Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Looking for a new favorite? Timorasso might be the one!

One of my favorite things about blogging are the relationships that you develop around the world . I originally met Lara Statham awhile back when she was still working at Turin Italy Guide as co-founder.  Lara was born in the UK and has lived all over the world including Greece, Hungary, Jordan and Egypt,  but has called Turin in  Piedmont, Italy home for the last 18 years. A fan of Piedmontese cuisine & wines with a penchant for Langhe reds, she has written for various publications about Turin & Piedmont including Time Out, Wine Pass and the Turin Italy Guide.  I asked Lara to share with me something unique about the wine from her region and today we discuss the grape, timorasso.
Capital of Piedmont, Turin
Turin, Italy by Maelick \
Timorasso is one of my all-time favorite white wines from Piedmont, Italy. I have a tendency to having lots of favorites (!!!) but this one really stands out. Perhaps surprisingly, not many people have actually heard of it. Only those ‘in the know’. Sometimes I’m inevitably asked what my favorite wine is. On mentioning the name Timorasso, I am either met with mild puzzled looks or wide-eyed expressions accompanied by sage nods of approval.

I first tried it purely by chance at Parola wine bar in downtown Turin, the capital of Piedmont. When the owner told me that my usual white of choice, Arneis, was off their chalkboard menu I experienced a twinge of disappointment. I love savoring the ripe pear and apricot flavors and crisp freshness of a glass of Arneis, especially during the summer months. 

But my disappointment didn’t last for long. 

I’m always eager to try new wines…and as my eyes scanned the board they rested on a new variety…Timorasso, a wine that, until that moment, I don’t think I’d ever heard of before.
It’s certainly not one of the better known grapes picked from the terraced vineyards of Piedmont’s Monferrato (or Langhe) hills. But it is also not new. I found out that it is one of the most ancient indigenous grapes grown in these parts. I also discovered that some time ago it had fallen out of favor and risked extinction in the 1980s. 

It was only due to the perceptive foresight of Walter Massa of Vigneti Massa (in business since 1879!) that the Timorasso variety was saved and production of this overlooked grape began to grow. The grapes are used both for white wines and grappa. It is one of the most exciting ‘terroirs’ in Piedmont…and in all of Italy for that matter!

Anyway, back to the drink…

From the moment I put that delicious glass of Timorasso to my lips and took that first delicious drop I fell hook, line and sinker for this delightfully full-bodied, interestingly complex wine. Flavors and aromas that you too will hopefully experience include whispers of lemon and lime, toasted hazelnut, smooth caramel, subtle spice and aromatic mountain herb. Hints of smoky, aromatic cigar-box flavors swirl deliciously around the mouth. Matured in oak, it has a lovely smoooth, creamy texture. It goes exceedingly well with chicken dishes, grilled sausages, smoked meats and cheeses…spaghetti carbonara apparently…and bar snacks!
wine from Colli Tortonesi in Piedmont
Colli Tortonesi DOC by Magnus Reuterdahl
The ‘viticultural’ DOC area where Timorasso is produced is called ‘Colli Tortonesi. It covers a vast area in southeast Piedmont that stretches from the picturesque Monferrato to the border with Lombardy. The Italian city of Tortona lies at the foot of the Monferrato hills. Historically famous for its noble families and excellent wine growers it was once known as ‘Derthona’. This name, coming from Roman times, can often be seen on Timorasso wine bottle labels. 
Derthona timorasso grape of Piedmont
Timorasso grape by Magnus Reuterdahl
Any wine produced from the Timorasso grape has to contain at least 85% Timorasso. The rest can be made up of Moscato Bianco and Favorita (another of my favorites!!!).

Now, you too are ‘in the know’ why not try Timorasso for yourself? It might join the list of your own favorites!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The charming town of Sirmione on Lake Garda and the local wine region of Bardolino

Many of us are familiar with some of the larger, well-known lakes through Italy including Lake Como, Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore and maybe even Lake Bolsena or Lake Trasimeno. Over the last few weeks I've been highlighting some specific towns within Italy including Rome and Bergamo as part of the #hipmunkcitylove project as I always love talking about Italian travel, especially those that I have visited. In order to stay true to what my blog is all about I felt it was most appropriate to also discuss perfect day trips to local wine regions for visitors to get a true sense of the area's local wines.

