One of my goals this year is to explore
Italian grapes in the US and I've come across a number of wineries
that I'm in contact with to speak with them about their growing
methods and how their soils and climates differ as well as the wines
they produce from those that they originate from in Italy.
Myself with Al Fulchino, owner of Fulchino Vineyards in Hollis, NH
I recently interviewed Al Fulchino, the
owner of a local winery in New Hampshire called, Fulchino Vineyards.
My feature of Fulchino Vineyards was featured this past week on my
column, “Italy Uncorked” in the Bostoniano magazine where you can
get a history of Al's Italian roots and heritage and how he came
about producing wine in NH.
Al grows about 85% of his own grapes on
his land in Hollis, NH, but does import some Italian grapes from
Italy including montepulciano grapes from the central region of
Abruzzo as well as the lagrein grape from the Trentino-Alto Adige
region of northern Italy. Granted, the terroirs along with certain
elements of the actual winemaking and aging process are what make the
wines unique so it's no wonder that US wineries that are
experimenting with indigenous Italian varietals from Italy are making
styles different than what you may be used to. The selection of
specific varietals that these wineries and winemakers choose in
comparison to what they think they are capable of producing to
produce a somewhat “true style” of how that grape is expressed is
what I find intriguing.
Al Fulchino chose lagrein and
montepulciano grapes because these are the grapes that his family
experimented with in making wine. Since lagrein is a grape that
isn't well known in the public eye I asked Al why lagrein in
particular? Outside the reason of his history within his family with
the lagrein grape, overall Al is satisfied with the results of the
wine produced with lagrein in the long term. His biggest issue with
it is that in its youth it lacks the qualities he looks forward to in
the end result. When presenting to customers its difficult to
demonstrate the potential of this grape in the long term.
Al's family originates from Campania
and next Saturday June 6th for our Italian Food, Wine and
Travel group #ItalianFWT we will be featuring Campania this month
with a group of bloggers sharing all their wonderful experiences and
recipes and wines.
Original wine basket for the wine press of Al's grandfather
Make sure to check back next week with a preview
earlier in the week for a sampling of what's to come. You can join
us live on twitter Saturday June 6th at 11am EST and chat
with us. We'd love to hear your story and experiences too!
This is part 2 of my visit earlier this
week to my favorite local Italian establishment for a behind the
scenes tour of the Tuscan Market. After a wonderful introduction to
how the Tuscan Brands got started by the owner himself, Joe Faro, we
were given a dynamic and informative tour by Executive Chef, Edward
Payne. What's even better after the tour was the wine and food
pairing luncheon that followed. What more could be better than a
Tuscan food and wine luncheon? Bring your appetities for these wine
and food pairings led by Wine Director Joe Comforti.
Wine Director, Joe Comforti, with our first pairing of Zonin Prosecco
Executive Chef, Edward Payne
We first started off with their classic
antipasti platter with a large variety of yumminess. It includes
everything from carmelized onion, olives, roasted tomatoes, artichokes, mozzarella burata, roasted peppers,
portobello mushrooms, cured meats and specialty cheese along with the
icing on the cake, a delicious truffle honey. This dish was paired
with the Zonin prosecco, with prosecco being a great pairing as an
apertif with this variety of antipasti.
Next were a variety of wonderful small
slices of panini including a caprese with heirloom tomato, mozzarella
and basil as well as an Italian grinder with spicy coppa,
soppressata, prosciutto di parma, hot pepper and mozzarella and
lastly which was my favorite a porchetta panini with sliced pork,
marscapone, pear mostarda, roasted onion and rucola. These panini
were paired with a 2013 Tenuta di Nozzole Le Bruniche Toscana
Chardonnay that complimented the many varieties in the panini. I
didn't try the spicy Italian grinder though as I'm not a fan of spice
so I can't speak for that pairing.
Now start the 4 courses of pasta dishes
increasing in greatness. We started with an orecchiette bolognese
followed by a ravioli ai quattro formaggi “4 cheese ravioli”.
