Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

New Arrivals!

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

It’s been a busy few weeks for us LUSHes and we are loaded with new stuff for you to try! Here is a primer on some – by no means all – of them. Stay tuned for updates about upcoming wines and distillates. We will be posting here every week – promise!

2007, Nusserhof Sudtirol Lagrein Riserva, Alto Adige, Italy

The label, with its mix of German and Italian, already gives you an idea of this wine’s fascinating background. This wines hails from the Northern confines of Italy, a region nestled in the Alps, at the intersection of the Swiss and Austrian borders. It is known as Alto Adige in Italian, and Sudtirol in German – the language spoken in this region of what is technically still Italy is primarily German, rather than Italian, and most everything there, including this label, is bilingual.

Lagrein is one of the main red grapes grown in Alto Adige, along with Pinot Noir. Unlike Pinot however, Lagrein is almost exclusively grown in this region, and it is as multifaceted a grape as its environment. A good example will have the transparency, purity and silky tannins of pinot, along with the deeper fruit and slightly more brooding tones of a Northern Rhone Syrah. With age, it acquires a hint of gaminess which will also be familiar to Syrah lovers.

The producer here is Heinrich Mayr, from the Nusserhof winery, whose south-facing slopes offer ideal exposure for growing Lagrein. The wine is fermented using wild yeasts, and this Riserva sees no new oak, so what you get here is a very pure and traditional expression of Ladrein from Northern Italy. This will be a joy for those of you who like fuller bodied Pinot, or anyone curious about discovering a new wine region and its traditions!


2009 Napolini Rosso dei Monti, Umbria, Italy

A newcomer to our beloved 10$ rack, we believe this will be your go to mid-spring grilling wine! From a winery that has been in the same family from generations, the farming is bo0th traditional and respectful of the environment. A cornucopia of local (Sangiovese, Sagrantino…) and european (merlot) varieties are blended and fermented together to make this wine, which sits for a year in stainless steel before bottling. This is deep and spicy from extended maceration with the skins, but not so much as to be heavy or too tannic. On the contrary, the texture is just peppery and a little rustic, and there is good acidity to keep things fresh and food friendly. This will do wonders with beefy and chewy cuts like hanger or NY strip. $10

NV Cattin Brut Cremant d’Alsace, Alsace, France

This is a Domaine that was founded in 1720 as a general purpose farm which also made wine, and became entirely dedicated to wine in the 1850s. The Maison Cattin became really famous, when one of the Cattin brothers, Joseph, opened in the early 20th century an Alsatian restaurant in Paris called la Cigogne, where his family’s wine took a prominent place on the list. The restaurant was a huge success, and as rich parisians and foreigners flocked to La Cigogne, the popularity of the Cattin wines started growing.

The winery has been growing since, reaching the size of 123 acres in the eighties with holdings in some of the best vineyards of the Alsace region. They make wine from all of the traditional varieties of the region, from riesling and sylvaner to pinot noir and pinot blanc. This Cremant is 100% hand harvested pinot blanc from a variety of parcels owned by domaine Cattin. It is fermented in stainless steal, then bottled and goes through a second fermentation in bottle. The wine is aged for at least a year in bottle before it’s sent to your table. This has the weight and fruitiness of pinot blanc, and low acidity. Ideal for aperitif or daytime drinking. $16.50

2010 Poderi Sette Terre, Pecorino, Terre di Chieti, Italy

First let make clear that the Pecorino involved here is not a cheese, but a grape variety. Sheep have always had a tendency to munch on the grape, and its name comes from the Italian word for sheep, pecora. Done.

