Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gobelet vine training in Italy

This week I’m going to start a new feature of Vino Travels called Wine Word Wednesday.  If you want to increase your Italian in the wine world each week I’ll provide you with an Italian word with the English to match on either in an article as below or on some of my social media methods so keep an eye out.  

This weeks word is viti, meaning vines, and today I’m sharing with you one of the vine training methods used in Italy known as the gobelet vine training system.
harvesting gobelet vine training in italy
Harvesting the gobelet vine training system by Syvwich
Vine training in Italy has been around since when the Greeks and Romans dominated the land and were discovering the ways of winemaking throughout Italy.  One form of vine training found in Italy, mostly southern because of the climate, is known as gobelet vine training.  This particular type of vine training isn’t supported, trellised or staked off and grows in the shape of a goblet or bush.  Per the Wine Doctor, “the trunk of the vine is kept short at about 0.5m, and it is crowned by a knarled lump of old wood, which is the result of years of spur pruning the few branches at the head of the trunk. Vines trained in this manner, referred to as 'head training', essentially resemble a small bush or shrub, and they may be described by some as 'bush vines'.”

Gobelet vine training provides a much more shaded area for the grapes protecting them from intense sun and high winds.  Areas that have higher rain/wet climates would face the risk of rot and other diseases as the moisture is trapped under the leaves within the vine.  You will see these types of vine training mostly in southern Italy including Sicily and Puglia.

You can also see this type of vines used in other parts of the world including Australia and Greece.  I visited the Boutari winery on the island of Santorini in Greece and was my first experience witnessing these types of vines.  Very interesting to see in person considering most of us are used to the guyot trellising method.
Bush vines at Boutari winery in Santorini Greece
Bush vines at Boutari winery in Santorini, Greece
Boutari winery using bush vines
Vineyards at Boutari wnery in Santorini, Greece
Have you seen this type of vine training with gobelets?  Where?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wines of the Lodi with Harney Lane Winery & McCay Cellars

I'm breaking out from the normal routine of writing about Italian wine and I'm actually going to share some wines with you from the Lodi in California. I've actually never traveled to California never mind the Lodi. I'm usually one to jump on a plane and go overseas to somewhere in Europe and beyond, but in the future I would love to make my way out to California and sampling a couple of wine bottles that I received this month from the Lodi I started to get an understanding of what this wine region of California is all about. The Lodi wine country is located in the northern part of the Central Valley of California and is known as the “Zinfandel Capital of the World”. Today I'm sharing with you a 2012 Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel from Harney Lane Winery and a 2014 McCay Cellars Viognier.

Even though these wines bottles weren't from Italy I was further intrigued when I researched the wineries and found out that they both produce a particular wine with grapes that are indigenous from Italy including a primitivo and vermentino.

The grapevines at Harney Lane Winery were planted in 1904. The great grandfather of the patriarch of the family, George Mettler, purchased the Harney Lane land and was the one to plant these vineyards. Winemaking at Harney Lane is now in its 5th generation. Harney Lane started only making their own wine in 2006 and only a small portion is currently used where the rest of the grapes are sold off.

Named after middle names of the children of the family, Lizzy and James, the Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel is a single vineyard site. A small production of about 450 cases the 2012 Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel is looked after with utter care from hand picking and sorting from small lots. It's aged 20 months in French oak. Aromas of jammy red berries and anise. A full bodied, structured, elegant wine rich of dark fruit and baking spices. This bottle retails direct for $35.

2012 Harney Lane Lizzy James Old Vine Zinfandel
As I mentioned I also found that this winery produces a primitivo wine. I love to see wineries in the US experimenting with Italian grapes and to see the results of those and how they compare with those of Italy. Primitivo is a native grape of Puglia and is known to be related to Zinfandel. I connected with the owner Jorja Lerner about their primitivo. These grapes were actually planted in 2000 for a contract with a larger winery in the area. In comparison to zinfandel Jorja mentioned that the clusters of primitivo are elongated and less likely to break down as well as the grapes ripening earlier. The grapes produce dark cherry flavors and spice more than their own zinfandel. Unfortunately they are sold out of the primitivo, but I hope to be able to sample it when it's released in August and share it with you in comparison to the primitivo of Italy.

McCay Cellars history is rather new to winemaking as well starting to produce wine in 2007. Michael McCay, the owner and winemaker, has been making wines since 1994. He believes in the “old world style” of winemaking allowing native fermentation to take place. Michaels goal in winemaking is “to make wine with a sense of presence that expresses the characteristics and trueness of the vineyard”. Their production is small with about 4500 cases in total with about 400 cases per individual lot. McCay Cellars focuses on more rhone varietals and I sampled the 2014 McCay Cellars Viognier. The viognier is a full bodied wine with lush notes of tropical fruit including pineapple as well as peach combined with a good acidity. This bottle retails direct for $24.

