Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Italian Food, Wine & Travel features Le Marche region in Italy

This month on ItalianFWT (Italian food, wine & travel) we venture off to the coastal region of the Le Marche region in Italy located more central Italy on the eastern coastline of the Adriatic Sea. 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 touching the regions of Tuscany and Lazio.
Map of the Marche wine region in Italy
Marche wine map ~ Copyright of Federdoc
This isn't a highly sought after region as many of the other well known regions are, but if you are like me those are the ones that are so wonderful to seek out. The hidden treasures they contain and the less tourists the better. You really get a true sense of the area and the people when there is less chaos and you are more at one with your surroundings.

The Food & Wine of Le Marche
When it comes to food and wine of Le Marche it's more of a meat based region with seafood along the coastlines. Probably not one of the most sought after cuisines, but it's special to the people of Le Marche, marchigiani, and that's all that matters. The wines are the region are offerings of both white and red with some of the top grapes including verdicchio and vernaccia for whites and sangiovese and montepulciano for reds.
The landscape of Le Marche
 Geography wise Le Marche has much to offer with its coastline offering sand, sun and beaches and inland the Appenines providing more of that natural beauty and moutaineous countryside living. Best of both worlds!
Landscape and beaches of le marche
Beaches of Le Marche by VinceTraveller
We'll explore all of what makes up Le Marche this Saturday May 2nd in our group. If you'd like to join us please email me direct at vinotravels at hotmail dot com or join us live on twitter Saturday and throughout the weekend at #italianFWT. We can't wait to hear from you and share our joys of Le Marche.

Vino Travels - Vernaccia di Serrapetrona: A 3 fermentation wine

Cooking Chat - Orechiette and Sausage with a Marche White Wine
Rockin Red Blog - Marche revisited for #ItalianFWT
Christy's Palate - Le Marche: Verdicchio with Spaghetti & Clams
Enofylz Wine Blog - A Taste of March: Mussels with Lemon and Sartarelli Verdicchio
Food Wine Click - Hidden Treasures from Le Marche from FoodWineClick

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stemmari's Dalila: A Sicilian Wine with a Love Story

As some may know that have been following me my 6 months of studying for the IWS (Italian Wine Specialist Certification) culminated this past Sunday and I felt good coming out of it.  I can’t wait to share with you all the wonderful knowledge I have gained throughout this process and if I can get my hands on some of these unique wines throughout Italy we have lots of fun grapes and wines to explore.

The group that I run, ItalianFWT standing for Italian food, wine and travel, covers month by month all regions within Italy relating to these 3 areas of concentration.  At the beginning of the month we featured the largest island in Italy, Sicily.  I had received some samples from Prestige Wine Imports on the wines of Stemmari, but unfortunately had come down with the flu that week.  I recently sampled one Sunday night, 2012 Stemmari Dalila.  It’s a wine made of 80% grillo and 20 % viognier that is aged in French oak for 8 months.
Feudo Arancio & Stemmari winery
The winery’s name, Stemmari, originates from the root “stemma”, which correlates to the coat of arms that is displayed at the winery that was once used by nobility during the 17th Century, according to Prestige Wine Imports.  The Stemmari winery is located in the town of Acate in the Ragusa province of Sicily located in south eastern Sicily. Stemmari and Feudo Arancio winery in SicilyThe Stemmari brand and Feudo Arancio are one in the same if you have heard of both names.  Owned by one of the wine giants in Italy, Mezzacorona, the Stemmari brand is a large exporter to the US.  Their portfolio of wines include single varietals like nero d’avola, chardonnay, pinot grigio, moscato, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and even a sparkling grillo.  Yes, I said sparkling grillo.  Can’t wait to try that one!  They even have some blends as well as the Dalila wine I’m sharing with you today.

