Spring is here and we have much to celebrate! There’s the gift of anticipation and we will now push forward and work harder than ever. For over one year people, far and wide, have been imprisoned both physically and emotionally. It is now time to repair both body and mind. Like always, I turn to nature: the garden and vineyard show signs of new growth. To celebrate, here is a simple wine and food pairing idea: Recipe homage to the Rite of Spring. Like Stravinsky’s seminal work, let’s celebrate dissonance rather than comfort in harmonious familiarity. We must embrace a new modernism.
While you prepare this Fennel Salad with Apple and sip on Blazic 2018 Ribolla Gialla, listen to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Let’s test the limits of what our new lease on life gives us.
Fennel and Apple Salad
Based on recipe from the NY Times Cooking App.) I substituted slivered almonds for walnuts and a Macintosh apple for Granny Smith.
3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced on a mandoline slicer
2 Granny Smith apples, halved and cored, thinly sliced on a mandoline
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a mandoline
⅓ cup fennel fronds or roughly chopped parsley leaves
½ cup toasted walnuts
2 ½ ounces Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 2/3 cup)
Add the salt and pepper to the lemon juice and then add the olive oil slowly while whisking to emulsify the dressing. Combine all ingredients and top with Parmesan when serving.
2018 Blazic Ribolla Gialla Collio
Blazic Wine Estate is a family run winery nestled in the heart of the hills of Cormòns, in Zegla located in Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region. They have been making wine since 1923. Read more about this unique territory and magnificent wines here.
Note: I also grilled pork and made gnocchi in a sage sauce.
Ricci Curbastro Guided Wine Tasting Seminar: History, Area, and Wines
If you haven’t had an opportunity to try Franciacorta, know that there are many reasons to do so. Once you’ve had just a few sips, I can almost guarantee that you’ll fall in love and possibly make this style of wine you’re preferred choice of bubbly. Today’s blog post is solely dedicated to the wine presented at the Ricci Curbastro guided wine tasting seminar.
Yes, I’ll mention the suggested pairings at the end and possibly in a future post. However, today I’ll recap the one hour, World Wine Web Masterclass seminar led by wine expert, Lyn Farmer and featuring Riccardo and Gualberto Ricci Curbastro of Ricci Curbastro Farm Estate Winery. A group of about twenty-five guests including lucky me, had a chance to learn about the history, vineyards and wines.
What is Franciacorta?
Franciacorta is a small wine-producing area in Lombardy, Italy and is also a style of high-quality sparkling wine made using the Traditional Method or when speaking about Champagne, Méthode Champenoise. Now is not the time to compare ‘apples and oranges,’ because Franciacorta has its own unique identity, so let’s first dive into some history.
The cultivation of vines in Franciacorta goes back very far. Think about evidence of prehistoric grape seeds and mentions in the writings of Pliny the Elder. You can read more here.
The agricultural tradition of the Ricci Curbastro family dates back to the thirteenth century. Eighteen generations later, Riccardo leads the business alongside his eldest son Gualberto who bears his grandfather’s name.
Franciacorta received its DOCG status* in 1995 and was the first Italian sparkling wine to achieve this designation. The region consists of about 120 producers. Gualberto explained at that time, the term Traditional or Classical Method was no longer used and replaced with Franciacorta as the only word to describe the wine style.
*Read about Italian Wine Classifications here.
There’s Something About Soil
A few years ago when Riccardo was sorting through papers, he discovered a map that dated back to 1908. It documented the research that his grandfather and great grandfather made to decide what was the best combination in terms of grafting American roots and European varieties after the phylloxera epidemic.
“Franciacorta is the stratification of great patience and a lot of research in getting always better and better quality,” remarked Riccardo with a tone of admiration and appreciation for his forefathers. “And, we started a long time ago.”
He explains that Franciacorta has over sixty soil profiles. For this reason it is very important that Ricci Curbastro has vineyards in three different villages because of the variations in soil. Plus, the microclimates are different between the three. I suggest you watch the full video on the World Wine Web’s Masterclass Facebook page to understand more.
“There is something pretty unique in terms of characteristics: soil and climate,” says Riccardo when explaining the area, located at the foot of the Alps and north by the shores of Lake Iseo. The area has an unusual mix of climates, including Mediterranean.
One of the ingredients of our wine is time. ~ Riccardo Ricci Curbastro
We tasted three wines: Franciacorta Brut NV (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir); Franciacorta Brut Satèn 2014 (100% Chardonnay); and Franciacorta Rosé Brut NV (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.) You can read the wine specs here.
What engages me the most about wine seminars is to hear from people who create the wines. The insights and anecdotes are a trajectory from what’s in my glass to the vineyard and history.
