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|For many of us, Labor Day Weekend marks the end of summer. Why bid adieu so early? I would like to assert that summer is in fact in effect for yet another 3 weeks! Grape harvest is in full swing in California, I’ve been glued to my Instagram account following the dramatic journey from vineyard to winery to juice. Outside I’ve noticed early mornings are nippier, the sultry Naked Ladies lilies that erupt in August are withering dry, and trees are dropping leaves in greater numbers.The transition from summer to fall shouts out for Zinfandel! Therefore, I present to you an exciting new project spearheaded by Mady Peterson and executed by her husband Joel and his son Morgan Twain-Peterson, the 2011 Papa’s All Blacks.|
|Papa’s All-Blacks was named to honor the tradition of the early “field blends” of the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Back then grape growers planted a mix of grape varieties and co-fermented them. The grape varieties included mostly black-skinned grapes, notably Zinfandel, with a smidgeon of white grapes. These “field blends” that survived are now our greatest old-vine vineyards. Many growers who are dedicated to preserving and promoting these vineyards have also taken to reproduce them with original cuttings. Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood, has championed these vineyards for decades. His son Morgan, no stranger to TWH with his delectable Bedrock Wine Co. and Lacuna wines, is such an advocate of these precious old vineyards, he formed the non-profit Historic Vineyard Society. Together, they have created a wine that looks to these field blends as benchmarks. The 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks is approximately 60% Zinfandel with Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet and Carignane in the balance sourced from old-vine vineyards all located in Northern California. The grapes were fermented in small open-top fermenters using native yeast and then aged in 25% new French oak barrels. This is a wonderfully supple, rounded red that imparts the zesty-ness of Zinfandel and is augmented with added depth by the other varietals. The fruit is a harmonious blend of plum and brambly fruit and the aromas sing out with berry notes and a floral flare. You could tuck this away for a bit, but I think the temptation to drink up the 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks right now is way too strong!|
|The long weekend couldn’t have come at a better time now that school has started and schedules have been re-shuffled; I am in need of some down time. What better a way than a day spent at the beach followed by dinner with la familia under the Redwoods drinking a robust red like the 2011 Papa’s All-Blacks?
Good times! Speaking of good times … made it to The Mayflower in San Rafael’s lovely West End district to catch our very own Pete Z. shred it up with his band, Over Time, to kick off his 3 week long BirthdayFest. The man sure knows how to celebrate! Cheers to you! —Anya Balistreri
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 11:44 PM
The 2011 Juicy Villages from Juicy Rebound is fun, delicious, and quite a remarkable wine value when you consider the quality of grapes that go into the blend.Winemaker Douglas Danielak took 120+ year old Mourvedre from the famed Evanghelo Vineyard in Contra Costa County and added a bit of Sonoma County Syrah and Grenache for the Southern Rhone-inspired Juicy Villages. You would think that fruit from any one of these sources would command a higher price tag, but Douglas was looking to make an entry-level orvillages level, if you would, wine that could be enjoyed immediately.
As is so often the case, Douglas Danielak is not only a winemaker who we have been following for many, many years starting with his pioneering years at Jade Mountain and then at White Rock and now with Paras Vineyards, but is a customer of The Wine House, having a penchant for French wines. Currently, Douglas makes wine for a number of micro-boutique wineries. It is only recently that he has started his own labels, Juicy Rebound and Pont Neuf, with his wife Mary. Douglas’ hobbies extend beyond wine; he is an avid fan of hockey and also plays in local leagues. This seems incongruous to his friendly demeanor and encyclopedic knowledge of wine. When Douglas came by the store last, we got on the subject of premature oxidation in White Burgundy. Douglas gave a quick lecture citing several theories, explaining them in easy-to-understand language, quoting sources from the many French winemakers he personally knows and visits frequently. This AND the fact that he makes fabulous wines and can skate on ice while swinging a stick at a fast moving puck, is impressive, I’d say.
