Tag Archives: Italy

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
World renown – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels

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

Fattoria di Montemaggio
Fattoria di Montemaggio

 

 

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The Temperamental Sangiovese Grape Variety

Chianti Classico Sangiovese

In 2009, I attended wine classes at the United States Sommelier Association, and passed a written and blind wine taste tests. I earned a Level 2 Sommelier certificate.  In February 2017,  I decided to pursue my wine studies, and attended  classes  at WSET, a world-renowned school, which stands for Wine, Spirit Education Trust. I received a Level 2 certificate and passed with merit.  I don’t consider myself a sommelier, and I don’t use that word to describe what I do.  I prefer to save it for someone who is actively working in the wine industry.  Sommelier is a French word that means a wine steward who’s trained and knowledgable in wines. I am not into fancy wine descriptions, but I can tell you one thing, after drinking and sipping hundreds of wines, I know if a wine is compatible with my palate or not.  By now, my taste buds know exactly what I like.  I prefer Old World wines, full-bodied, earthy with deep ruby colors, and flavor profiles that include aromatic spices, cloves, black peppers, nutmeg, hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, leather, barnyard, licorice with a lingering finish. I usually go for a complex wine, with layers of flavors for special occasions.  At times, I also enjoy medium-bodied wines, and New World wines with floral notes. There are so many grape varietals, (varieties)  from so many regions of the world, however, today, I will focus on the Sangiovese grape. It is a very difficult grape to grow because it needs warm weather, and for that reason, vintages can vary from one season to the next. It is considered one of the most widely planted red grape in all of Italy. The Sangiovese grape does particularly well in the terroir of beautiful Tuscany. However, it is a temperamental grape, that requires a lot of attention. It is not easy to keep it balanced, because of its high acidity content. It is harvested late, because the ripening process is slow. Tannins can also be rough. Sangiovese is also blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other grapes to make one of my favorite blends called “Super Tuscan”. In June 2017, I finally visited Tuscany, and some amazing wineries in that region. I enjoyed some delicious wines made with the Sangiovese grape.

My tasting notes on Tenuta di Renieri:  It is a blend made with mostly Sangiovese, and is from the enchanting region of Chianti. It has the Chianti Classico label, which is a highly rated, small wine-region with a DOCG designation, (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita is the highest designation in Italian wines. The wines must be evaluated by a tasting committee before they can be bottled, to assure the highest quality standards.) This wine shows unique characteristics, and bottles from that region have the seal of a black rooster to distinguish them. It’s a beautifully balanced wine with alluring nose of nutmeg spice, bursting with flavors of lush cherries, with a long finish that keeps you begging for more.

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2006

Marchese Antinori, Chianti Classico, Riserva 2006. It’s an excellent wine, very complex with an everlasting finish.

Winemaker’s Notes:

“92 points Antonio Galloni (Wine Advocate): …positively sparkles on the palate. Dark wild cherries, minerals, graphite, violets and spices are just some of the nuances that flow effortlessly… The French oak contributes an additional measure of volume and ampleness I doubt the wine truly needs given the superlative quality of the fruit in 2006. A rich fabric of minerals reappears to frame the intense, deeply satisfying finish… The 2006 is one of the finest vintages I can remember tasting. (Oct 2010)”

Massarena, Chianti Classico Riserva 2009
Distinctive flavors of cherry, a superb wine for that special occasion. Pairs nicely with a tomato-sauce based dish.
Poggerino Vendemmia Chianti Classico 2011
Lovely wine, with flavors of plum, with hints of vanilla, medium-bodied, made with 100% Sangiovese grape

I hope you will pull yourself together, and pour yourself a Sangiovese! I would love to hear your experience with this wine variety. If you are not too familiar with Italian wines, just visit a large chain store, and get the help of a wine clerk. Many of them are highly trained and very knowledgeable. What I like the most about buying wine in large chain stores, if you are NOT happy with a wine, you can return it, and they will gladly refund your money, or give you a store credit. Don’t get me wrong, I also love to support the small boutique shops, as they carry some very unique wines. Just get out there, and start exploring the world of wines. There are so many of them, and so little time!

