The Sicilian wines of Planeta

Posted on: Friday 2/17/2012 6:36pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Sicily has long been known for being the Italian crossroad of both ancient and modern culture. The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, separated by a narrow strait of water from the “toe” of southern Italy, Sicily has been home to settlers from ancient Greece, North Africa and various European countries, including, of course, Italy. But what many people don’t know is that it is also home to some of the most remarkable wines in Italy. And lately, many of those wines bear the name Planeta.

In a word, Planeta wines are environmentally friendly and delicious. What’s not to love?

The 2010 Planeta Carricante is a white wine that hails from the Sambuca di Sicilia region where the Planeta family has owned the vineyard since the 17th century. The nose sports a very fragrant bouquet of citrus fruit and white flowers. Flavors of green apple, nectarine and roasted almonds are balanced by bright acidity and abundant minerality on the crisp, bone dry finish. $40

The white Fiano grape for the 2009 Planeta Cometa Fiano comes from the Menfi region, located on the southwestern coast of the island. The maritime influences and chalky soils contribute to the fragrant nose of guava, kumquat and apricot. It has a distinctly tropical fruit palate that includes papaya and pineapple on the front of the tongue and notes of pear on the mellow finish. $40

From the Vittoria region comes the 2010 Planeta Cerasuolo de Vittoria DOCG. Cerasuolo means “cherry color” in Italian and that’s just what the wine looks like. Aromas of cherry and strawberry fill the bouquet while charming flavors of strawberry, pomegranate and red cherry fills the entire mouth on a simply-but -delightful frame. Just a touch of truffle on the medium-bodied finish adds to the amiable appeal of this wine. $22

The limestone and tufa content that make up the soils of the Noto region also contribute to the wonderfully flavorful 2007 Planeta Sant Cecillia Nero D’Avola. Nero d’Avola is to Sicily what Chianti is to Tuscany and the flagship grape produces a wine with a heady nose of dark plum, cocoa and leather. Chewy flavors of dark cherry, black plum and tobacco are nicely integrated on a full-bodied frame. The nicely balance finish is long and smooth, with just a whisper of smokiness on the tail end. $40

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Roses are Red but RosÚs are for Valentine's Day

Posted on: Saturday 2/11/2012 10:01am

Scott Greenberg, special to

This Valentine's Day, there is no better wine to celebrate new love with - or the love you already share with someone - than with a bottle of bubbly. But not just any sparkling wine - for the day named in honor of a young Roman priest, Valentine of Rome, who was martyred for secretly preforming wedding ceremonies during a ban in 269 AD, one should chose a special wine that adds color as well as style for this year's day of love.

Sparkling rosÚ wines are just what Cupid ordered.

RosÚ wines are not a specific varietal, but rather they are a style of wine.

Traditional red wines get their color from lengthy contact between the juice and the red grape skins. The longer they stay in contact, the more color the skins impart to the juice.

But rose wines are made by removing the skins soon after the grapes are crushed, thus imparting a lighter shade of red to the final wine.

Many different wine grapes lend themselves to rosÚ production. The most popular is pinot noir, but other varietals include grenache, syrah, sangiovese and even malbec.

And just like the ubiquitous nature of love, sparkling rosÚ wines can be found in just about every wine grape growing in the world. Best of all, many sparkling rosÚs are a relative bargain and can be found in plentiful supply.

One of the best values for a sparkling rosÚ is the non-vintage Cristalino Brut RosÚ Cava from Spain. Made from roughly equal parts pinot noir and trepat (a grape varietal indigenous to the region), it sports beautiful scents of wild red berries and cherry on the nose. Fresh, clean strawberry and cherry flavors are light and bright in the mouth, with just a touch of ginger on the crisp, clean finish. $8

The Piedmont region of Italy is best known for their prized Barolo and Barbaresco wines, but it is also home to the non-vintage Banfi Rosa Regale. Made from the brachetto grape, the wine displays vibrant scents of floral notes, such as rose petals and violets on the nose. Flavors of raspberries and red strawberries are supported by a slightly sweet frame. Given the off-dry nature of the wine, it is an ideal choice to enjoy with chocolate covered strawberries and other chocolate-centric desserts. $19

Champagne is not the only part of France to produce sparkling wines. The non-vintage Chevalier RosÚ Cremant Bourgogne hails from the renowned Burgundy region, where chardonnay and pinot noir grapes are used to produce a delicately fresh wine, with refreshing scents of red fruit aromas on the nose. Flavors of strawberry, red currant and nectarine are supported by tiny, delicate bubbles. The creamy texture is in balance with pleasant acidity. $20

