Sunday, November 22, 2015

Anniversary celebration with Valfieri Barolo

I always believe in finding things to celebrate in life no matter how big or how small. Along with that celebration in my home typically will involve wine as well. In October my husband and I celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary from getting married in Italy with my birthday following a week later so the perfect excuse to open a bottle that I've been holding onto. I have a wine fridge specifically for the wines of Italy that I have mostly brought back from my travels or maybe have picked up at one point or another. It's so hard to make the decision of what to open. Barolo can obviously be aged for decades, but that question of whether the bottle is still holding up well or has passed its peak is always a question. I decided to open a 2003 Valfieri Barolo from the Piedmont wine region.

About the Valfieri Winery
The Valfieri winery was established in 1961 by Rosangela Clerici Riccadonna and today is run by her children, Mariachiara and Angelo Clarici. The winery was orignally located in Alba and today is in Costigliole d'Asti.

Valfieri makes a variety of wines, but they only grow the barbera grape themselves in the Nizza cru, which used to be a DOC and has now been upgraded to it's own DOCG as of 2014. their other barbera production comes from the Tinella cru so this is what they really pride themselves on. The other wines they produced the grapes are sourced from other wineries of the area. I picked up this bottle years ago when I just started working in the wine business. Typically I like to purchase wines from wineries that are growing the grapes themselves and whom have complete control over the whole process.

Barolo from La Morra
There are 11 different comunes within Piedmont that are producing Barolo and they have their specific cru sites within those comunes. This particular wine comes from the comune of La Morra. Terroir is a huge factor when discussing Barolo and the nebbiolo grape as they are each known for producing different styles of Barolo. If you were looking at a bottle of Barolo, without even having tasted the wine, you would know what that wine may taste like if you had the knowledge of the typical characteristics from each of the comunes.

For La Morra, typically the characteristics of a Barolo are more feminine in style with aromatics and softer, more supple qualities. They are easier to drink in their youth than some of the other comunes producing Barolo. The soils in La Morra are tortonian, which is a sandier soil, that leads to wines that are softer, aromatic and more ruby red in color.

2003 Valfieri Barolo DOCG
2003 Valfieri Barolo
Grown in the La Morra district from 30-40 year old vines.  The 2003 Valfieri Barolo was smooth, with dark cherry and plum notes, a hint of tobacco and well integrated tannins that had softened well with age.  My preference typically is a Barolo with more power and complexityYou can typically find this wine though at very reasonable prices for Barolo about $25-30 retail.

Food Pairing with Barolo
I prepared a porterhouse steak with a salt, pepper and garlic rub topped with some drops of a balsamic vinegar I received as a sample from Emilia Delizia.  What a difference when you have real balsamic vinegar made with grape must than the cheap stuff they sell in the supermarkets.  Buyer beware!  Along with the porterhouse I made butternut squash ravioli in the same balsamic also with a butter and brown sugar sauce.  An amazing sensory overload.
Porterhouse with butternut squash ravioli
Balsamic vinegar made with grape must 

Most of the time I'm opening a special bottle it's a memorable event no matter the occasion that I may be celebrating. The holidays are around the corner and let's see what I pop open next! What are any special pairings you have enjoyed yourself?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Interview with Louise Rhodes: Italian grapes growing in Australia

I'm always intrigued by countries outside of Italy experimenting with native Italian grapes in different terroirs.  I met an Australia winelover, Louise Rhodes, from networking online and I thought it would be interesting to receive her perspective on Italian grapes growing in Australia.  Louise moved from Sydney to McLaren Vale in Australia in 2013 and was motivated by her surroundings to start her own wine blog, Willunga Wino.  
Wine tasting in McLaren Vale with Louise Rhodes
Louise Rhodes
1) How long have you been writing WillungaWino and what got you started in the wine industry?

