Nebbiolo, Agnolotti dal Plin and the Piedmont Region (Italia)

I got stuck in Italy. Well, virtually stuck in Italy. And I am not complaining. Italy is one of my favorite European countries. You see, I started a virtual wine tour, so I could enjoy both wine and food from different wine regions all over the world. I merrily ate and drank my way through England, France and Spain.

For some reason, I landed in Italy, had a few eats and drinks and went on permanent Siesta. I am embarrassed, especially since I was so excited for this part of my journey.

Well, I am starting my virtual Italy tour over and this time, and I am starting in the Piedmont region. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Piedmont region is a culinary capital in Italy, as well as the home to Nebbiolo, Barolo & Barbaresco wines. Sometimes called the “Burgundy of Italy“, the Piedmont region is known for good red wines and exquisite food, including the white truffle (mangia mangia!).

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Resonance Extra Brut

Marie Courtin Resonance Champagne

Marie Courtin’s Résonance Champagne is luxurious. The lemony yellow wine offers flavors of citrus and green apple, and is both refreshing and smooth. The very low dosage allows this wine to pair nicely with just about any meal, as well as hold its own as a stand alone drink.

If you are looking for a nice Champagne for New Year’s or for any nice occasion, you cannot go wrong with a bottle of Résonance.

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Chicken Spiedini, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a little Treveri to ring in the New Year

Continuing my virtual journey through Italy, I incorporated a little bit of Italian cuisine into our holiday meal.  One of my favorite meals that my husband prepares is Chicken Spiedini, which hails from the Garozzo’s in Kansas City (and the Abruzzo region in Italy)

Chicken Spiedini

Chicken Spiedini

Spiedini basically means “skewered meat” and while it can be prepared many ways, my husband prepares it a la Garozzo with a lemon marinade, and serves it with a red sauce.  Quite a tasty meal and what better to pair it with than with wine from that region: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Why did I chose a red wine to go with chicken? My research all pointed to pairing the wine to go with the sauce.  In this case, the chicken is covered in a red sauce, make a red wine a better choice.

MasciarelliI chose a 2011 Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  A lovely ruby-red wine with a nose of tart cherries and slight citrus (perfect for the chicken marinade).  There were also hints of leather and warm plums.  It was a medium bodied wine with a palette of tart cherries and mild spices. It paired nicely with my meal, playing off the marinade and the marinara sauce.

After celebrating Christmas with an Italian twist, I decided to ring in the New Year with something local and popped open a bottle of Treveri Cellars sparkling wine.

Treveri CellarsI chose the Blanc de Blanc Brut. The wine is made from primarily chardonnay grapes from the Columbia Valley, using the Methode Champenoise. The wine had a fruity almost lemon curd nose with a dry, tart palette.  It was light and airy, the perfect mix of tart and fruit.  Very refreshing and a great way to ring in the new year.

I have to say, 2013 included many great wines and great meals.  I am looking forward to what I will discover in 2014.

Chianti Classico Casalino, Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Mi Familia

After a long break, I am ready to pick of up virtual “World Tour of Wine,” and what better place to start than Italy and a large dinner with Mi Familia.

My brother, Seth and I decided to do a dinner featuring a bottle of 2009 Chianti Classico Casalino. And what better to pair it with than Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Seth and Me - Enjoying our Wine

Seth and Me – Enjoying our Wine

Chianti is one of the most well-known wines to come out of Italy.  It heralds from the Chianti region of Tuscany and is comprised mainly of the Sangiovese grape, with a small percentage mixture of other red grapes. There are many sub-regions of the Chianti region, but for my beginner wine brain, that is overload.

One of my favorite Italian wine bloggers, Alfonso Cevola, recently wrote a post on the Chianti region titled “Chianti: An Elusive Arrangement, Wrapped in a Fiasco, Inside a Conundrum“. In this article, he does a great job of outlining the seven different levels of Chianti, and was my inspiration to finally write this post.

Seth had found this great recipe in Bon Appetit: “Spaghetti and Meatballs All’Amatriciana” and while the recipe originated from a town called Amatrice (a town northeast of Rome), it was a delicious meal and complimented the wine perfectly.

Spaghetti and Meat Balls

The 2009 Chianti Classico Casalino was the perfect mixture of spice and fruit.  Beautiful dark red in color, the wine had a nose of spice and berries.  The palette had a touch of leather, as well as a bite of spice and fruit, ending in almost a light raspberry.  The spice complimented the smokey bacon in the dish perfectly and held up nicely against the robust pasta sauce.

2009 Casalino Chianti

2009 Casalino Chianti

What I loved most about our dinner wasn’t necessarily the wine (although it was terrific) or the food (which was pretty darn tasty), but the overall experience of cooking and eating the meal.

