Tag Archives: wine

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.

 

 

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 won a  “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers Contest 2019” and will be receiving an award/trophy for writing this blogpost. The ceremony will be held at Rosexpo Festival  on June 22nd, 2019 in Puglia, Italy.  I am super excited and feel very grateful to the Consortium for choosing my blogpost to represent wines from Salice Salentino. I plan to visit this beautiful region and enjoy the wines and the local cuisine.

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

Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Food & Wine Pairings, Thanksgiving Edition 2018

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

Thanksgiving, Food & Wine Pairings

IMG_8053This is the third Thanksgiving season without my daddy, and I miss him every day.  Finally, I can say I am somewhat getting back into the spirit of the holidays. We don’t get to appreciate the beauty of autumn in South Florida, but at least, we have slightly cooler weather to make this time of the year more enjoyable. This is a period where families and close friends gather around a bountiful table and celebrate with food and wine. Thanksgiving is literally around the corner and it’s time to show gratitude to our loved ones. For those of you who are hosting, I am sure that your menu is in place but don’t forget to add this wine selection to your list. Today, I will help you pick some delightful wines to serve with your Thanksgiving feast. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. There are many reasonably- priced wines that will work wonders.

I want to keep this as simple as possible without getting technical with fancy wine terms. Wine pairing is subjective and everyone’s palate is different. Let’s not stress over which wine goes with what food. These are my wine suggestions to add a little pizzazz to your party and make it fun for your guests.

I recommend Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as basic wines for your cheese platters and appetizers, including seafood. Make sure the white wines are not overly chilled because this effect can take away from the flavor profile of the wines (herbaceous, lime, peaches, pears, oranges…) If you want to impress your guests, add other interesting whites such as Vermentino, Verdicchio, or a white Rioja. The list is endless and the choice is yours. Keep in mind not everyone has a palate for white wine, be sure to have some light to medium- bodied red wine such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, or a Chianti Classico.

White wines such as Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are classic choices for your Thanksgiving dinner. They both add sweetness (unless you pick a dry Riesling) and intoxicating aromas of spices, which complement the holiday theme beautifully.

Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc pair deliciously with vegetables such as asparagus and green beans.

Pinot Noir is an excellent red wine to pair with the turkey especially if you have mushrooms in your stuffing; it will bring out the characters of earthiness. There is a vast selection of Pinot Noir in the market. Check out some Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley region In Oregon. They tend to be more rustic with notes of cranberries, and they are on the earthy side. These wines are often compared to those from the Burgundy region. California and New Zealand also make great Pinot Noir. If you are on a budget, I recommend Josh Cellars Pinot Noir, Mark West, or Mark West Black Pinot Noir.

Since I am not hosting Thanksgiving, I decided to prepare a delicious turkey for my family last night. I stuffed it with a blend of wild, brown and red rice, mushrooms, sweet sausage and sage and served it with my delectable homemade gravy. I also made a green salad to complement the meal. This was all done in one day, and I didn’t have the time for the classic sweet potatoes. Sigh! The entire meal was paired with a luscious Chianti Classico Riserva that went together marvelously. The baked spices, dark fruits, and the oak in the wine intertwined perfectly with the allspice and the sage in the turkey. It was a Grand Slam with an explosion of rustic flavors.

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Mark West Black Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

When in doubt, you can always rely on bubbles. They’re festive and vary in prices, from the least expensive to the most sophisticated. Sparkling wines and Prosecco are fantastic choices and won’t break the bank. If you are having a fancy affair, Champagne and Franciacorta are always a good idea.

Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon

de Venoge Champagne

de Venoge Champagne

Dessert wines: Fortified wines are a great choice to pair with decadent desserts. Tawny Port pairs nicely with pumpkin and cherry pies, Muscat d’Asti with apple pies, Mavrodaphne with baklava, chocolate mousse cake with Brachetto d’Aqui.

This is not a wine tasting party, and it doesn’t have to be precise. Use this blogpost as a guideline to help you decide which wine to serve at Thanksgiving. The holidays are already stressful and there are far more important things to stress over. I am also featuring one of dad’s favorite wines called Quattro Mani, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. It’s very inexpensive and has lovely hints of vanilla.
img_2216

 

Opus One

Opus One

Opus One is a sophisticated and complex wine, and would complement a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. It certainly would take a big chunk out of your wallet. In the end, it’s not about the money you spent, whether it’s little or a lot, what matters is the quality of time that you cherish with your family and friends.