The 2011 Juicy Villages, though approachable and well… JUICY, is not devoid of that dark brooding fruit you’d expect of a wine dominated by Mourvedre.The Mourvedre from Evanghelo Vineyard, which was planted in 1880, grows in sand. Yes, sand. I’ve included a photo, courtesy of Douglas, that puts this fact into vivid view. This sand bank was created where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers merge. The vines are all head-pruned, non-irrigated and on their original rootstock – Douglas calls them “little trees”. All this contributes to lush aromatics, beautiful violet aromas and tangy acidity. Douglas has worked with fruit from Evanghelo Vineyard for 20 years. You can tell how special Evanghelo is to Douglas not only by the deliciousness of the finished wine but by how intimately he describes this unique vineyard site. A strong connection between winemaker and vineyard makes for very interesting wine. The Syrah and Grenache are not afterthoughts but rather intentional components that add richness and sweet fruit. The 2011 Juicy Villages is an example of the exciting and noteworthy wines being made in California that buck the trend of massive, oaky, Cab-centric reds at a budget-friendly price. —Anya Balistreri
Monday, April 23, 2012 5:41 PM
At The Wine House we are privileged to carry wine from some of California’s finest, most beloved wineries, many whom have long ago closed their mailing lists to the public and leave throngs of fans wondering where can they find their wines. Looking for Anthill Farms’ single-vineyard elegant Pinot Noirs from the cool climates of California’s North Coast? What about the small-lot, eclectic bottlings from Bedrock’s winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson (from here on out we’ll refer to him as MTP)? And what about California’s heirloom vineyard preservationistMike Officer from Carlisle, whose wines critic Robert Parker has called “artisanal, world-class reds that remain among California’s most fairly priced high quality wines”? Look no further, we have a selection of them newly arrived, though as you can imagine, all are available in tiny quantities. If you discover something has sold out before you had a chance to place your order, please shoot us an email with your request, as we have been known to beg and plead for more wine from our friends, and sometimes, more wine does shake loose, though we can’t make any promises it will happen this time. —Anya Balistreri
Anthill Farms’ Pinot Noirs are unabashedly elegant and balanced. Though texturally rich and delightfully perfumed, Anthill Farms’ reputation is built on making wines that allow the vineyard site, and hence the fruit, to stand center stage. I was impressed by the liveliness and tightly wound structure of the 2010s. These wines are oh so pretty!
|“This site lies in the heart of the Green Valley appellation, on the corner of Green Valley and Maddocks Roads. Owner and manager Ron Black had the foresight to plant his hillside very densely to create intense vine competition and low yields. This approach delivers an intoxicating combination of lushness and poise to the wines from this site. Our section of the vineyard yielded two tons per acre in 2010. The nose is rich in exotic kirsch, violets, warm earth, and carnation. The wine’s texture is lush and deep but very well-delineated by balanced acids. While charming now and perhaps our most accessible wine early on, the wine’s focused length and chewy tannins will allow for years of aging.”|
|“The vineyard is located a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, near the tiny town of Annapolis, and is farmed by Steve Campbell and ourselves. At approximately 750 feet above sea level, it sits at the boundary of the marine layer, allowing the cool, coastal conditions to delay ripening well beyond warmer vineyards to the east. The twelve-year-old vines grow on sandy, low-vigor Goldridge soil, which helps reduce yields to less than two tons per acre. The wine exhibits exotically fragrant aromas of cherry liqueur, jasmine, and green tea, with subtle fresh mushroom scents as the wine opens. The velvety mouthfeel and intense midpalate flavors complement and highlight its nose. Juicy acids and subtle tannins rein in the gentle sweetness of the fruit and add structure to the wine, lifting and lengthening the floral, spicy finish. It is delicious early, but best over the next 3-6 years or more.”|
My admiration for Bedrock wines has been well documented. From my first taste of MTP’s debut vintage, I knew I was going to be following this winery very closely. I tasted that something special that is impossible to quantify, but know it when I taste it. Indeed Bedrock is now easily recognized in the wine world as the producer to watch. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Fortunately we saw Bedrock’s potential early on and as such are thankfully allocated a bit of wine with each release. I recently took home the “Ode to Lulu” Rose and I must say this was the first time I tasted a domestic rose that was void of any candied fruit flavors. This rose has layers to it with a fresh dry finish.
