Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rioja: An Untapped Resource

So you want aged wine, direct from a winery’s cellar, without paying an arm and a leg? The answer is easy--it’s Rioja. Don’t get me wrong; some of this depends on your idea of relative value, but I assure you that buying a bottle of 20 year-old Rioja for $75 - $100 is one of the best values in the world of wine. And it doesn’t end there. Great bottles of aged Rioja can be had for a pittance around the country.

Rioja is a Spanish wine made from the Tempranillo grape and aged in American oak, giving it a healthy dose of wood tannin and vanilla character in its youth. It can take decades for this character to integrate and result into a perfectly aged bottle of wine. However, when it does emerge from that overly oaked and tannic state, the results are marvelous. These are gorgeous wines with layers of intense aromas and depth of flavor that most of us wait decades for while aging wines in our cellars. Yet you can find them upon release, perfectly stored and ready for a short decant, and an evening of enjoyment.

Below are just a few wines tasted at a recent event; but the fact is, I’ve loved aged Rioja for years now. All are worth searching for.

On to the tasting notes:

1994 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Ygay – The nose showed intense ripe cherry with leather, dark wood tones and earth. On the palate, it was still youthful with structure partly masking its red berry fruit. The finish showed dried flowers and strawberry, yet remained tight, showing that this wine still needs time. (89 points)

1994 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva – The nose showed dark tones of red fruits, wood, tobacco, undergrowth and earth. On the palate, it was soft and ripe with lush red fruits and mulled spices. The finish was long with red berry fruit dancing on the palate. (91 points)

1994 Bodegas y Viñedos Labastida Rioja Manuel Quintano Reserva – The nose was woodsy, with berries, herbs and dark wood tones. On the palate, it was open and plush, showing red fruits, leather, citrus and plum. The finish was long and as smooth as silk with earthy red berries and dried spices. This ’94 Reserva gave me a lot of hope for the ’04 I had tasted earlier. (92 points)

1994 Bodegas Muga Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Enea – The nose was enticing with vibrant dark berries and cherry notes, spice and moist wood. On the palate, it showed soothing textures with soft red fruits, herbal tea, dried inner floral tones and earth. The finish was long and satisfying as its bouquet of dried flowers wafted up to through the senses and dark berry notes coated the palate. (93 points)

1985 Bodegas Valdemar (Martinez Bujanda) Rioja Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva –- The nose was rich and dark, rooted in the earth yet sweet and spicy with notes of brown sugar, vibrant cherry, leather and floral tones. On the palate, it was soft like silk, drawing you in to reveal ripe red fruits, earth and hints of citrus and spice, all while seeming impossibly young. The finish was long and fresh, showing tobacco and wood with sweet cherry and milk chocolate. (95 points)

** The best part about this tasting were the people I enjoyed it with. This Rioja tasting was hosted by Snooth for their "People's Voice Wine Awards". My tasting companions were made up of some of the best wine bloggers from around the country. Below are links to their impressions from this exciting lineup of wines. Enjoy!

Benito's Wine Reviews: Snooth PVA: Wines of Rioja

Vinesleuth "Uncorked": What is Rioja Wine?

Vindulge: Cellar Worthy Rioja

Saturday, May 25, 2013

There's No Instant Gratification in Barolo...

But some things are worth waiting for.

By: Eric Guido

Patience is something that has been lost in the world of wine. I remember reading that the majority of wine purchases are consumed within 20 minutes of being purchased. It's a scary thought, yet I remember those days in my life. However, what I also remember was that I received significantly less satisfaction from wine back then. In fact, it wasn't until I tasted wines that had been cared for with time, temperature and proper decanting that I truly caught the wine bug. Before that time, I found myself disappointed often and blaming my own palate for not being sophisticated enough to enjoy wine.

