L’uva Bella Wine Gallery in Reno Keeps Wine Interesting

L’uva Bella Wine Gallery should be on the top of your list as a wine “destination” in Reno. Located in the Summit Sierra Mall, the first thing you’ll notice are the outdoor cafĂ© tables, signboards noting next events, and a window display that lets you know you are in for a fantastic experience when you walk in the door. Try to join one of their wine walks, held the 2nd Sunday of each month.

The selection of wines is fantastic, but what I like most about L’uva Bella Wine Gallery are their educational events. Who better to educate than a former teacher? Debby Bullentini, the proprietor and hostess extraordinaire, was a 5th grade teacher for more than a decade. Since she and her husband established L’uva Bella four years ago, it’s has been chosen the “Best Wine Shop in Reno” by the US Commerce Association for 2009 and 2010.

“We try to stay fresh all the time,” says Debby. “We carry more than 700 labels in our 3000 square feet, and these wines are from all over the globe.” Debby also has a keen eye for value wines; the shop’s front table is filled with great wines that are $15 or less per bottle.

The wonderful tasting bar in the middle of the shop allows customers to experience a variety of wines by the glass. The back of the shop has an appealing grotto that is used for private parties and their wine seminars.

I settled into one of the comfortable chairs at the wine bar and sampled a glass of the 2008 White Oak Chardonnay, Russian River Valley. It’s a classic California chard, crisp and flavorful. The winemaker notes: “vibrant tropical fruit married to toasty oak. Full bodied, round, good depth of fruit, medium long finish. Flavors of citrus fruit, apple, lime, roasted nut and toasted oak.” The grapes for this wine were harvested manually in small lots early in the morning, and the wine was 100% barrel fermented in French and Hungarian Oak. 14 % alcohol $8.00/glass.

A little palate cleansing between tastings? Ask for the Wine Gallery’s cheese board and salumi board. Yummy!

The next taste, a San Telmo Malbec 2009, Esencia, from Mendoza Argentina is a medium bodied and nicely balanced Malbec. Cherry on the nose, and a lingering finish mid-palate. 13.5% alcohol. A real bargain at $4/glass.

The Valle Reale Vigne Nuove Trebbiano D’Aburzzo Vendemmia 2006 is a nice introduction to Italian white wine. Peach and apricot, nutty, and smooth. 13% alcohol. $4/glass.

There was a lot to look at and learn about in this great shop, so I finished my tasting with a Dobra Zemlja 2007 Amador Syrah, Plymouth, CA is a peppery syrah, unfiltered and unfined. Dobra Zemlja means "Good Earth" in Croatian. This small production winery, founded in 1995 and situated in Amador County's historic Shenandoah Valley, produces classic mountain wines with good body, intensity and color. 16.6% alcohol. $10/glass. See http://www.dobraz.com/ for more information on visiting this winery, it’s not that far away!

Upcoming Events at L’Uva Bella:

Each Thursday at 6 p.m., a wine tasting with winemakers or wine sales experts. Coming up:

May 6 - Frank Family Wine Tasting
May 8 - Wines of France Tasting
May 13 - Me Sueno Wine Tasting
May 27 - Luna Vineyards Tasting.

The second Sunday of each month is a wine walk that stops at 12 pouring locations throughout the mall; cost is $20 pp and includes a souvenir glass and discounts on the featured wines (how about taking Mom to the Mother’s Day wine walk at 2 p.m ?)

Every Friday night at 6 PM it’s time for the Rhythm and Wine event, with live music.

To sign up for event alerts, email to celebrate@luvabellawinegallery.com. L'uva Bella Wine Gallery is located at 13925 South Virginia St., Suite 248, (next to Dillard’s), Reno NV 89511. Phone 775 851 1110 for info and hours.
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© 2010 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in April 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book: "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills."
Publication date early Summer 2011, Wine Enthusiast Guild Publishing.

What wines pair with yogurt and kefir?

When I write about wine and food in the Lake Tahoe area, the chefs and wine experts often collaborate in producing a slate of wines that go with particular dishes. It's always a learning experience because as I say to people, the emphasis on "Wine Writer" in my case is on "Writer".

But still I try to keep ahead of the crowd, and part of that is understanding trends in cuisine. So when The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2010 report dropped into my in-box, it held some suprises for me. I quote:

  • "Yogurt and kefir is the fastest growing specialty food category; sales jumped 38.9 percent in 2009 to $830 million.

  • Mediterranean, Latin and Indian were named as the three fastest emerging cuisines.

  • Local, sustainable and eco-friendly products were identified as the items that will grow the most in the coming years."

Gosh, what do you pair with yogurt and kefir. Help me out here!

And should we search for Indian wines to pair with Indian cuisine? Hello, Sula! Rev up that distribution please!

These are just a few of the interesting tidbits from this annual report from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT); it is prepared in conjunction with Mintel International, a market research firm, and tacks sales for specialty food segments with data from SPINS and ACNielsen.

