Wine story

Scrumptious Stuffed Shells & Sangiovese 

Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico

Food & wine pairings create many emotions; if done right, they are both great givers of happiness. 🍝🍷🥰
Today, I am sharing with you a recipe for stuffed shells that I paired with a lovely Chianti Classico. The idea is to keep it simple and minimize cleaning in the kitchen. This recipe serves 6 with a side of salad. The level of difficulty is easy to intermediate.
Scrumptious Stuffed Shells & Sangiovese

 

Ingredients:

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo shells*
1 handful of salt for pasta water
24 oz. jar – plain marinara sauce
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cut up
1 (15 oz) container of whole milk ricotta
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste

Preparation: 

Boil pasta in salted water for 6-7 minutes. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 350°F

In the meantime, on the bottom of a large glass baking dish, spread some tomato sauce. Fill each shell with 1 teaspoon of ricotta cheese and place them in a single layer on the baking dish. Drizzle with tomato sauce. Place a piece of mozzarella in each shell. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese. Voila!

Bake for about 45-50 minutes until you see the sauce bubbling.
Cook’s notes. I used about 27 shells. (There will be some unused shells)

Wine pairing
: Renieri 2018 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. This wine is made with 100% Sangiovese, and the grapes are cultivated in the southernmost part of the Chianti Classico zone, in the town of Castelnuovo Berardegna. The warm temperatures produce bigger and riper wines.
The aromas and flavors include cedar, leather, oak, underbrush, red juicy cherries, vanilla, tobacco leaves, mushrooms, and earthy characters. The tannins are supple and supported by vibrant acidity, leading to a long finish with a hint of chocolate. A superb wine, but I don’t believe it deserves 95 points. My opinion!

This wine complemented the stuffed shells to sublimeness.

Happy Cooking & Sipping

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
Food & Wine Blogger, Recipe Developer, Sommelier Level 2 and WSET Level 2 certified.
Cookbook Author: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Website: www.foodiewinelover.com

Vintners Resort, a Tranquil Escape in Sonoma

Recently, my husband and I took a vacation to wine country and stayed at the Vintners Resort, nestled in the heart of Sonoma wine country. It provides a full-service resort that includes fine dining and wellness experiences. The room was spacious and offered the finest accommodations, with a stunning view of the vineyards.

Vintners Resort

Vintners Resort

 

For breakfast, we ate at the rustic River Vine restaurant inside the resort, which is currently serving breakfast to hotel guests only. Every dish was fresh, delicious, and beautifully presented.

Breakfast at the River Vine restaurant

Breakfast at the River Vine restaurant

 

River Vine restaurant

River Vine restaurant

 

John Ash & Co. is an upscale restaurant located on the premises and offers 5-star service and emphasizes seasonal cooking. It is the first restaurant in Sonoma County to follow the farm-to-table philosophy of cooking with seasonal, local ingredients.

My husband and I enjoyed some fresh oysters paired with a local sparkling wine as an aperitif. The ambiance was serene and romantic, and Christopher, the manager, was gracious and hospitable. The waitstaff was very attentive and courteous. For dinner, we relished on some gourmet-style short ribs over polenta, and pan seared scallops and prawns. This delectable meal would not be complete without a scrumptiously decadent trio of ice cream.

Fresh oysters paired with a 2015 Russian River Valley Brut Rose Fresh Hog Island oysters and 2015 Russian River Valley Brut Rose Vintners Resort

 

Pan Seared Diver Scallops & Gulf Prawns, paired with a local Brut 2015 Sparkling Rose

Pan Seared Diver Scallops & Gulf Prawns, paired with a local Brut 2015 Sparkling Rose

 

 

Braised boneless prime rib short ribs braciole over Front Porch Farms red floriani polenta Braised boneless prime rib short ribs braciole over Front Porch Farms red floriani polenta

 

Ice Cream trio: Mexican hot cocoa, lemon bar, and peach with orange hazelnut biscotti Ice Cream trio: Mexican hot cocoa, lemon bar, and peach with orange hazelnut biscotti

 

The bar area is quaint with a cozy feel.

Relaxing at the quaint bar

Relaxing at the quaint bar

 

Mr. is enjoying the outdoor pool Mr. is enjoying the outdoor pool

 

Beautiful landscape Beautiful landscape

 

Posing with the grapes Posing with the grapes

 

Enjoying one of the stunning fountains Enjoying one of the stunning fountains

 

Pool area near the spa

Pool area near the spa

 

Vintners Resort's lobby

Vintners Resort’s lobby

 

A glorious day at Vintners Resort

A glorious day at Vintners Resort

 

Beautiful flowers

Beautiful flowers

 

The landscape is lush and meticulously maintained, and the property is surrounded by verdant vineyards offering a spectacular backdrop for wedding photography. We had fun walking through the vineyards and captured some outstanding photos. The resort has an outdoor pool and a new spa. “Vi La Vita spa” is a state-of-the-art facility designed for relaxation and pure joie de vivre! It was a fantastic way to decompress and enjoy La Dolce Far Niente (the sweetness of doing nothing).

The check-in process was contactless, and travelers should feel safe staying at this resort. The management took the highest level of precautions to ensure our safety.

The weather was glorious, and we enjoyed strolling through the property while admiring the beauty of nature. We would stay there again!