Don't get me wrong; most wine is created with near-term drinking in mind, but those tend to not be the wines that inspire me. What truly inspires me is what a wine can become and the stages it goes through to get there. A perfectly-aged wine is where the bouquet has become like a rose, unfurling slowly in the glass, and with each petal comes another addition that slowly builds into a crescendo of aromas. On the palate, the tannins have resolved, allowing the fruit to shine through, and the youthful wood has somehow transformed into dark leathery, earthy and soil tones. I've often found a perfectly-aged bottle to remind me of childhood, picking ripe cherries or strawberries, with the smells of soil and stems compounding the vibrant dark fruit.

Barolo is an excellent example of one such wine; there is no instant gratification with Barolo. It's a wine that can be as hard as nails, with biting acidity and drying tannins for the first decade of its life. Yet, something lurks beneath it all. You can sense it, and sometimes you can almost smell or taste it, yet it eludes you. With 15 to 20 years you begin to see its qualities; sometimes they are still masked by the wine's structure, but many bottles will drink well at this time. From there, it's all about timing and tasting; it's when the fun really begins, and all that time you spent aging and caring for your bottles pays off.

Many people have asked me, "why do you cellar wines?" This is the reason why, to have bottles like these in your cellar. Perfectly stored, waiting just for that right moment. These are bottles that were bought in a different time and evoke nostalgic memories of those times, with prices that sometimes boggle your mind; like a tattered $25 price label on a bottle that now fetches $350.

I was recently fortunate enough to taste through a number of beautifully aged wines. They were gorgeous, and if you're willing to pay the price, then you'll be in for a real treat.

On to the Wines:

1974 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo – This showed a deep red color in the glass with an initial note of green peas giving way cherry, tobacco, herbs and soil-laden minerals. On the palate, it started smooth, giving way to acidity yet remaining in balance with notes of tart, dried cherry and minerals. The finish faded slightly with remnants of dried fruit and floral tones. This wine will not improve, but it is beautiful today, all the same. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1985 Prunotto Barolo Bussia – The nose showed rich cherry tobacco, hints of green stems, dusty spice and minerals. On the palate, it was deep and rich with dried, dark cherry, and minerals laced with vibrant acidity, keeping it fresh and youthful. The finish was long with palate-saturating tones of dried red fruits. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1959 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo – An impossibly youthful, deep ruby red color, leading to a drop-dead gorgeous bouquet of dried cherry, dusty dried floral notes, plum, soil tones, cinnamon and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was energetic and youthful with brisk acidity paving the way to rich dark-red fruits, tobacco and tar with inner floral tones that played out with seductively balanced and soothing textures. The finish stayed true to cherry and soil tones with a hint of mineral. This wine was beautiful from first pour and only gained complexities in the glass. What a way to start a Barolo tasting. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1978 Cappellano Barolo – What a treat this wine was as it sat in the glass and gained momentum throughout the evening. Starting fresh and lively, it turned darker and mysterious with time in the glass. The nose showed potpourri, tobacco, and hints of roses, licorice and dried strawberry—classic. On the palate, it was elegant and structured with cherry, metallic minerals and smoked meats. The finish was unrelenting, as dried cherry, tobacco and herbs seemed to linger infinitely from sip to sip. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino – This wine was truly born of the earth, showing a classic, dark Serralunga profile. The nose was brooding with floral potpourri, balsamic notes, mint, macerated cherry, and rocky minerals, yet fresh and lifting throughout the entire experience. On the palate, it was perfectly balanced, showing earth-infused, dark red fruits and rocky minerals with rich yet fresh textures that simply wouldn’t relent. A single glass of the 1990 Monfortino is just not enough, as this wine says “drink me, “ while still asking for a number of years forgotten in the cellar. The finish lingered with tannic hints adding complexity to its dark earth and mineral-soil tones mixed with dried red fruit. (96 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My 2013 Vinous Revelation: Grüner Veltliner

By: Eric Guido

I think back to when I had just started getting into wine and the excitement I would feel whenever I was introduced to something new. I’ve often wished that I could recapture some of those moments. It’s unfortunate, but when you taste wine nearly every day of your life, you find that you are surprised less and less often. However, sometimes a wine will revitalize those magical tasting sensors and send up fireworks. But what I didn’t expect was for an entire tasting of wines to make me feel that nostalgia. Well, that’s exactly what happened at the Wines of Austria tasting during Snooth’s “People’s Voice Wine Awards” tasting.

