Calabrian Gaglioppo Paired with Lamb Chops Calabria Style

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.  And that is exactly what we are doing through Italian Food Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT).  We are taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Calabria!

About Calabria

In the Italy’s deep south, in the ‘toe’ that kicks Sicily into the Tyrrhenian Sea, far away from the traffic filled highways and hordes of tourists is Calabria.  It was colonized by Greeks who name it Enotria; “land where the vine is cultivated high above the earth.”  It is a place with whitewashed buildings perched upon steep cliffs over ultramarine seas.   It is a place with a diverse landscape where picturesque towns and villages are bracketed by mountains and the Tyrrhenian coastline.  It a land at once poor, yet rich in history. It is a place that is a throwback to the authentic la dolce vita!


Image courtesy of


Cirò (pronounced “CHIR-o”) is Calabria’s flagship wine.  With a winemaking history that stretches back thousands of years, it may be the oldest wine in the world still produced today.  And it is the only DOC from the Calabria to have retained prestige through to contemporary times.

The region produces mostly red wines from the key indigenous grape variety Gaglioppo, introduced by the Greeks centuries ago. All Ciro Rosso are made from 95% Gaglioppo, with the remaining 5% from the white varieties Greco Bianco and Trebbiano Toscano.  Limited amounts of Bianco (White), and Rosato (Rosè) are also produced.

Ciro Rosso Riserva wines are considered the best that Ciro, and indeed Calabria, has to offer.  They are matured for at least two years before release, of which six months must have been spent in oak barrels.

2010 Librandi Cirò Rosso Classico Superiore Duca Sanfelice Riserva ($15.99; Beltramos)

When it comes to Cirò there is one producer whose wines are the most renown.  That is Librandi. Duca Sanfelice is the name of a single vineyard owned by the Librandi family in the coastal area of Ciro in Calabria.


It is a crimson color with smoky, earthy, red fruit aromas and a hint of graphite. On the palate it’s medium-bodied,  and fresh showing slightly astringent tannins in Day 1 that soften to appealing dusty tannins on Day 2. It shows focused, juicy black cherry, red currant flavors with a  bit of minerality and a delicious lingering finish. Very good QPR @$16! I would buy it again!

I paired the wine with Costolette d’Agnello Alla Calabrese (Lamb Chops Calabria Style with Tomatoes, Peppers and Olives)


 The Food and wine pairing

The wine, which is soft and juicy with vibrant acidity, was a great match for the dish!  Like seemingly all Italian wine is very versatile at the table.

Check out what my fellow #Italian bloggers are sharing about Calabria:

Join our conversation!  If you see this soon enough, please join our Twitter conversation on this Saturday, February 6th @ 8am PST.  We chat using #ItalianFWT!  We’d love to hear your experiences or just come to learn more about this southern region in Italy.


Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As 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 Copyright 2016 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

A Taste of Lazio #ItalianFWT

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.  And that is exactly what we are doing through Italian Food Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT).  We taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Lazio!

Lazio, which is also goes by it Latin name, Latium, is located central Italy.  Its neighbors include  Tuscany to the north, Campania to the south, Abruzzo to the east and Umbria to the northeast.

It’s home to the ancient capital city of Rome with its art, historic sites, and of course, a plethora of gustatory delights.

Understandably, with Rome as the crown jewel of the region, it’s easy to overlook other places to see, and things to do.  But, should you want to take the road less traveled, consider a visit to Tivoli, home to two Unesco World Heritage Sites: Villa Adriana, the sprawling country estate of Emperor Hadrian, and the 16th-century Villa d’Este, a Renaissance villa famous for its landscaped gardens and lavish fountains.  Or perhaps Viterbo, which despite sustaining heavy bomb damage in WWII, is the region’s best preserved medieval town.

Both are easy day trips from Rome.



Lazio Wine

Before we received this month’s theme, I’d never heard of Lazio. The region’s vinous reputation is primarily based on its white wines.  Among the 30 DOCs, there are three white wine DOCs that stand out – Castelli Romani (the most important), Frascati (the more renowned and traditional) and Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone.  The region has three DOCGs –  Cannellino di Frascati,  Frascati Superiore and Cesanese del Piglio, which produce a dessert wine, a blended white wine and a red wine respectively.