For example, I learned that the word Satèn (silk) is a name that is typically only from Franciacorta and infers Franciacorta’s past when they were producing a lot of silk, as well as wine. Silk is a perfect metaphor for Franciacorta Satèn: “When you touch a scarf you have the sensation of something that is smooth but, at the same time, it is a very strong cloth,” explains Riccardo noting that the first parachutes were made of silk. “The wine’s strength is like roundness and very good structure.”
Not Just for Toasting
Lyn, Riccardo and Gualberto emphasized that the Ricci Curbastro wines go well with food and are not just for toasting at special occasions. Gualberto who grew up with Franciacorta at the table said when speaking of the Rosé Brut: “We’ve tried the best and worst with Franciacorta, but barbeque is always a good combination.”
Riccardo refers to the Rosé Brut as a “light red” and explained that the dryness, acidity and elegance of the wine balances with the richness of grilled meat.
We were drooling, when Lyn presented his 11:00 am “perfect pairing” – Smoked Salmon and Bacon-Wrapped Scallops. Yum and I need to hurry back into the kitchen lab!
Falling In Love
While I won’t write about it today, I suggest you watch the video and learn more about the Sustainable Winery 3E logo that is on the back label of Ricci Curbastro wines. You can also read more here.
Lyn commented on one of my Instagram posts that “Ricci Curbastro Franciacorta is the ultimate postcard in a glass.” I couldn’t agree more!
Once you’ve watched the seminar, read the Ricci Curbastro website to learn more, and drink the wines, I suggest that you watch this film: “F is for Franciacorta.” If you’re anything like me, you too will be ‘falling in love’ with Franciacorta.
Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense. ~ Helen Rowland
A Very Special Thanks for the Invitation to this Virtual Event💕
Wake me up because I’m tired of dreaming. It’s Week 9 of the stay-at-home order, although some of you may have started quarantine either later or earlier than me. I typically never recall my dreams, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been able to vividly retell what took place during REM before I’ve had my morning espresso. Some nights I’m being screamed at by someone because I forgot my mask, or I’m lost in a supermarket, or living back in Canada (I’ll get to that next week.)
I wondered if I was the only one who was having weird dreams, so after doing some searching, I discovered that scientists have documented why and how the coronavirus is affecting our dreams. There’s even a website called Lockdown Dreams and you can share your experiences with others. I’m sure that’s therapeutic for some people, but frankly, I’m tired of remembering. Why would I want to read about other people’s life-like nightmares?
I began running around five years ago, but really started taking it more seriously and working on a mind-body regimen about a year ago. Where getting in a car to go basically nowhere hardly gives me pleasure, running now gives me a sense of freedom and purpose to weekends with nowhere to go. Running is my superpower. What’s yours?
Daydreams Are Different
For a week I daydreamed about making Risotto with Sausage, drinking Barbaresco (see below,) and most importantly, taking a virtual trip to Italy. Thanks to Wine by the Bay in Miami, a Saturday tour of Pier Paolo Grasso’s Azienda Vitivinicola Pier (located in Treiso, Piemonte) gave me a chance to forget those stressful trips to the supermarket and an inbox filled with work requests mixed with a barrage of breaking news headlines.
The Zoom event was perfectly orchestrated by Wine by the Bay’s owner, Stefano Campanini. After signing up, a small group of “travelers” received a bottle of Barbaresco and video link to a pre-recorded demo by Sara, Pier Paolo Grasso’s wife who explained step-by-step how to prepare the dish. While we had lunch in our kitchens, the Grasso’s enjoyed dinner overlooking their vineyard! The video tour was divided into three parts starting with a 360° look of the estate; followed by the cellars; and concluding with the bottling and packaging areas. In between, we chatted, ate lunch and drank the wine pensively, but filled with excitement because we could hear insights from the winemaker himself!
Possibly it was the 14% ABV, but by glass number two, I felt like I was sitting in the same room with everyone. Imagine, guests from Washington, Texas, Florida, Quebec, and Piemonte enjoying this great experience together!
The Wine: Azienda Pier by Pier Paolo Grasso – Barbaresco Riserva Piccola Emma 2007
The Nebbiolo grapes used for this Riserva come from La Fenice vineyards. After vinification in steel, Piccola Emma 2007 was matured for ten years in 50hl oak barrels. Bottling took place in December 2018.
The wine sports a charming garnet color, a rich and elegant olfactory emerges, initially dominated by notes of red currant and morello cherry jams which, in a short time, reveal hints of dried violet and undergrowth as well as a slight blood tinge; a vertical balsamic vein runs through the bouquet giving it an intriguing olfactory three-dimensionality.
Note: I didn’t write this description. You can read the full review here and run it through Google translator if you don’t speak Italian. You can find some more history of the winery and a nice photo of Pier Paolo and Sara here.
