Here's a fun concept: Create a non-vintage red blend, similar in concept to an NV brut Champagne, with the idea of achieving consistency year to year independent of vintage variation, while achieving complexity by combining some wine with a little age with the fruitiness of young juice. That's the idea behind Treanni, a blend of Merlot, Refosco and Cabernet Franc from the Veneto wine region north of Venice.
The current release, from the 2003 through 2005 vintages (you can tell by the 2006 bottling date stamped in painfully small type on the back label), offers enticing aromas of raspberry and white pepper, with a silky, fleshy mouthfeel and appealing fruit flavors.
"The idea is to combine the freshness of young wine with the complexity of the older wine," says Count Brandino Brandolini, owner of the estate, who visited Washington recently. "It's a wine meant to be drunk very informally, but with some complexity to give it interest."
Conte Brandolini is best known for its powerful Merlot, called Vistorta. Count Brandolini also is president of Chateau Greysac in Bordeaux. Imported by Palm Bay Imports, Port Washington, N.Y. www.palmbayimports.com.
Continuing on my Portugal kick, this red table wine from the Douro is a collaboration between the Symington Port family and Bordeaux legend Bruno Prats. Thus the name, P and S, with the post scriptum as a second wine to their ultra premium wine called Chryseia. Using traditional Port varietals and new French barrels, the P.S. offers creamy aromas of vanillin and cherry, which open up with about a half-hour's worth of air to reveal some leathery characteristics and a long finish. While meant to be an early drinker compared to Chryseia, I think this won't really reach its peak for another year or two. But don't be scared in the meantime - just decant it for an hour before drinking. Imported by Premium Port Brands, San Francisco. www.premiumport.com .
Every now and then it really pays to rummage around in the cellar.
When I first tasted this wine two years ago for my article on New York wines in The San Francisco Chronicle, my reaction was "yeah, nice." But it was outshone by the same winery's Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah and especially the Bordeaux blend called 6025. When I found another bottle in my cellar recently I was quickly seduced by charming aromas and flavors of rose petal and guava. Sure, the acidity has faded somewhat, leaving an almost off-dry feel on the palate, but this little beauty is a winner.
Martha Clara is owned by the Entenmann family of bakery fame, and is definitely a Long Island winery to watch.
During my visit to Portugal last Fall, I fell in love with Port Tonic, a refreshing cocktail made of one part white Port and two parts tonic water, over ice, with a sprig of mint. It's more bracing than a gin and tonic (less alcohol, so less heavy), and deceptively easy to knock down in mass quantities. It's the favored aperitif before lunch or dinner at Vargellas, the flagship estate of The Fladgate Partnership, the second-largest exporter of Port to the United States.
White Port of course is a bit of a stranger to U.S. wine lovers, as very little of it is marketed here. Most white Port is off-dry, but Taylor Fladgate makes a dry version called Chip Dry that shines in a Port Tonic. Alas, Chip Dry is not sold in the U.S. But we can get Fonseca's Sirocco white Port, another Fladgate Partnership product; it is a bit sweet but still makes a smashing P.T.!
This winery in Umbria produces stylish wines that are modern, yet still identifiably Italian. If that sounds anachronistic, try to remember the last time you enjoyed a wine but couldn’t really tell where it was from. It probably wasn’t that long ago.
Sangiovese stars here, of course, on its own in a wine called Podernovo, blended deliciously with Merlot in a Rosso, or with the additional component of Cabernet Sauvignon in a blend called Princeps. The top of the line bottling is a powerful yet elegant Merlot that should be proof that Italy is producing some of the most interesting wines from this varietal. There's also a crisp, refreshing white to remind us that white wine isn't always an afterthought in Italy. Classy, delicious wines. Prices range from about $13 for the Rosso to $45 for the Merlot. Opici Imports, Glen Rock, N.J. http://www.opiciimports.com/ . www.castellodelleregine.com .