If you want a domestic sparkler with a Champagne pedigree, try the non-vintage Roederer Estate Brut RosÚ from Anderson Valley, Calif. The cool climate of Anderson Valley is ideal for growing the chardonnay and pinot noir grapes used in this lively rosÚ. Pretty red fruit aromas of summer raspberries, red currants and cherries are repeated on the equally fruit-driven palate, ending with notes of brioche on the balanced finish. $27

For a special treat, pop open a bottle of non-vintage Jacquart Rose, an authentic Champagne from Reims, France. The nose is wonderfully fruity, featuring strawberry and dark cherry notes. The mouthfeel is elegant and refined, where finely tuned bubbles carry flavors of cherry, raspberry and grenadine over the entire palate. The finish is crisp, dry and refreshing. Versatile enough to enjoy with sushi, pizza or fruit tart. $40

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Super picks for the Super Bowl

Posted on: Friday 2/3/2012 4:34pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

The 46th annual Super Bowl is crawling towards us this Sunday like a supertanker pulling into port. Looming large on the horizon, it churns steadily and purposefully towards television sets poised in homes and sports bars across the country and around the world.

Millions of viewers eagerly await both the kickoff and the attention-grabbing commercials with equal anticipation.

And, of course, copious amounts of food of every manner will be consumed while watching the Big Game. From pizza and chicken wings to smoked brisket and barbequed ribs, the range of Super Bowl fare has the potential to run the gamut of every major food group. The choice of which beverages to serve alongside these culinary selections can be a challenge.

Here are a few ideas that will please a diversity of palates while leaving enough money in your wallet to still buy a few picks in the office pool.

Beer is always a great choice for watching any football game. But for The Big Game, only a big beer will do. And if you’re a New England Patriots fan, the patriotic choice is Sam Adams Third Voyage Double Indian Pale Ale. This creation is part of Sam Adams “Small Batch Series” and is a limited edition brew. The name pays homage to Captain James Cook, whose third voyage took him from England to New Zealand and then to the Pacific Northwest.

The beer was crafted using hops from each of these regions and produces a bright citrus nose with flavors of hops, a touch of malt, and more citrus on the mid-palate. The bitter finish ends crisp and clean and would be perfect with – what else? – New England clam chowder. $6 for a 22 ounce bottle

BEST PICK – If you’re a Giants fan, then you’ll enjoy this gigantic wine during the game. The 2008 Clos de los Siete from Argentina is a behemoth. The winery was founded by legendary wine consultant Michel Rolland along with a group of six Bordelaise partners. Using a combination of malbec, merlot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon, Rolland crafts a wine that is massive and seductive at the same time.

Scents of blackberries, dark cherries and black pepper fill the bouquet as flavors of blackberry, black olives and cassis liqueur coat the palate in waves of complexity. The superbly balanced finish highlights dark mocha notes that glide down the tongue like silk. Pair it with gourmet burgers topped with Gruyere. $16

One of the most versatile white wines on the market is Viognier, and the 2009 Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier from Madera Valley, California is no exception. Stainless steel fermentation promotes the aromatic bouquet of acacia flowers and honeysuckle and lets the flavors of tropical fruit and notes of white peaches and nectarines shine through on the bright, crisp body. The tangy acidity offers a clean finish that would pair beautifully with the flavors of sweet pineapple and rich ham on a Hawaiian style pizza. $17

The Tempranillo grape is often overlooked as a utility player in the wine world. The 2005 Bodegas LAN Reserva from the Rioja region of Spain plays well with a variety of food, including ribs, chicken and steak. Aromas of cherries and red plums fill the nose as well as the palate, where they are joined by flavors of raspberries along with hints of cinnamon. The velvety finish is long and juicy and offers a touch of licorice for good measure. $18

The Super Bowl is a duel between two powerful teams. The 2009 The Federalist Dueling Pistols from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California is a duel between two powerful varietals; zinfandel and syrah. Aromas of dark cherry and violets fill the nose. In the mouth, zinfandel contributes juicy red cherry/berry notes while the syrah provides structure and hearty flavors of blackberry and mocha. The peppery, powerful finish would be a perfect partner with spicy wings and barbecued ribs. $35

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

The best wines under $30 you've never heard of

Posted on: Friday 1/27/2012 3:28pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

WASHINGTON – I was recently invited to a dinner party where the theme was “various varietals.” The guests were not allowed to bring any “commonly” produced wine like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and the like.