My earliest wine memories are joining my dad being visited at home by wineries who took us through in home tastings. I used to beg dad to get the sweet reislings and dessert wines! My love of wine grew from there. When I met Mr Wino, he was studing accounting, which didn't work out after he graduated so he re-enrolled in winemaking and started work as a wine buyer, then did a few vintages, and then was offered a job blending wine for his company in McLaren Vale. The move sparked the start of Willunga Wino in 2013, I was just so inspired by the food, wine and landscapes around me. Now Mr Wino works direct for a small winery as Assistant Winemaker, and we are just starting our own wine label, Aphelion Wine.

Wine tasting of Italian grapes in Australia

2) What are some of your favorite wines within Australia and the rest of the world?  When it comes to  Italian wines do you have favorites?

The Kalleske Moppa Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008 is a firm favourite of mine, every time I smell it I rave about it. I love Pol Roger Winston Churchill 2002 because that's the wine Mr Wino proposed to me with. When it comes to Italian wines, I love Umbrian Sagrantino, Piedmontese Barolo and Dolcetto, and Prosecco!

Louise Rhodes of Willungawino
Louise driving through Barolo

3) What is the demand and market like for Italian wine in not only McLaren Vale, but the rest of Australia?

The most famous Italian wines in Australia are Prosecco and Chianti. Then amongst people who know a little about wine, Fiano, Vermentino, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Nero d'Avola are also well known. In restaurants and bars these kinds of Italian wines are very popular.

4) I'm not familiar much with Australian producers using Italian grapes.  Do you have knowledge in this area and what is successful there?

Australia has no native grapes, and our climate and geology varies so much that we can grow almost any variety here. McLaren Vale has a very Mediterranean climate, and so lends itself to Italian varietals, and more are being planted as our climate changes. Some popularly grown local grapes are Fiano, Vermentino, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Nero d'Avola and Sagrantino are all grown here, and more, with new varieties being planted all the time. We are so pleased with the Sagrantino grown here that it is the signature variety of our new wine label! Locally, we love to experiment, and try something new, wine drinkers in McLaren Vale are adventurous, and Italian varieties are delicious with our "modern Australian" food and warm climate. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Swept Away to the Alpine Region of the Valle d'Aosta

This month our ItalianFWT group brings you to the Valle d'Aosta region of Italy. Not one of the first region that comes to mind for the average tourist, but if you love the outdoors I can't recommend this region enough. I posted a preview earlier in the week.  I took my first trip to this lesser known region for my honeymoon in October of 2013 where we spent a few nights in the town of Aosta at an agriturismo La Viggni de Crest. I had fortunately been to so many regions in Italy I wanted to discover something off the beaten path and was so glad that I chose this region for so many reasons.

Travels through the Valle d'Aosta
I have so much to tell of this wonderful region so I'll have to share it in tidbits and highlights of what I loved the most. We spent our honeymoon there for a few nights and were ready to immerse ourselves in the great outdoors.  

Green mountains, snow capped mountains, vineyards steeply terraced with mountain wildlife roaming about.  Castles scattered tucked high up on hillsides overlooking the valleys below.  
Fenis Castle
Castello de Fenis
Hiking in the Aosta Valley
Hiking in the Aosta Valley
 Fortunately we were also spending my birthday there and spent one of the most memorable experiences of our honeymoon making our way to the top of Monte Bianco.  The steep ascent to the top that only brought us so far and to get to their newest addition you had to walk the rest of the way up some stairs.  I can only imagine the folks that actually climb some of the tallest mountains in the world as I found it challenging to breathe at those levels.  We picked a perfect clear day where you could see for miles, including other mountains such as the Matterhorn, Cervinia, Gran Paradiso, Monte Rosa.  The color of the blue from glaciers up there and the pointy snow peaks were breathtaking.

Monte Bianco Mont Blanc
Monte Bianco

We also experienced that same day this amazing spa, Pre-Saint Didier, I highly recommend if you're in the area.  You pay an entrance and get access to their buildings that have multiple floors and rooms each specializing in a different spa treatments, saunas, turkish baths with herbal salts, whirlpools and best of all their outdoor natural thermal spa pools with the Alps hanging over you while you take in this amazingness.

