Wine Tasting Club Blind Tastes 18 Merlots!

I can barely believe it, but the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) is 5 years old!  When my wife and I started the community-based wine-tasting club in 2010, there were only 3 folks who showed up for our first tasting – a neighborhood couple and a friend. The PPWTC has since blossomed into vibrant community of wine-loving friends with a strong core of 20, and probably another 20 folks who attend from time to time.

We celebrated our 5 year anniversary by choosing Merlot for the tasting, since that was the theme for our very first meeting!

Here’s how our tasting went down:

  • Merlot priced between $10-$35
  • All wines are tasted blind
  • Tasters are required to score all wines
  • The wines are scored based on 4 criteria (aromabody, taste, and finish) - each on a scale of 1-5 (1-low; 5-high). Therefore minimum score = 4 points and maximum = 20 points
  • Both average and median scores are calculated.  The winner determined by highest average score.  The median score used as tie breaker.

We tasted a total of 18 Merlots  Most (11) were from California, with France (4) and Washington State (3) rounding out the lineup.

This was our biggest tasting yet! There were 30 tasters.  Since a bottle of wine only holds 25 ounces, we split the tasters into two groups.  Each group tasted 9 bottles of wine.

Group 1 included 18 tasters with a diverse blend of “newbies”, sporadic tasters and “hardcore” tasters.

Group 2 included 12 tasters, and was heavily skewed toward more “hardcore” experienced tasters.

 The Group 1 winner was...

1. 2010 Guardian Cellars Confidential Source - $35

Guardian Cellars is a Washington State based winery owned by the husband and wife team of Jerry Riener and Jennifer Sullivan, a police-officer and reporter respectively.  The winery is based in Woodinville. Most of the wines have law enforcement inspired names like Confidential Source, Entrapment and Gun Metal. 

IMG_1462Here are the runner’s up….
2. 2011 Wente Vineyards Merlot Sandstone - $14
3. 2012 Markham Merlot>Napa Valley - $24
4. 2011 L’Ecole No. 41 Merlot Columbia Valley - $24
5. 2010 Hall Merlot - $20
6. 2009 Château Arnauton - $19
7. 2010 Mauvais Garçon (Bad Boy) - $14
8. 2010 Château Haut-Mazeris - $20
9. 2010 Jean-Louis Denois “Chloé” Limoux - $14

  The Group 2 winner was..

1. 2011 Cafaro Merlot - $35

Cafaro Cellars is located in St. Helena in the Napa Valley.  It was  founded in 1986 and is owned and run by Joe Cafaro. He has a long history in Napa Valley (since 1969) of making wine at select well-known wineries including Chappellet, Keenan & Dalla Valle, among others. Initially he made wine from purchased fruit but in the mid 90’s he acquired a 15-acre hillside vineyard right next to the southern boundary of the famous Stag’s Leap District. All fruit for Cafaro’s wines come from this vineyard. It is in a beautiful location slightly elevated over the valley floor set among rolling hills. He planted this with several varietals and manages all aspects of the growing and winemaking. His total production is about 3000 cases.(Source)

IMG_1471Here are the runner’s up….
2. 2012 Francis Ford Coppola Merlot Director’s Cut - $27
3. 2006 Turning Leaf Merlot Reserve - N/A
4. 2000 Markham Merlot Reserve - N/A
5. 2013 Hobo Wine Company Merlot Camp - $16
6. 2012 Charles Smith Merlot The Velvet Devil - $10
7. 2010 Curvare Merlot Carneros - $17
8. 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot - $15
9. 2012 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot Decoy Sonoma County - $35

The tasting was was a rare victory (well actually double victory) for the most expensive wine in each group.  That’s the exception rather than the rule for our blind-tastings.  The winner of Group 1 – Guardian Confidential Source edged the 2nd place wine, Wente Sandstone Merlot, which offers very good value at $14.  One the other hand, the Cafaro Merlot scored a solid victory in Group 2.  There were two surprises in Group 2 for me.  The first was that the  2006 Turning Leaf Merlot Reserve came in third. Turning Leaf is a value brand and I was surprised it did as well as it did with the more experienced tasters. The other is that that Decoy Merlot came in last.

After the scores were tabulated and winners revealed each group had a chance to taste most of the wines from the other group. The Cafaro and Guardian didn’t last long…

It was an exciting night full of fun, food, fellowship and a bit of wine education! And isn’t that what a wine tasting club should be about!

