Category Archives: Italian wines

Toast the holidays with 7 lovely wines from Pasternak

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Toast the holidays with lovely wines!
Toast the holidays with lovely wines!

How do you pick wines you think you’ll like? Perhaps you read respected publications like Wine Spectator or the New York Times wine reviews. You might follow a few well-known wine bloggers or tweeters who do the searching for you.

Another way is to identify an importer that you trust. And it’s good, too, if that importer can also direct you to locations where you can buy the wines they import. And that’s exactly what Pasternak Importers do. First, they select a winery in a specific location. Then they do the taste-testing to make sure the vintage or the blend meets their quality standards. Imagine trying to pick out your own wines from thousands produced in a region, the dozens or even hundreds of wines produced by a particular winemaker! Even master sommeliers, who get paid to do this stuff, have to study diligently and practice for long periods of time before they can do their work of informed recommending.
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Pasternak deals in wines in the affordable category and all the way up to premium and even luxury wines – French, Italian, and more. You can search their portfolio by region, varietal or brand, and they have an extremely handy “Find Our Wines” widget that lets you locate multiple places you can find the wines you decide to try. Just put in your zip or city and state – country? – and click to see who carries what you’re looking for.
Nice red, rose brut and white Pasternak imports
Nice red, rose brut and white Pasternak imports

Recently Pasternak shared a few of their wines in several price categories for review purposes. A few notes about them below:

  • Valdo Oro Puro Prosecco superior DOCG. A light and elegant wine with a nice bubble (Charmat method) and just enough sweetness. SRP $21
  • Valdo Rose Brut, A lovely medium pink bubbly that’s perfect for company or just for fun. Called a “Best Buy” in Wine and Spirits 8/16 issue. SRP $16
  • Thomas George Estates Estate Chardonnay. Aromas of star fruit, lemon, banana and hazelnut characterize Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Subtle flavors of citrus zest and custard  express themselves among stronger notes of stone fruit. The finish lingers long with a nice fullness. SRP $30

    Pinot Noir, prosecco and Chardonnay from Pasternak
    Pinot Noir, prosecco and Chardonnay from Pasternak
  • Thomas George Estates Estate Pinot Noir. Wine Enthusiast says: “Raw earth and black tea combine for a classic take on the variety, high-toned in wild strawberry and red cherry. Tightly wound, it opens in the glass, staying light but with texture and body, a floral wine with just enough weight.” SRP $43
  • Marchesi Fumanelli Terso Veneto IGT. The blend of 50% Garganega, 50% Trebbiano Toscano makes a beautiful white wine. Intense, nutty, and toasty aromas on the nose. The palate is concentrated and powerful with lemony freshness and bready notes. A striking wine with flavors of acacia, lime blossoms and fresh apricots. Amazing acidity. SRP $40

  • Marchesi Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC. Brilliant ruby red color, with a pleasant aroma of dark cherry and mature forest fruit. Dry and velvety on the palate, with a hint of bitter almond. Enjoy the touch of sweet vanilla and the soft tannins. A well-structured wine with a soft, intense, long and persistent finish. A beautiful, rich and robust red to love with your Christmas tenderloin roast beef or your finest Hanukkah braised brisket and latkes. SRP $30

  • Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose. Strawberry and wild cherry fruit flavors, with a touch of richness on the mid palate. Dry, crisp acidity and a creamy texture and long finish. 90 points from Wine Enthusiast in 2015. SRP $22
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Alesssio Planeta brings treasured Sicilian wines to Chicago

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Alessio Planeta grows the grapes and makes the wines at Planeta Winery, and he came visiting Chicago recently to introduce them to industry professionals. Held at Naha Restaurant, 500 N. Clark, the event featured many of Alessio’s favorites paired beautifully with a three-course meal prepared by the superb culinary team at Naha.

The first course, an item from the regular menu, was organic carnaroli risotto with confit duck, Delicata squash, wood-grilled onions, and a delightful embellishment of crispy curly kale – we’d love to know how they get that crunch while keeping the gorgeous deep color of that green!
Second came a roast quail with a “hash” of Brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash and slab bacon, served with soft-cooked polenta and frosted Marquis grapes and sage. Dessert was a lovely composed dish of Italian blue cheese, shaved pear and pea shoot salad, macerated black figs and seeded ficelle (all their breads were excellent). Creative and delicious combinations.
Each course was paired with a different vintage of Planeta Santa Cecilia Nero d’Avola – 2011, 2007 and 2005 – all four-star quality. You could feel his love of his work when Alessio said, “Wine is the most honest labor of any product in the world.”
He also said that if your favorite wine vendor doesn’t carry any of these wines, you can get Binny’s or Eataly to bring them in for you. Below are some of the elegant and delicioius wines produced by Alessio Planeta and his team.
Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2014, a lovely dry red blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato grapes that are macerated 14 days on the skin. The resulting blend is fresh and smooth and goes well with fish. SRP ~$24
Dorilli Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG 2014, A limited production of a refined and elegant expression of the union of the noble Nero d’Avola with Frappato di Vittoria grapes. Lightly distinguished by maturation in wood. SRP ~$33
Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2007, produced with a combination of indigenous varieties Nero d’Avola and Frappato. A unique wine with flavours and aromas of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate due to the particular soil and climate in which the grapes are cultivated. SRP ~$24
Nocera Sicilia DOC 2015, 5-star, 100% Nocera, grapes that grow only in the northern part of Sicily. These vineyards are surrounded by the sea – in fact, sometimes appear to be floating above it. Here they grow in alluvial soils where warriors once fought their battles. No SRP – why?
 