2012 Stemmari Dalila grillo viognier blendThe 2012 Stemmari Dalila bottle as you can tell from the picture is beautiful.  Having played classical piano for 10 years I was a big fan of the music notes on the label with the classic gold trim.  Yellow in color with a hint of green this wine was a medium bodied wine and rich on the palate with intense tropical fruit combined with nice acidity.  It had similar expressions to a chardonnay with a hint of oak.  Definitely a meatier white wine with good body.  With Sicily’s intense heat and sunny days it’s no surprise the ripeness of this wine.  This bottle retails for about $12 average (

Where does the name Dalila come from?
There is great story or rather a “romantic idea”behind the name of this wine, Dalila, and the label that Stemmari shared with me. The music notes on the label actually go to a song that describe the love story between the daughter of the owner who had owned the winery, Dalila, and one of the workers, Cantadoro. One of the other wines from their portfolio is named Cantadoro as well with the similar label. I know many people buy bottles based on the label and this is one of those bottles that's eye catching and to have a story follow it like that, how can it not intrigue you?
Stemmari winery in Sicily
I can’t wait to share with you some of the other wines from this winery.  Have you visited Stemmari or what are some of your favorite winery visits in Sicily?

You can find more about the Italian wine regions including Sicily using this beautiful and detailed map.

Most pictures property of Feudo Arancio at

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Leap into Spring with Pasta Primavera & Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano

Time flies when you're drinking wine! I started my Italian wine blog 2 years ago this month in order to push myself to study Italian wine deeper. Since then I have become enrolled in an Italian Wine Specialist certification program (exam a week away), written well over a hundred blogs, started writing for some magazines, attended a number of wine events I've been invited to including my recent trip earlier this year to Italy for the Anteprima Amarone. I have met bloggers all around the world including face-to-face gatherings in Italy and have learned so much about social media and blogging it's mind blowing. One of the great surprises during this time was meeting a local food blogger to me, David of Cooking Chat, who invited me over one night to join in on a wine/food event online about wines from the Languedoc. 

Since then I've joined his Wine Pairing Weekend event of a fantastic group of food and wine bloggers. I love cooking when I have the time and I'm not one that always knows exactly what to pair when it comes to food and wine, but that is one of the greatest parts of this group. We learn from one another and it has forced me to think outside the box every month, experiment with a variety of different recipes and share with you what I would like to prepare, pair and share with you. That's a lot of rhyming for one sentence.

This month we are featuring spring pairings as we get ready for the nice weather to come. Although depending on where you are maybe it never really left you, but in the Boston area we literally just got some more snow this week and we're coming into 60 degree weather this weekend. Crazy New England weather.

My food pairing selection this month was easy when I actually had the time to sit and think about it. When I thought of spring immediately I thought of getting my garden ready for the summer and thought of all the wonderful fresh vegetables I grow. Although, after last year and my battle with my non-friend the gopher, I need to devise my plan to keep those critters from eating all my feed. So today I'm sharing with you a Pasta Primavera that's so easy to put together. Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you like, but I chose green and red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and summer squash. A simple recipe I put together with plenty of flavor.Vegetable preparation for pasta primavera
Sauteing vegetables for pasta primavera
Pasta Primavera Recipe
1) Boil and prepare water for your choice of pasta selection and add pasta once boiling
2) Saute minced garlic, olive or coconut oil and kosher salt
3) Cut vegetables of your selection.  I chose mushrooms, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 summer squash and 1 zucchini.
4) Add chopped vegetables to saute pan and cook low to medium heat until softened.
5) Add chicken broth to vegetables and simmer on low heat
6) Season vegetables with salt, pepper, parsley and oregano.  I also added a dab of mint.
7) Once pasta is cooked to desired time and drained, add to saute pan and mix with vegetables
8) Top with grated cheese of your choice.  I chose asiago cheese.
Pasta Primavera pairing with Vernaccia

2011 Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia di San Gimignano
For my wine pairing I chose a Vernaccia di San Gimignano
from Montenidoli. I've previously written about Montenidoli when I had an opportunity to meet the owner, Elisabetta Fagiuoli, at a local wine shop here one night. I purchased her 2011 Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG. You can read all about her winery and the wine itself on my blog “MeetingElisabetta Fagiuoli from Montenidoli in San Gimignano.” What I loved about this pairing is the fresh, crispness of the Vernaccia paired with the light, simple sauce of the pasta primavera and vegetables. It was a light hearted meal where the simplicity of the food and wine balanced well. 
Here come more spring wine and food pairings coming your way........

