La Kiuva Arnad Montjoret Superieur

Want fabulous Nebbiolo without paying Barolo or Barbaresco prices? This wine is your golden ticket.

Producer: La Kiuva

Region: Valle d’Aosta, Italy

Grape(s): Picotendro (local Nebbiolo clone), Gros Vien, Neyret, Cornalin, and Fumin

Tasting Notes: Strawberry, cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, spicy and rustic notes

Pairings: Dark chocolate, anything highlighting truffles, earthiness or funghi - such as risotto, pizza, and pasta dishes, medium intensity cheeses such as Fontina

Price (approximately): $30 (non-reserve option for $20)

Buy: Fujioka’s Wine Times


My Musings:

Ah, Nebbiolo, one of my all-time favorite grape varietals. Although its fame is principally derived from Barolo and Barbaresco (the King and Queen, respectively), Flavors of Italy likes to surprise me with expressions beyond these [expensive] borders. This is one such wine.

For this adventure, we have to lace up our hiking boots and traverse nearly 3,000 feet to Valle d’Aosta DOC in northeastern Italy. The high elevation, rocky soils, and cool climate allows the region’s shining star, Picotendro (the local clone of Nebbiolo) to thrive. Slightly more rustic than the Nebbiolos of the Langhe, the wine opens with earthy aromas and dark fruit. Over time, the wine opens into a beautiful and unique expression of Nebbiolo with raspberry, strawberry, cherry, spicy notes and balanced acidity. At Fujioka’s Wine Times in Honolulu, you can pick up this wine for $20 or their reserve for $30.

Fun history fact: Thomas Jefferson, America’s first Sommelier-in-Chief, was noted amongst the admirers of Nebbiolo da Barolo during his travels through the region in 1785 (although the wine at this time was much different and notably sweeter).


2015 La Monacesca Verdicchio

Year: 2015

Producer: La Monacesca

Region: Verdicchio di Matelica, Le Marche, Italy

Grape(s): Verdicchio

Alcohol: 13.5%

Body: Medium+

Dry/Sweet: Dry

Tasting Notes: Lemon citrus, mineral flavors, almond, stone fruit and green apple.

Pairings: Fish of all sizes, shapes and preparations, pesto shrimp, grilled lemon-pepper chicken, antipasta, lemongrass tofu.

Price (approximately): $18


My Musings:

The first impression of this wine comes before any sip, swirl or smell. The color is simply stunning. While I do not frequently comment on appearance (I like to get right down to drinking), this wine will get some stares, and deservingly so. It possesses an absolutely gorgeous golden yellow hue that is produced not through oak aging, as one might expect, but through extra time on the vines.

The wine’s bouquet is floral and delicately fruity, with unripe stone fruit, green apple, refreshing lemon citrus, and subtle fresh green herbs. On the palate, the wine is full bodied, wonderfully structured and elegant. The palate is driven by mouthwatering acidity, lemon citrus, flinty minerality, a touch of salinity and finishing with sweet almond.

Many Italian wines are absolutely brilliant with Pacific Rim cuisine, and this wine is no exception. An ideal companion for fish, uncork this vino for a variety of preparations, including pink snapper ceviche, Moroccan fish tagine, Hawaiian-style steamed Moi, grilled lampuka with pesto and penne pasta, pan fried lemon-glazed 'Opakapaka, and roasted whole Onaga with fresh lime and cilantro. Not in the seafood mood? No worries, the wine’s full body and acidity affords versatility in food pairing. Try with grilled lemon-pepper chicken, light pastas and pizzas, lemongrass tofu, and grilled vegetables.

Pick up this gem at Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquors for under $20, or have it by the glass with some pizza at Brick Fire Tavern

Le Marche

This wine hails from the central Italian region of Le Marche, long reputed for its mastery of Verdicchio, arguably Italy’s greatest white varietal. Seriously, it is that good.

