rolling hills of limestone and clay about 50 meters above sea level. The harvest takes place at the end of September. There are 14 days of skin maceration, fermentation takes place using wild yeasts, the wine then matures for 10 months in glazed concrete tanks and seven months in the bottle. The Rosso is very earthy and gamey with lots of black plums and cherries. After about three hours, it really opened up with hints of mushroom and violets. Definitely pair it with strong flavors like Chicken Marsala, Braised Beef Ragu with Garlic Polenta, or Porcini Mushroom Risotto. Christine Manula
High atop the Murge Plateau in Puglia, Cantine Carpentiere is a small family-owned winery that produces two indigenous Puglian grape varieties: Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero. Made from 70-year-old Bombino Nero vines, this is the only rosato in Southern Italy that has DOCG status. At 450 meters above sea level, the vineyards are rich in limestone and surrounded by stone walls originally built to protect local flocks of sheep. Tannins from the maceration process make this a great food wine, but it retains its freshness and acidity from the 5-6% of white grapes that are naturally included in each cluster of Bombino Nero. Ripe watermelon and wild strawberries with hints of pepper, try pairing it with a salmon salad, orecchiette with broccoli rabe or even a juicy burger. Christine Manula
High atop the Murge Plateau, Cantine Carpentiere is a small family-owned winery that produces two indigenous Puglian grape varieties: Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero. Uva di Troia is an ancient grape apparently named after the Puglian town of Troia, which was founded after the siege of ancient Troy. Carpentiere’s Nero di Troia is on the lighter side of some of their neighbors, with raspberry, cranberry and a hint of spice and vanilla on the nose. It starts off quite floral and develops into a more rustic wine as it opens, with touches of cranberry, rose petals, spice and smoky cloves. I think this is a great summer red and perfect for barbecuing ribs, burgers or a hanger steak. Christine Manula
When Gabriele Marano decided to retire in 2000, his son-in-law Pietro Topi took interest in continuing the family’s legacy at Collebello. With some of the region's oldest and healthiest vines that had always been organically farmed, Pietro and his childhood friend Martino Taraschi built a modest winery in 2006 and began producing wine under the name Tenuta Terraviva, meaning “living earth”. They hired Claudia Galterio to give them a hand, one of Piemonte’s top new winemakers respected for her non-manipulative style. After a few vintages, they were finally making the wines they have envisioned, using only indigenous yeasts and very little sulphur. Intense ruby red in color and aromatic, with black berries, smooth tannins and earth. Perfect for pork and lamb dishes, as well as hot and spicy peppers. And of course, any kind of pasta with red sauce. Christine Manula
Dry Lambrusco rosato still seems to be a bit of a rarity, which is baffling when examples like Corte Paglieri’s rosato are available. A deep bronze-hued ruby, the aromas of the wine practically jump out of the glass showing rhubarb, tart cherries, citrus zest with a deep violet floral tone. The palate is crisp, almost searingly so with out food, with a very delicate bubble and very low tannin, and notes of peaches and juicy strawberries. While not suited to the richest foods, this would be a perfect match for soft cheese, bitter veggies like fiddle head ferns, fatty fish, roast chicken, or pork chops with rhubarb compote. Andy Paynter
Cos Pithos Rosso is always one of my favorite wines to drink during a big meal with plenty of courses. Made from 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato raised in amphora, the 2014 is stunning, showing dark fruit, vibrant herbal tones and lift on the palate. The nose is very aromatic, led by bay spice and lavender with ferrous earth followed by rich dark red fruit. Medium weight on the palate with soft tannins and great acidity, it is more fruit-driven than the nose with dark red plums and red florals over a crisp mineral tone. Despite having great depth, the Pithos Rosso is ultimately a refreshing wine, perfect to cut through the richness of a Thanksgiving table; pair with herbed stuffing, game birds, turkey, or roast pork loin with wine sauce. Serve slightly chilled and enjoy. Andy Paynter
Defino comes from organically farmed grapes (a friend who is one of Tuscany’s best winemakers consults on the winemaking), and it’s a really lovely fresh red, light and juicy but with plenty of intensity on the palate. This is on the short list for the ultimate pizza wine, but really we mean that in reference to: “it’s Tuesday night, and we want a glass of something delicious that doesn’t break the bank”. Actually Frappato is a terrific food wine — a red-wine-with-fish wine, and very versatile.
