Varietal of the Month:Toscana IGT Red Blend

Lucente WineBlended red wine from the Tuscany region of Italy is known as Toscana IGT. This verifies the grapes were grown and the wine was made in Tuscany. IGT stands for indicazione geografica tipica, which in English, means “typical geographic indication.” It is a quality seal issued by the Italian government that specifies the type of grapes and winemaking method used for that classification of wine.

Toscana IGT blends are made from a combination of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes. Sangiovese is the most predominant grape grown throughout Italy. Although it is believed that the climate and geographical terroir of Tuscany creates the best Sangiovese wines. Adding Merlot to the Sangiovese gives it a richer, darker color and depth of flavor.

Wine of the Month:Lucente

Lucente is the result of a selection of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes grown in the area of Montalcino in Tuscany. The Luce estate and vineyards are favored for their rich geological structure and ideal climate.

The wine is a deep, brilliant color with purplish highlights. Lucente impresses for the cleanliness and intensity of its wild berry and jam bouquet with highlights of tobacco and light spices, which are found again on the palate, enriched by a delicate toasted note. Measured, silky tannins provide a wonderful roundness and a persistent finish.

Food Pairings:
Red meat, strong-flavored cheese, charcuterie, red sauce and pasta.

Puttanesca Sauce

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
3 anchovy filets, chopped fine
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can San Marzano tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

In a deep skillet over medium heat, add the oil, garlic and anchovies. Sauté until golden for about 2 minutes. Add the capers and stir to combine. Swirl the tomato paste into the mixture and let caramelize for about a minute.

Add the canned tomatoes and all their juices and use a wooden spoon to crush the whole tomatoes. Stir in the Italian seasoning, red chili flakes and olives. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Add the fresh parsley and remove from heat. Toss with cooked pasta to serve. Makes 3 cups.

Published 11/04/19

Varietal of the Month: Super Tuscan

Super TuscanRed wines from the region of Tuscany made from blends of grapes that include Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah make up the category of Super Tuscan. Originally, the term was used to distinguish wines that did not meet the stringent requirements of Chianti wines and wanted to set themselves apart from the “table wine” classification they were required to put on their label.

They are now recognized with an IGT legal appellation (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) that the Italian government issues to distinguish quality control in the country. They usually contain a high percentage of Sangiovese and possess big, rich flavor. Typically, the well-known Super Tuscan wines also have high price tags and are made in limited quantities.

Wine of the Month:Monte Antico Toscana
Known as the affordable Super Tuscan, Monte Antico is a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. Meaning “ancient mountain,” Monte Antico grapes are chosen from various altitudes from the Tuscan hillsides to represent the different climates and soils that are specific to each terrain. Harvested at their peak ripeness, this balanced combination of geological diversity makes for the wine’s consistent excellence.

Sangiovese is a Tuscan grape with a rich and long history. It offers bright freshness, red fruit, violet color and spice.  Merlot brings intense fruity aromas and plush, velvety tannins. It has a wonderful color, luxurious texture and hint of mixed berries. The Cabernet Sauvignon gives Monte Antico a pleasing backbone that lends structure, tannins, color and fruity aroma.

The wine has a deep ruby color with garnet reflections and an elegant bouquet of leather, black cherries, licorice and plums; a medium to a full-bodied palate, rich in ripe red fruit, subtle notes of vanilla and violet that are well-integrated with the soft tannins and silky texture. Firm backbone, perfect integration of acidity and fruit and a well-rounded, gentle finish.

Food Pairings:
Pasta Dishes, Meat & Cheese Platters, Red Meat, Risotto, Dark Chocolate

Recipe:Southern Italian Chocolate Cake
1 1/4 cups of chopped dark chocolate (60% cacao)
2 cups almond flour
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup of sugar
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat a double boiler over simmering water. Add chocolate and butter and stir until melted. Turn off heat. You can also do this with a large bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave in 15 second intervals.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Place whites in one mixing bowl and the yolks in another. Add the sugar to the egg yolks. Beat on high with an electric mixer until mixture is pale and frothy, around 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture, then salt and almond flour. 

Beat the egg whites on high speed for about 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Add about 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk-chocolate mixture and use a spatula to fold it into the batter. Add the remaining egg whites and fold into the batter until fully incorporated. Line the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and grease with butter or cooking spray. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

Run an offset spatula around the edge of the cake. Let cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cake out on a plate and remove the paper. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and serve with vanilla gelato and halved strawberries.