Cheers!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

 

 

2015 Zinfandel Experience Media Tasting – Top 20 Favorites

I attended the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”) 2015 Zinfandel Experience Trade and Media Tasting held at Rock Wall Wine Company on Wednesday, January 28th

The Trade and Media tasting featured 90 or so wineries, and I’d guesstimate at least 200 wines available for tasting.

2015 Zinfandel Experience Media Tasting – Top 20 Favorites

The Media tasting was held for 3 hours from 2-5p.

So many Zins, so little time!

My plan?  Taste some familiar producers for sure.  But I also like to seek out new to me producers to see if I can discover a gem or two.  I also keep an eye out for wines offer great value.

Pictures

L-R from upper left – Acorn Owners Betsy & Bill Nachbaur, Beekeeper Zins were killer!; Alise of Chase Cellars with Hayne Vyd Reserve, Joel Peterson of Ravensood was pouring 1993 Belloni Zinfandel from magnum; Bedrock Wine Co’s stellar line-up of Zins!

I tasted 95 wines from 40 (including 10 new to me producers) of 90 or so wineries that were pouring.  

My Top 20 favorites were (in alphabetical order):

  • 2012 Acorn Zinfandel Heritage Vines Alegría Vineyards – $45
  • 2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Heritage Wine Evangelho Vineyard – $35
  • 2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel Old Vine – $25
  • 2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock Heritage Wine – $45
  • 2012 Beekeeper Cellars Zinfandel Black Sears – $75
  • 2012 Beekeeper Cellars Zinfandel Madrone Spring – $65
  • 2013 Robert Biale Zinfandel R.W. Moore Vineyard – $50
  • 2012 Charter Oak Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard – $50
  • 2011 Chase Zinfandel Reserve Hayne Vineyard – $75
  • 2012 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Florence Vineyard – $35
  • 2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard – N/A
  • 2012 Kokomo Zinfandel Rockpile – $42
  • 2012 Limerick Lane 1023 – $56
  • 2012 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Block 1910 – $48
  • 2012 Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Hill – $60
  • 1993 Ravenswood Zinfandel Belloni – N/A
  • 2012 Ridge Lytton Springs – $38
  • 2013 Ridge Geyserville – $38
  • 2012 Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel Rocky Reserve Florence Vineyard – $35
  • 2012 Turley Zinfandel Mead Ranch -$N/A

Conclusion:

Is it just me or is the price of Zinfandel creeping up? I experienced a bit of sticker shock on more than a few of my favorites. Only one of the my favorites was under $30, and more than a third were over $50.  Yikes!

The bombastic, frat-party-gone-wild image might have been useful for establishing an identity for Zinfandel, but now winemakers … prefer to talk about balance, elegance, restraint and food compatibility – Steve Heimoff (Source)

I must say I’m not totally surprised. As the conversation around Zinfandel shifts more toward a more “serious” tone. Why shouldn’t a well-made Zinfandel command the same prices as other more “serious” grape varieties?

Hey…if you make it, and price it over $50, and they will come…More power to you I say!

I did find a few wines that were $20 or less that I’d recommend:

  • 2013 Cline Lodi – $12
  • 2013 Cline Ancient Vines, Contra Costa County – $18
  • 2012 Cline Sonoma County – $20
  • 2012 Pedroncelli Mother Clone, Dry Creek Valley – $17
  • 2012 Pedroncelli Bushnell vineyar, Dry Creek Valley – 20
  • 2012 Carol Shelton Wild Thing Old Vine, Mendocino County – $19
2015 Zinfandel Experience Media Tasting – Top 20 Favorites

Caught this view of the San Francisco skyline as I left Rock Wall Wines…a fitting punctuation point on a day well spent with beautiful wines!

My take on the state of Zinfandel?  The quality of wines made from America’s heritage grape variety has never been better.

As I write this there’s still time to get your Zin on at The Tasting, and Sommelier & Winemaker Terroir Workshops on January 31st!

Get some!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

 

Wine of the Week; 2012 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  This week’s wine is the 2012 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Casillero del Diablo Legendary Collection.

The Winery

Casillero del Diablo is one of the many brands of Concha Y Toro, the largest producer of wines from Latin America and is one of the global leaders in wine production. Legend has it that Don Melchor de Santiago Concha y Toro, who founded Concha Y Toro in 1883, created the wine legend of  ”Casillero del Diablo” (which translates to the “Devil’s cellar”) when he spread rumors that the devil lived in the cellar to keep strangers away from his private reserve.

Casillero del Diablo is one of the most popular brands in its native Chile, and the most renown Chilean wine brand in the world. It is sold in 135 countries and they sell around three million cases a year.