Vertical wine tasting at the magical Fattoria di Montemaggio in Tuscany
Vertical wine tasting at the magical Fattoria di Montemaggio in Tuscany

Above is a picture of a vertical wine tasting at the magical Fattoria di Montemaggio in Tuscany. They are a boutique winery and produce high-quality wines.

Hope you enjoyed this blogpost! Happy Sipping!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renowned – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
except for the grape photos in which the proper credit was given.

 

Sangiovese Grape
Image courtesy Colombaia in Chianti

 

 

Caprese Salad

CapreseSaladFoodiewinelover
In 2007, my family and I embarked on an amazing Italian trip, and one of the itineraries was Capri. It is a breathtaking island, and we took a ferry from the bay of Naples to get there.  We visited the famous Blue Grotto, ate some regional cuisine, and took a tour of the island. I must admit, I was very scared going up the mountains on the tour bus, but it  was a travel experience that I will never forget. Today, I am sharing with you an easy and delicious dish, the Caprese Salad.

It’s been in the 90’s already in South Florida, and I couldn’t think of a more refreshing salad, called Insalata Caprese, in Italian.  It literally means Capri Salad because it originated in that magnificent island. In Italy, it is usually served as an antipasto, and made with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. The colors represent the Italian flag. My son recently brought me home a basil plant, and I already had some beefsteak tomatoes, and leftover Mozzarella that I recently used in my Chicken Parmigiana. I always have extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar readily available. I was on the go, and needed a quick-lunch, and this salad hit the spot. It was a great way to reminisce about our trip. (We were there again in 2008, but that’s another blogpost.)

Serves: 2 as a meal – Super easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 Beefsteak Tomato, sliced
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
  • Basil leaves, for garnish
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Drizzle of Balsamic vinegar, of Modena
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Arrange the tomatoes and Mozzarella on a serving plate, lightly season with salt & pepper, liberally drizzle with olive oil, and some balsamic vinegar. Garnish with basil leaves.

Voila, the salad is ready to be served! It is such a beautiful culinary creation, and so easy to prepare. Make it for your guests, and I assure you, they will love it.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen To Yours!

Gina

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Capri, Italy, June 2007 – Hubby and me

 

 

 

Veal Bolognese over Pappardelle

The traditional Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagnia,  a famous region in northern Italy, north of  Florence.  It is commonly called Ragu Bolognese. There are different versions,  just like you will find different versions of  tomato sauce and pizza.  The Bolognese is always a meat-based sauce, usually veal, with some carrots, onions and tomato sauce. Milk or cream can also be added to give it a more authentic feel. Today, I will share with you my version of the Bolognese sauce.  It is quick, easy, delicious and you can double up the recipe to feed a large crowd.

Ingredients
foodsausageandpeppers+ 126
Browning the pancetta
Sweating the veggies
Browning the veal
Cooked Pasta
Voila! Dinner is ready

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 – 1/2 lbs ground veal
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 chopped tomato (Pomi) or any other brand,  about 26 oz
  • 1 strained tomato (Pomi) or any other brand,  about 26 oz
  • 1/2 cup water and more pasta water, if needed
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Flat leave parsley, chopped, to garnish
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (Parmesan cheese)
  • 1 lb. Pappardelle pasta

Degree of difficulty:  Easy
Serves 4  (hungry) people as a main meal
This recipe takes a minimum of  45 minutes to an hour to prepare, but you can extend the cooking  up to 2 hours if you have the time. You will need to add water occasionally, and stir constantly to reduce the sauce. The flavors will be more infused and you will get a richer sauce.  However, this recipe is a quicker version for today’s busy lives , and the best part of it, your loved ones will not know the difference.

PREPARATION:

1)  On medium-high heat, in a 6-8 quart stock pan, heat oil, brown pancetta, 2-3 minutes, remove and set aside.

2)  There will be some oil left in the pot, add the onions, carrots and garlic  and sweat for about 2-3 minutes.

