Today's Sponsor
 Connoisseur's Series
I report on another impressive, top-tier red wine from California Wine Club's elite program, now available for 30 Second Wine Advisor readers.

In This Issue
 Off to Tuscany! I'm on my way to Tuscany, one of my favorite places for wine touring, as a judge at the Annual Selection of Tuscan Wines competition.
 Angelini 2001 "TreRose" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($23) Muscular but stylish, it's full and warm at 14% acidity, but good balance carries it well.
 Connoisseurs' Series I report on another impressive, top-tier red wine from California Wine Club's elite program, now available for 30 Second Wine Advisor readers.
 Hartwell Vineyards 2002 Stags Leap District Merlot This high-end Merlot from Connoisseurs' Series is serious Merlot indeed, full and ripe yet beautifully structured and sure to age well.
 This week on
Our monthly new-releases report focuses on bubbly, and we're matching wine with soups. A forum poll invites you to "vote" for your favorite Italian wine region, and our forum participants are dreaming up adjectives to describe wines.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Traveling next week
Because of my travels in Tuscany, there'll be no 30 Second Wine Advisor Wednesday or Friday editions or Thursday FoodLetter this week. We'll resume publication Monday, Oct. 23, but depending on scheduling, that edition might not reach you until Tuesday.
Off to Tuscany!

Tuscan Sun, Tuscan Year, Tuscan Hills, Tuscan Childhood ... Tuscany is hot these days, featured in dozens of new books, drawing attention as a travel destination, for its food, and of course for its wealth of world-class wines. Tuscany is drawing so much attention that one wonders why it took so many people so long to "discover" this historic Italian region with its deep cultural roots that go back to medieval times and beyond.

It's one of my favorite places for wine touring, and I'm both honored and delighted to have been invited as the only U.S. wine judge at the "VII Selezione dei Vini di Toscana" ("7th Annual Selection of Tuscan Wines") at the Enoteca Italiana in Siena this weekend.

A broad range of Tuscan wines will be entered in the competition, which operates under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policy and is organized by the Region of Tuscany in partnership with the Enoteca Italiana of Siena, the National Italian Winemakers Association and the Italian Trade Commission. Judges are drawn from an international panel of wine journalists and sommeliers with experience in similar national-level competitions.

I hope to be able to publish photos and daily reports from Siena, assuming a good Internet connection, but in any case, I'll bring back a full report when regular Wine Advisor publication resumes next week.

For today, let's set the scene with a quick-reference list of some of the leading Tuscan wine types. I expect the judging will be organized along similar lines:

 Chianti - The ancient Tuscan hills between Florence and Siena have been producing Chianti, to the delight of wine lovers, for 700 years or more. It's based primarily on the Sangiovese red grape with a blend of other varieties, including, traditionally, a bit of white grape juice to add grace notes, a custom that some modern producers no longer follow. Chianti Classico is made from grapes grown in the desirable central part of the region, and wines labeled "Riserva" are aged in oak for a prescribed time before bottling.

 Super Tuscans - A generation ago, some Chianti producers, eager to experiment with grape blends and barrel aging not permitted under the strict regional wine laws, began making Chianti-style wines with such offbeat variations as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in the blend and small French oak barrels. Initially they chose the generic "Vino da Tavola" ("table wine") designation previously reserved for modest everyday wines. More recently, Italian wine law has become more flexible, opening up regional Indicazione Geographica Tipica (IGT) designations for "non-traditional" wines. Most Super Tuscans are now labeled Toscana IGT. Some of them command top critical ratings and price, although many of them are made in a modern "international" style that attracts high critical ratings and prices but that those who admire traditional European wine styles find controversial at best.

 Brunello di Montalcino - Another ancient and highly regarded wine, grown only around the village of Montalcino south of Siena, Brunello is made from a specific clone of Sangiovese. It's not unlike a fine, high-end Chianti in style; ageworthy and collectible, it ranks among Italy's top wines and is certainly one of my favorites ... when I can afford it. Bargain hunters may want to look for Rosso di Montalcino, usually made from younger grapes and less oak exposure to yield a fine if simpler wine that can be enjoyed without cellaring.

 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - Another special Sangiovese clone goes into another of Chianti's cousins, just about as structured and ageworthy as Brunello, but not yet quite as expensive. Today's tasting report features a Vino Nobile that's a fine value in the lower $20s.

 Vernaccia di San Gimignano - The most sought-after white wine in a land best known for its reds, this usually medium-bodied and aromatic white, made from the Vernaccia grape, comes from the picturesque village San Gimignano, a landmark for its many church towers.

The Italian Trade Commission's excellent Website,, offers brief, readable synopses of all the Italian wine regions. For the pages on Tuscany and its wines, start here:

If you'd like to read more about the competition I'll be judging, there's extensive information at the Enoteca Italiana site. It's only available in Italian, though!

