If you're not familiar with the grape variety Nero d'Avola, you'll want to be. It is the most widely planted red in Sicily, producing one of that region's most exciting wines. In the past 10 years, Sicily has experienced a renaissance. With its hot, dry climate, it typically produced wines with over-ripe flavors. However, recent changes in vineyard management have resulted in improved quality. Here are our top picks:
2007 Colosi Rosso, $10.99
The wine opens with nicely complex aromas marked by soft caramel, dried fruit, spice and white pepper, mingled with dusty plum and berry fruit. Ripe and round on the palate, it offers enticing cherry and berry fruit that's smooth and creamy. Touches of anise and mocha add complexity, and it's all impeccably balanced by a nice hit of acidity. Serve this versatile wine with everything from pasta to pork, poultry to prime rib.
2007 Cusumano Nero d'Avola, $13.99
Definitely on the rustic side of the style spectrum, this wine has earthy aromas of cedar, dried cherry and ripe plum. Silky currant and sweet berry flavors are backed by tart cherry that helps keep things in balance. The wine finishes with a hit of plum and strawberry jam. This one wants to accompany richly sauced pastas, roast beef, game or other meaty dishes.
2008 Lamura Nero d'Avola, $9.99
This one opens with bright berry aromas colored by touches of pepper and mushroom. Lightly tart berry mingles with sweet cherry showing good length and great balance. Pair it with creamy cheeses or simple pastas.
This week's panel: David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Steve Thies, Tastevin; Leslie Young, Boise Co-op Wine Shop