Today I'm showcasing the town of Sirmione, Italy that I visited back in 2009. Sirmione is a really neat town located on the southern part of Lake Garda. It is situated on a peninsula that juts out into the lake. Lake Garda is the largest lake within Italy and touches a few regions within Italy including Lombardy, the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. The northern part of Lake Garda is more mountainous where the southern part is made up of morainic hills formed by the glacial forms.
town of Sirmione, Italy
Town of Sirmione, Italy
The town of Sirmione is located in the province of Brescia in the Lombardy region. I love in Italy when I enter towns that are surrounded by walls or fortresses, and there are many of them, as I feel like I'm stepping back into ancient, medieval times. Upon arriving in Sirmione you can park your care and enter through the fortress walls surrounded by an ancient moat to access the old historic city center. There are some very interesting attractions within the city including the Grotte di Catullo, which is an ancient Roman villa where you roam through the archeological ruins. 

 There is the opportunity to also visit the museum inside to scope out the objects that were excavated. In addition, there is also a neat little climb up the Rocca Scaligera di Sirmione. It's a castle that provides great views over the town and peninsula, as well as the water. With many other attractions to see including beaches, thermal baths, and quaint, peaceful churches there is plenty to satisfy your needs in the town of Sirmione.

Scaligera Fortress in Sirmione
Rocca Scaligera di Sirmione
Things to do in Sirmione, Italy
View from the top of Rocca Scaligera in Sirmione

Scaligera Castle in Sirmione
Rocca Scaligera di Sirmione
Rocca Scaligera di Sirmione
Rocca Scaligera di Sirmione
For you wine lovers the closest wine region is Bardolino, named after the town, that is within reach of Sirmione located on the southeastern shores of Lake Garda. If you're familiar with the Valpolicella wines of the Veneto, Bardolino is made of a blend of the same grapes corvina, rondinella, and molinara. The main difference is that it's a lighter style red wine that is less tannic and less alcoholic than the wines of valpolicella. For some of the best of this particular wine region seek out a Bardolino Superior Classico DOCG.

I hope you get a chance to visit this wonderful area as it's very accessible to many other great places to visit including Verona, Brescia, Mantova, etc.. 

Have you had the wines of Bardolino vs. Valpolicella?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Best day trip outside of Rome visiting the wineries of Lazio

Andiamo a Roma!  Yesterday you may have caught my podcast with Rick Zullo discussing an introduction to Italian wines including the Lazio wine region.   If you have been to Italy, most likely you have visited Rome, the capital of Italy in the central region of Lazio along the Tyrrhenian Sea. As we all know, Rome is rich in history, art, architecture, and much more, but let's escape today from the city and chaos and journey to wine country outside of Rome. Here are some of the best areas to visit outside of Rome for a day trip to experience the wines of Lazio.
Colosseum in Rome
You may not immediately gravitate to the Lazio region when it comes to wine. Lazio is known for producing easy drinking, simple table wines, without drawing much excitement, but there are some top whites and reds that you can find that are worth experiencing. Plus, any time you visit a wine region you learn so much about the cultural history of an area, plus the climate, terrain, and much more.

If you are a lover of whites you will be able to appreciate this region. My first suggestion, that is near to Rome, is to venture out to the Castelli Romani area to see the production of frascati, the primary white wine. There are a number of towns in this area in the Alban hillsColli Albani, which is about 12 miles south of Rome. Wine lovers have enjoyed Frascati for over 3,000 years in this region. What makes the winemaking of this region unique is the volcanic soil. Volcanic soil imparts lots of character to wine that is grown on it, especially minerality and complexity. Frascati wine is a blend of the malvasia bianca, trebbiano and bombino bianco grapes. Check out the Frascati Superiore DOCG wines as well as the Cannellino di Frascati DOCG, which is a dessert wine.
Castelli Romani Alban Hills
The Alban Hills of Frascati by CucombreLibre
If you're a red wine lover, the best wine area outside of Rome to visit would be the town of Piglio, about 30 miles southeast of Rome in the Frosinone province. The primary red grape of Lazio is the unique cesanese del Piglio made with 90% of the cesanese grape. Cesanese is an aromatic red grape producing wines with spice, ina concentration that shows the ability to age. Outside of the cesanese grape, most of what you'll find in this region for red wines are your typical international varieties like cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

Don't get me wrong, no one should miss visiting Rome for its history alone, but take a day off and enrich your experience with a visit to the wine region. It might be overwhelming with the number of choices available to stay in Rome, but if you are looking to base yourself out of Rome for your vacation and excursions, consider Worldhotel Ripa Roma in the Trastevere district of Rome.

