Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fulchino Vineyards utilizing Italian grapes in New Hampshire winemaking

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.
Al Fulchino of Fulchino Vineyards Hollis, NH
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 Fulchino of Fulchino Vineyards NH
Winery in NH ~ Fulchino VineyardAl 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. 
Wine tasting in NH at Fulchino Vineyard
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. 
Fulchino Vineyards winery in NH
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!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Part 2: Italian Food & Wine Pairings at the Tuscan Kitchen

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 Tuscan Kitchen with Zonin Prosecco
Wine Director, Joe Comforti, with our first pairing of Zonin Prosecco
Executive Chef Edward Payne Tuscan Kitchen
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.
Italian antipasti: artichokes, cured meats, truffle honey
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.
2013 Tenute di Nozzole Le Bruniche Chardonnay
Variety of Panini at Tuscan Market
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 chianti.
Amadeo Chianti
Quattro Formaggi Ravioli
Quattro Formaggi Ravioli
Orecchiette Bolognese
Orecchiette Bolognese
Truffle filled marscapone gnocchi
Truffle filled marscapone gnocchi
Butternut squash cappellacci
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 meal.
Variety of gelato at Tuscan Market
Creamy Homemade Gelato
Tiramisu wine pairing
Limoncello tiramisu
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!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Behind the Scenes of Italian Artisan Foods of the Tuscan Market

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 a reality.

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
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 Italian food.
Tuscan Market Salem, NH
Tuscan Market Salem, New Hampshire
Tuscan Market Burlington, MA
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.
Tuscan Market Artisan Breads
Artisan Breads of Tuscan Market Burlington, MA
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. 
Fresh Pasta of Tuscan Market Salem, NH
Butchered meats of Tuscan Market Salem, NH
Homemade salami of Tuscan Market with expert Joshua Smith
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!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Donna Laura Ali, the sangiovese of angels

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..
Donna Laura Ali Sangiovese Toscana Castelnuovo Berardegna
The Donna 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 & Donna Laura wines Castelnuovo Berardenga
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 tannins. 

What value Chiantis have you found that you'd like to share?  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Food & Wine Pairing: Mexican Fish Tacos with Stemmari Sparkling Grillo

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 own liking.

·         White flaky fish 
·         Flour tortillas
·         Fresh lime juice
·         ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Toppings for fish tacos
·         Sour cream
·         Guacamole (recipe below)
·         Mix of chopped red onions with tomatoes, garlic and oil

Guacamole recipe
·         2 avocados
·         2 plum tomatoes diced
·         2 cloves of garlic
·         Fresh lemon juice
·         Salt and pepper

Fish preparation
  • Marinate fish for up to 30 minutes with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh lime juice. 
  • While fish is marinating prepare the guacamole di.
  • 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.
Grilled 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.
Toppings for fish tacos
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.  
Stemmari Baci Vivace Sparkling Grillo
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Cam has prepared "Dry-Rubbed Tri Tip Roast with Halter Ranch 's 2011 Cotes de Paso"
Cindy from Grape Experiences "Wine and Dine for #winePW: Matanegra Vendimia Seleccionada 2010 and Queso Fundido"
David from Cooking Chat is pairing "Spanish Wine for Pork Tacos"
Lori from Dracaena Wines "Mexican Musings on #WinePW"
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog "Chicken Pipian Verde, Mexican Quinoa and the Devil's Collection White"
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog "Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with #WinePW"
Nancy from Pull That Cork "Spicy Chicken Salad with Guacamole and a South African Rose for #winePW"
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere presents "Carnitas and the Basics of Mexican Food & Wine Pairing"
Wendy from A Day in the Life on a Farm is bring us Veggie Quesadillas with and old vine Nisia from Spain
Confessions of a Culinary Diva is pairing wines from Baja California

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Vernaccia di Serrapetrona: A 3 fermentation wine

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 Marche in 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.  

Marche wine map of Italy
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.

Process for drying Italian grapes is passito
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.   The 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 wine region
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......

Cooking Chat - Orecchiette and Grilled Sausage with a Verdicchio 
Rockin Red Blog - Marche revisted for #ItalianFWT 
Christy's Palate - Le Marche: Verdicchio with Spaghetti & Clams 
Enofylz Wine Blog - A Taste of Marche: Chicken in Potacchio with Sararelli Verdicchio 
Food Wine Click - Hidden Treasures from Le Marche 

Join us next month Saturday June 6th as we explore the Campania region in Italy.  If you would like to join our group email Vino Travels directly at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  Ciao ciao for now!