3)  Add veal, brown for about 5 minutes by stirring occasionally, then add tomato paste,  continue to brown until you get a nice caramelization.

4)  Add strained and chopped tomatoes, pancetta, 1/2 cup water, salt & pepper, oregano. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes on low heat. Stir occasionally to avoid the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If you feel like the sauce is too thick, add some pasta water. Remember, this is a meat sauce and it is supposed to be thick and not watery, therefore, use your judgement.

5)  On another burner, get the water boiling for your pappardelle or whatever pasta you’re using, cook according to package directions.

6)  Drain pasta, (save some water if you need it for the sauce) and pour it over the meat sauce. Make sure all the pasta is nicely coated and serve immediately. If you let it sit, the pasta will absorb all the sauce and it will become dry. Have the grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the table for individual use. If you don’t feel comfortable serving it this way, place pasta in bowls and pour sauce over each one. Sprinkle chopped  parsley to garnish it and give it your personal touch.

I paired this Bolognese with a delicious Rosso di Montalcino that went together magically.  You certainly can use a nice Chianti instead, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. I promise you, your loved ones will thank you for this amazing dish. They will think you spend the entire day in the kitchen to create this delectable and hearty meal.  With winter around the corner for some of you, this meat sauce will keep you warm and your belly satisfied.  I hope you will try this recipe and have fun with it.

Disclosure, I don’t get paid to advertise products on here,  I use whatever brand I have in my pantry at the time of cooking. I like to change it up anyway and experiment. That’s what makes cooking fun and interesting (at least for me).   Use whatever brand you prefer, be daring and have confidence.  If you view cooking as a chore, it will be boring and uninteresting, but if you cook with passion, you will enjoy every step, and your meal will always be a success. I must admit, I enjoy getting compliments from my family because  it encourages me to cook more for them. I’m not perfect and I’ve made a few mistakes in the kitchen, but I learned from them.  The only way you’re gonna learn and create your signature dish is by experimenting.  There is always room for improvement and I welcome feedback. I hope you have enjoyed today’s blog, and will give my recipe a try soon.

Cheers and Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experiencing Colossal Rome

My paternal great grandparents were originally from Teora, a small town in the province of Avellino, in the Campania region of southern Italy.   My great-grandpa, Anselmo Martino owned a  lovely property with a small vineyard on it.  He employed many people from the town,  they harvested the grapes in a festival atmosphere, singing and  dancing.  He was also a shoemaker.  It’s no wonder, I have such passion for shoes and wine.  The property has been sold since then to the Caprio family.  My dad had always wanted to visit Italy and begged me on several occasions to go along with him, but I wasn’t ready to take this long transatlantic flight from Miami. Then, In 2007, I realized my parents were getting older and it was time to take this adventurous trip to Bella Italia. I knew, once I committed to going, there was no turning back. I mentioned to them about planning a family trip to Italy, and they were ecstatic about it. We were 7 of us, hubby and me, our boys, 16 and 19 then,  my brother, my mom and dad. We were all ready to embark on this amazing travel adventure. Since it was our very first time visiting, I thought it would be a great idea to take a tour and have them plan everything. We enlisted in Perillo Tours, and were very pleased with the entire experience.  In February, we booked a multi-city Italian trip for an escapade of a lifetime  in June 2007. The anticipation was building during that time span and, we used every moment to plan for a perfect family vacation. As time got closer, we made sure all the travel arrangements were in place, did our last-minute shopping, made sure we packed walking shoes for the cobblestone streets,  summer clothes, outfits for the evenings and lots of toiletries.  I will never forget that day, on June 3rd, 2007, my parents and my brother met us at the house and we took a limo to the airport. We were chanting on the way and extremely excited about what was about to come. We landed in Rome early morning, got picked up at the airport, then dropped off to our hotel. The Grand Hotel Beverly Hills is  located right outside of the city center near the famous Villa Borghese and the elegant area of Via Veneto.