Vintners Resort

Vintners Resort

 

Visit Sonoma and stay at the charming Vintners Resort! You will thank me for this recommendation.

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 Italian Wines “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award, held in Puglia, Italy
Brand Strategist

Castello di Amorosa – The Castle of Love

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

 

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

 

You know you love a winery when you visit it a second time! I compare it to having more than one sip of my favorite wine! I love revisiting! (double entendre, wink, wink)

In 2013, I first visited Castello di Amorosa──translates to Castle of Love─ and fell in love with the castle and its medieval architecture. Upon my return home, I hosted a side-by-side tasting with the 2008 La Castellana and a top-notch Italian Super Tuscan, and it was a toss-up!

 

Castello di Amorosa

Side-by-side tasting 2008 Castello di Amorosa’s La Castellana with an Italian Super Tuscan

 

“Fourth generation winemaker Dario Sattui built an authentically styled 13th-century Tuscan castle winery to honor his Italian heritage and deep love for medieval architecture. Dario is the great-grandson of pioneering vintner Vittorio Sattui, an Italian immigrant who founded St. Helena Wine Cellars in 1885. The Sattui family lived at the winery, even after Prohibition closed the business in 1920. Dario was always fascinated by the stories and photos of the old winery. As a child, he would play in the winery’s underground cellars and dream of reviving the family business.” ~ Website. 

Dario Sattui said: “he was determined to make the Castello authentic in every respect. I used only old, hand-made materials, and I built it employing the same methods and materials that would have been used 700-800 years ago. You cannot fake something like this. You either do it right, or people will know it is not authentic.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to revisit the winery and paid more attention to all the intricate details. The castle is nestled on a rolling hillside with cypress trees gracing the magnificent entrance, reminiscent of Tuscany. In South Florida, where I reside, it’s summertime all year round and a little cooler during the “winter” months. Unfortunately, I don’t get to enjoy the fall season. I was mesmerized by the yellow and brown leaves on the vines. By coincidence, they coordinated harmoniously with my outfit. The beginning of autumn was in full display at the Castello!

Castello di Amorosa

It’s beginning to look like fall at Castello di Amorosa

 

Lyn, our host, took us on a magical tour of all the rooms before conducting a delicious wine tasting that included a barrel tasting. The featured wines were a 2017 Sangiovese, a 2017 Sparkling Rose (Spumante) a 2015 La Castellana, similar to a Super Tuscan, a 2018 Old Vine Zinfandel, a Merlot, some white varietals, and La Fantasia. The latter is an Italian style frizzante (soft sparkling) wine which is naturally sweet with a low ABV with bright aromas of strawberry and pomegranate, offering a vibrant mouthfeel with a kiss of summer on the finish.

Their wines are meticulously crafted in an Italian style, and align perfectly with the medieval theme. If you would like to purchase their delicious wines, please visit their website: Napa Valley Castle Winery in Calistoga | Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

 

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

 

I hope you enjoyed my wine journey, and hopefully, someday, you will have the opportunity to visit this spectacular winery.

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Brand Strategist

Tiffany’s Three Moons Wines

Filet Mignon & Tree Moons Winery

Filet Mignon & Three Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Filet Mignon

 

While a top notch wine can easily stand on its own “legs”, it can also make a magical  pairing with a luxurious meal.

Today, I present you with the Three Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from the acclaimed Howell Mountain located in Napa Valley. Tiffany Moon is the name behind the label. She is a medical doctor and a cast member on the famous show “Real House Housewives of Dallas”.
In 2009, during her residency, Tiffany and her now-husband, Daniel, would travel to Napa to visit wineries. They were invited by a local winemaker to partake in harvesting grapes, learning about the aging and the bottling process of the wines. This experience led them to make their own barrel of a big bold red Cabernet Sauvignon in 2009. They would share the wine with family and friends. Daniel named the wine Three Moons to honor his father who founded Sam Moon stores, and his brother. Tiffany jokes that her three moons represent her and her twin girls. The Moons recently launched their private label that includes this Cabernet Sauvignon, a red blend and a Sauvignon Blanc. They turned their passion to a brand!
This Cabernet Sauvignon is not your typical weeknight wine. It’s one that you splurge on special occasions or purchase to add to your wine collection. I enjoyed this wine with my Waterford Crystal glass to elevate the experience. Every sip of this wine was seductive and boasted aromas and flavors of juicy black cherries, blackberries, crème de cassis, with a nuance of spices and freshly ground black pepper, offering a dust of dark cocoa on the mid palate. It had just the right amount of tannin with a polished astringency and not at all aggressive, well-structured, bold with remarkable fruitiness. The finish was majestically grand.
I paired it with Filet Mignon cooked medium-rare with a homemade Béarnaise sauce. (not easy😅) The richness of the wine and that of the meat created a gourmet-esque combination of flavors on my palate. This wine can be found on Three Moons Wine website.

Filet Mignon & Tree Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Filet Mignon & Tree Moons Winery Estate Reserve 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Hope you enjoyed this food & wine pairing edition.

Happy Cooking and Sipping from Gina’s Kitchen!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Brand Strategist

Tignanello Amore Mio!

