A Taste of Friuli – Got Pignolo? #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 are taking a virtual tour of Italy by exploring its food and wines.  This month we’re exploring Friuli Venezia Giulia!

Here’s a great overview of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region from Lonely Planet:

With its triple-barrelled moniker, Friuli Venezia Giulia’s multifaceted nature should come as no surprise. Cultural complexity is cherished in this small, little-visited region, tucked away on Italy’s far northeastern borders with Austria and Slovenia. Friuli Venezia Giulia’s landscapes offer profound contrasts too, with the foreboding, perpetually snowy Giulie and Carnic Alps in the north, idyllic grapevine-filled plains in the centre, the south’s beaches, Venetian-like lagoons and the curious, craggy karst that encircles Trieste.

Photo credit: www.diwinetaste.com

Photo credit: www.diwinetaste.com

While there’s an amazing reserve of often uncrowded historical sights, from Roman ruins to Austro-Hungarian palaces, this is also a fine destination for simply kicking back with the locals, tasting the region’s world-famous wines and discovering a culinary heritage that will broaden your notions of the Italian table. Serene, intriguing Trieste and friendly, feisty Udine make for great city time – they’re so easy and welcoming you’ll soon feel as if you’re Friulian, Venezian or Giulian too.

The Wines of Friuli

Over the years, I’ve heard many good things about the wines produced in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. In fact, when I first considered joining the #ItalianFWT, it was primarily because Friuli was at the top of “wines to taste” list!

Friuli is a small wine region with a big reputation for producing some of Italy’s best white wines.  The region’s wines stand out noticeably from other Italian wines because its wines are made using a combination of (mostly) non-traditional  and traditional grape varieties.  The non-traditional grape varieties include grapes such as Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.  While the traditional and indigenous grape varieties include quintessentially Italian grapes such as Pinot Grigio and the region’s own Picolit, Ribolla Gialla and Friulano.

The region’s winemakers have a reputation for being forward-thinking. They even pioneered the “Friuli method”, a modern technique for getting juice off the skins quickly.

Friuli holds three DOCG titles, all for white wines. The Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit and its Ramandolo enclave in the region’s eastern hills produce sweet whites from Picolit and Verduzzo grapes. They were joined at this highest rank of Italian wine classification in December 2010 by the dry, Verduzzo-based wines of Lison.

There are ten DOCs in Friuli.  Two are generally considered to be exceptional – Collio Goriziano, which is usually known simply as Collio, and Friuli Colli Orientali. 

In My Glass

It’s actually been cold in California recently(well Ok…Cold for California; lows in upper 30s ; highs in upper 50s where I live).  That put me in the mood for red wine.  So no Friuli whites, or orange wines for me this go round.  And since, I’m a sucker for new to me autochthonous (indigenous) grapes, I picked up a bottle of the 2009 Ermacora Pignolo Colli Orientali del Friuli  from my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants.

Pignolo is rare grape, native to Friuli and known for being “grumpy” and difficult to grow. Until a few decades ago, it was all but obsolete. The Ermacora family is among the few brave winemakers to replant this grape, and its patience has been rewarded.

 A Taste of Friuli - Got Pignolo?

The wine pours an inky violet ruby color with beguiling, and complex black fruit, dried herb, savory spice, graphite and a hint of lavender aromas.  On the palate it’s powerful, yet light on its feet.  It’s fresh and well structured with dusty well-integrated tannins with delicous black cherry, blackberry compote, a kiss of black currant, plum and vanilla flavors with an appealing minerality, and a long satisfying finish. Aged for over 36 months in oak barrels and 4 months in bottle.  If Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah had a child, it would be this wine. I double decanted before drinking.  Retail -$30; 14.5%. Highly recommended!

juicy steak

Photo credit: themeathouseblog.com

 The wine was wonderful paired with a grilled bone-in Rib-eye steak! 