This is a variety that went through a near-death experience. Pecorino had almost gone extinct thirty years ago, when global, critic-pleasing, money-making varieties slowly started to uprooting acres and acres of traditional grapes from the terroirs where they were supposed to grow. Thankfully it is now in the midst of a resurgence, and pecorino is actually growing.. This is probably because of the grapes delicious, as well as its tendency to naturally produce low yields and grapes which are naturally resistant to mildew. This is a lighter, fresh wine with a lively acidity and a minerally, almost salty finish. Amazing with fresher, softer goat cheeses. $10

2011 Tami Grillo, Sicily, Italy

Another wine, white this time, from Arianna Occhipinti’s negociant label, Tami. We all know the Nero d’Avola, and this is a white that is made along the same lines: a 100% native sicilian grape variety, left to ferment on its own, with very little sulfur added, only at bottling. This wine has the richness and the ripe aromatics of a warmer climate white, while retaining the acidity and minerality to make it feel incredibly fresh. There’s a peachy note to the nose, alongside some pretty stunning floral aromatics that are balanced by a really delicious savory and minerally streak – think ever-so-slightly-dirty martini, with a sprinkle of sea salt. $17.75

2006 Roger Belland, Santenay-Beauregard 1er Cru, Burgundy, France

Pinot noir from one of the most feminine and elegant – and not completely out of reach to non-millionaires – appellations in Burgundy. Santenay produces both red and white wines that are known for their versatility: in the cellar, they’re delicious and generous right off the starting blocks, with suave tannins and very pretty and delineated aromas, but they’re known to have enough structure to mature and develop classic mature Burgundy notes of wet earth while retaining the acidity and the fruit to keep them fresh. Versatility at the dinner table too of course: this will pair gorgeously with pretty much anything (make it fancy though, there are only a few thousands bottles produced from Belland’s tiny holdings in the appellation), but somehow squab or duck, or even a good old roast chicken seem ideal. The Belland domaine has been in the family for 6 generations and this particular bottling is made in very small quantities. 30% of the grapes are not destemmed before crushing, which will add a certain amount of structure and help the wine age better. It also sees a bit of new wood after fermentation, but by now the wood has integrated and doesn’t feel like a separate element. The Domaine says this should reach peak drinking at 8 years of age. It is 7 now, and drinking beautifully already! $40

2010 Pinot Noir, Starr Ridge Vineyard, Davis Family Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA

There’s a lot that could be said about Guy Davis and his wines, single vineyard Pinots, Chardonnays and Syrahs from the Russian River Valley. They’re made with love in very small batches. I have recently come across this testimonial, from someone who goes by the name Mindy T in Chicago wine circles:

“a super cool wine from a super cool man, Guy Davis. This is called 2010 Starr Ridge and was given 93 points by Parker.  The Starr Ridge Vineyard is owned by Guy’s friend and is the warmest of his PN sites, being north of the transition where the Russian River turns west toward the Pacific Ocean….lush, juicy dark cherry, mint, flowers and the coolest spices that float from the glass.  This is a Pinot that can age but is delicious at the moment.” $48.50

Petal and Thorn, Imbue

Our trusted source Mindy T says “this might be the coolest thing on the face of earth.” What else is there to add? Well, quite a bit, actually.

The base wine of this beauty is an Oregon Pinot Gris, which was reinforced to 18% by adding a brandy distilled from the same wine. The wine is then macerated with a mix of ten dried botanicals, sourced from organic producers when possible. The idea behind this poetically named wine is to find a balance between the sweetness and acidity of a tokaji or a Sauternes, and the herbal, medicinal bitterness of an amaro. Pour over a few ice cubes for aperitif.  $34.50

2009 Ben Marco Expresivo, Mendoza, Argentina

There’s just a lot going on here. This is Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, peppered with a hint of Syrah and framed by a touch of Tannat and Petit Verdot, all grown on the high perched vineyards of Mendoza. This is a Bordeaux blend taken on an Argentine honeymoon. The average age of these vines is a whopping 42 years, which allows the perfectly farmed fruit to express an earthy sense of place on top of the warm cherry and cocoa note. To add some spice and structure to this already luscious experience, this wine has seen extended aging in all new French oak. This makes Ben Marco a great candidate for the cellar or the decanter – in any case, it calls for steak, the bloodier the better. $21

2011 Antxiola, Getariako Txakolina, Basque Country, Spain

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by all the Xs and the consonants, this is drinking wine in its purest form, tart, fizzy liquid stones to be guzzled in large quantities. A light effervescence and low alcohol levels (9-10%) make this the mineraly Basque cousin of Portuguese Vinho Verde. Getariako Txakolina is a rather new appellation for what is a very old Basque wine – officially recognized as a DO in 1989, when Txakoli was if not extinct mostly forgotten and home made. This is a perfect Spring sipper, and will work perfectly in most places where Riesling is called for duty. $18

Geek Alert: Book signing and wine tasting

Friday, September 10th, 2010

The LUSHes are all nerded out…join in the fun, kids! Free.  Educational.  Books. An author. Wine. Winemakers!