Nero d’Avola Nocera Sicilia DOC 2014. easy to drink Aromas of floral, plum and chocolate that are typical of the Nero d’Avola grape. At first smell, the aroma seemed a bit off, but the wine was very drinkable. SRP ~$26
Noto Nero d’Avola DOC 2012.  At first smell, the aroma seemed a bit off, but soft tannins, high acidity make it good to drink now and good to age for several years to come.
Santa Cecilia Noto DOC 2011. 5 stars. 100% Nero d’Avola. This year 2011 was a good vintage all around in Sicily, Tlhis is Alessio’s favorite vintage.Blackcurrent flavor typical of this area. SRP ~$45 Alessio said he prefers higher acid to softer tannins.
Santa Cecilia Noto DOC 2010. 100% Nero d’Avola. Less warm, more rain in this area today, where it used to be very dry in the late 90s. A quintessential expression of Sicily’s noble Nero d’Avola grape.
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Luce della Vite – luxury wines from Italian-American partnership

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Gold sun logo for Luce luxury wines
Gold sun logo for Luce luxury wines

Luce della Vite Montalcino is the name given to the providential partnership put together back in the ’90s between Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi wineries – across the sea from each other, and each home to some of the world’s most highly praised wines. These two master winemakers joined together and decided to ignore the DOC/DOCG regulations and create their own magic. The resulting Luce della Vite wines are remarkably elegant and refined, each bottle emblazoned with the fiery gold sun logo that is a modern rendition of the sun design chosen by Margot Mondavi from the emblem on the front of the altar in the ancient church built for the Frescobaldi family in 1493.

Sangiovese grapes in a vineyard of Montalcino,...
Sangiovese grapes in a vineyard of Montalcino, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luce della Vite wines must be made with Sangiovese grapes, either alone or with Merlot. The Sangiovese grapes grow in the flinty soils at higher altitudes of the estates and the Merlot grapes thrive in the lower areas in soil that’s a special clay mixed with volcanic ash. Unlike many other wines, Luce wines are blended before being put into barrels so that their flavors can be fully integrated during aging. The wines have been such a success that in 2017 Luce will be launching its own separate winery.

 Luce della Vite 1994, Merlot & Sangiovese – Only the second vintage to be made, this blend of Sangiovese and Merlot has a deep ruby ink color – bright, aromatic and highly extracted flavors display notes of raspberries, spices, violets and dried herbs. Complex nuances of roasted mocha and vanilla linger in the background. Elegant in structure with fine, well-balanced tannins and a long finish. Despite its low acid, its greatest potential will come with proper aging.
Luce della Vite 1999, Sangiovese & Merlot – This year was a particularly good harvest in Tuscany and especially in Montalcino. Wines from this vintage are delicate and refined with silky tannins and low acidities, but enough structure that they can age for many years. Luce 1999 is a dense ruby color with ripe aromas of dried plum and blackberry and hints of tobacco leaf, tanned leather, cinnamon and clove. Well-integrated tannins support the aromas and blend into a velvet-smooth savory and herbaceous wine that happens to be one of proprietor Lamberto Frescobaldi’s favorites.
Sangiovese grapes on the vine
Sangiovese grapes on the vine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luce della Vite 2012, Sangiovese & Merlot – Almost ideal weather conditions after heavy spring rains brought this vintage to a 5-star completion. Dark ruby in color, it offers a forceful, complex and rich bouquet of remarkable depth with notes of wild blackberry and blackcurrants, with delicate hints of spicy clove and black pepper in the background and additional impressions of black licorice and balsam to complete the profile. This is a full-bodied wine with ripe tannins that yield velvety softness in the mouth, accompanied by a trailing aromatic expression with a hint of smokiness throughout its lengthy finish.

Luce della Vite 2013, Sangiovese & Merlot – Just released, the color of this wine is intense and impenetrable, the bouquet elegant and complex. Vibrant aromas include cherries and raspberries with spiced notes and delicate floral undertones. Well-balanced and fresh with persistent aromas, the tannins are silky and refined with a well-defined the structure and no sharpness at all.
The following Luce wines are made bear the luxury Italian designation Brunello (which may partly explain why Lamberto Frescobaldi named his dog Brunello – read his interview here).
Luce Brunello 2008, Sangiovese – Only 5 acres were planted for this wine in a year with the rainiest spring in ten years and below-normal temperatures early in the year, followed by an extra-hot and sunny summer through September. Perfect conditions for ideal ripening times, especially Sangiovese grapes. This wine’s deep ruby red color is accented with garnet highlights. Its bouquet has mellow aromas of blackberry, current and blueberry along with notes of violet and citrus and a lively spiciness starring fresh tobacco, cocoa, leather and star anise. Medium body with a persistent finish  and a fine and elegant tannin texture.
Luce Brunello 2009 – A deep garnet red color, this wine releases a variegated bouquet of blackberry, blackcurrant, balsam and black licorice with notes of iris and sweet violets. You may notice, too, notes of charred oak, clove, roast espresso and dark chocolate. Fresh, yet  rich and full-bodied, it has velvety tannins and a long finish. Powerful yet  elegant.
Luce Brunello 2010 – It is rare to be able to find a bottle of this top award-winning wine. A dark garnet red, this wine boasts an elegant yet dense bouquet of sweet violets, blueberry, blackcurrant and black licorice with touches of rosemary blossoms and notes of oak toast. A deep and well structured wine with velvety tannins and a very long finish. Perfect with red meats.
Luce Brunello 2011 – Just released in 2016, this wine is a deep color with light garnet lights, has a complex bouquet ranging from black fruits like sour plums and spices to tobacco and tea leaves. The complexity continues on the palate by starting soft and coming into balance with a strong tannic texture. Pairs well with steak.
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