Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#ItalianFWT takes you to the Basilicata

As we're coming into the end of 2015 and hopefully a great year for many we will be starting off 2016 with our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) featuring some of the lesser explored regions of Italy starting with Basilicata.

Where is the Basilicata region you say? It's bordered by Campania to the north, Puglia to the east and Calabria to the south. It also touches the coastlines of the Ionian Sea, Adriatic Sea and a touch of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It's 2 provinces include Matera (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Potenza. It is one of the more mountainous regions of Italy and the south and equally as hilly. Basilicata is a rather chilly region with the winds of the various seas helping to mitigate the climate.

Matera, Unesco World Heritage Site of Basilicata
Matera by Martin de Lusenet

The food of Basilicata

Although most of the south is more seafood and fish based, this here is a mountainous region so it focuses more on heartier fare including meats like lamb and pork. The citizens of Basilicata also like their food with a little pep so peperoncini here are popular in many dishes along with dried sausages. You'll also find your typically staples of pasta, bread and cheese since the foods of this region are more of a poor man's cuisine.

Peperoncini by Francesco Cirigliano

The wine of Basilicata

There are a few volcanos in the Basilicata, but the one to make note of is Volcano Monte Vulture. This volcano is one of the major influences on the wine produced in the Basilicata in the northern part. The wines produced in this area are the Aglianico del Vulture, which is also known as the Barolo of the south produced from the aglianico grape originally brought over by Greeks. This area also produces the only DOCG of the region, Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG.

Monte Vulture in the Basilicata
Monte Vulture by Michael Nielsen

Basilicata actually has no native grapes like many of the other regions of Italy. Although aglianico is the best known grape of the region, you can find other grapes grown here including primitivo, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, merlot, greco bianco and malvasia.

Our ItalianFWT group has so much to share with you this Saturday, January 2nd and you can join our online chat Saturday on Twitter at #ItalianFWT 11am EST to discuss all aspects of the Basilicata. We'd love to hear from you if you have been here and can lend your knowledge so please don't be shy.

Here is a preview of my fellow bloggers for what is to come:

Vino Travels -Aglianico, What Makes Basilicata Pop!

Culinary Adventures with Camilla - Calzone di Verdure and Grano Dolce 

Food Wine Click – Basilicata Aglianico Eruption
Cooking Chat - Pasta with Bacon and Spinach
The Wining Hour - Basilicata Aglianico and Veal Osso Bucco

Rockin Red Blog - In Step in Italy: Exploring Basilicata Wine
Girls Gotta Drink - Basilicata Traditions: A Cooking Class in Matera

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Italian Wines for Christmas from Abruzzo & Piedmont

Still trying to think of some last minute christmas gifts for a coworker, family member or friends? If they are winelovers or even just enjoy a nice bottle of wine I have a couple Italian wine suggestions for you today to consider on both ends of the price spectrum to consider.

I've written about this particular winery, Damilano, in the past from my personal visit to the winery. I shared my wine tasting with you and some background on the winery. I also had them on the list for my Top 5 Wineries to Visit in Piedmont. Today I'm sharing with you an affordable 2013
2013 Damilano Barbera d'Asti
Damilano Barbera d'Asti. Damilano has been producing the barbera grape since 2008 and this comes from leased land in Casorzo, which is located in the province of Asti. This wine is made of 100% barbera and is aged 60% in french barrique and 40% in french tonneaux from 20-30 year old vineyards. What I love about this grape is the drinkability of it and also the complexity depending on the producer and area it's grown. Barbera is the most planted red grape within Piedmont. With hints of purple in the glass this wine was a little on the lighter bodied side than I expected with notes of cherry and hints of vanilla and spice. Not very balanced with the acidity though. Retails about $16.
Cantina Damilano in Piedmont

2006 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepulciano d'Abruzzo RiservaNow to step up the game a few notches we move to my next selection of the 2006 Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva. I've written about the Masciarelli family in the past for a local wine column that I write for. The Masciarelli Tenute Agricole winery started by Gianni Masciarelli was taken over by his wife, Marina Cvetic, due to Gianni's passing in 2008. Masciarelli's main focus, along with much of Abruzzo, are on the primary grapes trebbiano (white) and montepulciano (red). This particular wine, Villa Gemma, is Masciarelli's top tiered wine. These wines come from the oldest part of the Masciarelli estate. This is one of the top expressions of a quality montepulciano d'abruzzo produced in this region. Full bodied, backed by firm tannins and great complexity of dark fruits and spice. Retailing about $75-80.

