By Rick Riozza

Some wine folk hold dear to the thought that seasons alone dictate what’s best to drink at the time.  Here in the desert, our options are all over the place!  Palm Springs and all of its surrounds enjoy the heat of summer and the warmth of winter.  So much so, that as a welcomed change of pace, we love some cold rain, snow on the mountains and cool weather whenever we can get it!

And the wine that follows suit is the welcomed red from Tuscany: Chianti wine for Christmas and the holidays is the perfect quaff.  The Coachella Valley weather influences the weight and heft of what we’re cooking and dining on.  Chianti, produced primarily from the Sangiovese grape, is a great match for cold weather heavy stews and casseroles as well as food cooked outdoors over coals: steaks, burgers, grilled chicken & game.

The reason of course is that the depth of Chianti, be it a Classico, a Brunello di Montalcino, a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or the new Chianti kid-on-the-block, a Montecucco Chianti, there are layers of fruit and savory complexities along with enough acidity to refresh and brighten our taste buds to enjoy the holiday fare, and more vino!


There is no question that a Chianti is a mouth-wateringly acidic wine with medium to high tannic structure that contributes to its dry flavor.  For many folks in the past, Chianti was just too acidic, but long gone are the days of the 1960s and 70s.  Even today, a Chianti can scare someone if the wine is not enjoyed along with meals.  However, those who are not frightened can savor a solo glass of Chianti and feel the aesthetics and Old World feel of the wine-soaked Tuscan region that screams the good life.

And these days with all of the wisdom the aged Italian winemakers and the energy of the young astute vino-culturalists following their path, modern Chianti fulminates with flavors of black and red cherries, blackberries, plums, strawberries, flowers, herbs, spices, earth, meat, leather, minerals, licorice, smoke, cedar, cinnamon, tea, tobacco, coffee, vanilla, and violets.  Merry Christmas Baby!!

Chianti is pretty much a medium-bodied wine that exhibits the epitome of elegance and drinkability.  It’s not as dense as our California reds, thus easier to enjoy with food and family without all the heaviness.

Through the years, this column has covered so many of the particular Sangiovese wines mentioned above.  And right now, we are simply loving the Sangiovese from the Montecucco Region.  Montecucco, is a rising star in the Tuscan wine game with a “new and different” expression of Sangiovese that comes from an area of the famous Maremma region, nestled between the Brunello di Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano appellations.

Crafted with extreme care by small family-owned wineries committed to sustainable farming and earth-friendly practices.  Up to 70% of the Montecucco producers tend their land following respectful practices with a non-invasive approach to viticulture, representing one of the highest percentages of organic grapes’ producers in Tuscany.

Montecucco wine is the smart sexy choice to elevate any festive table.  Thanks to their vibrant acidity, medium to full body and smooth tannins that cut through the fat and cleanse the palate, these dense, fruity, complex reds go with everything from turkey to savory stuffing, delicious soups, veggies and hard cheeses.

We recently enjoyed a couple of Montecucco wines that will appear on our holiday table:

2020 Villa Patrizia Leremo, Montecucco Rosso ($15) This is a medium-bodied Italian red-blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. It’s as smooth a Chianti that we’ve tasted at this price point.  It owns aromas of fresh red cherries, red plums and herbal essence.  The palate is almost plush as all the above aromas meld into the flavor profile along with licorice, herbs and a hint of black pepper.

This Chianti reeks of the Tuscan terroir along with acidity and tannins which will match well with the holiday table.

Many of you true vino cognoscenti know that a “Rosso” on a DOC or DOCG Italian label tells you that one can get a great deal on a red wine from a classic region. No need to pay the high prices when you wish for a table wine to meet expectations reflecting the famed vineyard area.  At $15, this is one of the best Italian deals for a world-class red.

Enter now: 2016 Tenuta L’Impostino Viandante, Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG Riserva ($35) Okay folks, this is the Italian red to impress all your guests and taste buds.  A wonderfully bold but dry wine—again reeking of Italian terrior.  Close your eyes and you’re back to the smells of the vineyards hills all around the Chianti region.

The wine is full of red fruits on the nose, such as raspberries, cherries, red plums, strawberries, and red currants along with licorice, sweet spices, and violets.  The palate moves to dark fruits that include blackberries, blueberries, dark plums and currants, along with a touch of earth, clove, smoke and meat.  Great acidity, with a finish of cocoa and menthol mint.  What’s not to love here!

A perfect choice for beef, pork, poultry, lamb, veal, and cured meats!  Buone feste e buon appetito!