Now that it's February and I've done a decent job of depleting my in house wine collection, I'm back to buying them. And for whatever reason I can't quite explain, the last few weeks I've found myself bringing home more and more Italian red wines. While there are certainly many 'giving' Italian reds made ("giving" meaning they need very little time to open up as they are fruit forward and generally just kind of easy going) I realized I've inadvertently fallen prey to the over-simplified idea that all Italian red wines go best with pasta, hard cheese or red meats - three categories that I just don't consume through the normal course of things (allergies are to blame!). This perception is certainly perfectly accurate in its own right. Just as there are giving Italian reds, there are others that are less giving. These are much bigger, structured wines that really are most delightful when they are given ample time to open up (let the tannins soften, the fruit integrate with all the other lovely herbal and terciary flavors, etc.) AND when they have a hearty food match to work in tandem with the structure and flavor of the wine. Patience and some forethought about what's for dinner go a long, long way. A decanter never hurts either.

God love them, this month vendors in our network have been bringing both hidden gems and well-regarded, more elite styles of Italian reds by the Tasting Station for us to suss out. One of my new loves? Schiava.

I'm sure I've chatted about Elena Walch in prior posts as she's one of the most highly regarded female winemakers in the world. Her wines hail from the northern Alto Adige region of Italy. I have yet to taste one that isn't well made and delicious. Leave it to her to make and export a grape (Schiava) that almost never leaves the country! Her 2009 bottling of this grape (said Ski-ah-vah) is the only one I've ever tasted; it immediately won me over. My first tasting notes read: "wow! This is a red Burgundy wine lovers delight with an almost Pinot Noir-like levity and texture and a nice focus of ripe cherry and black fruit (boysenberry, blackberry). Love the feminity, florals and subtle Italian nuance."

It's fun to get away from the same old same and enjoy something somehow familiar but new, isn't it? And this one can pair with myriad things, from pork tenderloin topped with cranberry sauce or a mustard vinaigrette, roasted or fire-grilled eggplant and mushrooms with a balsamic glaze, even to tuna steak with a side of garlic roasted red potatoes. Manja!