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Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti 2012 SP68 IGT Cerasuolo

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Arianna Occhipinti is young and vibrant 30-year-old Sicilian vintner that is currently creating a huge following on the Italian wine market abroad…. Her approach and philosophy to winemaking is, keep wine as natural as possible from the vine to the bottle, with limited intervention and manipulation during the winemaking process. ‘Natural Woman’, a book that Arianna wrote, is a tribute to her viticultural life and philosophy. She considers herself a farmer and is very in tune with nature and the terroir. This style gives Arianna the chance to create a wine that aims to be a true image of the terroir, which is the unique combination of soil, sun-exposure, climate and location. She is very disciplined, energetic and focused… With her determination and young energy, Arianna is well on her way to realizing her dream of being a top vintner.

Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti is quite a boutique operation one might say and is located in Vittoria on the South West quadrant of the volcanic Island of Sicily, Italy. With a total of 10 original hectares of vines, and her recent success, Arianna has felt the need to expand. Now, she rents an extra 2 hectares about 500 meters away from her original Frappato and Nero d’Avola vines.

On Today’s tasting table is the 2012 SP68 from Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti. She uses a blend of Frappato grapes (to give some fruit notes to her wine) and some Nero d’Avola (to give the wine it’s body). This is a very rustic wine that truly plays on Arianna’s natural winemaking philosophy. First off, it took the SP68 1/2 hour to start opening up in my glass… Remember that I mentioned that Sicily is volcanic? Well, that is the first aroma out of the glass. Smoky ash that needs time to open up, so time is what I suggest you give this wine (roughly 1/2 hour to an hour).

The SP 68 is a clear wine with no sediment and a beautiful light purple with ruby rim color. This wine has medium plus legs.. The SP68 has aromas of red berries on the nose but turn to dark, sour berries on the palate (the SP68 has a funny way of playing with your senses). Other notes in this wine were of dry tobacco, lava stone and ash, finely ground white pepper, red roses, sour cherries, and a slight hint of ground bay leaf and oak.

I found this wine to be somewhat complex and very earthy. The SP68 is a true show of how Arianna tries hard to portray the land and the fruit in her wines without overly masking them in oak. A true, easy-drinking, weekday wine with only 12.5 % alcohol. This wine would be best paired with smoked or charred meats with a tomato or wine based sauce. Find the SP68 online at wine-searcher.com… Cin Cin!

90+ Cellars Boston, Mass.

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90+ Cellars was created by Kevin Mehra because of the fact that he likes drinking great wine. Kevin wanted an everyday drinking wine that tasted like one that wine drinkers usually reserve for special occasions, a delicious wine that could be uncorked any night of the week or whenever friends arrived at his home. Unfortunately, that wine didn’t exist. Either they were extremely expensive or just took way too much time to locate.

In the spring of 2009, Kevin had a copy of the latest Wine Spectator Magazine. He took the time to call and email wineries with a trend of high ratings and asked if they had extra wine for sale. Some wineries told Kevin to get lost and others simply did not give him the time of day. In the end, and after countless tiring hours, he found a handful of willing wineries. The plan was very straight forward… They agreed to put the 90+ Cellars label on their wine, and Kevin would sell it at a fraction of the original price.

You may remember that in 2009, the world economy was in dire straits. Wines priced more than $20 a bottle took a hard hit, and inventory levels at wineries were piling up. Rather than discount their wines and destroy their brand, wineries were willing to part with it for less. Kevin expeditiously paid them and promised complete anonymity on his part.

It was in the summer of 2009 that 90+ Cellars was born in Boston Massachusetts. Since then, it’s been their priority to procure, bottle and deliver fine wine that costs the consumer much less. The world-wide wine market has since changed, but 90+’s mission has not. Kevin and his team partner with highly respected wineries around the globe to provide you with wine that will keep more money in your wallet and really impress your friends. Truly a win-win situation I would say.