Fresh Ingredients

Our Ingredients

This meal did one of my favorite things – it took a bunch of fresh, vibrant foods and turned them into a delicious feast.

Cooking Meatballs

Cooking Meatballs

It was also a process.  First we had to make the meatballs, letting them rest before any cooking began.  The sauce was cooked in the same pot as the meatballs, allowing the onions and garlic to soak up the drippings from the meat, which softening the flavor of the onion.

I have to admit, I do not like bacon (I am strange, I know), but to my surprise, the bacon did not overpower the dish, or make it too rich.  The flavorful sauce was a nice counter to the meatballs, making it all quite delicious.

By having to take time to make the meal, it gave us a chance to talk and laugh.  The payoff was well worth the time to cook and it added to the fun of the weekend.

Martin Codax and Paella – A Crisp and Delicious Combination

I have been wanting to try Paella since I started my virtual tasting through Spain.  Saving the best for last, I saved this dish as my final pairing for my Spain adventure.

I had heard quite a bit about the Albariño grape – a white grape grown in the Rias Baxias region of Spain.  The Rias Baxias region is in Northwestern Spain, beautiful and coastal.  So, what better than to make a seafood dish.

I have never tasted, let alone made, Paella before, so this was quite an adventure.  I know that Paella contains a lot of shellfish, but being this was my first attempt and I didn’t want to mess it up completely, I went for a little milder version of the dish.

Paella!

Paella!

I used chorizo, chicken, shrimp and crab meat – so there was still some seafood, but nothing too extreme. It actually made a mild, but very tasty meal.  You should know that when cooking, it seems I always forget a step – and I did this time as well.  I was supposed to add roasted red peppers at the end, but I forgot.  Regardless, the Paella still turned out good.

 

martin codax

I paired the dish with Martín Codax 2011 Albariño.  The wine was light yellow in appearance and had a nose of citrus (mostly lemon) with hints of honey and ginger.  The palette was reminiscent of citrus with a touch of honey.  Nothing too sweet and the acids worked well with the seafood.  The chorizo was also spicy so the cool wine balanced out the heat.

Overall, Spain was tasty and delicious!  So many great wines and so much great food.  And now off to Italy!

 

Champagne Taste-Off: Champagne vs. Methode Champenoise

Over the past few months, I have learned quite a bit about my favorite wine – Champagne.  I know that Champagne is only Champagne if from Champagne, France, and I recently learned about Growers Champagne – those wineries that grow their own grapes for their Champagne.

I was recently introduced to Methode Champenoise – basically making sparkling wine the same way as Champagne (just not in Champagne, France).

I am quite fond of comparing different wines, and with my family all getting together, I thought what a better way to celebrate than with a Champagne taste-off!

I had a bottle of growers Champagne, Champagne Aubry, and a bottle of Methode Champenoise, Arbor Crest Estate.  My brother contributed a bottle from a Champagne House, Drappier.

champagne tasting

The corks were popped, the glass poured and the tasting began:

  1. Champagne Aubry, Premier Cru (Growers Champagne).  Very pale yellow in color, it had a nose of citrus – tart and sour.  The palette was light citrus, very dry – good acidity.
  2. Arbor Crest Estates (Methode Champenoise). Also very pale, but with a hint of pink.  It had an earthy nose to me – I could smell a touch of sulfur.  The palette was slightly sweet and savory – and dry.
  3. Drappier, Carte-D’Or Brut (Champagne House).  This wine was more of a honey color, with a nose of yeast.  The palette had citrus, slightly sweet and slightly bready – kind of like dry toast.

All of the wines were good.  The Arbor Crest was the sweetest, the Drappier the driest.  But of all three, we all thought the Aubry was the winner!

The best part – I purchased this bottle all on my own – I think my studies and tasting are starting to sink in!

I do really enjoy these different taste-offs and am looking forward to the next (and am always open to recommendations).

Loire Valley Dessert Wine, Grains Nobles

I recently opened a bottle of 2003 Philippe Delesvaux “Grains Nobles”.  The wine is from the Loire Valley and the wine maker, Philippe Delesvaux pours his heart and soul into his wine.

Grains NoblesThe grapes he used for this wine, Chenin Blanc, are hand-picked and averaging 40 years of age, planted to soils containing sedimentary rock, slate and coal.

I can be weary of sweet wines – many of them bring me back to my college days and overly sweet (and dangerous) cocktails.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by this wine.

The wine was garnet in color, with a nose of brown sugar, maple syrup and honey.  The palette was reminiscent of strawberries, honey and was very fruity.

The wine also had a very nice aftertaste, always leaving me to want another sip. It was the perfect end to my sunny afternoon at the beach, and was a great substitute for actual dessert.

It was also a nice contrast to the Silex Noir Vouvray I had enjoyed earlier in my journey through France.

