Weekend Spinach and Wine

Local spinach is here! I was thrilled to feast my eyes on the leafy greens Saturday morning at Arlington Courthouse farm market. I picked up a bag at the stand operated by Gardener's Gourmet of Westminster, Md., and quickly drove home to whip up a spinach-cheddar omelette, served on a slice of thick country white bread from Baltimore, Md.-based Atwater's Bakery.

After the recent E.coli spinach scare that swept the nation's supermarkets, it was reassuring to buy spinach as Mother Nature ordered: locally AND seasonally. Join me in a bowl of Maryland spinach salad!

Help. I've fallen in love with a wine and I'm hopelessly smitten.

The trouble started when I was in Portland, Ore., this summer while checking out Vino Paradiso wine bar one night before dinner. On the wine list by the glass was Aglianico (pronounced "AHL-YAHN-EE-KOH"), a red wine from southern Italy that I had yet to sip. The wine in question: a 2004 "Alcione" Aglianico from Manduria, located in Puglia, the heel of Italy.

Color: Dark and intense, like a Zinfandel, but thicker and bloodier.

Nose: All kinds of stuff, including chocolate, licorice and cherries, lots of earthiness.

Mouth: Full-bodied, somewhat viscous and chewy, with lots of ripe fruit, but not jammy. Really, the big surprise was all the vanilla. My olfactories were doing a jig of new proportions. This wine was a first for me on many levels. I kept thinking about the food pairings, but I was having such fun getting to know it one on one, as well.

After that one glass, I was on a mission. Every wine shop entered was an opportunity to hunt down a new bottle of Aglianico and learn more about this ancient grape. Indigenous to the south, Aglianico is found in the Campania region near Naples on the southwest side (Aglianico Taurasi DOCG* zone), as well as the Basilicata (Aglianico del Vulture DOC region), a mountainous region extending to the southeast coast, dominated by Monte Vulture, an enormous albeit extinct volcano.

My second Aglianico experience was a bit of a letdown, with a mediocre unmemorable bottle from my local Whole Foods market. It was about 12 bucks and all I can remember is the word "Campania." Don't buy it; you'll be mad at me for taking up your time swooning over Aglianico.

However, late last week, I had my faith restored with a bottle of Rubrato Aglianico 2004 from winemakers Feudi di San Gregorio ($19.99, locally), located just east of Naples. The aforementioned vanilla that had me gasping for air? It was like white on rice.

Rather than repeat the laundry list of flavor characteristics, this is what I really want to say about the Feudi Rubrato: You know that feeling when you've discovered a new CD and you can't stop listening to it because it puts you in a groove unlike any other? And that song or that CD, even 20 years later, puts you back in that "Funkin' for Jamaica" space? That's what this wine does to me.

Got a funky wine thought to share? Do so in the comments area below.

(* For first timers, DOCG is an acronym in Italian for Dominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, a legal term to distinguish highest-quality wines, much like the French "Appellation Controllee" system.)

By Kim ODonnel |  October 9, 2006; 12:47 PM ET Fall Produce , Wine and Spirits
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You know the wine I just discovered last month, and that I go head-over-heels for is a Vinho Verde from Portugal. It is a delicate white wine that matches anything. It almost has a taste like champagne, but there are no bubbles. I found a fabulous label (Espiral) at Trader Joe's for only $3.99 a bottle. Yes, it seems like a summer wine at first, but it is fabulous for a crisp fall lunch!

Posted by: MandyB | October 9, 2006 3:57 PM

If you're looking for such wines, Calvert Woodley in DC is a great place to go. I'm kind of limited by budget to around $10 a bottle or less; ten years ago when I first started going there I could get good Rioja, Barbera, California Chardonnay, Shiraz, Zinfandel, etc. for that price. In the ensuing years as each of those types got famous, they'd creep out of that magic price range, and C/W always has been able to change their list around to accomodate the $10 bottle. Now they'll suggest red wines from elsewhere in Spain to replace the expensive Rioja; instead of Cote du Rhone they stock a lot of wines from the other side of the Rhone River with much the same style but without the trendiness. And they have a lot of wines from southern and southeastern Italy (Puglia, Sicily) to take the place of the now-expensive Chianti Classicos. I have learned a great deal more of geography but am still drinking well for my $10 a bottle.

Posted by: jb | October 9, 2006 5:09 PM

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