These samples were provided to me, but as I always state I will not just write about a wine and recommend it unless I enjoy it myself and of course there are always wonderful stories to tell. I hope you're enjoying some wonderful wine bottles yourself this holiday season. Merry Christmas to all and enjoy this special time with loved ones! Buon Natale!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The cru wines of Marchesi de' Frescobaldi

I attended a virtual wine tasting this week led by wine journalist and wine critic, Filippo Bartolotta, and Nicolo D’Afflitto, the Director of Winemaking  for Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi.  Set in a warm, cozy and inviting environment with the fireplace blazing in the background they walked us through 4 of the cru wines of the Frescobaldi estate.  Samples were provided by Colangelo for this tasting and I was honored to sample such fantastic wines from Tuscany with such an in depth history of winemaking of high quality wines.      
Nicolo D’Afflitto
Nicolo has been with the Marchesi De’Frescobaldi winery since 1991 when he began working with the Castel Giocondo estate in Montalcino and later in 1995 went on to working in the other wineries estates including Castello di Nipozzano, Corte, Valiano, Pomino, Castiglioni, Poggio a Remole and S. Maria.  Nicolo’s belief is that the quality of the wine lies in the vineyards themselves with the influences of the varied terroir of each and takes a very natural approach to winemaking in the vineyard.  He travels from castle to castle and tries to put into each and every wine glass the terroir of each vineyard site.  Nicolo not only takes pride in the wines produced at the Frescobaldi vineyards, but historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.  They had passed through their vineyards and Nicolo stated that it's also about the people that have passed through this land that are part of the culture as well as the wines and can’t be forgotten.  

Wines of Marchesi De’ Frescobaldi
When it comes to “cru wines” of Italy there are no legal laws or standards that producers in Italy must follow to have their wines labeled as cru.  Italy has enough of its own laws and regulations when it comes to wines.  A cru wine is typically a wine that is considered well above average and is the best of the best, but if a wine does qualify under this qualification the Italian wine producers don’t have the legal right to market their wines with the cru label.  You may see the actual vineyard site listed on the label, which may not mean anything to many, but if you understand certain special terroirs of an area or region it will help you to understand the quality and characteristics of the wine in the bottle. 
Below are the 4 wines that we sampled together during the tasting:

2012 Castello di Pomino Benefizio Pomino Bianco Riserva
Made of 100% chardonnay and fermented in barrique. Wines have been produced in the Benefizio vineyard since the 1800’s.  A balanced wine that is elegant with a beautiful perfume.  It's very creamy and clean with nice minerality and acidity.  Nicolo stated that the acidity is preserved in the Pomino vineyard by the altitude and low temperatures and it's sandy soil.  For Nicolo, Pomino is all about elegance.  He believes this wine can age for 40 years and suggested to pair this wine with caviar, salmon and oysters.  ABV 13%. Retail $45

2011 Castello di Nipozzano Mormoreto Toscana IGT 

Made of 45% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 20% merlot and 5% petit verdot.  The first wine was produced from the Mormoreto vineyard in 1983.  Castello di Nipozzano is located about 30 minutes northeast of Florence very close to the Arno River and 50km from the Pomino vineyard.  It's situated about 700 meters above sea level. The Mormoreto vineyard is made of sandy and clay soil.  Nicolo calls this wine a "French tourist in Tuscany" and is a modern interpretation of the Tuscan soil.  Extracted blackberry flavors with notes of mint and some spice.  An elegant wine of full body with balsamic notes on the finish.   ABV 14.5%  Retail $79.  

