CiboDivino, the beloved Italian grocery, pizzeria and wine bar at Sylvan Thirty, gives new meaning to the phrase "house wine." Chef-owner Daniele Puleo sources a trio of wines from Italy for his own Puleo brand, wine bottles available to go from CiboDivino under a label adorned with cartoon bicycles.
"I wanted to have my own wine label for years," Puleo says. "My joke is, I love wine so much that I hate it when people eat grapes."
Originally he wanted to source the wines from his native Sicily and his hometown of Palermo, but Puleo couldn't find "someone serious" about collaborating with him and exporting the wine. Ultimately, he teamed up with Fattori, a winery in the Valpolicella region, in the Alpine foothills north of Verona. "These people are just incredibly talented," Puleo says. "I visit the vineyards and they are state-of-the-art."
Puleo's wines include a prosecco, pinot grigio and Chianti. These varieties were chosen because, well, they sell.
"Traditionally and historically, pinot grigio and Chianti are the biggest Italian wines in terms of export," Puleo says. "Obviously, in Italy, you drink your own wines from your area. You would not often find a bottle of Barolo on a dinner table in Sicily."
What about that bicycle on the label? There's no deeper meaning, Puleo says.
"Just the fact that I like bikes," he says, and also that the bicycles are CiboDivino's nod to its neighborhood. Oak Cliff residents often bike to the market, and Puleo himself lives just around the corner in Kessler Park. Look at the basket on the label: It holds a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine.
So how do the wines taste? We tried all three bottles to find out.
Christina Puleo Prosecco Brut, $17.99
This bubbly is named after Daniele's wife. "She's a prosecco lover," Puleo says. "I worked on it as a surprise for her."
It's a pretty good, straightforward bottle. Big bubbles, a gentle disposition and middle-of-the-road flavor make it a crowd-pleaser for toasts and an Italian-themed New Year's party. There's a slightly tart, metallic aftertaste, but for the price Puleo Prosecco is a darn good deal. It's just plain nice.
Would We Buy It Again? Yes.
Puleo Pinot Grigio, $13.99
Pinot grigio can be a pretty dull choice — or it can be part of a crisp new wave of winemakers who focus on getting the basics right. Puleo says to look for flavors that are "very big on tropical fruits. It's got the pineapple, it's got the lychees, a little apricot, a little green tea."
Unfortunately, at our informal tasting only one of three judges really liked it. Strong flavors of apple give way to a powerful sweet-tart vortex that made me pucker up and feel sugared out. Even though it's just 12.5 percent ABV, the alcohol burn can be strong. Maybe stir it into a risotto.
CiboDivino and Whole Foods sell Fattori's own label Soave white wine for about $10 more. That wine is truly terrific, colorful and subtle, a crazy bargain for the quality and well worth the extra bucks. If you're a connoisseur, or inviting one over for dinner, spring for that bottle instead.
Would We Buy It Again? No.
Puleo Chianti, $15.99
This Chianti reminds me of one of the awesomest words I've ever seen in a wine tasting note: "gluggable." Puleo Chianti is truly gluggable — so easy to drink and light-bodied that killing a bottle with friends (or, honestly, without friends) would be no problem at all. Like all these wines, it's low in alcohol, at 12.5 percent.
The downside of such a mild-mannered wine is that it's not exactly complex. I honestly can't provide any real tasting notes for this. (Puleo suggests cherry and dried oregano.) It tastes like wine. You know what wine tastes like. But honestly, it also tastes pretty good. Throwing a house party? Drowning a bad day at work? Making spaghetti? Puleo Chianti is here to help.
Would We Buy It Again? Yes.
What's next for CiboDivino's house labels? Puleo just got back from his homeland where, he says, "2016 was one of the best vintages in 20 years, all around Italy." That's exciting news. Also exciting: He hopes to start making a good Tuscan Rosé in the next few years. We'll be ready.