I hope you will have some fun with these ideas and enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving from my family to yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
Culinary Personality – Certified Level 2 WSET and Sommelier
Cookbook Author: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
To purchase my book, please click here: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/

 

 

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

 

 

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine over Polenta

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine

Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine

Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta

Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta

Enjoying some short ribs

Enjoying some short ribs

Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta

After a long absence, I needed to get back in the kitchen and prepare some home cooked meals.  My son PJ suggested that I make Gordon Ramsey’s short ribs. It was a collaborative effort with him and the result was a Grand Slam. Of course, he thought he was Gordon Ramsey and acted like him, but, I had to take control in Gina’s Kitchen. Let’s just say, we were each other’s sous chef! I was feeding 6 hungry people and I came up with the following measurements.  This recipe can easily be divided in half for a smaller crowd.

Serves: 6-8  Level of difficulty: Easy-Medium

Time: Allow a minimum of 3 hours from start to finish

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs. beef short ribs
  • Olive oil as needed for searing the ribs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 oz. of tomato paste
  • 2 heads of garlic, cut in halves (unpeeled)
  • 1 bottle of red wine, Chianti, Pinot Noir or Cabernet
  • 28 oz. of beef broth low-sodium
  • Italian parsley for garnish, optionalSide dish:

    1 cup Polenta for 4 cups of water, salt to taste

    Mushrooms topping: 

  • 8 oz baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1 tbsp.  olive oil

    Preparation:

    1) Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. ( I keep my house on 75 degrees F.)2)  Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees F.
    3) In a very large and deep pan, over medium-high heat on the stove top, pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sear the meat on both sides for about 3-4 minutes each side. Rotate the meat in the middle of the pan where the heat is, using a set of tongues.

    4) Place the garlic face-down randomly. Add  tomato paste and stir it in all over the bottom of the pan. Cook until it obtains a rust color. Deglaze with the wine. Cook until it reduces 3-4 minutes.

    5) Add the beef broth, and control the sodium if necessary. Bring to a quick boil. Turn stove top off.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 2.5 hours. Just forget about it, figuratively speaking.  (please do not leave oven unattended)

    6)  In a small frying pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and the oil, and pan fry the mushrooms until they are golden brown. Set aside.

    7) Prepare the polenta 20 minutes before the ribs are done. If you do it too soon, it will clump up.  Follow cooking  instructions on package.  Keep on the lowest heat until you’re ready to serve.

    8) Remove the ribs out of the oven and place them in a large platter. Take all the garlic out.  Pass them through a sieve and put the garlic paste in the sauce.  Stir well. Now it’s time to serve. Either buffet style or  you can plate it, by placing some polenta on the bottom of a platter, put the ribs on top and garnish with the mushrooms and parsley.
    Wine pairing suggestions: A bold Cab, Chianti or any red wine of your choice.It’s good to be back in the kitchen after a long absence.This blogpost is in Memory of My Beloved Dad, John.  I will always remember him in the kitchen as my potato peeler, my pot scrubber and my right hand daddy’s little girl. I will miss savoring delicious pasta dishes with him, but his legacy will live in my heart forever.

    RIP DAD- 1936-2016

    Disclosure:

    This dish is an adaptation of Gordon Ramsey’s recipe on YouTube. These measurements are mine based on 8 lbs. of ribs.
    Photographed by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

    Happy Braising!
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Easy Pasta Primavera

As you know by now, I love eating pasta. It is definitely my favorite starch and one of the most versatile food to prepare.  For us South Floridian, it feels like summer already but for most of you, it’s still springtime. The flowers are blooming, and some veggies are in season.  It’s Pasta Primavera time, a simple pasta dish made with fresh vegetables in a cream sauce. It’s easy and delicious.  You can use any pasta shape of your choice, but today I am using a small farfalle. They’re commonly known as bow-tie, and the meaning stands for butterfly in Italian.

Serves: 6-8 as a main meal Level of difficulty: Easy – It takes about 20  minutes from start to finish depending how fast you prep your ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. small farfalle pasta
  • 1/2 head of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 15 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup pasta water, (reserved)
  • 3-4 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade

    Preparation:

    1) In a large frying pan, on medium-high heat, heat up olive oil. Sautee onions for 2-3 minutes, add the garlic, and sautee until you smell the beautiful aroma. Set aside.