Check out the other delectable Friuli food and wine pairings my fellow bloggers are featuring:

Join our live chat Saturday December 5th at 8am PST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  We can’t wait to hear from you.

We can’t wait to start off the 2016 new year with you exploring some of the lesser known regions of Italy starting in January with the Basilicata region.  So come back on Saturday January 2nd as we explore the rest of Italy’s regions.

Related Posts You Might Enjoy:

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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 Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

 

Umbria’s Sagrantino; Call It A Comeback

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 Umbria!  And I’m taking a look at Umbria’s most famous red wine grape variety – Sagrantino.

About Umbria

Umbria is located in central Italy.  It is only Italian region having neither a coastline or bordered by a foreign country.  The region, which also goes by the nickname “the green heart of Italy” is divided into two provinces – Perugia, and Terni. When you’re ready to get off the treadmill that can be more popular destinations like Tuscany, and Lazio, then Umbria just might be for you!

With its verdant landscapes, with rolling hills, mountain landscapes, high plains and lakes Umbria is ideal for folks who want to savor a relaxed countryside experience.  It is a region that is also rich in art and history. Of particular interest to me is the History of Wine Museum of the Fondazione Lungarotti in Torgiano. a place I know I would love to visit.  And of course, there are palazzo, piazza, and cathedrals galore.

And I haven’t forgotten about you foodies! The cuisine of Umbria originates from its Etruscan roots.  It’s rustic fare, often referred to as “cucina povera”, or peasant cooking, which simply means it is built on traditional dishes created with minimal ingredients and methods of preparation that rely heavily on local products such as grains, vegetables, fresh herbs, olive oil, and the prized black truffle found in the Norcia area.

The Umbrian Wine Scene

Orvieto, a DOC reserved exclusively for white wine, is undoubtedly the best-known wine of Umbria.  It accounts for 80% of the regions’ vineyards.  The wines are a blend of Trebbiano Toscano (known locally as Procanico, and Grechetto, which together must account for at least 60% of the blend. The remaining 40% may be composed of any combination of other permitted white grape varieties.

The region has two DOCGs for red wines – Sagrantino di Montefalco, and Torgiano Rosso Riserva.  

Sagrantino is grape varietal that grows around the hilltop town of Montefalco.  Whether the grape is indigenous to the area  is debatable.  What’s not debatable is that the best Sagrantino in the world comes from Montefalco (there’s actually some grown in California – It’s sold by Jacuzzi Family Vineyards).

The grape has a long history in Italy. The first official mention of Sagrantino was by the Ampelographic Commission of the district of Foligno in 1879. There are recordings of vineyards in Montefalco going back to the Middle Ages.

montefalco-overview

Image courtesy of Palate Press

However, by the 1960’s the grape had fallen into obscurity, and was on its way to extinction because many believed it just too austere and tannic for table wine (it’s also made in a sweet passito style wine). 

What makes this wine so special? Well to start with, the geography. The vineyards sit in a bowl surrounded by the Apennine Mountains. The soil is mostly clay with limestone and sand. The climate gets very hot in the summer (and cold in winter), but the clay soils keep the roots cool as they search for water deep in the ground. The mountains provide cooling breezes especially at night. During the hot days a drying breeze called the Tramontano comes from the north limiting rot. The growing season, like much of Italy, is lengthened by the Mediterranean. This climate results in a grape that has lots of tannins yet also sweet dark fruit. – IntoWine

Only a few growers still cultivated the grape, most notably perhaps Fratelli Adanti. Then in 1971 Arnaldo Caprai, who was in the textile business, purchased land near Montefalco, and established an eponymous winery.  The family worked with the University of Milan to research the best practices for growing Sagrantino. In particular tannin management that would yield powerful, but not overly aggressive wines.

Then tide turned for Sagrantino in 1995 when the winery’s 1993 Montefalco Sagrantino was awarded the top rating from Italy’s influential Gambero Rosso wine magazine.  There was an explosion of investment in the Montefalco area.