Although most tourists are [quite understandably] attracted to the white sandy beaches, towering picturesque cliffs and clear blue waters of the Adriatic, those with vinous ambitions become more intrigued as they journey inland. The western border of Le Marche is formed by the imposing Apennine Mountains, which offer regional diversity of elevation, climate and terroir. This diversity complements Verdicchio splendidly, as it is known to adapt readily to different conditions and soils. The region's viticultural acumen even garnered the attention of the Catholic Church, who promptly claimed the region as Papal Lands in the Sixteenth Century. One can always rely upon the monks to offer an ecclesiastical beverage to nurture the [inebriated] soul.

Verdicchio is best expressed in two Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) sub-regions of Le Marche, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica, which have grown Verdicchio since at least the Fifteenth Century (and arguably as far back as the Eighth Century). Here, Verdicchio is at its finest.

Verdicchio di Matelica

The Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita of Verdicchio di Matelica is distinct in its geographical position and ancient geological character. An elevated, hilly region nestled near the Apennines on the border of Umbria, Verdicchio di Matelica has a continental climate and excellent diurnal temperature variation in the summer months. This combination contributes to a long growing season that is ideal for Verdicchio to remain on the vine and ripen evenly and at its leisure. This helps to preserve acidity and produce wines with complexity and great aging potential.

The remnants of Le Marche’s ancient beginnings can still be found amongst the soils. Fossilized bones and shell deposits from maritime creatures in a long-extinct salt lake bed add to well-drained soils rich in potassium, calcium and limestone. This combination has consistently translated to age-worthy wines with exceptional mineral flavors and structure.

Verdicchio is perfect for summer sipping or as a companion to Pacific Rim cuisine. It is crisp and refreshing, yet full-bodied, versatile and can age in the cellar alongside your White Burgundies and Rieslings. Verdicchio encompasses everything a wine should be.


2015 Cascina Luisin Langhe Nebbiolo

Year: 2015

Producer: Cascina Luisin

Region: Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

Grape(s): Nebbiolo

Alcohol: 13.5%

Body: Full

Dry/Sweet: Dry

Tasting Notes: Raspberry, cherry, rose, floral

Pairings: Anything highlighting truffles, earthiness or funghi - such as risotto, pizza, and pasta dishes, hard aged cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano

Price (approximately): $22.99


My Musings:

Ah, Nebbiolo, one of my all-time favorite grape varietals. There is often little question what is in the glass when it comes to Nebbiolo. It’s unique and distinct color is the first indication - brick red-orange, light and luminous in the glass. An absolutely stunning wine. The intense aromatics are the next giveaway, with a young Nebbiolo consistently showcasing fresh cherry, raspberry and rose petals, gradually maturing over time to include notes of dried cherries, leather, tar and truffle. A complex, structured, age-worthy wine.

Thomas Jefferson, America’s first Sommelier-in-Chief, was noted amongst the admirers of Nebbiolo da Barolo during his travels through the region in 1785 (although the wine at this time was much different and notably sweeter).

Despite its noble character and stunning wines, Nebbiolo has a surprisingly limited diaspora. Nebbiolo is notoriously temperamental and demanding (or perhaps simply neurotic). As such, it only truly thrives in its hometown hills of Langhe, Piedmont, in northern Italy. For budding Nebbiolo enthusiasts, it is best to stick close to home.

Nestled between the French Maritime Alps to the west and the Apennines of the Italian Riviera to the south and east, the region of the Langhe has a temperate continental climate with characteristically hot summers, cold winters, and excellent diurnal temperature variation, particularly in the summer months. This combination contributes to a long growing season that is ideal for Nebbiolo - the first grape to bud in the region and the last to ripen.

Due to its late-ripening and fussy tendencies, combined with its high market value, Nebbiolo commands the preeminent hillside sites in the region that consist of calcerous marl soils and optimal sun exposure. Nebbiolo, like its more famous colleague, Pinot Noir, is extraordinary in its ability to express the subtleties of terroir, which creates demand for very specific vineyard locations. With Nebbiolo, as with real estate, it is about location, location, location.  