On the tasting table today is the 90+ Big Red Blend from Santa Barbara County California. This wine is a true example of how a great quality wine can cost much less… On first appearance, this red blend has a beautiful dark purple color with ruby rim and long, slender legs showing signs of a higher degree of alcohol. Notes in the 90+ Big Red Blend are of ripe berries, black currants and blackberries. For the earthy components this wine has lovely aromas of sweet tobacco, dry dark soil and some vanilla bean baking spice. There is a lingering subtle “burn” as the wine passes the back palate and the finish is long and luscious. I am usually skeptical about a blend with too many varietals in the wine because many are so off balance. With 55% Merlot, 27% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cab. Franc, 2% Petite Syrah, 1% Petite Verdot and 1% Malbec, this red blend is anything but off balance. Alcohol level is of a 14.5%. This is another true example of how the guys of 90+ Cellars procure great wine selections… For only $13.99 this Big Red Blend is a true winner! Give it a try… Ninety Plusninety plus

Barton and Guestier The Pairing Collection

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Great news! Wine pairing just got a whole lot easier… At least by one very witty winery.

From the first French brand name known to consumers worldwide, Barton and Guestier has teamed up with their Chef de Cuisine Frederic Prouvoyeur to create the Pairing Collection. Come on, I’m sure you have seen these screwcap, modern label wines and thought to yourself, “surely these can’t be good wines”… Well, I did it! A breakdown of B&G’s Bourdeaux and Beaujolais-Villages.

– Cheese and Crackers Beaujolais-Village 2011 –

Just to clarify, for those who don’t know, Beaujolais is a province located between the Northern Rhone and Southern Burgundy (sometimes thought of as Burgundy). The main grape of Beaujolais is the Gamay Grape which is very fruity and floral. So, you guessed it! This wine is made from Gamay…

On first appearance, this Beaujolais-Village is a clear wine with no sediment. The color is a radiant garnet fading into a ruby rim. The viscosity or legs of the wine is of a medium showing signs of a lower alcohol content wine.

On the nose, the condition of this Beaujolais is sound and clean with no musty aromas or signs of cork taint, and is a wine of a medium intensity. This wine has a very youthful aroma (giving hints of a more recent vintage) with notes of cherries and Strawberries. For the earth/minerality component, I sensed dark soil and gravel stones with slight oak, black pepper, violet flowers and bay leaf.

On the palate, the Cheese and Crackers Beaujolais-Village 2011 is an off-dry wine with a medium body. For the fruit component I sensed fresh red cherry, raspberries and strawberries. The minerality is of clay and gravel stones… A slight hint of wood is definitely present but not too overpowering with notes of black peppercorns and ground bay leaf spice. Alcohol and tannins are medium and acidity a medium plus. For the complexity of this wine on the palate I would say medium with a lovely medium finish…

– Chops and Burgers Bourdeaux 2011 –

There are a few varietals planted in Bourdeaux, the main ones being Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and the Chops and Burgers Bourdeaux 2011 is made with just those varietals. I broke-down this wine, after the Beaujolais, because of it’s bolder, more robust nature… Remember, when drinking wine, always move up from lighter wines to darker or more robust wines.

On appearance, the Chops and Burgers Bourdeaux 2011 is a clear wine showing no sediment. This wine has a dark garnet color with ruby rim and medium legs.

On the nose, this wine is of sound and clean condition with a medium plus intensity. The aroma is youthful with notes of plum, slight hint of blueberry and dark cherries. For the minerality I found hints of wet clay dry soil and dry gravel stone. There was also some signs of old world oak with nutmeg, vanilla bean and black pepper notes.

On the palate, this is a dry wine with a medium bodied mouthfeel… For the fruit component, I sensed blueberry, unripe plum and red cherry. The minerality is of clay and gravel stones. Lovely notes of vanilla bean and fragrant roses permeate the palate with a more obvious sign of oak than the Beaujolais. Tannins are at a medium high and alcohol is a medium. Acidity is a medium-minus. On the palate, I found this wine to have a medium complexity with medium length.

I found nothing wrong with these B&G wines and for an average retail price of $7.99-$9.99, I really enjoyed these wines for what they are… Good quality wine from a solid producer at a very accessible price.

The beaujolais, which is a lighter bodied wine and only 12% alc., is to be mainly paired with creamy French cheeses that are not too overpowering. The Bourdeaux, which is a more bold, robust wine is meant to be paired with meats and burgers. This wine has a 13.5% alcohol content.

Definitely makes for some great everyday drinking or weekend lunch wines. There are 5 wines total in the collection so go on… Why not try them all! And for a small hint, try wines again the second day after opening them. Different notes appear on the nose. On the second day of smelling the Beaujolais, I got notes of banana (a flavor profile of Beaujolais). Cin Cin!