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Visiting Italian wines

Wines 101

Posted: March 21, 2008 6:20 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Since March is Italian month at Vino100, and it worked so well last month highlighting their South African wines at their monthly Women on Wine (WOW) event, they decided to feature Italian wines at the March WOW held on Wednesday, March 12.

It was another great opportunity to get everyone involved in the Passport Program especially if you weren't able to visit the store or attend last month's event. Every month they will visit another country, with incentives and gifts for wine purchased.

But don't fret, dear male readers, you can come any other time to Vino100 for their wines and get your passport stamped. Just not at a WOW event, it's simply verboten. Except for Josh Patterson, who works there.

Now, with passport in hand I was ready to be stamped a second time. This time, the staff collected our passports to hold at the store for us so we didn't even have to remember to bring every time!

So, as it started to get crowded with the usual 20 reservations busting the seams this time at 35, owners Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier, graciously made room for all.

Welcome to our Wednesday night soiree. Lil announced, this time accompanied with a dinner bell to help ring us to order, "Italy has 1,000 different varieties, 20 different regions and two thirds of which are producing red wines."

We also learned that Italy's reputation for winemaking continues to grow with exports offering variety with every color, flavor and style imaginable. Today Italian wines account for one-fifth of the world's total wine production, battling only against France for the top position. I didn't know that Italy was right behind France.

With the WOW event only costing $20 per person it was hard to believe that it included a uniquely paired menu from Fresh Xpress Home Delivery baked ricotta, parmesan and asiago cheeses were on a platter with fresh black grapes, garlic and rosemary pita chips were nestled around a huge bowl of bruschetta, small sweet yellow and orange peppers were stuffed with goat cheese and Rosemary, fusilli pasta with bacon, peas and mystery spices, proscuttio wrapped melon with mozzarella and fresh rosemary.

Fiona Soukup, owner of the home delivered goodies said, "My Mom lives in a small village near Rome and I am always so excited and inspired by the simple combinations of pasta, cheese, cured hams and super fresh produce...which deliciously compliment the locally produced wine and olive oil."

After the introduction we began sampling and rating five very different selections: Kris, a 2006 Pinot Grigio from Venezie, Stella, a 2005 Sangiovese from Tuscany, Viticcio, a 2005 Chianti Classico, Zaccagnini, a 2005 Montepucciano D'Abruzzo from Italy and finally, Pio Cesare, a 2006 Moscato d'Asti from Piedmont.
The Kris and Stella were instant successes, first due to their feminine names I thought, second when they were drank.

Handy tasting notes, prices ranging from $12 to $24 and their Vino 100 trademark Taste Barometers helped new, and old, attendees with the process.

The next two wines poured, the unpronounceable Viticcio and the Zaccagnini, were my two favorites of the evening. (The purchase of these, or any two Italian wines, awarded the customer a gift certificate waiving the corkage fee at La Toscana Trattorio in Valencia, more customer reward points and a chance to win the grand prize: A trip to Los Olivos wine country!) The last wine cracked open, with a unique Muscat flavor, Pio Casare, was accompanied perfectly by a soft slice of Tiramisu.

I asked employee Josh Patterson what he was looking forward to at the next all-woman one-guy tasting. "I really want to ‘visit' France the most. And, as far as the process goes, every month we have to have a cross-section of varietals; our decisions are open until then. We sit down, taste, and then decide what to select and showcase on a month-to-month basis."

One exuberant guest at the next table added, "South Africa is now my favorite region after trying it here for the first time last month!" Proving that wine education only serves to expand our knowledge and broaden our tastes. Several women at my table nodded their agreement. Some saying they had only been enjoying white wines, never adjusting for reds, until they had come into the store, sat down and tried a taste in a the comfortable, relaxed setting.

During March, or any time, you can choose from Poggio Basso 2006 Chianti, Viticcio 2005 Chianti Classico, or Pio Cesare 2006 Moscato d'Asti, Stella 2005 Sangiovese, Zaccagnini 2002 Montepulciano D'abruzzo, Nottola 2004 Rosso di Montepulciano, Poggiotonda 2004 Sangiovese Blend, Zenato 2006 Pinot Grigio, and Belisario 2004 Verdicchio.

They promise for April that they will do something different and it will be a surprise. All I can tell you is that we will be "Down Under."

Bushman is a resident of Newhall. Her column represents her own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. If you have a wine event, or a cellar you would like to see highlighted in this column, you may contact Eve at ebushman@earthlink.net.

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