Wine-Out: Ciù Ciù “Merlettaie” Pecorino

ciuciuMy “wine-out” posts are short reviews of wines I’m currently enjoying. Find out what a “wine-out” means here.

One of my favorite discoveries this summer (thanks to my husband, Carter, who found it at our wonderful Oakland store the Wine Mine) is a little-known Italian white made from the Pecorino grape. I’ve always associated that term with cheese, but apparently pecora just means “sheep” in Italian. And according to Kim Hudson in the Wine Spectator, “in days of yore, the beasts especially favored the vines during their grazing sorties.” My wine merchant didn’t mention the sheep’s taste for the grapes, but he told me it’s a wine the shepherds used to drink.

The producer of the particular wine I’ve been drinking is called Ciù Ciù (pronounced choo-choo) and their “Merlettaie” is 100% Pecorino, grown on the steep slopes of the Piceno Appenines in Italy’s Marche region.


I love this wine for its lovely combination of crisp minerality and ripeness. It’s medium-bodied and refreshing without being overly acidic, and it has a faint herbaceous quality that makes me think of sun-drenched, sheep-nibbled Italian hillsides. I’ve paired it with all kinds of summer meals, and served it at a small dinner party last week with a farro salad featuring roasted cherry tomatoes from my garden, which it complemented beautifully. And at only $14 a bottle it’s a great value. Try some if you can find it!

Wine-Out! Why Great Wine Deserves a Moment of Undivided Attention


Calling a wine-out to appreciate this lovely delicate 2010 “Swan Clone” Pinot Noir from McHenry Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

If you were to come to one of my dinner parties (or invite me to one of yours), at some point you’d be likely to see me holding up my hands in the shape of a “W” and calling a “wine-out.” What’s a wine-out? It’s something I invented a couple of years ago to deal with a situation I often find myself in: I’m drinking really fantastic wine with great friends, and everyone is deep in conversation. I start to worry that we aren’t giving the wine its due attention — but it’s hard to find the right moment to insert a comment about it.

Hence the idea of a wine-out: it’s like a time-out in sports. You don’t need to find the perfect segue or worry about interrupting — you can just call a wine-out and give everyone a moment to appreciate and be conscious of the wine, before they go back to talking. It works really well!

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not one of those people who thinks wine should be over-analyzed or discussed. But I do think a good wine deserves at least a moment of undivided attention, and I’ve found that bringing conscious appreciation to the wine — especially in a group — definitely enhances the experience of drinking it. Try it next time you have company over to share a bottle or two!



Etna Rosso: A Love Story (or That One Time I Was Really Ahead of the Wine Curve….)

My first bottle of Etna Rosso–Girolamo Russo’s a Rina 2008

I fell in love in a small backstreet wine bar in Florence, some time in the summer of 2011. The sommelier didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t speak any Italian, but the wine spoke for itself. I’d never tasted anything like it. Light and elegant, but with a steely backbone. Concentrated but weightless. Lovely red fruit anchored by a distinctive minerality that I’ve since come to recognize in other wines grown on ancient lava flows. What I learned that night was that the wine was an Etna Rosso, from a small winery called Girolamo Russo, located on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna.

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10th/40th Anniversary Dinner Party

Last summer, I threw my first big dinner party to celebrate Carter & my 10th anniversary and my parents’ 40th. I had so much fun pairing Oakland farmers’ market bounty with my favorite wines…. enjoy!

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