A couple of very nice bootleg wines from Italy

Bootleg? Well, sort of.

I mean, wines you can only get in America if your niece carefully carries them out of Tuscany and deposits them in her uncle’s arms cuz she knows he loves Tuscany and its wine and food.

REGALE 2009 TOSCANA ROSSO, ESTATE BOTTLED. Sherry (that’s my niece, not a wine) told Judy and me, as she and Ron fed us a delicious lunch and very delightful wild-caught salmon dinner just after Christmas, that she and her parents had stumbled upon just what they’d been looking for. They noticed a winery sign, asked a lady how to get there, and followed her — an owner — right into her typical Tuscan segment of Oenophile Heaven.

This wine is a blend based, I think, on Sangiovese but with several compatible varieties to round it out. The nose is a bit shy but in appearance it’s almost mysteriously dark. Forbidding? Not at all. Nicely round and full, its friendly flavors are led by dark cherry and black currant. It’s not heavy. We found it easily made friends with wild salmon (we found it on sale while we were still savoring the memory of Sherry’s meal), mixed carrots, bell peppers and whole-kernel corn, and olive-oiled whole grain rice.

GIOBATTA 2009 CHIANTI COLLI SENESI, ESTATE BOTTLED: With this wine I made a layered casserole — bread crumb base under Velveeta (yes!) slices; fresh-cooked whole-wheat gnocchi; an Italian-herbed melange of bacon, ham and fried pork cutlet, all julienned; some more bread crumbs brushed with oil; and a generous sprinkling of chopped cocktail hot-peppered peanuts.

Chianti these days can be made without any white wine, but this traditional bottling is mostly Sangiovese with several complementary red varieties and a traditional dose of white wine.

These wines plus a wonderful Pinot Grigio which Sherry and Ron offered at their house, from the same Italian adventure (but about which I forgot to take notes) are from the Azienda Vitivinicola “Il Chicco” di Andreucci and the neck foil sports the proud message, “By Flavio Andreuccei.” Thanks, Sherry!