In My Glass And On My Plate

I wanted to try both a white and a red wine from the region.  I was able to track down a couple of the DOCG wines – a Frascati Superiore (K&L Wine Merchants) for my white and Cesanese del Piglio (Beltramo’s) for my red.

Let’s begin with the white…

Frascati  is named after  a tiny, ancient town in the hills just south-east of Rome. Grapes have been cultivated for wine in the area since the 5th century B.C.!

Several grape varieties may be used to make Frascati wines, but the core is formed by the classic central Italian white-wine blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia.

The wine doesn’t have the best reputation.  It’s an easy-going, often the innocuous, dull wine that’s served as “house wine” all across Rome.

Casale Marchese Frascati Superiore ($14, 13%) Imported by Oliver McCrum Wines


The Casale Marchese property dates back to the middle ages.  It’s been owned by the Carlettie family since 1713.  The grapes for this wine are sourced from 40 year old vines.  It is a blend of Malvasia del Lazio, Trebbiano Toscano, Malvasia di Candia, Bonvino and Bellone.  The wine is raised in stainless steel and sees no malolactic fermentation.

The wine pours a very pale yellow color.  It shows aromas of peach, apple, dried herb, almond and a bit of lemon aromas.  On the palate it’s medium-bodied and zesty with peach, green apple, nectarine, and lemon flavors underscored with an appealing vein of minerality

This is a delicious, delightful every day white wine that I’d buy again. Very Good (86-88 pts) >>Find this wine<<

I paired the wine with Spicy Linguine with Clams and Mussels.  It was a wonderful pairing. The shellfish seemed to bring out the lemony acidity of the wine, and the minerality of the wine was a satisfying complement to the dish.

A Taste of Lazio - Spicy Linguine with clams and mussels

Spicy Linguine with Clams and Mussels

2013 Casale Della Ioria Cesanese del Piglio Tenuta Della Ioria  ($24.99, 14%) Imported by Oliver McCrum Wines

Cesanese (“chae-sah-NAE-say”) is an ancient red wine grape indigenous to Lazio.  It’s quite possible that Cesanse was local wine of ancient Rome because the grape existed in the region during pre-Roman times.

Cesanese gives credibility to Lazio’s growing wine culture. Produced near the hilltop hamlet of Piglio, Cesanese del Piglio…boasts winemaking roots that date back to 133 B.C. and the ancient Romans who first recognized the favorable position…Soils are red and dark in color, and volcanic tufa stone is common in the Colli Albani area.- Wine Enthusiast

There are two different genetically unique Cesanese species. One is called “Cesanese Comune” or “Local Cesanese” and the other is called “Cesanese d’Affile. Cesanese d’Affile is considered the finer of the two grapes.

Cesanese del Piglio DOCG is considered the best Cesanese wine, made with 100% Cesanese grapes from the Frosinone Province.

IMG_3048Casale della Ioria is ‘Lazio’s best producer of Cesanese’ according to Italian wine expert Ian d’Agata.

Fruit for this wine is grown in Ciociaria.  The wine is made from Cesanse di Affile.  It is aged in French barriques.

The wine is a dark ruby color with promising red fruit, juniper, and forest floor aromas.  On the palate it’s medium-bodied  and fresh with a very smooth texture, and a subtle savory character.  It shows distinctive Morello cherry, red mulberry, hints of red currant, black olive and vanilla flavors with an earthy undertone.  

The wine reminds me of a cross between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.  Among the many things I enjoyed about this wine is that takes a chill quite well. I’ll be adding it to my (short) list of chillable reds.  Very Good to Outstanding (89-91pts) >>Find this wine<<  

I paired this wine with Sausage, Pepper and Mushroom Spiedini with Grilled Truffled Polenta.

A Taste of Lazio

My grill marks didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, but the truffled polenta was flat-out delicious!

And what a  harmonious food and wine pairing it was!  Cesanese is a very versatile wine at the table. Will buy more!