    2) Bring the pasta water to a boil. Add a handful of salt, and cook pasta according to package directions. About 5 minutes or so before the time is up, add the asparagus and cook in the same pot to save time. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup or so of pasta water.

    3) Turn the burner back on with the onions and garlic on low, drop the pasta, season with Italian seasoning and black pepper. Add the tomatoes and  asparagus. Slowly incorporate the ricotta, pasta water and basil.  Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Garnish with some veggies on top to make it enticing. Drizzle with olive oil.  Voila! It’s that easy!

    Wine pairing suggestions: Verdicchio , Gavi or a Sauvignon Blanc will work beautifully with this spring dish.

    Cook’s Tips

    You can use a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, green or red bell peppers. The choice is endless.  For a more flavorful version, roast the veggies in the oven, however, keep in mind, this recipe is meant to save you time. Put your own twist on it, and make it your signature dish.

    A recipe is to be used as a barometer, if you are on a salt-restricted or low-fat diet, cut back on the salt and use a part-skim ricotta cheese.

    Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Easy Pasta Primavera

Recipe by Foodiewinelover
Photo by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

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Rustic Style Pasta with Veal, Porcini Mushrooms and Spinach

This flavorful dish is inspired by the mountainous region of Abruzzo, where you will find an abundance of porcini mushrooms.  The recipe was developed, and written by Mario Batali. I have followed his method, and prepared it many times in my kitchen. He recommends using Farfalle, a pasta shape, commonly known as bow-ties, but it literally means, butterflies in Italian.  You can also use other short pastas, such as Rotini, corkscrew-shaped as shown on my featured image. They both work well, and absorb the sauce nicely.  It’s always a big hit in my kitchen, and perfect for feeding a small crowd.  The name of the original recipe is: Farfalle Abruzzese With Veal, Porcini and Spinach.  Mario brilliantly combines veal, double concentrated tomato paste, and porcini mushrooms to create this culinary masterpiece. Make sure you caramelize the tomato paste to get a rust color, and the result will be a stupendous rustic dish packed with layers of deep flavors. Make it for a dinner party, and your guests will think that the sauce has simmered for hours.

Farfalle Abruzzese with Veal, Porcini and Spinach

Excerpted from “Molto Batali” (ecco, 2011)

Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main
Level of difficulty – medium

Ingredients: 

3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 10 minutes

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 ½ pounds ground veal shoulder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup double-concentrated tomato paste *

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup basic tomato sauce (for quick results, try my Mario Batali pasta sauces)

1 ½ pounds farfalle pasta (butterfly shaped pasta)

8 ounces baby spinach, trimmed

½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Preparation: 

1. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, and coarsely chop the porcini. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, and set it aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is lightly toasted. Add the veal and the chopped porcini, and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the meat is well browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the tomato paste. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the paste turns a rust color, 5 minutes. Then add the wine and 1 cup of the strained porcini soaking liquid, and cook for 5 minutes, until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to a very low simmer.

3. Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large spaghetti pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.

4. Drop the farfalle into the water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle ¼ cup of the cooking water into the veal mixture. Stir the baby spinach into the veal mixture.

5. Drain the pasta in a colander, and add it to the veal mixture. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, with the grated pecorino on the side.

From “Molto Batali”

* You can find the double concentrated tomato paste at Italian specialty stores. If not, use 1/2 cup of regular tomato paste, but remember, the secret is to caramelize it on high flame to obtain that deep rust color. (My notes)

My wine suggestion: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a delightful red wine from the Abruzzo region of Italy.

