Thursday, December 1, 2016

Toast the Season with Valdo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Oro Puro


Sparkling wine is the perfect beverage for the holidays. 

Prosecco is an Italian sparkling dry white wine made primarily from Glera grapes. Principally grown in the Prosecco region of Italy, which includes Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, north of Venice in the Veneto region. Under European law, only sparkling wines made with grapes grown in this region can have the name Prosecco.

Located in the heart of the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG production area, the Valdo Winery has been cultivating this unique location for generations.

Prosecco has become widely popular in the United States. Consumers have embraced these affordable and tasty sparkling wines. I often recommend bubbles to my customers, they are suitable for any occasion at home and compliment food well. For Mimosa fans, Prosecco is an excellent choice and works well as the base wine. You don't have to stick to OJ for your Mimosa, try mango, cranberry and berry cordials for an added kick of flavor.

I encourage you to gently pop some corks this time of year at your holiday celebrations. Put Valdo Prosecco on your list and enjoy. Bubbles always put a smile on my face.


Tasting Notes Valdo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Oro Puro

Color: Pretty gold.
Nose: Mineral, toast, light nuttiness, apple.
Palate: Soft perlage, delicate toasty yeast, minerality and citrus, focus to middle, fresh creamy medium finish of Fuji apple and cinnamon spice with a hint of citrus. My speed. With the enthusiastic help of my wife, this bottle emptied rapidly.

Thoughts: Lovely flavors and finish, eminently compatible with diverse foods. Enjoyed with a turkey sandwich at home. I am a fan. Recommended.

Varietal: Glera 100%
Grapes were handpicked.
Soft pressed, fermentation in temperature controlled stainless tanks.
Five months Charmant aging, three months in bottle.
ABV: 11.5%
SRP: $16
Sample provided by Pasternak Wine Imports

Perlage: In French, we use the word "mousse" to describe Champagne bubbles, fizziness or effervescence can be referred to as perles or pearls.

Borrowing from the French, the Italians like to use the word "perlage" from perle or pearl in French to describe the bubbles in Prosecco.

Hence the word perlage, a combination of perle and the suffix -age (the suffix denotes the gathering of “pearls”).


About Valdo Spumanti Srl

Valdo Spumanti, from the slopes of the DOCG Valdobbiadene. Located a few kilometers from Venice in NE Italy. A land renown for high quality grape production and Prosecco wine. The Valdo Winery has been cultivating this unique area for generations. Founded in 1926, Valdo Spumanti is now Italy's leading producer of Prosecco. The vineyards cover 155 hectares. Over 9.2 million bottles were sold in 2011.

VALDO Spumanti Srl
via Foro Boario 20
31049 Valdobbiadene (TV)


Note 1: This wine is not Champagne, it has bubbles, but is not Champagne. People often, mistakenly, call all wines with bubbles "Champagne." Wines with bubbles are generally referred to as “Sparkling Wine.” Because they sparkle.

Note 2: Champagne was invented and perfected in Champagne, France. True “Champagne” is only made in the Champagne region of France, using the Méthode Champenoise. The Champagne winemaking community, under the auspices of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), has developed a comprehensive set of rules and regulations for all wine produced in the region to protect its economic interests.

FYI: Level of Dryness + Amount of residual sugar per liter
    Extra Brut = 0.6%
    Brut = 1.5%
    Extra Dry = 1.2 – 2.0%
    Sec = 1.7 – 3.5%
    Demi-Sec = 3.3 - 5.0%
    Doux = 5% + 

Sparkling wines are best served chilled, between 40°F and 45°F. Warm bubbles are no fun.

Go and celebrate with good cheer and Valdo Prosecco!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reviewed: Donnata’ 2014 Nero D’Avola Alessandro di Camporeale Sicilia DOC and a Marvelous Wine and Food Pairing


One of my most successful wine and food pairings.

In the classic technique of wine evaluation, the wine stands alone. Aroma, flavor, color, it is about what is in the bottle, then the glass and how you perceive it in the mouth. One then uses experience, knowledge and bias in making suggestions about quality of the wine, expected life of the wine and possible pairings with food. One does not always have the opportunity to put to the test the suggestions and recommendations.

Today, I am eager to share not only my tasting notes on the 2014 Donnata’ Nero D’Avola Alessandro di Camporeale Sicilia DOC, but my successful pairing of this wine with dinner. It was bloody marvelous. My enthusiasm for this wine, which woke me up at 5am this morning, is predicated on how well the wine matched the food I prepared for dinner.

