Wine Novice’s selections for Turkey Day

Kirkland Signature Series Brunello di Montalcino 2013, $23.99

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

Thanksgiving is truly an all-American holiday and, naturally, the pairing of food and wine should be all-American too.

At least that’s what I used to think. Not anymore.

We live in a melting pot of a nation, so why shouldn’t the holiday dinner table feature a melting pot of wines?

With that said, here is a list of wines I’ll be considering for Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Mumm Brut Prestige Napa Valley, $15.99: This sparkler is selling at a $6 discount in New Hampshire. It’s fruity with a hint of almond nuts on the long, dry finish. A great way to get the holiday started.

Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve, $18...

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Some fine wine choices for Thanksgiving

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

Did Thanksgiving just sneak up on us this year? I don’t know about you, but I’m off by a week. To me, Thanksgiving always seemed to fall on the last Thursday of November but this year it arrives a week early — on Nov. 22.

Whatever, it’s time for the annual Thanksgiving Day wine list from my experts, Andrea M. Lewis at Andover Classic Wines, located in the Shawsheen Plaza on Route 24, and Sam Messina of the Wine ConneXtion, located in the First and Main Plaza in North Andover. If you get a chance, stop by their outlets, which feature weekly wine tastings and a wonderful selection of American and international wines.

Andrea M. Lewis

Andrea M. Lewis

Wine & Store manager

Andover Classic Wines

Chateau Pegau Lone 2017, $18...

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Discover Umbria in Montemelino, Orvieto Classico

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

When you think of the world’s great wine regions of the world, no one is going to jump up and shout “Umbria.” It’s neither No. 1 or for that matter No. 100. Yet it’s a gem of an undiscovered place.

Umbria is central and southern Italy’s only landlocked region, bordered entirely by Tuscany to the north and west, Marche to the north and east ,and Lazio, which includes Rome, to the south.

This geographic isolation has made Umbria the least populated area in all of Italy, and also kept it from becoming a significant center of economic development. Still, the Umbrians aren’t starving. The land’s natural green beauty, hilly terrain, and medieval towns (Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto) have made it a popular tourist destination...

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Romeo & Juliet would tell you wherefore you’d love these wines

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

If star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet could have shared a final glass of wine, maybe they would have reached for Famiglia Pasqua’s Passione e Sentimento Rosso. It’s a red wine made from Corvina, Merlot and Croatina grapes grown in vineyards located not far from the Verona balcony where Juliet was serenaded by her lover in the courtyard below.

Tourists still flock to the famous site and pin sentimental notes on the wall of the famous apartment building — something the local carabinieri are trying to stop by handing out fines of 300 euros.

Ah, but traditions die hard in Italy, especially in this part of the Veneto, where passions for love and wine and beauty run so high.

When Allesandro Pasqua tells the story of his family’s nearly 100-year-old love affair...

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These wine novices in a class of their own

Students in Jim Campanini’s wine class listen as the “Wine Novice” talks about his passion. COURTESY PHOTO

The Nesmith House was glamorous and full of life for the first class of “Vino Rosso: The Incomparable Red Wines of Northern Italy.” Nineteen enthusiastic oenophiles met Thursday in Lowell to learn about the four pillars of prestigious Italian wine – Super Tuscan, Chianti, Barolo and Brunello – from the Piemonte and Toscana regions. We also discussed the top red wine of the Veneto – Amarone della Valpolicella – which is one of my favorites.  My “students” sampled seven wines which were paired with the Wine Goddess’ small plates of Italian treasures, including baked eggplant parmigiana and meatballs stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and Vidalia onions.

The 2-hour evening came to a sweet conclusion when students toasted their success – each had to pass a 10-question final exam – with a glass of Vin Santo di Chianti Classico, a decadent dessert wine made from native Trebbiano Toscana and Malvasia Bianca grapes. As it that wasn’t enough, the Wine Goddess served homemade dried cherry and almond biscotti to resounding applause.

So, as the Italians would say, we had some serious fun.

The group asked some really good questions and amazed me with their keen senses of smell and taste. Most were spot on in deducing the basic aromatic and flavor profiles of the wines, and didn’t hesitate to delve deeper into the complex layers when presented with more structured, powerful bottlings. I was proud that they learned so well.

Jim Campanini teaches a wine class at the Nesmith House in Lowell. COURTESY PHOTO

For those who were shut out of this first class, a second has been added for Thursday, Nov. 8 at the same location. Contact Middlesex Community College to register, or go on the school’s website.

