Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meletti: An Italian Tradition

This post is going to be a bit off topic, since it does not involve any type of wine related product or label. Today will be about "apéritif" time, my favorite time of day.  "Apéritif" (derived from the Latin word aperire which means "to open") time is a sacred time in most European countries, but mostly in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France or Spain. It is usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite, but it has become a bit of a social ritual, a time when families and friends meet up at a local café, bistro, or at someone's house, a time to catch up and chat it up. I always very much look forward to that experience whenever I go back home to France. It truly is a cultural expectation, and that is when I really feel at home.

The kind of apéritif served will vary from country to country. In France, it even varies by region: Pastis will be served in the south of France (especially near Marseilles), Calvados brandy in the Normandy region, Pineau in the Charente region (where my grandmother lives), but a simple glass of wine such as a Beaujolais Nouveau (something on the lighter side, usually), can also be served. I especially like a Martini (an Italian brand of Vermouth) and a good Pineau as an apéritif.

In Italy, the aperitivo might be vermouth (such as Martini mentionned above), Amaro, or a bitters drink such as Campari or Suze, two popular brands. I am going to tell you a little bit about the aperitivo maker Meletti, created in 1870 by Silvio Meletti, in Ascoli Piceno, Italy.

Silvio Meletti's mother ran a store where she would sell some home-made aniseed liquor, which became very popular with the locals.  Silvio learned, and improved his mother's recipe, and to this day, still uses the same ingredients and distillation technique to make Anisetta. The main ingredient is green aniseed, which is typical of the Mediterranean region. Meletti is now known mostly for its Anisetta, but it also makes other types of aperitivo such as Sambuca,  Amaro, and  Limoncello, among other products (you might be tempted by their Chocolate Punch, or their Creola Punch).

Today, you can find the Caffe Meletti in the Piazza del Popolo, in Ascoli Piceno. You might also find it interesting to know that several movies where filmed at Caffe Meletti, such as "Alfredo, Alfredo" starring Dustin Hoffman (1972) and "I Delfini" starring Anna-Maria Ferrero and Claudia Cardinale (1960).

Where is Ascoli Piceno, you might wonder...well here is a map for you, in case you decide to go see it for yourself :)

I have lots of great printable Meletti artwork for you, including some beautiful posters that would look fantastic in your dining room or cellar if you are lucky enough to have one.

This last poster is an advertisement for Anisetta in the form of a love declaration poem to the famous liqueur. Even if you don't know Italian, it always sounds really, really beautiful and romantic! :)

Ciao e salute!!!!  :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

{Wine Label} Michael Austin Winery, Napa Valley

Here are four wine labels that were designed for "Michael Austin," a fictitious character created by long-time friends winemakers Patrick McNeil and Craig Becker. Michael and Austin are actually the middle names of the two founders.  Each wine label tells the story very loosely based on the founders' lives. On the back of each label, you will find a fictional and humorous story about Michael Austin (read each story below the wine labels).

Unfortunately, there seems to be no website for the Michael Austin winery, an it has proved very difficult finding anywhere else that retails these wines. I did find some California wine shops that still carry their wines, but unless you live there, you'll have a hard time getting a hold of these bottles.  So for now, you'll just have to feast your eyes on these labels :)

Bad Habit (Cabernet Sauvignon)
"Michael Austin grew up in a monastery on the outskirts of France. He was raised by a pack of wild nuns who taught him how to live on a strict diet of wine, cheese and real estate investments. Today, he is religious about only one thing – making great wine." (this story refers to how the two founders met in a catholic high school)

Grape Tamer (Syrah)
 "Michael Austin spent his wonder years far off the beaten path in the heart of the Stags Leap district. It was there he took his first steps towards manhood, tamed his first wild grape and invested in his first IGO (that’s Initial Grape Offering). Today, he’s a grown man with just one thing on his mind – making great wine and drinking it. OK two things."

High Flyer (Viognier)
"Michael Austin spent his post-formative years exploring the landscape from above. He found that grapes actually look a lot smaller from 20,000 feet up, but taste about the same. Today, he spends most of his time navigating the fine art of wine making with both feet squarely on the ground. " (refers to one of the founders' hobby, flying small airplanes)

Moral Compass (Syrah)
"Michael Austin spent his elementary years studying the inner life of grapes. He realized that, unlike humans, grapes don’t have a moral compass – although they do have an amazing sense of direction. Today, Michael Austin has squeezed this knowledge into bottles of fine wine."

Friday, January 20, 2012

{DIY} Wine Cork Coaster

When I got up this morning and looked at my blog, I realized that I was long overdue as far as a DIY project was concerned. I wanted to do something that was quick and easy and that didn't require a trip to Michael's. So I decided on a wine cork coaster.  20 minutes later, here was my new wine cork coaster.

For this you will need:

  • 19 cork rounds (I used a total of 5 corks. NOTE: Be sure they are all the same diameter!)
  • Hot glue gun + All-purpose glue like Elmer's Glue
  • Small paintbrush to apply glue
  • Ribbon (I based the width of each cork round on the width on the ribbon. Your ribbon can be narrower than the height of your cork rounds, but NOT HIGHER!)
  • Sharp knife + scissors
  • Cutting board

Step 1:

Cut your wine corks to obtain 19 rounds. Be sure to cut each round as close to the same size as possible. It is best to measure the height of each round before cutting the cork. I used the width of the ribbon to estimate how high each round needed to be.  Arrange the corks as desired. I used the wine stained cork pieces and arranged them as pictured:

Step 2:

Take your glue gun and start gluing the pieces together by starting from the very center:

Once you have glued all the pieces together, you should get something that looks like this:

Step 3:

Next, take your ribbon and some All-purpose glue (like Elmer's), and apply the glue all around the edges of the coaster, using a small paint brush. It is best to work in smaller sections. Make sure the ribbon goes snugly against all parts of the cork edges.