It is not often I have a success of this magnitude. Reactions to my instagram posts before and during dinner, were also enthusiastic. Looks like the wine and food photos resonated with people around the world.

Following are my tasting notes for the wine, then a description of the food pairing, along with recipe and finally, information and resources about Nero D'Avola and Sicily/Sicilia. You can call me a fan of Alessandro di Camporeale.  



2014 Donnata’ Nero D’Avola Alessandro di Camporeale Sicilia DOC

Color: Plum, bright rim.
Nose: Fragrant, plum, soft orange skin, focused spice and licorice with geranium.
Palate: Light body, focused to front, woody spice, light red fruit, citrus, light finish.

After 15 minutes: Honeycomb, oak, light plum, whiff of licorice, body odor on the nose. Dry, dried cherry and cranberry, light body, bright with hint of orange peel on the dry short finish.

After 30 minutes: More fruit on the nose, plum with sour cherry, licorice, leather, hint of mint. Touch more weight in the mouth, dried cherry, tobacco, pleasant tannin on tongue and under lips, brightness on the light finish with that orange note, more my speed. That orange note lingered. Like.

After 1 hour: Nose similar to 30 minutes, with more tobacco, graphite, hint of smoke. Medium-light body, light red fruit, graphite, brightness, sour cherry, orange peel, dry top of palate, touch of licorice, dry short finish.

Decanted 1 hour: Funk on the nose, with tarragon, dried raspberry and grape. Broader and softer on the palate, good mouth feel, dried cherry, raspberry, chicory, fine tannin, some sour cherry and cola into the dry finish with that orange peel note. More integrated, drier, still a light bodied, dry wine, but a pretty, if subtle finish. Delicate wine and should be paired with food that won’t overwhelm. Like.

Day two: Gained a lot of dark color, almost inky dark. Earthy, savory nose, dark fruit in background with sour earthy violets and carnation, leaned into licorice and body odor. Savory, dark dried fruit, dry on the tongue with felty tannin, licorice, orange peel, cherry, bigger and longer finish. Wanted a steak. 

Thoughts: Suggest pairing with grilled and fried fish, tomato sauces and beef based dishes. Avoid heavy spices. Day two filled out this wine with bigger flavors and much longer finish. Not so dainty. Wanted food, especially bolder flavors. See recipe below.

Recommended alone. Strongly Recommended with food.

Blend: 100% Nero D'Avola
Closure: Natural Cork
ABV: 14%
SRP: $19
Sample provided by winery


Società Cooperativa
Contrada Mandranova, 90043 Camporeale (PA)

Winery Tours available by reservation only.
Monday to Friday 10.00 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 17.00. Saturday from 10.00 to 12.00

At 380 meters above sea level, on a land rich in clay, limestone and potassium, are the thriving Nero d’Avola vineyards of the Alessandro family. The vines were established in 2000 using an espalier training system.

The Alessandro family’s roots are very old, steeped in history. With three brothers’ commitment and energy, Rosolino, Antonino and Natale, supported by their children Anna, Benedetto and Benedetto. You can call me a fan of the wines of Alessandro di Camporeale. Bravo!



The hour I spent tasting and taking notes on the 2014 Donnata’ Nero D’Avola Alessandro di Camporeale Sicilia DOC, was just before I was to prepare dinner. I knew I was going to cook NY steaks. I knew it was too cold outside to grill. And I was appropriately hungry.

Initially, the wine underwhelmed. As the wine opened, especially the wine I decanted for an hour, it began to show some delicate and integrated flavors, it was quite pretty. My impressions of this Nero D'Avola affected my food preparation decisions. Dinner was executed by experience, though a bit instinctual and relied on ingredients at hand. Yes, it was strongly influenced by the wine.


With the flavors of the Donnata’ Nero D’Avola still in my mouth, I decided I needed onion, tomatoes and a wine reduction sauce to properly prepare the NY steaks. The tomatoes and reduction sauce were key.
1. Onion - Thinly sliced 1/2 onion. Gently sauteed in olive oil until caramelized. Removed onion from pan and set on serving platter for later.
2. NY Steak - Added a little more olive oil to the still hot pan. Lightly salted and peppered the pan. Placed two room temperature NY Steaks in the pan. Salted and peppered top of steaks. After 4 minutes gently shake pan to loosen steaks. After 2 minutes turn over steak. 
I have a heavy weighted lid for cooking, it rests directly on the food and works wonderfully to concentrate heat and flavor. I placed it directly on the steaks. Sizzle!
3. Tomatoes - Cherry tomatoes were on hand, I rinsed a handful and sliced them in half. While the steak was sizzling on the flip side, I added the tomatoes to the frying pan. Sizzle!
After four minutes gently shake the pan. Wait 2 minutes and check steak. You may need to flip again if steak is not cooked to your satisfaction. I prefer my steak lightly pink and juicy. 