Vineyards along the Danube river, Austria

I will admit to being completely new to this region, having only tasted a small number of Rieslings from some of the top houses. What I had never experienced was Grüner Veltliner, and now I feel like I’ve been missing out all along. Being a fan of northern Italian and Slovenian whites, it’s no wonder that Austrian wine (or, to be more specific, Grüner Veltliner) would hit my sweet spot. The regions literally border each other; in fact, a large chunk of this part of Italy once belonged to Austria.

The tasting included wines that spanned the entire range, from easy sipping aperitifs to layered, rich top shelf bottles. As I worked through the lineup, I continued to be more and more impressed with every new wine I sampled. At first they were light and wirery with zesty acidity and mineral, peppery notes. As I went deeper, the wines gained momentum, body and depth as focused fruits and exotic floral tones began to entice the senses. Finally, with only a few wines left in front of me, the fruits ripened as the structure of the wines broadened. The aromas turned deeper, richer—sexier. With hours opened in bottle, they continued to gain complexity. It was truly an awakening for me; I love Grüner Veltliner.

Aldo Sohm gives his rundown of rocks found in
Austrian soils, along with sharing samples from his
own collection.
So what makes these wines so incredible? Honestly, there isn’t just one answer to that question. One of the main reasons (and I know you guys hear this a lot) is terroir. As was explained by our host, Aldo Sohm , is that Austria is home to soils layered with a unique mixture of mineral-laden stones and Loess, which is a windblown silt made up of clay and sand. The Loess is credited with giving many Grüners their rich creamy textures and buoyancy, as they seem so weighty yet light and refreshing, seeming to almost hover on the palate. What’s more, Austria’s climate (of which there are four different distinct microclimates within the region) allows for optimal physiological ripeness of the grapes. The result is perfect fruit with a depth of character and the ability to age for decades.

Of course, I am just skimming the surface here. The fact is that Austria is home to a large number of family, well educated, artisanal growers, making high-quality wines that only a quarter of which ever make it out of Austria. Have I piqued your interests yet? I hope so, because nothing makes me happier than sharing my excitement about wine, and I’m sure I’ll be digging deeper into Austria in the coming months. Until then, I’ve supplied my favorite wines from the Snooth P.V.A. tasting. There are a number of excellent Grüners to get you started.

2011 Graf Hardegg Grüner Veltliner Vom Schloss – The nose showed mineral laden rocks up front with saline notes, followed by green apple and floral stems. On the palate it was lush yet refined with ripe white fruits and lasting saline minerals that last through the long, fresh finish. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Roman Pfaffl Grüner Veltliner Austrian Pepper – The nose showed clean, pure white fruits, mineral stone, white flowers and pepper notes. On the palate, it had great presence, being surprisingly smooth yet juicy with hints of apricot, which linger through the finish. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Veyder-Malberg Grüner Veltliner Kreutles – The nose showed heady floral and orange notes with slate and a spicy twist. On the palate it was rich yet pure with herbal, inner floral tones and limestone minerals. The finish showed incredible depth with peach skins and a taste of flower petals. This was a very unique and pretty wine. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Sohm & Kracher Gruner Veltiner – The nose was deeply rooted in the earth with notes of wet rocks, limestone, green apple, undergrowth and the slightest hint of tropical fruit. On the palate it was fresh yet with weighty textures and a slight spritz, displaying a mineral core offset by ripe pit fruits and spice. This wines attractive presence on the palate lingered into the finish, adding a slight bitter tinge, which was a welcome addition to the juicy and vibrant close. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2009 Moric Grüner Veltliner Sankt Georgen - The nose was intense with rich, spicy floral notes , yellow fruits and herbal tones, followed by a hint of mineral laden rock. On the palate, it showed rich textures with a dense concentration of stone fruits offset by balanced acidity, which left it seeming rich, yet juicy at the same time. Spicy floral tones lingered through the long finish seductive finish. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 F.X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Liebenberg – The nose was clean with steely notes of green apple, minerals, undergrowth and a hints of tropical fruit. On the palate, it was rich yet unbelievably pure and balanced with ripe, white fruits and spicy inner floral tones, which lasted beautifully through the mineral laden finish. Stunning. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Prager Grüner Veltliner Stockkultur Smaragd Achleiten – The nose was at first floral with undergrowth and limestone, leading to rich peach, which filled the senses with a slight effervecense. On the palate it was gorgeous with ripe stone fruits saturating the senses and oily textures offset by balanced acidity. The finish was long and seemed to melt from the senses revealing a beautiful refreshing character. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Bernhard Ott Grüner Veltliner Fass 4 – The nose was vibrant, showing chalky minerals, green apple and a hint of citrus. On the palate, there was an attractive clash of sweet versus tart fruit with great balance and flavors of green apple lasting through the mouth-watering finish. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2011 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Lamm # 1 - The nose was intense yet soothing, showing ripe peach, hints of citrus, wet rock and stony minerals. On the palate, it was fresh yet lush, seeming to touch on all of the senses with notes of sweet stone fruits, citrus and inner floral tones. The finish was long, turning slightly tart, tinged with green apple and minerals. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Reserve Tradition – The nose showed peach with spicy florals tones, green apple and moist mineral stone. On the palate, it was lush yet balanced with ripe pit fruits, citrus and minerals leading to an long, long ,long finish. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! / Producer's Website

