Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Preview of the 1st Italian Food, Wine & Travel bloggers event on the Veneto

Here we are!  Our awaited 1st Italian monthly bloggers group, "Italian Food, Wine & Travel".  I have a deep passion and love for Italy and all it offers from everything including the amazing landscapes, hospitality of the people and above all the food and wine.  Ah, la dolce vita!  I wanted to join together bloggers that have an appreciation for everything Italy offers whether it's through their Italian travels or their appreciation for Italian food and wine or better yet all of the above.

For those of you that have been following along on my journey through the Italian wine world get ready for a wonderful addition.  This Italian monthly bloggers group will take place the first Saturday of every month and every month we will feature a new region.  For our 1st event we are starting in the Veneto region.
Veneto region in Italy
We have a group of bloggers ready to share with you their insights into the region of the Veneto.  This Saturday November 1st will be our first event.  You can join us live on twitter Saturday at #ItalianFWT and make sure to check back here Saturday for a list of wonderful blogs to enjoy throughout your weekend.

Here are our featured articles this month: Vino Travels - Sensational Soave
Cooking Chat - A Valpolicella for Grilled Swordfish and Eggplant Pasta
Food Wine Click - Veneto Food & Wine from Half a World Away
Curious Appetite - Traditional Artisan Cheeses 
Just Elizabeth - Venetian Shadows
Italian Journeys - Asolo and Basana del Grappa
Monica Cesarato - Veneto Off the Beaten Path

There is time to join before Saturday.  Please reach out to me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  Otherwise we would love to have you join us for next month's event and region to be announced Saturday!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The "Green Heart of Italy" Umbria & it's Indigenous Sagrantino

Tuscany may be one of the most popular known regions in the world and draws millions of tourists a year, but right to the east is a region of equivalent beauty at more affordable prices that more and more people are discovering.  This region is Umbria. Known as the “green heart of Italy”, Umbria is full of beautiful medieval cities, green hills and great wine. Of course that is what we are here for, correct? I have written about Orvieto from this region, which is originally what this region has been known for when it comes to whites. Today we're going to switch it up and focus on one of the primary reds from this region, Sagrantino di Montefalco, and a bottle that I recently tasted.
wines of Montefalco wine region in Umbria
Photo by Consorzio Tutale Vini Montefalco

What is Sagrantino?
For those of you not familiar with Sagrantino it is an indigenous varietal of Umbria that is produced in and around the town of Montefalco. There are only about 25 producers that are producing this grape. Sagrantino is a wine of deep inky color and is a very tannic wine, more so than nebbiolo. If you aren't one for tannins than this may not be the wine for you. It produces wines of stewed fruits with spice and earthy qualities. Thankfully the producers that stayed committed to this grape have maintained it over the years.  During the 70's the wine was almost withdrawn from the vineyards as they didn't believe it would be a profitable grape for the region to grow.

The DOCG of Sagrantino
Sagrantino di Montefalco became a DOCG in 1992 and is held to strict regulations in order to produce top quality wines of the region. Some of those standards include making wines from 100% of the sagrantino grape along with aging them 33 months before release. Why so long you may ask? With this wine being so high in tannins it needs the time to be able to develop and mature and to mellow out those tannins producing a more balanced wine. There are additional regulations producers must adhere to, but I won't bore you with all the complete details.
2009 Tenuta Alzatura Sagrantino di Montefalco
The 2009 Tenuta Alzatura Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG I'm sharing was ruby red with garnet hues. It was intense on the nose with notes of chocolate, sweet spices, prunes and vanilla bean. Sounds delicious doesn't it? It was a full bodied wine that was dry, smooth and warming on the palate with firm tannins and a little bit of charcoal on the finish.

I have yet to visit this wine region with the few times I have been to Umbria, but expanding my wine knowledge I am sure to check out some wineries next time as I love wines of these characteristics.