4. Keep Warm - Remove steaks and place on the platter with the caramelized onion. Scoop up the cooked tomatoes and place equally on top of each steak. Take the onion and also place in equal proportions on top of each steak. Both steaks should now have sauteed tomato and caramelized onion on top. Place the platter in a warm oven (200 F) while you prepare the sauce.
5. Reduction Sauce - Marry the food to the wine.
This summer in Priorat I had an amazing lunch with family in the town of Falset. Chef Toni Bru, owner of El Celler de l'Aspic Restaurant, impressed me with his personalized dishes. It was a revelation and inspiration. An inspiration which emerged with this wine and food.
"Toni Bru selected our wines for us, and he married the cheeks with the red wine we were drinking. It was a decadent reduction sauce. I can only dream of making food this good."
Cuisine of Catalunya a Return Home, July 21, 2016

Remembering that fabulous meal in Catalunya from the summer, I took the still hot frying pan with bits of steak, tomato and oil, and added some of the Nero D'Avola to the pan. Reduced the heat to medium-low and worked the wine around, gently loosening the bits of cooked food stuck to the pan surface.
Gently reduce the wine into sauce - The wine should reduce by at least half in volume. It will develop a dark color and a wonderful sheen. Taste the sauce, it should not taste of alcohol. When it tastes correct, as in delicious, remove from heat and pour over the two steaks you have kept warm in the oven.



As I mentioned, this was a fantastic pairing with NY steak, caramelized onions, sauteed cherry tomatoes and a reduction sauce made with the Nero D’Avola. The tomatoes shined with the tender steak and wine, the sauce was rich and savory. By the time I plated dinner, the wine had been open two hours and matched beautifully. 12 hours later I am sitting at my laptop writing about this unforgettable, most wonderful wine and food pairing. 

Such a satisfying dinner. Thank you, thank you Alessandro di Camporeale.


Nero D'Avola is Sicily’s ubiquitous grape variety. It grows on the island with so many biotypes, versions, features and interpretations, that it is difficult to define a single profile. This is Sicily's most prodigious variety, and deserves attention as a central figure from Sicilian culture. Sicily has been luring visitors since the times of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Greeks. A land prized by many ancient cultures.
 NERO D’AVOLA— Pronunciation:
nay-ro ‘ deh ‘ ah-voh-lah

Nero D’Avola
:—Royal ruby, with aromas of red flowers, strawberry, sour cherry, to more structured wines with aromas of ripe cherry, rose, sweet spices, licorice and cocoa, a structured, full body, healthy acidity and tannin. Pairings: charcuterie and antipasti dishes, grilled swordfish, grilled and roasted meats, medium-aged cheeses and mushroom risotto.

Modern Sicilian wines showcase Nero d’Avola as one of the Mediterranean’s most regal red wines, balancing freshness with the capacity to evolve over time. Nero d’Avola’s adaptability to unique geological variations makes the grape one of the island’s most versatile.


Sicily’s reputation as a food and wine destination has remained intact for more than 3,000 years. Beginning with the Greeks, who arrived on the eastern part of Sicily in the 8th century BCE, the idea of methodical grape growing practices for the purpose of quality winemaking firmly took root on the island.

As the centuries passed, Phoenicians and Romans traded Sicilian wines based on their power and their distinctive qualities. The best vines were propagated, viticulture developed, and thus Sicilian wines were promoted on and off the island. Today, we see the fruits of these labors.

Though many things have changed, most of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties and time-honored wine growing traditions continue to play an important role. Thanks to meticulous vineyard tending and gentle grape handling in Sicily’s wineries, Sicilia DOC wines feature the medley of flavors that Sicily has been known for since ancient times and which represent some of the best wines of Italy.

With more than 250,000 acres planted to indigenous and international grape varieties, each vintage in Sicily produces an array of captivating and elegant wines. Sicilia DOC wines are now available in the U.S. market. This wine region is re-estabishing itself and invites you to try their wines.