Since 2010 has partnered with English Football Club Manchester United. This wine is

The Wine

Fruit for this wine was sourced from the one of Chile’s most promising regions, the Colchagua Valley in central Chile.  The area is known for producing some of Chile’s finest wine, primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere , and Syrah.

This wine is blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Carmenere. It was aged for 14 months in a combination of medium-toasted French and American oak barrels.

14.5% alcohol; Retail – $18

IMG_1409

My tasting notes follow:

Dark garnet color with plum, violet, blackberry, eucalyptus, oak. and dried herb aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with a supple texture and cassis, blackberry, and a bit of dark chocolate flavors. Medium-long finish.

Rating: B+; I really enjoyed this wine!  While this is a one-time commemorative bottling, this is a Cab I recommend seeking out, especially if you like a bit of “greeness” in your Cab.   It offers very good value!  >>Find this wine<<

Pair with: Grilled meats, stews and hard cheeses

Sample provided for review. Many thanks to Creative Palate Communications!

Ratings Key

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2012 Vigneto San Vito – Orsi Pignoletto

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  This week’s wine is the 2012 Vigneto San Vito – Orsi Pignoletto Colli Bolognesi Classico Vigna del Grotto.

The Winery

Federico Orsi & Carola Orsi Pallavicino founded Orsi – Vigneto San Vito in 2005 with the intent of revitalizing Bolognese wines. They found a site on the hills (200m above sea level) outside of Bologna  in Emilia Romagna.  They tend to 15 hectares of 50-year-old vines, with a focus on grapes and traditions that are indigenous to this area.

Their vineyards are certified organic and biodynamic.  They take that some “slow wine”, minimal intervention approach in the cellar utilizing native yeast, and bottling their wine unfiltered and unfined.  They do so because they seek to elaborate wines indicative of their land and to highlight the region’s unique style.

In addition to this wine, Orsi-San Vito also produces a sparkling Pignoletto, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grappa

The Wine

This was my first time trying Pignoletto, a Italian white grape variety indigenous Emilia-Romagna, which has has two DOCGs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – the highest classification for Italian wines)Albana di Romagna, and Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto.

This wine is from the latter. It is 100 % Pignoletto.  Fermented in large oak cask.  After fermentation, the wine was aged 9 months sur lie with occasional battonage. Aging sur lie imparts some complexity and a wonderful creaminess to the wine.  It was aged in bottle for another 6 months before release.  Bottled unfiltered and unfined.

.13% alcohol; Retail – $22.99

IMG_1451 (1)My tasting notes follow:

Slightly cloudy gold color (unfiltered) with lime zest, honeysuckle,and stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, fresh, and very persistent with a wonderfully supple texture. Flavor-wise it shows white peach, lime, honey, and a suggestion of persimmon flavors with a long mineral laced finish. 

Rating: A-; I really enjoyed this wine!  It was a nice change of pace, and a great winter white wine!I  Will buy more! >>Find this wine<<
Pair with: Pasta dishes prepared with fish, or chicken, mushroom risotto or Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

2015 Slow Wine Tour Coming to San Francisco

You’ve probably heard of the “Slow Food” movement, which was emerged from Italy’s Piedmont region more than 25 years ago in 1989. The slow food movement’s mission is… good, clean and fair food for all.

What you may not know, at least I didn’t until recently, is that there’s also a “Slow Wine” movement.

Slow Wine Logo

In 2010, Slow Food International began its independent Slow Wine project with the release of a Slow Wine Guide(1)The guide adopts a new approach to wine criticism and looks at a variety of factors to evaluate wineries in their entirety, taking into consideration the wine quality, typicity and adherence to terroir, value for money, environmental sensitivity and ecologically sustainable viticultural practices.

“We have abandoned the very easy-to-understand, but ultimately also trivializing, method of awarding points and sought to look beyond the glass…What matters is a wine’s soul” – Giancarlo Gariglio and Fabio Giavedoni

Next week more than 50 winemakers from 15 Italian wine regions will bring their bottles across the pond for the annual Slow Wine tasting in San Francisco. An afternoon trade tasting will be followed by an evening consumer walk around tasting where you’ll have the chance to taste the wines about 100 wines!  Admission includes a copy of the 2015 Slow Wine Guide .  Here are the details!

When: January 29, 2015 – San Francisco

WhereTerra Gallery 511 Harrison St. - San Francisco, CA 94105

Times:

12.30 pm – 4.30 pm: open to industry Register here

6 pm – 8.30 pm: open to the public Get your ticket here

Discounts: Enter promotion Code ENOFYLZ for a $15 discount! 