Wednesday, September 15th, 7-9pm: Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey, by Robert Camuto.  Book signing with the author and wine tasting with Frank Cornellisen and Alberto Aiello Graci, winemakers from Mount Etna, Sicily.  Discover the flavors, the soil, the passion of the vine in Sicily.  Interactive tasting and education.  Free. Please RSVP to

LUSH West Town – 1412 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642, 312.666.6900.


Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Ales Kristancic [courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine]

Ales Kristancic (courtesy of Food and Wine Magazine)

Most of the world tends to think of boundaries in terms of nationality. I’m Portuguese. It’s from Germany. The fox is French. The wine world thinks in this way as well. Restaurant lists, wine stores, and importer’s portfolios are organized and separated by country.

Sometimes, though, these distinctions can be useless.

Take, for example, Movia. The winery is officially nestled in the hills of Slovenia. If you want to send Movia a piece of mail (say, a love note), you would jot down a Slovenian address. But, if you ask Ales Kristancic (pronounced alesh chris-stan-zick), the gregarious and charming proprietor of the estate, Movia’s identity, terroir, and juice is not tied to a particular nation. Instead, it’s tied to an appellation.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Collio? An appellation that straddles the border between Italy and Slovenia, Collio is famous for its crisp, lush, and mineral-driven whites: Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Giallo.

Ever heard of Brda? Probably not. It is the Slovenian name for Collio. Among the sommelier set, the name has emerged as one of the most promising wine producing regions in the world right now, due in large part to the wines (and the personality) of Ales Kristancic. An outspoken champion of indigenous grape varieties, terroir-driven winemaking, and nothing but the most natural, organic, and biodynamic processes, Kristancic could be called a traditionalist.

He could also, perhaps just as justifiably, be called a radical. He leaves his white wine to age on its lees for up to two years (a looooong time) in 600 liter Slavonian oak casks. He performs his filtering by hand and in a limited manner, as dictated by the atmospheric pressure associated with moon cycles. And — get this — Kristancic bottles one of his sparkling wines undisgorged. This means the bottle arrives in the hands of the consumer with a ball of yeast in its neck. The longer a wine spends with said yeast, the more complexity it is thought to attain; Ales is maximizing this time by releasing bottles that have yet to be disgorged. The consumer must submerge the bottle in water, pop off the cork, and quickly bring the bottle upright. The yeast is released under the water, and the bottle emerges freshly disgorged and ready to be drunk. Oh yeah, you have to store the bottle upside down (try a large mixing glass or something similar) for two days before opening it to condense the yeast.

Crazy? Perhaps. Brilliant? Probably. Effective? Absolutely. The Movia ‘Puro’ (100% Pinot Noir bubbly) is one of the coolest wines the Lushes have tried this year. Yeasty, bready, yet fresh, with piercing minerality, and a mint/ginger spice on the palate. This bottle has not hit the LUSH shelves yet, but look out for ‘Puro’ (and a demo of it being opened!) at our West Town launch party on December 4th.

The Movia wines we have in stock right now include the Quattro Mani ‘Toh-Kai’ 07, a project involving four winemakers making wine from indigenous grapes around the world. I once read this wine described as ‘bizarrely delicious’ and I think nothing could be more apropos. Mint, white chocolate, apricot, menthol, green tea, and lemon peel all intermingle in an odd yet entirely satisfying progression of aromas and flavors. For $13, there may not be a better deal this year.