** The best part about this tasting were the people I enjoyed it with. This Austrian Wine tasting was hosted by Snooth for their "People's Voice Wine Awards". My tasting companions were made up of some of the best wine bloggers from around the country. Below are links to their impressions from this exciting lineup of wines. Enjoy!

My Vine Spot: #SnoothPVA: Wines of Austria Master Class

Benito's Wine Reviews: Snooth PVA: Wines of Austria

The Reverse Wine Snob: Gruner Love Featuring the Stadlmann Gruner Veltliner 2011

Jameson Fink: High Line Park and Gruner Veltliner: Contemplating Time and Space

Vindulge: So you think you know Grüner

Wine Julia: SnoothPVA: Terroir Driven Grüner Veltliners of Austria Create Food Friendly Wines with Distinctive Flavors

Vinesleuth: Gruner Veltliner: A Delicious Puzzle

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spice It Up: Bucatini all'Amatriciana

By: Eric Guido

If it isn’t broken, why fix it? This is a question I’ve asked myself often as I’ve traveled the road of understanding traditional Italian cuisine. I understand adjusting a recipe to fit society’s current palate but in many cases I find it unwarranted. I can’t count how many times I’ve set out to experiment with a traditional recipe, thinking it may not appeal to the taster, only to find that they love it. In Italy, a sense of place is important, and if you take away certain components of a dish, you take away that which makes it special; you take away its sense of place.

I found this to be extremely apparent with the dish, Bucatini all'Amatriciana. I thought back to culinary school and looked at the old recipe I was given and then began to search for other recipes, some of which came from esteemed chefs. One ingredient that almost all of these recipes substituted with pancetta is guanciale, which also happens to be the most important ingredient and the one that truly gives this dish a sense of place. I ask again; if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Guanciale is an unsmoked, salt cured meat prepared from the pig’s jowl or cheek. What does it taste like? It tastes like the best slice of bacon you’ve ever had. That flavor is imparted into the sauce of Bucatini all'Amatriciana and truly makes this dish special. It provides a rich pork flavor that is accentuated by a spicy tomato sauce and tempered with a sprinkle of pecorino Romano cheese. This is the stuff that stops conversations around the table, as your guests are enthralled by it’s depth of flavors. Best of all, it’s a simple preparation that only depends on sourcing the best ingredients and can be prepared, start to finish, in under a half hour.