|“In the ongoing quest to craft the perfect rosé there are some revisions to the 2011 Ode to Lulu. Rather than being completely composed of whole-cluster pressed Mourvedre from Bedrock planted in 1888, this vintage the wine also contains 31% whole-cluster pressed Mourvedre from Pagani Ranch planted in 1921 and 9% younger-vine Grenache treated the same way from Annadel Vineyard. All the lots were picked between 19.6 and 21.2 brix. They were vinified separately using native yeasts and then blended back together. This is easily the most delicate version of this wine yet. It is a beautiful light copper-pink and weighs in at 12.3% alcohol. This will pair nicely with a wide range of Spring and Summer fare or simply on its own. God, I love rosé!” MTP|
|“The first vintage from these venerable vines planted in 1905. Like the Compagni Portis this is a old-field blended white vineyard but the varieties present are completely different. This is composed of Muscadelle, Chasselas, Zinfandel, Semillon, and even a little bit of Chardonnay. I picked everything together (including the red Zinfandel) and whole-cluster pressed it into a mix of old French oak barrels and stainless steel barrels. The wine fermented with native yeasts and ML was inhibited. The resulting wine is certainly unique! Though not as effusively aromatic as the Compagni Portis it possesses uncanny density and lift for a wine that did not see either malolactic or new oak. To be honest is reminds me most of a Marsanne/Roussanne blend. Eight barrels made.”MTP|
|“As usual the steep and rocky hillsides of Kick Ranch yielded a small crop of flavorful Sauvignon Blanc. I picked about a week before anyone else knowing the barrel fermentation and lees stirring were going to add plenty of richness to the final wine. Always fiddling/attempting to perfect I changed up the vinification a little bit. Much of the Sauvignon Musque went down to used barrels along with 12% new Acacia wood. The remainder was fermented in a 600 gallon oak foudre to enhance lees contact without as much stirring. I am very pleased with the resulting wine- perfumey and high-tone but possessing a lifted but broad center. 450 cases made.”MTP|
Like Bedrock and Anthill Farms, The Wine House has been fans of Carlisle wines from their start. Carlisle wines never stay on the shelf for long, so know you’ve been warned! In recent years, winemaker Mike Officer has taken an active role in the preservation of heirloom vineyards with the formation of a non-profit organization called the Historic Wine Society..
|“Regrettably, we did not bottle a Papa’s Block Syrah in 2009. The fruit did not hold up well after the deluge of October 13th and what little we received (all 1.2 tons) went into our ’09 Sonoma County Syrah. Needless to say we were highly disappointed, especially after having the 2007 land on the cover of the Wine Spectator. Fortunately though, the vineyard bounced back magnificently in 2010. Picked October 20th, two-thirds of the fruit was destemmed while the rest was left as whole clusters. Fermentation was indigenous. All French oak, 26% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.Tasting Note: Very dark purple garnet. Verging on opaque. A fabulous sniff of blackberry compote, black and green pepper, and spring flowers. An intriguing element of green olive lurks in the background, most likely from the whole cluster inclusion. On the palate, pure silk with an explosion of blackberry fruit. So delicious now that we see no reason to wait. Dive right in! The water’s fine!” Mike Officer, winemaker.|
Monday, October 10, 2011 3:04 PM
|One afternoon my daughter created a series of girl characters with super powers, like “Dog Girl” or “Fairy Girl”. In my honor,she drew “Wine Girl”.When she finished drawing, she wanted to staple the pages into a book to bring to school and show her teacher. I begged her not to include “Wine Girl”, thinking that her teacher might not get the right impression seeing a likeness of her mother with a wine bottle sticking out of her head.Once again, I’ve been called out by my daughter. Without further ado, this here “Wine Girl” would like to highlight a few wines that get relegated to our California Weird White section (all this really means is that they aren’t Chardonnay): 2009 Arbe Garbe, Matthiasson’s 2010 Napa White, 2010 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc and Sean Thackrey’s 2010 “Lyra” Viognier. These four wines exemplify the exciting trend towards blending high intensity flavor balanced out with texture and bright finishes. My inspiration for these four picks was an article written by SF Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonné titled “A New Age for California White Wines”. It’s a great read for sure with 3 of my 4 picks reviewed in depth. Here’s my spin on them:|