For a gastronomic Lazio experience, check out my blog with a food and wine pairing of Lazio featuring saltimbocca alla romana with Casale del Giglio petit verdot, and get a sample of what this region has to offer from a culinary perspective.
chicken saltimbocca alla romana with Casale del Giglio
This article is associated with #Hipmunkcitylove.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My Italian Wine Specialist certification & podcast with Rick Zullo

One of greatest parts I find about blogging are meeting folks from all around the world and sharing our passions for wines and travel throughout Italy. One of those contacts that I casually became acquainted with online is an American expat, Rick Zullo, whom now lives in Rome and provides an in depth look and lots of tidbits into living life in Italy, especially Rome. I was honored when he reached out to me for a podcast interview to discuss Italian wine.

wineries in TuscanyThis would be the perfect time to announce my recent passing of the North American Sommelier Association Italian Wine Specialist certification exam. This program came to the Boston area in the fall of 2014 and after 6 long months of immersing myself in the books of Italian wines and living and breathing it daily I'm proud to announce that I passed the exam with distinction.  
Italian wine specialist certification with NASA
I wanted to sign up for this course when I saw it was coming to Boston because I want to grow to be a fantastic online source for Italian wine and to help promote and educate the world on what Italian wines are all about. I will not ever call myself an expert when it comes to Italian wines as I feel that it takes years to truly know the ins and outs of all there is to know. There are folks that have been doing this for 20-30 years and these are some of the folks I admire that truly have sampled a number of these unique and indigenous varietals that I write about, met countless winemakers and traveled through all the regions of Italy really digging in and learning the terroir. I do the best I can from all my travels throughout Italy and what I've learned and am continuing to learn, but I haven't loved wine all my life so my experience is much more limited. Every person must start somewhere though, right?

wine harvest in Tuscany
Last week Rick and I provided an introduction to just a few of the Italian wine regions including Lazio where Rick resides, Sicily and Campania. We discussed some of the top wines and grapes from these regions along with other tidbits of winemaking throughout Italy. Join us for about 30 minutes for a brief introduction to Italian wines and stay following my journey as we explore the never ending, intriguing world of Italian varietals.

So join Rick and myself for this podcast and get yourself started on an introduction to Italian wines.

This week I'll also feature a perfect wine day trip outside of Rome if you're looking to experience the wines of Lazio for yourself.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Agro Batoreu Terre Silvestre Portuguese Blend with Asian Pork

This month's Wine Pairing Weekend that I participate in the 2nd Saturday of month is hosted by Christy Majors of Christy's Palate and the theme is Portugal. Yes, I know, this is an Italian wine blog, but it's nice to venture out every now and shake it up a bit. Portugal, like Italy, has some very good values when it comes to wine. The wine I'm sharing with you today, 2013 Agro Batoreu Terre Silvestre, is from the Tejo region of Portugal, formerly known as Ribatejo. The name originates from the Tejo River, also known as the Tagus River, that impacts this region greatly. This region is located closely to the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. The very fertile plains of this area can be overly fertile so its up to the producer to control the growth of grapes in order to provide quality wines. According to the Wines of Tejo, “Tejo is known as the land of vineyards, olive groves, cork forests, Mertolengo cattle, and the famous Lusitano horses”.

2013 Agro Batoreu Terre SilvestreAgro Batoreu was created in 1988, but the brand is a combination of two families, Batoreu and Canteiro, whom both have been making wine in this region since 1860. The 2013 Agro Batoreu Terre Silvestre is a blend of 50% touriga franca, 30% syrah and 20% alicante boushet. This wine is grown within the Tejo province in their Aveiras de Cima vineyards of the Bairro zone, 1 of the 3 wine production zones of the Tejo. Deep in color with violet hues this was a full bodied, rich, elegant and concentrated wine displaying blackberries. Retailing in the low $20's

The touriga franca grape dominating this wine is indigenous to Portugal and is widely planted in the Douro Valley of Portugal, but is also found throughout other areas including Tejo. It's typically blended with other grapes as shown in this wine today. It's typically an aromatic grape, rich in dark fruits, with good body and color. Growers appreciate this grape as it's very hardy and easy to grow.

