Well-heeled food lovers who have traveled through Europe always seem to have a story about a simple but delicious wine they enjoyed at a bistro in France, a trattoria in Italy or a roadside cafe wherever. The story usually includes frustration that the wine is not available here at home.
Included this week are two such wines from a trip (real or imagined) to Sicily: a superb value, the Cantine Colosi Rosso 2016, and a Frappato, as fun to say as it is to drink.
And if you’re ready to fire up the grill, here’s a terrific syrah from J. Lohr in California’s Paso Robles. This is one of the best California red wines under $20 I’ve tasted in a long time, from a family-owned winery and a leader in environmentally friendly sustainable viticulture.
Cantine Colosi Rosso 2016, Sicily, Italy, $13: Sicily’s wines seem to taste of warmth and sunshine. This lovely blend of nero d’avola and nerello cappuccio is savory, with hints of wild herbs and dark cherries. It has depth and restrained power. I liked it on the first sip, and loved it by the third. Alcohol by volume: 13.5 percent
J. Lohr South Ridge Syrah 2016, Paso Robles, California, $16: During a recent tasting of the Rhone Rangers, a group of U.S. wineries that make Rhone Valley-style wines, the J. Lohr Syrah impressed the audience with its easy-drinking, uncomplicated style and its rich flavors of blueberries and blackberries, buttressed by American oak. But when Steve Lohr, the family-owned winery’s CEO, said it retails for “about $15,” the audience was amazed. This is a terrific value. ABV: 13.5 percent
Miolo Reserva Tannat 2015, Brazil, $20: Tannat calls the Madiran area of southwestern France home, but it has made its mark in South America, too. Uruguay is the best-known producer there, but Bolivia and Brazil do a nice job, as well. This Miolo is polished and elegant, with smooth tannins bracing deep black-fruit flavors of blackberries and dark cherries. Decant for an hour to let the flavors develop. ABV: 12.5 percent
Terre Monte Schiavo Pallio di San Floriano Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore, Italy, $22: Named for the annual spring horse race held in several Italian cities, this lovely verdicchio opens with aromas of peach blossom, then follows with flavors of white peach and nectarine. It ends with a refreshing salinity that makes it ideal for light seafood dishes and salads. Labeled as vegan. ABV: 14 percent
Feudo di Santa Tresa Frappato 2017, Sicily, Italy, $14: Remember that wine you enjoyed while traveling through Italy, the pleasant cheap local red you’d never heard of? And you could never find once you got home? Frappato is that type of wine — light in color and body, with bright flavors of Bing cherry, strawberry and plum. You’ll have to pay a little more than you did in Sicily, and re-create the meal and atmosphere yourself, but this lovely wine from Feudo di Santa Tresa, made with organic grapes, will do its part. Serve it chilled, with the drop of condensation running down the bottle matching the bead of perspiration on the back of your neck as you enjoy this on the patio on a warm afternoon. ABV: 12.5 percent
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.