I had spent most of a cold winter's afternoon in Queens on my snow-covered back deck whipping up an oxtail stew in my new Dutch oven. A hearty red wine was called for.
I chose the Ciccio Zaccagnini Tralcetto Riserva 2004, which was just $14 a bottle. It comes from the Abruzzo region of central Italy, home to vineyards that produce one of Italy's most delicious and well-priced red wines, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.
My colleague James Suckling, who covers the wines of Italy, has long been a fan of this estate, which was founded in 1978. Located in the small village of Bolognano, in the province of Pescara, Zaccagnini makes a wide range of high-quality reds and whites. The reds are based on the Montepulciano grape, which is one of the most widely planted varieties in Italy.
The Tralcetto bottling was filled lively flavors of black olive, beef, blackberry and fig compote, which were supported by a firm structure. It reminded me of a cross between two of California's heartier reds, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. The fresh finish featuring notes of mocha, with hints of mineral and tobacco, was just what the doctor ordered to clear the palate after spoonfuls of the thick stew. I rated the Zaccagnini 90 points, non-blind.