Throughout our days we stopped in some small towns to explore like Courmayeur, Aosta, Valtoney and Cogne were so peaceful strolling about watching the locals live their daily lives and getting lost on some hiking trails with a bottle of wine and stopping to enjoy the peacefulness all around you.  What's better?!
Town of Cogne in Valle d'Aosta
Town of Cogna
Teatro Romano in Aosta
Teatro Romano in Aosta

Town of Aosta
Town of Aosta
The wine of the Valle d'Aosta
The Aosta Valley is divided into 3 different parts: the Upper Valley, Valdigne, the Central Valley, Valle Centrale, and the Lower Valley, Bassa Valley. The Valdigne is tucked right at the bottom of Monte Bianco, which is the tallest mountain in western Europe. Here the most prevalent grape is prie blanc, a still and sparkling white wine. The Valle Centrale has the majority of the unique grapes of the region like Torrette, Petite Rouge, Fumin, Cornalin and more. This area has the largest production of winemaking. Lastly, the Bassa Valley has grapes that you will find most common to Piedmont as this area is bordering Piedmont to the south. Here the majority of the grapes you will find are nebbiolo as well as dolcetto and freisa. The nebbiolo here is closer in comparison to those of the Valtellina that are tucked in the alpine area of the Lombardy region.

Due to the influences of France you will find the labels of this region partially in Italian and French as it's a bilingual region. Seeking wine out from this region is not an easy task either in the US and luckily I had brought home a couple bottles to keep and enjoy at a later date. I had written about my wine experiences in the Valle d'Aosta previously that you can read about.
Agriturismo Le Viggni de Crest
The food of Valle d'Aosta
In the spirit of preparing for this feature on the Valle d'Aosta I wanted to prepare a typical dish of the region to share with you that was so simple to prepare. I made a Costolette alla Valdostana, also known as Veal Cutlets Valdostana. I used thin slices of veal that were doused in egg and rolled panko breadcrumbs in friend. Since fontina is a cow's milk cheese that is typical of this region I used that between the cutlets. Topped with a little parsley and viola! You've got a taste of the Valle d'Aosta from your own kitchen.
Costolette alla Valdostana
They may not be the easiest wines to find, but during the winter there are some hearty cuisine to be enjoyed and future thoughts of a getaway to experience the pure beauty that this region has to offer.

Follow along with my other blogger friends to their tour of the Valle d'Aosta. You can also join our live conversation Saturday November 7th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.

Join the rest of my fellow bloggers:
Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Pluot-Glazed Duck Legs and Les Cretes Torrette 2011
Rockin Red Blog - Over the Hills and Far Away
Enofylz Wine Blog - Veal Ribs with Fontina with Valle d'Aosta Torrette Superieur #ItalianFWT
Cooking Chat - Ziti with Kale Pesto and Roasted Broccoli
Food Wine Click - They Sure Love Fontina in the Valle d'Aosta
Confessions of a Culinary Diva - Valle d'Aosta Fonduta & Wine
The Wining Hour - Valle d'Aosta Petit Rouge & Fontina

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Italian Food, Wine & Travel goes to the Valle d'Aosta

I'm excited for this month's highlight of the Valle d'Aosta region of Italy for our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group. The Valle d'Aosta is the smallest regions in Italy tucked into the northwestern corner of Italy bordering France and Switzerland. Due to it's close proximity of these two countries there are strong influences from both France and Switzerland culturally and through it's food and wine. The name Valle d'Aosta, or Aosta Valley, originates from the Roman emperor, Augustus, and the geography of this region structured as a valley between a number of mountains.
This region is perfect for the outdoor enthusiast. It's known for its ski resorts and hiking trails, especially those through the Parco del Gran Paradiso. There are plenty of beautiful rivers and lakes in the peaceful countryside with wildlife in the surroundings. One of it's most stunning attractions are the snow capped mountains that dramatically hang over you in the valleys below. The mountains here consist of the tallest in western Europe, Monte Bianco or Mont Blanc, as well as Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and others.
Food of the Valle d'Aosta
When you think of the Alpine regions of Italy you probably think of colder climatic conditions and with that comes heartier fare. That's what the Valle d'Aosta is known for. Everything from hot soups like the zuppa di valdostana, rye breads, to polenta covered in alpine cheeses, fondue with fontina being one of the popular cheeses, and meat based dishes like veal.

