Sicily's native son: Cusumano 2010 Nero d'Avola IGT wine review

Cusumano Nero d'Avola 2010

Sicily is one of those steeped-in-history places you see on the Discovery Channel, where warring tribes battle among the decadent, carnal masses. True to their roots, Sicilians claim they inhabit the birthplace of vino, where Bacchus himself bent down and buried the seeds in the rich soil. This fertile, 10,000-square-mile island (about the size of Vermont), floating in the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Africa, has been fought over since 500 B.C. and more often than heroin deals in the Corleone and Tattaglia families. Fractious warriors including the Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, Arabs, French, Spanish and then finally the Italians marked the Sicilian territory. Each of these thirsty cultures left its footprint on Sicilian wine making, such as the Zibibbo grape introduced by the Saracen Arabs and Primitivo (aka Zinfandel) by the Albanian refugees in the Ottoman conquest. Though probably trampled many times over during battle, those grapes still thrive today, making Sicily a bright, unique wine region.

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Wine review: Dry Creek Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley

The 2010 vintage in Sonoma County was super cool. And I don’t mean it wore awesome shades and sported the latest fashions — but cold like in France’s Bordeaux region. The heat index just didn’t quite get high enough to ripen grapes to the point of super fruitiness with floral aromatics (like Dry Creek Vineyards’ 2007 SB). So if you like New Zealand style Sauv Blancs (like me) then you’re in heaven with the 2010 wines (read more about Sauvignon Blanc, including how to pronounce it). And you’ll also have something to look forward to in the 2011 vintage, which had similar weather in Sonoma County.

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Good cheap red wine review: Bogle 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon California

Years ago, a sommelier friend of mine described Bogle wines as “mass-produced, and you can find them at [the grocery store], but for the money they’re the best damn grocery-store wine you can buy.” I still agree.

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Affordable everyday Wine review: Smoking Loon 2009 Zinfandel California

Smoking Loon 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel

When people talk about “everyday” wine, I’ve sometimes wondered exactly what they mean. Is it a wine that goes with all sorts of food so it can be consumed without care? Is it a simple wine that that can appeal to many different palates? Or is it an inexpensive wine that you can afford to sip everyday? Family-owned by Sonoma County’s Sebastiani and Sons, Smoking Loon wants to be all that and more.

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Wine review: Vin Parfait 2009 Chardonnay California

Although the pitch is transparently focus-grouped and massaged, Vin Parfait [PAR fay] 2009 Chardonnay was a crowd-pleaser at a recent blind tasting. But it’s predictable, non-distinctive and sweet.

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Wine review: The best $5 bubbly you can buy -- M. Chevallier Cava

I tasted the black label M. Chevallier Carte Noire Cava with trepidation and suppressed my high hopes, attempting to give it a fair and balanced assessment (which is tough without tasting blind). But I was pretty damn impressed. That was a few months ago. Now, it’s my house pour on a Sunday morning, sometimes mixed with tangerine or orange juice for mimosas, sometimes straight up. It all depends on what kind of eggs we’re having.

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Wine review: Trentadue 2009 Old Patch Red Alexander Valley

Red blends appear to be all the rage these days, and I’m all for it. Many times, single varietal wines can be one dimensional and flat, lacking in personality or interest. But mix in some other grapes and beautiful things happen. The Europeans, of course, have known this non-secret for eons, especially in Bordeaux, France and most parts of Spain and Italy. And Trentadue has known this for 30 years.

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Wine review: Estancia 2009 Pinot Noir Monterey Pinnacles Ranch

Even generic, corporate-owned wineries like Estancia can make good wine if they have great fruit from Monterey, specifically their Pinnacles Ranch vineyard. And another thing corporate wineries have to offer is lower prices. Like under $15 for a pretty decent Pinot.

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