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Dare I Say Sexy? 2009 Occhipinti Siccagno Nero d’Avola

I’m always a sucker for natural wines, so I find myself always looking to this certified organic producer from Sicily. Young female winemaker Arianna Occhipinti comes from quite the winemaking family. Her uncle is Guisto Occhipinti who owns Cos winery (also killer stuff). The thing that separates her wine from some of the other island producers is how fresh it is; it just reeks of elegance. The 2009 Nero d’Avola, 100 percent Nero d’Avola, is bright, tart and acidic, with dark cherry flavors. I love that I feel like I am tasting Sicily when I take each sip. A big handful of volcanic rich soil hits the mouth, but in a great way. Trust me, I wouldn’t make you drink dirt. Yet, the wine appears surprisingly soft and, dare I say…sexy? Maybe is because Arianna is not even 30 years old. The best is yet to come. Drink it, love it! We do! -Joseph Sangiovanni

Taken by Averna

When I saw the Salvatore Gives You His Word cocktail at Huckleberry Bar on Tuesday night, I immediately thought “shoes.” Hello, Ferragamo! But alas, no, the cocktail was named for the founder of Averna, Salvatore Averna, who developed the caramel-laced liqueur from Italy. And it has nothing to do with shoes, except you can wear really nice ones while sipping the amaro.

Made of all natural ingredients, Averna is produced from a secret recipe (what isn’t?) of herbs, roots, and citrus rinds, with the addition of natural caramel. Many people sip it neat or on the rocks as an aperitif, but Huckleberry Bar’s general manager Stephanie Schneider whipped up some snazzy cocktails with Averna’s history as her inspiration. It’s been around since 1868, so there’s a plethora of tradition. While she developed four concoctions in total, we’ve got the recipes for our top two—Salvatore Gives You His Word and Taken By Storm—below. Check out all four, including See You Amaro Morning and the Averna Negroni, at the Brooklyn haunt this month.

Salvatore Gives You His Word
1 oz. Averna
¾ oz. Old Overholt
¾ oz Maraschino
¾ oz. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a coupe. No garnish.

Taken By Storm
1 ½ oz. Averna
½ oz. Gosling’s 151
½ oz. ginger juice
1 ½ oz. grapefruit juice

Combine all ingredients. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Finish with a grapefruit twist.

Heard It Through the Grapevine


Do you want to be my date to the Spring Fling? Twist and Shout your way over to USQ tomorrow for our annual Spring Fling Mega Tasting. We’ll be pouring wines from Italy, Spain, France, South Africa, and Greece, set to our favorite sock hop hits. They’ll be a Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On. Sip on summertime selections such as Nora Albarino, Naia Verdejo, Raats Estate Chenin Blanc, Hiedler Gruner Veltliner, Althea Prosecco, Willm Riesling, Chateau Larose Trintaudon Haut-Medoc, Rustenberg John X Merriman, and more. Throw on those Blue Suede Shoes, and we’ll see you there!

Admission to the tasting is free, and reservations are not required.

We Be Jammin’ at the Island Wine Party

Jam out to righteous Reggae while jet-sipping your way through the Mediterranean Sea’s prime wine-growing regions at USQ’s Island Wine Party, this Saturday from 2pm to 5pm. We’ll be your tour guides through Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, Majorca, Canary Islands, and Porquerolles—no boat required! Sample popular varieties like Cannanou, Vermentino, Nero d’Avola, and Nerello Mascalese, but don’t miss out on esoteric pours such as Frapatto, Listan Negra, and Callet. These are unique wines with tons of personality, much like the their dreamy native isle locales. Featured producers include COS, Amina Negra, Bermejos,Domaine Leccia, Argiolas, and Planeta, among others.

Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required. Boat shoes and sailor hats welcome. More information here.

Viaggio a Italia

Take a stroll through “la dolce vita” this Saturday as USQ takes you on on a tour of Italy with our Viaggio a Italia Tasting. Sip more than 15 wines from famed appellations of the Mediterranean country, such as Barbaresco, Valpolicella, Chianti Classico, Campania, and Fruili, among others. We’ll have producers in the house too! Chat with winemakers and representatives, including Bruna Grimaldi, Claudio Morelli, Pier Busso, Alberto Vaona, Enrico Pierrazuoli, Isabela Blasig, and Mattia Ca Montanari, who will be pouring selections of their current offerings.

Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required. Find out more information here.

Wine: 101 Tuscany with David Weitzenhoffer

Our Wine 101 series continues with a look at the wines of Tuscany. Guest host David Weitzenhoffer returns to the Salon with an array of wines from a number of this famed region’s top producers. Attendees will enjoy Chianti, Brunello, Carmignano, and super-Tuscan red from producers such as Felsina, Villa I Cipressi, Il Borghetto, Due Mani, and Podere Forte. A seated event, guests will enjoy the wines both during the seminar and afterward, alongside savory treats.