Published 9/30/19

Varietal of the Month: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon BlancOriginating in the Bordeaux region of France, Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape that creates a white wine very different from other white varietals. It grows well around the world and is prolific in New Zealand and throughout California.

The name originates from the French word “sauvage,” which means “wild,” because the grape grew wild throughout that area of France. Originally, it was not used to create its own wine. Instead it was used as a blending grape added to white wines that were more popular during the time.

Sauvignon Blanc’s flavor is grassy with citrus notes, minerality and herbaceous undertones.   The mouthfeel is crispy and tart due to the high acidity in the grape and low sugar. It is rarely aged in oak but some, like Duckhorn, give the wine a short aging in the barrel to add complexity, mellow the minerality, and make the wine more fruit-forward.

Wine of the Month:Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc

“Duckhorn Vineyards has been making their Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc since 1982. This rich and elegant Sauvignon Blanc was blended with Sémillon grapes to add depth and complexity. Fermented and aged using both stainless steel and French oak, it offers ripe citrus and tropical flavors, refreshing acidity and Sémillon-driven silkiness.

Enticing aromas of grapefruit, melon and lime leap from the glass, followed by tropical notes of lychee, pineapple and passionfruit. On the palate, this Sauvignon Blanc is juicy and bright, with silky layers of fruit balanced by lovely natural acidity and a vibrant streak of minerality. Hints of zesty citrus and subtle baking spices linger throughout a long, focused finish. Composition: 82% Sauvignon Blanc, 18% Sémillon” – From Duckhorn Vineyards

Food Pairings:
Salads, seafood, shellfish, light pasta sauces, creamy dishes, roasted chicken.

Eggplant Wrapped Cod with Lemon Cream Caper Sauce
1 eggplant
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cod fillets
2 cups heavy cream (or half & half)
1 sliced green onion
2 teaspoons capers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper, for seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove top and bottom from the eggplant. Cut long slices of eggplant, about 1/2 inch thick. You only need 4 slices and may not need all of the eggplant. In a skillet, heat the oil over low-medium heat. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and pepper and cook for about 3 minutes each side, until soft enough to bend and is slightly browned.

Remove from the pan and place on a greased baking sheet. Let cool slightly. Place the cod on top of the eggplant. Season the cod with salt and pepper and wrap the eggplant around it while placing the rolled cod seam side down. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, add the cream and green onions to a skillet and bring to a boil. Let reduce by half and let thicken, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add the capers and lemon juice.  Remove fish to a serving plate. Follow with a spoonful of the sauce. Serve additional sauce at the table.

Published 8/26/19

Varietal of the Month: California Chardonnay

August Wine Club ImageChardonnay wine from California is typically characterized with a rich and creamy mouthfeel and a buttery finish. This structure comes from the oak aging and the secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation. During this process, some or all of the tart malic acid is transformed into softer lactic acid. This turns the wine from crisp to fat and brings to play the buttery flavor. 

Wine of the Month: Miner Wild Yeast Chardonnay

Full-bodied and lush, yet never heavy, the Wild Yeast Chardonnay shows off flavors of ripe pear and melon with butterscotch and hazelnut notes balanced by oak spice and bright acidity. This is a wildly expressive wine that will reward a few years of patient cellaring. The grapes are fermented using only indigenous or “wild” yeast cultures found on the skins of the grapes themselves in the vineyards and within the walls of the winery.

Miner is a dynamic family-owned winery tucked along the eastern hills of the Oakville appellation in the heart of Napa Valley. Founded in 1998 by Dave and Emily Miner, Miner Family Winery crafts reserve-style wines by sourcing fruit from Napa Valley and other specially selected California vineyards.

Winemaker Stacy Vogel uses a combination of old-world winemaking techniques and modern technology to make wines that reflect the unique characteristics of individual vineyards or “terroir” where specific varietals grow best. This fusion of superb vineyard sites and thoughtful winemaking allows Miner to deliver elegant, expressive wines.

Food Pairings:
Salads, seafood, shellfish, light pasta sauces, creamy dishes, roasted chicken.

Grilled Sea Bass with Corn & Pineapple Salsa
4 sea bass fillets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ears corn, cooked
1 cup diced pineapple
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup finely diced jalapeno
1/4 cup finely diced tomatoes
1 lime, zest and juice
Salt and pepper, for seasoning

Sprinkle sea bass with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Add the oil. Place fish in the pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the fish releases from the pan and is easy to turn. Cook on the other side for an additional 4 minutes.