The ravioli was very creamy and the homemade pasta here is what makes
the difference in the quality of their pasta. The third pasta dish
has always been one of my favorites, a cappellacci di zucca
“butternut squash cappellacci” in a sage butter sauce with
crushed amaretti and parmigiano. Lastly, being the best gnocchi I
ever had was a truffle marscapone gnocchi topped with shallots,
oyster mushrooms in a white wine and thyme sauce. All these dishes
were paired with nothing but a good ol' Tuscan chianti, Amadeo
Quattro Formaggi Ravioli
Truffle filled marscapone gnocchi
Butternut Squash Cappellacci
As if all that wasn't enough we
finished with 2 tiramisu and some homemade gelato. They served the
classic tiramisu and a limoncello tiramisu followed by a large
variety of their homemade gelato of all kinds. Nothing like a
refreshing sorbet at the end of a meal like this with the mango being
one of my favorites. These were paired with a Michele Chiarlo Nivole
Moscato d'Asti. I'm always up for a good dessert wine to finish any
Creamy Homemade Gelato
Of course I have a special place in my
heart for Italian food and wine pairings as you know and with
pairings like this with fresh homemade products and delicious entrees
with ingredients imported from Italy least to say I was in heaven. I
hope you enjoyed my experience!
I had an amazing experience at one of
my favorite local Italian establishments. I say establishments
because it's beyond just a restaurant and even for those that follow
my blog around the world you can still appreciate the passion that
one business has for Italian food and wine and this is what my blog
is all about. I have an admiration for those that have such true
passion and desire and can turn that into making their dreams become
I toured the Tuscan Market in Salem,
New Hampshire, part of the Tuscan Brands. It was kicked off by the
man behind this vision, Joe Faro. Joe's vision started back in
college where he made his business plan developed in school into a
reality when he opened Joseph's Gourmet Pasta and Sauces that became
one of the top pasta brands across the country. He would drop off
samples of his pasta to businesses around the Boston area to anyone
that he could. His facility grew to 150,000 square feet with 7 lines
running at 3,000 pounds of pasta an hour. The business grew rapidly
and in 2006 he sold off the business to Nestle. After a brief
retirement Joe's entrepreneurial spirit and passion for artisan foods
brought him back to the business when he had the opportunity to
establish what is known today as the Tuscan Brands that opened in
November 2010 including the Tuscan Kitchen in both Salem, NH and
Burlington, MA and later the Tuscan Market in 2012.
Joe Faro, Owner of Tuscan Brands (Tuscan Kitchen & Tuscan Market)
Joe Faro, of Sicilian heritage, has
made over a hundred trips to Italy and does a tremendous business
with businesses all throughout Italy from Sicily to Lake Como, Emilia
Romagna and Bologna. All the equipment at the Tuscan Market is
imported from Italy as well as the ingredients that are developed
into some of the freshest and delicious Italian food you can get
without being in Italy. According to Joe it's very important for him
to stay true to the brand and create a culinary innovation in artisan
The Behind the Scenes Operations
We were led throughout the tour by
Executive Chef Edward Payne whom has worked with Joe for over 15
years. The passion from everyone we met throughout the tour
demonstrated what makes this business so special.
The behind the scenes of the operations
of the Tuscan Market was eye opening. There were seperate stations
and rooms for everything including the bakery, pizza stations, pastry
shop “pasticerria”, pasta facility, butchery and a salami
fermentation room where they are aging their own homemade salami.
When most of us are sleeping these
operations are getting kicked off at 3am when the bread bakers are up
producing high quality breads to support all aspects of the Tuscan
Brands business. Both restaurants have either a wood stone oven or an
earth stone oven that can go up to 800 degrees and cook a pizza in 2
minutes and 20 seconds. Joe says that for them “pizza is a sport”.
