Star-studded match: Isiah Thomas and Cheurlin Champagne

Cheurlin Brut Speciale is the winery’s flagship champagne.

By Jim Campanini

Is that former NBA Hall of Fame great Isiah Thomas now wearing the Cheurlin Champagne polo jersey?

Yes, it is. And why not?

Isiah Thomas with Lisa Marie-Booth, owner of Fortitude Health and Training, and Manchester (N.N.) Mayor Joyce Craig.

Thomas, 57, is no stranger to the French bubbly – even if in an odd way.

For years during his illustrious career with the Detroit Pistons (1981-94), Thomas said he enjoyed his share of wet, wild and elegant championship celebrations when “champagne was poured all over my head” – even if he didn’t drink it back them.

Later, however, Thomas learned to appreciate the refined, exquisite taste of champagne, as well as where it comes from, the people farming the...

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Wine gift of champions can be yours at WCAP’s Salvation Army Auction

The Champions Christmas Wine Package: Isiah Thomas’ Champagne and Drew Bledsoe’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

By Jim Campanini

The annual WCAP Salvation Army Radiothon is Saturday, Dec. 8 and there’s a nice holiday auction gift on the docket for wine lovers. On Thursday, I interviewed former NBA great Isiah Thomas, who has launched a wine importing business, ISIAH, and is partnering with the prestigious House of Cheurlin Champagne of Aube, France to bring their bubbly to America. Thomas, 57, looked fit and trim when we met in Manchester, N.H., and was the epitome of charm and gracefulness as he answered questions from sports writers about his career...

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Zoning in on Bobby Zohn’s 90-point wine specials

    Bobby ‘BZ’ Zohn pours from his 90-point wine list at the Wine ConneXtion.

By Jim Campanini

Bobby “BZ” Zohn was back in North Andover last weekend at the Wine ConneXtion, pouring from his list of “90 points and above” wines based on ratings received from Wine Enthusiast and Decanter magazines and top-flight reviewers James Suckling and Robert Parker.

Like snowflakes, Zohn’s events are never two the same. They’re filled with lively, intelligent banter, fun facts on wine trends, delivered in Zohn’s unassuming and friendly manner.For years he’s been a great ambassador for Martignetti Companies, where his title is listed as “Connoisseur Sales Representative”...

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No need to whine — here are answers to wine quiz

By Jim Campanini, The Wine Novice

Several weeks ago, I published the final exam questions for the Vino Rosso Italian Wine seminar I presented to students at the Nesmith House. I purposely left out the answers, but several readers — rather annoyed — complained.

As I said at the time, if you want to learn about Italian wines from northern Italy, take the class.

But now that I have completed the two classes — and all 34 students passed the exam with flying colors — I am moved by compassion and charity to share the answers.

The second class, held Nov. 8, was just as spectacular as the first, held Oct. 11, except for a few twists.

Most important, I was able add a Barolo and Valpolicella delle Amarone Classico to the wine list. The real stunner, however, was a 2007 Camigliano Burnello di Montalcino that I brought in from my cellar to share with delighted students at the end of a brilliant and successful learning experience.

The lessons they learned will make them better consumers.

They know how to read Italian wine labels, have a good working knowledge of the grapes and wines from three prestigious regions — Piedmont, Tuscany, Veneto — and appreciate that a higher price does not necessarily translate into a higher quality wine.

They learned that terroir — the land, sea, soil, mesoclimates — where the vines grow have a very significant effect on the grape’s characteristics.

Finally, they picked up some important Wine Novice tips on when, how and where to purchase exquisite wines at cheaper prices.

So, I’ll be presenting two new classes in the spring of 2019 through the Middlesex Community College’s adult-education program. One will be a dazzler on Champagne and sparkling wines. The other will be on the volcanic red and white wines of southern Italy.

Good luck on the exam. Salut! (Answers are in the box).

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

a. Piemonte

b. Toscana

c. Veneto

d. All of the above

2. Which of the below listed wines is not made from Sangiovese?

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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 and type in “vino rosso” in the search button).

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

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