I paired this wine with an asian dish made of teriyaki marinated pork tenderloin with roasted vegetables and brown rice. I try to eat rather healthy in my house so I like to eat lots of protein and vegetables. Plus, with the local farmshare that I'm participating in this summer I'm getting bombarded with and who doesn't love roasted veggies? I felt that the teriyaki marinade was the right choice with this pork dish and wine, but it would probably stand up even better to lamb or steak due to the concentration and full body in the wine.

teriyaki asian pork with roasted vegetablesfarmshare roasted vegetables

2013 Agro Batoreu Terre Silvestre food pairing

It was fun exploring and touching upon this region as I'm very green to the wines, but from the ones I have always sampled from Portugal I've always been impressed. Check them out for yourself!  Here are the rest of the bloggers from my group sharing their food and wine pairings of Portugal.

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is sharing “Vinho Verde Caldeirada with Pluot Port Granita”
Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva pairs “Poco Do Lobo Arinto with Seabass”
Constance from Vinhos do Alentego is featuring “Alentejano Black Pork with Clams
David from Cooking Chat shares “Grilled Pork with Portuguese Potatoes and Kale”
Jade of Tasting Pour is pairing “Portugal's Green Wine with Stew Fresh from the Sea
Jeff from food wine click shares “Perfect Pairing with Port”
Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog tempts us with “Taste of Portugal:Grilled Fish Setubal Style and 2008 Torre de Tavares Encruzado"
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares “Portuguese Wines: Just Say Yes”
Nancy from Pull That Cork pairs “AmĂȘijoas na Cataplana with Soalheiro Alvarinho”
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere  pairs “Piri Piri Chicken with Verdelho”
Wendy creator of A Day in the Life on a Farm shares “A Tawny Port from Portugal served with Grilled Figs topped with Goat Cheese”

Make sure to join us next month for Wine Pairing Weekend on September 12th as we feature volcanic wines hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wine day trips from Bergamo to Franciacorta

Once a year, my family gathers to spend some quality summer time together up at my parent's house on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. I always enjoy talking to my father's first cousin, who is originally from Bergamo, Italy. Bergamo is located in the region of Lombardy, or Lombardia, which is a major industrial region and a financial powerhouse. It's a shame she hasn't been able to visit since she was a child. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to provide a suggestion for a perfect day trip from Bergamo to a major wine destination for the region, Franciacorta. If you are a sparkling wine lover, you won't want to miss it.
Day trips from Bergamo, Italy
Bergamo by Jose A.
The city of Bergamo consists of two parts, an upper and lower level, known as the Alta Citta Bassa Cittarespectively. These different levels of the city are connected by a funicular, funicolare, and there are also walking trails to get from one point to another. Bergamo is a city known for its medieval art, and you can find many of the main sites located on the upper level. There you will find the Piazza Vecchia, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Duomo di Bergamo e Battistero. For art lovers there is also the Carrara Academy Gallery. The lower level of Bergamo features mostly residences.
Alta Citta of Bergamo in Lombardy, Italy
Alta Citta of Bergamo by David Spender
Those looking to escape outside the city for the day for great food and wine should consider Lake Iseo, Lago Iseo, that is home to one of the top sparkling wines in all of Italy, Franciacorta. It's situated at the base of the glacially formed lakes that sit on the morainic axis. These stones and minerals impart one of the most common characteristics of Franciacorta wines -- minerality. The climate of this region is mitigated by Lake Iseo and others. 
Lago Iseo - Lake Iseo
Lago Iseo by Franco Folini
The primary grapes that make up a Franciacorta wine are pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot bianco. There is a saten version that only consists of chardonnay and pinot bianco like a blanc-de-blanc in France. There are vintage and non-vintage Franciacorta, and which one you select determines the percentage of grapes used and the length of aging. Vintage Franciacorta require 30 months of aging with at least 85 percent of the grapes coming from that particular vintage. The non-vintage Franciacorta require 18 months of aging with a blend of vintages allowed. A reserve Franciacorta is actually aged for 60 months.
Franciacorta in Lombardy
Franciacorta by Daniele Pieroni
How does Franciacorta compare to Champagne? It is produced in the same classic champenoise method, but is much more reasonably priced and a creamier style of sparkling wine.  The only issue is it's not as easily accessible here in the states as much of it is kept within Italy.
One of the original producers of this region that should be on your list to visit is Berlucchi winery, but there are over 70 wineries in Franciacorta to check out. 

If you're looking for somewhere to base yourself out of in Bergamo, I was recently asked to write an article on the Winter Garden Hotel for Hipmunk that would be worth seeking out. If you've visited this region, what were your favorite places to visit and sights to see?