2014 McCay Cellars Viognier

McCay Cellars also has a wine known as Tres Blanc that is a blend of vermentino, verdelho, muscat and pinot noir. I connected with owner and winemaker Michael McCay and he sources the vermention from a local winery for the production of this wine. He wanted to make a summertime blend and chose vermentino for the crispness and minerality that it brings to the Tres Blanc blend. Michael believes that the mediterranean climate and the breezes off the Delta are comparable to where vermentino is grown in Italy.

What's your experience with wines of the Lodi? Favorite wineries?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Arneis through the eyes of Malvira in the Roero

This Wine Pairing Weekend (#winepw) on wine and food pairings with arneis is right up my alley, not only because the focus is on this Italian white grape from Piedmont, but also because in the last month I just had the opportunity to meet one of the charming owners and winemaker, Roberto Damonte, of the Malvira winery in the Roero of Piedmont. I'll very rarely pass up an opportunity to meet an Italian winemaker visiting the Boston area if I can help it. They always have such great stories to tell and information to share.
Owner of Malvira winery, Roberto Damonte
Me with Roberto Damonte, Owner of Malvira winery in the Roero of Piedmont
The Malvira winery
The Malvira winery began in the 1950's when Roberto's father started the winery. The name stems from the word "mal" meaning badly and "vira" meaning situated.  The winery used to be north facing, obviously being a bad situation for a winery as the most ideal conditions for grape growing are south facing.  Roberto and his brother Massimo took over the winery in 1974 and their mission was to focus more on quality than the quantity of wines that were being produced previously. Malvira produces organic wines on 104 acres across 6 vineyard sites with about 380,000 annually. 
Azienda Agrizola Malvira Roero Piemonte
Azienda Agrizola Malvira - copyright
Malvira produce a variety of Italian grapes including barbera, nebbiolo, birbet and favorita, but its their arneis that they pride themselves on. Their arneis vines are 40-45 years of age,which lend to lower yields with higher quality grapes.  The arneis grape itself translates to “little rascal”.  Fortunately arneis was saved and is one of the most widely planted white grapes in Piedmont as it was facing extinction in the 20th century.
Nebbiolo, Arneis, Barbera wines of Malvira wineryThe two arneis wines I sampled from Malvira were the the 2012 Malvira Roero Arneis and the 2009 Malvira Roero Arneis Trinita.  The '12 Malvira Roero Arneis DOCG is a blend of the different vineyard sites of the Malvira winery that is aged 4-8 months in stainless steel.  The '09 Malvira Vigna Trinita DOCG is a single vineyard that is aged 90% in stainless steel for 6 months with 10% of the juice aged in French oak for 6 months.  My personal preference was for the 2012 Malvira Roero Arneis as I appreciated the crisp, clean, ripe fruit with minerality opposed to the Trinita, named after the small church at the top of the vineyard, that had a hint of oak and more tropical flavors.
2012 Malvira Arneis Roero, Piedmont
The Roero
The Roero is located in the southern part of Piedmont known as the Langhe, but is further within the Cuneo province.  According to Malvira's website the Roero is named after the Conti-Roero family that lived there in the 14th century.  What's unique about the Roero is that prior to 1000 A.D. this area of Piedmont was covered by the sea so it's not uncommon to come across sea fossils from ancient seabeds within the vineyards themselves.  
Wine map of Roero wine region in Piedmont
Copyright of Federdoc
Food pairing with Arneis
In deciding a food pairing with arneis it brought me to the idea of using the fresh vegetables that I just got this week from my  CSA farmshare.  I have always grown my own large garden, but last year we had a little mischievous critter, woodchucks, that ate all my produce so this year I decided to give the CSA a shot and hopefully the woodchuck will venture off without a year of the fruits of my labor.  He sure had a big belly at the end of the season I must say.

I chose to pair with the Arneis a recipe from David's new cookbook of Cooking Chat, the original founder of our #WinePW.  He just recently published his first book Collards and Kale and I thought it was a great opportunity to test out one of the recipes by using his Creamy Penne with Kale and Mushrooms recipe.  I made some adjustments to the recipe. I'm always looking to boost up my protein intake so I chose to add some sliced chicken into the recipe.  The healthy alternative was a 1/2 pack of silken tofu, but my experience with tofu so far hasn't been to my liking so I choose to use a olive oil garlic sauce instead.  Lastly, fusilli is my favorite pasta so I was in the mood for that this week.