Spring Pea Risotto with Picpoul de Pinet by Curious Cuisiniere 
Spring-Kissed Seafood Chowder with Pelerin 2011 Les Tournesols by Cooking Adventures with Camilla
Wine and Dine: Las Lilas Vinho Verde 2013 and Chilled Cucumber with Mint Soup by Grape Experiences.
Creamy Mushroom Pasta with Spring Peas and Westrey Pinot Noir by Pull That Cork
Red Wine with Asparagus and Mushrooms by Cooking Chat
Spring Hopes: Asparagus and Rosé by Food Wine Click
Spring Fling with Greek Pizza and Wine by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
Spring Flavors with Hungarian Pinot Grigio by A Day in the Life on the Farm
Welcoming Spring with #WinePW by Rockin Red Blog
Winter's Hill Pinot Blanc and Warm Arugula, Bacon and Asparagus Salad by Tasting Pour
Roasted Halibut with Potatoes and Lemon and a Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas by Enofylz Wine Blog
Beets and Wine Pairing by Girls Gotta Drink

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Final stop in Verona: Anteprima Amarone event

About a couple months ago I started a series on my visit to the Anteprima Amarone in Verona, Italy in February thanks to the Consorzio della Valpolicella. Below are my previous articles to get you up-to-date, but today is the final article that I featured for my column in the Bostoniano “Italy Uncorked”.
Anteprima Amarone 2011 DOCG with Christian Marchesini
Christian Marchesini (left), President of the Consorzio della Valpolicella

Due to the 30 inch storm we got in Boston I got forced to head over to Italy a day early. Life is tough, but sometimes you gotta do it. Immediately that night I attended the Bolla winery and had a wine dinner with the winemaker and Director. The following days as you'll see I had a jam packed itinerary and attended a number of wineries throughout the Valpolicella wine region including luncheons at some of the wineries, or as they like to say “light lunches”, concluding the day with wine dinners. 


The culmination of all these events though brought me to the big day of the Anteprima Amarone event. The focus of this event is to highlight the new 2011 vintage release of Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG that has been sleeping like a bear and made it's grand appearance to demonstrate the hard work of the folks behind this vintage as well as a recap of the weather from this vintage and its effects on the wine.Over 60 wineries present releasing their 2011 vintage as well as an older vintage.  Private tastings were held and a vertical tastings led by Sommelier Luca Martini with Amarone dating back to 1995.

After coming out of this crazy winter that we experienced I figured everyone has cabin fever and if you haven't been able to travel somewhere yet let's escape and what better place than to Italy. So join me virtually on my recent trip to the wonderful city of Verona in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy. I was invited by the Consortium of Valpolicella to explore the wine region and furthermore the Anteprima Amarone event, which was the release of the 2011 vintage of Amarone. I have lots more to share on my site Vino Travels where you can get a day by day glimpse into my wine journey, but I'll give you an overall idea of this region and what it has to offer from a vino point of view.

I was situated in the city of Verona and if you have never been it's well worth the visit. Verona itself has lots to offer especially in the nicer weather if you are a lover of arts where you can see musical performances in the historic Arena, similar to the Colosseum, as well as the ancient ruins of the Teatro Romano along the Adige River. It's great for shopping as well! Verona is a great place to base yourself whether it's by car or train and visiting towns like Vicenza, Padua and Venice in the Veneto or even other regions like Trentino and Emilia Romagna that are only about an hour away. Of course I was there for the food and wine and like any region in Italy has perfect pairings and traditions that I'd like to share. 