Reservations are required to attend this event. Tickets cost $25, and include a $10 wine voucher valid toward purchases the night of the event. Reservations are limited to two per customer. Cancellations made less than 24 hours before the event cannot be refunded.

For more information and to sign up, go here.

Flint, Rubber, Toaster Oven: 2004 Santadi Shardana

We regularly open wines here at the shop for purposes of educating customers as well as ourselves. The other night we took advantage of trying a very cool red wine from the island of Sardinia, the 2004 Santadi Shardana Valli di Porto Pino. It would have been easy to taste Cannonau, which is probably the most famous red varietal from Sardinia, but the island offers so much more. This particular wine is made mostly from Carignano, with a little Shiraz (85%, 15%, respectively). This is one of those “funky” wines that shows characteristics of things not normally thought of when describing wine. Although smooth with some silky tannins, this wine has a very distinct flinty quality that flirts with burnt rubber and what one staff member described: “It’s like that scent, when you use a toaster oven but it hasn’t been cleaned in a while…and it has all the crusted stuff on the bottom that burns.” Sound scary? Think again. The Carignano vines are, on average, about 100 years of age and provide intense fruit. Dense, darker fruit flavors are coupled with a vibrant minerality. The wine is meant to drink right now; it’s excellent to pair with a rich stinky cheese.  So if you want something unique, fun and well priced, pick up a bottle and tell us what you think. -Joseph Sangiovanni

The 2004 Santadi Shardana Valli di Porto Pino currently sells for $18.99, on sale.

Fabio Alessandria on Video Here


Fabio Alessandria of G.B. Burlotto visited the Salon for a tasting of his Barolo wines, including a vertical of his Barolo Cannubi. One our favorite tasters captured his talk on video. Check it out here.

The Winemaker Profile: Fabio Alessandria

If Fabio Alessandria can’t have wine with dinner, he drinks water. The winemaker at the famed G.B. Burlotto estate in Piedmont, Alessandria is the great-great grandson of Giovan Battista Burlotto, a distinguished producer who was among the first to bottle Barolo and brand it under the family name. Alessandria has brought renewed acclaim to his family’s holdings in and around the village of Verduno, home to the limestone-rich Monvigliero vineyard which is considered among the great Barolo crus. USQ held a tasting of 12 Burlotto wines, including his aperitif favorite, Pelaverga, the 2007 Barolo Monvigliero, and a vertical of his Barolo Cannubi. We also sat down to get to know the young, northern Italian native.

What sets your wines apart from other Barolo producers?
“It’s difficult to find a bad Barolo, but I prefer the more elegant, traditional style of Barolo. For us, the Verduno village is well known for the elegance and finesse of the wine, especially from Monvigliero, which is considered the most feminine vineyard in the Barolo area. We, in the family, think that while power is important, we don’t want to to lose the finesse, the drinkability of the wine. We want to maintain the aromaticity of the Cannubi, for example. Wines in the more modern style are more concentrated, more extracted, have more oak. I want to feel the profile of the grape.”

What is the most reward and the most challenging aspects of your job?
“I enjoy that it’s a family business. Our cellar is small, so I’m involved in the winemaking, the vineyard, and the marketing. I like that I can see the different aspects, but of course, the winemaking I love, to taste the wine. I try every day to do the best to show our soil and what our grapes can offer. But this is the most challenging part of the job: to understand the grape and what we want in the grape. The last vintages, from 2004 to 2008, are all really good vintages, but really different. We have to take what is good in each grape to produce really great wine.”

What do you drink at home?
“Barolo. I like to pull out a 10- or 12 -year Barolo after dinner or lunch. It’s so much more complex; I like to concentrate on the wine [without food].”

What is your favorite food pairing with one of your wines?
“I drink the Pelaverga with sausage and prosciutto. I love the freshness and acidity of a younger Barolo with a stack of red meat like steak fiorentina.”

You’re going to a dinner party. If you can’t take your wine, what would you take?
“Of course, Barolo is my favorite wine, but I love Burgundy. I love the Rhone Valley, from Cote-Rotie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Just today at lunch, I had a Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape.”

If you can’t drink wine, you drink what?
“With food, I love wine. If I don’t drink wine, I drink water. But I like a light beer in the middle of the day in the summer, to relax a bit when it’s hot.”

What is your most treasured bottle, personally?
“We have some bottles of Barolo going back to 1889, 1890. Those are special.”

Check out our Burlotto offerings here.

And in case you’re wondering, that’s Fabio drinking a bottle of Lebanese Chateau Musar at Terroir, in Manhattan’s East Village. A dose of NYC culture!

-Stephanie Cain

Fabio Alessandria of G.B. Burlotto and USQ Wine Director Jesse Salazar at a tasting of Burlotto Barolo bottlings

Fabio Alessandria of G.B. Burlotto and USQ Wine Director Jesse Salazar at a tasting of Burlotto Barolo bottlings