Fusilli with Kale and Mushrooms
1 pound of fusilli
1 onion chopped
12 oz of mushrooms sliced
Head of kale
1/2 tsp of rosemary
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of parsley
Sliced chicken or sausage
fresh grated parmesan for serving
sea salt and pepper to taste


  • On low heat, heat up olive oil in pan and add minced garlic along with a sprinkle of sea salt.  In meantime boil pot of water for pasta adding salt to the pot.
  • After a few minutes add chopped onions to garlic and olive oil.  Cook until onions begin to go clear and soften.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until softened.
  • Chop kale and begin to add to the mushroom, onion and olive oil mixture.  Add rosemary, additional salt and pepper to taste.  Cover ingredients and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes
  • Saute chicken or sausage in separate pan in a couple tablespoons of olive oil
  • Add pasta once water has begun to boil and prepare until dictated time.
  • Once pasta and chicken are fully cooked, add both to saute pan with other ingredients and mix together. Upon serving top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
 food pairing with Arneis in Piedmont
Food and Wine Pairing with Arneis
The Arneis was a nice complement to the Fusilli with Kale and Mushrooms.  I felt that the citrus and crisp acidity of the wine paired well with the slight bitterness of the kale along with the other components of this dish.  I think if this dish had a creaminess to it as the original recipe had it would still be a nice choice.   
Wine pairing with Fusilli, kale and mushrooms

June Wine Pairing Weekend Round-up: More Summer Arneis Food Pairing Recipes!

We'll be talking about Arneis and summer wine pairings later today during our Twitter chat at 11:00 ET by following the hashtag #WinePW.

Wine Pairing Weekend July: Join us next month!

In July Americans celebrate Independence Day and the French celebrate Bastille Day. July's Wine Pairing Weekend will take place on Saturday, July 11, led by Michelle Williams of Rockin Red Blog. The group will explore food and wine pairings from the United States and France. Get creative and make your favorite all American food and wine meal, your favorite all French food and wine meal, one of each or a combination of both! With these two regions the sky is the limit!
Source: Malvira Winery

Monday, June 8, 2015

Campania Food & Wine Pairing; Mussels with Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina

Welcome to our 7th month feature of our Italian Food, Wine & Travel event (#ItalianFWT). It's been quite fun exploring a different region of Italy every month with fellow bloggers as we all share our experiences of these individual regions and what makes them special. This month is special to me as we feature the region of Campania in southern Italy. The reason this region is important to me is because my father's side of the family is from Campania in the province of Avellino and even further more the town of Candida for those of you from there that are more familiar with the area. I've been to Campania myself, but have yet to visit Avellino in particular, but I will get there some day, especially since Avellino is the largest province for winemaking in this region.

When I first started this Italian wine blog it was all about Italian wine, but as I'm having fun with this it's only normal to pair some of these Italian wines with food. This is Italy after all and it's all about the Italian food and Italian wine. I wanted to further seek out some different producers of the region and some unique grapes, but I'm in the process of closing on a home and time caught up with me real quick, plus some of the real unique wines that I'd like to get my hands on aren't that readily available at local wine shops. I've written an overview of some of the wines of the Avellino province previously and today I selected the 2013 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina di Avellino. Falanghina is one of the more popular white indigenous grapes of this region along with fiano and greco di tufo.

Feudi di San Gregorio
Feudi di San Gregorio was established in 1986 via a joint venture of 2 familiar, Capaldo and Ercolino, so it's a rather young company in comparison to winemaking throughout the rest of Italy and the world nonetheless. Their winery in Sorbo Serpico in the Avellino province, Irpinia region, consists of 740 acres (300 hectacres). It's proximity to Mt. Vesuvius and the volcanic soils there imparts characteristics into the wine that make wines from this region very special.

The 2013 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina I sampled was medium bodied, aromatic on the nose, with lots of tropical notes of bananas and pineapples as well as minerality. This wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks lending freshness to the wine. ( retail average $14.)
2013 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina
Discussion with Antonio Capaldo, Chairman of Feudi di San Gregorio

What makes winemaking in this part of Italy unique?
"Volcanic soils with the unique indigenous varietals and the peculiar climate conditions (over 200 days of rain per year), make Irpinia a wonderful terroir for both white and red wines.  Campania is probably one of the most interesting regions for white wines (with Friuli and Alto Adige), but also for red wines."

What qualities does the volcanic soils instill in the wines?
"Minerality is evident in all our wines and greatly supports the body of the wine thus making them quite flexible also for pairing with food. The volcanic soils within Irpinia are not al the same; they go from the volcanis stone in Tufo to the volcanic sand in Aglianico.  This way they offer an incredible potential for variety in wines."

What impact has Feudi di San Gregorio had on the history of winemaking in Irpinia?
"Historically Feudi had the merit to bring Campania great history into contemporary society from the style of wine tot he design of the bottles to the communication.  After Feudi was successful, over 100 wineries were created in the area."

What is the goal of Feudi di San Gregorio today?
"Today we try to continue accomplishing the mission to lead the system in particular on foreign markets.  Together with Mastroberardino in more ancient times, Feudi put Campania on the winemaking map."