You can read more about the wines of Montefalco and the consortium itself

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pinot Grigio from Pighin in the Friuli Grave region

Earlier in the week we covered the beautiful mountaineous region of the Valle d'Aosta in northwestern Italy and now we move over to the northeastern border of Italy in the Friuli wine region.  I'm sharing with you today a pinot grigio from the Pighin winemaking estate.

Friuli Grave DOC wine region
The Friuli Grave region provided by the Consorzio DOC Friuli Grave

All about the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region
The Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a region I discussed before, borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east and is surrounded by both the Italian Alps as well as the Adriatic Sea creating a unique climate structure. Winemaking didn't catch many folks eyes in this region until the introduction of pinot grigio throughout the world in the 80's and 90's. Provided by NASA (North American Sommelier Association), 65% of this area is made of lowlands with 35% on the hillsides, which are all located in the southern part of the region. Sixty percent of this region is dedicated to white wines with about 40% red wine.

Pighin Winery

The Pighin winemaking estate came about back in 1963 when the 3 brothers: Luigi, Fernando and Ercole bought land in the Friuli Grave DOC within the Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region of northeastern Italy. Since 2004 Fernando took over full control of the winery with his family and continue to produce wine today.

Pighin has two estates with the Risano estate in the Friuli Grave DOC zone consisting of 370 acres (150 hectacres) with alluvial soils and the Capriva estate in the Collio Goriziano DOC zone consisting of 74 acres (30 hectacres). They are in full control of their production and quality of the wines as its produced on their estate using modern technology. The wine I'm sharing today is from the Friuli Grave DOC zone that produces most of the volume of the region (about 54%) according to NASA. This DOC is situated more in the flatlands and the wines from here are typically lighter style due to the gravelly soils.
Risano estate at Pighin in Friuli
Risano estate at Pighin
I tasted the 2013 Pighin Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC. This pinot grigio was sourced from Pighin's estate in the town of Risano in the well known Friuli Grave zone. On the nose were hints of green apple, white peach as well as some herbaceous tones of cut grass and some minerality. On the palate it was a dry, medium bodied wine that was nicely crisp and smooth.

2013 Pighin Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC
Even though this is a small wine producing region in comparison to the rest of Italy producing only about 2%, some of the best pinot grigio in Italy is produced in this region that you must seek out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Masciarelli Wine Company

I had the pleasure of receiving an invitation and meeting the President and CEO of Masciarelli Wine Company, Roberta Masciarelli-Spagnuolo, and her husband, Joseph, at their grand portfolio tasting at the Boston Harbor Hotel last month. It was a wonderful presentation of all their wines, but of course I was there to explore their Italian portfolio and to experience what the many wineries of Italy had to offer. They had some great obscure grapes from Puglia, Sardegna and Sicily that I featured on my blog, Vino Travels, along with some of the most highly respected wines in Italy including Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Chianti Classico, etc.

Masciarelli Wine Company
Right to left: Joseph Spagnuolo, Roberta Masciarelli-Spagnuolo and Annamaria Masciarelli
The Masciarelli Wine Company is a well-known importer in not only Massachusetts and the Boston area, but the rest of the country as well as the Masciarelli brand being known throughout the world. The Masciarelli Wine Company distributes to 27 states and 31 wholesalers throughout the United States. The company was founded back in 1987 by Nicola Masciarelli. Nicola at the time was connecting the roots of their family vineyards in Italy to the wine importing business in the United States. Today, the Masciarelli Wine Company has a large presence of Italian wines in their portfolio covering seventeen of the twenty regions within Italy. Besides Italian wine, they have a strong presence of French wine as well making them amongst the top wholesalers of Bordeaux futures in MA. In addition to their Italian and French portfolio they also import wines from Spain, Luxemborg, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, Uruguay and Argentina. In total the Masciarelli Wine Company carries over 1000 different labels in their portfolio.

Roberta and the Masciarelli family have been able to expand the company and carry on the legacy of what Nicola Masciarelli, Roberta's father, started years ago. Their philosophy at Masciarelli is to “deal directly with the winery whenever possible and seek out small estates producing high-quality wines that would be overlooked in larger brand-driven portfolios”. 