Torre Nova is 100% Negroamaro from 30-60 year old vines grown on clay and rocky pebbles. The 2015 is quite light and a bit higher in acid than the last vintage, but it’s really pretty on the palate. Think tart cherries and red plums, it’s very herbaceous with a hint of nuts and pepper on the finish. Try pairing this with roast pigeon, a simply prepared fish or even beef tartare. Christine Manula
“Nataly” is named after Natalino himself. The wine is fermented and aged in concrete tanks and underground concrete vats, with a very low dose of sulfur at bottling. It’s bit fuller in body than the Negroamaro with meatier tannins, juicy dark plums, violets, anise and a hint of pepper on the finish. Try pairing Primitivo with Spaghetti Puttanesca, Seafood Jambalaya, Short Ribs or hard cheeses like Edam or Smoked Gouda. Christine Manula
In my experience, the Sagrantino grape can produce some fairly stern, even forbidding, wines; the naturally very high tannins often seem unwieldy, simultaneously smothering and sharp. That's not the case with Angelo and Letizia Fongoli’s 2009 Sagrantino di Montefalco. As fourth generation winemakers working with Umbria’s fiercest red grape, they have made a wine more elegant than unwieldy. The wine is fermented in cement, raised in old 500L Slavonian oak barrels for three years, and then rested in bottle for an additional three years. Rich on the nose with deep hedge fruits tinged by aromas of bay and cedar, floral notes of violets and rose, it also conveys a ferrous quality. The palate is full and structured but the tannins are ripe and round, mellowed by age rather than muddled by new wood or over-extraction. The berry aromas suggested on the nose follow through on the palate braced by earthy notes with a pleasant hint of anise on the finish. Drinking well now (Angelo advised it will be best with 3-4 hours open), this wine will certainly have a long life ahead of it. Serve with steak, pork chops in wine sauce, rich game dishes, or charcuterie.Andy Paynter
Fongoli’s Montefalco Rosso is a great example of an Italian table wine in the best sense. Made mostly from Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Montepulciano, vinified separately and raised for two years in 40 hectoliter Slavonian oak barrels. Fresh red cherry fruit comes through on the nose with pleasant notes of rosemary and thyme and a hint of moist earth. The palate is full and smooth with noticeable tannin and good acidity, though it is more overtly fruity showing both cherries and a touch of blue and black berries. The pairing choices are endless: try it with meaty pasta dishes, roast chicken, pork chops, mushroom and Parmesan risotto, hard cheeses. A beautiful wine for any table! Andy Paynter
Pitch-perfect weeknight Nero d’Avola: light on its feet, with a vibrant acidity and ripe berry and juicy plum fruits. The bright, playful palate is balanced by just the right hint of dried herbs and spices to underscore any red sauce pie or pasta. The Rossojbleo is dry farmed from about ten hectares of head-trained bush vines without the use of any chemicals or machines. Gulfi’s commitment to a manual harvest, along with organic practices in the vineyard and vinification using native yeasts, makes for a seriously satisfying young wine. And while this definitely holds up on day two, it’s pretty hard to resist finishing the bottle! Equally tasty lightly chilled for summer drinking. Karina Mackow
Il Fortunato aced it with their Rosato Spumante; another lively sparkler produced from organic vineyards with only a minimal addition of sulfur. The nose is playful with a mix of bright berry fruits and fresh red cherries cut by tart apple skins. On the palate, a delicate mousse lifts the wine showing some weight, great acidity, and just touch of sugar. Absolutely lovely! Pair with charcuterie, simple pasta, or simply drink on its own. Andy Paynter
Drogone comes from a small parcel of vines planted in 1964. The wine is aged for two years in older, large tonneau of French oak, and then for years in bottle — the 2007 is the current release. A wine of great depth and considerable density, it shares the elegance and finesse of all Madonna delle Grazie wines. It's very cool to taste the highest quality Aglianico that has some age; we're happy that it's still available at such a fair price. John Rankin and Jamie Wolff
As with Amarone, Sforzato is very labor-intensive: the drying grapes must be carefully tended every day to prevent mold, and of course the drying process results in much less wine. The Valtellina’s cliff-like vineyards require so much work (an hour of labor in the relatively gentle hills of the Veneto is the equivalent of 6 hours in the Valtellina) that the wines are never inexpensive, but we love good Sforzato. For one thing the higher acidity of Nebbiolo gives the wine some lift and brightness that makes them a bit easier to drink. The trick is to get the complexity and concentration that comes with drying the grapes, but to avoid cooked and stewed flavors – not a simple accomplishment. Alberto Marsetti is a very small producer. He’s one of the few in the region to forgo small new oak for aging his wines, and the results are very fine and pure. Sforzato needs some time in bottle, and the 2006 is now beginning to show its stuff.