As for pairing wine, well that’s where it can get tricky. Remember that this is a spicy dish by nature and with heat, you always risk the possibility of overwhelming certain wines. I wouldn’t pair a feminine or elegant red with this dish because the heat will dull the wine on the palate. However, a good Zinfandel usually has the intensity, ripe fruit and zesty to truly balance out the heat in this dish. Also, a bit of new oak does wonders contrasting the aromas of the Guanciale.

2010 Ridge Zinfandel East Bench - The nose on the 2010 East Bench shows sweet floral notes with crushed blueberry, cinnamon, a hint of vanilla and an airy herbal lift that pulls it from confectionary and allows the bouquet to remain elegant and fresh. On the palate, it shows an intense mix of berries with massive concentration, followed by a note of citrusy acidity that keeps it fresh. The finish is long and shows hints of the structure that is otherwise masked by this wine’s intense fruit. (91 points)

I beg you to look for guanciale. Could you substitute it with pancetta and still enjoy this dish? Sure, but I assure you that it is pale in comparison to guanciale. I was able to find guanciale after only stopping at two Italian butchers. It’s certainly not something that you’ll find at the local supermarket but, with just a little digging, it’s very possible to source.

Also, I found that using a combination of both fresh and canned tomatoes gave this dish a gorgeous contrast on the palate and my tasting panel agreed wholeheartedly. You could just use the canned tomatoes but it would take away from the recipe, in my opinion.

Makes 4 – 5 servings

½ pound slice guanciale
1 pound Bucatini (pasta)
4 –5 cloves of Garlic (rough chop)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (you can double this if you prefer a good amount of heat)
28oz of canned San Marzano tomatoes
¾ cup of plum or grape tomatoes cut into large dice (must be fresh and ripe)
¾ cup of grated pecorino Romano cheese
½ cup red wine (preferably the same wine you plan to pair with the dish)
Olive oil (as needed)
Bunch of fresh basil (for garnish)

Place a large pot of salted water on a burner on high to bring to a boil.

Strain the juice from the canned tomatoes and, over a strainer, try to remove as many seeds as possible. When you’re done, you should have a bowl of strained and deseeded tomatoes and a bowl of tomato juice.

Place a medium to large sauté pan (or sauce pan) over a medium flame. Add olive oil to just barley coat the pan. Before the oil gets too hot, add the guanciale. Think about making Sunday bacon, but with the intention of pulling the meat before it gets crispy.

Add the pasta to the water and set the timer for one minute short of its recommended cooking time.

Remove the guanciale from the pan onto a paper towel to drain, and pour the rendered fat from the pan through a fine mesh strainer. (This is not 100% necessary, but those small bits you can’t scoop out with a spoon may burn if you leave them in the pan.) Wipe any burnt bits from the pan and pour two tbls of the rendered pork fat back into the pan.

Add the rep pepper flakes, the garlic and the fresh tomatoes. Allow to cook over medium-low flame for two minutes. Then (with the pan removed from the burner) add the red wine.

Once the wine has begun to reduce, add the strained San Marzano tomatoes and a cup of the strained tomato juice that came from the can. Bring this entire mixture to a simmer and allow to reduce for 3 – 5 minutes.

Around this time, the pasta should be done. Strain the pasta and pour back into the pot. Now pour the sauce over the pasta and stir until combined. Sprinkle half of the cheese into the pot as well as half of the cooked guanciale. Over a low flame, stir until completely combined. Allow this mixture to cook for one minute on low flame.

Check for seasoning, but remember that the guanciale can add a good amount of seasoning on its own.

Chiffonade the basil.

To plate, place a mound of pasta on a heated plate and sprinkle with pecorino Romano, then guanciale, and finally the basil chiffonade. Clean the rim of you plate and serve.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Regional Tour of Italian Whites

By: Eric Guido

I remember a time when I would tell people that I only liked “Red” wine. I still hear people say this from time to time and it makes me smile. The idea that there’s something inferior or less enjoyable about white wine, is now humorous to me. It all started with a glass of aged Riesling. With time, Sauvignon Blanc joined my list of favorites. However, what I was truly missing was the vast array of unique whites wines that are made in my favorite wine producing country, Italy.