Castello di Semivicoli
Castello di Semivicoli
Masciarelli is also a well recognized name in the Abruzzo region of central Italy where the family wineries are located. A variety of grapes are produced there, but the prominent grapes of this region are montepulciano d'abruzzo and trebbiano d'abruzzo. The Masciarelli winery was established in 1978 by Gianni Masciarelli due to the influence and love of winemaking from his grandfather Giovanni Masciarelli. Gianni began producing wines in 1981. There are four brands that fall under the Masciarelli brand of wines to include Marina Cvetic, Masicarelli Classico, Iskra and Villa Gemma. Today their annual production equals over 2 million bottles. They are located in 4 provinces within the Abruzzo region including their main site in Chieti (San Martino sulla Marrucina), Teramo, Pescara and L'Aquila. 

Marina Cvetic Masciarelli
Marina Cvetic Masciarelli and family
I'll leave with you with Gianni Masciarelli's quote from his thoughts on the Abruzzo region and his love of wine. It's a wonderful remembrance of his passion and what makes their wines special. “However much I love Abruzzo as a whole, this is the place I would like to live if I were vines. A place rich in historical memories and tradition. This is where our vineyards have always stood and the fruits we receive are the authentic expression of this culture. I think everyone has wondered at least once Why ever did I do this? I find the answer in the love I have for the land and in the satisfaction my work gives me.”

Gianni Masciarelli
Gianni Masciarelli

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Escape to the Italian Alps with Pinot Nero from Grosjean in Valle d'Aosta

One of the most beautiful parts of Italy I have been to I traveled to last October for my honeymoon in the Valle d'Aosta or Aosta Valley, the tip of northwestern Italy. I shared my beautiful trip with you in my last blog on the Valle d'Aosta when I stayed at Agriturismo La Viggni de Crest. Today we'll discuss the region more in depth as I'm learning thoroughly the Italian wine regions through the NASA Italian Wine Specialist program. With Vino Travels being an Italian wine blog of course I'm going to take you through my journey in this program region by region.

Grosjean winery Valle d'Aosta
Grosjean Winery

The wine I'm sharing with you today comes from the Grosjean winery. Doesn't sound very Italian at all, does it? That's because the Valle d'Aosta, or Valle d' Aoste, region in Italy is a combination of French and Italian speaking residents. This region borders France in the west and Switzerland in the north, so there are many influences from not only a linguistic standpoint, but also in the food, wine and traditions. This region is the smallest populated region in all of Italy. It may be the least populated, but all the better to enjoy the peace of nature with the tallest mountain in western Europe, Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco, dominating the valley. 

Grosjean winery Valle d'Aosta DOC
Grosjean winery
This region only has one DOC, the Valle d'Aosta DOC, but produces 25 styles of wine with the Institut Agricole Regional stating that there are 13 grapes that are native to this region. Reds mostly dominate this region by about 85% with pinot nero being one of the top red grapes from this region. The Grosjean winery has a large variety of these grapes and uses very natural methods in their farming along with organic fertilizers.
Grosjean Valle d'Aosta DOC
Grosjean family
I tasted the 2012 Grosjean Pinot Nero Valle d'Aosta DOC wine. It was a dry, medium bodied wine that was rather smooth with red currant and spices to include clove and licorice on the palate. The tannins were soft and the wine was moderately balanced.

2012 Grosjean Pinot Nero

I highly recommend seeking out this region not only for it's beauty, but for it's variety of indigenous varietals if you can find them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Trebbiano di Lugana from Cesari in the Lombardy region

I've been attending the Italian Wine Specialist Certification program with NASA (North American Sommelier Association) in Boston starting this past weekend and am completely immersed in the world of Italian wine. I have lots to share over the next few weeks and am excited about the information and wines I'll be presenting to you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Back in 2009 I visited the region of Lombardy and stayed in the small town of Salionze at the pleasant Agriturismo Le Sigalette, nearby to Lake Garda. I had a memorable dinner at a local restaurant, Per Bacco, and visited a great town on Lake Garda called Sirmione. It's a long peninsula where you can enter the old town by crossing over the moat at the Castello Scaligero that had a wonderful view over the town of Sirmione. I would love to return to Lake Garda to explore it further and travel around the whole lake. 