This article is associated with #Hipmunkcitylove.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Native Grapes of Sardinia with 2010 Argiolas Costera Cannonau

I can't believe we're in our 10th month and 10th region in Italy discussing the food, wine and travel.  We have a great group of bloggers here with travel expertise and food and wine knowledge that we share with you month by month. This month #ItalianFWT virtually is taking you to the region of Sardinia. You can see my preview post on Sardinia from earlier in the week giving you an overview of the region.

It's summer time and mentally or physically being on the beach is just what the doctor ordered for most, especially when you live in the north in Boston like I do and just had a record year for snow. That's why Sardinia is the perfect feature today as they have over 300 days of sunshine with a nice warm, Mediterranean climate with low rain.

Today I wanted to share with you a wine from Cantine Argiolas winery located in Sardinia. This winery is located in Serdiana, which is northeast of the capital Cagliari. The winery has about 600 acres and produces about 400,000 bottles from their multiple estates. The specific vineyard, Costera, is located in one of the estates, Siurgus Donigala.

Cantine Argiolas began back in 1938 with the patriarch of the family, Antonio Argiolas. He later passed it down to his sons Franco and Giuseppe whom have now passed it down to their children. 

Today the 3rd generation of the Argiolas family is operating the winery. Cantine Argiolas replanted their vineyards in the 1980's and has shifted the focus to be fully concentrated on quality compared to the days when quantity mattered most.  Plus, they have enlisted the help of expert wine consultant Giacomo Tachis.  The family's philosophy is to focus on native varieties of the island.

Cantine Argiolas winery in Serdiana Sardinia
The wines of Argiolas by Pietro Zanarini

The grape of the 2010 Argiolas Costera Cannonau that I'm sharing with you today wine is primarily made from the main native red grape of the island, Cannonau, but is also blended with other natives grapes including Carignano and Bovale. According to wine searcher, almost 1 out of every 5 bottles is actually made from the Cannonau grape. Argiolas grows their grapes on the gobelet vine training system.   You may be more familiar with Cannonau than you realize. It's actually the same grape as Garnacha from Spain and Grenache from France. It's been known that this grape arrived in Sardinia during the 13th century by the Aragonese from Aragon, Spain.

cannonau grape in sardegna
Rows of Cannonau in Sardegna by Viaggio Routard

The 2010 Argiolas Costera Cannonau actually does a secondary malolactic fermentation in glass lined concrete and then in small oak barriques for 8-10 months. You can learn why producers and wineries in Italy use concrete in their winemakingfrom an earlier post of mineFull bodied, structured and warm at 14% alcohol, with juicy blackberries and a hint of pepper. I sampled this wine just sitting on the patio with some pecorino cheese and a meatball pizza I made, but Argiolas recommends some roast suckling pig and lamb as well. 

Rated 90 points by Antonio Galloni of Vinous “Vinous / Antonio Galloni - "Another striking, entry-level wine, the 2010 Isola dei Nuraghi Costera caresses the palate with juicy dark cherries, plums, tobacco, spices and licorice. Elements of sweetness, inner perfume and pure silkiness distinguish the Costera from the vast majority of its peers. A hint of sweet flowers and mint lingers on the finish." SRP $16

Making a meatball pizza with ricotta and mozzarella2010 Argiolas Costera Cannonau di Sardegna

Copyright of Winebow Group

Have you tried some of the native grapes of Sardinia for yourself?  Wait......there's more!  My fellow bloggers have lots more to share with you so check out their blogs below.  If you're reading this in time also you can join us live on Twitter at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT and tell us all about your experiences with the island of Sardegna or come and learn something new about this region.

Italophia - How I was "Swept Away" in Sardinia
Enofylz - Sardinia Style Seafood Paella and Cantina di Gallura Canayli Vermentino #ItalianFWT
Vino in Love - Exploring Sardinian Wine
Rockin Red Blog - Mountainous Food & Wine of Sardegna 
Confessions of a Culinary Diva - The Food & Wine of Sardegna
Cooking Chat - Summer Spaghetti with Garlicky Shrimp and a Vermentino
Food Wine Click - What Wines Goes with Octopus?  A Sardinian Investigation
Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Grano Saraceno Risotto con Funghi e Miele 

Thanks for joining us today! Next month September 5th we feature the region of Abruzzo.  Let me know if you'd like to join our group.  Ciao ciao for now!