2017 Tignanello

2017 Tignanello

 

2017 Tignanello

2017 Tignanello

2017 Tignanello with Filet Mignon

2017 Tignanello with Filet Mignon

Zucchini with Feta cheese

Zucchini with Feta cheese

Alaskan King Crabs

Alaskan King Crabs

 

2017 Tignanello by Marchesi Antinori. Iconic, sexy, exuberant, and alluring are some of the descriptions that I find very felicitous for this Super Tuscan. It is an exquisite wine made with 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. After decanting it for 3 hours using the vSpin vase, (without the motorized apparatus- I was too lazy and busy cooking) all the aromas finally opened up. This wine is incredibly young, full-bodied, but sang to me in Italian in the most romantic way. Exotic, dark plums, sweet spices, cedar, tobacco, leather stimulate my taste buds, showing fine tannins with an extraordinary finish. This wine is meticulously well-crafted and has excellent aging potential in the cellar.

The afternoon started with some Alaskan King crabs as appetizers, and for dinner, I served a roasted filet mignon, with an (optional) gravy made with a roux (butter and flour), salt, freshly ground black pepper, beef stock, dashes of Worcestershire sauce, tarragon, and drippings from the meat. I also prepared stir-fried zucchini and added Feta cheese to elevate the dish. It’s a terrific way to enjoy your veggies! On the menu, there were also roasted potatoes and onions for the big eaters. It was a fun gathering with my family celebrating a special occasion: our wedding anniversary! All the spices in the food and that of the wine intertwined beautifully to create a symphony of memorable flavors. It was an outstanding food & wine pairing experience.

“Tenuta Tignanello estate is in the heart of Chianti Classico, in the gently rolling hillsides between the Greve and Pesa river valleys. Two of the estate’s prized vineyards are on the same hillside, Tignanello, and Solaia, on soils that originated from marine marlstone from the Pliocene period rich in limestone and schist. The vines enjoy hot temperatures during the day and cooler evenings throughout the growing season. The estate’s two signature wines, Solaia and Tignanello, are produced from these vineyards and have been defined by the international press as “among the most influential wines in the history of Italian viticulture”. According to Marchesi Antinori, Solaia and Tignanello are an ongoing challenge and a never-ending passion. The Tignanello estate has vineyards of indigenous Sangiovese grapes as well as some other untraditional varieties such as Cabernet Franc.” ~ Marchesi Antinori website.

I’ve been fortunate to have tasted the 2016 vintage as well at a lavish birthday party on a cruise ship. Celebratory wine like this one should be relished during special moments to add more meaning to the occasion.  

Some day, I hope you will get to experience a “Tig” moment. 

Happy Sipping From Gina’s Kitchen

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook:

Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures


It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and other countries.

Ca’ del Baio, a Piece of Heaven in Barbaresco

I finally had the opportunity to travel to Piedmont (Piemonte) this past June, and experienced the beauty of this picturesque Italian region. I visited many lush wineries in the sub-regions of La Morra, Barolo, Alba, and Barbaresco, and tasted some delicious wines. Barbaresco is a beautiful region in northwestern Italy where the Nebbiolo grape thrives in the slightly maritime climate: warmer, dryer, and milder, allowing the grapes to ripen faster. The Nebbiolo grapes are used to produce the wine that also goes by the name of Barbaresco. It is characterized by its rich flavors with notes of spices and mild perfumes with sweetness and is considered elegant and refined. The soil in Barbaresco has more nutrients and makes it less tannic than Barolo. Barbaresco is also known for Dolcetto and Barbera. 

Upon arriving at Ca’ del Baio── house of the bay horse, means a dark-horse in Piedmontese dialect, which is an inspiration for their logo──Federica greeted us with her contagious smile in her work attire. We knew it was going to be a special tour and felt a deep connection with the winery.  For four generations Ca’ del Baio has been a family affair, as is the tradition in the Langhe region. Nurtured and passed down from father to son, the vineyards surrounding the Grasso family farmhouse have been added to over time through marriage and acquisitions. 

Giulio and Luciana along with their daughters Paola, Valentina and Federica, handle all the various aspects of the business. They do it with passion and expertise, from the growing and vinification of the grapes to hospitality and wine sales. For the Grasso family, simplicity, a sense of sacrifice and the deep attachment they have to their land are pre-requisites for guaranteeing wines of quality. Today the Ca’ del Baio estate takes in 28 hectares of vineyards in the villages of Barbaresco and Treiso, both of which are in the Barbaresco winegrowing area.

All estate-grown, their wines are made from a range of highly valued varieties, some typical of the area while others are more international: the whites include Moscato, Chardonnay and Riesling, and the reds Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. Almost all the wines are varietals. The most prestigious vines – producing the Nebbiolo used to make Barbaresco – are between 25 and 40 years old, and they go into making the estate’s crus of Asili and Pora (commune of Barbaresco) and Vallegrande and Marcarini (Treiso). 

Since we were on a tight schedule, I did not have time to write my own wine descriptions, therefore, I am using the winemaker’s notes that I found on their website: Ca del Baio. I enjoyed this wine tasting tour that was conducted by Federica. She’s passionate and very knowledgeable in the world of wines. I highly recommend  you make reservations ahead of time before visiting this charming boutique winery. 

Recently, Ca’ del Baio’s Barbaresco Vallegrande 2016 received the prestigious “Tre Bicchieri”( 3 glasses), Italy’s Best Wines award given by Gambero Rosso. It’s the largest food-E-Wine Publishing House in Europe, according to their Instagram profile. 