If you hadn’t read this far, you would have missed out on the best part, or maybe the second best part, or equal parts. Alright, the wine and recipe tie for first place!
While it was not the first time that I’ve made risotto, it was the first time that I’ve made it with a newly opened bottle of Riserva red wine. Trust me, those tears shed from losing a half cup of Pier Paolo’s Barbaresco to this dish will quickly dry up when you taste your perfect pairing!
1 c arborio rice
4 – 6 cups of hot chicken stock
1 small onion
1 tsp of Thyme
¾ c of chopped Baby Portobello mushrooms
1/2 c of Piccola Emma (or quality red wine)
4 sausages each cut into thirds (I simmered the sausage in a bit of water until almost cooked and had acquired a little bit of color.)
2 tbsp butter
1 c of grated Parmesan cheese (save some for topping the dish or shred some more and reserve until the end)
1 tbsp chopped Parsley
Using a wooden spoon, gently sauté the onions in olive oil and a dash of salt until translucent.
Add the mushrooms and Thyme and stir until soft adding more olive oil if needed.
Stir in the Arborio rice and coat with oil and lightly toast.
Add the wine, stir and simmer until it evaporates.
Add the first 3 or 4 ladles of stock until the rice is just covered with broth. Let the rice gently simmer, stirring frequently.
Repeat this step a few more times until the rice is “al dente.” When you run your spoon down the bottom of the pot, the rice will separate and you see a clear line.
Remove from heat and stir in first the butter until it is melted and combined, followed by the Parmesan cheese.
Cover for a 5-10 minutes before serving.
Note: Since I had prepared this ahead of time because I had a work commitment before the trip, I left the rice warming over another pot filled with some steamy, hot water. If your rice dries up, you can add a splash of broth (or cream) to make it creamier.
The End Is A Beginning
This pandemic has thwarted our sense of purpose and to work without the reward of time off or a vacation is extremely hard. However, dreams help us prepare for adversity. So when you wake up, keep remembering that where the bad dream ends, there’s still a day filled with possibilities, plus a daydream or two to keep us going — This too shall pass.
“I have had dreams, and I’ve had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.” – Jonas Salk
Note:Dr. JonasSalk first tested his vaccine against the polio virus in 1952 before announcing to the world in 1955 that a viable vaccine against the feared virus was now a reality. Albert Sabin followed Dr. Salk a few short years later by licensing an oral version of the polio vaccine in 1962.
Resource: Talking about your dreams may be a good idea if you are feeling anxious. Read more here.
Miami, FL…October 3, 2019…The Italian Wine School based in Miami, Florida is pleased to announce that it will offer
the first course certified by Vinitaly International Academy (VIA): Maestro
Italian Wine Course certification study program. Designed for wine industry professionals and
aficionados, the eight session course will distinguish itself from other wine
certifications in that it not only provides a comprehensive look at the major
wine producing regions in Italy, but will delve into learning about indigenous
grapes and wine regions not commonly discussed.
Italy has 500+ wine regions and to date, 590 officially recognized
native wine grape varieties which sums up to more varieties than France, Spain
and Greece combined.
The Maestro Italian Wine Course will provide groundbreaking
materials which wine industry professionals can use when crafting their wine
lists. That is a key tool in communicating to clients and will offer a new and
“The Maestro Italian Wine
Course will expose a wealth of unknown information which they can in turn,
present to their clients,” states Stefano Campanini, Italian Wine
Ambassador and founder of the Italian Wine School. “Through the digital
landscape, VIA is providing updates on industry developments by the minute.
This will be key to crafting a broad wine list and communicating a new and
different narrative. As a Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador, I must constantly
be out in the field rather than just inside a textbook. It’s my objective to help
people navigate through this labyrinth of Italian wine with the most current
information and curated selections.”
The Italian Wine Maestro course is the intermediate level from the
Vinitaly International Academy (VIA). A number of outstanding students from the
VIA Maestro course may be eligible for direct entry to the VIA Ambassador
The complete course consists of 24 hours of lessons and tastings
and is divided in 8 sessions of 3 hours each and concludes with a written exam
and tasting component.
Introduction: families and groups and focus on Italian sparkling
Piedmont’s native grapes
Native grapes of and Valle d’Aosta
Native grapes of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige
Native grapes of Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria
Native grapes of Le Marche, Abruzzo and Puglia
Native grapes of Lazio, Campania and Calabria
Native grapes of Sicily and Sardegna
included guided tastings of 85 wines representing the best producers and every
region, while also exploring culture, history and regional food.
The first session will take place in January, 2020 and costs
$895.00. Students who successfully pass the Italian Wine Maestro level course
and wish to further their study may apply to enroll in the rigorous VIA study
program held annually in Verona and abroad, wherein students pursue either the
Ambassador or Expert credentials.
Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) aims to be the gold standard
of Italian wine education. VIA offers a complete educational path with
standardized courses that will teach professionals and educators to master the
diversity of Italian wine in a rigorous, organized manner. VIA’s main objective
is to foster a global network of highly qualified professionals such as Italian
Wine Ambassadors and Italian Wine Experts: in turn, they will support and
promote Italian wine throughout the world. VIA’s ecosystem comprising the main
institutional bodies and associations in the Italian wine industry strives to
be the conduit between the leading players in the Italian wine scene and
There are currently three levels of certification available
through the VIA program:
Italian Wine Maestro
Italian Wine Ambassador
Italian Wine Expert (VIA’S Highest Qualification Level)
About Stefano Campanini, IWA
Founder of Italian Wine School, Stefano Campanini is one of the
216 Italian Wine Ambassadors representing 33 different countries and one of
only twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the
thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past June.
Campanini ’s discerning palate was cultivated in his birthplace,
Parma, Emilia Romagna named by Forbes: “Italy’s Greatest Gastronomic Treasure”
and has travelled extensively in different wine regions. He has a strong expertise in French and
German wines. Campanini’s dream of sharing pleasure at the table began in 2011
when he opened Wine by the Bay. Since then, it has quickly become recognized as
one of South Florida’s leading Champagne and boutique wine stores and was most
recently awarded Wine-Searcher Gold in Overall and French lists in Miami. “Wine is an education and not just a drink,”
he’ll say while handcrafting a ‘tale of wine cities’ to both novices and
is one of twelve people to receive the Italian Wine Ambassador pin of the
thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York this past Sunday.
Miami, FL…July 2, 2019…On Sunday, June 30th,
Miami-based wine educator and Wine by the Bay owner, Stefano Campanini
received the prestigious, Italian Wine Ambassador pin and certification,
at the New York City presentation of the Vinitaly International Academy
(VIA) Ambassador Course.
With the support of the ICE – Italian Trade Agency, VIA staged
the Italian Wine Ambassador course at the 3 West Club from June 26th
to 30th, concluding with a four-part vigorous examination: multiple
choice test; a video presentation describing an assigned native grape’s history
and territory; a blind tasting; and a two essay, written portion. Students are
encouraged to prepare for the course with text book and tasting studies, at
least two months ahead of the actual course and during the course receive
theory classes, as well as taste approximately 250 wines.
“It’s an honor to be among 200 people from all over the
world sharing the mission to instill passion and education to new and seasoned
wine lovers,” says Campanini.
Campanini is one of twelve people to receive the Italian
Wine Ambassador pin of the thirty-nine people who wrote the exam in New York
this past Sunday. Not including the most recent recipients, VIA has trained 204
Wine Ambassadors from 33 countries, making Campanini one of only three
educators to have received this prestigious title in South Florida.
A native of Parma, Italy, Campanini began his career in the
United States as an art dealer in New York. Foreseeing the demand for collectible,
contemporary and Latin American art in South Florida with the emergence of Art
Basel (Miami), he would become one of the first gallerists to open a space in
the Miami Design District in 2004, followed by two moves: Wynwood and now in
its current location, Little Haiti.
In 2011, he decided to merge his passion for wine, food and
art by opening a boutique, retail wine store in Downtown Miami. He envisioned an
intimate space where both wine enthusiasts and experts could meet socially
while exploring both the lesser known and most commonly known wine regions of
the world, plus learn food and wine pairings and tips on cellar management.
Today, he continues classes and services from his gallery, Etra Fine Art and at
other locations offering both private and public events.
With his most recent title (he also holds the Wine and
Spirits Education Trust, WSET Level 2), Campanini hopes to be South Florida’s
first voice in Italian wine knowledge.
“Many people don’t know that there are 590 indigenous
Italian grape varieties! I strive to represent wines that are lesser known, but
much higher in quality than what most people get to experience based on the
limited selection available in big-box stores,” concludes Campanini. “With each
bottle that you open, there’s a story to be told. I’d like to introduce people
to this narrative and help them learn more about the territory, history,
cultivation and culture that adds to the uniqueness of Italian wines.”
About Wine by the Bay
Established in 2011, Wine by the Bay is an award-winning
wine retail store specializing in rare and collectible wines and Champagne.
Named Best Wine Store in New Times (2015); One of the Five Best New Wine Stores
in the Nation by Details Magazine (2012) and most recently recipient of the
Wine-Searcher Gold Awards for best European, French and Overall Lists in Miami
(2018.) Wine by the Bay prides itself on presenting educational events for both
the wine connoisseur and neophyte. Other services offered are: staff training
or strategic wine list design for restaurants; cellar curatorship and
management; private cellar selection purchasing; private and corporate events.