While the fish is cooking, combine the corn, pineapple, red onion, jalapeno, tomatoes, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper.

Remove fish to a serving plate and top each filet with a squeeze of lime. Follow with a spoonful of the salsa and serve.

Published 7/29/19

Varietal of the Month:French Rosé

Notorious Pink Rose WineRosé all day seems to be the way, especially in the South of France – the largest region specializing in rosé wine. In this area of France, rosé is thought of as a lunchtime wine. Winemakers have kept this in mind when making rosé and ensuring the wine pairs well with many types of food, thus giving the wine a range of colors, textures and flavors.

The degree of color has to do with the amount of time the flesh of the grapes is in contact with the skins after crushing. Most red wine grapes have a dark skin, but a pale interior. It is the contact with the skin after crushing that gives red wine its deep color. With rosé, the grape flesh has only limited contact with the skins after crushing. This can range from mere minutes to hours, whatever the winemaker deems necessary. This interaction determines the depth of color and also flavor.

Although differences are noticeable, most French rosé have some common characteristics and tend to be refreshing on the palate, crisp, bright and dry.

Dry rosé should not to be confused with white zinfandel or blush wine. Although pink in color, these wines have a very different flavor and are very sweet. They typically contain nearly seven times more residual sugar than a dry French rosé.

Wine of the Month:Notorious Pink

Aroma: Ripe Peaches, Plums, Lavender, Pear, Orange, Honey, Floral, Herbal
Palate: Melons, Raspberries, Sweet Cherry, Pear, Peach; Crisp, Good Acidity, Well Balanced
Finish: Stewed Apples, Hint of Spice, Good minerality, Gentle and Length Finish

From the Domaine la Colombette vineyards in the South of France, this pale pink wine exudes floral orange blossom aromas. Made from 100% Grenache grapes, they use mature grapes to balance the flavors of ripe grapes. It gives the wine a wonderful acidity and soft minerality.

Food Pairings:
Salads, seafood, shellfish, light pasta sauces, chilled soup, pizza.

Watermelon Gazpacho
4 cups watermelon cubes
2 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 Fresno pepper, cored and seeded
1 cup cranberry juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice

In a blender combine all ingredients. Puree completely. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate at least three hours, allowing mixture to chill completely and flavors to combine. After refrigerating, strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Pour strained mixture into shot glasses or small serving bowls. Can be prepared one day in advance.

Published 6/17/19

Varietal of the Month: Chardonnay

Stags Leap ChardonnayChardonnay is the world’s most popular and versatile wine from where it is grown, how it is made, and its range of flavors – rich and buttery to crisp and light.

The Chardonnay grape originated in Eastern France in the Burgundy region but is now grown throughout the world. It is very susceptible to the climate where it is grown. In cool climates the grape takes on more fruit flavor and in warm climates it has soft sweet flavors of honey and butter.

Throughout history it is traditional to ferment Chardonnay in oak barrels - especially Chardonnay wines from California. However, more wineries are starting to age and ferment the wine in concrete or stainless steel tanks.

Unoaked or stainless chardonnays are not aged in oak barrels, so they do not have that buttery, creamy flavor you expect from a chardonnay. Instead, they are crisp, light and have prominent citrus flavors.

Chardonnay with a buttery or creamy flavor is aged in oak and also goes through a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation. During this process, some or all of the tart malic acid is transformed into softer lactic acid. This turns the wine from crisp to fat and brings to play the buttery flavor.

Wine of the Month: Stag’s Leap Chardonnay

With well-integrated vanilla oak notes, subtle almond undertones, and a flinty minerality on the finish, this wine is full, rich and bright, but maintains freshness due to its acidity, which creates a Chardonnay of lovely complexity and depth.

The grapes for this Napa Valley Chardonnay were sourced from the cooler southern appellations within Napa Valley, where fog from the San Pablo Bay helps to cool the vineyards throughout the growing season, allowing for ideal preservation of freshness and acidity.  The majority of the fruit comes from the Carneros AVA which provides citrus, mineral, and crisp apple notes, with a smaller percentage coming from the Oak Knoll AVA, which contributes more tropical and stone fruit characteristics.  These vineyards consistently produce Chardonnay ideal for our style of winemaking with fresh fruit flavors and bright acidity and vibrancy.