Sicily is the largest of the Italian islands, separated from the Continent by the Strait of Messina and surrounded by the Ionian, the Tyrrhenian and the Mediterranean Seas. There are many wonderful reasons to visit Sicily, and not just for the wonderful wines and cuisine. Bicycle touring has become very common in Sicily with numerous trails and terrains. I can't help but imagine Don Matteo from the Italian TV series of the same name, in his black cassock on his bicycle, peddling along the islands coastline.

With more than 20 mountains and ranges, rock climbing and hiking have also become popular in Trapani, Palermo, Messina, Pantalica and in Siracusa province. And Sicily is an island, so sailing, kite-surfing, kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving are readily available around the island and the outlying archipelagos.  Sicily also boasts diverse golf courses, a favorite destination to combine the pleasure of sport, relaxation and fine wines and cuisine.
* Note: Sicily is the host of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the archaeological area around Agrigento; Villa Romana del Casale (between Enna and Ragusa); the Aeolian archipelago (to the north of the big island); the baroque cities of Val di Noto; Siracusa; and the volcano Mount Etna.
Unique among Sicily’s UNESCO sites is the island of Pantelleria, to Sicily’s south. Pantelleria was added to the UNESCO heritage list in 2014 for its traditional head-trained grapevines of Zibibbo. The traditional techniques of Pantelleria’s vine training are celebrated each year, between the months of July and September, during festivals that honor the history of the island’s vineyard practices and the annual harvest.


Conversations with my wine industry friends has reinforced my efforts to avoid "house palate" and to remain open to wines from around the world. Perspective is important and I enjoy stretching my nose and palate. This was a decidedly remarkable, unexpected and successful wine and food pairing I won't forget. Sicilia has moved to the top of my must visit list.


Today, Nero D’Avola is the signature wine of Sicily and it pairs well with local Sicilian cuisine. As I discovered, it can also pair extremely well with food I prepare at home. Look for the Sicilia DOC label to enjoy an authentic taste of Sicily at your home. Especially look for wines by Alessandro di Camporeale.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Gnarly, Sexy, Angels from Two Hands Wines, South Australia a #winechat with Michael Twelftree


Picture Series from Two Hands Wines, South Australia.

 "We used to make wines that yell, now we make wines that charm." 
-Michael Twelftree

This month I enjoyed three Australian wines from Two Hands Wines Picture Series. Every wine in the Picture Series has its own inspiration and take on popular culture. With some old school Polaroid imagery by photographer Don Brice. The aim is to bring a smile to your face when you pick up the bottle, reminding you that wines should be approachable and of course… fun.

Michael Twelftree from @twohandswine joined us on #winechat as we tasted and chatted about three of his wines; 2014 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz, 2014 Angels Share Shiraz and 2015 Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon. Two Hands Wines has an extensive portfolio, the wines we focused on are from their introductory line. Thank you for sharing Michael.

Also, thank you to Christina Portz @JusttheBottle, director of #winechat, for the invitation to participate in this fun and educational twitter tasting. Christina reviews and writes about food, wine and spirits; and pours at tastings and events educating guests while sharing her love for wine. Her writing has been featured in DC Wine Week and Brightest Young Things.

#Winechat is a great opportunity for novice to experienced wine lovers to join in a discussion. Participants include winemakers, importers, bloggers, retailers and more. It takes place every other Wednesday from 9:00pm - 10:00pm ET/6:00pm - 7:00pm PT/GMT+5. Every other week a new topic is discussed. Topics vary from wine closures to wine regions and more. The chat allows an honest and active conversation to happen between and among guest/consumers, winemakers, importers, and distributors. You are invited.

The idea for Two Hands was born in September 1999 when founders Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz sat at a friend’s engagement party and decided it was time to make their own wine and market it on the world stage. In November 2012, Two Hands was named in Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 list for the 10th consecutive year. Two Hands Wines is owned by Michael Twelftree, together with Colorado native Tim Hower.

"Barossa Valley, South Australia stunningly beautiful, vines feel right here."
-Michael Twelftree




1. 2014 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz Barossa Valley

Nose: Savory nose with currant, orange peel, graphite, dried cherries, perfume and light clove.
Palate: Smooth attack, viscosity, currant and cherry, delicate tannin, plum, some heat, not as heavy as expected. Pretty finish, elegant with blueberries and fig. Began to show off after 15 minutes. No monster Shiraz here. Like at first taste. Bigger like even as this wine opened, this wine grew on me. That darn charming finish really drew me in. Yeah, big like.