Agriturismo Le Sigalette Salionze
Me @ Agriturismo Le Sigalette
About Lombardy
The Lombardy region is the financial capital of Italy and is where Milan is located. The region has limited production and exportation, but the wine that is produced here is focused strongly focused on quality wines. This region has suffered hardships over the years in vineyard development and winemaking. Vineyards had been abandoned a number of times throughout history due to the Lombards taking over after the Roman Empire, but they lacked the knowledge to develop the vineyards. In addition, phylloxera, a disease that attacked the vines, had taken over at one point as well as the industrial revolution driving folks to more urban areas cause abandonment of the vineyards.

Sirmione Lake Garda
Sirmione ~ Lake Garda
The wines of Lugana
Today I'm sharing a wine from Lugana. Lugana is at the southern border of Lake Garda and borders both the regions of Lombardy and the Veneto. Some great wines are produced in this area due to the volcanic soils, known as morainic soils, in addition to the micro-climates of the lakes. The wine I sampled comes from the Lugana DOC, which houses the most important still white wine of Lombardy. Ninety percent of the grapes here are trebbiano di lugana.

2013 Cesari Cento Filari LuganaI sampled the 2013 Cesari Cento Filari Lugana DOC from the Lombardy, or Lombardia, wine region of Italy. This particular wine comes from the Cesari cru vineyard site, Cento Filari, meaning a hundred rows. It's a wine made 95% from the trebbiano di lugana grape and 5% chardonnay. This wine is produced on the southern part of Lake Garda near the towns of Pozzolengo and Peschiera del Garda. This wine was a straw color with an herbaceous nose of cut grass, tomato leaves and tropical fruit including guava and banana. On the palate it was dry with some saltiness and minerality. It had medium body and balance with some peach on the finish. Averaging about $18.

I'll be covering all twenty regions over the next few weeks as I go through this program so make sure to check back weekly for lots of fun information.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pigato grape from the Riviera di Ponente on the Italian Riviera

This is our first introduction on Vino Travels to the region of Liguria, also known as the Italian Riviera. Liguria is a mountainous region located in the northwestern part of Italy following along the coastline as you head towards France and the French Riviera, known as la costa azzurra. Most people may be familiar with Liguria by it's major towns including Genoa, Genova, and the five towns that make up the gorgeous coastline of the Cinque Terre. 
Riviera di Ponente in Liguria
Riviera di Ponente ~ Liguria by Filippo Giunchedi
The wine I'm sharing today is from Tenuta Agricola Colle dei Bardellini, which is located in the Riviera di Ponente area of Liguria, located on the western part of the region. This part is the more sunnier area of the region providing wines that contain more fruit and marked alcohol levels. The indigenous white grape of this region is Pigato, which is found only on the western side of Liguria. Pigato comes from the Italian verb, puntinato, meaning speckled or dotted as demonstrated by the specks on the grapes. The Pigato grape is related also to Vermentino. 
Vineyards hillside in Liguria
Hillside vineyards of Liguria by Rick Charles

The Tenute Agricola Colle dei Bardellini winery started in 1970, but came under new ownership in 1983 which focused on modernizing the winery and focusing on the quality of the winemaking. They own about 15 acres with about half of it dedicated to both the pigato and vermentino grapes.

2013 Tenuta Agricola Colle dei Bardellini Pigato
I tasted the 2012 Tenuta Agricola Colle dei Bardellini Pigato from the Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC area of Liguria. It was greenish yellow in color with aromas of minerality, lemongrass, green apple and a hint of almond. On the palate it's dry, crisp and sapid with balance and mostly green apple notes. Average retail is about $18.