Enjoying a tasting at Ca' del Baio

Enjoying a tasting at Ca’ del Baio

Ca' del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

Ca’ del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

 

Winemaker’s notes: The wine displays a brilliant garnet red colour with shades of orange. The intense nose releases hints of lavender, pine, rose petals, aromatic herbs, spices, and goudron (tar) notes. The wine is dry, full-bodied, and warm. It is exceptionally smooth and velvety in the mouth.

 

Ca del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

Ca’ del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright garnet red; nose intense and complex, with fruity overtones conjuring up plums and blackberries, and spicy hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnuts; taste full-bodied, soft and tannic; a big, yet very flavorsome wine.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Asili 2016

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Asili

 

Winemaker’s notes: color bright garnet red, with slight orange tinges; nose intense, with fruity aromas of marasca cherries and hints of violets. Spicy notes of black pepper, liquorice and goudron (tar); taste dry, warm and soft, showing a long, rich, smooth flavour.

Award-winning Ca del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

Award-winning Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour garnet red; nose intense, with powerful fruit, dried flowers and underbrush; taste dry, smooth and rounded, ending in a warm finish with nicely-balanced tannins.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca' del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Winemaker’s notes: the colour is a deep garnet red with reflections of old pink. The nose is an intense, fruity aroma reminiscent of raspberries, jam, and violets that give an ethereal feeling accompanied by sweet spicy notes and hints of cocoa. In the mouth, Autinbej is warm, long, persistent and slightly tannic with an aftertaste of fruity notes.

LCa del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Ca’ del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright straw yellow; nose intense and complex, ranging from flowery to fruity, with hints of nuts; taste dry, full-bodied and well-balanced, with long flavour…Chardonnay, international by nature, Piedmontese at heart.

Barbaresco wine region 

Amazing Barbaresco lineup 

While touring, Federica's dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato to taste

While touring, Federica’s dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato d’Asti to taste

I captured a picture of Ca' del Baio family portrait - Original is not mine

I captured a picture of the Grasso’s family portrait – Original is not mine

Ca' del Baio Barrel room

Ca’ del Baio barrel room

 

Ca del Baio Wine Room

Ca’ del Baio wine storage room

Ca del Baio sisters

Ca’ del Baio – the 3 sisters – photo from their website – not mine

 

The Grasso family symbolizes respect for land and passion for wine. They take pride in their work and harmoniously carry on the family’s legacy.  I am so glad that I met this tight-knit family and made unforgettable wine memories. 

 I hope you have enjoyed this article that illustrates our wine tasting journey in Piedmont, Italy. 

“Il vino fa buon sangue”  = Good wine makes good blood
“In vino veritas”  = In wine there is truth
 
Photos taken by Gina for Foodiewinelover – unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. 
Disclosure: some of the information was taken from Ca’ del Baio’s website.   

Happy Sipping! 
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

 

 

Bubbles for Every Taste Bud This Holiday Season

It’s almost mid-November and Thanksgiving is just a little over 2 weeks away. Most of you already know whether you are hosting the holidays or not. Either way, you will need some bubbles─sparkling wines─to add a festive mood to the upcoming gatherings. To make it easy for you, I have compiled a list of budget-friendly, mid-range and high-end sparkling wines to spread a little joy in everyone’s holiday season. You need to bring a gift? Think no more, because my list will cover a wide range of bubbles to satisfy your taste buds and budgets. In this article, I am featuring Champagne, sparkling wines from different regions, Cava, Prosecco, and Franciacorta. They all have one thing in common: bubbles! However, not all are created equal.

“All Champagne are sparkling wines, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne.” I came up with this quote for the novice wine drinkers to better understand the difference.

The most exquisite of all bubbles is Champagne that can only come from the Champagne region of France. It’s labor-intensive because it requires a second fermentation in the bottle and this method produces extremely fine bubbles, making it the most expensive. There is an array of Champagne to choose from: boutique-style, well-known Champagne Houses, and internationally acclaimed luxurious brands.

Sparkling wines that say: “Méthode Traditionelle” on their label use the same method that originated in the Champagne region of France. However, the wine producers from other countries are not allowed to use the name Champagne on their labels. Sparkling wines vary from mid-range to expensive depending on many factors, including the region, terroir and the method in which they use to produce their wines.  

Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine also made by the same method as Champagne but is much more affordable, and not as complex. Prosecco is an Italian bubbly that is budget-friendly and generally made by the Charmat method. The secondary fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks which makes the wine more affordable. Franciacorta is regarded as a high-quality Italian sparkling wine that is made by “Méthode Traditionelle” which mirrors Champagne.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you pay for your bottle of bubbles, what matters is the quality time you spend with the ones you love.”

Borrasca Cava
Borrasca Cava Brut

Price range: $9.99 – $10.99 for 750 ml. 
This Cava shows stone fruits, pear and citrus. It’s great as an aperitif or you can pair it with cheeses and seafood dishes. 

 

Syltbar Prosecco
Syltbar Prosecco

Price range: $19.99 – $22.99 for 750 ml. 
This Prosecco has notes of pears with refreshing flavors of citrus. With only  49 calories (per 6 oz glass), it can be enjoyed with no guilt. 