Nebbiolo particularly shines in the Lange Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) subregions of Barolo and Barbaresco. The best Nebbiolo from these appellations unequivocally rivals the finest wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Montalcino. Unfortunately, they carry a similar price tag. Want to enjoy fabulous Nebbiolo without breaking the bank? The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) of Langhe, with less stringent requirements than Barolo and Barbaresco, is your vinous destination. 

This wine carried all of the classic elements of Nebbiolo at a value price point. Wonderful aromatics of raspberry, cherry and floral elements of rose petals burst from the glass. The palate is structured and complex with firm tannins and wonderful red fruit. Admittedly, the wine is lighter, less tannic and did not rise to the level of complexity found in Barolo and Barbaresco. One cannot, however, always enjoy the best Nebbiolo at the weekday table. At approximately $23, this wine isn’t necessarily cheap, but nonetheless well worth the price tag for a noble grape that drinks fabulously on its own, and pairs easily with a variety of cuisines. 

Speaking of food, Nebbiolo pairs excellently with white truffles, which are local to the region, funghi and other earthy elements. A few of my local favorites are mushroom rice-otto for date night at BYOB friendly The Rice Place and Hamakua Mushroom Mania Pizza from Fendu Boulangerie.

Distributed locally by Flavors of Italy, you can pick up a bottle at Fujioka's Wine Times.



2013 Brancaia "Tre" IGT Rosso Toscana Super Tuscan

Year: 2013

Producer: Brancaia Winery

Region: Tuscany, Italy

Grape(s): Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Alcohol: 13.5%

Body: Medium+

Dry/Sweet: Dry

Tasting Notes: Dark fruit, cherry, spice, coffee

Pairings: Barbecue, pizza and pasta dishes, aged hard cheeses, mushroom risotto

Price (approximately): $17


My Musings:

This week we are bargain hunting in Super Tuscan Territory.

Originally crafted by winemakers who refused to follow the traditional Chianti appellation requirements, Super Tuscan blends have developed cult followings for their delicious, approachable and uniquely-styled wines. Super Tuscans became so popular, in fact, that the Italian wine regulations established a separate distinction primarily for Super Tuscans - Indicazione Geografica Protetta (or "IGT") - that contained less stringent requirements, thereby affording vinters more flexibility in the winemaking process. Cult wine followings often, though unfortunately, share one common characteristic - exorbitant price.  Quality Super Tuscans are no exception, with a price tag typically in the $30 range and higher. Not exactly a bargain wine for the weekday table.

Occasionally, however, an affordable Super Tuscan comes along that carries all of the characteristics that make this style so popular, yet priced to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket. Enter the 2013 Brancaia "Tre" Rosso Toscana.

This wine is a blend of 80 percent Sangiovese, with 10 percent each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. An inviting medium ruby color with a bouquet of black fruit, cherries, coffee and spices. The palate is greeted with a soft, round flavor profile, elegant tannins and balanced acidity. A thoroughly enjoyable wine and excellent introduction to this cultish collection out of Tuscany. For less than $20, pick up a few bottles to enjoy with some pizza, pasta dishes, or even a barbecue in the backyard. It is a very versatile wine that can be enjoyed on many occasions (and with many foods), from a bargain wine for the weekday table, to parties with friends or just enjoying a quiet evening with some bread and a cheese plate. One of my new favorite bargain wines!

In Honolulu, pick up a bottle at Fujioka's Wine Times or NK Wine Shop in the Chinatown District. For Big Island folks, I believe I saw this bottle at Kamuela Liquor Store a while ago. Hope there are a few bottles left!


2014 Michele Chiarlo 'Le Orme' Barbera d'Asti

Year: 2014

Producer: Michele Chiarlo Winery

Region: Asti, Piedmont, Italy

Grape(s): Barbera

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price (approximately): $12

Winemaker's Notes:

Garnet in color, the wine is medium bodied and robust with rich, ripe cherries and earth on the nose and an elegant palate.

Pairs well with a wide range of dishes: chicken scallopini with sage and wild mushrooms, farfalle pasta with pork sausage and broccoli rabe and grilled or roasted red meats.