2011 Tenuta di Castiglioni Giramonte Merlot/Sangiovese 
Tenuta di Castiglioni was discovered in 1999 after an evaluation of the terroir at the Giramonte vineyard site. Located southwest of Florence in Montespertoli.  Merlot was the choice grape to be planted here because it loves clay soil. Planted merlot there because it loves clay soil and the very warm climate.  Purple notes in the glass and aromas jumping out of the glass this wine was full of dark berries with chocolate notes.  A full-bodied, velvet wine with a beautiful finish.  ABV 14.5%. Retail $150

2009 Ripe al Convento di Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
100% sangiovese.  Castelgiocondo is located about a half hour from Siena in the town of Montalcino and according to Nicolo this is the kingdom of sangiovese.  There used to be 12 wine makers in Montalcino and now there are 250 producers. Nicolo provided the 3 factors that produce great wines in this area.  #1 the exposition (south or southwest facing slopes). #2 the elevation (not too low because its overripe and jammy and the wines don't have a long life and not too high as it produces wines that are light, elegant, but not powerful.  Ideal is 450 feet). #3 soil must be very well drained.  Soil is the key factor for this wine.  The soil there is galestro, which is a schist soil, flat stone.  2010 is well talked about in media today, but Nicolo believes the 2009 vintage is one of the best vintages.  This wine is well structured, with  herbal note, ripe fruit, notes of tobacco and chocolate with juicy acidity. ABV 15%. Retail $138

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pignolo and Schioppettino and Picolit, oh my!

Welcome to our 14th month of our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT). We're getting closer to rounding out covering all 20 regions in Italy and this month we feature the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia found in northeastern Italy bordering Slovania and Austria. I provided an overview of Friuli earlier in the week to give you a snapshot of what this region is all about. Today I'm sharing with you highlights of some of the native grapes produced within Friuli that make it special.

Friuli's wine producers pride themselves on the purest expressions of fruit. Most of the region is dominated by whites and some wine producers are using oak, but not like many of the white wines in the rest of the world. The wines here are all about freshness, acidic, aromatic, crisp wines with plenty of personality. It's a shame that there is so much mass marketed pinot grigio on the market because if you taste the whites of Friuli you'll know the real difference between those pinot grigio and the ones produced in Friuli.
white wines of friuli venezia giulia
By Luca Ciriani
Wine regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The terrain of Friuli begins with the Julian Alps to the north that roll down to the plains until it meets the Adriatic and Gulf of Trieste. Some of the top wine zones from this region include:
  • Collio Goriziano
  • Colli Orientali del Friuli
  • Isonzo
  • Carso
  • Grave del Friuli
  • Aquileia
Collio wine region of Friuli
Collio by Craig Dollett
There are plenty of international grapes grown in this region like chardonnay, sauvignon, pinot grigio, pinot bianco for whites and merlot, pinot nero and cabernet for reds. Personally one of the biggest reasons I love Italian wines is because of the hundreds of indigenous grapes that you can't find in other wine countries of the world.

Whites wines of Friuli
Some of the most full bodied white wines come from the Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli zones and include the grapes of ribolla gialla, Friulano and other whites. Friulano is a wine used to be known as tocai friulano until 2006 when the European Union prohibited the use of this name because of the closeness in name to Tokaji of Hungary. This same region is where you'll find what are known as orange wines. The orange wines are primarily based on the ribolla gialla grape and are oxidized and macerated with the skins for extended periods of time. A lot of times these wines are also agred in clay amphora.

Two of the 3 DOCG wines are dessert wines made in the Colli Orientali del Friuli. One of these wines is primarily made of the picolit grape producing wines of peach and apricot notes, the Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit DOCG. This grape suffers from flower abortion producing small yields so it's produced in limited amounts annually. For a dessert wine made of 100% picolit seek out the subzone of this area, Cialla. The other dessert wine is made of the grape verduzzo from the Ramandolo DOCG. A historical and one of the oldest wine areas of Friuli the grapes grow on steep terrain and is a wine that is a full bodied, elegant wine with high acidity and some tannins resulting in a wine that is overwhelming sweet.
Verduzzo from Ramandolo DOCG
The hills of Ramandolo by Silvia Malatini
Red Wines of Friuli
The red native grapes I mentioned previously including pignolo, tazzelenghe, refosco and schiopppettino are mostly found in the Colli Orientali del Friuli. Pignolo, a grape that produces wines of fruit and aromatics. With the refosco grape the profile of the wine depends on the kind of refosco the wine is made from as there are different refosco grapes. The best to seek out are those of the refosco dal peduncolo rosso. Schioppettino, also known as ribolla nera, was another Italian grape that faced extinction at one point due to phylloxera, but was thankfully saved. Although, a tricky grape to find. Lastly, tazzelenghe definitely won't be for the easy drinking wine drinker as it's a sharply acidic and tannic wine.
Refosco dal peduncolo rosso of Friuli
By Fabio Bruna

Now if we all had easy access to these grapes like the locals of this region we'd all be in heaven. Don't let seeking out these wines stop you. The bloggers of this group are located all over the US and the world and with the internet there are plenty of ways to access these wines easily. Have you had any of these wines and what was your opinion of the wines of Friuli?
Join our live chat Saturday December 5th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  We can't wait to hear from you.  

