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2001 Gulfi Estate Vineyards Rosso "Nerojbleo" Nero D' Avola, Sicily

As some readers know, I'm a pretty big fan of Italian wines, especially those of Tuscany and Piedmont. I've recently begun to sample the wines of Sicily, especially after the urging of some friends whose opinions I trust when it comes to these things. So when the opportunity arose at a recent lunch to try out this Nero D' Avola, I jumped at the chance.

First of all, for many people, including myself, Nero D' Avola is not a well known red varietal. It happens to be one of two primary native varietals from Sicily -- the other being the white Inzolia. Sicily grows plenty of other grapes as well, from the mainstream Cabernet Sauvignon to the more esoteric white varietal Catarratto.

Increasingly, many vintners are making single vineyard designate wines, such as this one from Gulfi Vineyards. Gulfi is one of the larger "boutique" Sicilian producers that focus on making smaller lots of high quality wines. Last year they bottled 8,000 cases from about 90 hectares of prime vineyards, carefully bought up in the last decade near Syracuse. Under the direction of owner Vito Catania, who historically has sold his grapes to other producers, Gulfi began producing wines under its estate label in 1996. Using French style, high-density, low yield techniques (and equipment) Gulfi, and his consulting winemaker Salvatore Foti, are focused on creating wines that celebrate the characteristics of this native varietal.

This is an outstanding wine that is a terrific value, and I am in the process of hunting down a case or three for myself. At only $12 a bottle, it's right up there with Esprit D' Automne with the best wine ever for under fifteen bucks.

Tasting Notes:
A deep, dark purple, this wine looks old world from the very start. I can easily imagine it being poured into rough hewn goblets of yore. Its nose is rich and heavy with aromas of wood smoke and tar, tobacco, dark red fruit (overripe cherries and plums), and earth. On the palate it is velvety and smooth with flavors of black cherry, Ceylon tea, and surprisingly, dried fennel seeds. The tannins of the wine are soft and supple, and carry through to a medium finish.

Food Pairing:
This is a great food wine, and particularly one for grilled or roasted meat that has a slightly sweeter sauce or marinade. It went perfectly with my beef tenderloin with a beautiful red wine reduction sauce

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: about $12

This wine is imported by Selected Estates in New York, whose Web site lists a number of NY Retailers which carry the wine, but I'm having a hard time finding someone on the Internet to sell it to me.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.