Sausage, Pepper and Mushroom Spiedini with Grilled Truffled Polenta
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1¾ cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp of truffle oil
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 pound basil garlic sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 (10-inch) skewers
  1. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and truffle oil. Stir until butter melted.
  2. Pour the cooked polenta into the baking pan and smooth the top. Let cool until firm, about 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. When the polenta is cool, invert it onto a cutting board and slice it into 12 squares. Brush the squares with a little canola oil and grill until they are heated through and have nice grill marks, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Meanwhile, if you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes or while you prepare the sausage and peppers.
  5. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Arrange the sausages on the grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes giving them a ¼ turn every couple of minutes. Remove them to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut them into ½-inch thick pieces. The sausage will not be completely cooked through. It will finish cooking on the skewers with the peppers and onions.
  6. While sausage is cooking, core and slice the peppers. Cut them and the onion into 1 by 1-inch pieces.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons canola oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning and mustard.
  8. When you are ready, heat the grill or grill pan over medium heat. Thread each skewer with 3 pieces of the sausage, 4 pieces of onion and green pepper and 2 pieces of the red pepper making sure to alternate the ingredients. Brush them with the oil and vinegar mixture and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the skewers on both sides until they are hot and sizzling, about 6 to 8 minutes. Arrange them on a serving platter and serve with the grilled polenta

I really enjoyed both these wines.  Both were wonderful expressions of the grapes and a taste of Lazio!

The first Saturday of each month, the #ItalianFWT bloggers visit a region of Italy. Check out the other posts about Lazio:

If you’re seeing this early enough make sure to join us live on twitter at 8am PST. Follow #ItalianFWT. Tell us your food, wine or travel stories of Lazio. We look forward to chatting with you.  Next month on Saturday August 1st we’ll feature the island of Sardegna in Italy. Feel free to join us! Ciao!


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. 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 Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

A Taste of the Tuscany Coast #ItalianFWT

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.  And that is exactly what we are doing through Italian Food Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT).  We taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This we’re exploring Tuscany!

Exploring Tuscany Through Food and Wine

Unlike last month’s “tour” of Emilia-Romagna, I’m pretty familiar with Tuscany.  It’s one the largest wine regions in Italy,and arguably its most well known.  Tuscany is situated in central Italy and stretches from the Apennines in the east to the emerald Tyrrhenian Sea in the west.  It famous for its endless rolling hills, artistic heritage, medieval villages and stand-out cities like Florence.  Tuscany’s reputation as of one of  Italy’s foremost wine regions is based on iconic wines such as ChiantiBrunello di Montalcino , Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Super Tuscans.

On My Plate

Being familiar with Tuscan red wines, I wanted to try something different and try a Tuscan white wine.  A search of my favorite wine shop came up with Vernaccia.  And when I looked for a dish to pair with Vernaccia, my attention was drawn to the less well-known Tuscan Coast.  There in the port city of Livorno, you will find Caccuicco alla Livorna, a popular traditional seafood dish with a history that stretches back at least five hundred years. Its name probably comes from the Turkish for ‘minute’ which is ‘kuciuk’. It reminds me of my beloved Cioppino, which is believed to have its origins in San Francisco. Game on!


This “bottom of the boat” seafood stew delivered “top shelf” flavor (especially the octopus)! I think it has an earthier, more savory character than Cioppino, which I really enjoyed.  And the recipe is definitely a keeper!

Cacciucco (Tuscan Seafood Stew)
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
This Tuscan soup traditionally uses fish considered "bottom of the boat"—those left behind after more valuable fish have sold.
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced parsley
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh sage leaves
  • ½ tsp. red chile flakes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 12 oz. calamari, cleaned and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 12 oz. baby octopus, cleaned and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (14-oz.) can chopped tomatoes with juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup fish stock
  • 1 (1-lb.) monkfish filet, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 (1-lb.) red snapper filet, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 12 oz. large shell-on shrimp
  • 12 oz. mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 8 (1″-thick) slices country-style white bread
  1. Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add parsley, sage, chile flakes, and 4 cloves garlic, minced, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add calamari and octopus, and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir well, and cook until paste has darkened slightly, about 1 minute. Add wine, and cook, stirring often, until the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes along with their juice, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until seafood is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in stock, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add monkfish, and cook, covered, until just firm, about 5 minutes. Add snapper and shrimp to the pot and scatter mussels over top. Cook, covered, without stirring (so as not to break up the seafood), until the snapper is just cooked through and the mussels have just opened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Toast bread, and rub liberally with remaining garlic clove. Ladle stew between bowls, over bread or with bread on the side.
I made a few substitutions due to lack of availability of ingredients. I substituted sablefish, wild dover sole, and Alaskan spot prawns for monkfish, red snapper and shrimp.

