Wine-tastings you can warm up to in Feb., March

Sam Messina at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover is featuring a look at California's new releases on Saturday.
Sam Messina at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover is featuring a look at California’s new releases on Saturday.

For the winter weary, but wine wicked, here are several key dates to put on the calendar.

On Wednesday, March 4, I will be co-hosting an Italian Wine Tasting Dinner at the United Teen Equality Center in downtown Lowell with UTEC’s culinary team, headed by Chef Sam Putnam. Seating is limited to 40 persons, so act quickly. Tickets cost $75 per person and can be reserved by calling UTEC at 978-856-3976.

Chef Sam has developed a four-course meal, including a sumptuous braised lamb main entreé featuring wild mushroom risotto and broccoli rabe — just like my mom still makes on her best days (she’s turning 96 on March 15!). For a look at the menu, visit UTEC’s website at Click on the Italian Wine Tasting Dinner icon for the full menu, including wines. We’ll close out the night with coffee and Sam’s special fennel and almond biscotti with grapefruit granita. Of course, as Sinatra used to say in Vegas, a good house gets a good surprise — and I’m planning a delightful “taste” from the old country to close the evening out in style.

We’ll be tasting the following Italian wines: Prosecco and Trebbiano, both whites; and Barbera d’Alba and Chianti Classico, both reds.

Dinner guests are guaranteed a fun night learning the history of the different grape varietals, their exclusive growing location (terroir), the wine-making process, and the foods that pair well with them.
All proceeds from the dinner will benefit UTEC’s many youth educational programs. This evening is also being made possible from a donation from Eastern Bank and assistance from Tutto Bene Wine & Cheese Shop in Lowell.

On Saturday, Feb. 21, the Wine ConneXtion on Main Street in North Andover will continue its tasting series on 2012 California wines, from 1 to 5 p.m. This is the second complimentary California event staged by Sam and Tina Messina, showcasing what Sam describes as an “outstanding” vintage. If you missed the first one, don’t miss this one. Sam has brought in several “hidden gems” from Napa Valley, Sonoma and the Central Coast, both reds and whites, that offer high quality at a value price. There’ll be some 90 pointers that sell for less than $20.

On Saturday, Feb. 28, Sam has scheduled another top-notch free event, “France on a Budget”, for wine lovers who are searching for “inexpensive treasures” from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Languedoc and other regions of France. “These wines won’t bust anyone’s budget,” says Sam, “although they’ll taste like you had to empty the vault to get them.” The event runs from 1 to 5 p.m.

New year, new look

Andover Liquors in Shawsheen Plaza on Route 28 is undergoing a complete renovation and is shut down for construction for at least three weeks. According to Andrea DiFiore, the store’s manager and wine buyer, the modernization effort is going to result in a “breathtakingly” new experience for wine and spirits enthusiasts.

“Ease of comfort and convenience for customers is the main goal,” said DiFiore. “We’ll have all new sections and platforms and several new checkout counters located in different locations. It’s going to be fantastic. And, of course, we’re bringing in all new stock, which is exciting.”
Stay tuned for news of the grand re-opening.

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