 

Schramsberg Brut Rose California Sparkling Wine
Schramsberg Brut Rosé Méthode Traditionelle California Sparkling Wine

Price range $34.99-$44.99 for 750 ml. 
Schramsberg Brut Rosé is a special-occasion sparkler with aromas of under ripe strawberries, orange peels, and cinnamon. The palate follows the nose with a touch of toasted almonds, and shows bright clean acidity with a dry and long finish. This Napa Valley wine is made by “Méthode Traditionelle” and can be enjoyed as an aperitif or paired with seafood. It is exceptionally delightful. 

Scharffenberger Sparkling Wine
Scharffenberger Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling Wine

Price range: $20.99-$23.99 for 750 ml. Scharffenberger Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine is from Mendocino county, California. This wine is dry with beautiful citrus notes.

Chandon Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine
Chandon Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine

Price range: $19.99 – $22.99 for 750 ml. Chandon Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine is a great value bubbly made by “Méthode Traditionelle”. It delivers delicate aromas and flavors of cherries with a creamy texture. I visited their winery in Napa Valley and had a fabulous experience. 

Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Reserve
Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve

Price: $39.99 – $44.99 for 750 ml. Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve 

Wine Spectator review:  “A bold, powerful Champagne, reminiscent of wheat toast, pencil shavings and cherry, supported by a firm structure. Concentrated and long, it lingers with an aftertaste of biscuits with cherry jam.”

 

Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut

Price range: $37.99 – $44.99 for 750 ml. 
Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Brut is vibrant and boasts aromas and flavors of zesty grapefruit and ginger-flavored cola. The finish is lingering. 

Dom Perignon
Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 2005

Price range: $246.00 and up for 750 ml.  – The price on Dom Pérignon varies depending on the vintage. This classic Champagne is complex with layers of flavors and can age beautifully well, for decades after its release.

“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” Dom Pérignon

Dom Pérignon - Vintage 2008
Dom Pérignon – Vintage 2008

Price range: $149.00 – $175.00 for 750 ml. Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 2008 
delivers an abundance of refreshing lemons, grapefruit, lightly toasted almonds and a hint of minerality. This vintage is still young but is drinking nicely. It needs more time to enjoy its full potential. 

Champagne Billecart-Salmon paired with lobster
Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs NV paired with lobster


Average price: $100.00 Champagne for 750 ml. Billecart-Salmon Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Non Vintage is exquisite with an explosion of delicate and luxurious flavors on the palate. There is a hint of minerality that glides to a long finish. 

G.H.Mumm Champagne
G.H.Mumm Champagne

Price: $49.99 for 750 ml. This comes in a gift set with 2 embossed Champagne glasses. On the nose, this Champagne showcases aromas of ripe peach, apricot and tropical fruits, with hints of vanilla and caramel, a touch of brioche, and a drizzle of honey. Caramel flavors linger into an everlasting finish. 

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I recently asked my Instagram audience to take part in this article in order to provide you with an array of ideas.

Rupal from SyrahQueen has an adoration for bubbles, and is very knowledgeable in the world of wines. She asked me to add a Franciacorta on my list. Franciacorta is a prestigious Italian sparkling wine, and is considered to be of high-quality. It is another great example of a wine made by “Méthode Traditionelle” which mirrors Champagne. 

Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta
Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige 
The average price is $40-$45.00 for 750 ml. The bottle is transparent and packaged in clear yellow wrapping to showcase its beautiful gold color. It’s made of fine quality with notes of pears, orange peel, great acidity, and a crisp and persistent perlage. I am so grateful that my dear Italian Wine Expert friend Angela Santarelli introduced me to this beauty many years ago. 

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I had the pleasure of meeting Rupal in the spring, and she gifted me a beautiful bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne. We savored it during our epic lunch in the trendy area of Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale. I will always remember her heartfelt quote: “Friendship and Champagne. Toasting the start of a beautiful new friendship”.

Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature en 2009 paired with a charcuterie and cheese board
Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck  Brut Nature en 2009
Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature en 2009

Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Champagne Brut Nature 2009
Price range: $90.00 – $99.00 for 750 ml. This Champagne is electrifying and it gives you a good jolt from the very first sip. On the nose, it delivers aromas of toasted almonds and stone fruits. This bubbly coats the palate with a creamy mousse carrying flavors of crunchy pears, hints of citrus, and framed minerality. The bubbles are tiny with lush notes of biscuit and toast. The finish is everlasting. It truly is heaven in a bottle! 

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My lovely friend and wine connoisseur Mary from PerthWineGirl in Australia recommends two producers that distribute in the USA. VasseFelixMargaretRiver Margaret River’s founding estate. Wine: 2017 Blanc de Blancs. (2016 vintage shows in the photo) The other one HowardParkWines is a pioneering Western Australian winery, the Great Southern and Margaret River. Wine: 2013 Howard Park Grand Vintage Jeté. Both are sparkling wines produced by Méthode Traditionelle. 

Jeté Australian Sparkling Wine

Jeté Australian Sparkling Wine – Photo credit Mary aka PerthWineGirl

Price: $29.00 average. 

 

Exclusive wine reviews from PerthWineGirl” This wine combines Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, giving a vibrant burst of citrus with white peach for a silky taste that bursts after some time on the palate to release an immersion of brioche and cracked grain for a texture unlike any other.”

