Friday, October 28, 2016

Refresh your Palate with the Turbiana Grape of Lugana

I was excited to receive an invitation to taste through the wines of Lugana with the Lugana DOC Wine Consortium at the Boston stop on their US tour. I had the pleasure to meet with the President of the consortium, Luca Formentini, along with the Director, Carlo Veronese.
Save Lugana Wines with Luca Formentini
Luiz Alberto (Founder of #Winelover) & Luca Formentini
Wines of Lugana
Carlo Veronese

Lugana's wine region is tucked around the southern part of Lake Garda in northern Italy. Its wine is produced partly in two regions: Veneto and Lombardia and in the Brescia and Verona provinces. It exists in a mild microclimate with breezes off Lake Garda where the grapes are grown on a soil consisting of clay and morainic soil rich in minerals. Winemaking has been taken place there since Roman times. It was actually the first wine produced in Lombardy back in 1967 and was one of the first DOC's within Italy itself. According to Luca, he considers Lugana to be “a small DOC with exceptional quality and a marked personality”.
Wine tasting around Lake Garda
Some interesting facts on Lugana:
  • They export 70% of their wine production
  • Vineyard territories have grown by 62% between 2008 and 2015
  • Bottle production has doubled since 2008 to the present totaling 13.9 million bottles produced

The local grape grown in Lugana is turbiana, said to be closely related to the trebbiano di soave grape. Most producers are making their lugana wines with 100% turbiana. Turbiana are white grapes that are elongated in the shape of a pyramid, greenish-yellow in color with floral aromatics, citrus and that have the ability to age.
turbiana grapes of Lugana
Turbiana grapes
Soil for winemaking in Lugana
Clay soil of Lugana

The wines produced in this area consist of: regular “basic” level (comprises 90% of the wine in this area), superiore (1 year of aging), riserva (2 years of aging), late harvest “vendemmia tardiva” and spumante.

I tasted through 19 white wines of Lugana and my top picks were the following:
Not having much experience with tasting wines from Lugana prior to this tasting, my take away is that these dry wines are beautifully refreshing, clean, aromatic with citrus and minerality along with nice structure and acidity. Obviously this varies from wine to wine and the ones I preferred had a stronger presence of fruit on the palate, but I enjoyed the balance on many of the ones I tasted.

Luigi Veronelli, Italy's wine critic, was quoted on the consortium's site stating his opinion of Lugana “Drink your Lugana when is very young, you will enjoy its freshness. Drink you Lugana after two or three years and you will enjoy its completeness. Drink it after ten years and you will be amazed by its composed authoritativeness. Lugana wines, rare quality for white wines, have an extraordinary capacity to be recognized. You taste a Lugana and, if you are a good taster, you cannot forget it. A great painter is recognizable, and so is a musician: every time, with a work, you feel it’s his.”

Lugana wines are best paired with typical foods of the region including a variety of freshwater fish and fish from the sea. In Lugana it's common to see it paired with eel, coregone and trout. The more complex forms of Lugana, like the superiore and riserva, are able to be paired with more complex, richer fish dishes and sauces. Spumante can be paired a number of ways, but is enjoyable with some antipasti and salumi.

A couple years ago there was a push to #SaveLugana as the government wanted to build tracks for a fast speed train from Milan to Venice thereby destroying vineyards dedicated to producing Lugana wines. Basically the petition was to utilize the current tracks that are present that just slows the train down coming through the area therefore preserving the land.  Unfortunately the government is proceeding forward.  What a shame!

If you haven't tried wines from this region you're missing out and must add it to your list!

