Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Favorite Italian Red and Whites Wines for the New Year

Welcome everyone to 2021!  It’s the first blog of the year and I think it’s best to start the year with some optimism.  Everyone in some shape or form had a challenging 2020.  We can only look forward and hope for the best.  What better way to start to start the year than with our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT) focusing on favorite Italian reds and whites. 

I know for winelovers it’s hard to just pick one favorite so this will be a challenge for many.  With Italy having so many indigenous varietals grown throughout the country where do you even start.  I know personally I have many favorites both reds and whites and if you’re a follower of my blog you already may have an idea of my selection.  Any takers?          

On January 2nd our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group of writers will be covering their personal favorite Italian red or whites wines from all over Italy along with some food pairing suggestions.  We invite you to chat with us live on Twitter that morning at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.  If you’d like to join our group in writing a blog in reference to this month’s theme please email me directly at vinotravels at hotmail dot com.  Hope to see you all there! 

Here is a preview of what is to come on January 2nd. 

  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles serves up “Bacon and Butternut Pasta with a Langhe DOC Nebbiolo” 

  • Susannah at Avvinare will be “Taking a Closer Look at Vernaccia di San Gimignano” 

  • Camilla at the Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be “Capping off the Old Year with Cappelleti in Brodo + G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2016” 

  • Lynn at Savor the Harvest will showcase how “Lagrein Reigns in Alto Adige” 

  • Terri at Our Good Life is cooking up “An Italian favorite: Chianti Classico with Baked Salmon and Stuffed Mushroom Caps” 

  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass will talk about “What if you could blend your own Pinot Grigio?” 

  • Li at The Wining Hour will be “Keeping it Fresh and Fun with Fiano” 

  • Cindy at Grape Experiences will bring us on "A Return to Piemonte with Marenco Scrapona Moscato d’Asti 2019 and Bagna Cauda"  

    Gwendolyn at Wine Predator will be "Going with Lugana"

  • Katarina at Grapevine Adventures "3 Wines to Get 2021 off on the Right Foot"

  • I’ll be hosting at Vino Travels “Starting the New Year off Right with Chianti Classico” 


Friday, December 18, 2020

BBQ Brisket with Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir

I’ve been expanding my horizons as my readers may have noticing and have engaged in other groups that my fellow food and wine writer friends are a part of.  This month our French #winophiles group are discovering a couple Burgundy producers, also known as Bourgogne, that also hold estates also in Oregon.   You can read more via the preview on this theme by our host LM Archer.  I’ll be sharing a special pairing with a Pinot Noir from Domaine Drouhin.   

Domaine Drouhin has a history that started in France over a century ago.  Joseph Drouhin had situated himself in Beaune in 1880 and established Maison Joseph Drouhin.  Almost 100 years later the family generations have established Domaine Drouhin in the late 1980’s within the AVA appellation of Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  As their website states they have a “French soul” with roots in Burgundy, but on Oregon soil.  Domaine Drouhin is spread over 235 acres with 130 under vine that are certified sustainable.  Just as in Burgundy, Domaine Drouhin’s focus is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.   

The 2017 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir I’m featuring today celebrates the winery’s 30th anniversary and the 26th vintage of this wine.  It is considered their flagship wine that is named after the daughter of Veronique Boss-Drouhin, head winemaker of the estate.  The wine is made of 100% estate grown Pinot Noir.  If your perception of Pinot Noir is typically a lighter bodied red, this wine will make you look at this grape in a whole new light.  A red with great structure and ripe fruits of blueberries, blackberries and cherry with herbal notes.  Pinot Noir from Oregon has always been a preference of mine and Domaine Drouhin’s Laurene Pinot Noir is now another fan favorite. ABV 14.1% SRP $75 

2017 Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir
Food Pairing
I had a brisket that I had been wanting to prepare and actually had never made a brisket before so thought it would be a great opportunity.  I used a slow cooker to prepare it on a low and slow for about 7-8 hours with a homemade BBQ sauce of apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and ketchup.  I was hoping before I tasted the wine that the sauce wouldn’t overpower the wine.  It was my first time preparing this BBQ sauce and low and behold the dish, sauce and pairing couldn’t have gone together any better.  Plus, I added in some roasted sweet potatoes with some homemade applesauce.  There really is nothing like making your own sauces and condiments versus store bought junk with their long list of ingredients.  I think the structure of the Pinot Noir allowed this wine to stand up just right to this dish and the ripeness of the fruit in the wine was a great complement to the sauce and sides.  

Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir pairing with BBQ brisket
Join our wine and food bloggers live this Saturday on Twitter @ 11am EST at #Winophiles as we chat all about these Oregon estate wineries with French roots. 

  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm tells of Countries United Through Food and Wine.
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla matches Galette au Chou + 2017 Résonance Pinot Noir.
  • Terri at Our Good Life pairs Resonance Pinot Noir and Roasted Pork Loin.
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest posts Oregon Pinot Noir With a Burgundian Heart – Domaine Drouhin Laurène.
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares Oregon PN for a PNW holiday meal: A Résonance.
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles has a discovery: Découverte! Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Dundee Hills and Mediterranean Salmon.
  • David from Cooking Chat posts Braised Moroccan Chicken Thighs with Oregon Pinot.
  • Jane from Always Ravenous offers an Oregon Pinot Noir Paired with Braised Chicken Thighs, Blackberries, and Fennel Purée.
  • Melanie from Wining With Mel writes New World meets Old World: Oregon’s Résonance Pinot Noir Paired with Beef Bourguignon.
  • Liz from What’s In That Bottle gives us a Taste of the 45th Parallel.
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click! tells us about Louis Jadot on Both Sides of the Pond.
  • Payal from Keep the Peas offers Burgundy via Oregon.
  • Nicole at Somm's Table has a Burgundy vs. Oregon Showdown with Drouhin Wines.
  • Jill at L’Occasion covers Bourgogne’s Western Vineyards: Crafting Pinot Noir in Oregon.
  • L.M. Archer shares life À Table with Domaine Drouhin Oregon and Résonance Wines.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Volcanic Dessert wine of Santorini with Boutari Ampeliastos

I was planning on highlighting an Italian wine this week, but after opening a bottle I brought back many years ago from Greece and enjoying it Thanksgiving I just had to share it with everyone.  I don’t know why I held onto it for so long considering it was a 2003 and I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t be in good shape, but I found it really enjoyable and paired lovely with all the yumminess of Thanksgiving dinner. 

Italy is my first love, but my few nights stay in the town of Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece was breathtaking.  It reminded me a little of the Amalfi coast with everything situated on steep hillsides and cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea.  They say the sunset spectacles every day from Oia are some of the best in the world.  They were pretty spectacular. 

Island of Santorini
The Winery ~ Boutari 

The wine I’m referring to today is a 2003 Ampeliastos, a red dessert wine from the Boutari winery.  One of the days on the island we rented a four wheeler and drove out to the winery.  Boutari is an important figure in the Greek wine industry established in 1879 by Yiannis Boutari in Naoussa.  Although viticulture had taken place on Santorini since before the volcanic explosion in 1800 B.C., winemaking didn’t truly take place until towards the end of the 1980’s.  Boutari’s first harvest on the island was in 1989 and they were the first Greek winery to start with tours and tastings in 1990. 

Nea Kameni volcano kaldera from Santorini
Nea Kameni smoking volcano a short boat ride from Santorini

Boutari is well respected winery in the industry and has been honored with a number of awards over the years included being named for the 17th time in 2013 as Winery of the Year by Wine and Spirits magazine.  They have a number of vineyards in addition to Naoussa and Santorini along with Attica, Crete and Goumenissa.     

Wine tasting at Boutari Santorini

Winemaking in Santorini 

What makes the winemaking unique in Santorini are a combination of a number of factors.  For one the soils are mostly composed of volcanic, sandy soil.  The grapes face intense heat during the day with strong winds.  What I had never seen anywhere else were the types of vines in which the grapes grow.  The vines grow in a circular shape resting on the ground and are called “kouloura”.  This protects the grapes from the intense heat and wines and the vines absorb humidity created by the night fog.   

Kouloura grapevine on Santorini
The Wine 

The 2003 Boutari Ampeliastos is made from the indigenous Mandilaria grape.  It’s a black, thick skinned grape with notable tannins.  The Mandilaria grapes are hand-picked late and sun dried for 6-10 days.  The grapes are grown on volcanic, sandy soil on 50-60 year old vines.  The wine is aged in French oak for 5 years.  What first caught my eye was the color of the wine.  It was dark red, but had brownish hues.  A rich wine showing luscious ripe fruit and baking spices.  It was was very smooth with chocolate undertones.   