The inviting bouquet expresses aromas of creamy lemon meringue, tropical pineapple, delicate elderflower and hints of raw almond nuttiness.  On the palate, you’ll find a classic refreshing Chardonnay with a vibrancy of tropical fruit notes that transition into lemon curd and meringue while also maintaining a roundness in balanced texture. 

The grapes are gently whole-cluster pressed in order to preserve the fresh, floral aromatics naturally occurring in the fruit. Twenty-five percent of the wine is fermented in stainless steel and remains in tank until the final blend is assembled.  The winemaking hand remains light, with twenty-five percent of the wine fermented and aged in new French oak barrels and the remaining fifty percent in seasoned French oak.  This specific barrel treatment helps preserve the essential purity of the fruit while adding subtle notes of oak complexity. It does not undergo malolactic fermentation, which helps to further maintain the fruit’s natural acidity and aromatic freshness.  The wine was bottled after just six months of maturation.

Food Pairings:

When pairing chardonnay with food it is best to know how the chardonnay was made. Unoaked or stainless chardonnay pairs well with seafood and foods with light flavors. Chardonnay aged in oak pairs best with food that has a buttery or creamy sauce and mild cheeses. Chardonnay that has been through both oak aging and malolactic fermentation pair best with meats such as chicken, lean pork and veal.

Recipe of the Month:

Pound Cake with Honeyed Peaches

1 loaf of FRESH bakery pound cake
4 peaches, sliced
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla, divided
2 cups whipped cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Slice the pound cake into three layers and set aside. In a sauté pan combine the water, 2 tablespoons honey, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Add peach slices and simmer for two minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool. In a bowl add the whipped cream. Fold in the remaining tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of vanilla. To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer of cake on a plate, spread with a thin layer of cream, top with peaches, repeat with the next layer. Reserve some cream and a few peaches for the top layer. Drizzle with more honey for garnish.

Published 5/20/19


Varietal of the Month:Rosé from Italy

Corte Fiore Rose WineKnown as Rosato in Italy, rosé wine is like tasting Italian summer in a glass. Many of the Italian rosé wines are less dry than the popular French and American rosé varieties, simply because the grapes they are made from have more fruit-forward, mineral and herbal characteristics.

Throughout Italy, grape varietals are very regional. If you’re in Tuscany you’ll see rosé made from Sangiovese grapes, in Campania – Aglianico grapes, around Venice – sparkling rosé from Glera/Prosecco grapes, Abruzzo – Montepulciano grapes, and Piedmont – Nebbiolo grapes.

The color of the rosé varies from very light to a clear red due to the amount of contact the juice has with the skins of the grapes. Many Italian grapes have darker skins, as well as a dark interior, which gives the wine a more pronounced color and flavor. Don’t be fooled by a light-colored Italian rosé, even minimal contact with the skins can bring flavors that burst with fruit, flavors.

Wine of the Month:
Corte Fiore Rosé

The Corte Fiore Rosé is made from Montepulciano grapes grown at high altitudes in the mountains of Abruzzo. Refreshingly dry, this pale pink rosé has a crisp acidity with notes of juicy cherries and wildflowers.

This grape is grown only in the Abruzzo region of eastern central Italy. It is protected by the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) from the Italian government that ensures standards and practices that are authentic to winemaking in that region.

Although this rosé is very light in color, it is a medium bodied wine with flavors of juicy cherries and fragrant wildflowers with a long, mouth-watering finish. The grapes are grown high in the mountains and the cooler climate provides a longer growing season which preserves the freshness and enhances the wine’s perfumed floral and crisp red berry aromas.

After harvest, the grapes undergo a gentle crushing that produces the pale rose-colored juice which is fermented in stainless steel at low temperatures.

Food Pairings:
Salads, pizza, mild cheese, seafood, risotto

Grape, Gorgonzola and Walnut Flatbread

1 (8 inch) flatbread
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
3 thin slices Speck Alto Adige
1/2 cup red seedless grapes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon honey
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Black pepper, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the flatbread on a baking sheet. In a bowl combine the gorgonzola, mascarpone, olive oil and salt. Stir to combine and spread over the flatbread. Tear the pieces of Speck and scatter over the flatbread. Top with grapes. Place the walnuts in a small bowl and stir in the honey. Scatter the walnuts over the flatbread. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until grapes begin to caramelize and the flatbread is golden. Garnish with fresh thyme and black pepper.

Published 4/22/19