In My Glass

I headed back inland to the small medieval village of San Gimignano for my wine.  San Gimignano, located north of Siena in the heart of Tuscany is home to Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Vehr-NAHCH-ya dee Sahn Jee-mee-NYAH-noe). The “city of the beautiful towers”, as it is often called, has been a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. 


Vernaccia-based wine from San Gimignano has a long history, and since the Renaissance period has been considered one of Italy’s oldest and most noble wines.  (Source)


The Vernaccia di San Gimignano was a milestone of Tuscan wine-making.  It was the first national wine (1966) to get the DOC classification, (Appellation of Controlled Origin). In  upgraded to DOCG status in 1993.  It’s the only white wine DOCG in Tuscany.


My tasting notes follow:

Light yellow-green with lime, and tangerine, wet stone and a hint of floral aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and fresh with an ample texture,  with lime, tangerine, and a bit of spice flavors with a surprising and pleasing touch of tannins. Long mineral driven finish. 13% alcohol. Great QPR at $16! Will buy more!

This was my first taste of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a rare tannic white grape variety, but it won’t be my last.  The wine was outstanding and it was great pairing with the Caccuicco!

Our Tuscan journey doesn’t stop here.  Join all of our other bloggers as they share with you their experience through the region of Tuscany.

Join us next month on Saturday March 7th as we travel to the region of Trentino-Alto Adige in the northeastern part of Italy in the Dolomite mountains.  For additional Italian related blogs on the food, wine and travel of Italy stay tuned to #ItalianFWT on Twitter throughout the month.  Ciao Ciao!


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 Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.  

Wine Pairings for Home for the Holidays #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme “Home for the Holidays”, and is all about holiday traditions. Americans are such a diverse people.  As such, we have diverse holiday traditions that reflect our multitude of heritages. I prefer to focus on the common threads that run through the our diverse national fabric.  Among those common threads are family and tradition, and that’s  #SundaySupper movement is all about.

Our family tradition is to gather on Christmas Eve for our holiday meal and opening gifts (it used to be one gift when I was a kid, and when my kids were small – since we all adults now, and getting together can be like herding cats, we just open all the gifts on Christmas Eve). We’ve enjoyed Prime Rib, the last couple of years, but don’t really have a long-standing standard holiday meal. I guess, it’s more about getting together than what we eat.

Wine Lights Candles

Image courtesy of

For this week’s “Home for the Holidays” theme, as best as I can, my wine pairing recommendations will reflect our diversity.  Aside from wanting to make my wine pairing recommendations congruent with this week’s theme, my reason for doing so also reflects some pragmatic food and wine pairing advice…that is pair the foods of a place with the wines of that place (Spanish wines with Spanish food, German wine with German food, etc).The flavors of food and wines that have “grown up” together over centuries (at least primarily in the case of the European “Old World” countries) are almost always a natural match. So where I could readily discern a heritage of the dish, my wine pairing recommendation(s) will be for a wine from that country. Of course, there are exceptions, but keeping this guideline in mind is a great place to start.

Here is this week’s stellar line-up of dishes.  My wine pairing recommendations are italicized.


Pair these breakfast dishes (except the coffee cake) with sparkling wine. Nothing like adding some sparkle to your morning to start the day!.  Look for Scharffenberger Brut Excellence, a California sparkling wine from Mendocino County.  It’s a blend of Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir with a lovely red fruit, apple, citrus and a touch of honey character.  

Pair the coffee cake with the Broadbent 10 year Malmsey Madeira. One of the things I appreciate about Madeira is that it’s relatively indestructible.  Once opened, it will keep for at least 6 months.  It’s a great dessert wine to keep on hand because it has a backbone of natural acidity.  It a great match for fruitcake, or rich desserts made with cream or chocolate. Or it can be the dessert in and of itself (If you have a sweet tooth, Madeira can satisfy it, and it has few calories too most other dessert choices!;-) 

Appetizers & Snacks

Pair these dishes with the Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

Main Dishes and Sides

Pair this dishes with a white Rhone blend. What’s great about blends is that the combination of grape varietals creates vinous synergy – a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Look for the 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc. It’s a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. It’s a crisp and aromatic wine with honeysuckle and stone fruit aromas that follow onto the palate. It also has very good acidity and an appealing minerality that make it versatile food partner.