The wines of this region are mostly whites and pair well with the cuisine. Typical foods of the region include pesto alla genovese, cioppino (fish stew), artichokes, focaccia, minestrone, olives (taggiasche) and mussels.     

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Autumn Food Pairing: Bolzano Cantina Pinot Grigio with Pumpkin Pasta & Pancetta

Welcome to our 5th Wine Pairing Weekend. Last month I had such fun preparing a food and wine pairing focusing on the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy with porcini risotto and a 2005 Carlo Giacosa Montefico Barbaresco. This month we are focusing on fall fruits and wine pairing. Pumpkin, known in Italian as zucca, is very popular throughout Italy and was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of the fall.  I had always assumed pumpkin was a vegetable, but it's actually considered a fruit. Of course then it was my go to choice. What better than anything pumpkin flavored in the fall!

My recipe was influenced by a recipe I came across on Academia Barilla that sounded so delicious and I was very satisfied with the results as I played with the recipe and the ingredients. Pumpkin is commonly savored in the regions of the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy in northern Italy. I have fond memories of some delicious dishes through my Italian travels of pasta stuffed with pumpkin, in particular at a restaurant while in Verona. I'll have to look it up again due to my upcoming trip to Verona in January for the 2011 Amarone release! I should have some great wine pairings to share with you after some winemaker dinners from that event.

Food Pairing

I chose to make a pasta dish with campanelle pasta that I mixed in with pumpkin, pancetta, onion and traditional 25 year aged balsamic vinegar.  Between the sweetness of the pumpkin, the saltiness of the pancetta and the rich touch of aged balsamic my palate was on overload.

pancetta and onions
pancetta & onions
I started boiling the water for my pasta as I prepared the ingredients that were to be blended into the dish. In a separate pan I sauteed about half a vidalia onion with diced pancetta in extra virgin olive oil, seasoning it with salt and pepper. Once the water reached boiling point I added the campanelle pasta that cooked for about 9-10 minutes. Once the vidalia onion and pancetta were cooked I added in the pumpkin and mixed in about a ¼ cup of cream to lessen the thickness of the pumpkin and to make it more spreadable once combined with the pasta. Once everything was fully cooked I added the pasta in to mix the ingredients all together. I topped the dish with some parsley, 18+ month aged American Grana parmesan cheese adding some sweetness and nuttiness. Lastly, I drizzled my 25 year aged traditional balsmic vinegar from Acetaia di Giorgio in Modena.

pumpkin with pancetta & onions
Pumpkin with pancetta & onions

Aged American Grana Parmesan cheese
American Grana Parmesan cheese
Traditional balsamic with Acetaia di Giorgio
Acetaia di Giorgio traditional balsamic

Pasta with pancetta, pumpkin and onions
Campanelle pasta with pumpkin, pancetta & onions

Wine Pairing

For wine, I decided to go with a white wine as there were so many flavors present in the dish I didn't want to overwhelm the dish with a red wine, although if you found something lighter in style it would have probably gone well. I opened a bottle of a 2012 Kellerei St. Magdalena Bolzano Cantina Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy. I had featured this wine on my blog previously where you can review the history of this winery. The nose shows hints of honey, florals with some citrus. On the palate is lots of citrus and apple balanced with refreshing acidity. I love wines from the Alto Adige region and it's my go to region for many Italian white wines, along with a couple of others of course.
2012 Cantina Bolzano Pinot Grigio
I hope you enjoy our wonderful wine and food pairing recipes for the fall and make sure to come back next month for some holiday treats!

Wine Pairing Weekend # 5 Bloggers: Be sure to check out what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the October Wine Pairing Weekend!

On the Menu...