Wines of the Valle d'Aosta
Dominated by one DOC, Valle d'Aosta, and no DOCG's you'll find lots of grapes in this area you may have never heard of or even had the chance to experience. Red grapes such as cornalin, mayolet, petite arvine, torrette, fumin and petit rouge and white grapes such as prie blanc, muscat, muller thurgau, gewurztraminer and pinot grigio. There are a number of different climatic zones in the Aosta Valley with the main winemaking area of this particular region being the Dora Baltea Valley around the town of Aosta.

Join us November 7th where myself and all my Italian loving blogger friends share our experiences on the food, wine and travel to this region.

Here's a preview of what's coming up:
Vino Travels – Swept away to the Alpine region of the Valle d'Aosta
Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Pluot-Glazed Duck Legs and Les Cretes Torrette 2011
Rockin Red Blog - Over the Hills and Far Away
Enofylz Wine Blog - Veal Ribs with Fontina with Valle d'Aosta Torrette Superieur #ItalianFWT
Cooking Chat - Ziti with Kale Pesto and Roasted Broccoli
Food Wine Click - They Sure Love Fontina in the Valle d'Aosta
Confessions of a Culinary Diva - Valle d'Aosta Fonduta & Wine
The Wining Hour - Valle d'Aosta Petit Rouge & Fontina

A live chat will be held Saturday November 7th at 11am on Twitter at #ItalianFWT and we'd love to hear from you.

There is still time to join our group and tell us about any of your travels and food and/or wine experiences of this region. Email me at vinotravels at hotmail dot com and join our group. We'd love to have you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My first book: Planning Your Dream Wedding in Tuscany

After almost two years of work I'm so very proud to announce my first book release, Planning Your Dream Wedding in Tuscany.  
Some may have heard me mention along the way that I was digging my way through the process of learning what it takes to even start to begin to write your first book in the digital world.  What may come as a surprise to many that my book isn't actually about wine.  

Yes Vino Travels main feature is the Italian wine world, but I love incorporating my travel when I can as well as the amazing cuisine of Italy and all its regions.  As some of you may know my love affair with Italy began back in 2001 when I lived in Florence, Firenze, the city that holds my heart to this day.  I instantly fell in love with it and returned year after year for many years.  
planning your wedding in florence
My dream culminated at my wedding in 2013 in the town of Bucine, a tiny town tucked into the region of Tuscany. When I lived there I knew I would return to get married in the place that holds my heart to this day, Italy.  I planned the wedding myself from start to finish and I believe that if you put your heart and soul into something if you truly want to make things happen you can do it no matter where in the world you are.  
Planning your own wedding in Italy
So I wrote a book about getting married in Italy called, Planning Your Dream Wedding in Tuscany.  I wanted to write this book to encourage other brides whom have the same dream and to help them make it come to reality.  I could have afforded a wedding planner, but I love a good challenge.  I don't believe in paying someone to do something that I can do myself with a little time and research.  Many folks don't have the means of making their dream a reality and you can still have a wedding in Italy without spending a fortune and my book helps you do that. 

It covers everything from:
  • legalities (the most important aspect)
  • where to consider getting married
  • hairstylists and makeup artists
  • photographers
  • and more

Use my thorough research and experience to your benefit and get to planning your dream wedding in Tuscany, Italy. 

I hope that you enjoy it and I love hearing from folks so please don't ever hesitate to reach out to me and tell me your story of your dream wedding in Italy.