Sources of information and pictures property of Consorzio Tutela Lugana

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wine Diversity in the Land of Lodi

Lodi is located between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and San Francisco, California.  I have yet to visit the wine country in this state, but was intrigued after this tasting.  Lodi has a good footprint on the California winemaking scene making up 20% of California’s wine production in total.  It was also voted in 2015 as Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine.  Many associate Lodi with zinfandel as I did myself, but there is so much more to be discovered.  For you red wine lovers out there, about 2/3 of Lodi’s vineyards are planted to red grapes so there isn’t a shortage of red wine in this wine region of California.  There are actually over 100 different varietals produced there with influences of grapes from a number of countries including Italy, Spain, Southern Rhone, Germany and Portugal, along with the classic varieties of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot and sauvignon blanc.
Visiting Lodi, CA wine country
Lodi Wine Country by BradleypJohnson
I recently was invited to attend a virtual tasting on the wines of Lodi, California.  Always enjoying to venture out and understand the comprehensive world of wines I was happy to receive some wine samples compliments of Snooth and the Wines ofLodi.  What most intrigued me about the different wines I received was the variety of wines that I received.  

Here are the wines I was sent.
·         2015 Acquiese Winery & Vineyards Belle Blanc
o   This winery was started 8 years ago by Susan Tipton and only produces Rhone style whites.  This white chateauneuf-du-pape inspired wine made of 45% Grenache blanc, 45% rousanne and 10% vigognier is an aromatic, flowery wine with tropical notes of pear and stone fruit with a mouthcoating texture on the palate. Only 288 cases produced. SRP $26. ABV 13.5%
·         2013 McCay Cellars Grenache
o   Michael McCay, owner of McCay Cellars, has been growing grapes for 25 years and joined us on our tasting describing his wines with the goal of “creating southern Rhone style wines”.  This wine is 100% Grenache and was a fan favorite from the tasting.  An elegant wine, fruit forward in style with bright red berries and a little bit of spice and pepper.  About 300 cases produced.  SRP $32. ABV 14.2%.
·         2013 Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah
o   Named after owner, Steve and Lori Felten’s daughter Farrah, this winery produces zinfandel wines from old vine vineyards that have an average age of 85 years.  This full-bodied zinfandel was aged 15 months in French oak and is earthy full of black berries and ripe plums along with a kick of spice.  SRP $20.  ABV 14.9%.

Wines of Lodi California
I wanted to share all the wines that I tasted, but specifically highlighting the Lange Twins Family Winery due to their experimentation with Italian grapes and the 2014 nero d’avola.  They produce Italian grapes such as moscato, nero d’avola, aglianico, barbera, pinot grigio, sangiovese and teroldego. 

Lange Twins Family Winery started in 2006.  Randall and Brad Lange, now owners of the winery, grew up in an agricultural family. Their great grandparents were cultivators of watermelon’s in the 1870’s.  In 1916 was the first time they began working with grapes.  Randall and Brad began farming themselves in 1974 until they opened Lange Twine Family Winery.  5th generation.  The family grows 23 different grape varieties throughout the vineyard sites that they manage and have established.  They are located in 4 counties with one of them being Lodi and the others Clarksburg and Clements Hill.

2014 Lange Twins Family Winery Nero d'AvolaIf you’re not familiar with nero d’avola, it is a grape indigenous to the island of Sicily in Italy.  This was actually my first experience trying a nero d’avola produced outside of its original territory.  This was the first vintage of this wine for them.  It was planted in 2012 in the Red Tail Vineyard.   I found the 2014 Lange Twins Family Winery Nero d'Avola to be a medium bodied wine with the dark fruit aromas jumping out of the glass.  Very rustic with lots of bright, ripe black cherries.  SRP $20.  It’s a wine that is aged in neutral American and French oak for 18 months. ABV 13%. SRP $20.