Boutari Ampeliastos Mandilaria

Has anyone had the wonderful opportunity to visit this stunning island and witness the unique vines of Santorini?


Friday, December 4, 2020

Sparkle up the Holidays with Prosecco Superiore

As we start to round out this challenging year I think we all need a little bubbly to raise our spirits.  Our Italian Food, Wine and Travel group (#ItalianFWT) is featuring sparkling wines from all over Italy.  My focus is on the wines of the Valdobbiadene and Conegliano Superiore DOCG.  I recently attended a tasting hosted by the Consorzio and IEEM and led by Anthony Giglio where we did a deep dive into the many facets of why prosecco isn’t just prosecco.

Prosecco is produced in the Veneto region in NorthEast Italy.  There are a number of different designations that produce Prosecco into the Prosecco, DOC, Prosecco DOC Treviso and Asolo Prosecco DOCG, but then there are those from the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene that run east to west across this area that make up some of the other Prosecco designations that we’re highlighting today.  Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG was granted DOCG status in 2009.  It encompasses 15 different communes. 

Pyramid of Prosecco designations
Copyright of Consorzio Tutela di Prosecco Superiore

The Prosecco Superiore Consortium is comprised of 182 sparkling wine producers from over 3,000 local families and growers.  In 2019 the area experienced a record year with double digit growth producing over 92 million bottles with 39 million bottles sold to foreign markets with the US ranking 4th.   

Production area of Congeliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco
Production area of Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG copyright of Consorzio di Tutela Prosecco Superiore
The area has ideal conditions for producing quality wines as it is situated between the Dolomites to the north and the sea to the south.  The climate there is rather mild with substantial rainfall favored by the glera grape that is what is primarily, if not solely, used to produce Prosecco.  Due to the steep, south facing slopes the vineyards have good drainage combined with breezes for drying the grapes.  The steepness of the vineyards makes taking care of and harvesting the grapes quite the challenge.  Per the Consortium, it takes about 600 laborious hours for every hectacre (about 2.5 acres) to tend to the grapes in a year versus only 150 hours on the plains.  Due to it’s unique landscape the Prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene were claimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019. 
vineyards of Conegliano Valdobbiadene
Photo taken by Arcangelo Piai

Harvest in Conegliano Valdobbiadene
Harvest photo taken by Arcangelo Piai

The Wines

Prosecco Superiore wines from the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are required to have at least 85% of the glera grape with a maximum of up to 15% other grapes like glera lunga, bianchetta, verdiso, perera, pinot and chardonnay.  It is suggested by the consortium that these wines are at their best a year after the harvest.

2019 La Farra Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive di Farra di Soligo Millesimato Extra Dry DOCG

Rive translates to those on steep sites and only pertains to sparkling wines that are handpicked from single vineyards.  These grapes are grown from the Rive dei Nardi in the hills of Farra di Soligo.  Extra Dry Prosecco is required to be at 12-17 g/l with this wine coming in at 17 g/l.  Made of 100% glera this wine is brilliant straw colored.  Even though this wine had a higher amount of sugar I didn’t notice as much sweetness as it still presented rather dry with notes of apples and pears.  ABV 11.5% SRP $17

2019 La Farra Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive di Farra di Soligo Millesimato Extra Dry DOCG
Perlage Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Canah Organic Brut NV DOCG

Grown in the hills of Soligo this wine was a pale straw color.  Persistent bubbles and flavors of tart green apple lingering on the finish, tingly with some sapidity. ABV 11.5% SRP $20 
Perlage Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Canah Organic Brut NV DOCG
2019 Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore San Fermo Brut DOCG

Named after the local church, San Fermo, in close proximity to the vineyards where the grapes are grown.  This wine spends 1-3 months on the lees lending some richer qualities to the wines compared to the other two.  Fresh and crisp with apples and pears and notes of honey.  My favorite of the 3!  ABV 11.6% SRP $22 
2019 Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore San Fermo Brut DOCG
Join my fellow sparkling wine lovers as they share more wines from around Italy.  Catch us live on Twitter this Saturday at 11am EST at #ItalianFWT.

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.  Importers: La Farra (Vino Vero, Lyra LLC, J. Strecker Selections), Perlage (Triton Collection, Chartrand Imports), Bellenda (Specialty Cellars)