Gran Guardia Verona for Anteprima Amarone

To talk a little about the Valpolicella region to begin with for those that are unfamiliar with the wines, it's a land of hills and plains divided by 5 valleys with the Valpantena valley being considered the “cru” of the valleys for wine production. The indigenous grapes of this land that make up the Valpolicella and Amarone wines are corvina, corvinone, rondinella and molinara with molinara almost non-existent in some wines or is being used less and less. The regulations of this region are somewhat lax in regards to the varying percentages of each grape that are allowed to be used therefore the wines can be very different on a producer by producer basis.

Amarone della Valpolicella wines
The main wines of this region for reds include Valpolicella, which is more your everyday wine, Valpolicella Superiore, which is a year of aging and 1% more alcohol, Valpolicella Ripasso, which is a wine whose grape must is run or “repassed”, appassimento, over the leftover pressed skins of Amarone adding more complexity and body to the ripasso wine. Lastly, you have the prized wine of the region, Amarone, which goes through a special process where the grapes are picked and dried out for about 100-120 days on crates in well ventilated rooms within the region before they are pressed resulting in a wine of depth, concentration and richness. Amarone also comes at a higher price tag due to its status and quality.

The Anteprima Amarone event I attended took place at the Gran Guardia in the center of Verona in Piazza Bra on January 31st and February 1st. The event presented 64 producers from the Consorzio that released their 2011 Amarone vintage for tasting, which will be a vintage to experience in upcoming years. The wines from the event seemed to have the ability to age and develop in years to come. The wines were fresh, backed with lots of fruit that seemed complex with high alcohol and acidity that will start to smooth out in the next 2-3+ years. Many of the winemakers brought with them not only the 2011 bottles, but an older vintage as well to demonstrate how their wine ages over time. 

Anteprima Amarone event

Tenuta Santa Maria Valverde Amarone

Secondo Marco Amarone with Marco Speri
Marco Speri

At the event I also attended a blind tasting conducted by the engaging and enthusiastic hailing from Tuscany the top sommelier of Italy, Luca Martini. Seventeen wines were shared from one of the best vintages, 1998, as well as the 2003 and 2006 vintages. Tasting through the 1998 vintages showed the aging potential of these wines as many of the wines seemed younger than a wine that already had 17 years of age. 

Luca Martini and Olga Bussinello
Olga Bussinello, Director of the Consorzio, with Luca Martini

The President of the Consortium, Christian Marchesini, shared that “Amarone is the engine of the economy” and with 80% of the wine being exported and the US importing 42% it's important to the brand of Amarone that the quality is maintained and continuously looked after to be improved to

protect it. As Luca Martini stated “the bottle and wine have a cultural heritage” and the best way to experience that first hand is to always bring yourself to the source, but it's not always that easy of an option for everybody so support your local shops and restaurants and seek these wines out for yourself to get a taste of the Veneto and the wines of Valpolicella.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Wine & Food of Sicily: Inzolia & Arancini

We're about a quarter of the way touring our way around Italy with our Italian Food, Wine & Travel bloggers group. Last month we featured the Trentino-Alto Adige and this month we're hopping on a jet down to the complete opposite end of the country to the island of Sicily. Today I wanted to share with you a unique grape of Sicily that can be found in many of the wines produced in this region including the famous Marsala wines of western Sicily. The grape is known as insolia, also known as inzolia or ansonica. It's a dry white wine that you will find either alone or blended with other grapes.

Cusumano winery in Sicily
Cusumano winery ~ Compliments of

2012 Cusumano Angimbe InzoliaUnfortunately I've been pretty sick this week catching the flu from my wonderful husband. I guess I can't say he never gave me anything ; ) The wine I wanted to share with you today thankfully I tasted prior to this week or my taste buds would've been pretty non-existent and I won't share with you wines that I don't enjoy. The wine today comes from the Cusumano winery, which began in 2001 and is operated by brothers Diego and Alberto. Their winery has 7 different vineyard sites where they grow their grapes to produce a variety of wines on about 1250 acres (500 hectacres). Their 2012 Cusumano Angimbe Sicilia IGT wine is made of 70% Inzolia and 30% Chardonnay. These particular Inzolia grapes are grown in the Piana degli Albanesi, which resides in the province of Palermo. For those of you that go by ratings, this wine was rated 90 points by James Suckling. this wine had golden color with floral aromas of golden apple and lemon zest.  Medium-bodied and smooth on the palate.  Nicely balanced.  SRP $18.