Rustic Style Pasta with Veal, Porcini Mushrooms and Spinach

Rustic Style Pasta with Veal, Porcini Mushrooms and Spinach

Recipe: Adaptation of Mario Batali’s:  Farfalle Abruzzese With Veal, Porcini and Spinach

Photo credit: Foodiewinelover

Heavenly Cheeses, Food & Wine Pairings

Hello everyone! This is probably my longest blog post to date, because it is my favorite, and most passionate subject,  Food & Wine. This explains my blog name, Foodiewinelover.  I have put together a compilation of my dining and wining experience on Heavenly Cheeses, Food & Wine Pairings.  Please do not forget to read the descriptions on all my photos.  Cheeses are among my favorite food groups, and when I’m entertaining, I love pairing them with delicious wines. There is an abundance of cheeses, and wines from all corners of the world, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough time to mention all of them.   Ideally, I love pairing cheese with the wine from the same region, or country, especially when I’m having a themed party. However,  there are no set rules about it, and, you can mix and match food and wines from different countries, as you please. There are hard, soft, and semi-soft cheeses. One of my favorite cheeses is Parmigiano-Reggiano, an Italian Parmesan cheese, aged 36 months, that I brought back with me from Italy. To me it’s considered the king of Italian cheeses, and has a lovely nuttiness to it.  According to Giada de Laurentiis, a famous Italian Chef, it’s best if you pick it with a knife, to get into all the nook and crannies, for optimal flavors.  In general, white wine is ideal to pair with cheeses because of their higher acidity content, and boost up the layers of flavors of cheeses. However, If you are not a big fan of whites, don’t fret, red wines  also make a nice pairing. Ultimately, you decide what works well with your palate. I am also sharing with you some delectable food that goes with some interesting wines.  Here are a few suggestions to impress your friends at your next gathering.

Guidalberto paired with Parmigiano Reggiano

Sexy, seductive, full-bodied, Super Tuscan, Italian wine, blend of Cabernet and Merlot – 2012 Tenuta SanGuido – Guidalberto . The color is a scintillating cherry-red. At first, floral aromas and dark cherries on the nose, then, when I swirl it, the earthiness comes out. I smell barnyard and chocolate. I swoosh it in my mouth, I get hints of tobacco, chocolate, leather, and all the flavor profile I desire in a wine. The finish is succulent and lingering. This wine pairs heavenly with Parmigiano Reggiano.

Cheese and wine pairing

Great cheese and wine pairings: Pulenta Cab from Argentina, Robert Mondavi, Emblem California Cab, & a platter of barrel aged Feta, Ginger and Mango Stilton, Pecorino Romano cheese.

Epoisse

Wine & Cheese for Dinner! Époisses, the stinkiest cheese ever. Lol! Prima Donna, a blend of Parmigiano Reggiano and Gouda, paired with La Crema, Pinot Noir. If you prefer white, you can pair with an Albarino, or a nice Chablis, (Chardonnay from Burgundy)

Manchego and Crianza

Manchego cheese paired magically with Miguel Torres Celeste Crianza, from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. A beautiful pairing of cheese and wine from the same country.

Malbecandcheesepairing

Girls Night Out! Malbec paired with scrumptious Comte, Idiazabal and Ossau Iraty cheeses. 🍷🍷🍷

MerlotandHumboldtFog

Merlot and Humboldt Fog cheese….Pinot Noir would have been a nice choice as well

BrunellowithDeliceDeBourgogne

Le Delice De Bourgogne cheese paired with a fantastic Brunello.  If you are into white wines, another suggestion for this cheese is an oaky Chardonnay 

 

Foodiewinelover Stonecrabs

Stonecrabs paired with Champagne for my birthday in 2014

 

Foodiewinelover Bubblies

When in doubt, bubblies go with almost everything

 

Espinacas y Garbanzos

Spinach and Garbanzos, paired with a lovely white Rioja

Bai Gorri Rioja

Bai Gorri Rioja, An elegant white wine, well-balanced with intense flavors of oak, paired heavenly with an assortment of Spanish dishes, Shrimp with Garlic, Spinach with Garbanzo beans, Paella, and Manchego cheese. This was at our Spanish-themed wine party.

 

Lamb Loin Chops

Lamb Loin Chops pair beautifully with Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape or a nice red Bordeaux

 

Paella

Paella pairs deliciously with a nice Rose’

Rose' pairs nicely with a Paella

Rose’

 

Beets and Goat Cheese

Beets and Goat Cheese pair lusciously with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc

Gouda and Epoisses cheeses paired with Merlot

Gouda and Epoisses cheeses, caramelized walnuts and fig spread, paired exquisitely with Chateau Lyonnat, a Merlot from the Bordeaux region. Delicieux!

