March 3, 2017

What I’m Drinking: The Italian Cactus Berry

You know this, I know this, everybody knows this – I believe good drinks should have good names, and when creating drinks you need to create names too. Okay, that’s out of the way. But here, really, the change is so minor! The Cactus Berry is a favorite spring-and-early-summer drink of mine, from Wine Cocktails, and as I was dreaming of spring recently, I decided it would be a perfect fit for today. But, it usually uses Merlot (along with tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice), and I didn’t have such. But I did have a bottle of Donini Settegrappoli, which is an Italian red, rich, lush, full of body, perhaps I think the best red wine in the world. If I can go a little overboard (admittedly, Donini is my favorite winery in the world, too). So, I thought it might be perfect. And guess what? I was right! You can be right, too, if you try this drink.

The Italian Cactus Berry (mostly from Wine Cocktails)

Serves 2

Ice cubes
1-1/2 ounces Donini Settegrappoli Italian red wine (or another amazing wine)
1-1/2 ounces tequila (blanc, usually)
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Lime wedge, for garnish

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the wine,  tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice. Shake well.

2. Strain the mix into a cocktail glass through a fine strainer. Garnish with the lime wedge and serve.

April 4, 2014

What I’m Drinking: Donini Wines

We (wife Nat and I) recently got back from another trip to Italy. Sadly it was two weeks in Italy, and not seven months in Italy, but it was still darn fun. And while there, we stopped to see our pal Diego, the amazing and friendly third-generation vintner at Donini Wines, who I’ve talked about more in-depth like on the Italy blog. Every time we stop by, it’s exactly like visiting a friend combined with what I think every wine tasting should be like. We sit down, he starts opening wine:


even some unlabeled new bubbly that is fantastic, crisp, clear, and lovely:


Then he brings out cheese and crackers and more wine:


Then opens another bottle of wine:


The whole time we’re catching up, talking about wine and the seasons and Italy and America and our families and this and that, and Diego is charming and always opening and pouring more wine for us to try:


And then the table looks like this (with new reds and whites alongside old friends, all in Umbrian style and all great):


If you’re ever in Italy, especially southern Tuscany or northern Umbria, you should be sure and stop by and see him and Donini Wines, too. Sadly, they’re only imported into the US in Montana and few other select states so far. But you needed a trip to Italy, right? Oh, one thing – you’ll probably need to take some home. So leave room in your suitcase. I always do.

March 30, 2012

The Last Bottle of Bindolo

Sometimes, I’m almost too sad to write more than one sentence. Or six. This is one of those times, because we recently finished our last bottle of Bindolo, the wine from Donini we drank a fair amount of when we lived in Italy. You can read more about Bindolo and Donini in this past post, and then get on a plane and go pick some up (and tell Diego hello for us). Me, I’m going to look at the picture and tear up (though the sadness is partially offset by the fact that we shared that last bottle with pals Rebecca, who makes the great Deluxe jams and cocktail syrups, and Eric, who owns the best bike shop in Seattle, JRA. At least we had that last bottle with awesome folks).

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April 18, 2011

What I’m Drinking: The Oscar Berry

Living in Italy (as I am of this writing, at least), I’ve picked up a small addiction–to mirtillo juice (mirtillo=blueberries), which I like to have in the morning with my croissant. It’s a health kick (or seems to be) and has a great taste and color. Recently, however, thanks to my pals/landlords Andrew and Marianne (proprietors of the wondrous Amici Villas), I’ve discovered the grown-up sibling of my beloved mirtillo juice, the fantastic mirtillo liqueur. See, Andrew and Marianne picked up a bottle for me not too long ago, and it’s delicious, not too sweet and bursting with flavor, and I’ve been digging it solo and mixed. It’s especially good in the below drink, named after Andrew and Marianne’s lovable pup, Oscar, who is frizzante, just like this slightly sparkling sparkler. To round out the somewhat Italian experience (or, Italian-British, much like the above-mentioned Andrew and Marianne, cause gin’s involved, too), and to bring the frizzante, I combined the mirtillo with Donini wineries (read more about Donini here) Brigante (a bianco frizzante):




Ice cubes

1 ounce gin

3/4 ounce mirtillo liqueur

1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 ounces Brigante (or other frizzante white wine)


1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, mirtillo, and lemon juice. Shake well.


2. Strain into a Champagne flute, add the Brigante, and stir briefly. Sip and enjoy.

October 29, 2010

Hey Importers! Bring Donini to Seattle by April

I was pal-ing around with my pal Keith here in Italy the other day (he and his wife, pal Tashsa, were visiting here recently–you can read more about it either now or soon on my blog Six Months In Italy), and we randomly stopped by this winery/wine-tasting place in Trestina while wife Nat and Tasha were shopping in the Eurospar next door. The winery, called Donini, was dark, but we thought we saw some lights on in back, and so tried the door. Which opened, but it just looked closed when we peered further inside, and we didn’t see anybody in the front room, though the lights were on in the wine room (meaning, the room with big vats of wine in it), and so we shut the door and started walking away. We got about ten feet when the door re-opened behind us and a friendly-looking fella walked out, giving us a hollar and an invite to c’mon back in and look around. The space inside was really cozy, with stacks of wine from Donini in front, and then tables and lots of other wines and boozes in back. The Donini wine was incredibly reasonable, and we were browsing it when the gentleman who let us in said “would you like to taste some?” We, naturally, jumped like thirsty dogs at the chance, and Diego (which is what the gentleman’s name turned out to be) starting setting us up, bringing us glasses and bottles and crackers and bread and loads of smiles. Before long, Nat and Tash caught up with us, and so we sat around with Diego tasting wines and telling stories for a bit. All of which was great, but even better was that the wines were fantastic, and when considering the prices—super fantastic (we’re talking single digit Euros for a bottle, from two euro fifty for a frizzante summer sparkler to a mere nine euro for a 3 year aged vin santo that I’d serve the Queen, if I knew her). Perhaps Nat and I’s favorite (and a fav with Keith and Tash, too) was the Bindolo. It was a very young wine, meant to be consumed now, and had a flavor and personality that matched its name: naughty little boy. Very light on the tongue, very bouncy, and very bursting with berry accents and a schools-out style. We liked it enough that we bought 6 bottles (as well as some of that vin santo mentioned earlier, and that ultra-reasonable sparkler) and will probably get more; it’s just so easy going, an ideal dinner wine when you don’t want to be all stuffy and serious. Now, the only problem is this: Donini is impossible to get in the states at the moment. Diego said there was one spot in NY, but that’s a long way from Seattle. So, importers or wanna be importers, get on it! I want Donini available by the time I return in late April.


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