Since our main office is located in California, we focus on wine from the state. There’s some fantastic wine being made, but it’s not always geared for food the way wine from Europe usually is. Because the weather in the state allows for a longer growing season, the grapes here can achieve a higher level of ripeness. That generally means more fruit-driven wines, which can be wonderful. However, if you’re sitting down to a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, a wine with less fruit and more acid is your best bet, and for that, it’s hard to beat what’s coming out of Italy. Our tasting panel recently sampled a pair of newly released red blends: the  2008 Nero D’Avola and the Lucente 2008 Toscana. While our “expert” tasters enjoyed the more robust character of the wines, our “average” tasters found them a bit sharp at first. After a little food and some time, they came around a bit. Below are the wines’ reviews:

Gape(s): Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet

Winery: Lucente

Region: Italy

Year: 2008

Special Designation: Toscana

Price: 25-30


Aromas of rich red berries meld with notes of very dark chocolate and earth on the nose. A sip and flavors of plums, cherries, and currants come to life, accented by suggestions of earth and dark-chocolate. Just bottled in June, the wine is still robust with a firm structure and nice acidity. With such a bold character, it is best enjoyed with food or after about two-hours of breathing time. Will age nicely if you wish to lay a bottle down.

Rating: 89

Character: robust mouthfeel, bold tannins, dark fruit


Grape(s): Nero D’Avola & Sryah

Winery: d’Alessandro Azienda Agricola

Region: Sicily, Italy

Price: 10-15


On the nose, blackberries, currants,and red berries combine with notes of leather and a hint of spice. A sip reveals notes of raspberry, cranberry, bramble fruit rounded out by a bit of earth & leather with a few hints of pepper. A fairly dry wine with a nice, bright acidity, it’s tailored to be enjoyed with your favorite Italian fare.

Rating: 88

Character: bright mouthfeel, red fruit, balanced tannins