One of our favorite Italian winemakers is actually American. Michael Schmelzer moved to Italy in 2003 with his family and purchased 10 hectares of organic vineyards in the "belly button of Chianti Classico" at Monte Bernardi. Since that time he has branched out and started making wines from Sicilian grapes as well. This spring he introduced his Tetra Pak Rosato which is made from 100% Nero d'Avola grapes. Don't let the vibrant pink carton fool you. It's more subtle on the inside - fresh and energetic with great acidity and a slight grip. Raspberry, strawberry, and fresh watermelon fruit make this the perfect beach or picnic wine. An added bonus is that Tetra Pak cartons use 54% less energy, create 80% less greenhouse gasses, and produce 60% less solid waste volume than a 750ml glass wine bottle. So you can celebrate summer and save the environment. Christine Manula
Good Lagrein can remind us of northern Rhone Syrah, perhaps usually higher in acid and a bit more rustic. This one immediately made me think of Cornas, rich but with good acidity, earthy and mineral but with real elegance, a bit of meatiness, and olive and black cherry. It is altogether a remarkable expression of Lagrein, fine to drink now but likely even better after another couple of years. Jamie Wolff
We love Schiava (also called Vernatsch in the Alto Adige, and Trollinger in Germany and Austria) for its light and easy-drinking character. At the same time it reminds us of a hypothetical wild mountain cousin of Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, hinting at a more important structure and complexity beneath the surface of pretty color and fruit. This one delivers much more –the result of great biodynamic fruit, and a long slow fermentation and maceration. It’s unmistakably Schiava, but there is a depth and complexity to the wine that we haven’t found elsewhere (excepting Nusserhof), and despite the typically light color of the wine, the delicious cranberry fruit, the cut and lift present, there is a core that suggests much more. You can have your fun and think about it too! Jamie Wolff
Vinified and aged identically to “Neccio”; together the two wines present a clear case for Cesanese’s transparency in reflecting terroir. The Ca’Litro vineyard soils are made up of white sandstone, and this is the most structured and full-bodied of the Riccardi-Reale wines. Dark and tart brambly berries, quite floral, eucalyptus, bigger tannins. (My favorite!) Christine Manula
Collepazzo is a blend of fruit grown on the two distinct soil types in the Riccardi-Reale vineyards: volcanic and sandstone. From biodynamic farming and straightforward vinification with indigenous yeasts; the wine spends nine months in cement and eight months in the bottle before being released. There are beautiful cherry / kirsch notes, along with some stone and clay, and light pepper and baking spices. There’s fruit on the palate but it’s savory and dry, with a thread of tannin, lots of lift and energy. Jamie Wolff
Saetti is wine that shows how deeply appealing natural wine can be when made with care; vinified completely without additives including SO2 it is not the least bit funky. It has a deep ruby color with a nose redolent of brambly red berries, dried violets, delicate hints of sweet spices, and a slight meaty tone. The wine is more frothy than it is fully sparkling, with a velvety texture cut by bright acidity with a slight tannic bite. On its own, it shows more overtly floral and quite juicy but, as a good Lambrusco should, it shines with food. Try it with charcuterie, pasta bolognese, pepperoni pizza, or as a match to any rich dish (burgers!). Andy Paynter