Vasse Felix Australian Sparkling Wine - Photo credit PerthWineGirl

Vasse Felix Australian Sparkling Wine – Photo credit Mary aka PerthWineGirl

Price: $40.00 average.
Exclusive wine reviews
from PerthWineGirl: “Made with fruit from selected Chardonnay clones from the coolest sites, this wine is complex and rich. It resembles grower Champagne. Reminiscent of citrus peel, beeswax, and buttered almonds, this wine is elegant and sophisticated. Made in a Brut style, it’s versatile at the table.” 

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My friend Tiffany @prettysweetmess recommends Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Réserve. She has a great palate for simple to the most sophisticated taste in wine(s).

Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne
Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Réserve.

Price range: $34.99 – $37.99 for 750 ml. 

Notes from Wine Spectator – November 2017 “An aperitif-style Champagne, with flavors of crème de cassis, lemon curd and pastry riding a creamy mousse and framed by crisp, well-knit acidity. Drink now through 2020.” 

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I want to thank the following Insta-friends for their contributions:

Laura from @winebythebottle recommends any dry, red Lambrusco.

Robert from @wine_food_explorer recommends a Blanc de Blancs from Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards in Virginia. His notes: beautiful acidity with aromas of pear and vanilla, layered perfectly. Flavors of apple and well-balanced. Priced at $40.00

Funda from @wine_a_little_dine_a_little recommends “Roederer Estate Brut” from Anderson Valley, California. Average price $25.00. 

Patrick from pakieff64 recommends FontanaFredda Alta Langa DOCG Limited Edition, Brut Metodo classic, a typical Brut for less than $20.00. 

Now, that you have this extensive list of sparkling wines to help you celebrate the holidays, it’s time to go shopping! I am wishing you’ all a season filled with lots of bubbles to your heart’s content, love in your home, and good health to you and your family.

This article is intended for people over the legal drinking age of your country (21+ in the US).

Photos: All mine except the last 3 as stated.
Reviews: Most are mine unless otherwise stated. 

Disclaimer: Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this article is implied or claimed. 

Happy Sipping!!  

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award” 
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

 

 

Discover the Splendor of Salento and its Signature Italian Wines

Puglia has become one of the hottest spots in Italy where people flock to the beach to bask in the hot sun, enjoy the local wines, and partake in the Italian culinary traditions. This region is known for its wine production, cultivation of tomatoes and artichokes, and is a major producer of olive oil.  It’s also known for its famous “cucina povera” which translates to poor cuisine because the people use simple, seasonal, and high-quality ingredients.  Orecchiette—Italian for “little ears”— a regional pasta shape, fava beans, eggplant, and an abundance of fresh seafood are part of their diet. The Puglian cuisine and the wines produced in this area intertwined nicely.

As a result of my infinite love affair with Italian wines, I have tasted hundreds of them in classes, seminars, festivals, and private gatherings. If you are a wine enthusiast like me, you would be constantly exploring grape varieties from different Italian regions.

In this article, I will focus on Salice Salentino DOC wines from the Salento area. They deserve to be recognized for their richness and signature taste. Their production is still in its infancy stage unlike the wines from other major Italian regions like Piedmont and Tuscany.

Facts and history:
The Salento Peninsula in the region of Puglia is in the southernmost part of the boot known as the heel. It is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with a sunny dry climate. The soil is fertile and the wines tend to be high in alcohol. This is due to the lack of rain in the area which creates a challenge for winemakers to craft attractive wines. The Salento area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, exquisite regional cuisine,
sun-baked vineyards, luscious wines,  and cultural diversity.

In the 1930s, the farmers would combine the Negroamaro grape, known for its earthy bitterness with the Malvasia Nera to add sweet character to the wine. This blend created a perfectly balanced wine. The rosé version followed soon after. Over time, the farmers continued to experiment and created new varieties of Salice Salentino, which now include: Negroamaro, Negroamaro Rosato, (rosé) Pinot Bianco (white wine), Fiano, Chardonnay, and Aleatico.

The Salice Salentino wines became so important in that region, that, in 1976, they were assigned the DOP: “Denominazione di Origine controllata –official quality label (DOC, “controlled designation of origin”.)

Salice Salentino owes its name to the town bearing the same name in the province of Lecce. This province is known for beautiful churches and baroque-style architecture. Lecce has been the main production of these wines for years, and is protected by a Consortium called: Consorzio Di Tutela Vini D.O.P. Salice Salentino. The Consortium was founded in 2003 and consist of 1,858 members, among them are winemakers, bottlers, and winegrowers.  The goal is to promote and ensure the protection of the territories, vineyards, ancient trees, and the indigenous grapes of the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi. The wines from that region are marketed and controlled by the Consortium to ensure the quality and the authenticity of the local grapes. Additionally, it was created to enhance and preserve this area for its great winemaking tradition.

The main grape is the Negroamaro, which translates to “black bitter” in Italian. This grape variety thrives on the terroir that combines clay and limestone soils. The Malvasia Nera is also a popular variety known for its aromatic qualities. Both grapes tend to be dark and intense in flavors.

Production and procedural guidelines:
For many years, the Salice Salentino wines have been made according to the requirements of their procedural guidelines. The entire process, from the grape growing to the final stage must take place in a specific area. It includes the districts of Salice Salentino, Veglie and Guagnano, in the province of Lecce, and Sandonaci, in the province of Brindisi, as well as some portions of the districts of Cellino San Marco (Lecce) and Campi Salentina (Brindisi).

