Oct 10

Italy Part 2 – Lombardy

This is the wine region that takes up most of the norther edge of Italy. It is just east of Piedmonte, and it is one of the largest and most populated ares in Italy, which is great for their economy, but not always so great for wine making.

Historically this area was behind the century’s post-WWII economic boom. It is this era that made Milan the lab of luxury that it is today. Incidentally Milan is in Lombardy. Due to it’s world-famous cities it is shocking that agriculture is an important industry in this region, however it actually produces more grapes annually then famous places such as Umbria, Fruili, and Marches. However a lot of the grapes are used for plunk wine, and most of the quality wine is consumed by the inhabitants and tourists of famous cities such as Milan.

From an international wine perspective Lombardy is not famous for any “key” region, or “key” grape due to its crippling size. In fact, it has no indigenous grapes of note. It does how ever make some great wines out of grapes such as: Schiva, Barbara, Trebiano, Cortese, and Marzemino, as well as international varietals such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

One of the most famous DOCs is Franciaorta, which makes some of Italy’s finest sparklers, however we will not touch on that today, we will save that for a segment on Sparkling Wines of Italy. Another notable DOC’s are Oltrepo Pavese (which we are tasting today) in the south west corner of Lombardy. It is a versatile DOC offering styles ranging from “rustic”, to frothy, Burgundian-esque reds based in Pinot Nero, and Cabernet Sauvignon, to a rainbow of whites still and dry to sparkling based in riesling, Cortese, Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Nero, all vinified in “bianco”. They also make some lovely dessert wines based in Malvasia, and Moscato. All though most of Oltrepo’s wine is of great reputation, it is all so the closest DOC to Milan and the majority of its wine never travels further then this city.

Other DOC’s of Lombardy with even harder to find wine are, Cellatica, Capriano Del Colle, Rivera del Garda Bresciano, San Martino della Battaglia, Colli Morenici Mantovani del Garda, and the catch all DOC Garda.

Upon reserching this area and trying to find still wines to focus on for this show, I have determined that Lombardy is one of the Italian “white wales” of the Chicago market if not the USA. So here is my challenge to you WineSoakeders…. try and find some, and if you do share your experience in the comments section of this show!

This Week’s Wine

Vercesi del Castellazzo, “Gugiarolo”, Pinot Nero Binaco, Oltrepo Pavese 2009

From: Perman Wine Selections
802 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 666-4417

Cost: Between $20-$25

Wine Maker’s History & Notes

Vercesi Del Castellazzo

History: The Vercesi del Castellazzo estate is located 30 miles south of Milan – in Lombardy- in the heart of Oltrepo’ Pavese on the hills overhanging the city of Stradella, south of the Po River.

The winery was founded in 1808 when the great-grand father of the present owner(Dr. Franco Vercesi) bought the “Castellazzo”; until Napoleon’s army took it, it was a monastary of Barnabite order built over the ruins of a Beccaria family castle.

The estate consists of about 60 acres of hilly land of which 50 are planted with vines, the others include forest and cultivated fields. The location is considered among the best in the area. The acres planted to vine are divided among the following grape varietals: Barbera, Bonarda (Croatina), Pinot Nero, Vespolina, Uva Rara and Cabernet Sauvignon, as laid down in the local regulations of the DOC Oltrepo’ Pavese. Experienced care goes side by side with the most advanced cultivation techniques at all stages in the production cycle, from harvesting to the wine-making itself which takes place in stainless steel vats at carefully controlled fermentation temperatures. The wines then go through different aging periods, the resultant wines are well structured and full bodied with refined quality characteristics in the best tradition of the wines of this region.


Pinot Nero Bianco “Gugiarolo”

Gugiarolo is a wine produced by the white vinification of the Pinot Nero grape belonging to the omonimous vineyards which have been owned by Vercesi del Castellazzo since the 16th century. The place name, of Longobard origin, was often noted in the archives of the Barnabite monks for “la buona esposizione a meridione e la naturale protezione dai venti del levante” the good south-facing position and natural protection from the wild east winds. Today, with the necessary agronomical care, the Vercesis have obtained grapes that give a full-bodied, important wine with an intense perfume that can be drunk at its best even after a few years. The vintage, made with the grape selection, starts only when the balance between acidity, PH and sugar is at its optimum: this is the result of careful analysis of samples taken well before the harvest. The grapes, transported in wooden boxes to the cellar, are gently pressed. The must, obtained after a light clarification, starts to ferment with autochthonous yeasts at a controlled temperature.