The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2010 research was published in a summary report in the April 2010 issue of Specialty Food Magazine. The summary report is available for $30 for non-members of the NASFT at http://www.specialtyfood.com/.
Photo credit: Shuttercock

Butler Didn't Really Lose

I was there at Green's Sports Bar in San Francisco along with a lot of testosterone-laden guys, all of us cheering Butler on. I grew up playing basketball -- I'm a Hoosier and proud of it. So when someone asked me "what do you pair with March Madness?", the answer was easy. Indiana Wines. And don't forget those made by Jim Butler.

In Indiana, most of the wineries would be what we now-Californians consider "boutique". They're not big, with the exception of Oliver Winery. Not long ago, I tasted a Marechal Foch Nouveau 2008, which is an estate bottled wine from Oliver's own Creekbend Vineyard and it was yummy. But Oliver also made another contribution to the Indiana wine scene -- that is, Jim Butler. Speaking of Butlers.

Jim spent 25 years as the winemaker at Oliver before establishing his own vineyard, Butler Winery & Vineyards. Along with his father John, he's the author of the book "Indiana Wineries……" And he is a credit to the industry in the Midwest.

Jim and his family produce many good wines. One of my favorites is their 2008 Chambourcin Rose, whch received a double gold and won Rose Wine of the Year at the 2009 Indy International Wine Competition! It was also awarded the Indiana-grown French American Wine of the Year at the competition.

But if you were watching Butler in that harrowing game, what would have been better than a bottle of their Indiana White, a superb value of a versatile table wine, comprised of Indiana Uplands Vignoles fruit, Cardonel, and Traminette.

We Hoosiers -- Butler at heart all of us, if not in name -- are pretty proud of that hard-working Bulldog team. Lift a glass to the little guys! They are all about the passion, whether it is on the basketball court or in the winery.

What’s a Sustainably-Produced Wine?

It is time to take this subject by the horns. (Those of you who are deep into the biodynamic wine movement will appreciate that pun). Every other winemaker you talk to will boast that his or her wine is natural or organic or sustainably produced or biodynamic. What’s it all mean?

First, let me tell you that there are no standardized definitions for these terms. That is part of the problem. But since wine drinkers will be encountering these terms more and more, here we go. We broached the topic a bit talking about wines at Pacific Crest Grill in Truckee, which has a long list of organic, biodynamic, and sustainably grown wines.

A BIODYNAMIC wine can be quickly defined as one that is made from a vineyard that uses the principles of biodynamic agriculture, which includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the farm as a cohesive, interconnected living system. This topic, as well as ORGANIC wines, both require separate columns.

Today, let’s dip into the SUSTAINABLY-GROWN wine topic. A sustainably-grown wine is not necessarily organic wine, but it also does not exclude this definition.

There’s been a lot in the press recently about sustainability. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) recently introduced a statewide certification program that provides third-party verification of a winery or vineyard’s adherence to a "process of continuous improvement" in the adoption and implementation of sustainable winegrowing practices.

This CSWA certification program is a voluntary option, and this process requires applicants to meet 58 prerequisite criteria to be eligible for the program, to assess winery and/or vineyard operations, to create and implement an annual action plan and to show improvement over time. The prerequisites include practices that protect air and water quality, conserve water, promote energy efficiency and reduced pesticide use, and preserve ecosystems and animal habitat, among many others.

To date, 1,566 vineyard and winery organizations representing 68.1 percent of California’s 526,000 wine acres and 62.5 percent of the state’s 240 million case shipments have evaluated their vineyards and wineries using CSWA’s workbook. Seventeen companies have already received certification for some or all of their vineyard and winery operations. They include many names that are well-known: Clos LaChance Wines; Concannon Vineyard/Concannon Winery; Constellation Wines U.S.; Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards; Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines; Fetzer Vineyards/Bonterra Vineyards; E. & J. Gallo Winery; Goldeneye Winery; The Hess Collection; Honig Vineyard & Winery; J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines; Kunde Family Estate; Meridian Vineyards/Taz Vineyards; Monterey Pacific, Inc.; Roberts Vineyard Services; Rodney Strong Wine Estates; and Vino Farms.

Other states have programs like this too. And within one state, there are competing programs, which makes it all a bit difficult to unravel the who’s who of responsible wine grape growing and winemaking. For example, The Sustainability in Practice (SIP)™ Certification program, another California initiative, provides a way for vineyard’s to verify their attention to integrated farming practices through a commitment to environmental stewardship, equitable treatment of employees, and economic stability. Developed by the Central Coast Vineyard Team, a non-profit dedicated to sustainable winegrowing since 1994, it has been in place for quite a while. They’ve gone a long way toward making these topics consumer-understandable. Take a look at their website, http://www.sipthegoodlife.org/

To learn more from an industry point of view, cruise through http://www.wineinstitute.org/ This is the website for the Wine Institute, headquarted in San Francisco. On the left is a big click-through called “Sustainable Winegrowing.”

I know this is a bit academic. But if you put it in your mouth – and hopefully that’s what you are doing with some nice wines! – you might want to know what goes into the product.


Thank you to the Wine Institute of California for the photo!

© 2010 Barbara Keck

This article appeared in my Tahoe Weekly Newspaper column "It's Grape" in April 2010.

Watch for my forthcoming book, scheduled for publication in early Summer 2011, "Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills."