You probably know Festa Italiana, which kicks off tonight at Henry W. Maier Festival Park, as a place to indulge in bocce, gelato and romantic canal rides. Wine is the festival’s lesser-known sibling. New this year is Uncorked: The Wine Tasting Experience, which shifts the focus to Italian wines (plus California vintners with Italian roots, like Andretti Winery and Baldacci Vineyards). Hosted by Milwaukee’s own LoDuca Brothers, it all takes place in a tent on the grounds’ South End, complete with a wine auction, wine by the glass and wine lectures. A passport costs $25 and gets you into every event under the tent, including a sip of Limoncello imported from Torino, Italy, and the opportunity to drink a dozen wines.
WINE DEAL OF THE WEEK
Here’s one for dog lovers and wine lovers alike. Waterford Wine Company is selling bottles of the 2011 Casa Santos Lima “Lab” Red Wine (Portugal) for $6.99 each this week. (Yep, there is an icon of a Labrador retriever on the label, reflecting the winery owner’s love for his 16 dogs of that breed.) Featuring Castelão grapes, Waterford’s wine folks say it tastes like a $40 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, making this a very sweet deal indeed.
WINE EVENT OF THE WEEK
Sip wine with a charitable twist at Wine Maniacs on the River – the area’s newest wine bar, located in Walker’s Point along the Milwaukee River – on July 24. Pay $11 for a wine tasting where proceeds go to the Bakong Technical College projects in Cambodia. Drop $100 or more for a donation and you are entered into a drawing to officially name one of the cows used to rebuild this struggling community. The evening’s proceeds will be divvied up in ways that truly help the community, such as $400 for a cow and $50 for a bicycle) A silent auction will also take place. Ronnie Yimsut is an author and survivor of the country’s Tonle Sap Lake Massacre; he’ll be on hand to chat about his experiences and why this is a cause to support. Sign up fast because there are only 150 spots available.
WINE OF THE WEEK
The 2011 Franciscan Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California, $17) is a quintessential summer wine with ample crispness and minerals. A creamy honeydew nose is followed by a clean and crisp palate with a kiss of Meyer lemon near the lingering finish. (www.franciscan.com)