Photo courtesy, Grand Hotel Beverly Hills

Photo courtesy, Grand Hotel Beverly Hills

One of my favorite cities in the world is Rome because of my fascination with its ancient architectures, magnificent artwork  and rich history. I also love it for its breathtaking sightseeing,  scrumptious cuisine and delicious wines. The next day, we visited the Vatican and were amazed by its opulence and lavish gold accented decor. Afterwards, we took a tour of St. Peter’s Cathedral, and were astonished by its grandeur and splendid beauty. We bought some souvenirs and grabbed some lunch at Piazza Navona.

Lunch at Piazza Navona

It is not a trip to Italy unless you visit  the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)  “A traditional legend holds if  visitors toss a coin into the fountain,  they are ensured a return to Rome. ”  We tossed some coins into one of the most beautiful Italian masterpiece fountain in the world in the hopes to return someday.  Hubby and I have been back twice since then, and my parents and the family once more. Magically, it works!

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Trevi Fountain

Mom & Dad at the Trevi Fountain

Mom & Dad at the Trevi Fountain

Peter-John at the Trevi Fountain
Peter-John at the Trevi Fountain

The highlight of the trip was definitely the tour of the breathtaking Colosseum. It was a surreal experience that gave me the chills, and felt like I was living a part of history. It was a magical moment that I will cherish forever. We then took pictures with the gladiators and bought souvenirs to keep these memories alive. It was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for dinner.

Mom and Dad with the gladiators
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Family Photo at The Colosseum

We ate dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Al Grappolo.   It was a fun evening with an abundance of delicious food, elegant wine and some good laughs. It is fair to say, I was the loudest and very giggly because I walked into the lady’s room and there was a man in there.  I was already feeling tipsy, I went back to the table and had everyone in the restaurant in stitches. The next day, we visited the Spanish Steps, (Piazza di Spagna)  a major landmark that attracts millions of people each year.  It is located near the old city centre and  consist of 138 steps. At the base of the Spanish Steps, there is a beautiful fountain and some quaint shops.

The Spanish Steps with Mom & Dad
The Spanish Steps with Mom & Dad
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At the Spanish Steps with hubby, Peter

Facing the Steps is Via Dei Condotti, a very glitzy street filled with luxurious brand named stores such as Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and so much more. Dad offered me a Gucci bag as a special gift for accompanying him on the trip,  it was very hard to resist. First, we stopped at a coffee shop, named Caffe Greco, beautifully decorated  but on the pricey side.  A cannoli set us back 8 euros but it was worth the splurge. We were rushing as mom and I could not wait to get to the Gucci store.

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Shopping at Gucci

Of course, no afternoon would be completed without  a refreshing gelato or granita, shaved ice with flavored syrup, topped with whipped cream.

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Gelato and Granita Time

One  night, we went to a Gala Party at the extravagant Palazzo Brancaccio,  had an amazing dinner and drank delicious wines to our heart’s content.  We were serenaded by an amazing orchestra and danced the night away.  It was a magical evening of fun celebrations with the family and new-found  friends we met on the tour.

Palazzo Brancaccio
Palazzo Brancaccio

Arriving  at the bay of Naples was another special moment that I will always cherish. The bus made a stop so we could shoot some family pictures overlooking  the magnificent view. We were having the time of our lives.
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On that trip, we also visited Pompeii, Sorrento, (ate dinner at the beautiful  restaurant La Tonnarella,) Capri,  Florence, Venice and Milan. That will be another blog all together. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity  to take this once in a lifetime vacation with my amazing family. Please note, back then, I was not big on taking food pictures and the camera was barely adequate to take decent photos. The pictures featured here are from 2 separate trips. Thank you all for coming along with me on this amazing  travel adventure. There are a lot more details to this trip but it would take me too long to describe.

Update: 3/26/2017 – I am saddened to announce you, that I lost my beloved dad on July 15th, 2016 but he remains in our hearts forever. On the other hand, I am happy to let you know that I am currently planning another trip to Bella Italia soon. Destinations: Roma, Toscana, Napoli, Positano! A presto! Ciao a tutti!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas aka Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Culinary Aficionado, WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur
World Traveler – Lover of  Global Food Cultures & Traditions