Remember, in order to maximize your enjoyment and learning at public tastings:

  • Wear dark, comfortable clothes
  • Hydrate
  • Spit
  • Skip the perfume and cologne

Hope to see you there!

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(1) About Slow Wine
The Slow Wine Guide, published by Slow Food Editore (the publishing arm of Slow Food Italy**) adopts a new approach to wine criticism and looks at a variety of factors to evaluate wineries in their entirety, taking into consideration the wine quality, typicity and adherence to terroir, value for money, environmental sensitivity and ecologically sustainable viticultural practices. Slow Wine was conceived to give a realistic snapshot of the current Italian wine landscape. The guide features reviews of 400 different wineries, each one visited by Slow Food experts. It is available for purchase on Amazon.com as well as in select bookstores.

Related Post You Might Enjoy:

The Slow Wine Way – The Washington Post

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.  

Wine Pairing Recommendations for Hometown Foods #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about hometown and  the wonderful memories one’s favorite hometown foods may evoke.

What I call “hometown” has always been a challenge for me.  I was born in Chicago, but moved to California with my parents as a teenager. I’ve spent (way) more than half my life in California.  But most of my relatives still live in Chicago.  So when I think of what my hometown is, Chicago is top of mind, but I’ve been in California so long that I also feel that’s my home too.

But in terms of hometown foods, I’m going say “both”!.  Chicago and San Francisco are arguably, the top two food towns in the U.S. (with apologies to NY’ers – I guess I still have a bit of the Windy City chip on my shoulders when it comes to NYC;-)

Wine Pairing Recommendations for Hometown Favorites #SundaySupper

The first foods from my two hometown’s that come to mind are Chicago’s Garrett’s Mix popcorn – an amazing mash-up of Caramel and Cheddar popcorn that sweet and salty like Kettle Corn.  In terms of San Francisco, the first food that come to mind is the Hangtown Fry - arguably the first California cuisine. It originated during the Gold Rush and consists of fried breaded oysters, eggs, and fried bacon, cooked together like an omelet.

What’s your favorite hometown food?

Check out this week’s fabulous hometown favorite recipes put together by the #SundaySupper food bloggers and my wine pairing recommendations – all under $20!

Breakfast and Snacks

I say start the day with some bubbly!  Pair these breakfast favorites and snacks with Moscato d’Asti. One of my favorites is the 2013 Saracco Moscato d’Asti ($10). It shows a sweet, fragrant, delicate, floral, tropical fruit, and a hint of honey character.  It’s “frizzante”, which means it’s not as effervescent as most sparkling wines. 

Enjoy these dishes with one of the most versatile food pairing wines – a sparkling rose. My favorite “everyday” sparkling rose is Deligeroy Crémant de Loire Brut Rosé ($13).  It drinks well above it’s $12.99 price point and has a lovely soft texture with a delicious and inviting strawberry, and cherry character.

Drinks

Appetizer, Side and Main Dishes

Pair these dishes with Chardonnay.  Look for the 2013 Spellbound California Chardonnay ($12).  It’s has a lively, lush tropical fruit, apple, crème brûlée, and vanilla character. Delicious stuff!

Pair these dishes with a Sauvignon Blanc.  Look for the 2013 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc ($10).  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity. 

Pair these dishes with Riesling, the white version of a “goes with virtually anything” wine.   Look for 2013 Charles Smith “Kung Fu Girl” Columbia Valley Riesling ($10). It’s off-dry so it’ll handle some spice, and it fruit forward, and fresh with lychee, nectarine, peach and a bit of citrus character. 

Pair these recipes with a red blend.  Look for the 2012 Bogle “Essential Red” Old Vine Red Blend ($9).  It made from old vine Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. It has a juicy, smooth, fruit forward character with exotic dark fruit and vanilla character

Pair these dishes with Chianti.  One of my perennial faves is Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva($19).  It’s made from Sangiovese grapes and has a wonderful black cherry, plum, spice, and tobacco character.

Desserts

Pair these dessert with a Port.  Look for the Quinta do Noval Black Port ($18).  It’s a revolutionary new port from one of the world’s legendary estates. It’s fruity and sweet with a jammy, fig, blackberry character.  Excellent with chocolate dessert!

Pair these dessert with a Sauternes, a dessert wine from France. Look for the 2010 Haut Charmes, Sauternes ($14).It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon that has been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot, that which intensifies its sweetness and gives it a honeyed character. It has a rich with fresh acidity and a pleasing tropical fruit characer.

