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Healdsburg Wineries Celebrate the Tradition of Vino di Tavola (Table Wine)

Healdsburg Wineries Celebrate the Tradition of Vino di Tavola (Jug Wine)

Portalupi's Vaso di Marina, photo by John Capone

Francis Ford Coppola may have reclaimed the historic Inglenook name (which had long ago been converted into an economy-size staple), leaving the future of that jug wine up in the air (and many a skid-row vagrant with one less option.) But in Sonoma, a few producers are reclaiming the tradition of vino di tavola, or table wine, restoring it to its proper place as quality everyday wine — straightforward, yes, but clean and delicious, it is intended to be enjoyed with friends, family and a giant bowl of spaghetti.

From her tasting room one block off Healdsburg Plaza, Jane Portalupi spends her days pouring wine for a thirsty population of locals and visitors while making sure that they have enough prosciutto and cheese to get them through the day. Nearly a hundred years ago, her grandmother was doing pretty much the same thing (minus the purple lounge couches) but in a small village in Piemonte.

Clearly though a lot has changed. “Back then, glass was a commodity,” says Jane’s husband Tim (who is also the winemaker). Milk bottles were often used and reused for many things, including wine. As the winemaker for her village, Jane’s grandmother Marina certainly sent many patrons on their way with a milk jug full of hearty red wine. As an homage to that tradition, the Portalupis have started bottling a blend of their Italian-inspired, California-made red wine in 1.89 liter (about two-and-a-half regular wine bottles) milk jugs complete with both a custom-made cork and a white plastic cap. “We like to call it ‘premium jug wine’ says Tim. “It’s a throw a Tri-tip on the barbeque and have your friends over kind of wine.”

Also, it’s pretty damn good. Full of lively, lush fruit flavor, it has great acidity and plenty of backbone.

Just up the street, Simi is celebrating their 135th anniversary of making wine in Sonoma by selling two-liter growlers of red table wine to visitors of the tasting room. Named Maiale Cieco or “blind pig,” the growlers are similar to the ones that Simi sold during prohibition when visitors came not to drink but to see (wink, wink) unusual attractions, like blind pigs (and, oh, well we’re here…). The tradition continues minus the possibility that your jugs of wine will be confiscated by federal agents on your way back to the city.

Portalupi’s Vaso di Marina is $48. While refills are not available at this time, they are working on it, so hang onto that jug.

Simi’s Maiale Cieco is also $48 and can be refilled at the winery for $36.