There are over 200 fairly common unique grape varietals from which wine is produced, and probably another three or four hundred varietals of wine grapes that many of us have simply never heard of.

Best of all, many of these lesser known varietals and blends tend to deliver a lot of quality for the money. Here are a few wonderful wines made from varietals you probably have never heard of, all priced under $30.

From a small family winery located in the foothills of the Quilos in Bierzo region of Spain comes the 2010 Bodegas El Agosto Mencia. The mencia grapes are harvested by hand from vines averaging 60 years old in a vineyard that utilizes no pesticides or chemicals. The dark-skinned grape produces an intriguing nose featuring scents of smoked meats, black plums and dark currants. The mouthfeel is juicy and luscious, supporting flavors of black and red cherries, red currants and hints of clove and red licorice on the velvety finish. $25

Located near Lake Garda, in the province of Verona, Italy is the highly regarded wine region of Valpolicella, known for its prized Amarone wines. It is also home to the 2008 Lonardi Ripasso Valpolicella, a kid-brother to the more popular Amarone, which is made from grapes that have been dried on rooftops in order to concentrate the juice. With Ripasso, grapes dried by a similar process are added to the must of a dry wine. This particular offering is made predominately from the corvina grape, along with rondinella and malinara and offers up lovely flavors of condensed pomegranate, dark cherry, roasted coffee and dried herbs. Notes of dark cocoa highlight the charming finish. $25

The Mendoza region in Argentina is known mostly for the forward fruit-laden wines made from Malbec, but it also has a small production of white wine varietals. The 2010 Vina Alicia Tiara White Wine from Mendoza is made from a blend of riesling, albarino, and savagnin that is vinified without oak, but is allowed to ferment in extended contact with its yeast and other sediments. It produces a delightfully complex wine with aromas of lemon/lime citrus, nectarine, honeysuckle, and acacia flowers. Flavors of white peach, ripe nectarine and apricot fill the mouth and coat the entire palate.

The crisp acidity and bracing minerality highlight the notes of Meyer lemon on the bright, clean finish. $30

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

There's no place like Rhone

Posted on: Friday 1/20/2012 12:03pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Many wine regions that have their own distinctive personalities.

Napa drips with big, rich cabernet sauvignon. Burgundy seduces with its pinot noirs. Tuscan wines demand cuisine. And Rhone wines wrap you in a warm blanket.

The Côtes du Rhône region is located in the Southern part of France and is actually two distinct vinicultural areas; the Northern Rhône Valley and the Southern Rhône Valley.

The most famous vineyards, Côte Rôtie and Hermitage, are located in the northern end of the Valley, where the hearty syrah grape grows on steep, sun-drenched slopes and accounts for the majority of the wine production from this area.

The southern half of the valley has a distinctive Mediterranean influence and is home to the famous Châteauneuf du Pape appellation where red wines are blended from a variety of grapes, including granache, mourvèdre, cinsault and carignan, to name a few. In addition, aromatic white wine varietals, such as viognier, marsanne, roussanne, bourboulenc and grenache white are grown throughout the region.

The different soil combinations provide each grape varietal with its own specific characteristics and provide winemakers with a veritable spice cabinet from which to create well-balanced, finely tuned wines. For example, grenache adds red fruits and warmth. Syrah contributes dark fruits and body. And mourvèdre provides structure and tannins for aging.

A classic example of a white Rhône varietal blend is the 2010 Gonnet Cotes du Rhône Blanc. According to the winemaker’s website, “The Gonnet family employs strict biodynamic and organic practices in their viticulture… absolutely no chemical fertilizers have been used.” And, no oak either. This wine has been vinified in “neutral” oak barrels, which allows the pure flavors of apricot, peach and orange peel to shine all the way through, from start to finish. The bright acidity keeps the wine fresh and clean. $12

The 2007 Santa Duc Vieilles Vignes is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre that hails from four villages in the Northern Rhône Valley that neighbor the region of Gigondas and delivers a lot of wine for the money. The average vine age is over 40 years old and the mature fruit produces a wine full of ripe raspberry and black cherry flavors on a dense, medium-bodied frame. It has nice balance and a long spice-laden finish. $13

The Vacqueyras appellation is located next door to Châteauneuf du Pape and is known for value-oriented hearty red blends. The 2009 Arnoux Père & Fils is chocked full of fruit, including blueberry, black cherries and red currants. There is the slightest hint of cedar on the back end of the rustic finish. $18