The grand Vinitaly 2019 was held from April 7th to the 10th.
Every year, Vinitaly counts more than 4,000 exhibitors on a 100,000+ square
meter area and 130,000 visitors from over 140 different countries with more
than 30,000 top international buyers. The premier event to Vinitaly, OperaWine
“Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers,” which will be held on the 6th of
April, one day prior to Vinitaly will unite international wine professionals in
the heart of Verona, offering them the unique opportunity to discover and taste
the wines of the 100 Best Italian Producers, as selected by Wine Spectator.
Since 1998 Vinitaly International travels to several countries such as Russia,
China, USA and Hong Kong thanks to its strategic arm abroad, Vinitaly
International. In February 2014, Vinitaly International launched an educational
project, the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) with the aim of divulging and
broadcasting the excellence and diversity of Italian wine around the globe. VIA
this year launched the fourteenth edition of its Certification Course and today
counts 204 Italian Wine Ambassadors and 14 Italian Wine Experts. For more
information, visit www.vinitalyinternational.com.
Just when I thought I knew something about grapes, I
realized that I was wrong. I’ll be forever a wine newbie, but I’m happy about that.
Today, I’ll tell you why.
I’m now working on Chapter 4 of the SWE textbook, I’ve begun reading another textbook that focuses on Italian grapes, plus any other wine literature that captures my attention. I’ve discovered that the root (pardon the pun) of my growing interest in wine is vested in viticulture (or wine growing.) However, the more I read, the more I’m stumped. Pardon the second pun.
G is for…
Grapes: Did you ever wonder why wine comes from grapes and not apples or cherries? For one reason, no other fruit has so many varieties that are grown commercially. And, within the varieties, grapes develop different characteristics based on factors such as soil, climate and the way they are cultivated and harvested aka “viticulture.” Then, you have to examine all of the factors involved with fermentation, aging etc. There are so many variables in the evolution of that little bundle of juice!
Gargantuan: In Italy, there are 590 indigenous grapes for wine and more than one million vineyards. Yes, just in Italy. You can get the global picture here. It’s gargantuan.
Genetics: As you dive into the sea of wine knowledge,
you may find yourself like me drowning in terminology: clone, hybrid, grafting,
mutation, cross, etc. Now, the wine scholars may not appreciate my
oversimplification of wine, but when it comes to genetics, I’ve broken it down
to three major branches of understanding:
(a) Science: If a wine grower wants to attempt to keep
producing a successful wine-making grape, reproduction can’t be left to the
“birds and the bees.” Among other factors, he/she may rely on cloning or what I
like to think of as the single parent, vine child. Read more about clones here.
(b) History: I’ll get more into today’s wine shortly, but genetic
studies of grape varieties have disrupted some popular assumptions. For
example, Italian grapes thought to have originated in Greece may in fact, not
have. It could have been a marketing tactic during a time when Greek wine was
thought of as superior to Roman wine. I’m not making this up. Jancis Robinson,
one of the world’s most respected wine critics and journalists has presented
this DNA focused argument found here.
(3) Research: Climate change and an ongoing need to manage diseases with the least amount of chemicals possible, depends upon grape genetics research while avoiding GMOs. In March, Wine Spectator wrote that the federal government is allocating 68.9 million to build a grape-genetics research lab.
The Wine: Fonzone, Greco di Tufo 2017
Now here’s when things get really interesting (or confusing.) Greco is a grape variety or type and Greco di Tufo is the name of the denomination in Campania. There’s a bunch of other grapes (not another pun?) that sound like Greco, but are not related, genetically speaking. Straying from the letter ‘g,’ Malavia di Lipari is apparently the exact same as Greco Bianco that’s not related to the Greco. Greco Bianco is a grape. Greco di Bianco a denomination. And neither has anything to do with today’s wine. Got it?
The Greco grape of Greco di Tufo, is the oldest grape variety of the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. If you ignore the Jancis Robinson article referenced above, Google’s highest ranking articles say that it was imported from the Greek region of Thessaly by the Pelasgian peoples.
FACT: Foreigner didn’t sing it first! A fresco at
Pompeii that traces back to the 1st century B.C. has an inscription
that says: “You are truly cold, Bytis, made of ice, if last night not even
Greco wine could warm you up.”
When learning about a new wine, here’s the part I love the
most: how the technical data paints a sensorial picture.
The Fonzone Greco di Tufo is made of 100% Greco from Santa
Paolina and harvested in early October. SOIL: sandy clay with veins sulphurous
underlying; ALTITUDE: 500 m above sea level; EXPOSURE: south-west; YEAR OF
PLANTATION: 1994; PLANTING DENSITY: 2600 stumps per hectare; VINE TRAINING
SYSTEM: espalier; PRUNING: Guyot
A brief understanding connects your glass to its territory. Do some more research and you’ll find out how all of these conditions affect the final product.