Since 2000, production of Sagrantino has tripled, to approximately 125,000 cases.  Today, Sagrantino di Montefalco may be the best wine you’ve never tasted!

A Taste of Sagrantino

I chose the 2010 Antonelli San Marco Contrario Umbria IGT.  I know, I know…I’ve been talking Sagrantino di Montefalco wine. How is it I ended up with an IGT wine?

Well for one, Sagrantino de Montefalco aren’t cheap.  Most seem to be in the $45-$60 range.  Secondly,I was curious about this wine because it represents a new way of interpreting the Sagrantino grape. It’s cultivated and vinified in such a way to accessible younger, and produce a fresh, enjoyable wine.

I believe it’s an IGT wine rather than a DOCG not because the fruit isn’t from Montefalco, but because it’s not vinified in the traditional style, which requires 30 months of aging including at least 12 months of that in oak barrels.

Instead this wine was aged in stainless steel vats for 18 months, then assembled and clarified in cement vats for 3 months before bottle ageing for at least 6 months

IMG_3842

My tasting notes follow:

Translucent violet color with a very appealing mixed dark berry, plum, tar, aromatic dried herb and a hint of eucalyptus aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied, very persistent, focused and very fresh with blackberry, black cherry, and plum flavors with firm, well-integrated tannins with a long sweet finish. 14% alcohol. Retail – $20

This is a wine I highly recommend.  I will be purchasing more.  It was an  absolutely wonderful companion for an aged gouda we had on hand.  I’m looking forward to enjoying with heartier fare when it finally starts to feel a bit like fall/winter in California (it was 87 degree last weekend!)

About the Winery

Antonelli San Marco is a wine and farming estate which extends over an entire 170 hectares located centrally within Montefalco’s DOCG winemaking area. With a background rich in history, the Antonelli family is passionately committed to caring for their territory and attentive to the quality of their products. The 125 acre estate is certified organic.

The winery is featured in the Slow Wine 2015: A Year in the Life of Italy’s Vineyards and Wines.  It’s an Italian Wine guide in which wines are judged not only by their sensory qualities and the pleasure they give, but also for their ability to conjure up a sense of place and the eco-sustainability of the cellar that produces them. 

With on-site cooking classes – Cucina in Cantina and lodging at Casale Satriano Agriturismo, it’s a place I would love to visit!

Continue on our Umbrian journey with other fellow bloggers.  Don’t forget to join our live chat on Twitter at #ItalianFWT at 11am EST.  We can’t wait to her about your Umbrian experiences.

All wines purchased for review unless otherwise stated.

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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 Blog.com. Copyright 2015 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

Source: http://italianwinecentral.com

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

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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
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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!

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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. 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.

Shrimp and Cheese Grits with Vietti Arneis #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 (or learn from the ones that don’t); along with tips on how to create your own food and wine pairing magic.  Valerie Quintanilla of GirlsGottaDrink.com is hosting this month’s #SummerofArneis theme featuring summer recipes that pair with Arneis.

On My Plate

Have you ever gotten a feeling that a certain type of wine would pair well with a certain dish?

I don’t exactly know why, but last month when the #SummerofArneis theme was announced, Shrimp and Grits popped into my head.  A couple of weeks thereafter, I was at a local winery that has an Arneis.  I took a sip.  Shrimp and Grits popped into my head again.

I knew I had to try the pairing!

For the uninitiated, Shrimp and Grits is classic dish of the American South with Native and African-American roots.  It was elevated from a humble and simple breakfast dish to haute cuisine in the 1980’s.

I used this recipe for Shrimp and Grits.

Except, when I went to my local grocery store, the only grits they had were instant.  I’m a grits purist from way back.  And instant grits just won’t do.

What’s the difference between grits and polenta? Not much it turns out…but enough to know there’s a difference. At least in texture, if not in flavor.