Specific grapes are required for each single Salice Salentino wine.
At least 75% of Negroamaro grapes is required in the Salice Salentino Rosso (red) and the Rosato (rosé wines); whereas 90% of Negroamaro is required in the Salice Salentino Negroamaro and Negroamaro Rosato varieties. Additionally, local dark-colored grapes like the famous Malvasia Nera of Lecce or Brindisi can be used for blending as mentioned in the fifth paragraph.

In the Salentino Aleatico wine, (red) at least 85% of the Aleatico grapes is required, and can be blended with Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera or local Primitivo.

The Salice Salentino Bianco (white) is made 70% from Chardonnay grapes, if it does not have any other appellation. There are other types of Salice Salentino Bianco—Chardonnay, Fiano and Pinot Bianco which must contain at least 85% of the corresponding grapes.

There are also Spumante (sparkling wine) versions of the Salice Salentino on the market. This method involves natural fermentation without the addition of carbon dioxide. The Bianco, Rosato, Negroamaro Rosato, Pinot Bianco, Fiano and Chardonnay are generally used for this style of wine.

The Riserva (reserve) versions of Salice Salentino Rosso, Negroamaro, and Aleatico are aged for at least 24 months, including at least 6 in oak barrels.

The Dolce and Liquoroso versions of the Salice Salentino Aleatico are also produced and  make great dessert wines. The Dolce Naturale must have a finished alcohol of 15% and Liquoroso must have 18.5% which is like a fortified wine. Once produced, the wine is bottled in glass bottles that can have different sizes and corks, depending on the type of product.

Flavors and characteristics:
These Salice Salentino wines are enjoyed worldwide. The red ones are generally cherry, ruby or garnet-colored, and their shades become more intense as they age. The Riserva tends to have a brick color. The red wines are robust and full-bodied and can generally be classified as dry wines. The Rosso Riserva and Rosso Riserva Negroamaro have fragrant aromas of ripe fruits such as plums and cherries with a touch of spices. The sensory experience as perceived by sight, smell, and taste varies depending on the grape variety that has been used, and the way the wines are produced.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties are predominantly sweet, dense, and are higher in alcohol.

The wines from the white grapes are straw yellow in color, refreshing, and fragrant with delicate fruit notes; while the Bianco and Fiano varieties have greenish hues.

Lastly, in the spumanti made from traditional wines, yeast notes are easily detected due to the re-fermentation process.

Food & wine pairings:
In general, meat-based recipes, and complex dishes are paired with the Salice Salentino from red grapes to stand up to the robustness of the wine. Pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk also makes for a killer pairing. The Salice Salentino Rosato pairs nicely with salamis, less-intense dishes like chicken and pork, delicate cheeses, and fragrant frittatas.
The Salice Salentino Bianco goes well with swordfish and salmon, as well as a variety of seafood dishes. The bianco variety also pairs nicely with a Caprese salad using tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil from the local farms. Whenever possible, pairing food and wine from the same region is ideal, as they are grown in similar soil.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties make great dessert wines and would pair heavenly with the popular pasticciotto. This traditional dessert is known for its a flakiness, buttery short crust filled with an exquisitely rich vanilla pastry cream. There are also chocolate and pistachio versions of the filling. This dessert is also common for breakfast.

My food & wine pairing experience:
I had the pleasure of tasting the Rosalbore Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato DOP from Cantina Sanpancrazio, a beautiful rosé made with 100% Negroamaro grapes. The color is deep coral, (like I’ve never seen before) lightly perfumed with aromas of strawberries and gentle floral notes. The palate follows the nose, with luscious flavors of semi-ripe strawberries, and the tannins are soft. This wine is intense and well-structured with a lingering finish. The alcohol content is 13.50% by volume. The Salice Salentino Rosato represents a middle ground between the heaviness of the Rosso (red wine) and the freshness of the Bianco (white variety).

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

I paired this delightful rosé with a delicate frittata made with tomatoes, scallions, pancetta, and Pecorino Romano cheese. It was like the king meeting its queen (the rosé) in the quest for a beautiful romance. This food and wine combination went together harmoniously and felt like a never-ending fairytale on the palate.

I also tasted the Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP from Cantine De Falco which is made with 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera. The color is garnet, showing fragrant spices like vanilla and nutmeg on the nose, dark cherries, and plums on the palate, with nuances of cocoa, cigar box, and oak. There is a hint of sweetness in the wine that comes from the ripeness of the fruits. The tannins are velvety, and the finish is persistent. The alcohol content is 14% by volume.

In the region of Puglia, it is common to eat horse meat, and it would make perfect sense to pair this big wine with it. However, since we do not consume this type of meat in the United States, I prepared braciole, an Italian-style gourmet beef dish that is stuffed with garlic, parsley, and prosciutto and then rolled up. They were seared on medium-high heat, then simmered for a couple of hours in a rustic-style tomato sauce. The stuffed meat and the acidity in the tomatoes were a perfect match for this majestic and full-bodied wine. This dining experience was the epitome of a beautifully balanced meal.

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Braciole

Braciole

I hope this reportage on Salice Salentino wines has piqued your curiosity to explore this splendid Italian region and its autochthonous grapes. These wines are not only luscious, but they are affordable. This combination makes for a win-win sensory experience. Now, that I have tasted these wines, it’s time to visit Puglia. I will dream about it, until it becomes a reality.