What’s your experience with the wines of Lodi, California and any favorites?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Italian Wine & Cheese Pairings

When we think of drinking Italian wine how do we not think about Italian food and what we can pair with it. After all, they say “what grows together goes together”. I attended a wine and cheese pairing event hosted by Gordon's Wine & Spirits in Waltham and the event was led by local wine, cheese and food expert, Adam Centamore.
Italian wine and cheese pairings with Adam Centamore
Myself & Adam Centamore
Adam is of Sicilian heritage and holds a Masters in Gastronomy. He also authored his first book that was published in September 2015 called Tasting Wine & Cheese: An Insider's Guide to Mastering thePrinciples of Pairing. In addition to his academic background he has worked in the industry managing the well-known cheese specialty shop, Formaggio's Kitchen, and currently is a wine purveyor at the wine shop, Bin Ends, in addition to teaching wine and food lovers like myself.

Adam's passion was evident through his presentation of the wine and cheese pairings of the night with his relaxed, easy going, comical personality that took the snobbery out of understanding food and wine. The first tasting of the night was a wine from the Alto Adige region of Italy. This region is tucked in the north eastern part of Italy. The wine selection was from the known producer, St. Michael-Eppan and was their 2014 Pinot Grigio. Personally, I found this pinot grigio to be too light bodied for my personal preference, but the cheese pairing went together well with it. Adam chose a tronchetto al capra. This is a 100% goats cheese from the north western region of Piedmont. The cheese was topped with sicilian oranges in syrup. Yum!
how to pair wine with cheese
Even though that was the only Italian wine and cheese pairing of the night I found Adam's book to provide a number of great suggestions to pair with a variety of Italian wines. You'll find sparkling wines including moscato, lambrusco and prosecco. For white wines Adam features the grapes pinot grigio, trebbiano and verdicchio. Categorized under the red wines you'll discover grapes including barbera, frappato, nebbiolo and sangiovese. Lastly, for those that love dessert wines, you'll find brachetto and vin santo. Are some of these grapes new to you? It's a perfect way to start learning about them and double the enjoyment by seeking out the cheese accompaniments. I've enjoyed a lot of pleasures with these pairings and by playing around with these tastings it helps demonstrate how an Italian wine can change by sampling it alone and how the nuances change when combined with the right suggestion.

I would like to provide a wine and cheese sample in each of the different styles of wine mentioned above with recommended cheeses from Adam's book to give you a feel for some of the regional delights from a variety of regions within Italy.

Sparkling Wine – Prosecco
Prosecco is the top imported sparkling wine from Italy hailing from the Veneto region and it's a wine made up of the glera grape. Prosecco comes in different styles from sweeter versions to dry styles. Adam recommends a a hard, sharper cheese like parmigiano reggiano from the Lombardy region which is opposite the softness in the bubbles of the prosecco, but put them together and watch the changes unfold.

White wine – Verdicchio
Verdicchio is a white grape primarily found in the Marche region in central Italy that typically has higher acidity and citrus characteristics. Adam recommends cheese with “semi-firm texture and nutty flavors” and suggests a cow's cheese from the way northwestern part of Italy in the Aosta Valley.

Red wine – Frappato
This grape originates on the island of Sicily and produces lighter bodied style red wines, but you may find it blended with other grapes of the island. Adams recommends a delightful pairing with ricotta salata, which is a sheep's milk from Sicily. His suggestion is to cut strawberries topped with sugar and a splash of frappato, refrigerate overnight and then add on top of the ricotta salata. Sounds like a combination to die for.

Dessert wine – Vin Santo
The wine enjoyed after many Tuscany dinners, vin santo, is a blend of dried trebbiano and malvasia grapes that are then aged in oak barrels. I've always enjoyed the typical dessert of Tuscany, which is vin santo with biscotti, but Adam recommends ricotta topped with citrus blossom honey where the honey compliments the flavors of the wine and the citrus blossom draws out the vanilla of the oak in the vin santo. Can we say a perfect ending?

These are all just samples, but shows you how much fun you can have experimenting with Italian grapes from all over Italy and finding some Italian cheeses for pure satisfaction.
*I receive a small proceed of any books purchased through this link.  It not only supports Adam in providing his expertise and knowledge, but myself in continuing to operate this website at no cost to my readers.  It's greatly appreciated!