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more greatSunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

A Taste of Emilia-Romagna #ItalianFWT

Sometimes the universe smiles on you.  My 2015 wine resolution is to perfect my palate for Italian wines.  And by “perfect my palate”, I don’t mean developing greater tasting acuity.  For me, it means “living” with a particular wine, learning everything one can about it, and buying as much of that wine as your pocketbook will allow.

As it turns out, I know a few food and wine bloggers through Wine Pairing Weekend (#winePW), also exploring Italian wines, one region at a time through the Italian Food, Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group started by Jennifer Gentile Martin.  This month we’re focused on Emilia-Romagna!

Top Ten Things I Learned About Emilia-Romagna

One of the things I love most about food and wine is their ability to transport one to a different place.  And a  place’s people, culture, and customs are reflected in its food and wine.  In that sense, one can virtually travel the world through food and wine. 

Bologna - the capital of Emilia-Romagna. Image courtesy of blog.eataly.com

Bologna – the capital of Emilia-Romagna. Image courtesy of blog.eataly.com

Emilia-Romagna is in many ways, a largely undiscovered region of Italy. I know it’s totally new to me.   So it was a fun to get to know a bit about it.  Here are the Top 10 things I learned about the region.

  1. If you ask an Italian about the best food in Italy (aside from their mother’s kitchen;-) the answer is likely to be Emilia-Romagna, which is widely regarded as Italy’s ultimate gastronomic destination.
  2. The  of Italy’s most loved culinary delights have origins in the region, including Parmigiano-Reggiano, Proscuitto di Parma, Balsamic Vinegar, Lasagna Bolognese and all manner of stuffed pastas including Tortellini and Tortelloni, Ravioli, Cappelleti, Cannelloni.  The flavors of Emilian cooking are extra-large and luscious!
  3. Emilia-Romagna spans nearly the entire width of Italy. It is sandwiched between Tuscany to the south, Lombardy and Veneto to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the east. It is the only Italian wine region with a both an East and West Coast
  4. Real balsamic vinegar is made only in Emilia-Romagna, in the towns of Modena and Reggio.  So if you’re looking for authentic balsamic vinegar look for one labeled aceto balsamico tradizionale de Modena or Reggio.
  5. Lambrusco –  The grapes used for Lambrusco are of the Vitis labrusca species rather than the Vitis vinifera used in approximately 99% of the world’s wines. There are at least 13 indigenous Lambrusco grape varieties, and 8 Lambrusco DOCs, and 2 IGT/Ps.  Three that specialize in artisanal Lambrusco are Salamino di Santa Crocedi Sorbara, and Grasparossa di Castelvetra.
  6. Emilia-Romagna has two DOCGs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – the highest classification for Italian wines), Albana di Romagna, and Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto.  Both, to my surprise, are white wines.
  7. If castles are your thing, there are plenty to see, including the renown Castles of Parma and Piacenza.
  8. There are plenty of major cities to see including the capital of the region Bologna Modena, Parma, Ferrara, and Ravenna, but there you’ll also find the charming beach town of Rimini, and plenty of charming lesser traveled villages.
  9. The oldest Renaissance Festival in the world is held in Ferrara.
  10. Anyone watch “Borgia” TV series that started in 2011? I did, and it seems like many of the central characters, and places are of Who’s Who of Emilia-Romagna history.

On My Plate

After reading about the some of the region’s classic food and wine pairings, it was time to take a bite of Emilia-Romagna!
After reading about Lambrusco’s affinity of salume, I tried a couple of classic pairings; a Salume Crudo plate that included Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Proscuitto di Parma wrapped cantaloupe.

DSCN0775-001
Then I decided to combine two classic products from the region Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Proscuitto di Parma, and make a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.
IMG_1452
The sandwich was amazing – best “ham and cheese” sandwich I’ve ever had!
Grilled Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and Prosciutto di Parma Sandwich
Author: 
Recipe type: Sandwich
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Two classic products of the region of Emilia Romagna go into this delicious "ham and cheese" sandwich
Ingredients
  • 4 slices Artisan Italian Bread
  • 1½ cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
  • Coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
Instructions
  1. Heat a heavy 12-inch skillet over low to medium-low heat. Sprinkle half of cheese over two bread slices. Generously grind pepper over the top. Place two slices of prosciutto di Parma over the cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top, pressing down gently to set.
  2. Brush sandwich tops completely with half the olive oil; place each sandwich, oiled side down, in skillet. Brush remaining side of each sandwich completely with remaining oil. Cook until crisp and deep golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes per side, flipping sandwiches back to first side to re-heat and crisp, about 15 seconds. Rub the toasted sandwiches with the garlic half. Serve.
Notes
I used Sperlonga bread. Next time I'll use a bread without so many large holes in it, as the grated cheese falls through.