|Arbe Garbe’s inaugral release was selected for TWH’s Top Ten Picks of 2009. I’ve been a fan from the start and with each vintage you see the evolution of a confident winemaker who knows they are on to something. The ’09 is primarily Pinot Grigio with a small smattering of two lesser-known varietals, Ribolla Giallo and Tocai Friulano. I just love the engaging floral aromas, broad mid-palate and creamy texture.Though the composition for this wine has changed vintage to vintage, what hasn’t changed is the perfect interplay of vivid aromatics that carry over on to the palate without feeling heavy or overdone.|
|Matthiasson’s 2009 Napa White was chosen for TWH’s Top Ten Pick of 2010…do you see a pattern here? The blend for the 2010 is identical to 2009, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Giallo, but it’s a whole other animal. I think the difference really comes down to vintage with 2010 being a cool weather vintage. The 2010 has crackly minerality and bracing acidity. At this stage, a hint of oak hovers in the background, giving of a more Bordelais feel to the flavor profile.Don’t expect this wine to taste like last year’s. This winery is not a brand; a brand is something that is manufactured and consistent. Steve Matthiasson is a winemaker who works directly with the fruit and makes wines that are representative of what Nature bestows. No hocus-pocus here. Oh yeah, and for those folks who follow such matters, the 2010 Napa White comes in with an alcohol content of 12.5%.|
|I think TWH has been buying Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignons since their first release in the early 80’s, yet this is the first time we’ve been offered their Sauvignon Blanc! Oh joy! I’ve always loved their Sauvignon Blanc and have been only able to enjoy it off of restaurant wine lists (I fondly recall sharing a bottle with my husband during our honeymoon at a fish house on Maui). A blend of Napa and Sonoma County fruit, I love the citrus notes, the faint spice flavors of the integrated oak, and the weighty mouthfeel. So perfectly elegant and refined, much like their heralded Cabernets.|
|If my facts are correct, this is Sean Thackrey’s first commercial release of a white wine. I know he has made whites over the years, Viognier is often a component of his Pleiades blend, but he has never been satisfied enough to release one until now. Once again, Sean Thackrey proves to be unconventional and single-minded in his drive to make wines that are alive and real. The 2010 Lyra is 100% Viognier from Noble Vineyard in Knights Valley. The Knights Valley AVA essentially separates Sonoma County from Napa County and is the warmest of Sonoma’s Viticultural Areas. The soil is mostly volcanic and there are some gravel deposits from ancient rivers that once meandered through this area. I have read that my beloved Russian River once flowed this direction but was diverted westward after a St. Helena eruption. Thackrey’s 2010 Viognier blew me away; while it contains exotic flavors and an oily texturetypical of Viognier, it has none of that hideous canned peach flavor so common to California Viogniers. It is expansive and rich, and goes long on the finish. A true showstopper.|
Thursday, September 1, 2011 6:05 PM
Mike Officer’s Zinfandels and Syrahs are powerful reds that though delicious young, reward those patient enough to lay them down for a bit. The structure and intensity that Mike coaxes out of the grapes produces wines that can age. No longer known just as a master of Zinfandel, Mike Officer has earned a reputation for making some of California’s most coveted Syrahs. In a recent WA review, Parker summed up Carlisle with this declaration, “these are artisanal, world-class reds that remain among California’s most fairly priced high quality wines.” We couldn’t agree more. – Anya Balistreri
*Notes from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Feb 2011
It is amazing to think that fifteen years ago no one had ever heard of Carlisle Winery and Vineyards or Mike Officer. Moreover, what Officer has done to preserve old vine Zinfandel vineyards in Sonoma is nothing short of astonishing. Add to that success story his sensational line-up of Syrahs, Petite Sirahs and Rhone Ranger blends and it is undeniable that this man and his winery are at the top of their game. These are artisanal, world-class reds that remain among California’s most fairly priced high quality wines… Mike Officer says 2009 is a strong year for his wines, but since he has done nearly everything right, it is hard for me to say his 2009s are better than previous vintages… Readers who love these wines are advised to stock up on what is left of the 2008s as well as the upcoming 2009s. – Robert Parker
2009 Russian River Valley Carlisle Vineyard Zinfandel – 93-95 POINTS
The 2009 Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard (93% Zinfandel and 7% mixed blacks) is equal to the Montafi and just a notch behind the prodigious Monte Rosso. A sexy, heady wine, its dark plum/purple color is followed by a big, sweet kiss of blueberries, blackberries, wild, briery, mountain berries, spice box, pepper, roasted herb and forest floor. This chewy, thick, rich beauty will drink well for 7-8 years.