Since we’re playing with the letter ‘g,’ I’ll go briefly into the term “Guyot.” Vines as you know when left to their own devices will run amuck. High quality grape production is the direct result of proper pruning. Guyot also called cane pruning, is named after Dr Jules Guyot, a 19th century French scientist. Simply put, all old growth is cut back to leave either one cane (single Guyot) or two (double Guyot.) Canes are shoots that have reached about one year. This process is labor intensive and can only been done by hand. This technique is used by some of the world’s most prestigious wine growing regions. Read more about pruning techniques here.
I really liked the Fonzone, Greco di Tufo. To me, it was like biting into a luscious piece of pineapple, although the wine is not sweet. Its golden hue is like a perfect summer day.
The Dish: Scallops in a White Wine Sauce
I wanted to make steamed clams in wine, but couldn’t find fresh clams. I felt the recipe needed to be as simple as possible:
Sear the scallops in olive oil and then add ½ cup of wine (I used the Greco di Tufo);
Remove the scallops and make the sauce from 1 ½ cups of wine, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and minced garlic; reduce the liquid by half and them add 1 tbsp of butter and chopped parsley.
G is for Gratitude
When it comes to wine, there’s an infinite amount of information
out there shared through wine critics, journalists, scientists and the ever so
popular, Instagram influencer. While I respect all of these positions (except
maybe the latter), my study goal is not to become one of them.
I’m not interested in ratings or tasting notes other than guides to help me associate and classify my knowledge. Take some time to read an argument on this point written by my wine hero, Eric Asimov.
I am grateful for the ability to learn and totally comfortable
in my place as student rather than expert. I can make mistakes and that’s okay,
rely on just good judgment or instincts and process facts, but not be absorbed
by them. Or, I can say that wine is yummy and leave it there.
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. ~ Pablo Picasso
Until next time, swirl your glass with gratitude. A story
from the earth will rise to your nose. It’s there to discover: forever a wine
NOTE: If you can’t make it to Calabria, you can find the Fonzone Greco di Tufo at Wine by the Bay.
There’s no connection really between the rom-com and wine. Just word nerd, wine newbie (hopeless romantic) me playing. I suppose we could make up some far-fetched, metaphorical association like, look beyond the superficial…but still, there’s no connection.
Just when I thought I knew something about rosé, I realized I wasn’t even close after attending Winebow’s #RosebytheBay held at Smith & Wollensky, South Pointe Park. Members of the wine trade were invited to discover over 100 rosé wines from Europe, South America, North America, Australia and South Africa.
How does a wine newbie like me choose what to taste with over 100, various shades of pink? With such sleek branding, it’s very tempting to be drawn to beautiful labels and bottle design. However, that’s like choosing a car for its color. So, I tried to select between old world and new world; a region or grape variety that I may have read about, but had not tried; and what was easiest to reach because at times, there wasn’t much elbow room. In fact, I totally missed seeing the wines from Australia and South Africa.
The fun part was that evening when I took a chance to learn more about what I drank and search for a good story. (If only I had each wine in front of me while reading and taking notes!)
As I had mentioned before, Côtes de Provence is France’s oldest wine region and rosé, although different from what we know it as today, was the first type of wine produced there by Greeks who had brought the vines to the area. At the Winebow event, there were rosé wines from at least eight other regions of France.
2017 Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières Gris de Gris: I chose this wine because I was attracted to its golden color and knew nothing about “Gris de Gris.” Corbières is an important appellation of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. It is made up of five grape varieties: 50% Grenache Gris; 40% Grenache Noir and Carignan; 10% Cinsault and Mourvèdre. Yves Laboucarié established Fontsainte in its current incarnation in 1971 and is one among the first to use “carbonic maceration” which simply put, is when whole grapes are gently placed in an enclosed fermentation vessel and blanketed with carbon dioxide (Ch 5 of the CSW.) If you’re curious about Grenache Gris or Noir, see this article. Read more about Domaine de Fontsainte here.
2017 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Rosé Jeunes Vigne: While still only ankle deep into the CSW textbook, I’ve learned that Sancerre is not a grape (and I can now avoid a future soirée faux pas), but an appellation (see the link above) located in the Loire Valley. The grape BTW is Pinot Noir — indigenous to France, but grown elsewhere too. You can read all about the wine at this link.