I used cornmeal instead, thinking it would be a solid substitution.  Alas, my “grits” turned out more like polenta than grits.  Ha! I suppose my recipe could be referred to as Shrimp and Cheese Polenta.  Let’s consider it a bridge between the American South and Italy!

Shrimp and Cheese Grits with Vietti Arneis #winePW

I’m afraid my “grits” may be polenta! Oh well…Buon Appetito!

In My Glass

Arneis (literally “little rascal” in Piemontese) is a white Italian grape varietal originating from Piemonte, Italy. It is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero, northwest of Alba. Arneis  is referred to as “little rascal” because it has a reputation for being somewhat difficult grape variety to grow. so-called because it is regarded as a somewhat difficult varietal to grow.  It is low-yielding, and susceptible to powdery mildew.

For centuries, the white Arneis grape has been added, in small quantities, to Nebbiolo wines soften the tannins and harshness of Barolo.  Traditionally Arneis vines were planted next to Nebbiolo vines largely as a form of protection; the Arneis grapes’ stronger fragrance distracted hungry birds and insects away from the more highly prized Nebbiolo vines..

The grape was approaching extinction until 1967, when the late Alfredo Currado, a member of the well-regarded Vietti wine family, took it upon himself to invest time and effort into rediscovering and understanding the grape.

Luca’s father Alfredo practically invented dry Arneis in 1967 and was responsible for rescuing the variety from extinction; previously Arneis had been vinified sweet. Another name for the variety is White Nebbiolo, suggesting that Arneis could have been an early mutation of the red variety.” – Stephen Tanzer

Today, the grape is more commonly seen as a varietal wine.  In fact, I’ve tried several Arneis from California wineries that I’ve very much enjoyed.

But, once I learned a bit about the history of the grape,  the Vietti family, and saw that it was available at my favorite wine shop, I knew I wanted to try the  Vietti Arneis Roero.

IMG_2867-001

My tasting notes follow:

Very pale green color with pretty stone fruit, white flower, citrus and a hint of hazelnut aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, crisp, persistent, moderately complex, and well structured. It shows peach, apricot, and bit of melon flavors with a complementary mineral note and wonderful length

The Pairing

Overall, this was good pairing – one I would categorize as somewhere between “peaceful co-existence” and “each one makes the other taste better”.  The Arneis was a wonderful complement to the flavors of the shrimp and vice-versa.  I think the issue was the strong cheddar cheese flavor in the grits/polenta. It overpowered the wine at times.  Had I used mild cheddar, or another milder cheese(s) or less of the sharp cheddar, I’m  sure this would have been a better pairing.

Next time!

Don’t stop here! Check more Summer Arneis Food Pairing Recipes!

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you’re reading this early enough, you can join us today for a live Twitter chat on our theme #SummerofArneis on Saturday, June 13th, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m Pacific Time. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!

Wine Pairing Weekend July: Join us next month!

In July Americans celebrate Independence Day and the French celebrate Bastille Day. July’s Wine Pairing Weekend will take place on Saturday, July 11, led by Michelle Williams of Rockin Red Blog. The group will explore food and wine pairings from the United States and France. From Michelle, Get creative and make your favorite all American food and wine meal, your favorite all French food and wine meal, one of each or a combination of both! With these two regions the sky is the limit!

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!

DSCN0803

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)
Author: 
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.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.
Notes
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. 

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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)

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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.

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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 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

_________________________________________________________________

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.  

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.

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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.
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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

IMG_1448

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

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, 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!

_________________________________________________________________

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!

__________________________________________________________________

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.

Italian Reds Smackdown – 9 Italian Red Wines Blind Tasted

I can hardly believe it, but our community wine tasting club – The Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) is entering its fifth year, and going stronger than ever. Our most recent gathering had an Italian theme.  Since we’ve previously tasted Chianti, and Barbera those were not options.  But with over 500 different Italian grape varieties, including at least 10 major grape varieties, there were still plenty of options. We settled any Italian Reds, and folks were encouraged think beyond Sangiovese!

