Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...


The Weekly Wino: April 22nd

This week's review will involve something with which you all are surely familiar--Cabernet Sauvignon. Last night I returned to Vinarium. There wasn't much to decide as I ordered steak and everyone else ordered salsiccia con scamorza (sausage with grilled scamorza cheese). The choice would be, without a doubt, red wine. The waiter was told to bring a bella bottiglia di vino rosso (a nice bottle of red wine) and he delivered it right away.

The choice, to my dismay, was a cabernet sauvignon from the Veneto made by Tenuta di Sant'Antonio, called Capitel del Monte. The minute it filled my glass I could see that it was going to be heavyweight. It was an inky dark red with a ruby tone (as opposed to violet, or brick, or bright red...or so many other shades that a grape can become!). The first thing that caught my nose was the scent of oak, which almost masked the aroma of dark fruits, followed by a bit of alcohol (14%, whew) that could have been remedied by 5 minutes in the refrigerator. "Room temperature" is just not specific enough!

The flavors agreed with the scents and brought me a mouthful of blackberry jam followed by much more than just a little kiss of oak.** While the toastiness wasn't overwhelming, it made it's presence known and my suspicion was confirmed when the label said that the wine spent 12 months aging in Slovenian oak barrels.

(**Here is my very opinionated digression. I am finding more and more Italian wines that are aged in this way. It seems that the "new world" obsession with that rich, vanilla flavor has crossed oceans and borders and is influencing the newer generations of Italian wine makers. I am fully aware that oak aging has long been practiced in Europe, but it has always been used with finesse, giving a soft edge of complexity to very tannic wines. It's like using heavy cream in the kitchen. A spoonful can enhance many a dish, but an entire bottle can overwhelm every flavor and mask the the ingredients that are in the pan. Cream can certainly be very tasty, but, if what you make is good to begin with, you shouldn't need it. I feel the same way about oak. It can be so overwhelming sometimes (California!) that one cannot taste the grape and all it has to offer.)

Ok, I am climbing off the soapbox and we can get back to the Wino.

This wine was thankfully saved from the vanilla clutches by its sensual jamminess and a nice, long finish. The oak was a bit stronger than I would prefer, but overall it didn't kill me. The steak was deliciously medium rare, but a wine with a bit more tannic structure (this Cabernet had uncharacteristically soft tannins) to balance the juiciness of the meat would have made an unbeatable companion.

One more thing--I just want to point out that any decent review of a specific wine would have included the production year, but I am sorry--I forgot to remember. Maybe it was that last glass...



Blogger Unknown said...

haha nice pics- i just love seeing happy faces!

talking abt vine: i got one for you! i know you're in italy and all but i've been trying a few argentinian vines lately and they're delicious! this white one is unbelievable: "Crios" de susana balbo. from the torrontes cafayate region. its the most aromatic wine i've EVER had. its not dry but not sweet either so can go with different foods

4/22/2006 11:04 AM

Blogger Edward said...

Have you seen Sideways yet?

Is Massimo a nickname or a real name?

4/22/2006 11:46 AM

Blogger Secret Mommy said...

Love all your food and wine reviews/thoughts/advice!

PS - Massimo is hot.


4/22/2006 8:47 PM

Blogger Darbs said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4/22/2006 9:50 PM

Blogger Darbs said...

Wow...you really know your wines, huh? Impressive. I looooooooove red wine...but you'd slap me if you knew that I used to regularly drink what we called "Two Buck Chuck" when I was in LA (a $1.99 wine called Charles Shaw)...they sold it at Trader Joe's. I know, I know...and I call myself a red wine lover.

The pics were fun...looks (and sounds) like you guys had a good time!

4/22/2006 9:52 PM

Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

Tracie, I know NOTHING about wine. Are you taking any new students?


ps. I have a box of 2005 rose. Would this be good with chicken? hehehehehe

4/23/2006 2:09 AM

Blogger Susan in Italy said...

I feel like I'm learning something. Tannins, (the punchy quality a wine can have?, or punchy when there is too much tannin?) Jamminess, oakiness, vanilla clutches... Are wine tasters free to describe wine using any food comparison they want or is there a list of comparisons you use? In crappy Novellos, for ex. there's an undertone of rotten meat. Swear to God. Is that on the list of comparisons?

4/23/2006 4:15 AM

Blogger cristina said...

keep 'hem wine reviews coming! luvin' it.

4/23/2006 5:05 AM

Blogger Miss Kim said...

Well what do you know-- My Life Italian is AKA- Wine 101!! Thank you!

4/23/2006 6:09 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Tracie b. - I think what you are noticing with the "vanilla" flavor is an attempt by the smaller producers to satisfy the US market. I agree that this is a mistake. Our, meaning Italian, best wines are those that maintain their local roots and are modified to compliment local foods.

Raffaella says "Great Job!"

4/23/2006 11:11 AM

Blogger Tracie P. said...

travel italy--yep, big mistake. i am seeing more italians as well who enjoy a big oak flavor.
in america, too much emphasis is put on flavors big enough to stand alone--flavors "interesting" enough to be drunk without food. what happens is that we end up with wines (ex. BIG BUTTER-BOMB CHARDONNAYs--give me a burgundy any day for a beautiful chard) that are too flamboyant for any dish.
i hope this infection doesn't spread too far...it would be a shame to see such a beautiful wine producing country change its history to sell out to bad taste.

4/23/2006 1:18 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Not a California Cab fan because of the over Oaking. But, I can no longer drink red wine because of a sudden allergy but I'm developing quite the nose for the whites.

4/23/2006 11:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

lena also said...

Regarding descriptors used for wines, I think it gets really funny when the big important French wines come up (Bordeaux & Burgundy, etc.) You start hearing things like leather, barnyard, cow manure, dead dog, dirty worm (jk on a few of those, obviously.)But you drink one and really do taste leather and it is good. Wine is strange.

4/26/2006 3:12 AM


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