2018 Raffault Chinon Rosé: When the Wine Therapist (see note at the end) tells you, “drink this one,” you do. Chinon like Sancerre is an appellation and Domaine Olga Raffault is stated as being, “one of the long-time reference points for top-quality, traditional Chinon wines.” Left widowed when her children were very young, Olga would operate the wine estate with a German WWII prisoner who would eventually become the winemaker. If you enjoy a good story like me, click here. 100% Cabernet Franc. If you’re new to wine like me, you may also wish to review, Saignée (“bled”) rosé and the twoother methods: maceration and blending.
2018 Viña Real Rosado: I am not very familiar with Spanish wines, so I chose to try one from Rioja and another from Ribera del Duero. The Viña Real is made from Viura: 75%, Tempranillo: 15%, and 10% Garnacha (Grenache in French.) Viura is the most important grape from Rioja. In Catalonia it is called Macabeo and in Southern France, Macabeu. Read more about this grape here and the winery here.
2018 Cepa 21 Hito Rosado: Made from 100% Tempranillo, Cepa 21 (Ribera del Duero) aims to get the most out of the grape’s characteristics and of the unique environment where they are created. They use traditional methods, but customize them to modern trends. You can find out more about this young winery led by brothers José and Javier Moro at this link.
(Side Note: Future Spanish Wine
and Blog posts to come, as I’ve just booked myself a trip to Spain!)
2018 Wölffer Estate Rosé: Long Island (Sagaponack) is the appellation and it is made up of: 52% Merlot, 20% Chardonnay, 13% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Riesling and 1% Pinot Noir. Read more about the estate here. This was the first time I’ve tried a wine from New York and I really liked it!
2018 Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato: Founded in 1938 by Antonio Argiolas, Argiolas is the foremost wine estate on the island of Sardinia producing archetypal wines from native varietals. Serra Lori is a dry rosato blended from Cannonau, Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo. Read more here.
2019 Pico Maccario Rosé Lavignone Rosato Piemonte: The rose (flower) on the bottle symbolizes the estate where there are 4,500 rosebushes all from the same clone and there’s one planted at the end of each vine row. Read the full story and details about this 100% Barbera wine here.
2011 Contratto For England Brut Rosé: Who can resist pink bubbles and surely, this wine must have been one of the best ones there! I think this says it all: old vine, 100% Pinot Noir, Metodo Classico aka Traditional Method, Méthode Champenoise, etc. Read more here. Someone spoil me: I’ll take ten!
2018 GD Vajra Rosabella: “Tasting the wine is like seeing a star. If you only see a star, you’ve lost the beauty of the universe,” says Aldo Vaira who made his first vintage when only 19 years old. From there, I encourage you to explore the rest. Here is the video and website at this link. Nebbiolo 85%, Barbera 5%, Dolcetto 10%
On that delightful note, it’s best to wine-down this post.
Now two months into the CSW textbook, I’m finding that learning about wine gives me the same sensation as understanding a work of art. It begins with a visceral response, but then the true beauty reveals itself when an investigation begins. The pursuit of knowledge is infinite, or in the great words of Albert Einstein:
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.
Until next time, raise your glass and listen to what it tells you and know that at least when it comes to rosé, Summer is with you for as long as you want! (Oops, strike out paragraph 1!!)
My wine journey would never have begun or continue without The Wine Therapist’s (aka Stefano at Wine by the Bay) guidance. No wine passes from his hand to mine (or any of his loyal clients and friends) without an anecdote and a smile. Follow him at @WinebytheBay
Postscript: There’s no such thing as Rosé Season apart from marketing! Grapes (like any other fruit or vegetable) follow a growth and harvest season as it relates to its region’s climate timeline. What differentiates wines are all of the other winemaking variables like fermentation. As you can see by the release years, most probably spent more time getting from their place of origin to your table, than in a bottle! What makes Summer a Rosé season is comparable to why you’d choose an iced latté over a hot one. It’s poolside chill that pairs well with typical summer weather dishes.
It’s 81°f (27.22°c) in South Florida. With heat on the rise, my palate is definitely springing forward – grilling and chilling with a glass of rosé in my hand and swapping out carbs for arugula (my favorite leafy green), avocado and roasted or sautéed vegetables.
However, today it’s Sunday and after two consecutive, long runs, I’m ready to fall in the pot. It’s hot out though and having the oven on for three or four hours will kill the a/c bill. TG for YouTube that gives me a quick lesson on how to braise on a grill. My Weber has good temperature control and cast iron pot is the perfect size.
I’m now ankle deep into the CSW textbook (chapter 6 to be exact), testing myself each day using Quizlet lessons and flashcards and feeling a little more confident about the content. It’s not easy though and although I read and write every day for work, self-study at this level has been a struggle.
The Dish: Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta
Pappardelle is a word nerd/foodie plaything. Derived from the Tuscan dialect word ‘pappare’ which means to gobble up food, it’s like Italian onomatopoeia. Just slurp up those tasty, wide egg noodles straight from the pot, p,p,p, pappare! Read more here.
