Vino Ruffino, Pizza Deliziosa

You don't want to hear this, but I'm going to tell you anyway: I got an impromptu invitation to a lunch at Dough the other day that yielded not just the usual great pizza and cheeses, but a host of new winesâ??at least mostly new to me. The prices were good, tooâ?¦

No matter who invites you to lunch at Dough, you still have to wait 30 minutes for a table, but waiting time wasn't wasted: we tucked into a bottle of 2009 Mendocino Vineyards Mendocino County Chardonnay, retail around $10. Made from organic grapes, the wine shows an annoying bit of oak at first, but that soon dissipates in favor of pear and a hint of smoky lees (the spent yeast at the bottom of fermentation barrels). Great for the price.

When you get a table, have the cheese tastingâ??any three from the mozzarella & burrata bar. Burrata caprese, mozzarella di bufala and smoked salmon rollatini were our choices. For the record, I preferred the first two. And I also appreciated the 2009 Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigioâ??less complex than the chard but pretty and again around $10. But just because the cheese is pearly whiteâ?¦

In other words, you can leap right into red wines like the Ruffino Chianti Superiore composed of 75% sangiovese with the balance in merlot and cabernet. Again at around $10, it's a training-wheels Chianti, but has all the expected black plum, cassis, dry tannins and more of the more expensive models. Such as the 2006 Ruffino Reserva Ducale Chianti Classico; it's around $20-$24 and, as expected, is a bigger more refined wine with better integrated fruit. It's worth the step-up in price, but try the Superiore first.

For a real wow!! however, consider Ruffino's 2006 Tenuta Lodolo Nuova Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. You'll have to put this on your wish list for next year's vintage as there's none left in town (though it's available online for about $19-$28 plus shipping). My notes say silky yet powerful with cherry, plum, chocolate and tobaccoâ??not exactly a sundae, but nice and layered regardless. Connoisseurs with deeper pockets will appreciate the 2003 Ruffino Greppone Mazzi Brunello di Montalcino, the flagship wine of the region. It showed a little graceful age to begin with, but the wrinkles went away in a minute or so, allowing its structure to emerge undiminished. It was amplified, by the way, with a pizza specially made for one of the participants: basil, prosciutto and truffle oil.

The rest of us shamelessly went with Pork Loveâ??some made even more shameless with the addition of a fried egg. Dirty Pork Love I guess that makes it. A 2007 Ravenswood Vintner's Blend series Shiraz, all pepper and leathery fruit, paired the pizza to perfection to use an often fraudulent menu term. The same series in a Petite Syrah (around $11) was inkier but less pushy than the Shiraz, focusing on plush, black fruits. Even bigger, the 2007 Ravenswood Dickerson Napa Valley Zinfandel, brimming with burly, black fruit, was tamedâ??not to a whimper but to something you could take home to your parentsâ??by a suave tiramisu with coffee and chocolate. The cream blocks the wine's acid, the chocolate works with the now-emphasized fruitâ?¦who knew. And then I went directly to the gym.

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