Premier Group Sales Associates are experts when it comes to helping customers navigate our huge selection. Making recommendations that satisfy a wide range of consumer tastes, budgets and preferences takes years of dedicated study and a thorough understanding of our complete inventory. But how do they apply that knowledge when choosing something for themselves?

In this continuing look into the personal selections of our staff, Cristiano Invernizzi provides insight into the wines he’s enjoying and how he arrived at making those selections. Get to know Cristiano’s personal preferences in this post.

2017 Paitin Starda Nebbiolo:  Yes, I admit it, I was spoiled growing up. Having grandparents born in the Veneto and in the Piemonte regions in northern Italy, I was exposed to some of the best wines in the world since a young age.  Obviously, Nebbiolo is one of the greatest grape varieties in Italy, not to mention the world.  It’s also the only grape allowed in Barolo and Barbaresco, the King and Queen of Italian wines located in Piemonte. I loved this particular wine since the first time I tasted it. It is so complex, elegant, structured, rich, and I could just keep going on and on. Medium-full bodied, the wine is dark and muscular, with notes of licorice, smoke, rose petals, and menthol. The palate is very rustic with notes of mocha, cinnamon, earth, mineral and rosemary. It’s a great value. It is as complex and structured as a Barbaresco, at half the cost. You probably learned by now that I mostly drink wine while cooking for friends or family. Last time I enjoyed this magnificent wine, I paired it with a mushroom risotto. Wish it was a truffle risotto, like my grandfather used to make, but hey, we can’t always get what we want, right? Maybe next time I visit home...but that’s another story.

2018 Ca’ dei Frati  I Frati Lugana:  It’s now time for a white wine. I do love white wine, and one of my favorite grape varieties is Trebbiano di Lugana or Turbiana, which is related to the Verdicchio grape. I also love the Lugana territory, a small beautiful area in the southern part of Lake Garda, between the regions of Lombardia and Veneto (both regions very important to me) in northern Italy.  The Ca’ dei Frati winery is very dear to me.  I remember, as a small child, going with my grandfather to buy cases of wine. This I Frati is 100% Turbiana, fresh and linear, with complex notes of almond, white peach, apricot and spring flowers on the nose. The palate is more savory, with notes of grapefruit, grass, mineral and sage. Now, let’s talk about the food pairing. I made a delicious risotto (yes I am complimenting myself), with lobster and saffron. The acidity of the wine perfectly cut through the richness of the lobster meat, and the fruity, floral notes, helped tame the strong flavor of the saffron. I have to say, it was great. Plus, it reminded me of drinking that particular wine with my grandfather. And that’s the best thing I could’ve asked for.

2017 Montonale Montunal Lugana:  Another white. Another Lugana. Very close to where my parents live, on the beautiful Lake Garda, the Montonale winery was my first stop the day after I went back home for a visit/vacation. We had a great tour, my fiancé and I, inside the winery, outside in the vines, in the aging room, and then a private tasting of all their wines paired with delicious food. Sounds amazing right? Indeed it was. But then something else happened. My fiancé Meredith wasn’t the biggest fan of white wines at the time, but at the end of the tasting, after drinking whites, red and roses’, her ultimate favorite was the Lugana. This fantastic white, 100% Turbiana grape. The wine opened a completely new world to her. This is the magic of wine! We left the winery after purchasing a case of that particular vintage of Lugana and we headed home. To celebrate, needless to say, we opened a couple of bottles to share with my parents, and guess what? I decided to cook something to pair the wine with. Big surprise, right? I decided to go with seafood. Seared scallops, with a lemon and white wine sauce, capers and linguine, and a swordfish steak also with lemon and capers. The richness of the wine, with notes of tropical fruit, peach and white flowers, paired perfectly with the swordfish, and the fresh acidity and the lime, stone fruit notes also cut through the richness and buttery texture of the scallops.  A bottle of wine, in the backyard, nice sunny day, overlooking the lake, with my fiancé and my family. The magic of wine.

2017 Carpineto Chianti Classico:  Chianti. Toscana. I definitely had to list a wine from this gorgeous region between my favorites. I’ve been spending my summer vacations in the Maremma region in southern Tuscany, since I was a small child. Visiting friends in the countryside of Siena, Montalcino, Greve, Pienza, San Gimignano, was always a matter of fun and joy. I remember my parents, their friends, just getting together to laugh, joke, eat and have a merry time, always holding a glass of red wine. I ended up moving there.  Where else would you be able to find great art, history, culture, nature, countryside, beaches, clean sea, great food and wine all in a matter of few kilometers apart? Back to wine, enough daydreaming. I have always been a fan of Sangiovese in all its forms. Definitely one of my top three favorite grape varieties. I love Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, and obviously Chianti. This particular wine is a Chianti Classico, which, by law, has to be made with at least 80% Sangiovese. The remaining 20% is Canaiolo, an indigenous grape variety from Tuscany. It’s a simple wine but it’s delicious in its simplicity. Medium bodied, with notes of spices, mocha, dark cherry, plum, rose petals and cinnamon. The palate is a little more rustic with notes of leather, charcuterie and rosemary. I paired the wine with a Ribollita. It’s a dish straight from Tuscany. I love making this dish because it is simple, flavorful and very healthy. And it reminds me of when I was living in Tuscany, sitting on my porch, admiring my horses, with a glass of Chianti in my hand. One thing that I love about wine is that it can just transport you thousands of miles away, and make you feel like you’re at home.

2016 Latour Domaine Valmoissine Pinot Noir:  

My top three grape varieties...Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir. Not necessarily in this order, but you have the idea. Now, let’s talk about Pinot Noir then. It’s not easy to find reasonably priced ones. The cheapest, yet good quality wines, are usually at least $20. And then...surprise! You get a superb French Pinot Noir, from one of the most well-known and appreciated négociants. I purchased a bottle right away. I was curious, I needed to taste it. Especially because my fiancé loves Pinot Noir (isn’t she the best?), and being able to find one for less than $16 was a dream come true. I got home, I opened the bottle and I waited. Fifteen minutes was more than enough. Aromas of pomegranate, red apple skin, cocoa, wet leaves and cinnamon were penetrating my nose. I thought: “ I need to prepare something worthy of this wine”. One of my fiancé’s favorite dishes is pasta mare e monti. Mare is sea (mussels) and monti is mountains (mushrooms). I combined the ingredients with tomato sauce and let everything cook for 30 minutes. The wine opened up even more in the meantime. The tannins were more elegant, the wine was softer and velvety. But the acidity was there, taming the richness of the tomato sauce. The notes of thyme and rosemary complemented the mushrooms and the red fruit notes and the fresh acidity cut the richness of the mussels. I put some classical music on, finished cooking, waited for my better half to come home and we had a lovely dinner (I still don’t know if my fiancé liked the wine or the pasta better..)

2014 Rodaro Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso:  

I always enjoyed wines from Friuli, the region in the northeast Italy that borders Slovenia and Austria. More famous for its white wines, I’ve actually been enjoying one of its autochthonous red varieties: Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso from the producer Paolo Rodaro. The wine shows a very dark, dense red color. The nose displays notes of sweet dark fruit, sweet pipe tobacco, spices and earth (wet leaves, mushroom). The palate is very rich and powerful, with ripe fruit like plum and blackberry and a hint of cinnamon. Very smooth and soft, with fresh acidity, I paired this wine with some cabbage, potatoes and carrots stew and it worked really well. Definitely a wine to enjoy during fall. Did I forget to mention that this wine is also a steal? Less than $10 for this beauty. Trust me, give it a try. You’re not going to regret it.