Our tastings alway start with a “Happy Hour” where we get a chance to catch up with each other, and grab a bite to eat (we do a themed potluck).  Since we had an Italian theme, there was plenty of Italian food (click to enlarge)

Here’s how our blind-tasting went down:

  • Italian red priced between $15-$25
  • Maximum of 9 bottles tasted
  • There were 19 tasters, with a diverse range of experience with wine
  • Tasters are required to score all wines
  • Both average and median scores are calculated.  The winner determined by highest median score.  Average score used as tie breaker.

photo 1 (10)

We had a nice selection of wines that showcased some of the diversity of Italian wines. Geographically speaking, Tuscany was the most well represented, but there were also wines representing Veneto, Piedmont, Sicily, and Campania.  From a grape variety standpoint, Sangiovese was the most well represented, but we also had wines made from Aglianico, Corvino, Corvino blends, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah.

The wines tasted were:

  • 2010 Poderi Foglia Aglianico Gallucio Concarosso (Aglianico) – $20
  • 2010 Montechiara Amarone della Valpolicella (Corvino Blend) – $25
  • 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti (Barbera) – ($17)
  • 2007 Rubbia al Colle Toscana IGT (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Syrah) – ($13)
  • 2012 Rocche di Cusa Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab + Nero D’Avola) – ($15)
  • 2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (Sangiovese) – ($19)
  • 2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) – $17)
  • 2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT (Corvino Blend) – ($21)
  • 2011 Straccali Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) – ($21)

The wines were scored based on 4 criteria (aroma, body, taste, and finish) – each on a scale of 1-5 (1-low; 5-high). Therefore minimum score = 4 point and maximum = 20 points

Italian Wine night score Sheet

Image courtesy of Jojo Ong

The Winner:

Italian wine night winner

Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong

With a median score of 13.5pts

The runners-up were and scores in descending order were:

  • 2012 Rocche di Cusa Cabernet Sauvignon (12.5 pts)
  • 2011 Straccali Chianti Classico (12.3 pts)
  • 2010 Montechiara Amarone della Valpolicella  (12.0 pts)
  • 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti (11 pts)
  • 2010 Poderi Foglia Aglianico Gallucio Concarosso (10 pts)
  • 2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT (10 pts)
  • 2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (10 pts)
  • 2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico (9.8 pts)

Blind tastings are always fun, and there’s almost always a surprise of some sort.  More often than not, it’s a $10 wine beating our a $25 wine.  Not only did the lowest priced wine, but it was made from a blend of mostly (91%) Bordeaux grape varieties – definitely non-traditional Italian grapes.

Likewise for the second place wine, which was the second lowest price and made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon.

I think the obvious answer is that our tasters prefer the “New World”, rather than “Old World” style wines.  Speaking from personal experience the more rustically styled Italian wine can take some getting used to.

Regardless of which style one prefers, I think everyone found a wine or two they really enjoyed, and got a chance to try something new (it was my first Amarone, and Aglianico) while expanding their wine knowledge.  And isn’t that what a wine tasting club experience is all about?

Rut-Busting Wines For New Cooking Adventures #SundaySupper

Admit it. You’re in a wine rut.  Regardless of whether you enjoy wine with a meal, as a cocktail, or both, you don’t stray too far off the beaten path.  You cling to your handful of favorites like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Moscato.

Do you know there are over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes!

The true figure will never be known because number of grape varieties is a moving target.  New varieties are constantly evolving or being produced, and some obscure varieties become extinct.

Below is the Wine Grape Varietal Table put together by grape variety expert Steve de Long. It’s lists 184 varieties of grapes.

DeLong Wine Varietal Chart

DeLong Wine Varietal Chart

With so many varieties of grapes in the world, you’re sure to find wines other than your “usual suspects” that will suit your personal tastes, and moods.

So, if you’re ready for bit of vinous adventure, I’m offering some rut-busting wines to pair with the #SundaySupper team’s culinary adventures this week. Check out this week’s #SundaySupper menu and my wine pairing recommendations!

