Saturday, February 28, 2009


This spicy red made from bonarda grapes( which according to Wikipedia comes from Italian strains known in Italy as Dolce Nero - though not Dolcetto) was one of my big favorites of the night. People thought it was tight. One commenter called it thin, uptight, and peppery. But I felt that its dark fruit flavors of blackberry and cherry yielded a quick, modern tasting wine. How does one find modernity in a wine? Once at a restaurant in Boston called The Butcher Shop, my wife and I had an Austrian red( I think it was a zweigelt although I am not even sure since this was years ago and before I had even a hint of knowledge of wines). I loved the wine, but I had a hard time describing it. It didn't have flavors like a traditional European wine of terroir and funked up stone cellars, nor did it have the powerful, juicy pop of Californian wines. It was something else entirely - its own thing.

A modern tasting wine like this Durigutti then evokes late Summer nights in lower Manhattan, a street whose name you can no longer recall. Dim, tea candle-lit packed restaurants putting out blue cheese, spiky arugula, and hanger steaks with thin cut fries. That's what I taste when I taste a "modern wine," and I love it.

Now some in the group felt like its flavor didn't open up, but that's modern too. Like the well-dressed, too smart looking women in the above mentioned restaurants. It's not what you'd call open....

You have to be in the mood for that kind of crowd. Still for the $9.99 price tag, Durigutti is still a smart buy earning it 2 screw craps. I'd give it another .5

RATING: 2 Screwcaps ( 2.5 Screwcaps if this sounds like your kind of trip)
LABEL: Durigutti
GRAPE: Bonarda
PRICE: $9.99

Cruz Alta

The Cruz Alta was the last wine of the night, and we all agreed that this was a delicious, well balanced wine. In stark contrast to the peppery Malbecs, this Cabernet Sauvignon had smooth, ripe fruit back flavors. We all agreed that this was the one wine of the night that could be easily enjoyed without food. The other wines, as solid as they were, really benefited when combined with food be it meats or cheeses or dark chocolates - anything to smooth out the spiciness and bring out the subtleties. This wine had its full flavors more evident.

It was at the Brown Bag Sommelier price ceiling - 12.99. The BBS member found it at Whole Foods. I'd say she did well.

I have always found Whole Foods a difficult place to buy wine. They have some good selections, however, like everything else in the store - their wines tend to be overpriced. Worse than that, I have found that their staff in the wine section consistently tries to up-sell me. That is when I tell them what kind of wine I am looking for, they have time and again directed me to wines in the 16 to 20 dollar range. It could be because their lower priced wines are poorly curated for the most part with poorly structured flavors that never open up. Then again I have never been incredibly impressed with the wines that they have managed to up-sell me on.

This is not to say that you cannot find a solid, moderately priced wine in Whole Foods or any other supermarket for that matter. This Cruz Alta is proof of that. Super market chains, however, seem unable or unwilling to either find or choose wines in the 12.99 and under range.

The long and short of it: The Brown Baggers loved this wine.

RATING: 3 Screwcaps
LABEL: Cruz Alta
GRAPE: Cabernet Sauvignon
PRICE: $12.99