A Glass of Villa Narcisa Rueda Verdejo on a Sunny Day

It was a beautiful sunny day in Seattle, which is worth a celebration.  I decided a glass of Javier Sanz Viticultor Villa Narcisa 2010 Rueda Verdejo would do the trick.

I am still virtually making my way through Spain, nibble and sip, but today, I was somewhat unprepared culinary-wise.  But then again, maybe not.  I poured myself a small bowl of salted almonds, a glass of wine and found a sunny corner of the kitchen to sit and bask.  This could be very European of me, now that I think of it – no big production, just enjoying life with a glass of wine on the side.

rueda verdejo with almonts

I happen to be very pleased with my choice.  The wine, Javier Sanz Viticultor 2010 Villa Narcisa Verdejo, was the perfect pairing to a sunny day.  Light yellow in color (like a ray of sun), it had a green, fresh, light nose.  I could smell hints of honey, lemon or just citrus, but nothing over powering.  The palette matched the nose, light, airy, hints of citrus, a little floral.  Basically, it was Spring in a glass.

And this wine is worth raving about!  I love, love, loved the lightness of the wine.  It was the perfect match to my salty snack.  There was nothing over powering or too strong about this wine.  It is also a great stand alone wine.  To be honest, I had all of two almonds before ditching them just for the wine.

It has been awhile since I have enjoyed a glass of white this much and it was worth the wait.

 

Priorat Bodegas La Cartuja with Garlic Pan Fried Chorizo

The Spanish wine region of Priorat is just South of Penedès and is one of Spain’s newer regions.  Even though the region has been producing wine for quite some time, it really hit its stride in the 1990’s.  The region’s terrain is sprinkled with volcanic minerals, which give the grapes a unique flavor.

I wanted to try a red from Spain, and settled on a bottle of Bodegas La Cartuja 2011.  I am slowly starting to get the pairing bit, so I decided to pair my wine with another tapa – Garlic Pan-Fried Chorizo and Bread.

Ok, this wine is delicious.  It has a beautiful ruby-red color and smells of plums, warm cooked fruits and dark cherries.  The palette is multidimensional.  It has the initial taste of the same warm cooked fruits and cherries as the nose, but it also has hints of spices, black pepper and tannins.

la cartuja and chorizo

My tapas did not turn out as pretty as the cookbook picture, but it was still tasty.  I used fresh chorizo, instead of pre-cooked (whoops), but I think in the end it added to the dish.  The bread sopped up the juices from the fresh chorizo, making the small bites rich and spicy.

I was a little concerned the wine wouldn’t hold up to my dish, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The spiciness of the wine paired well with the sausage, and made for an overall yummy experience.

The La Caruja is 70% Garnacha, 30% Cariñena, and reminded me of Maison Bleue’s Grenache (which I also love).  Yum!

I also tried a glass of Protocolo Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 2010 Tempranillo.  This wine was also quite tasty and had the same warm cooked fruits and stone fruit palette and nose as the La Cartuja.  It did lack the spice of the La Cartuja, but paired nicely with my steak sandwich.

The wines of Spain have so far been very impressive and helped to grow my understanding of wine and my palette.  I am looking forward to more!

 

 

Sherry from Jerez with a side of shrimp

The Jerez region of Spain is known for Sherry, good Sherry.  I have never had Sherry, so no better way to start than with the best.

I had purchased a bottle of Hidalgo Cream Alameda last week during my trip to The Spanish Table, so the next step was to figure out what to pair with the wine.

I was in the mood for shrimp, and Jerez is in Southwestern Spain and close to the sea, so I figured shrimp would be a good pairing.  I had been given a tapas cookbook a while back, that had a recipe for spicy shrimp in sherry. Perfect!

sherry shrimpI had also read that Sherry and shrimp were a great combination.  Well, it turns out I have a lot to learn about Sherry.

For starters, I poured myself a big old glass – apparently there are Sherry glasses – a little smaller than a wine glass.  Also, shrimp should be paired with dry Sherry, not cream Sherry.

At least I am learning on the job, right?

My shrimp was actually quite tasty (I was a bit too light handed on the cayenne pepper – note to self for next time), and I ate it separately from the Sherry.

Hidalgo sherryThe Sherry was beautiful.  It was a garnet color and smelled of caramel, brown sugar and tobacco.  It also tasted sweet, like brown sugar.  But what I found most interesting was the place the Sherry took me when I sipped it.  It was almost like I was transported to a different time, a time of leather, pipe tobacco and old furniture – a different century almost.  I could imagine men in top hats sitting around a fire, sipping Sherry.

I was also happy to learn that Sherry last for quite some time.  The next time I try my cream Sherry, I am going to pair it with a dessert, maybe something creamy and rich.