We also currently have the 04 Veliko Bianco (“Big White”) and the 04 Lunar. Both wines are made with the Ribolla Giallo grape, a native varietal that tends to produce creamy, rich, dry wines with great acidity. In the hands of the right person (ahem, Mr. Kristancic), these wines can be remarkably ageable. The Veliko Bianco is also blended with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and vinified according to the methods I mentioned above. The nose suggests a certain sweetness: honey, after-dinner mints, tangerine. The palate is dry and fierce, yet not without serious richness. This wine is lifted in a way that’s hard to describe: it’s almost like there is a layer of white flowers and menthol that sits between the wine and your tongue. It’s a pretty incredible sensory experience. Weird, yet utterly delicious and drinkable.

The Lunar is a different beast. 100% Ribolla Giallo. As an experiment, Kristancic wanted to make a wine that had no human intervention except at harvest and at bottling. The grapes were hand selected and then left to their own devices until spring in specially designed barrels. No pressing. No added yeasts. At bottling time, the juice is drawn off its skins using a vacuum and bottled with no sulfur dioxide. What emerges is nothing short of glorious (and nothing short of extreme): a wine that pours a rusty orange color, more reminiscent of beer than it is of wine. A bizarre confluence of tannin (from the extended skin contact), slightly oxidized flavors, rich, ripe fruit, piercing acidity, and residual carbon dioxide, this wine is mind-boggling. Cerebral yet still accessible, this wine will undoubtedly evolve for decades to come.

Join us in exploring this frontier of winemaking. We are very excited to offer these wines at LUSH, and hope that you enjoy them as much as we do .



Wine Geek: Tocai, Tokaji, Tokay

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Tokaji, Tocai, Tokay

These all sound the same, so they must be the same, right? Well, not so fast there. While these wines are all pronounced relatively similar, they share hardly any similarities at all. (more…)

Hot times, summer in the city.

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

By: Ms. Wendy, wine geek extraordinaire.

Is there anything better than Chicago in the summer? Cubs games, lake trips, biking trails, picnics in one of our hundreds of parks, swimming pools and sidewalk cafes keep the hope in our hearts during those long, lonely winter months. For me, personally, it’s knowing that my palate will once again crave white wine! Perfect, crisp, refreshing white wine. Hints of honeydew, airs of apricot, achingly acidic white wine captures the essence of summer weather. Lucky for me, I work at a wine store and have access to hundreds of delicious bottles just waiting to be chilled!

A little bit about me: I have a tendency to get very excited.  As a result I often get overwhelmed when the moment comes to make a decision.  I want to choose a bottle that best captures what I’m feeling at the moment and one that will, hopefully, agree with the palate of whoever I may be entertaining.  To keep my enthusiasm in check, I’ve created a list of “must drinks” for the summer. To further simplify things, I’ve separated it into categories.   Lists make everything better.  (more…)

LUSH Interview: 10 Questions with Rob Salitore

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Ten Questions With…


BIO: Rob is a long time supporter of LUSH, actually one of our first customers!  Although he works mainly in construction, Rob’s latent talent is developing deep friendships and creating a growing appreciate for sharing moments, and sips, with amazing people.  He also has phenomenal connections in the beer and wine world.  On his ‘off’ time, Rob represents Linne Calodo wines in Chicago.    This is one cool guy.


Mi Amo L’Italia!

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

I am riding a huge high…and yes, it may indeed be drug induced, but the doctor says it will make me better.  The sniffles are abating, slowly…but bronchitis won’t keep me down.  I will be euphoric, oh yes I will!  Traveling makes me so very happy, and traveling to Italy is perhaps my most favorite thing to do because it involves so much eating, drinking, and talking with friends.  Ahhh, bliss.


Mi Amo L'Italia!

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

I am riding a huge high…and yes, it may indeed be drug induced, but the doctor says it will make me better.  The sniffles are abating, slowly…but bronchitis won’t keep me down.  I will be euphoric, oh yes I will!  Traveling makes me so very happy, and traveling to Italy is perhaps my most favorite thing to do because it involves so much eating, drinking, and talking with friends.  Ahhh, bliss.