Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Italian Christmas Celebrations

The holidays is a wonderful time of the year spending it with family, friends and loved ones. What better way to prepare for the Christmas holiday than a collaboration with our Italian food, wine and travel group (#ItalianFWT) featuring holiday Italian wines, culinary traditions and Christmas festivals found throughout Italy.

Throughout the month of December you'll see Christmas decorations sprout up from town to town. Many start on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. What I've always enjoyed are the live nativities, presepe, that you find in some towns. Characters such as Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) whom gives the children gifts on Christmas Day and La Befana, a witch whom fills up children's stockings on January 6th, the Epiphany.

Christmas celebrations in Italy
Town of Ortisei by Mike Slone

Holiday wines are all your personal preferences, but culinary holiday traditions vary from region to region. My family has always celebrated the southern Italian tradition with the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve. Many prepare dishes without meat for Christmas Eve followed by meat dishes on Christmas Day.

Christmas at the Vatican Rome
Christmas at the Vatican by foto4lizzie

However you celebrate your Christmas we'll have lots to share on how Christmas is celebrated throughout all of Italy so don't miss it! Here is a preview of what's to come this Saturday December 3rd. Join us for a live Twitter chat this Saturday at #ItalianFWT 11am EST. If you'd like to be part of our group there is still time. Email me direct at vinotravels at

Vino Travels -Christmas in Molise

Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth or Tradition?

Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti

Avvinare – A Florentine Christmas
L'Occasion - 5 Italian Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings
The Wining Hour - A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food,Tradition
The Wine Predator - Italian Holiday Traditions Adapted to CAlifornia Conditions: 3 dishes with wine

Ci vediamo!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Thanksgiving Italian Wine and Food Roundup

Is it just me or did the holidays arrive very fast this year? I can't believe next week is Thanksgiving! I wanted to pull together many of our bloggers that participate in our monthly Italian Food, Wine & Travel group (#ItalianFWT) and get their tips on some food and wine pairings that they suggest or may be enjoying themselves over the holidays. Enjoy!

Jen of Vino Travels

Who doesn't love the holidays. Every year it takes me a bit to figure out what I want to open for each holiday since there are so many wonderful options. Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday as there are so many accompaniments to the main turkey dish that it's important to find something versatile. My suggestion if you're a white wine lover are any of the white wines from lugana that I recently wrote about. If you choose the red path I recently tasted the 2012 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa that I truly enjoyed. I've always enjoyed an Amarone or Valpolicella of some sort during Thanksgiving.
2012 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso

At less than $20 a bottle, Masi Campofiorin falls squarely in the "affordable, everyday" price range. And though it's not a splurge wine, I love bringing it to dinners at friends' houses throughout the holiday season...beginning with Thanksgiving.
Made through a similar double fermentation process - that was patented by Masi - the wine doesn't fit squarely into the traditional Ripasso process. But it does exhibit the traditional Ripasso characteristics and flavor profile. It's lush and complex with soft tannins so it's food-friendly and a great match with hearty, wintery dishes. If i'm pouring it at home, it's usually alongside Risotto all'Amarone.
2009 Masi Campofiorin
Michele of Italian Journeys
Michele recommends a “primo” or first dish of tagliatelle bolognese with a “secondo” or second dish of bistecca fiorentina and Brunello. There is also the option in honor of the tragic earthquakes, bucatini amatriciana.
Florentine Bistecca Fiorentina

I love the idea of taking traditional Italian favorites and giving them an American twist. For example one year I made Thanksgiving arancini.  First I prepared a simple mashed sweet potato with some browned butter and sage for the filling. Then I cooked some short-grain brown rice risotto-style, using the reserved sweet potato water as my broth. The result looked a lot like Sicilian street food but it sure tasted like Thanksgiving! 