In My Glass

Of course I had to try the regions most famous wine – Lambrusco, but I also wanted to try a white wine too.

Lambrusco has had a bad reputation in the U.S. thanks mostly to Riunite, which introduced their insipid and overly sweet sparkling red wine in the 1970’s and ’80s But real Lambrusco is bone-dry with flavors of fresh fruits, earth, minerals, and roses. It’s also low in alcohol.  In Emilia-Romagna, it’s consumed much the way we consume soda here in the U.S.  It’s a refreshing afternoon quaff, and it pairs impeccably with the region’s rich cheeses and salumi.

I chose a wine from Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro. Lambrusco grasparossa is the particular type of Lambrusco, and Castelvetro is where it’s from (near Modena) It’s the smallest wine-producing region located south of the town of Modena. The wines of this region are typically dry and full-bodied, and the most tannic Lambrusco.  Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro is usually at the top of the dark-&-foamy scale in terms of Lambrusco.

The grapes are estate grown and fermented into a dry red base wine; three or four times a year batches of the base wine are re-fermented in pressurized tanks to add sparkle. The wine is bottled in a champagne bottle with a champagne cork. I should emphasize that this wine bears no resemblance to the mass-produced Lambrusco that was popular here some years ago, and if you haven’t had a good example of this wine you should try it.

Barbolini “Lancillotto” Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro – S12.99

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My tasting notes:

Purple violet color with purple delicate mousse. On the nose it shows foxy, earthy, dark cherry, berry, spice and a bit of dried herb aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and well-balanced with a hint of dusty tannins on the back end with black cherry, black grape, and a hint of spice flavors. 11.5% alcohol.  Bottled in a Champagne-style bottle with a traditional sparkling wine cork.  Recommended!

It was excellent paired with my salume plate and the Grilled Parmigiano-Reggiano and Proscuitto di Parma sandwich!

Note:  If you’re looking for a “dry” Lambrusco, it will be labeled “Lambrusco Rosso/Rosato Frizzante Secco” 

For my white, I went with Pignoletto - a lively crisp white wine grape variety indigenous to Emilia-Romagna.  I went top shelf and chose a wine from the Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto DOCG. Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto was the second DOCG to be granted to the Emilia-Romagna wine region, joining the esteemed Albana di Romagna in November 2010.

2012 Vigneto San Vito – Orsi Pignoletto Colli Bolognesi Classico Vigna del Grotto – $22.99

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My tasting notes follow:
Slightly cloudy gold color (unfiltered) with lime zest, honeysuckle,and stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, and fresh with a wonderfully supple texture and white peach, lime, honey, and a hint of persimmon flavors. Lingering mineral laced finish. Bottles unfiltered. Battonage during 6 months sur lie aging in large oak casks impart some complexity and a wonderful creaminess.  Highly recommended! Will buy more!
This wine paired especially well with the Proscuitto di Parma wrapped cantaloupe.  It also paired well with the Parm on its own.  And interestingly, it paired well with the Grilled Proscuitto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano sandwich too. It brought the Parmigiano flavor in the sandwich and to the fore in a favorable way. It would also pair well with pasta dishes with fish or shellfish, or mushrooms and truffles.
I don’t know about you, but Emilia-Romagna is now on my bucket list!

Don’t stop there!  Join our other bloggers and their featured articles this month on Emilia Romagna:

Join us next month on February 7th as we travel to one of the most famous regions of Italy, Tuscany!  For additional Italian related blogs of food, wine and travel throughout the month stay tuned to #ItalianFWT.  Ciao ciao!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.  

Wine of the Week; 2012 Sandlands Chenin Blanc

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  This week’s wine the 2012 Sandlands Chenin Blanc is all of the above.

From The Winery

Sandlands is the personal project of Tegan and Olivia Passalacqua. The line-up encompasses the forgotten classic California varieties, primarily grown in decomposed granite (sand), from regions and vineyards that have been farmed for many generations but have remained the outliers of California viticulture. 

Primarily head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted, the vineyards we work with harken back to California’s roots of exploration, wonder, and hard work.