Pumpkin Lasagna with Halter Ranch's Côtes de Paso by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Squash and Sausage Soup with Pumpkin Cornbread and McKinley Springs 2010 Bombing Range Red by Tasting Pour
Linguine with Roasted Carnival Squash and a Garnacha by Cooking Chat
Pinot Vs. Syrah - Pork Tenderloin with Fig & Apple Sauce by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Apple Cider Pork with Red Cabbage and Oak Aged Apple Cider by Curious Cuisiniere

Harvest Fruits-Maple Crisp paired with a Riesling by Eliot's Eats
Caramelized Almond Apple Upside Down Cake with a Late Harvest Riesling by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Forgotten Fire Late Harvest Riesling and Warm Apple Crisp by Grape Experiences
Peach and Ginger Cobbler and Tablas Creek Petit Manseng by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
Autumn Puff Pastry Tart and La Crema Chardonnay by It's Okay to Eat the Cupcake

Wines for a Sweet & Savory Fall Harvest Meal by foodwineclick
Fall Fruit and Wine Pairing by Rockin Red Blog
Autumn Pumpkin Food Flair by Vino Travels -- An Italian Wine Blog
Butternut Squash Risotto: White Wine or Rosé by Pull That Cork

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. If you're reading this early enough, you can join us for a live Twitter chat on our theme "Fall Fruits + Wine" on Saturday, October 11, from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern Time. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later! Stay tuned for the November Wine Pairing Weekend, which will be on Saturday, November 8.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lots of Chianti Classico at the Enoteca in Florence

Ponte Vecchio Florence, Italy
I have to say I have been all over Italy and truly appreciate  every regions own landscapes, food, wine and traditions. Although, my heart is tied to the capital of Tuscany, Florence aka Firenze.  It's very evident coming into my home with all the pictures and memorabilia brought back over the years. I'm usually one for smaller towns in the countryside as you get a true sense of the culture of an area and region, but even though Florence is a city, the city center is closed to most traffic and everything is within walking distance. 
Mercato Centrale Firenze, Italy
If you're a wine lover you have the picturesque Chianti Classico wine region within a short ride on the outskirts of Florence. A new addition to the center of Florence as of spring this year was the addition of the Enoteca of Chianti Classico inside the San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, “central market”, which is right in the heart of the city.  

Read on with Italian Talks

Mercato Centrale in Florence
Mercato Centrale by Adam Burt

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cannonau di Sardegna with Sardus Pater

Who is ready for some wines from Sardinia, in Italian as Sardegna?  First time covering this region on Vino Travels so let’s get started.   If I say Cannonau do you know what it is?  You might be surprised you may be familiar with it because Cannonau is a red grape also known as Grenache or Garnacha.  And to think you may have overlooked it in the store wondering what is Cannonau?  That’s what this blog is all about and glad you’re here.
Sardinia Tharros Beach
Sardinia, Tharros Beach by Chris
Sardus Pater, founded in 1949 and meaning “Father of Sardinians”, is a wine cooperative comprised of over a couple hundred members located on the region and island of Sardinia, west of Italy.  Sardus Pater is actually specifically located on an even smaller island part of Sardinia, but to the west, called Sant’Antiocco.  The island of Sardinia is surrounded  mostly by the  Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean Seas and is the 2nd largest island in Italy next to Sicily.   

2012 Sardus Pater Foras Cannonau di SardegnaI recently tasted the 2012 Sardus Pater Foras Cannonau di Sardegna with their export manager, Antonio Cabibi, at the Grand Portfolio tasting with Masciarelli in Boston.  I had fun with this tasting as they had a lot of grapes that folks aren’t super familiar with.  Cannonau is a widely grown grape in this wine region of Sardinia.    There is a DOC in Sardinia named the Cannonau di Sardegna D.O.C.  The 2012 Sardus Pater Foras Cannonau di Sardegna is a full-bodied balanced with rich fruit on the nose and palate along with some sweet spiciness and some notes of vanilla.  I enjoyed the mild tannins and pretty nice finish.    

A wine to seek out from Sardus Pater that is one of their prized wines is the Carignano del Sulcis.  It’s made from the Carignano grape on vines that are around 80 years old. 

There was a book written by Dan Buettner called “Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” and in this book the Sardinian people and culture are one of the groups mentioned.   Maybe it’s because of the Cannonau grape?  Find out for yourself.  One of the very few regions I have been too so would love to hear about your travels there.