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The black grape from Avola, near Siracusa in the southeast corner of Sicily, makes the country’s signature wine a brilliant, rich, spicy, well-aging red that’s full of flavour. In the hands of the Cusumano brothers (Alberto and Diego), it demonstrates how far Sicilian winemaking has come in just the last few years, transcending the rustic wines of the past. All black cherries and dark chocolate, it’s got beautiful bright fruit, lots of spice, and a soft, seductive texture that makes it a very appealing pairing with all kinds of Mediterranean food. And the bottle comes with an ever-so-cool glass stopper instead of a cork.
Planeta is a spectacularly successful family wine business that has achieved its international star status in just 15 years. And ambitious plans for the future keep rolling out. (Daniele Mereu, recently of Victoria’s Il Terrazzo, is cooking at the family’s Sambuca winery.) Santa Cecilia is the flagship wine—and one of the best in Sicily. Made with 100 percent Nero d’Avola, it’s modern and food-friendly with pure plum and blackberry fruit overlaying anise, chocolate, and coffee and finishing with spicy, smoky tobacco and a nutty earthiness. Decant and drink with a roast or grilled red meat.
When Michaela Morris left Marquis Wine Cellar to start her own consulting company, House Wine, she hit it off with her replacement, Michelle Bouffard. They knew they wanted to work together, and three years later, certified sommelier Bouffard joined House Wine. Now the two do just about anything to do with wine except import or sell it: private tastings, corporate events and training, cellar management, personal shopping, and restaurant consulting (including putting together the wine list for Au Petit Chavignol). Morris’s once-a-week-roast-chicken wine is Beaujolais, especially the 2006 Fleurie from Clos de la Rouilette ($34.99, Liberty Wine Merchants). Bouffard is obsessed with Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Riesling—“delicate, light, and refreshing.” Try a glass of the 2005 Rudi Pichler Felderspell Riesling ($34.90, Marquis Wine Cellars) and you’ll quickly pour a second.