One of the most prominent producers in the Northern Rhône region is the Chave family, and their 2007 Jean-Louis Chave Crozes-Hermitage is one of the best values in red Rhône wines. It features a distinctive bouquet of candied cherries and dark plum on the nose, leading to flavors of ripe cherry and blueberry on the tongue. Hints of tobacco and cedar buoy the medium-bodied finish. $20

Of course, no review of Rhône wines would be complete without mentioning at least one from the Châteauneuf du Pape appellation, and the 2009 Pere Caboche Châteauneuf du Pape is a solid value worth considering. This multi-varietal blend is supple and rich, with scents of berry fruit and cedar on the nose. Luscious flavors of black cherry, tobacco and Asian spices glide over the tongue on their way to a smooth, smokey finish. $25

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Va. makes top ten wine destinations

Posted on: Friday 1/13/2012 1:21pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

Yes, Virginia – there really is a wine country, and according to this month’s Wine Enthusiast magazine, Virginia has been named one of the 10 best wine travel destinations for 2012.

Virginia was listed as only one of three domestic wine regions that are considered an ideal place for wine lovers to visit in 2012, along with regions in Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Hungary, Germany, France, Chile and two in California.

The article cites Virginia’s rich history, natural beauty and winemakers as some of the many reasons why Virginia is a hot wine travel destination.

As evidence of the growing popularity of Virginia wine country’s popularity, Wine Enthusiast Magazine references Virginia’s historically significant vineyards and picturesque pastoral landscapes, as well as, “affable winemakers that set Virginia apart as an excellent wine destination on the East Coast.”

But it is the president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Alisa Bailey’s comments, that really makes an excellent case for visiting the wineries of Virginia. She states, “Where else in the world can you enjoy bluegrass music at a winery, kayak to a winery, taste local wines at a national park, sip local wines at a National Historic Landmark or bike from winery to winery? All those experiences are found in Virginia.”

One of my favorite Virginia vineyards to visit is the Barboursville Winery (17655 Winery Road Barboursville, VA 22923), located near Charlotte, Virginia, as much for the historical significance as for the wine. The original plans for the estate were drawn up by Thomas Jefferson and are only one of three residences he designed for his friends. In addition to a tasting room (open daily), there is also a first class restaurant, a charming inn and a wine museum that chronicles the history of the vineyard. If you go, definitely try the 2008 Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve. Rumor has it that it is the “house” wine at the Inn at Little Washington, whose high standards are definitely recognized in this wine, where lovely flavors of red cherries, plum and notes of clove drape the tongue in layers. The finish is long and soft and leaves an impression of baked cherries on the end. $25

Another favorite destination located in the heart of Virginia wine country is the Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery in Leon, VA. It is home to both Prince Michel and Rapidan River wines. In addition to award winning wines, Prince Michel offers luxury accommodations, a first-class restaurant and facilities for private tastings and events, including weddings and corporate retreats. If you go, don’t miss the opportunity to try the 2008 Prince Michel Barrel Select Chardonnay. The extended sur lee aging in barrels lends a characteristic note of butterscotch to the apple and nectarine flavors. The slightly creamy mouthfeel has just the right touch of acidity to keep the finish clean and crisp. $18

Dennis Horton is considered one of the pioneers of the modern Virginia wine industry. His eponymous winery, Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, VA produces some of the best wines in the region. My personal longtime favorite is the 2008 Horton Vineyard Viognier, a white varietal, originally thought to hail from the Rhone Valley in France. This domestic version boasts a striking nose featuring scents of white flowers, tropical fruit and white peaches. Flavors of peach, pineapple, vanilla and toasty oak are remarkably focused on the palate. The crisp acidity keeps the wine balanced and the finish refreshing. $20

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Que Syrah Syrah

Posted on: Friday 1/6/2012 2:20pm By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

It’s cold outside. Winter has hit Washington like a snowball in the face. Even the dog doesn’t want to go outside… and he wears a permanent fur coat.

When it gets this cold, there’s only one thing a wine lover can do: drink BIG red wines. And the biggest of them all is Syrah.

Today, it can be found in the warm, sunny climates of Argentina, Australia (where is known as shiraz), California, France, South Africa, Spain, and Washington State to name a few

Whether you say Syrah or Shiraz, nothing warms the soul quite like the dark red wine that is made throughout the grape-growing world.