TreRose Angelini 2001 "TreRose" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($23)

This is a very dark garnet wine, almost black in the glass. Spicy black cherry aromas, characteristic of Sangiovese, add a subtle, earthy whiff of "barnyard" that's not at all unpleasant. Mouth-filling black fruit flavors, mouth-watering acidity and smooth, silky tannins come together in a beautifully structured wine that's fine with food in spite of its unusually high (14%) alcohol content. U.S. importer: Wilson Daniels Ltd., St. Helena, Calif. (Oct. 7, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Simple, medium-rare red meat is the answer here, and a pan-seared medium-rare rib eye made a perfect match.

VALUE: The lower $20s is more than fair for a wine of this quality.

WHEN TO DRINK: Luscious fruit makes this one unusually accessible at an age that's still young for a Vino Nobile. The conventional wisdom anticipates a plateau of maturity at 10 to 15 years past the vintage.

The Angelini Website is available in English, Italian and German. Here's a link to the English-language home page.

Compare prices and find vendors for TreRose Vino Nobile on

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Today's article is cross-posted in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where we also welcome comments and questions.

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Connoisseurs Series
The Connoisseurs' Series: Two excellent California reds

Anyone who follows my wine reports will know that I'm a tough judge of New World wines, but California Wine Club's limited-membership Connoisseurs' Series offerings, chosen by Connoisseurs' Guide publisher Charlie Olken, consistently suit my fancy for top-end California wine. I've come to trust the judgement of Olken and California Wine Club's Bruce Boring, who sort through all the high-rated wines and select excellent, balanced wines that suit my style preferences.

Connoisseurs' Series members may subscribe for monthly, alternate month or quarterly packages. Each shipment includes two to four bottles of California's top wines, with detailed background information. Monthly shipments average $125-$175, including all shipping and handling. There's no membership charge, no long-term commitment (cancel any time), and every wine is guaranteed.

Visit or call The California Wine Club at 1-800-777-4443 to learn more about The Connoisseur's Series. Feel free to tell them that I sent you ... and, if you join, please don't hesitate to contact me by E-mail and tell me what you think.

This recent Connoisseurs' Series arrival rang my chimes. I think you'll like it, too. But do take note that Connoisseurs' Series wines are available in painfully limited quantities and sell out fast. If you want to get your hands on one or more of the few remaining bottles of the Hartwell, call 1-800-777-4443 today and ask for it as part of your first Club shipment. If you join this week, they'll throw in an extra Connoisseurs' Series wine with your first order for no additional charge.

Hartwell Vineyards Hartwell Vineyards 2002 Stags Leap District Merlot ($68 retail, $54 per bottle for half or full case orders from Connoisseurs' Series)

This is a deep, dark blackish-purple, bright garnet at the edge. Lovely black cherry and blueberry aromas are spiced by smoky oak (it sees 16 months in new French-oak casks). Mouth-filling and ripe, cherry-berry flavors follow the nose, with good acidity, smooth tannins and powerful yet discreet 14.8% alcohol. Thoroughly enjoyable now, but fruit, balance and a sturdy structure suggest up to a decade's cellaring potential. It has the refinement to make an elegant companion to a simple steak or chop, but it also stands up well against bolder flavors; it made a splendid match with lamb shanks and heirloom Flor de Junio beans in a Southwestern variation on country French white beans and lamb. Only 803 cases were made, and only a limited amount remains available through Connoisseurs' Series. Here's the winery Website: (Oct. 6, 2006)

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

Bucko's Wine Reports: Late summer 2006
With the holiday season on the horizon, it is time to start thinking about one of the most festive of wines - Champagne. Randy "Bucko" Buckner devotes more than one-third of this month's new-releases report to bubbly.

Vino 101: Seasonal soup
As summer days turn into breezy autumn afternoons, restaurants offer seasonal comfort dishes. Jorge Eduardo Castillo talks about matching wines with soup in the next in his series, "A Server's Perspective."

Hot topics in our WineLovers Discussion Groups
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Our WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG) is the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for wine-related conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. Our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service is dedicated to wine education, a friendly place to get quick answers to your questions about wine, beer, spirits and all good things to drink.

Poll: Favorite Italian region
Which of Italy's wealth of wine regions makes your favorite Italian wine? Tuscany, Piemonte, the Northeast? Or down south to Puglia, Campania or Sicily? Or something else? You don't have to be an expert, you simply need to know what you like to participate in this week's Netscape/CompuServe WineLovers Community poll. It's easy to vote - here's no need to register or log in - so we hope you'll take a moment to express your preference. Feel free to add a comment if you like!

Wine adjectives
The folks in our WineLovers' Discussion Group are having a little fun with this topic, sharing a variety of wine descriptions from the banal to the poetic. You're invited to click in and read the adjectives others have posted; then, we hope, you'll add a few favorites of your own.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Serious Lambrusco (Oct. 13, 2006)

 Great food. Where's the wine? (Oct. 11, 2006)

 Global warming in your glass (Oct. 9, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Aromatic chicken (Oct. 12, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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Monday, Oct. 16, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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