You can find my monthly column, Italy Uncorked, in the Bostoniano magazine, Boston's Italian American voice where you'll find this and many other articles.  We appreciate your subscription and support.  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

#MerlotMe with Sausage Baked Rigatoni

October is a big celebratory month for myself with my birthday and anniversary included, as well as one of my favorite holidays (Halloween). In the wine world it's also #MerlotMe month where wine consumers around the world are sharing in the festivities of this international grape that has been building back up it's reputation after its decline from the movie Sideways that debuted in 2004. If you're not familiar with the movie, Miles, the main character, was going out to dinner with his friend Jack and stated “If anyone orders Merlot I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any (expletive) merlot!” It's amazing how something like a joke in a movie can change consumer's perception of a grape. I've always enjoyed merlot, but I must say I'm pretty picky in the style of which it is produced.

Merlot Around the World
Merlot is an international grape that is either produced as a single varietal or can be found as a blending grape. It's a star on the right bank in Bordeaux, France as well as California and Washington state. Merlot provides soft characters, rounding out a wine with fruit forward notes of blackberry and raspberry notes. In Italy this grape is often overlooked as Italy has hundreds of its own indigenous grapes so not many are thinking of merlot when considering Italian wines, but it has a presence as a blending grape and also as a single varietal within Italy. It's mostly known as a blending grape in the Super Tuscan wines of Tuscany, but you can also find it as a single varietal in the northeastern part of Italy including the Trentino-Alto Adige region, Friuli and other regions. It's style is dictated by where it's grown and whether or not oak plays a factor in it's production.

Merlot Pairings
Last year I prepared my 4 merlot wines with my highlighted dish of Polenta and Sausage. This year I received a sample of the 2013 Duckhorn Merlot, which so happened to be my top choice last year only in the 2012 vintage. So, needless to say, that is what I paired with this years selection of baked rigatoni with sausage. The sausage, a Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage with red and green peppers from Trader Joes, was the perfect addition to the dish and a great accompaniment to the merlot. The ripe, rich fruit of the merlot was a nice balance to the acidity of the sauce in the dish.  The 2013 Duckhorn Merlot was full of ripe black raspberries and savory notes of baking spices. It's a well structured wine with firm tannins and a beautiful lasting finish.
2013 Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valleymerlot pairings sausage baked rigatoni with duckhorn merlot

The rest of our Wine Pairing group (#WinePW) has plenty more amazing pairings with merlot so don't miss out! If you're catching us in time, join us live on twitter #winepw Saturday October 8th @ 11am EST. All are welcome!

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Merlot Shows Its Versatility and Goes +1 With Cheese, Meat, and Chocolate”
Amy from Cooking with Amy shares “Mushroom Parmigiano Pasta Recipe”
David from Cooking Chat shares “Garlic Thyme Tuna Paired with a Merlot”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “#MerlotMe Trifecta for #WinePW”
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares  “Welcoming Fall with #MerlotMe and #WinePW”
Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere shares “Exploring Merlot Wine Pairing with Bolognese Sauce”
Lori from Dracaena Wines shares “Hello, Can you #MerlotMe?”
Jill from L’Occasion shares “Evenings with Merlot
Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Mercy Monday and Merlot”
Gwen from Wine Predator shares #MerlotMe with savory squash soup and sandwiches
Jade from Tasting Pour shares “Chipotle Chicken Stew and Merlot”
Cindy from Grape Experiences shares “Wine and Dine: Merlot with Eggplant and Polenta Parmigiana”
Jeff from FoodWineClick! shares “A Love Affair for Merlot and the Grill”

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Welcoming Autumn with the Campanian Wines of Mastroberardino

This was my last week of maternity leave and I was fortunate to attend at least one wine event so far this fall at the Winebow's Vintner's Harvest wine tasting sampling over 50+ Italian wines in the Boston area. To say the least I was in heaven and could've spent all day there. 