A Sicilian dish that I enjoy and have long wanted to prepare myself are arancini or arancine. Sicily enjoys some of their dishes fried and arancini are balls of risotto that can be prepared with a variety of different ingredients that you add into the balls. They are then breaded and fried. The name arancini actually stems from the word orange in italian, arancia, since they are typically in the shapes of oranges just not as large (although I will say I have seen some that big). Many Sicilian dishes prepare arancini with peas and meat sauce. Have fun with it and add whatever you like! I choose to use the recipe from the Food Network with chef Giada De Laurentis – Arancini di Riso with mushrooms, but I withdrew the peas as I'm not a huge fan myself. I prepared my risotto with portobello mushrooms and then topped my arancini with a bolognese sauce. You can find my previous risotto preparation blog as well as my more recent bolognese blog to help you if you'd like to do the same.

Risotto with mushrooms
Risotto with mushrooms
Making arancini
Prepping ingredients for Risotto: 2 eggs, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, day old risotto, 1/2 cup parmesan
Frying arancini

Frying arancini 
Fried arancini
Fried Arancini
arancini with bolognese sauce
Arancini with mushrooms topped with bolognese sauce
If you enjoy this article on Sicily there are lots more where that came from.  Join my fellow bloggers and what they have to share on their sites.

Curious Appetite - Sicilian Cannoli and wine pairings  
Cooking Chat - Pairing for Linguine with Cod and Asparagus  
Rockin Red Blog - Celebrating Sicily on #ItalianFWT  
Enofylz wine blog - A Taste of Sicily-Tuna and Seabass Spiedini #ItalianFWT  
FoodWineClick - From Etna Bianco to Marsala, A Sicilian Wine Tour  
Girls Gotta Drink - Etna Wine: volcanic wines that don't taste like ash 

We are live on twitter today and throughout the weekend at #ItalianFWT.  Join us and share your food, wine and travel experiences in Sicily.  We'd love to hear from you!  Next month on June 5th as we feature the Marche region.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Italian Food, Wine & Travel of Sicily with #ItalianFWT

It's our 6th Italian Food, Wine & Travel bloggers event (#ItalianFWT) and this month we're featuring the island of Sicily.  I traveled to Sicily myself many years ago, but unfortunately at that time wasn't much into wine as much as I am now and would love the opportunity to go back and thoroughly explore the cuisine and wines, especially those unique around the Mt. Etna area.  Our group this month is excited to share with you all our experiences that make this region unique.
Map of Sicily
Property of
Sicily is the largest island within Italy surrounded by many other islands including the Aeolian Islands.  There are many cultural influences from it's many invasions throughout time, specifically of the Greeks and Arabs.  It's landscapes are diverse containing one of the tallest and most active volcano in Europe, Mt. Etna.  The land is rich in agriculture and has led Sicily to become one of the largest producers of wine within Italy along with Puglia and the Veneto.  As with any other region in Italy, Sicily has its own unique cuisine as well.  All of these exciting elements will be discovered and shared with you through our bloggers group this week. 

You can join us live on all our sites Saturday April 4th that are listed below and for live twitter chats Saturday and throughout the weekend at #ItalianFWT.

Vino Travels - Wine & Food of Sicily: Inzolia & Arancini
Curious Appetite - Sicilian Cannoli and wine pairings
Cooking Chat - Pairing for Linguini with Cod and Asparagus
Rockin Red Blog - Celebrating Sicily on #ItalianFWT
Enofylz wine blog - A Taste of Sicily-Tuna and Seabass Spiedini #ItalianFWT
FoodWineClick - From Etna Bianco to Marsala, A Sicilian Wine Tour
Girls Gotta Drink - Etna Wine: volcanic wines that don't taste like ash

We hope you'll join us!  Arriverderci!