Here are some big wines to warm up with:

Former Canadian investment banker-turned-cult-winemaker Jayson Woodbridge made his claim to fame as the producer of high-end wines at Hundred Acre. Now he has set his sights on making a series of inexpensive, high quality wines under his Layer Cake label. The 2009 Layer Cake Shiraz from McLaren Vale region of South Australia is a stunning example of value in a bottle with flavors of blueberry, black cherry and chocolate on the well-balanced frame. The medium-finish features rich mocha and pepper notes. $17

Last week, I mentioned that I wanted to try more wines that were from wine regions that are a bit off of the beaten path – well the 2008 Stark-Condé Syrah from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa is a step in the right direction. This brooding beauty features melted licorice and black plums that enchant both the nose and the tongue. Additional flavors of jammy blackberries, olives and espresso weave in and out of the beautiful, if not massive, structured finish. $23

If you’re looking for something to spice up your New Year with, the 2002 Rocca Famliy Syrah from the Napa Valley should do the trick. A great expression of classic syrah, with a bouquet filled with scents of cassis and black olives. The soft mouthfeel delivers plenty of warm blackberry, dark plum and black raspberry fruit flavors on the front of the palate and hints of tar – not a bad thing – and black pepper on the long, lovely finish. $40

Another nice winter warmer-upper from California is the 2006 Pax Wine Cellars Syrah from the Sonoma appellation. A striking nose of black fruit, saddle leather and roasted meat is intriguing and lingering. The palate is filled with flavors of black cherry, dark plum, roasted game and smoke that glide over the tongue and onto the finish. Hints of mocha mingle with soft tannins to provide a medium-bodied finish. $50

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Sparklers for the holidays

Posted on: Friday 12/23/2011 7:35pm

Scott Greenberg, wine columnist, Washington Examiner

Sparklers for the holidays

Posted on: Friday 12/23/2011 10:39am By jmeyer

Scott Greenberg, special to

WASHINGTON – There is nothing quite like wine with bubbles to create a festive atmosphere and elevate a holiday celebration to the status of memorable occasion.

The good news is that there are a number of sparkling wines on the market that don’t cost a lot of money, so you won’t have to sacrifice your Christmas Bonus to enjoy tasty bubbly.

Here are a few recommendations from around the globe:

The Sparkling wines from the Cava region of Spain are the unsung hero of bubbly. Particularly the NV Segura Viuda Brut Riserva Heredad from Cava, Spain. I really like this wine for its balance and abundant flavors. It has a pretty nose of rose petals and crème brulee. Its nutty and creamy at the same time with flavors of green apple and ripe pear on the mid-palate. This is a great wine to pair with food. $19

Of course, Proseccos are always fun and affordable. The Casalnova Non-vintage Prosecco from Vento, Italy is one sure way to get your evening off to a great start. Made from the prosecco grape, this straw gold white wine has a bouquet of honeysuckle and acacia and flavors of crisp apples, apricots and hints of honeyed oranges. The tight bubbles refresh and cleanse the palate, sip after sip, getting the tongue properly dressed for the feast to come. $15

If you’re looking for a classic sparkling wine with a domestic label, the Non-Vintage J Vineyards Cuvée 20 Brut from the Russian River Valley of California is a great pick. It sports a wonderful bouquet that is full of toasted brioche, green apple and lemon scents. Tight, compact bubbles carry flavors of ripe apple, citrus and roasted almonds across the entire palate. Great acidity adds a crisp finish and a perfect pairing with oysters on the half shell or shrimp cocktail. $20

Of course, if you want to really splurge, the Non-Vintage Veuve Clicquot Rose from the Champagne region of France is a wonderful indulgence. Aromas of ripe peaches, honeyed nectarines, red raspberries and hints of yeasty notes are buoyed to the surface by tiny, precise bubbles. The party continues on the palate where flavors of baked apples and rich pears mingle with hints of buttered crust. It’s all built on a creamy frame that emphasizes the long, clean finish. A great wine to start the evening with and end the evening with particularly if you want to pair it with strawberries or crème brulée. $65

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

No better way to celebrate than with bubbles

Posted on: Friday 12/16/2011 8:21pm

Scott Greenberg, wine columnist, Washington Examiner
  • 13
, November 21, 2014
Washington, DC
Now: 34 °F
Tonight: Very cold with a starry night
Hi: 37 °F | Lo: 20 °F

Your Search Returned Multiple Possible Locations

Please select the location that you were searching for from the list below.

Your Search Did Not Return Any Results

Please try searching again using a valid zip code or city and state.