Happy sipping from my kitchen to yours,

Update: I received the “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers Contest 2019” award/trophy for writing this blogpost.  An all-expense paid trip was included, and the ceremony was held at Rosexpo Festival on June 22nd, 2019, in Puglia, Italy.  I am excited and feel grateful to the Consortium for choosing my blogpost to represent wines from Salice Salentino. I visited this beautiful region and relished on their wines and local cuisine. I will always remember this epic moment…

Salice Salentino 2019 USA Bloggers Award

Salice Salentino 2019 USA Bloggers Award

 

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Recognized in Lecce, Puglia, Italy on June 22, 2019

Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Opus One, an Iconic Wine

 

Opus One

Opus One

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

Opus One paired with Rack of Lamb

As my birthday is approaching, (October 26th) I thought, I’d crack open a seductive bottle of 2013 Opus One, a Bordeaux blend from Napa Valley. It’s made with 5 varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. This opulent red wine is made in the exact same fashion as a Bordeaux First Growth. The color is an intense crimson red with slow-moving legs and a 14.5% ABV.  All you have to do is, take a good whiff of it to realize that this wine is in a class of its own. The nose boasts intense aromas of cedar, chocolate, dark plums, and intoxicating spices. It has a luscious mouthfeel with hints of dark cocoa, tobacco, leather, and black pepper. The wine is dense with layers of complexity. The tannins are velvety and the finish is extremely persistent. This is a special occasion wine and I paired it with a mouth-watering rack of lamb and a delectable eggplant dish called ratatouille. The earthiness of the veggies weaved magically with this iconic wine.  A wine of such magnitude is made to age in the cellar in order to enjoy the optimal flavor profiles. However, since I have no patience, and life is passing by so quickly, I decided it was time to open it up and enjoy “Gina’s Dolce Vita” to the fullest.

The wine is perfectly balanced, and all the other elements come together harmoniously. I enjoyed sharing it with my loved ones, and it was a memorable evening. I used a decanter called vSpin to aerate it, and it opened it beautifully.

“Opus One is the realized dream of two men: Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. Together, our founders set out to create a single wine dedicated to the pursuit of uncompromising quality. This singular mission shapes every vintage, today and for generations to come.” ~ Opus One Winery

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” ~ Robert Mondavi

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

I hope you have enjoyed my delightful food and wine experience. I have recently published a cookbook that contains a treasury of recipes and some wine pairing suggestions. If you would like to obtain an autographed copy, please click on this link:  https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

CCC-Cookbook-Cover-FrontJpeg

Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust) Level-2
Level-2 Sommelier
Culinary Personality and cookbook author of: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover, LLC

Disclaimer:

Trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners, and no claim is made to them and no endorsement by them of this blog post and my cookbook is implied or claimed.

Fattoria di MonteMaggio, A Magical Boutique Winery in Tuscany

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

My husband and I recently took a spectacular trip to Italy and visited some amazing regions, rich in cultures and traditions.  One of our destinations was Tuscany and we were living our dream of “La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life). We were blown away by the beauty of the rolling hills and the lush cypress trees. Finally, all the landscape pictures we had seen were coming to life and the views were similar to that of a postcard. On the first day, we got to visit this beautiful winery called: Fattoria di Montemaggio, located in Radda in Chianti in the heart of Chianti Classico region.

It’s truly magical with a stupendous view of the valley, and well-manicured grounds. There were full-blown roses and fresh artichokes growing in the immaculate garden. Ilaria, the estate manager greeted us with a beautiful smile and gave us a tour of the vineyards. It was clear how passionate she was about her job and demonstrated a great knowledge in the viticulture and viniculture process of wine making. She gave us a little lesson about the stubborn Sangiovese grape, as I explained in an earlier post:  The temperamental Sangiovese grape variety . I pointed out to her that the ground seemed very dry and she replied: “we need to make them suffer”. Of course, she was referring to this particular grape variety.  After a tour of the vineyards and some photo snapping, it was Denis, the cellar manager, who guided the wine tasting.  We enjoyed a lovely selection of wines in the company of Riccardo, our amazing tour guide and the multi-talented Katarina Andersson. She is a translator, an educator and a wine writer at: Grapevine Adventures. The wines were luscious and of high quality which were no surprise to us, after seeing the labor of love that went into producing them. Fortunately, because of the terroir and the micro-climate, Fattoria di Montemaggio is able to grow many grape varieties such as: Sangiovese, with small additions of Merlot, Pugnitello, Chardonnay, Malvasia Nera, and Ciliegiolo.

A few months ago, I was able to get their Chianti Classico in my area and paired it with Pork Chops in Tomato sauce. It worked delightfully.  I brought back a couple of bottles from this recent trip and cannot wait to crack them open. If you intend to visit Tuscany, I highly recommend that you put Fattoria di Montemaggio on your itinerary. You will be very happy with this gem of a place.

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

The rose garden at Fattoria di MontemaggioThe view at Fattoria di MontemaggioIMG_8849The views at Fattoria di Montemaggio

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post on this beautiful winery and the enchanting photographs that I captured during my visit. My wish for you is to have the opportunity to visit this lovely place and bask under the Tuscan Sun.

Happy Travels!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Level-2 -World renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Culinary Personality, Cookbook Author and Lover of Global Cuisines

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
and by Katarina Andersson – Wine Writer

Fattoria di Montemaggio

Fattoria di Montemaggio

 

 

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