Verdicchio is one of the most famous wines of Le Marche region. It’s a white wine and its name reminds the green color - ‘verde’ in Italian language. There are 2 Verdicchio wines: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi and Verdicchio di Matelica. You can drink Verdicchio with a starter or a main course. It depends on the ageing. I suggest you to buy a bottle of Verdicchio di Matelica for your Thanksgiving meal to help people hit by the earthquake few weeks ago. They’ll really appreciate it.
verdicchio wines of Le Marche wine region
A glass of Verdicchio is good for the soul!
Jill of L'Occasion

This Thanksgiving I'm looking for sparkly, fresh and zesty wine to share with my family and friends. Trentodoc Metodo Classico from Rotari is on our menu this year! I'm looking forward to the freshness of these sparkling wines with our meal and, frankly, all weekend. The spirit of the Dolamites gets me excited for winter and the upcoming Christmas holiday, and these wines will kick off the season. 
Rotari Trentodoc Metodo Classico

Friday, November 11, 2016

Merlot Day: Trig Point Winery & Chicken with Shallots and Grapes

I was approached by wine and food blogger friend Camilla, from the Culinary Adventures with Camilla, about sampling some fresh produce from Melissa's World Variety Produce based out of Los Angeles, CA. Not having much time lately to really put thought or time into meal preparations with my little one it was the perfect excuse and opportunity to have some fun.

I actually wasn't familiar with Melissa's Produce and come to find out from their site they're the largest distributor of special produce in the US. I received an abundance of goodies in my shipment including:

  • fuyu persimmons
  • parsnips
  • lady and crab apples
  • baby dutch yellow potatoes
  • christmas crunch grapes
  • acorn squash
  • steamed chestnuts

I decided to prepare chicken breasts in a shallot and grape sauce alongside some roasted potatoes and parsnips. Rather simple to prepare I dusted the chicken breasts in some flour and sauteed them in the pan with some added salt and pepper. Once golden brown I removed them from the pan and sauteed the shallots and cut grapes in oil with some added teaspoons of flour to thicken the sauce. I combined them in the pan in the end for a few more minutes to cook together. 
chicken with shallots and grapes and roasted potatoes
I finished the meal with persimmons pudding. Believe it or not I have actually never even heard of persimmons so I was able to track down recipes online and decided to prepare a persimmons pudding.

persimmons pudding

Along with the food preparation comes the wine and if you recall from my earlier articles, October was Merlot month, but this week on November 7th was also Merlot day. I wasn't able to scoop up a merlot from Italy, but if I was to I'd seek out those of northeastern Italy in the cooler climate regions like Fruili. Typically in Italy you'll find merlot used in blended wines, but in Friuli you will see it more often as a single varietal. If you're used to the merlot of Califiornia you'll be surprised by those of northern Italy as they are lighter in body with herbal qualities than the fruit forward wines of California.

For my wine and food pairing I had handy a 2014 Trig Point Diamond Dust Vineyard Merlot that I received late in honor of October's Merlot month (#merlotme) so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to share this wine with you in celebration of Merlot Day this week.

2014 Trig Point Winery Diamond Dust MerlotThe Trig Point Winery was established in 1998 by Nick and Yolyn Goldschmidt. Their goal was to produce single vineyard, artisan wines in low productions. They are located in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma. This 100% merlot was a full bodied, smooth, fruit forward wine consisting of ripe raspberries and black fruits, supple tannins while lingering on the finish. This wine is aged 12 months in barrel. 14.5% ABV, SRP $18.

