Andegavia, Lundfelt Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to

Andegavia Sauvignon Blanc2013, Andegavia, Lundfelt Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California

Yes, that photo is exactly what you think it is – a box of wine – or, as Europeans and the producer of this particular wine prefer to call it, a CASK of wine. I’ve long been a fan of “bag in a box” technology – there’s no better way for open wine to stay fresh longer. In this format, wine is protected from the deteriorating effects of oxygen and light. Flavor and brightness are maintained for weeks longer than they are with any other closure (but you still have to care for the temperature issue – heat is still a destructive influence, no way around that yet). This packaging format is also better for the environment (the world’s and our kitchens’) – 4 bottles fit into a cask that’s smaller than a gallon of milk and they weigh about the same, which makes them significantly lighter than when packaged in glass. Andegavia’s packaging is 100% recyclable and breaks down flat to take up very little space in the bin too.

All that means nothing, however, if the wine that is being preserved is better suited for the bin than for your enjoyment. As long as I’ve been a fan of the idea of “cask” wine, I’ve also been highly critical of the wines they hold. But, in recent years, there’s been a movement to change that – a few courageous producers (mostly French) have started putting delicious wines in those hidden bags, and a few adventurous consumers have enjoyed them immensely.

Andegavia, despite its Italian sounding name, is a California brand based in Napa Valley. In the timeless tradition of the négociant, a French term for a business that purchases unused grapes and/or juice from growers and producers (often well-known in their own right), making their own wine from the assemblage; Andegavia produces AVA designated wines from fruit otherwise destined for high-end Napa and Sonoma brands.

The Andegavia Sauvignon Blanc carries the Dry Creek Valley AVA designation. This region is home to some of the most highly regarded American Sauvignon Blancs. True to its roots, this wine has ripe aromas of melons and pears, and a hint of passion fruit. On the palate it has a burst of peppery acidity and a green herbal finish. Though easy to enjoy on its own, this wine is even better at the table. Go for the classic Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese combination, either on baguette with fresh tomatoes and herbs, in a salad with dark leafy greens, or in a less-classic riff on risotto. The cask format provides the equivalent of 4 bottles, so this is a perfect party wine, and it goes great with party foods – veggies and dips, shrimp cocktail, and crab feeds or clam bakes (depending on which coast your leaning toward).


Disclosure: I am now the brand ambassador for Andegavia cask wines in New York City. I was not asked to write this article, nor was I (or will I be) compensated in any way for writing it.

2012 Angelini Pergola Rosso

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to

Angelini Pergola Rosso

2012, Angelini, Pergola Rosso DOC, Marche, Italy

Thousands of grape varieties grow in obscurity on the Italian peninsula, many are only found in small quantities growing in very limited regions. This makes it all the more interesting to explore the wines of Italy – the chance of tasting something you’ve never experienced before is greater, and often so rewarding.

The Marche is situated on the central eastern coast of Italy along the Adriatic Sea, bound on the west by the Apennine Mountains. The regions winemaking history dates back to the Etruscans. Today, most wine made here is destined to be Vino di Tavola (table wine), but there is growing interest in the handful of DOC and DOCG designated areas as well. Though most wines of note from Marche are white wines, the reds are also drawing attention and there are many surprises (and even bargains) to be had.

Pergola is a DOC in the central part of the Marche that only produces red wines. The grape of the region is the somewhat obscure Aleatico, also known regionally as Pergola Rosso or Vernaccia Rosso (not Vernaccia Nera, which is another grape all together). This grape is known for effusive sweet floral aromatics and bright red fruit. It is occasionally made into a sweet dessert wine, but is even more appealing when vinified to a dry, tart, aromatic table wine.

After an initial layer of yeasty bready aromas pass, the sweet floral scents of rosewater, tart blood-orange, and red cherry prevail. This wine is mouthwateringly aromatic with flavors of rose petals and cherry Lifesavers, and hints of spice and graphite. There is a pleasant chalky dryness from tight (but not overwhelming) tannins. The finish is average in length on the palate, but there is a lingering haunting aroma reminiscent of Persian desserts – rosewater, saffron, and honey. This wine is lovely at “cellar temperature” but also does well with a slight chill; it’s meant to be enjoyed while young and fresh.

At this time of year, I’m on the constant lookout for “Thanksgiving” wines, and this one fits the bill perfectly. It’s substantial enough to stand up to rich autumn flavors, as well as grilled lighter meats in other seasons. It will also go well with pasta carbonara, or other dishes that have flavorful pork products (bacon?) in a starring role. For meatless moments, turn to the flavorful, aromatic dishes of the Middle East.

2012 Boutari Santorini, Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to

boutari santorini assyrtiko2012 Boutari Santorini, Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece

Centuries of civil wars, world wars, and financial upheaval have isolated Greece and its wines from the rest of the world. It wasn’t until the first years of the 21st century that Greece entered the world wine market in earnest. Although Greece is now growing many traditional European grapes, the most interesting wines are being made from indigenous varieties, several of which are the oldest known varieties in the world.

The Assyrtiko grape is native to the island of Santorini and represents over 80% of the wine grapes grown there. This white wine grape maintains its acidity as it ripens, which is important in a hot climate. Characteristic aromas are citrus, earthiness and mineral; it is especially concentrated when grown in the volcanic soils of Santorini.

Santorini is a volcanic island in the center of the Aegean Islands. Wine has been made here since thousands of years BC. The Greek wine classification system was instituted in 1981, including PDO Santorini (Protected Designation of Origin) – similar to an AOC designation for French wine. Grape vines here are trained into low baskets, known as ampelies, to protect the grapes from the sun and wind. Assyrtiko is the predominant variety in the production of Santorini’s wines with the designation “Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality”. This grape is also used to make a sweet, nutty vinsanto dessert wine.