Day three: Elegant still, dark berries, polished, fine tannin, supple, blueberries and chocolate cherries on the finish. Right on, my speed. Drink me now.

Thoughts: If you are looking for an elegant, ready to drink now, Australian Shiraz, look no further. the 2014 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz Barossa Valley delivered taste and finish. It also has life if you want to keep some bottles for the next five years. Strongly Recommended.

Closure: Screw Cap.
ABV: 13.8%
SRP: $30
Sample provided by winery


2. 2014 Angels Share Shiraz McLaren Vale

"It's all tannin quality to me, the later you pick the more your tannins become soupy."
-Michael Twelftree 

Nose: Lovely, spice, juniper, lavender, dried blueberries, tarragon, tantalizing freshness.
After 20 minutes: Coffee, chocolate mocha with a hint of peppermint on the aromatics, sweeter mid-palate that led to slightly sweeter tannin.
Palate: Accurate description from the winery, see above. Light mid-palate, focus to front, blueberries, licorice, pleasant tannin on gums and tongue. Like. Pretty nose. Big like.

Day two: Berries, dark notes, blueberries with shaved dark chocolate, licorice in the background, dab of tobacco and graphite, fine tannin on roof of mouth, medium finish.

Day three: Full of life, pleasantly dry, tartness, lip smacking, bright blueberries, pleasant grip under lips, cassis into the fresh finish. Wants food.

Day 9: Dark, almost inky color. Dark spicy nose. Rich and concentrated flavors, on the spicy, meaty side, with strong fruit and focus, pleasantly dry across the palate, dark fruit tar on the long finish. Impressed.

Thoughts: Buy and don't drink! Put this bad boy in your cellar for up to 10 years. This is a winner and should be even better if you wait to drink. Strongly Recommended.

Closure: Screw Cap.
ABV: 14.8%
SRP: $30
Sample provided by winery


3. 2015 Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon McLaren Vale

"The name is from my favourite english arthouse film, watched it lasts week. Ben Kingsley's best role." 
-Michael Twelftree

Nose: Sexy nose, focused, tantalizing, cherry cordial, mint, hint of orange peel, earthy terracotta.
Palate at 40 minutes: Polished, fine velvety tannin on tongue and teeth, nice bite mid-palate, groovy cherries dancing, cassis down the middle, tongue very happy, mouth filling wine, great finish.

Day two: Dry, grippy top of mouth, still has that cool cherry action and note of cassis. Wants a tender steak and I'm willing to oblige. Medium-long finish.

Day three: Classic Cabernet Sauvignon nose, lightly candied. Round, dry, cherry pips, orange essence, lively, leather, plum, blackberries, dry medium finish. Wants food too. Willing to oblige. 

Day 6: Rocking good. Shiny goodness, as I slowly slid my nose into the glass, I was welcomed by obliging aromas of sultry ripe cherry, moist earth, fragrant violets, honeycomb and body perfume. Supple on the tongue with velvety tannin, comforting weight, appealing life on the edges, dried cherries covered with rich chocolate on slate, a dusting of vanilla and orange peel, medium-long finish. Big Like!

Thoughts: Drink now for an enjoyable experience. Cellar for 5 years for an amazing experience. Recommended today. Strongly Recommended 2019 - 2022.

Closure: Screw Cap.
ABV: 14.5%
SRP: $30
Sample provided by winery


Enjoy a structured but relaxed tasting with a knowledgeable and friendly team in Marananga in the Barossa Valley. Kraehe House, a late 19th century stone cottage with its adjoining bakehouse, is open for tastings and sales from 10am to 5pm, seven days a week. With the state of the art interior complemented by the stunning tasting deck at the back of the building, Two Hands Wines provides a beautiful setting amongst the vineyards of the Western Ranges.

Visitors will enjoy an intimate, informative tasting throughout the portfolio, from the Picture Series to the Flagship Series wines. With the ‘Showroom Only’ wines and the latest offerings from the Twelftree range of Grenaches, there is always something new to sample. A modest fee of $10 is charged when participating in a structured tasting, and after being hosted through their tasting experience, guests will be given a complimentary tasting glass, printed with the Two Hands logo and packaged in a bespoke canister to take away with them as a memento of their visit.

Two Hands Wines

273 Neldner Road
Marananga, South Australia, 5355
Phone:     +61 8 8562 4566


For future #winechat tastings, to suggest topics, offer samples, offer to host, or for further information please contact @JusttheBottle, Christina Portz, directly at christinaportz[@}