So if you've never played sports consider yourself an athlete in
your lifetime! ; )
Knowing the background that Joe comes
from in relations to pasta it's no surprise that this is a major part
of the business and personally for me what I enjoy about the food
here. They make so many specialty pastas including ravioli,
cannelloni, sacchetti, tortellini, cappellacci. The list goes on.
Times have changed though from when Joe Faro had his first business.
Then they used whole purpose flour and whole eggs to now using 00
flour and egg yolks. Many restaurants that make homemade pasta
sheets will roll it out twice where they are rolling it out 6 times
so it's beautifully thin and light.
The future of the Tuscan Brands
Lots of exciting happenings including
in the future of the Tuscan Brands with an online retail part of the
business where you can get the products shipped directly to your
door. Custom pasta machines have been designed for Joe by an
equipment manufacturer right outside Lake Como Italy and the pasta
products will soon soon be found at specialty shops. There are even
talks about opening another Tuscan Kitchen restaurant. If you
haven't been you must go and if you've gone you already know what a
treat this business for true lovers of Italian food.
More to come
Stay tuned this week for Part 2 to see the wonderful meal
preparations and food and wine pairings at the Tuscan Market and meet
a couple other key players in the overall operations including your
favorite and mine, Italian wine. The pictures alone will make you
salivate so bring your appetites!
I'm picky when it comes to
entry level, inexpensive chiantis. Sometimes you just dont want to
spend a lot of money, but you want a decent quality Chianti. I
recently discovered the Donna Laura Ali Sangiovese di Toscana I.G.T.
wine at a local wine shops wine tasting and retailing for $11.99 was
a value for this chianti..
Laura winery is located in the Castelnuovo Berardenga town within
the Chianti Classico region in Tuscany. This is one of the top towns
in this region for Chianti Classico production along with Radda,
Gaiole, Greve, Castellina in Chianti and Panzano. It's located in
the southeastern part of the Chianti Classico zone. This winery
produces about half a million bottles a year and is owned by Lia
Tolaini-Banville. Some of the grapes that they use in producing
wines for the Donna Laura brand originate from the grapes produced on
the Tolaini estate.
Map of Tuscany ~ Property of Donna Laura wines
Where does the name come from? Lia Tolaini-Banville's
appreciation of wine drew from her first introduction to Italy and
her Aunt Laura on a visit with her father when she was 6 to Lucca in
Tuscany. Over the years Lia fell in love with Italy, as many of us
do, and returned for summers enjoying the time and culture and
spending time with her relatives. After graduating from college she
traveled to Florence, Italy to further study art and spend more time
with them. As Lia grew older and had a family of her own their
connection remained strong until unfortunately the aunt passed away.
In 2004 Lia started the brand Donna Laura wines named after her aunt
her drew about her passion for Italy and where her family was from.
One of the three wines
produced under the Donna Laura brand that I tasted includes the wine,
Ali, meaning “wings” and named after Lia's daughter. It's
produced with 100% sangiovese. Ruby in color, it was a smooth,
medium bodied wine with juicy ripe cherry and raspberry with soft
What value Chiantis have you found that you'd like to share?
Believe it or not I have yet to ever have a fish taco. I’ve always thought about ordering them, but
always drag myself into the usual chicken fajita that I enjoy. Today for our wine pairing weekend #winepw we
are featuring foods with a Mexican flare and better yet I’m pairing it with an
Italian wine, but of course. With Italy having a
coastline of about 4700 miles (7600 km) there is no wonder that they are best
prepared for pairing fish with wine.
The idea now is WHICH wine with fish tacos.
It’s best to use a flaky fish for preparing fish tacos that
could include tilapia, cod (which is what I chose), mahi-mahi, halibut, etc. They’re very easy to prepare as you’ll see
and I used a recipe by Bobby Flay and played around with the ingredients to my
·White flaky fish
·Fresh lime juice
·¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Toppings for fish tacos
·Guacamole (recipe below)
·Mixof chopped red onions with tomatoes, garlic and oil
·2 plum tomatoes diced
·2 cloves of garlic
·Fresh lemon juice
·Salt and pepper
Marinate fish for up to 30 minutes with extra
virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh lime juice.