Most countries specialize in a few white varieties, while some can claim to produce four to six worth exploring. Italy, on the other hand, produces more unique white wines than I could possibly keep track of. Each region of Italy boasts a number of white wines proudly. To list them all would be exhaustive, and likely prove impossible.

However, nothing makes me happier than knowing that I can call upon Italy to fill all of my white wine needs. Especially as summer approaches, having a selection of different Italian whites, promises that you will always have a wine to pair with just about any meal you can dream up. From light and refreshing, poolside sippers, to big, rich wines that crave a serious meal, and everything in-between.

Below you’ll find Italian whites from eight different regions, along with a brief description of its style, a tasting note and what I would pair with it. Enjoy.

Valle d'Aosta  (Muscat) This wine may not be what you'd expect from a typical Muscat (usually with a hint of sweetness), yet it's well worth searching out. This dry style of Muscat shows beautiful floral notes on the nose, which carries well into the finish. A classic Italian treat, Melon and Prosciutto would be an excellent pairing partner for this highly expressive wine.

2011 Maison Anselmet Muscat - The nose was exotic and intense with spicy floral notes, ripe peach and minerals. On the palate, it showed inner floral notes, flower petals; soft pit fruits and beautifully balanced with a long floral finish. Beautiful. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Friuli (Pinot Grigio) If you're still drinking Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, I beg you to stop and explore a little. Although this wine isn't a textbook example of the variety, it is one that will show you what Pinot Grigio is truly capable of. The Vie di Roman Pinot Grigio spends extra time fermenting on the skins, giving it a copper hue, a unique set of aromas and a weighty presence on the palate that has to be tasted to be believed. As for a pairing, a plate of pasta dressed with pesto sauce would be a perfect fit.

2010 Vie di Romans Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio Dessimis - It showed a slight copper tone in the glass. The nose was slightly restrained on the '10 Pinot Grigio Dessimis, yet with gentle coaxing revealed peach skins, underripe nectarine, and yellow flowers. On the palate, it was medium-bodied with white stone fruits, flower petals, and a bitterness that combined with the wine's acid structure to create a lovely balance. The finish showed a dry, structure which leads me to believe that a few years in the cellar will be required to show this wine's true colors. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Trentino Alto Adige (Gewürztraminer) Slowly becoming one of my favorite white wines, Gewürztraminer, shows such a unique floral spiciness with a weighty, almost oily presence on the palate. With a hint of sweetness, these wines make the perfect companion to spicy Chinese, Thai and Indian curries.

2011 Kellerei-Cantina Tramin Gewürztraminer Alto Adige - Südtirol Nussbaumer - The nose showed tropical fruits, spice and stems with a hint of balanced sweetness and floral notes. On the palate, it was rich, but not overwhelming, with an oily texture followed by notes of peach, pear and spice. The finish lingered long with spicy inner floral tones and peach slowly melting away from the palate. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Liguria (Bosco and Albarola) The wines of this tiny region are so impacted by the coastal influences of the neighboring Sea, that you can practically taste it in the wine. Imagine sitting at the beach on the Ligurian Riveara, during a beautifully sunny day, and the wine you put to your lips completes the moment--That's Cinque Terre. I would pair this with a fresh batch of fried calamari with just a twist of lemon and pinch of salt.

2009 Campogrande Cinque Terre - The color was yellow-gold and very pretty in the glass. On the nose, i found apricot, grapefruit, a spritz of lime; followed wet minerals, herbal tones and raw almond. On the palate, it seemed almost weightless carrying the floral notes from the bouquet into the mouth, with notes of grapefruit, orange peel and a bitter twinge that puckered the cheeks. The finish started dry with a bitter citrus note, but soon made the mouth water and left me feeling completely refreshed. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Emilia Romagna (Malvasia & Trebbiano) Another truly unique wine that continues to open up in the glass, the La Stoppa Trebbiano Ageno is far from your average Trebbiano. The nose explodes with layer after layer of exciting aromas while it dominated, and then refreshed the palate. For me, a great pairing would be a mixed greens salad with citrus vinaigrette.