2009 Russian River Valley Papera Ranch Zinfandel – 92-95 POINTS
Another classic in the making, the 2009 Zinfandel Papera Ranchdemonstrates just how elegant Zinfandel can be with its kirsch and raspberry notes that resemble Grenache more than Zinfandel. There is terrific fruit on the attack and mid-palate, full body and good purity. Moreover, the wood component is pushed to the background. This 2009 should be delicious young and last 4-5 years.
2009 Bennett Valley Cardiac Hill Syrah – 92-94 POINTS
From the famed Cardiac Hill, the 2009 Syrah Cardiac Hill will not make anyone forget the 2008, but it is another great effort. Forty percent whole clusters were used and the crop size was significantly larger than in 2008. The 2009 displays a blue/purple color along with copious aromas of graphite, ink, black currants, crushed rocks and a hint of spring flowers. Full-bodied with surprisingly modest alcohol (14.5%) for this vineyard, it offers a beautiful combination of power and elegance and should age effortlessly for a decade.
Thursday, September 1, 2011 5:26 PM
Bedrock Wine Company is no longer some little known, up and coming winery. Quite the contrary, winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson is clearly a leading force in the making of California’s most intriguing wines from unique, often historical vineyards along the North Coast. Only a few hundred cases made of this and a few of that, so nothing stays on the shelf for long. Any self-describing Zinfandel lover must try the Bedrock and the Lorenzo’s… You owe it to yourself! – Anya Balistreri
*Notes from Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, May/June 2011:
2010 Sonoma Coast Syrah
2009 Sonoma County Cuvée Caritas – 90 POINTS
(A 55/45 blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc): Bright yellow-gold. High-pitched aromas of grapefruit rind, green apple and white flowers, with musky lees and smoky nuances adding complexity. Concentrated and tactile, with very good cut to its intense citrus and floral flavors. Has a firm backbone and closes with very good, chewy persistence.
2009 Old Lakeville Vineyard Syrah – 92 POINTS
(vinified with 40% whole clusters): Bright violet. Intense scents of blackberry, cherry-cola and candied violet, with strong mineral and spicecake accents. Shows energetic, peppery, very pure flavors of dark berries and candied flowers. Picks up a wild herb note on the back, finishing sweet and impressively long, with lingering suggestions of tangy minerals and allspice.
2009 Lorenzo’s Heirloom, Dry Creek Valley – 90 POINTS
(A blend based on 50% zinfandel and 25% carignane): Opaque purple. Powerful, ripe cherry and blackcurrant aromas are deepened by strong mineral and violet tones. A rich, rather brooding style, with chewy texture and deep, liqueur-like dark fruit flavors. Finishes ripe and very long, with powerful tannins; this could use some time to loosen up.
2009 Kick Ranch Syrah – 92 POINTS
Inky purple. Rich, pungent aromas of singed plum, blackberry, cherry compote and espresso, plus a hint of licorice. Full and weighty but lively as well, with strong cherry and plum flavors accented by dark chocolate, espresso and candied violet. Finishes with pliant, harmonious tannins and excellent persistence. This decidedly rich, powerful wine would work well with grilled meats or strong cheeses. There’s 5% viognier in here and all of the grapes were destemmed; it’s carrying 15.1% alcohol but I get no heat.