Step 4:

Grab a wine glass, some vino, and enjoy your new wine cork coaster!!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

{Wine Label} Driving Tour of Bordeaux Wine Labels

A few days ago, I posted "Driving Tour of Bordeaux, France"  and mentioned several vineyards that were worth a visit. Here are 12 labels belonging to some of the wineries from the tour:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Driving Tour of Bordeaux, France

If you are a wine lover like me, you are bound to have included a tour of the Bordeaux region on your bucket list. I have put together a driving tour for you, which will take you to the main wineries of the Medoc, as well as to some lesser known vineyards, which are definitely worth a visit. Print out the map below (it is a large size file, about 6MB, so it will print out nicely on a letter sized sheet of paper) and take it with you on your next trip to France! :)  This tour covers approximately 85 miles.
*Please note that many wineries shut down during the month of August, which means you will not be able to do wine tasting or visit the sites. Some wineries also require a reservation for wine tastings, be sure to call ahead*


The city of Bordeaux is the sixth-largest city in France, and you could spend several days sightseeing there, with its many art galleries, museums, and wine shops, of course. Even if you don't plan on doing much sightseeing there, I highly recommend that you check out the "Maison du Vin de Bordeaux" and pick up informative leaflets on all of the various vineyards in the region. It is located at 1 Cours du 30 juillet (PH: 05 56 00 22 66). EVENTS: The bi-annual Vinexpo trade fair takes place in June in odd-numbered years and offers the world's biggest showcase of wines from all over the world. Read wine journalist Jamie Goode's Vinexpo experience HERE.


From Bordeaux, head to (2) Ludon-Medoc, where you will pass Château la Lagune, one of the few Médoc classed estates that lie outside the appellations of Margaux, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estèphe. The unclassed Château Cantemerle is also here, as well as the good value Château Maucamps. In (3) Macau, turn right or a brief detour down to the banks of the Gironde, where you will find a couple of cafés and a nice view of the Gironde.

Next, continue on to (4) Labarde, and stop at Château Prieuré Lichine, a little further up the road in (5)Cantenac. This is one of the chateaux most geared to welcoming visitors and offers a display of old iron fire-backs and a collection of books by the man who created the estate, the Russian-American wine merchant and author Alexis Lichine.

Chateau Prieuré-Lichine

At (6) Issan, soon after passing the towers of  Chateau Palmer, you can make another detour to the moated, 16th-century Chateau d"issan. Down the road is Chateau Rauzan-Segla, another beautiful estate. At (7) Margaux, at the end of the avenue of Plane trees,Chateau Margaux behind impressive gates. You can stand on the spot where Thomas Jefferson must have stood 200 years ago to admire its classical façade.


Château at (8) Lamarque will more than likely remind you of a fortress where you would have seen knights in armour back in the medieval era. Fort Médoc, past Lamarque is also worth a stop. (9) St Julien-Beychevelle offers a wealth a impressive chateaux, with Beychevelle being the first you will encounter. Also worth a look are Château Ducru Beaucaillou and the three Léoville Châteaux:Las cases, Barton, and Poyferré.


Upon entering the appellation of Pauillac, you will see rival Châteaux of Pichon-Longueville Baron and Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse-de-Lalande. To your right is Château Latour's tower and, a little further on to your left, before you head into the quiet town of (10) Pauillac, you will see Château Lynch-Bages. The road heads north, passing Châteaux Mouton-Rothschild and Lafite-Rothschild before leading you to the oriental façade of Château Cos d'Estournel. The road beside the château goes past (11) Marbuzet and on to (12) St Estèphe.


On your way back south, stop at (13) Listrac-Medoc, where producers like Châteaux Clarke and Fonréaud are trying to make softer reds than in the past, and in (14) Moulis-en-Médoc, where Châteaux Poujeaux, Maucaillou and Chasse-Spleen all offer good-value wines.

Monday, January 9, 2012

{Wine Label} For Zin lovers...

I'll admit it, I have yet to find a Zinfandel I actually enjoyed the way I have enjoyed a nice Chianti or a bold tasting Bordeaux, but that doesn't mean I won't post any cool Zin label :)  Here are 2 neat Zinfandel labels, same wine label design vibe, different producer...

"Plungerhead" by The Other Guys (out of California):

Zin 91, by Opici wines, and winemaker Richard Bruno of Vinum Cellars, also out of California:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

{Wine Label} Hansi's Alsace

You might have seen some of the labels that will follow in this post, but I would be willing to bet you have actually never heard of the name "Hansi," or Jean-Jacques Waltz..."Hansi" ( as he was nicknamed), was born in Colmar in the Alsace region of now France.  He was a fervent pro-French activist and considered himself French-Alsatian, even during the German occupation. He became known for his many, many drawings, some of which openly criticized Germans during both wars.  He was imprisoned several times by the German authorities for his satirical work that aimed at making fun of the German military and professors (If you wish to learn more about "Hansi", here is a good website:

Before the German occupation, he was also an artist in the textile industry, and created drawings for postcards (see an example here), local events, as well as local businesses in his beloved Alsace region.  Here we have several of his work related to the wine business (Hansi's drawings have become highly sought-after collectibles, should you ever come across one of these original labels at a flea or antique market...):