Are you a fan of merlot or have you had those of Italy vs. California?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Wines on the Island of Sardinia with Vigne Surrau

Welcome to another month of Italian Food, Wine & Travel as we celebrate Unique Towns of Italy.  One of my favorites part about starting this blog are the connections and folks I have met along the way. One of the people that is part of our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group that I’ve become acquainted with, Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications, invited me to a luncheon with Vigne Surrau whom was visiting in Boston. Vigne Surrau is a winery situated in the northern part of the island of Sardinia. This is definitely one of the few regions of Italy I have yet to visit, but is definitely top of my list, maybe even my next trip to Italy when I can find time to venture there with the newborn.
Wine marketing with Vigneto Communications
Myself (left) with Susannah Gold
Vigne Surrau, named after the valley within Sardinia of where they are located, was founded in 2000. They are located close to the sea near the Costa Smeralda and 5 minutes away from Porto Cervo. As you can imagine due to their proximity to the sea, the grapes are influenced by the winds (maestrale) from the sea that provide minerality and sapidity found in the wines. Vigne Surrau believes in working with small wineries as well as their own production, to produce unique, artisanal wines that are characteristic of the land.
Martino Demuro owner Vigne Surrau Sardinia
Martino Demuro, owner of Vigne Surrau
Their vineyards are located on about 50 hectacres that are about 150-250 meters altitude and their grapes are all hand-harvested. Their total production is about 300,000 bottles annually. They are actually one of the top wineries of the island. Two winemakers are the masters behind these beautiful wines with one winemaker rated as one of the top 5 winemakers within Italy.

Vigne Surrau’s wines consist of the top two grapes of the island: vermentino (white) and cannonau (red). About 70% of their production is produced with the vermentino grape from their own vineyards. Vermentino di Gallura is actually the only DOCG of the region. The minerality that is sensed in their vermentino wines are an expression of the land and soil. Vermentino is a very versatile wine and can be found in many different expressions from sparkling to a sweeter style and I was able to sample two still, dry versions listed below from my scrumptious meal at Select Oyster in Boston.

First Course
2015 Branu Vermentino di Gallura DOCG
2015 Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG
Lacinato Kale Salad with toasted almonds, ricotta salata, lemon-fennel vinaigrette

*I personally enjoyed the Branu more with this dish and the Sciala without food.  The Branu is an approachable, easy to drink wine that is clean and fresh with nice salinity. The Sciala had more complexity, body and an overall pleasant mouth feel.
kale salad with Sciala Vermentino di Gallura
Second Course
2014 Sincaru Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
2013 Sincaru Riserva Cannonau di Sardegna DOC
Avocado Toast with iggy’s pain de mie, avocado salad, espellete

*I enjoyed the Sincaru with this dish.  It's aged in stainless steel and concrete and had ripe fruit on the nose with bright acidity, dark fruit and a hint of spice on the palate. I'd prefer something heavier with the riserva.  It was a beautiful wine with silky tannins, dark fruit, white pepper and an overall nice elegance.
2014 Vigne Surrau Sincaru Cannonau di SardegnaAvocado toast with Vigne Surrau Sincaru Cannonau di Sardegna

Third Course
2013 Barriu Isola dei Nuraghi IGT
Sauteed Petite Clams with chorizo, white wine, garlic

*I had to run so I missed this pairing, but I enjoyed the Barriu which is a blend of 65% cannonau and 35% cabernet sauvignon & syrah.  A smooth, round and elegant wine with ripe red and black fruits and a nice lengthy finish. 
2013 Vigne Surrau Barriu Isola dei Nuraghi
Check out these other unique towns of Italy from my fellow bloggers.  If you catch this in time you can join us on a live chat Saturday November 5th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there!

Lugana: Italy's (Mostly) Hidden Gem by Martin Redmond, ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
A Weekend Guide To Visiting Camogli by Valerie Quintanilla, Girl's Gotta Drink
Going Home to Capaccio by Danielle Oteri, Feast on History
Norcia: Gastronomic Delights and Tragic Earthquake by Chandi Wyant, Paradise of Exiles
Positively Piceno by Mike Madaio, Undiscovered Italy

Next month on Saturday December 3rd, I will be hosting ItalianFWT with our topic being Christmas in Italy including holiday wines, culinary traditions or festivals.  If you'd like to join us email me direct at vinotravels at  Ciao Ciao!