The Boutari family began commercial wine production in 1879. Since then they have played a great role in the (re) development of Greek wine, especially from Santorini, both viticulturally and economically by introducing modern winemaking techniques and raising quality standards for the region. The Boutari Santorini winery began production in the early 1990s.

The 2012 vintage is now being replaced by the 2013s, but is still available. The bottle I tasted had rich aromas of red apple and oranges, with a touch of hazelnut and dry leaves. This wine has a delicious balance of tartness and astringency with a rich, smooth roundness and lingering finish. Assyrtiko, by nature, is easily oxidized, and the bottle I tried showed some signs of this (nuttiness and less citrus fruit aromas and minerality than expected), though I did not consider it a fault because is was mild and actually pleasant. If I wasn’t expecting something different, I would not have noticed at all. Oxidized or not (I’ve enjoyed both), this is a great choice of wine to accompany grilled or roasted fish, roasted poultry (I’m thinking Thanksgiving turkey right now), and it is wonderful with a silky butternut squash soup.

Tio Pepe Fino, DO Jerez (Sherry), Andalucía, Spain

The Wine of the Week
 by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to

NOTE: This week’s post is a “Throw Back Thursday” edition. One year ago this week, we introduced sherry to the Wine of the Week line-up. One of the many good things about sherry is that it is timeless, so the meaning of these words are not dated (though looking back, I think my writing – like good wine – has improved over time). I hope this will encourage you to go out and enjoy some sherry!

Tio Pepe FinoNV, Gonzales Byass, Tio Pepe Fino, DO Jerez (Sherry), Andalucía, Spain 

Sherry is a fortified wine, a category that calls for the addition of grape-based spirit to the wine to preserve and ‘strengthen’ it; Port, Madeira, and Marsala also belong to this category. That is where their similarities end. Sherry can only be produced in the Jerez (Xèrés) region along the seashore of southwestern Spain in the province of Andalucía.

Most sherries, including the Fino style, are made from the Palomino grape. But, what makes sherry so distinct is its method of production. Once the wine is made and fortified, it goes through a complex blending and aging process in a solera system, “a complex network of old barrels….Depending on how the wine moves through the solera, different styles of Sherry can be made.”[1] The Fino style is reliant on a particular type of yeast, flor, which forms along the surface of the aging wine providing a seal, protecting the wine from oxidizing, while contributing to the styles characteristic aromas.

Tio Pepe – the best selling brand of Sherry in the world – is a product of Gonzalez Byass, which was founded in 1835 and is still run by the founding family, now in its 5th generation. The Tio Pepe solera has been in constant operation since 1844. The Tio Pepe Fino Sherry spends an average of 5 years aging in the solera.

Aromas of roasted Marcona almonds and sea air – if you can hear the ocean waves crashing on the beach in a conch shell, you can smell it in a glass of fino sherry. Fino should be enjoyed well chilled. It is bone dry, bright and crisp, with the mouthfeel of cool silk. The strength of the added alcohol is present, but not off-putting. The lingering flavor of toasted almonds and slight salinity are a reminder that Sherry is at its best with food. The crisp delicate aromas, and complex but refreshing flavors of a fino Sherry are best with seafood, especially shrimp; but also with olives and Marcona almonds, or other simple tapas.

[1] MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible, 2001, Workman Publishing, NY, NY

2013 Cantele, Negroamaro Rosato, Salento IGT, Puglia, Italy

The Wine of the Week by Annette Tomei

Annette is the founder of VinEducation, where she is a food and beverage educator and consultant. She is also a professional chef who frequently contributes delicious recipes to

Cantele Rosato2013 Cantele, Negroamaro Rosato, Salento IGT, Puglia, Italy

Rosé, rosado, rosato – the name may vary by place of origin (France et al, Spain, and Italy, respectively), but the concept remains the same. A classic rosé is made from the juice of red wine grapes that was removed from skin contact after a brief extraction, then handled similarly to a white wine for the remainder of the vinification process. Once, most rosé was a byproduct of the red wine making process, it is now most commonly made for its own sake.

Within the pink wine category, as with red and white wines, there is a great range of styles as well as quality. Though some are quite sweet, the majority of rosés are dry (no residual sugar). Flavor profiles vary with grape variety, region of origin, and winemaking, as do hue and color intensity.

Negroamaro is a very dark-skinned grape that has a 1500-year history in southern Italy. Depending on the growing conditions, wines made from this grape can range from savory earthiness to rich, sun-baked berries, accompanied on either end of the spectrum by dark spices. Negroamaro grows best in its home region of Puglia (the heel of the boot), especially on the hot, dry Salento peninsula where it shares the number one position with another dark red favorite, Primitivo. Salento holds an IGT designation – the category added in 1992 to accommodate experimentation and creativity in the vineyards.

This wine has an intense rose-pink color that draws the eye of rosé lovers who seek a cold weather version of their summertime favorite. The promise of a taste of warm, sunny, southern Italy is alluring, as well. Aromas of strawberries, fresh herbs, and roses lead to an almost-full bodied wine. Dark cherry and black pepper flavors are balanced on refreshing acidity and a hint of tannins. This is an ideal match for seared duck breast, or even with duck confit atop a warm lentil salad. Also, try with roasted beet farrotto (risotto made with nutty farro), or pasta with a southern Italian-style fruity tomato sauce.