Pair the following dishes with the 2011 Burgáns Albariño Rias Baixas a crisp, fresh food-friendly white wine from Spain with a crisp apple, apricot and peach character. 

Pair these dishes with Gruner Vetliner (Groo-ner Velt-Leen-er), the primary white grape variety of Austria.  It is typically medium-bodied, high-acid mineral driven wine that is very food friendly.  Look for the 2011 Laurenz V. Singing Gruner Veltliner. 

Pair these dishes with Sangiovese (that is if you prefer wine over the delightful Martinis;-). I recommend the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a “Super-Tuscan blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, 2% Colorino and 3% Ciliegiolo.  It shows a wonderful mixed berry, and spice character with a bit of smoky tobacco, and licorice aromas. 

Pair this dish with the Scharffenberger Brut Excellence sparkling wine:

Pair these dishes with Torrontes, a white Argentine wine grape variety that produces delightful, spicy, perfumed wines.  Look for the 2011 Bodega Colome Torrontes. It’s off-dry with an aromatic fresh citrus, kiwi, and white flower character. 

Pair these dishes with a Riesling.  One of my favorites is the 2011 Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein “Dragonstone” Riesling. It’s an off-dry Riesling with an apple, pear, citrus, and mineral character with great acidity. 

Pair this dish with the 2009 Boas Vinhas Tinto Dao, a red wine from Portugal that is a blend of the indigenous Portuguese grapes Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz with a  plum, dried berry, blackberry and spice character that is layered with supple tannins and good acidity.

Pair this dish with a Moscato d’Asti Moscato d’Asti from Italy.  Look for the 2011 Saracco Moscato d’Asti. 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. It’s also a wonderful example of why I love sparkling wines, they can work with all the courses of a meal from appetizers through dessert. 


Pair these desserts with a Sauternes,  a sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section of Bordeaux. They are made from  SémillonSauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes affected by noble rot.  Look for the 2005 Guiraud Sauternes.  It has a full-bodied, honeyed, lemon tart, baked apple, baking spice, and  vanilla cream character

Pair these desserts with an Oloroso Sherry, a denser richer style of Sherry.  Look for the Lustau East Indian Solera. It’s a provocative sweet creamy Sherry with a toffee, fig, caramel, raisin, and baking spice  (cinnamon and clove) character. 

Pair these Italian desserts with the 2011 Saracco Moscato d’Asti.

Pair this dish with a late harvest Riesling.  Look for the  2011 Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese. It’s a has an elegant, floral, spicy, exotic, and tropical fruit character. 

Pair this dish with an a German Red wine made from the Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) grape variety. Look for the 2009 Friedrich Becker Estate Pinot Noir.  It’s a spicy treat with a strawberry, cherry, and earthy character that will stand up to having the Pfeffernusse dipped in it, or used as a based for gluhwein, a spiced red wine drink!


What does it mean for you to be Home for the Holidays?  Please join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper on December 23rd.  In the evening we will meet at 7pm EST for our #SundaySupper to talk about our Holiday Traditions.  We are so excited to have you join us.  All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

Please feel free to share with us and our followers your favorite Holiday recipe on our #SundaySupper Pinterest Board.  We are excited to have you!

Sunday Italian Gravy – Wine Pairing Smackdown!

We invited some friends over for dinner and decided to make the classic Italian-American dish Sunday Italian Gravy (Hearty Italian Meat Sauce) from Cook’s Illustrated (click “Watch the video” at this link) .  Its a dish I made earlier this year in February for Open That Bottle Night.  We enjoyed it with a bottle of  2005 Rosenblum Cellars Kick Ranch Reserve Syrah.  It was a fabulous pairing (click  here for my blog post)

Though the Syrah was fabulous with Sunday Italian Gravy, I wondered if an Italian wine might pair even better with this hearty Italian Meat-A-Palooza comprised of six different types of meats simmered slowly in a robust tomato sauce for a few hours.   Ah yes…time for a wine pairing smack-down!