This month's Italian Food, Wine and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group is celebrating fall in Italy, which leaves a lot open for interpretation. I wanted share with you today the wines of a very well respected producer in the region of Campania, Mastroberardino. As we travel into the cooler weather here in the Boston area I wanted to highlight the reds specifically of Mastroberardino as we start to warm ourselves up with sweaters, prepare our pots for soups and roasts and of course a glass of hearty red wines.

wine regions of Campania, Italy
Copyright of Federdoc

Established in the mid 18th century the ancient headquarters of Mastroberardino are located in the town of Atripada within Irpinia. Today the winery is led by Piero Mastroberardino whom is the 10th generation of the Mastroberardino family. Out of the 4 DOCG's of Campania, they are producing grapes in 3 of them including Taurasi, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino.

Mt. Vesuvius from Pompeii ruins
Mt. Vesuvius from within the ancient ruins of Pompeii
When I traveled to Pompeii years ago I came across some of the vineyards of Mastroberardino within the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Not knowing much at the time, I have come to learn these are the vines of Villa dei Misteri. This vines were established in the early 90's as a project between Mastroberardino and the Soprintendenza Archeologica of Pompeii. 

The aim of the project is to investigate methods and techniques of viticulture and winemaking in ancient Pompeii, as well as to reproduce important phases of the ancient process on experimental basis”, according to the winery. 
Mastroberardino Villa dei Misteri vineyards
If you've never traveled the ancient ruins of Pompeii it has always been one of my favorites. To witness how many aspects of ancient times are still in tact from artifacts, to paintings on the wall, humans solidified in ash, and carvings on the floors, it's astounding that they're growing vines on ancient soils there.

ancient artifacts of Pompeii
The 5 wines of Mastroberardino I sampled are:

  • 2009 Mastroberardino Campania Aglianico (Aglianico)
  • 2013 Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino Radici (Fiano)
  • 2008 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi (Aglianico)
  • 2014 Mastroberardino Campania Greco Maestro (Greco)
  • 2014 Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso (Piedirosso)

Wines of Campania with Mastroberardino Villa dei Misteri
It was hard to just select one when I enjoyed almost all of them, but the one that stood out the most was the 2008 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi. A runner up for it's value was the 2014 Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso and for white the Fiano di Avellino is a pleasure. The grapes that make up these wines above: aglianico, giano, greco, piedirosso and others are some of the top indigenous wines of Campania.

The aglianico grape is the dominating red grape of Campania and peaks in the wines of Taurasi, named after the town of which it originates within the Avellino province. The 2008 Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi is made 100% from the aglianico grape, which is the top red of grape of Campania and Basilicata. This wine is a full bodied, complex wine that is well structured and rich in dark fruit. It's aged 2 years in French and Slavonian oak and an additional 2 years in the bottle. ABV 14%. SRP $67 (

I'd love to dive deeper into the wines of Mastroberardino and even better tour the winery facilities upon my next venture over. Have you experienced these wines or any of these grapes and what were your thoughts on the wines of Campania?
Check out the rest of my fellow bloggers as they share their version of Fall in Italy.  If you're catching this in time you can join us for a live chat on Twitter Saturday October 1st @ 11am EST #ItalianFWT.  Join us next month on November 5th as we share "Unique Towns of Italy" via food, wine or travel. 

Mike from Undiscovered Italy writes about the Montefalco Vendemmia Festival
Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog prepares Caprese Stuffed Roasted Eggplant and 2013 Josetta Saffirio Barbera d’Alba #ItalianFWT
Gwendolyn from Wine Predator presents Easy Fall Fun Flavorful Food with Italian Wines from a Castle
Jeff from FoodWineClick gives us his Top 5 Reasons to Visit Piemonte in the Fall
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog is Celebrating Italian Harvest with #ItalianFWT
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla makes Truffles, a Whole Fish, & Barolo