2007 La Stoppa Ageno - The nose showed lush ripe apricot, spicy florals and potpourri with a dark and soothing character that drew me in. On the palate, it showed an initial burst of acidity and almost fizante style, yet it settled with time in the glass and revealed a juciy mix of bitter citrus pith, dried orange, and inner floral notes that lasted through the long finish. My first few sips of this wine deceived me, with time it blossomed to show it’s hidden beauty. (91 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Sardegna (Vermentino) Sardinia is an Island off the western coast of Italy, which is just as effected by Spain as it is Italy. Vermentino is a highly aromatic, medium bodied wine with zesty acidity that pairs beautifully with grilled fish, especially Sea Bass.

2011 Nuraghe Crabioni Vermentino di Sardegna - The nose showed citrus with sea minerals, and almond skins. It caressed the palate with soft textures showing white fruits, which turned tart through the medium-length, juicy finish.(89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Calamari in Zimino
Abruzzi (Trebbiano) Another Trebbiano, but I had to include it, as this is not your average Trebbiano and should be on your bucket list of Italian wines. The Valentini Trebbiano demands your attention with earthy minerals and beautiful notes of the coast. These wines can be enjoyed young but really shine with a little age. My favorite pairing for this wines is Zuppa di Pesce, or one of my own recipes Calamari in Zimino.

2007 Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo - The nose showed lemon with minerals and sea tones, followed by earthy schist and green stems. On the palate, it was clean and balanced with soft citrus tones, followed by notes of ripe melon and stone. The finish was pure with mouth-puckering acidity ushering through flavors of citrus and stony minerals. (93 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

Sicilia (Grillo) Sicily is like a nation onto itself, with multiple climatic regions throughout the island. The wines here also take on a very different personality. Grillo, is an aromatically intense wine with a medium-bodied texture, hint of sweetness and intensity on the palate, which opens up many opportunities for pairings. Grilled seafood, rich chicken dishes and moderately spicy asian cuisine would all pair well with this Sicilian native.

2010 Feudi del Pisciotto Grillo Carolina Marengo - The wine showed a golden-yellow color in the glass with intense, spicy florals notes with ripe white fruits. On the palate, it was rich, with oily textures showing peach and inner floral tones with zesty acidity, which kept it clean and juicy throughout the finish. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

** The best part about this tasting were the people I enjoyed it with. This Italian White Wine tasting was hosted by Snooth for their "People's Voice Wine Awards". My tasting companions were made up of some of the best wine bloggers from around the country. Below are links to their impressions from this exciting lineup of wines. Enjoy!

The Reverse Wine Snob: Excellent Italian Whites - Exploring the White Wines of Italy Including Two Bulk Buy Selections

Benito's Wine Reviews: Snooth PVA: il gran giro d’Italia con dodici vini bianchi

Vindulge: Learning about the white wines of Italy with Snooth – one region at a time

Wine Julia: #SnoothPVA: Indigenous Varietal Italian White Wines From North to South

My Vine Spot: #SnoothPVA: White Wines of Italy

Friday, May 3, 2013

The V.I.P. Table In The Media

Benito’s Wine Reviews recently interviewed me. We chatted about all things food, wine and family. It’s a great site, not only for wine but food as well. Author, Ben Carter is a man driven by good food and wine; you can tell by his blog. It’s loaded with recipes, tips, tricks and culinary perspectives from a well-versed and experienced cook. I’m pretty sure the next time we meet, there will be some serious collaborations going on in the kitchen. So if you’re looking to know a little more about me, check out the interview, but even if you don’t, Wine by Benito is well worth having in your bookmarks.

Caprese Salad at The V.I.P. Table
Also in the media this week, Meg Houston Maker just published her piece “Wine With Salad: Pairing Tricks from the Pros” at Palate Press. I was happy to be one of the collaborating chefs to give my thoughts on the subject, as well as lending them some of my photos to use. This is another excellent author that you should be watching, whether it is for food, wine, nature, culture, or place. Meg’s work can also be found at Megmaker.com and at Maker’s Table.