There are many recipes for beef ragu to be found and most are similar. I chose this one. There’s something very relaxing about a slow cooked, Sunday meal. During the week, the long prep time alone is unmanageable. However, I love taking the time to wash and chop knowing that the holy trinity of cooking, (also called mirepoix in French and soffritto in Italian) onions, carrots and celery 2:1:1, is the foundation of all things yummy. The greatest thing is that once everything is in the pot, you have at least three hours to read a book, watch a movie or take a nap!
The Wine: Gaja Sito Moresco Rosso Langhe 2014
Google Gaja (the family and winery name) and you’ll
quickly find out that the wine I chose is on the cheaper side of the Gaja skew.
And, if you’re a wine collecting aficionado, you may be turning your fine-tuned
nose up at my choice. However, wine newbie me says this wine is great value
wow! It’s a blend as opposed to a varietal (single named grape variety) and
composed of Nebbiolo (the prized grape of the region, Piemonte), Merlot and
Cabernet Sauvignon. Other years or vintages when referring to wine, seem to
have a small percentage of one of the region’s other indigenous grapes,
So, let’s discuss what’s up with the Nebbiolo fascination
and what goes into the name?
There’s a plethora of information about the Nebbiolo grape and the most sought after wines of the Piemonte (aka Piedmont: the region), Barolo (an appellation) aka the king of wines and Barbaresco (another appellation). There’s scholarly articles, heated debates and even a movie: Barolo Boys.
In my pursuit of wine knowledge, here’s what I found most interesting about this thin-skinned grape. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon (red) or Chardonnay (white) that can be planted almost anywhere in the world and acquire new characteristics depending on where it has been planted, the Nebbiolo grape does best in not just its country of origin, but its specific area which is Northwest Italy. This gem loves its own soil and doesn’t develop anywhere near to as good, elsewhere.
I could go on and on, but it’s best that I leave Nebbiolo history and the wine facts to the experts. An enjoyable start can be seen in this video. Dig deeper and you’ll be amused by all of the old school and new school banter.
As for the name, I’m learning that the winery is much more than a brand. Gaja has a long history and world-renowned reputation. Angelo Gaja was a bold, risk taker who broke away from the old traditions and tried seemingly blasphemous new approaches to winemaking. Angelo along with his wife and grown children manage everything together. I enjoyed reading this Wine Spectator article where he and his daughter Gaia discuss climate change and its impact on wine production.
I’m more of a #YOLO, drink-now and budget conscious wine newbie. However, if you have the means and patience to wait, certainly start your collection with one of their wines. Read more about the Sito Moresco here.
My parents were immigrants. My mother at eighteen was ready to jump solo on a ship from England to Canada as part of a migration incentive program. Her Mom wasn’t so anxious and followed her, dragging two unwilling siblings on the long, Atlantic crossing. Mom never looked back. My Dad on the other hand, left his birthplace to find work opportunities in Canada. He spent his whole life wanting to return. On one of his annual visits back to his country, he died suddenly. Doing what he loved most, gardening, I have to believe that he passed happily.
I like many of you are transplants. We get cut from the vine of our birthplace and are grafted somewhere else. We thrive and survive as a different version of ourselves. Whereas we think we might not belong anywhere else, it is almost always possible.
The trilogy of grapes or vegetables in today’s dish demonstrates the beauty of blends. Each component brings color and character to the medley. We, like those components, do not lose our distinct flavor, but contribute to something richer.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ― Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg
Until next time, swirl and breathe deeply into your glass. As the aroma rises, think fondly about the dirt to which the grape came from and where it will go.
NOTE: This Blog
post was inspired by Chapters 3 and 4 of the Certified Specialist of Wine Guide.
Both wines mentioned are from the Langhe wine region in Piemonte. The wine I
cooked the beef with was (Dolcetto) Domenico
Clerico Langhe Dolcetto Visadi 2013. A very reasonable price for a good
wine that I will definitely drink rather than cook with next time!
“First you must like the wine. Then, look at the back and then look forward,” says Corrado Maurigi, Brand Manager for Tenuta Regaleali, with whom I had the great fortune of sharing a wine tasting lunch.
Whether on my personal journey to discover art or now wine, Corrado’s statement embodies how I feel about learning. Our first response must be visceral. Forget about the market or what the critics say. Do you like it, hate it or love it? Then, investigate.
Corrado’s presentation was a journey to Sicily. As we tasted and learned some facts and history about each wine, preconceived (American) stereotypes of this region marred by The Godfather and bad wine samples offered at the supermarket, melted away. Stories about the land, people and culture tickled our cerebrum and palate.