George Edwards
George Edwards

It's time to report on a recent semi-deluge of tasty Italian bottlings starting with Altadonna Vermentino Toscana ($14.95, 12.5percent alcohol), which quickly made its way to the shelf after generating quite positive pairing notes with fried panko-crusted chicken breast topped with melted brie and fried bacon strips (yum); thumbs-up with every component. And the wine was equally enthusiastic about the post-meal mild yellow cheddar nibble. While I have a fair handful of notes on Trebbiano and Pinot Bianco, I found only two other Vermentino brand pairings, both positive: an '05 with salmon cakes and an '06 with braised beef. I better get on it. By the way, according to the back label, enologist Stefano Chioccioli has dedicated a collection of varietal wines to wife Anna Altadonna.

The Valle Real Vigne Nuove Rose D'Abruzzo 2011 ($13.95, 12.5percent, screw cap) was my first experience with pink Montepulciano, and it clearly contributed to my designation of Dry Rose as the second most food-versatile wine type, as over three nights it scored with spicy grilled chicken breast with salsa (also a rich combo with salsa and corn chips), a turkey burger with cheese, ketchup, mustard, lettuce and dill pickle (very tasty), and of all things Eggs Benedict with bacon, artichoke hearts and citrusy Hollandaise.

For all this good news so far, when we think Italian it is red that first comes to mind. Here are three delicious examples that have also earned their way into the shop.

On a classic note, the Selvapiano Chianti Ruffina 2010 ($17.


95, 13percent) got along fine with the corn chips and salsa and received a passing score with a hamburger with lettuce, dill pickle and a spicy pepper jack. Alas, the spicy cheese got in the way of a higher score. By the way, the 2009 proved a pleasant companion to sweet-and-sour chicken.

Another most enjoyable Sangiovese-based red is the Casamatta ("wild house") Toscana 2011 ($14.95, 12.5percent, screw cap) bottled by Bibi Graetz. Not surprisingly, this silky, fresh rendition was first-rate with lasagna and played quite nicely with a mild vinaigrette salad. And then there is Mazzei Badiola Toscana 2009 ($15.95, 13.5percent), a full-flavored and smooth blend of Sangiovese (70percent), Merlot ($20percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10percent) that earned its beef stripes with pan-fried steak and beef immersed in gravy and caramelized onions (bright combo); liked the rich sliced red tomato as well.

And the journey gets even better, as some of these wines made a guest appearance at Dorothy McNett's recent "Florence and the Hills of Tuscany" cooking class with the following results:

"We started with freshly toasted Italian bread slices with Tuscan olive oil drizzled over each piece and served with Taleggio cheese as well as a three-milk (cow, sheep and goat) cheese known as La Tur. Along with thinly sliced salami and fresh zucchini strips, our perfect white wine match was the Tuscan Vermentino by Altadonna, as it tasted so good with the olive oil, salty salami and smooth and flavorful cheeses. What a great way to start a meal! And that was followed by with another Tuscan wine, Coltibuono Cancelli, a blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. I served it with Wild Mushroom Polenta. The Syrah smoothed out the Sangiovese just a bit to make it a perfect match with the dark and hearty mushrooms, as they can sometimes dominate. This wine held up perfectly, sort of like saying "move over mushrooms!" Next came the fabulous La Florentina style T-bone steak grilled with semi-coarse pepper and served with Peas and Prosciutto. This worked to perfection with the 100percent Toscana Sangiovese Casamatta. Tuscany is known for its beef as well as great wines and olive oils, hence all these pairing successes."

George Edwards is the owner and operator of WineMarket in Pacific Grove. E-mail him directly at or visit his Web site at