While fish is marinating prepare the guacamole
Preheat grill on a low to medium high heat and
place marinated fish carefully.Grill
fish for about 2-3 minutes on each side and remove from heat. Add tortillas to grill if to your liking.
Once fish has cooled, break up into pieces and combine in bowl
while prepping your fish tacos.
Depending on your preference you can toast your
tortilla on the grill briefly or eat as is.
Once they are completed and ready to be prepared gather your toppings
and assemble your tacos to your liking.
Left to Right: Red onion/tomato mixture, guacamole, sour cream, grilled cod
One of the best parts of tacos are the toppings. Everyone obviously has their own preferences
and feel free to play around with this.
I’m not one for hots or anything spicy so I omitted anything of that
nature. I started by preparing the
tortillas with a smothering of my homemade guacamole . Then
I added the fish flakes and topped those with my choice of toppings which
included a combination of chopped red
onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, sour cream, salt and pepper that I previously
had marinating in an oil and lime juice marinade.
What to pair with Fish Tacos?
Now, what wine to pair with this. I didn't question about selecting a white wine for this pairing. Recently I received some samples from Stemmari and one of the bottles was named Stemmari Baci Vivaci meaning "lively kisses". This white wine is a sparkling grillo, which is a grape indigenous to Sicily. It was a great selection for the pairing with these fish tacos as it was light bodied, dry, lemon citrus with a slight delicate sparkle and some minerality that went well with all the elements of the dish. For more about Stemmari and the wines of Sicily read the article I recently wrote with a different grillo viognier blend.
Welcome to our 7th Italian
Food, Wine & Travel event as we make our way around Italy
visiting each region month by month. This month we feature the
region of Le Marchein Italy. The Marche is a region in central Italy. Pronounced “lay
mark-ay”, the Le Marche region borders Emilia Romagna to the north,
Umbria to the west and Abruzzo to the south and barely touches the
regions of Tuscany and Lazio. The Marche has a long coastline is located on the eastern side of Italy along the Adriatic Sea, but inland you will find the Apennine mountain chain running through it. Best of both worlds, but also the region why there is so much variety within the country and each region themselves.
Copyright of Federdoc
I recently wrote about Verdicchio, one
of the most popular white grapes from this region. Today I wanted to
share with you an interesting wine from this region made from
Vernaccia. No, it's not the vernaccia white grape like the Vernaccia
di San Gimignano from Tuscany. This is a wine that is made from
Vernaccia Nera called Vernaccia di Serrapetrona that comes from the Macerata province located more inland. This is one of the
5 DOCG wines from the Marche wine region.
The process of creating Vernaccia di Serrapetrona The most interesting aspect
about this wine is that it goes through 3 fermentations. During
harvest time about 60% of the grapes harvested are processed and 40% of
the grapes are dried out, which is known as appassimento. Lastly
after the grapes have been dried out for a few months until about January they are then crushed and fermented. Finally, the wines are
blended together and the final fermentation takes place and undergoes
a third fermentation in stainless tanks via the Charmat method.
Appassimento, grape drying process
What is Vernaccia di Serrapetrona? Vernaccia di Serrapetrona is a red sparkling semi-sweet to sweet wine, but can also be a
dry, secco style. At least 85% of
this wine must be made with vernaccia nera.
flavor profile is reminiscent of ripe red fruits including
cranberries and strawberries with some spice and tannin combined with
good acidity. I'd like to say I got my hands on a Vernaccia di Serrapetrona for this tasting, but unfortunately not. Vino Travels is all about education of Italian grapes and if I just opened your eyes to a special wine of the Marche wine region then I'm happy ; )
Vineyards of Le Marche by Roy Luck
Join us live on Twitter today at 10am EST and throughout the weekend at #ItalianFWT and share your experiences of the Marche region in Italy. More Marche blogs coming right up......