Veal Bolognese

Veal Bolognese over Pappardelle, paired nicely with a Rosso di Montalcino

Porterhouse for two paired with a Super Tuscan

Aged Porterhouse for two paired scrumptiously with a Super Tuscan

If you are a salmon lover, pick a lush Pinot Noir from Oregon, or one from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma county, California.  They both would make great choices. For any white fish, select a crisp white wine, if you want to get fancy, try a delightful Sancerre, (Sauvignon Blanc) from the Loire Valley.  If you are on a budget, stick to a nice chilled chardonnay.  Spicy food pair well with an off-dry Riesling, Viognier or Gewurztraminer. Pungent cheeses such as Gorgonzola, or Blue Cheese stand up to dessert wines, port or cognac. Sauternes, a French dessert wine, with notes of apricots,  is a nice complement to Roquefort cheese and Foie Gras. Let’s not forget about Ricotta cheese which is used in savory dishes such as stuffed shells. They make a great pairing with a nice Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, or any medium-bodied Italian reds.  Ricotta cheese is also used as a scrumptious filling in cannolis, and goes well with a Moscato d’Asti, a lovely dessert wine from the Piedmont region of Italy.  If you are looking for a match made in heaven,  my friend, fellow-sommelier, Certified Italian Wine Specialist, Angela, from Constant Wining suggests pairing a cantuccini, an Italian biscotti, with Vin Santo. We had it at one of our Italian-themed wine party, and it was a major hit, and a fantastic way to end a superb evening with fun friends. Mascarpone, is an italian sweet cheese, and one of the main ingredients in the delectable dessert Tiramisu. It can be paired with either the Vin Santo, or the Moscato d’Asti.

I am posting links to some of the cheeses that I feature in this blogpost,  so you can learn more about their process, origin, and history.

Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, two Italian giants, are excellent grating cheeses for pasta dishes.  Gorgonzola,  Blue Stilton, Roquefort,  are considered some of the world’s most famous Bleu Cheeses. Feta Cheese is one of the most famous Greek cheeses. Humboldt Fog, is a goat milk and pungent in flavors. Epoisses is a pungent cows-milk cheese.  Delice de Bourgogne, is a French cow’s milk cheese. Manchego is a sheep’s milk from Spain. Comté is a cow’s milk from France. Ossau Iraty is a sheep’s cheese from France.  Idiazabal is a sheep’s milk from Spain.

I hope you have enjoyed some of my food and wine suggestions, and in closing, I would love to share some fun quotes with you.

“All four elements were happening in equal measure – the cuisine, the wine, the service, and the overall ambience. It taught me that dining could happen at a spiritual level.” Charlie Trotter

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living.” Robert Mondavi

Most importantly, I enjoy sharing food & wine with close friends, and family. It elevates the experience to another level.

Disclosure: All the pictures in this blog post are my own, and were taken either with my iPhone or my Canon Rebel T3 camera.  They were shot at various restaurants, a friend’s house, and my home.

Cheers to good health and a well-lived life!

Gina, aka, FoodieWineLover 

 

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Prepping for Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Prepping for Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers

We occasionally eat at a classic, go-to Cuban restaurant called Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine . They make a delicious Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Bell Peppers.  I love it so much that I decided to recreate it, and the result is amazing. I am excited to share my version with all of you.

Serves: 4-6 Degree of difficulty: Easy
Prepping time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 13-15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, green, red and yellow, cut in julienne
  • 3/4 cup garlic, chopped
  • Sprinkles of smoked paprika
  • Salt to taste
  • pepper flakes, optional
  • 1.1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1.1/2 lb. extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Preparation:

1) In an extra-large pan, over medium-high heat, heat up olive oil, saute’ onions and peppers for about 7-9 minutes. Add garlic, paprika,  salt, pepper flakes. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with wine. Let it reduce, 1 minute.

2)  Add shrimp,  let is simmer for 3-5 minutes, or until  shrimp is no longer translucent. Do not overcook them, as they will get chewy.

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, using yellow peppers

 

I usually serve the shrimp over white rice like they do it at the restaurant. You certainly can use brown rice, or another grain of your choice. Drizzle with olive oil.

Wine pairing suggestions: Either use the same wine you used to cook, (make sure it’s drinkable) or a nice chilled white Rioja.

Buen Provecho!  (Bon Appetit!)

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina
Foodiewinelover

 

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