Niccolo V. 2015 – Colli di Luna Rosso, Italy

A hint of black rubber and licorice, with black and red fruit on the nose.  A light-bodied, fruit burst on the front end with blackberries and strawberries in the lead.  Fades quickly and smoothly into a light tannin finish, with echoes of leather and tobacco.  This went great with Ligurian traditional food, the octopus in particular.  I drank about half the bottle and shared the rest with the staff at Il Borgo di Campi’s restaurant outside of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terra, Italy.

Neré – Sicilia, Italy

Cocoa, strawberries, dark chocolate, and a hint of marzipan on the nose.  There’s a caramel, burnt sugar note on the nose as well.  Excellent bouquet.  That dark chocolate note pays off, with added vanilla and more red berries on the front end.  Strawberries and violets take over as it washes across the tongue.  The tight tannins bring things to a leathery end, with strawberry echoes on a long finish.  Excellent and a shocking value.  For the first time ever I’m cross categorizing a wine because I don’t want those looking for lower priced wine to miss this one!  This is a versatile wine and it went great with bonito d’el Norte and a blazingly spicy Roquefort.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Neré 2017
  • Winery: Feudo Maccari
  • Region: Sicilia D.O.C.
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Nero D’Avola
  • Price: $16
  • Where to Buy: wine.com

Sherazade Donnafugata 2018 – Sicilia, Italy

Oily cassis notes, violets, and dry wood on the nose.  Silky berries and flint on the front end.  Opens up to leather, berries, and a faint balsamic note.  The finish is redolent with more florals and berries, gentle and long like its namesake’s tales.  This is a silky smooth red, lush and supple throughout belying its youth.  Very enjoyable and with a broad appeal.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Sherazade Donnafugata 2018
  • Winery: Donnafugata s.t.l.
  • Region: Sicilia D.O.C.
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Nero D’Avola
  • Price: $22
  • Where to Buy: Sherry’s

Alta Mora 2016 – Etna, Italy

Cherries, violets and other florals on the nose – strawberries and cocoa.  Sharp acid and red berries on the front palate.  The acid stays, but the berries melt into leather and vanilla notes on the back end.  Tight tannins on the back end bring up the rear, with more floral echoes at the finish.  More punch on a lighter bodied red.  This stood up nicely to steak and the acid and light body would ride along nicely with just about anything fished out of the sea you care to toss on the grill.  Versatility at its finest.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Alta Mora 2016
  • Winery: Cusumano S.R.L. Societa Agricola
  • Region: Etna
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Nerello Mascalese and Cappuccio
  • Price: $30
  • Where to Buy: wine.com

Karas 2016 – Armavir, Armenia

What a pleasant surprise.  I picked this up as a stopgap at the local liquor store.  The shop generally does well with whiskey, booze, and beer, but has an underwhelming wine track record of bad pricing and worse selection.  But not this.  Fresh cherry, red berries, and leather on the nose.  A bit of white pepper and slate.  More of the fresh berries on the fore palate, but opening up with a surprisingly lush flow of violets, currant, and chewy leather.  The finish echoes more cherries and a hint of vanilla and lasts longer than expected.  What a value!

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Karas Red 2016
  • Winery: Karas Wines
  • Region: Armavir
  • Country: Armenia
  • Varietals: 35% Syrah, 35% Cot (Malbec), 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Tannat
  • Price: $15
  • Where to Buy: Sherry’s

Sassarini Sciacchetra 2017 – Cinque Terre, Italy

A refreshing nose, with light autumn fruits and a hint of vanilla.  Caramel, pears, and apples hit immediately, with a clean light feel.  Clear, tawny coloring.  Zero tannin, but nice acid.  Fresh clean acid on the nose throughout.  Finishes clean and light with a nice lingering flavor of cider and that caramel warmth.  This is the 50th anniversary bottling from Sassarini and was the last bottle they had at Il Borgo di Campi’s restaurant, near Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre.  This Italian traditional dessert wine is rarely found outside of Cinque Terre because it’s made to be drunk soon after production – a laborious process that includes drying white grapes like bosco and vermentino before fermentation.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Sassarini Sciaccehtra 2017
  • Winery: Cantina Sassarini
  • Region: Cinque Terre
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: Unlabeled
  • Price: $50
  • Where to Buy: Il Borgo di Campi Restaurant

ArmAs – Aragatsotn, Armenia

So, anyone heard of Armenian wines? If not, you will soon. I was in Yerevan for a recent work trip and happened to be visiting a bunch of agricultural sites, many of which were growing grapes. This country’s soils are so well-suited for orchards, particularly grapes, because of their volcanic or bouldery geology. All are very well-drained and the climate affords them enough sunlight and water stress to push them to the max. The grapes have traditionally been used to make exceptional cognac, but now the farmers are waking up to the fact that they have excellent conditions to grow world class table wines. This is not unlike the Spanish epiphany of the late 1990s or the Portuguese awakening of the early-mid 200os.

Now to the wine: it is ripe, tight, and spicy. Its native grapes reminded me of the Norton varietal here in the mid-Atlantic USA; very bold and very unique. I reckon that this will be drinking well for years to come. Sheridan, be thankful that I got a bottle for you too…

·         Rating: Impressive

·         Name: Karmrahyut Dry Red Wine

·         Winery: ArmAs

·         Region: Aragatsotn Province

·         Country: Armenia

·         Varietals: Karmrahyut, Areni, Kakhet, Meghrabuyr

·         Price: $12

Prazo de Roriz – Douro, Portugal

This young beauty starts with a refreshing blueberry and blackberry bouquet.  Violets and crushed flowers lead into a fast, berry-heavy start with tinges of vanilla.  Very nice.  The fruit rolls in with some slatey tannins – not too much – to bring it to a tight, luscious finish.  A very pleasant wine, medium bodied and delicious.  I expected less and got a lot.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Prazo de Roriz
  • Winery: Prats and Symington
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals:
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: wine.com

Quimera 2011 – Mendoza, Argentina

A deep, rich beauty that will make you fall in love with Argentina all over again, from one of her finest wine houses.  A blend of Bordeaux grapes that really shows off all the classic flavors:  dense vanilla and tobacco notes, red fruit and white pepper.  Well-structured with nice tannins that will hold her for years to come, but she’s ready to drink today if you’d like.  The French oak, in a mix of new and one year old, keeps the oak nice and mellow – not overpowering like many California and Washington wines.  I always trust Achaval Ferrer, but was nonetheless impressed by this offering.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Quimera 2011
  • Winery: Achaval Ferrer
  • Region: Mendoza
  • Country: Argentina
  • Varietals: 38% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot
  • Price: ~$32
  • Where to Buy: Connecticut Ave. Wine & Liquor

Shardana 2010 – Sardinia, Italy

Dank, dark, and rusty on the front end, like some old shipwreck pulled up out of the sea.  Nice tannins, leather, and some hints of vanilla.  This is a tough beauty.  Prunes and dark, black fruit.  A tight finish from not inconsequential tannins.  Excellent with seafood and fennel.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Shardana 2010
  • Winery: Neil Empson and Santadi
  • Region: Valle de Porto Pino, Sardinia
  • Country: Italy
  • Varietals: 85% Carignano, 15% Shiraz
  • Price: $28
  • Where to Buy:   Litteri