Pair these dishes with a sparkling wine – from South Africa!  South African sparkling wine is made in the traditional Champagne style is known as Methode Cap Classique, or MCC. Look for the Graham Beck Brut Sparkling Wine Western Cape. It’s blend of Pinot and Chardonnay grapes with creamy apple blossom, tangerine, and exotic fruit character

Pair these dishes with a wine made from the Torrontés grape variety. Torrontés is Argentina’s only truly indigenous grape.  It produces a juicy fragrant wine with citrus pineapple and spice flavors.  It’s a pretty food friendly wine too.  It pairs wonderfully with seafood, or try it with a pasta primavera or spicy Asian noodle, or curry dishes. Look for the 2011 Bodegas Colomé “Estate” Torrontés Valle Calchaquí Salta.

Pair these dishes with wine made from the Marsanne grape variety. This is probably the finest grape variety you’ve never heard of. It makes a full-bodied, sometimes rustic wine with amazing complexity, and honey, peach, and sweet spice flavors. If you like Chardonnay, give this wine a try.  Look for the 2011 Qupé Santa Ynez Valley Marsanne.  It’s a blend of 70% Marsanne and 21% Roussanne with floral, green apple, peach and ginger aromas, followed by energetic apple, peach,and citrus flavors on the palate.

Pair these dishes with wine made from the Pinotage grape variety. It is the signature red variety of South Africa.  It’s a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, two French grapes.  It shows the soft fruitiness of Pinot Noir, and the rustic characteristics of Cinsault. It produces a fruity, lively wine with soft tannins, and black fruit, spicy and many tasters report, banana flavors.  Look for the 2010 Southern Right Pinotage Walker Bay.

Pair these dishes with wine made from the Mencia (a.k.a. as Jaen in Portugal) grape variety. It’s a grape that’s indigenous to Spain that is gaining in popularity. Typical flavors are of earth, herbs (think mint, rosemary, thyme), dark fruits (raspberry, black cherry, blackberry). Look for the 2010 Amizade Mencia Monterrei.  It shows a spicy redcurrant and cherry aromas complemented by notes of Asian spices and minerals. On the palate it has lively acidity, and spice-accented dark fruit flavors with a hint of sassafras. 

Pair these dishes with wine made from the Aglianico grape variety. It’s a grape that is native to Italy  which makes great full-bodied, intense, tannic wine with berry, cherries, plums and spice flavors. Its high acidity makes it food friendly. Pair with hearty meats, tomato-based pasta dishes like lasagna, or lamb. Look for the 2009 Musto Carmelitano “Serra Del Prete” Aglianico Del Vulture.

Pair these with a Cadillac – um…the little known village just south of Bordeaux known for its sweet botrytized white wines. It’s never reached the lofty status of Sauternes, just across the river.  The wines are typically made from Semillion, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes. Look for the 2009 Chateau Suau, Cadillac.  It a blend of 40% Sauvignon – 60% Semillon with a fruity, complex, and sweet peach and honey character with good acidity. 

Pair these desserts with a sparkling red wine – Brachetto d’Acqui, from Italy. It is a produced from the Brachetto grape.  Look for Banfi Rosa Regale. It has a delicate aromas of  rose petals and offers luscious flavors of fresh raspberries and strawberries.

Pair these desserts with Madeira, one of the world’s great fortified dessert wines produced exclusively on the Portuguese archipelago of the same name that is actually closer to Africa than Portugal.  One of the things I appreciate about Madeira is that it’s relatively indestructible.  Once opened, it will keep for years. Look for the Broadbent 10 year Malmsey Madeira.  It’s a great match for 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!;-) 

And last, but not least, enjoy Bircher Muesli from Peanut Butter and Peppers with your favorite type of milk!

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter on Sunday, March 31st to talk all about citrus recipes! We’ll tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more delicious recipes and food photos.

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