2009 Rebecca’s Vineyard Pinot Noir – 90 POINTS
Bright red. Vibrant redcurrant and cherry aromas are enlivened by fresh rose, Indian spices and zesty minerality. Bright red berry and bitter cherry flavors are framed by silky tannins and given lift by a hint of tangy blood orange. Puts on weight with air and picks up a darker blackberry note, finishing with very good clarity and nervy cut.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:21 PM
I understand. You found paradise in America, you had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. And you didn’t need a friend like me. But now you come to me, and you say: “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather.…. (Ooohhh, chills).
Well, last night marked the (hold for pensive moment…23rd? 57th? 134th?) time I’ve watched “The Godfather”. How does one describe a movie like this to someone who’s never seen it? Well, if you’re me, your eyes bulge out of their sockets and you stammer out something like What!? How have you never seen this movie?! It’s like, it’s uh… I mean, it’s just really good.
Enough said, right?
OK, for the sake of conversation, you could say it’s the 3-part story of an old world family making their mark on new world soil. Oooh, more chills. And so, it is with this story (and all the delicious details) fresh in my mind that I felt inspired to pay homage to a trilogy of wines with Italian bloodlines but domestic zip codes. The following wines aren’t your typical let’s-take-a-stab at “Cal-Ital” and see what happens type of thing. NOT at all. In fact, I’d venture to guess that the creative minds behind the bottles wouldn’t be too keen with such a quaint categorization of what is not only their professional passion, but their personal identity.
P A L M I N A
Ex-surfer/rockstar/Italophile, Steve Clifton (of the Brewer-Clifton fame) and his wife Chrystal (fluent Italian speaker and former wine manager at Bouchon) are the the heart & soul behind Palmina in Santa Barbara, where they make wines that not only represent the varietals indigenous to Italy, but also the culture & lifestyle surrounding the consumption of wine. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen another domestic winemaker so insistent upon the fact that they make wines meant to complement food… in addition to“conversation, celebration, and love.” (I don’t know if that’s more Californian or Italian but I like it!). Based on the two wines we have from them, I’d say they ain’t kidding. Both thePalmina 2010 Santa Barbara County Pinot Grigio and the Palmina 2009 Santa Barbara County Barbera are in a nutshell, wildly unexpected. The fruit shows through in a way that suggests they’re not trying to hide their Santa Barbara upbringing, yet they have thatundeniable acidity & finesse one finds in their quality Italian cohorts. Both were picked from various cool-climate vineyard sites throughout the area and whole cluster-pressed directly after picking in order to retain the cool evening temperatures. The Pinot Grigio is lively and aromatic(two qualities often missing in P.G. on this side of the pond) with hints of lemon curd, quince, and a bit of mineral flintiness that I like quite a bit. While the Barbera is a melange of dark plummy and more tangy cherry/rhubarb fruit underlined by medium tannins and enough earthiness to give it some street cred.
PETRONI VINEYARDS 2006 Rosso di Sonoma
Most people know Lorenzo Petroni as the face behind the San Francisco institution known as North Beach Restaurant, which serves authentic Tuscan cuisine to weary travelers and eccentric locals alike. However, rumor has it that Lorenzo’s first love is the grape. More specifically, his dream was to be the first California vintner to grow the prized Sangiovese Grosso clone from his native Tuscany in Sonoma soil. Lofty, but apparentlynot impossible. In the Spring of 1992, Lorenzo & his wife stumbled upon a vineyard site on the red, rocky, mineral rich terrain of the Mayacamas Range, bought it the next day, and began growing grapes. His Rosso is aSuper Tuscan-like blend of Syrah, Sangiovese, and Cabernet. Again, awine that aptly reflects both its Italian heritage and its high elevation Sonoma home. Dense blackberry & dark cherry, cedar, spicebox, and hintsof the volcanic soil from which it hails are the hallmarks of the Rosso’s aromatics. On the palate the tannins are soft & rich, but again, the old world structure hasn’t been lost to a heavy, overly-extracting hand.
In keeping with my old-world-meets-new-world theme today, I’m going to grab a bottle each of these wines and head out to watch the Brew Crew play the Giants and eat some sausages…. Italian sausages, of course! – Emily