By Rick Riozza

So recently a bottle of wine just showed up on the shelf of my wine aisle.  I say “just” because from the looks of things, this “wine” has been around for a long, long time.  Indeed, the PR and the shelf advertisement tells us this grape/wine is from the world’s first vineyards—over 6,000 years of history.  That’s quite a statement!

Now before one takes a stand against that news, take note that we are told in the Old Testament Scriptures that right after The Deluge/The Great Flood, Noah quickly planted a vineyard around the environs of Mount Ararat—where the ark came to rest. Of course, this column “likes” this aspect of world history.

And all things considered, after building an ark to house many animals, rounding them up, and getting them into the giant ship—let alone dealing with that lively crew along with the angry but relieved family members, while the world all about them is completely flooded, we’re almost surprised that Noah didn’t also construct a brewery and a distillery as well!


Of course, many of us wine enthusiasts are asking which varietal or varietals did Noah first plant?  The skeptics in the group question: where did Noah get the likes of Syrah, Pinot Noir, or Primitivo to plant—how did get those specific varietals originate?  Did God just create distinct varietals ad hoc!  Well—theologically, God can do what He wishes when and where He decides.

If you’re a traditional Darwinian evolutionist, we’re sure you prefer the explanation that Noah brought onto the boat cuttings from existing vines and just held on to them—you know, like Americans who dig up vines from France and smuggle them into the States.  But as one can reasonably think, when all things started: can chaos really design the Pinot Noir grape?  Definitely a fun subject for a different column.

And now—this brings us to Micheal Franzese wines.  Getting right to the chase, “Michael Franzese was once one of the most well-known mobsters in the world. With roots in New York, Franzese grew up as the son of a crime family underboss and rose through the ranks to become a notorious figure known as “The Prince of the Mafia and “the Yuppy Don”.

“Michael Franzese seemed to have it all: money, connections, notoriety, fear, and respect. But Michael had never set out to become a mafia legend. He joined the organized crime family to protect and provide for his family. And, when the inevitable sentencing occurred, Michael was given a rare opportunity to rethink his values and forge a new path.

Today, Michael Franzese is a new man, using his past experiences to help those who may be vulnerable to the same pitfalls he faced. And for the past 25 years, he’s traveled around the world sharing his story, amassing a large community of supporters and followers on YouTube.”

The PR from the company’s website continues: “Michael also found himself fascinated by winemaking and the parallels between his life and the process of turning a grape into a complex, beautiful bottle of wine. Michael started Franzese Wines to bring unique and distinctive wines from around the world directly to your home and family.”

The bottle that now sells in my wine aisle is a stylish one in black glass and with a black label that names the wine as Michael Franzese Red Wine Dry ($20).  It also dons the image of a golden thumbprint—perhaps that of Franzese himself.  And we come to find that the wine is produced from 100% Areni grape.

You wine travelers may already know that Areni has always been at the center of the Armenian wine tradition and is the most important red wine grape in the country. While it is sometimes blended with other local varieties, in the most important wine region of Vayots Dzor, it is generally used to make varietal wines. It only came to prominence relatively recently, when a varietal Areni wine was nominated as one of the “Top 10 wines of 2012” by Bloomberg, who sampled more than 4,000 wines from around the world before reaching their decision.

For the wine nerds in our crowd—the Areni grape is believed to come from the village of Areni in southwest Armenia, from which it obtained its name. In 2011 a remarkable discovery was made in a cave above the village. During excavations at the cave, which is known as Areni-1, archaeologists discovered the oldest known winery in the world. Analysis of grape seeds and stems found in the cave indicated that the winery was at least 6,100 years old!  Told ya!

The Franzese website continues: “Our Areni wine is widely used to make red ruby colored, full bodied and well-balanced table wines, with fresh, silky and unforgettable bouquet of flavors. On the palate the wine shows elegance and balanced tannic structure with notes of cherry, strawberry, blackberry, violets, wisteria and sweet vanilla all in tempting harmony. Flavor of fresh wild berries touched by spices, refreshing acidity and silky roundness create a beautiful balance and exceptional aftertaste. Our Wines are all super smooth, they come from original vineyards.”

Now you may be thinking: what’s a nice Sicilian guy touting the wines of Armenia?  WellFuhgeddaboudit!

Generally speaking, so to give you a little tasting anchor, I’d say the wines have been likened to a cross between two classic grape varieties: Pinot Noir and Sangiovese.  Naturally, the wine pairs well with Ragout, Lasagna, Ratatouille, Seared Duck Breast, Mushroom Sauces, Pasta Sauce with Sage & Butter.

Nel vino c’è tanto amore! Saluti!