“…Sandlands, which debuted to the sort of demand about which Napa viscounts only dream. For that, he focused on wines that offer other prisms into California: Carignane from Contra Costa County, Grenache from Placer County and his personal cause celebre, Chenin Blanc”. – Jon Bonne

Passalacqua’s “day job” is winemaker and viticulturist  for Turley Wine Cellars. He, along with Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Co., were just honored as Winemakers of the Year by San Francisco Chronicle Wine Editor, Jon Bonné.  He was also featured prominently in Bonné’sThe New California Wine – A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste. 

Sandlands wines are available via a mailing list

The Wine

Planted in 1979 and grown at 1500 feet in a mixture of iron rich volcanic, quartz and decomposed granite soils, this vineyard is head-trained, dry-farmed and own rooted. The wine is barrel fermented with native yeasts in 3-5 year old Burgundy barrels and aged on its lees for 15 months with no stirring or racking prior to being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

12.8% alcohol; Retail – $24.00

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My tasting notes follow:
Pale yellow color. Initially opens with wet wool aromas that give way to white peach, apple, Meyer lemon and a bit of wet stone aromas. On the palate its medium-bodied, and dry with wonderful acidity and texture with green apple, white peach, baked apricot, citrus, and a hint of spice flavors. Lingering satisfying finish with a bit of minerality. 12.8% alcohol. Wonderful at the table!
Rating: A-This is a wonderful wine that’s food friendly.  
Pair with: Grilled or pan-fried Paiche, Lemony Quinoa Salad with Pine Nuts, or Sweet and Sour Chicken or Shrimp!

Ratings Key

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings. Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.  

Skillet Kale Pesto and Seitan Pizza with Querceto Chianti Classico for #winePW

Wine Pairing Weekend is a monthly collaborative event for wine/food bloggers started by David Crowley of Cooking Chat.  It’s a great way to find food and wine pairings that work; along with tips on how to create your own food and wine pairing magic. The theme for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend is New Wine Resolutions for the New Year

Go hard, or go home…that’s my motto…at least when it comes to resolutions.  With that in mind, I decided hit all three of my food and wine resolutions right off the bat…

  1. Cook at least one recipe from Cooking Light each month - I’ve been subscribing  to “Cooking Light” for more years than I care to admit, yet I rarely make anything.  It’s been years of looking at the pretty pictures, and thinking about, rather than acting on the great ideas for delicious, healthy food.
  2. Perfect my palate for Italian Wine -  I almost always consume wine with food and I think Italian wines are, across the board, the most food friendly wines.  Yet, I only enjoyed a grand total of 4 bottles of Italian wine in 2014. A pity. That will change in 2015!
  3. Eat meatless at least once a week - Surely I can carve out at least one day a week to invest in my health. Right?

The Food

There is was – fresh out of the mailbox – the January/February issue  of “Cooking Light”. With one of the main themes of the issue being “How to Eat Clean in 2015″, there were plenty of great ideas and recipes.  But I didn’t find vegetarian dishes that floated my boat.  So, I decided to convert the  Sausage and Kale Pesto Pizza to vegetarian by swapping  Upton Naturals Italian Seitan for the Italian sausage in the recipe. Viola! Vegetarian!

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And what is seitan (say-tahn)?  It’s a plant based protein derived from the protein portion of wheat. It stands in for meat in many recipes and works so well that a some vegetarians avoid it because the texture is too “meaty.”

The other appeal of this recipe for me was Cooking Light’s claim that…

Cooking pizza in a skillet is a revelation: guaranteed dough success for even the most timid pie makers

“Cool” I thought because I disdain any recipe with the words “yeast” and “degrees” in it.  I’ve even experienced abject failure when using pre-made dough. It inevitably turns out oval or some other ungodly shape.  And that’s after I’ve struggled with the flour on the counter and my hands thing.

Could this recipe be my pizza pie making salvation?

Yes!  The pizza turned out beautifully!

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The pizza was actually round and the was dough was relatively easy to work with. Hallelujah!  It was also quite delicious and exceeded my expectations. I loved the meaty, ample texture of the seitan, and I didn’t miss the Italian sausage a bit!