My Notes

  • Appearance: 
 Clear, Transparent, and Shiny
    • Core: Very Light Straw
    • Rim: Clear
  • Nose:
 Medium Aromatics of: Lemon, melon rind, cucumber, and under ripe green mango.
  • Palate:
    • Acid: Medium
    • Tannin: N/A
    • Body: Medium
    • Texture: Silky
    • Finish: Lingering acid
    • Flavors: Cucumber, Honeydue, Savory green veggies


This is a nice light complex white wine. It starts tricking you into thinking it is a super light lemony wine, and then follows up with a second much more full bodied wave of savory. I vote great food wine.

I am pairing it with: Italian sausage, green pepper, garlic & onion, butter-crust pizza.

Does it work? …. YES IT DOES!

Jan 10

Episode 10: Sara Kay’s Wine Club

Each month Sara Kay chooses a selection of wines for her wine club members at the WineStyles in Chicago’s South Loop. Since everyone has different tastes, she chooses two sweet wines, two dry white wines, and two dry red wines for her wine club members to choose from. In this episode, we’ll taste the monthly wine club picks for January 2010!

  1. Red #1: Casa de la Vega, Tempranillo. (La Mancha, Spain).
    • This is a fruit driven Tempranillo with minimal oak aging. It is ample and mild, with fresh and ripe fruit notes (of blackberry and cherry) with a bit of vanilla, coconut, mint and laurel. It is much easier access then its Rioja cousin.
    • Cost: $24.99
  2. White #1: Water Color, Chardonnay. (Languedoc, Franc).
    • Bright gold‐yellow color with straw yellow tints. A very elegant nose with a quintessence of pineapple, hazelnuts, lime blossoms and quince aromas with vanilla and toasted bread notes. A rich and mellow palate with very good acidity and a long persistent finish with pineapple notes.
    • Cost: $24.99
  3. Red #2: Twisted Oak: *%#&@. (Paso Robles, California).
    • This is a charming blend of 50% Mourvedre  28% Syrah 22% Grenache. Bright, deep ruby red color. Wildly aromatic with scents of tarragon, lavender and allspice accenting the core of ultra-ripe berries. Rich and ripe on the palate with flavors of blueberry and raspberry supported by complimentary notes of earth and brown spice.
    • Cost: $24.99
  4. White #2: The White Mullet. (Clare Valley, Australia).
    • An intriguing blend of 60% Riesling, 16% Viognier, 16% Sauvignon Blanc, and 8% Chenin Blanc. Made with no oak, it is an unpretentious and zesty white perfect for everyday drinking.
    • Cost: $22.99
  5. Sweet #1: Ca’Dei Mandori, Brachetto D’ Acqui. (Italy).
    • This sweet bubbly is purplish-red color. It seduces you with the aroma of roses, and cherries; a pleasant sparkle and a tasty, inviting finish. This is best pared with chocolate cake.
    • Cost: $22.99
  6. Sweet #2: Colli Piacenti, Malvasia. (Italy)
    • This sweet wine reveals clean, elegant aromas of dried apricot, candied fruit, caramel, peach jam, and a hint of vanilla. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a round and sweet attack which is continuously perceivable, intense flavors. The finish is persistent with flavors of caramel, apricot and peach jam.
    • Cost: $24.99

Sep 09

Episode 3: Get Screwed!

For Episode 3 of Wine Soaked, Sommelier Sara Kay brings you Chicago’s only punk rock wine show! Sara Kay punks out with a full meal’s worth of wine sealed entirely with new, non-traditional enclosures–including “Stelvin” screw caps & even pop tops.
Continue reading →

Sep 09

Episode 2: The Dinner Party

Sara Kay looks at three wines that she’s selected for a dinner party, explains how they pair with her food, and shows how to open three types of wine bottles.

In this episode:

  • Emri Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99)
  • Dry Creek 2008 Chenin Blanc ($21.99)
  • Van Duzer Vintner’s Cuvee 2007 Pinot Noir ($23.99)

Also, check back here later on in the week. Sara Kay will be posting her wine list for the upcoming show, so that you can buy in advance and taste along with her!