Vittorio Savino, owner of Fenicotteri, joined Foti’s small association of producers called i Vigneri (some of whose wines from Mt. Etna we always have on our shelves). I Vigneri offers unparalleled expertise in every aspect of viticulture and production (including the services of Ciccio, the group’s mule). Foti’s work at Gulfi, and his knowledge derived from the vines in Pachino must have been very valuable when trying to restore a vineyard that’s virtually on the shore of the lagoon. The farming is impeccable (only copper and sulfur and sheep manure are used on the bush-trained vines) but it’s the location that brings an incredibly compelling mineral and saline lift to the wine. It’s perhaps on the light side of medium-bodied, savory aromatics with typical plummy Nero d’Avola fruit, and in a perfectly balanced state for current drinking – fresh, with great cut and moderately tannic structure – entirely satisfying. Called Fenicotteri (flamingo, in Italian) after the migratory flamingoes who visit the lagoon next to the vineyard, this is one special wine. Jamie Wolff Eighty percent of the clusters are destemmed and crushed. It’s macerated for 14 days in steel vats, matures in used barriques for at least six months, and then spends six months in bottle before it’s released. The result is a beautiful Nero d’Avola, deep and dark. Tart red cherries and ripe blackberries, violets and earth with leather and spice on the finish. With medium high acid and medium tannins, this will be perfect to pair with gamey meats, BBQ, a hearty beef stew, roast turkey or even tuna steak. If you're a vegetarian, try it with lentils and shitake mushrooms. Christine Manula
We’ve met Maria Teresa several times at Angiolino Maule’s fantastic natural wine fair, Villa Favorita. She’s the image of a charming southern Italian lady with a broad smile and an aura of generosity and hospitality. We finally made the decision to buy some of her wines, and we couldn’t be happier with how they’re showing. This is an Aglianico from vineyards close to the Roccamonfina nature reserve, among Starnalia’s almost 100 acres of organic grapes, olives and chestnuts. The 2010 has delicious flavors of dark plum and a deep, spicy mineral presence. The Aglianico’s formidable tannins and vibrant acidity have been tamed by extra age in the bottle — drink now with hearty, red sauces and other rustic Italian fare. John Rankin
Made from 100% Sangiovese grown in the hills of Romagna, brothers-in-law Davide and Mauro have been making Primo Segno together since 2005. Villa Venti is certified biodynamic and went completely solar-powered in 2010. They are working with four Sangiovese clones that are planted according to the type of clay found in the soil. Red clay, mixed with some sand, gives the wines structure and the sea breeze from 10 kilometers away creates a micro-climate that keeps the wines fresh. Bright ruby red, there is an intense nose of berries and violets. Crisp and juicy with good tannins and acidity, the Primo Segno is ready to drink now but will only improve with some age. Try it with braised rabbit pappardelle or lamb with rosemary. Christine Manula
A luminous, almost ethereal blend of indigenous Sicilian varieties from the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. Palmento is the term for the traditional wine cellars of the region, with stone troughs for crushing grapes by foot. Winemakers Anna Martens and Eric Narioo honor the old methods with a blend of organically farmed Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, and Alicante as well as the native white grapes of the island Minella, Catarratto, and Insolia. Everything is crushed by foot from old bush vines with no fining or filtration and minimal sulfur at bottling. The result is a rush of pure, vibrant fruit as soon as you pop the cork: raspberries, cranberries, hints of juicy meyer lemon tumble into a bracing snap of acidity. A whiff of tannin reminds you (just barely) that this is still a red wine. It is also a fabulous solution to the "red wine with fish?" conundrum, especially with bolder, oily fish like mackerel or sardines. Grill up a few to enjoy with a baguette and a simple salad alongside a lightly chilled bottle the next time you're stumped for a seafood pairing with red-only drinkers, and raise a toast to Captain Alex! Karina Mackow