The smack-down contestants were the reigning champ – the 2005 Rosenblum Kick Ranch Reserve Syrah, and two Italian challengers  – the 2004 Pio Cesare Barolo, and 2008 Gabbiano Chianti (a last minute entry courtesy of a friend who doesn’t like to come to a dinner party empty handed – my favorite kind of friend!)

It took me about 3 hours to prepare the dish (about half the time that’s typically spent making the dish), and it turned out wonderfully! We served the hearty meat sauce with spaghetti, an Italian salad, and homemade garlic bread.

Sunday Gravy

The rules for the smack-down were simple:

  1. Get the wines ready to drink (i.e. decant the wines – 7 hours in the case of the Barolo, and 3 hours for the Syrah).
  2. Sip, savor, and tell me which you like best with the dish.

We started with the exalted Italian challenger, Barolo.  Breathing therapy seemed to help sooth the surly tannins of the brooding Italian, as the Barolo wooed the judges with its seductive aromas, complexity, balance, full body, and a staying power.  The judges were duly impressed and several asked for an encore performance all the while commenting about how well it harmonized with the Sunday Italian Gravy, and its remarkable balance.   Next up was the reigning champ hailing from California, the Kick Ranch Syrah.  Unfazed by the impressive showing of the Italian Barolo, and knowing its strengths, it quickly pounced on the judges with more vivid, though overall less complex aromas, gobs of extracted, dark, rich Sonoma fruit, sultry spiciness, and matched the body of the Italian challenger. While it didn’t have the staying power of the Barolo, it too flaunted its pairing proclivity with Sunday Italian Gravy.  Lastly, and sadly least, was the Chianti.  It should have sat out this competition of heavyweights. It was clearly the 98 pound weakling of the bunch, and the judges politely, but swiftly bounced the Chianti from the competition.

The judges conferred, and in a close, but unanimous decision avowed their preference for the… (drum roll please)

Pio Cesare Barolo!! (clickhere for my review).

Related stuff you might find interesting:

Sunday Gravy with Ween (Benito’s Wine Reviews)

Que Syrah Syrah

We went to an Indian restaurant recently.  Indian food can be a challenge to pair with wine, so we asked our food server for a recommendation for the entrees we ordered.  He suggested a couple of wines that he felt would pair well with our meals.  The wines he recommended turned out to be good with our entrees.  But  it got me to thinking about great wine/food pairings. The first such pairing that comes to mind is Hearty Italian Meat Sauce (Sunday Gravy) we had with a 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Reserve Kick Ranch Syrah.

Italian Meat Sauce (Sunday Gravy) is an over the top tomato sauce that typically calls for six different types of meat and a day at the stove.  I took some short cuts, and used 3 types of meats – baby back ribs, meatballs made with ground beef, pork, and veal, Italian sausage, prosciutto, and Pecorino Romano cheese.  It turned out quite well, the ribs were tender, and the meatballs were the best I’ve ever had!

It paired perfectly with the Syrah – meaning the wine and food, each made the other taste better.

I think Syrah is a wonderful varietal for a couple reasons:

  1. Syrah is a pretty versatile wine that can be served with a variety of dishes.  Of course it works well with all kinds of red meat from burgers to roasts, but I’ve found it pairs well with tomato based dishes including jambalaya and pizza.
  2. I think it tends to be a better value than the more prevalent reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir.  Particularly the Syrahs (a.k.a Shiraz) from Australia.

Syrah is made in a variety of style depending on where the grapes are grown, weather, and vinification (turning grapes into wine,  including fermentation, types of barrels used, etc.)  Try a few to see what you like.

In terms of flavor/aroma profile of Syrah  – look for black cherry, blackberry, plum, clove, licorice and smoked meat. Its aroma can range from violets to berries to chocolate and  espresso.  These aren’t all inclusive of course, but they’re a good place to start.

I like to share the flavor/aroma profile of varietals because rather than smelling a wine and trying to think of what it smells like, I like to run list of possibilities through my mind.  I find it easier to hit on the aromas I’m searching for.  For me, it’s the difference between essay vs. multiple choice, if you will.