red wine suggestions please
upon returning from a glorious trip to italy
(cinque terre primarily)
i've become addicted to red wine...
i would like your suggestions on good red wines
and your favorite names as well.
Wow that's a wide open question!! Too open really, so I'll offer up my thoughts off-the-cuff.
If you enjoyed those chiantis, then you weren't put off by their higher levels of acidity and tannin as compared to many California wines. That's good; a lot of Americans aren't so far along. It means that you are pretty much ready to dive headlong into any red wine category the world can throw at you.
I'd start with other Italian reds, like Barbera (from the regions of Alba and Asti), Dolcetto (same), or Valpolicella from reputable producers like Allegrini. There is an Italian wine nut floating around here, hopefully he'll chime in.
We could burn up a lot of kB listing producers, so I'll give you some importers to look for (usually on the back label)
Good Italian importers:
Leonardo Locascio- huge company, generally good juice.
Marc de Grazia
Vin di Vino
You'll also find a lot to like in Rioja from Spain I suspect. Sticking with bigger producers you are likely to find, Marques de Riscal is reliable, as is anything (from anywhere in Spain come to think of it) that says "Imported by Classical Wines of Spain" on the back. Also look for Ribera del Duero that's affordable. Priorat is another good region, but it is in vogue and affordable ones are hunted to extinction. Also it may be heavier than what you are looking for.
Have a look at France. We're in the middle of a string of good vintages for the Rhone valley and Southern France (Languedoc Roussillon, Corbieres, etc) . Rather than give you names, I'll throw out some importers who do good things to a high standard, all available in this area:
Olivier Daubresse (not in MD right now, just DC)
I gotta run, but I hope this helps. DB, are you out there?
This depends on how much you are willing to spend. Generally the '97 vintage is considered the vintage of the century (hyperbole but a lot of people including the Wine Spectator have said this). Today the only wines you can find on a shelf from this vintage are probably chianti riservas which are very expensive. The '99 vintage is a good one and the best are 1/Castello di ama (expensive $35-40), 2/Fontodi ($20-25, 3/Felsina (whose '99 is superb and around $20-22). All of these are half the price in Italy. A step up from this, after the reserves, are the Super Tuscans and these become very expensive. The Wine Spectator wine of the year in 2000 was the '97 Solaia which sold for $200 on release and Laboratorio has at $900 a bottle. In Italy it was about $100. This past year the '98 Ornellaia was voted WS wine of the year and it too is very expensive.
You don't need to spend this much. Part of the appeal of Solaia and Ornellaia is their elitism or almost cult like status. The '99 Chauteau Souverain on sale at $14.99 or a '99 Chateau St. Michelle Merlot at $12.50 on sale or the Columbia Crest Grand Estates at $8.99 are all good. '99 Estancia cabernet is excellent as are many, many other wines from many countries. Chile, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Portugal. You don't need to spend a small fortune to drink well. Nor do you need to drink French or even Californian wines. I personally believe the best merlots are from Washington state which are relatively reasonably priced.
Try a number of different bottles of different styles. Estancia cab and '99 Felsina are both red and full bodied yet quite different. Personally before I would start buying very expensive bottles I would develop a taste for lesser bottles like the Estancia, Chateau Souverain and Felsina. They're not cheap ($12-20). But they are stepping stones to serious wines that you will appreciate when you have "built up to them."
Also don't hesitate to get a group of friends and open several bottles, even three or four or more and compare. Wine events like the recent one at the Reagon office building or the upcoming Vintage Virginia are really worth pursuing.
I have found that one of the best ways to get to know wine is to go to Chesapeake Wine Company. Both a wine store and a bar, CWC has eight to ten different wines by the glass and the list keeps changing pretty much every week. Plus, you can buy a bottle and open it up while you're in the store.
Meanwhile, while you're savouring your selection, Mitch, the proprietor, is more than happy to answer any questions--no matter how basic or how complicated--you might have. He also has a variety of wine tastings and classes at a very reasonable price.