I want to congratulate my students for their attentiveness, energy, and support. We couldn’t develop elegant wine education programs like this without your help. And the same goes for MCC and its staff, which brought this program to life and continues to support it with its own resources, including the fabulous Nesmith House location. This was our third wine class collaboration since last year, and we’re planning two special programs in the spring of 2019 – one on sparkling wines and the other on the ancient volcanic wines of southern Italy. Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascarelli and Taurasi are just a few that come to mind.

To show you that my students command the utmost respect, here are several exam questions they learned to master. If you don’t know the answer, you should take the class. Salute!

Italian Red Wine Class Final Exam

Instructor: Jim Campanini, IWS

1.      In which wine region is Sangiovese the “king of all grape varieties”?

a.      Piemonte

b.      Toscana

c.       Veneto

d.      All of the above 

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The Wine Professor is in for one night (OK, two)

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

The table is set for an evening of “The Incomparable Wines of Northern Italy,” a two-hour learning and tasting seminar at the elegant Nesmith House in Lowell, presented by yours truly as part of Middlesex Community College’s adult continuing-education program.

Tonight’s class of 20 “students” is sold out; however, because of the number of inquiries received, MCC has graciously added another class scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 8, from 7 to 9 p.m. (To register, go to www.middlesex.mass.edu and type in “vino rosso” in the search button).

I’ve been excited about this “class” for a while...

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Wines to drink now — and some to save for later

Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella

A fan of this column approached me over the weekend and asked, “Jim, what are you drinking now?'”

I replied without hesitation. It’s not what I am drinking now, it’s what I am buying for later.

Like saving for your retirement, there’s something to be said for buying wines that will enrich your drinking and dining pleasure weeks, months and years from now. Sometimes it means getting a good deal on a valuable, ageworthy wine for the cellar. Or it could be for socking away a nice bottle for a special occasion, like a 30th wedding anniversary that I will celebrate with the Wine Goddess next year. Or it could be stocking up on a respectable, inexpensive, everyday wine from an outstanding winemaker.

So, I will answer my friend’s first inquiry first.

Here’s what ...

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Taste your way to an education in Italian wines (like I did)

By Jim Campanini
If you are truly interested in developing your global wine acumen, there’s no better way to start than with the Wine Scholar Guild’s Italian Wine Scholar program that begins Saturday, Oct. 13.
My mentor , Jo-Ann Ross, will be teaching Unit 1 on Northern Italian wines, which covers Piedmont, Trentino, Alto Adige and Val
D’Aosta.
I began my Italian studies with this class two years ago, and it was exceptional. I met wonderful people in the wine trade, restaurant owners and chefs, sommeliers, and young and older professionals who love wine.
We studied the different Italian regions — their customs and history — and learned about the unique native grapes and distinctive wine-making styles that have given Italy top-tier status with other global producers ...
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Doors reopened, Wine ConneXtion offers Spanish samples

Sam Messina, co-owner of The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover, hosts a sampling Saturday.

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

Now here’s a treat. The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover is featuring wines from Spain this Saturday, from 1 to 4 p.m. If you like moderate- to full-bodied and spicy wines, it’s worth the trip to 117 Main St.

Sam and Tina Messina, the store’s co-owners, have had a rough few days and would love to see some friendly and smiling faces. Last week’s Columbia Gas pipeline explosions, which rocked Lawrence, North Andover and Andover, forced a four-day shutdown of the popular wine store. Emergency personnel and safety workers used the First and Main plaza as a staging area to aid blast victims and evacuate homes. In fact, Tina Messina was forced to evacuate...

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Concha y Toro spices up the season with Camenere

Casillero del Diablo (The Devil’s Cellar) is a low-cost, quality introduction to Camenere.

Did you feel that evening chill in the air this past week? Yes, it’s a sign that autumn is fast approaching and that like the changing seasons, it’s time to make a move to the red wine cellar.

To many Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, there’s really no need to panic. You can drink that big, bold heavenly grape all year round with steaks and barbecue and never miss a beat.

For me, however, I’m out for something that settles in nicely, like a blanket by the firepit with the Wine Goddess, my wife Mary Lee, and two glasses of Chilean Camenere. Here’s a native grape from Bordeaux’s Medoc region where it is used as a  as a second fiddle blending partner to Cabernet Sauvignon and sometimes Merlot...

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