Skillet Kale Pesto and Seitan Pizza
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 slices
 
"Cooking pizza in a skillet is a revelation: guaranteed dough success for even the most timid pie makers" - Cooking Light
Ingredients
  • 10 ounce refrigerated fresh whole-wheat or whole-grain pizza dough
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ounces Upton's Italian Seitan
  • 3 ounces prechopped curly kale (about 3 tightly packed cups)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about ½ cup)
Instructions
  1. Place dough on counter at room temperature; cover to prevent drying.
  2. Preheat broiler to high.
  3. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan. Add kale, 2 tablespoons water, and sugar to pan; cover and cook 2 minutes or until kale wilts. Place kale on 2 layers of paper towels; squeeze out excess moisture. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.
  4. Place nuts and 1 garlic clove in a mini food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add kale; pulse until finely chopped. Add 2 tablespoons oil; process until almost pastelike (add 1 to 1½ tablespoons water, if necessary). Add Parmigiano-Reggiano; pulse mixture just until combined.
  5. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Roll dough into a 10½-inch circle. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Fit dough in pan, pressing slightly up sides of pan. Top evenly with pesto; sprinkle with sausage and mozzarella. Cook 2 minutes over medium-high heat or until browned on bottom. Place pan in oven; broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Cut into 8 wedges.
Notes
I modified the recipe by adding 3 cloves of minced garlic rather than 1. I substituted 4 ounces of Upton Italian Seitan for 3 ounces of Italian sausage in the original recipe
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 8 slices

The Wine

Castello di Querceto is a Tuscan estate owned by the François family who settled in Tuscany in the 18th century from their French homeland.

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My tasting notes on the wine follow:

Ruby color with savory black cherry, tobacco, dried mushroom, and cedar aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, elegant, and well structured with dusty tannins, and dried and backed black cherry, a hint of blueberry, vanilla and tobacco flavors with a lingering finish. This wine grew on me with each sip. Definitely a food wine and a good value at $17! 13 % alcohol 

The Pairing

I decided to go with the “what grows together goes together” tenet of food and wine pairing.  And pizza and Chianti is a classic pairing.  And I considered this a “good” pairing – one where the food and wine achieved peaceful co-existence, but didn’t quite make it to each made the other better.  The challenge was the pesto sauce, I thought the seitan would be the dominant flavor.  And it was  - on the front palate. But the kale pesto stepped to the fore on the back palate, and for me it was good, but not great. I think this would have been a much better pairing had the sauce been tomato rather than pesto.  Next time (and there will be a next time!), I’d try a Rosé, which I think will take the pairing up a notch.

Check out these great ideas food and wine combinations from my fellow #winePW bloggers:

Remember to join us for our Twitter Chat on Saturday, January 10th at 8 a.m. using hashtag #winePW.  

Join us next month when we solve all your Valentine’s Pairing dilemmas hosted by @CulinaryCam!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2012 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Bianco

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2012 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Bianco

The Winery

Castello di Amorosa is Napa Valley’s own slice of Tuscany.  It’s a winery with its own authentic Tuscan castle (Approximately 121,000 sq. ft., including 107 rooms on 8 levels above and below ground), and one of Napa’s premier “destination” wineries.  While I’m not a huge fan of destination wineries because the wines often take a back seat to whatever the attraction is (they don’t call Napa Valley “adult Disneyland for nothing;-), Castello di Amorosa is an exception.  In addition to a great experience touring an authentic Tuscan castle (complete with a torture chamber), you’ll find plenty of  ”better” and “best” wines rather than simply ” good” wine.

The story is how the castle came to be is fascinating (click here for history of the project). When Dario Sattui who also owns and operates the V. Sattui Winery, conceived the idea his thought was…

 I would specialize in making small lots of primarily Italian-style wines, showcase them in an authentic, medieval castle setting and sell them directly to the public, not in stores or restaurants.

Castello di Amorosa offers a wide array of wines.  In addition to the wines one would expect to find at a Napa Valley winery, (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel) they also offer three Gewüztraminers (dry, slightly sweet, and late harvest), various Red, Rosé, and White Italian varietals, Muscato Canelli port, and a slightly sweet, sparkling Rosé!

Castello di Amorosa produces about 8,000 cases a year.  The wines are only available at the winery, through its wine club, or online (www.castellodiamorosa.com).

The Wine

Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) is a member of the Pinot family that includes Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Meunier.  It is a crisp, dry white wine originally from France’s Burgundy region. Today, it has found an important place in Alsace, Northeastern Italy as well as California.

Wine of the Week; 2012 Castello Pinot Bianco
My tasting notes follow:
Pale yellow green color with melon, subtle pineapple, apricot, and citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, dry and clean with vibrant acidity, and melon, pineapple, lemon, orange rind, apricot and bit of spice baking spice flavors Lingering finish. 13.9% alcohol

Rating: A-; This is a wonderful wine that’s food friendly.  

Pair with: Seafood gumboCreole Grilled Shrimp RollsThai-Style Chicken Legs , or your favorite hors d’oeuvres.

Wines provided as a samples for review.  Many thanks to Castello di Amorosa and Julie Ann Kodmur
Ratings Key:
(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.