Twelve 13 Tasty Sips
Our Mixed Case series serves up an eclectic mix of recent ‘adult beverage’ discoveries by the dozen.
Whether you’re perusing a bar menu while traveling or stirring up a cocktail at home, let our guide lead to new taste destinations.
By Hope S. Philbrick
This “Mixed Case” rounds up great sips from three continents. We’ve included an extra review to make it a baker’s dozen. Who says 13 is always unlucky?
Mionetto Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso boasts jubilant bubbles that push citrus aromas forward on the nose and jump around the palate with flavors of strawberry blossom, green apple, white peach and faint yeast notes. Crisp, dry and balanced, this Italian treat pairs well with vegetable, chicken, seafood and cheese-based dishes and is equally enjoyable on its own. Open a bottle for a special occasion or to toast any random Monday, good times with friends, a successful new recipe, or that The Bachelor appears to have finally chosen the right “lady.” Retails for approx. $15.
The No. 1 selling limoncello in bars and restaurants in Italy, Limoncello di Capri is produced in small batches using lemons grown on the Island of Capri and in Sorrento Peninsula. “It’s one of the few brands of limoncello produced using real lemons,” boast press materials, all of which are fertilized naturally using organic principles. This bright yellow liqueur, which won a Gold Medal Award at the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2003, sniffs and tastes like grownup lemonade with a pleasant alcohol kick. Sip it straight and cold as a refreshing end to any meal, especially one showcasing classic Italian fare. Retails for approx. $26.
With a new formulation that has a lower alcohol level and a more robust coffee flavor, Molinari Caffè combines Molinari Sambuca Extra with Italian-roasted Arabica coffee beans from Guatemala and the Dominican Republic plus Robusta coffee beans from Java, Togo and Congo, along with a proprietary mixture of herbs and spices. This homage to a traditional Italian “Caffè Corretto” contains no artificial colors or flavors. If you love the unique tongue-tingling combination of licorice and coffee, you’re going to adore this liqueur that marries bold anise and coffee aromas and flavors. Best served cold on the rocks, licorice leap out ahead of coffee flavors then meld together on the finish. Retails for approx. $26.
The top-selling spirit in Italy and the No. 1 selling Sambuca in the world, Molinari Sambuca Extra is produced using grain alcohol, sugar beet and star anise from Asia along with a proprietary mix of herbs and spices. Anise aromas and flavors dominate—so licorice fans will love this clear spirit that sparkles in glass. By a 1970 Italian law, Molinari is the only Sambuca that can put “Extra” on the label, a distinction earned for its consistent, superior quality. For a traditional Italian “Caffè Corretto,” serve chilled in a tulip-shaped cordial glass with three coffee beans floating on top to symbolize health, happiness and prosperity, alongside an espresso to cap off a satisfying meal. Retails for approx. $26.
The No. 1 Italian amaro, Montenegro Amaro Italiano Liqueur is a secret recipe created in 1885 that blends 40 herbs and spices. The spirit tastes like an elegant chilled mulled spiced orange cider with notes of orange peel, orange juice, coriander, nutmeg, clove and faint hints of Earl Grey tea. It’s a pleasant sipper whether served cold and neat or mixed into a cocktail. Our favorite application is mixing it into a margarita in place of triple sec, which gives the drink a spicy kick. Retails for approx. $25.
Stock up on this beauty while you still can: 2011 Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenère Apalta. Grown in Chile’s Apalta Valley, cultivated and harvested by hand, fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, this wine is rich, robust and complex with notes of dark berries, spiced sweet potatoes, leather and earth with hints of anise and smoked chiles. While Carmenère is now considered to be Chile’s signature wine grape, it was almost lost: Though believed to be extinct, the varietal was rediscovered on November 24, 1994, growing alongside some Merlot (which it resembles) in one of Carmen’s sustainably farmed estate vineyards. Founded in 1850, Carmen is Chile’s oldest winery. Retails for approx. $15.
Born and raised in California, 2012 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay opens with tropical fruit and toast notes. It’s a still wine from a producer known for sparkling wines. Sophisticated flavors of pear, nectarine and meyer lemon are balanced with toast and oak notes. The oak here is pleasant, not overpowering. Acidity keeps the flavors and mouthfeel light and bright. Retails for approx. $25.
Full-bodied with round tannins, 2012 Guenoc North Coast Victorian Claret sniffs of stewed fruits and star anise. Flavors of tart dark cherry, cassis and blackberry wash the palate with pepper, licorice and soft cocoa marching in on the finish. Retails for approx. $18.
2012 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich, full-bodied wine with lush notes of dark berries, plum and spice with a peppery kick. Perfect with a steak. Retails for approx. $20.
Even though 60% of 2013 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Chardonnay is barrel-fermented and that portion is then aged in barrels for six months, what’s poured from the bottle manages not to taste too strongly of oak—a sniff and taste of toasted wood, yes, but not overpoweringly so, a fact we applaud. This Chardonnay has a fruit-forward character with round flavors of vanilla, apples, pears, stewed pineapple and light toast brightened by a snap of lemon. Serve with seafood, chicken, vegetables or cheese dishes. Retails for approx. $17.
Silky with soft tannins, 2012 Rodney Strong Sonoma County Merlot opens with juicy plum and cherry aromas. It tastes of plum, Bing cherry and blackberry with herbal and spice notes lingering underneath. Serve with mushrooms or any meat. Retails for approx. $20.
This Spring, two Italian wineries will release their first rosé wines:
2014 Mezzacorona Rosé from Trento is made from 100% Lagrein grapes. “This is a rosé with strong personality, freshness and fragrance similar to a fine white wine but with the rich fruit and roundness of a young red intended for early drinking,” says winemaker Lucio Matricardi, Ph.D. It sniffs of strawberries and roses and tastes of berries, melon and minerals with a hint of lime zest and soft floral notes. Acidity keeps this versatile, food-friendly wine balanced. Retails for approx. $10.
2014 Stemmari Rosé from Sicily is made from 100% Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s most famous grape varietal. It sniffs of strawberries and cherries and tastes of them, too, with delicate notes of cloudberry, lingonberry and minerals. Fresh and balanced with good acidity, this is a versatile and food-friendly crowd pleaser. Retails for approx. $10.
Unless otherwise noted, all suggested retail prices are for a 750ml bottle.
Be a responsible grownup: Never drink and drive.
Product samples afford the research opportunity but do not sway opinion.