Cuisine of Campania
Some of the cuisine of Campania includes shellfish and seafood based on its close proximity along the Adriatic Sea so I chose to pair the Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina with mussels from my mothers recipe that I love. I actually was always afraid growing up to try mussels and this recipe made it easy to love. Nothing better than learning directly from my mother whom was taught by her Italian grandmother. No ones cooking is like my mothers and I guarantee this recipe is sure to please.

3-4 tablespoon of olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of white wine
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of sea salt
14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
½ onion (optional)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)

Clean the mussels prior to cooking. Put them into whatever size pot or dish that makes it easy to run water over them washing them off. Sprinkle flour over them and toss them in the bowl. Some folks also use cornmeal instead of the flour. Those mussels that are open make sure to discard them.
How to clean and prepare mussels
Once the mussels are cleaned, put aside and add oil to a pot and heat oil prior to adding ingredients. Add onions and saute the onion for about 3-4 minutes. In the last couple minutes add garlic. Add the red pepper flakes along with a can of chopped tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Combine mussels with the white wine within the pot. Bring to a boil and cover until mussels open.
Making sauce for mussels
We enjoyed these mussels as an appetizer, but you can combine them with pasta. Either way you'll get a taste of Campania with this pairing that will make you wanting more.
Campania Food & Wine Pairing: Falanghina & Mussels
What's your favorite Campanian wine or food?

The first Saturday of each month, the #ItalianFWT bloggers visit a region of Italy. Check out the other posts about Campania: 

Foodwineclick -- Neopolitan Pork Chops and Autochthnous Grapes of Campania 
Rockin Red Blog -- Exploring Campania with #ItalianFWT 
Cooking Chat -- Grilled Swordfish with Pasta Margherita 
ENOFYLZ Wine Blog -- A Taste of Campania with #ItalianFWT 
Curious Appetite -- Strange Foods and Fringe Wines of Campania 
Christys Palate - Flying Squid Pasta with Beneventano Falanghina

We'd love to have you join our Twitter Chat Saturday, June 6, at 11 a.m Eastern time/ 5 p.m. Italian time. Some of our bloggers had last minute computer troubles so we may be a bit quieter than usual! Blogs that were posted as of Saturday 6/6, 7 a.m. ET have live links to their posts in the list above; check back as the others will be sharing their posts soon!  Next month we will be featuring Lazio!

I find this wine map very useful to understand not only Campania, but all the wine regions of Italy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Italian Food, Wine & Travel Visits Campania

If you're not familiar with #ItalianFWT we are a group of bloggers that share our experiences monthly of various Italian regions throughout Italy. This month is our 8th event as we feature Campania and the food, wine and travel of this region.
Wine map of Campania Italy
Wine map of Campania ~ Copyright of Federdoc
Campania is located in southern Italy and is actually considered the “Gateway to the South” or also known as Oenotria, the “Land of Wine”. To the northwest is Lazio, to the south is Basilicata, to the east is Puglia and northest is Molise. Many folks may be familiar with Campania if you've been to the well traveled Amalfi Coast or even the capital, Naples, and the historic town of Pompeii. In Campania you can visit the islands of Capri and Ischia, the Gulfs of Salerno and Naples or the volcanos of this region, Vesuvius or Campi Flegrei. 

This region has plenty of beautiful sunshine and dry weather with breezes off the Tyrrhenian Sea. This was a Greek colonization and considered part of the “Magna Grecia” or extended Greece and was later invaded by the Romans. As we travel more south the influence of the Greeks and other cultures are more prevalent.
Faraglioni rocks of island of Capri
Faraglioni Rocks of the island of Capri
Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius
Mt. Vesuvius overlooking the ancient ruins of Pompeii
This region is rich in citrus groves, especially the massive lemons of Sorrento, mozzarella di bufala and San Marzano tomatoes on the famous Neopolitan pizzas, hazelnuts, artichokes and chestnuts. Some of the top whites grapes of the region are Fiano, Greco, Falanghina, Coda di Volpe and red grapes are the well known aglianico and also piedirosso.

Here is a preview of what's to come this Saturday June 6th:

Vino Travels – Campania Food and Wine Pairing: Mussels with Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina
Food Wine Click - Neopolitan Pork Chops and Autochthnous Grapes of Campania
Rockin Red Blog - Exploring Campania with #ItalianFWT
Cooking Chat - Grilled Swordfish with Pasta Margarita
Enofylz Wine blog - A Taste of Campania with #ItalianFWT
Curious Appetite - Strange Foods and Fringe Wines of Campania

Our blogs will be live Saturday June 6th and we'd love to have you join our online Twitter chat at #ItalianFWT at 11am EST/5pm Italian time. If you'd like to participate and join us as a blogger or are a winery or company from a featured region and also want to partner with us for the future please email me directly at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.

Ciao ciao for now!