I love the notion of private label wines at restaurants.
For a wine novice like me, when a restaurant puts its name on a bottle of wine, you have to believe at least the owners think it’s good enough to drink.
Erin Ward, beverage director at the Alicart Restaurant Group, which owns Carmine’s Legendary Family Style Italian Restaurant, Virgil's Real Barbecue, Artie's NY Delicatessen, and Gabriela's Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar, says that the private label wines are some of the best sellers.
Carmine’s, infamous for its jumbo plates of pasta (though you just have to try the porterhouse steak) now has five private label wines, including its popular Chianti Classico and Pinot Grigio. The latest addition is a Brut Cuvee bottled in conjunction with Zardetto, one of the first companies to introduce and distribute Prosecco in Italy.
And many of their private labels come in magnum sizes--a double bottle that is great for parties.
It’s easy to make a private label wine here in the states, but Ward says when the company decided to create a private collection of Italian wines, she and her team went straight to Italy and traveled all over the country to find vineyards that best fit their needs.
And after many trips and tasting, they were able to create honest, value-conscious wines that represent the heart of Italy. Carmine’s Trebbiano and Montepulciano are made by Casalbordino in the Abruzzo region. Carmine’s Chianti Classico DOCG is made by Rocca Delle Macie, in Tuscany and Carmine’s Pinot Grigio is made by Ascevi Luwa, outside Venice near the border with Slovenia.
And let’s face it, it's a simple way to cheat. Trying a restaurant’s private label is a great, easy way to order a glass, a bottle, or, in Carmine’s case--a magnum of wine, with some assurance that it’s probably going to taste pretty darn good.
Questions for Our Wine Pro
What is your death row wine?
SAGRANTINO made by PAOLO BEA, “ROSSO DE VEO” from Umbria , Italy 2005, $92
Ttalk about passion and sense of place...this is a truly amazing wine! It's on our list at Carmine's now and is a gutsy southern Italian wine that would give me the muscle to look death in the eye. And of course I'd want our Porterhouse Contadina to accompany this awesome wine.
What region produces the best wine?
There are so many regions that i love in Italy...
Northern Italy for amazing white wines like: the Inama Soave, Abbazia di Novacella Kerner or the Massone Gavi.
Veneto for producers of rich-dense Amarone and Valpolicella...such as Allegrini, Bussola and Classic Bertani
Piedmont for amazing Nebbiolo...some of my favorite producers here are the Corregia Roero for good value and the Conterno or Mascarello if you want to splurge.
What is the best wine and food pairing you’ve ever had?
One of my favorite Pairing right now at Carmine's is the Li Veli Negro Amaro from the region of Salice Salentino with our Chicken Saltimbocca...this a melt in your mouth wine pairing that should not be missed.
What will the U.S. wine industry look like in 10 years?
The wine world is growing at such an amazing rate. Here in the United states we are drinking more wine than we ever have before, and soon wine will become a true staple in most households.