Here are the rest of my fellow bloggers featuring Friuli:

Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Roasted Lobster with Pesto + Ca'Bolani Sauvignon
Rockin Red Blog – Wine at the Center of Cultural Crossroads
Food Wine Click – Friuli Wines with Nutmeg Braised Goat
Enofylz Wine Blog  A Taste of Friuli, Got Prignolo?
Cooking Chat -  Lightened Chicken and Broccoli Pasta with Wine from Friuli
Italophilia - Castello di Miramare: Pearl of the Adriatic
Orna - A Stroll through Grado: The Sunny Isle
The Wining Hour - Friuli Pinot Grigio and Roasted Branzino

We can't wait to start off the 2016 new year with you exploring some of the lesser known regions of Italy starting in January with the Basilicata region.  So come back on Saturday January 2nd as we explore the rest of Italy's regions. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Preview to the Food, Wine & Travel to Friuli with #ItalianFWT

This month our Italian Food, Wine & Travel (#ItalianFWT) group takes you to the region of Friuli, tucked up in the northeastern corner of Italy. Friuli-Venezia Giulia, known in short as Friuli, is part of what's known as the Tre Venezie with the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. This region is bordered by the Veneto within Italy and also Austria and Slovania. Friuli is a small region in size, the 5th smallest within Italy, and in comparison to the US is only about 2/3 the size of Connecticut.
Copyright of Federdoc
Travel to Friuli
There is a little for every traveler in this lesser-traveled region. With the Dolomites and mountains bordering the Austrian line to the shores of the Adriatic for the beach goers it's one of the reasons why traveling to multiple regions within Italy are so unique. You can get a taste for all sorts of living styles and the culinary treats and wines that come along with it through the diverse landscapes. Plus, don't forget about the Austrian and Slovanian influences found throughout. Some of the top visited towns of Friuli include Udine, Trieste and Gorizia. Have you been?

Wine of Friuli
After phylloxera struck the Friuli region, the wine production here was rather silent until pinot grigio became popular on the wine scene. This region is dominated mostly by whites and this region along with the Trentino-Alto Adige is one of my go to regions for white wines within Italy. The wines of this region are known for their high acidity and aromatics, which is influenced by the warm days and cool nights of the mountains, plains and sea.

You'll definitely find some of your international varieties in this region like merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, but the native grapes of this region are pignolo, schioppettino, refosco for reds and friulano, ribolla gialla, picolit and verduzzo for whites. I'll be going into more details personally on the wines of this region Saturday.
Native wines of Friuli
Wines of Friuli by Fabio Bruna
Food of Friuli
Like a lot of alpine northern regions of Italy they are dominated with heartier fare including stews, sausages, veal, gnocchi dishes, speck, prosciutto (especially prosciutto di San Diele) and Alpine cheeses. Don't forget about the coastal part of Friuli that lines the Adriatic that also lend many seafood dishes. There will be lots of food and wine pairings shared this weekend to engage you in what it's like to be a Friulian.
Prosciutto di San Daniele of Friuli
Prosciutto di San Daniele by Desiree Tonus

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

Vino Travels – Pignolo and Schioppettino and Picolit, oh my!
Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Roasted Lobster with Pesto + Ca'Bolani Sauvignon
Rockin Red Blog – Wine at the Center of Cultural Crossroads
Food Wine Click – Friuli Wines with Nutmeg Braised Goat
Enofylz Wine Blog A Taste of Friuli, Got Prignolo?
Cooking Chat -  Lightened Chicken and Broccoli Pasta with Wine from Friuli
Italophilia - Castello di Miramare: Pearl of the Adriatic
Orna - A Stroll through Grado: The Sunny Isle
The Wining Hour - Friuli Pinot Grigio and Roasted Branzino

Join our group this Saturday and come back for a variety of articles on the region of Friuli with my blogger friends. Come chat with us live also on Saturday December 5th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT. We look forward to hearing from you then!

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
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