Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali 2007, IGT

Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali 2007, IGT

tasca-dalmerita-regaleali-2-thumb1It’s said that the inspiration to complete the opera Parsifal came to composer Wagner under a giant banyan tree at the grand residential estate of the Tasca d’Almerita family.  Who said there is no connection between wine and music! 🙂

Founded in 1830, the 1200 acre Tasca d’Almerita estate is owned by the aristocratic Tasca d’Alermita family and is located just more than an hour south of Palermo in Sicily.  The family has been making wine for 7 generations and produces 15 or so different wines based on both native and international grape varietals. Approximately 40% of production is exported.

The family history extends back to the 19th century, but it was Count Giuseppe who overcame the trend of bulk production which dominated Sicilian wine making.  Instead, the Count innovatively pushed ahead with a vision that encouraged experimentation and quality over quantity, beginning a new chapter in the family wine business.

Although technologically advanced, the company “mind” is still focused upon history, culture, and especially quality: meticulous care is administered year round in the fields and cellar.  And the family has engaged wine consultant Carlo Ferrini to provide the impeccable guidance for which he is famous.

In the estate vineyards, as vines are replanted every year, vine ages span from 1 to 40 years.  Vines are predominately grown on espalier and pruned by single or double guyot.  The area microclimate is ideal, with days and nights ushering in and out significant transfer of heat and the higher elevation of Tasca d’Almerita vineyards allowing slower, gradual ripening and maturity of the grapes.

The Regaleali Sicilia is made from Inzolia, Grecanico, and Catarratto grapes.  A 15-day fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation is left undeveloped.  The wine is kept for an additional 3 months in stainless steel before bottling.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Regaleali has a bright, straw yellow luminesence, as if a bit of Sicilian moon and sun had combined with the wine.  Generously fruity notes of citrus, peach, and melon flow over delicious, racy acidity and good minerality.  Great balance and a persistent, clean, fresh finish. Elegance and drinkability at unusually good value for money.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Seafood and Seafood Pasta of all types, especially:  Tuna or Swordfish steaks with capers, olives, tomatoes, parsley or basil; Linguine with Mussels (see recipe on Vintrospective.com); Grilled shrimp; Grilled vegetables – try grilled peppers and onions on a roll, or peppers and eggs on a roll, with a salad that includes feta or fresh pecorino cheese; Regaleali will be great with many antipasti and salads; Also consider this wine w. sushi / maki / sashimi !

Recipe: Linguine with Mussels

linguine-w-mussels-thumbMy great grandmother came from Naples, Italy.  Her cooking tradition included pasta dishes combined with incredibly fresh seafood. In fact, I can remember her sitting on the sand bars at low tide, eating razor fish right from the shell. She had 13 children, knew how to raise a family, and if you misbehaved, she’d be happy to “let you have it” when you passed her in the hallway, where you couldn’t run away.  We didn’t misbehave much 😉

Here is a recipe for linguine with mussels that is delicious simplicity:


3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 onion, finely minced
Fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped
Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
The freshest mussels you can find, preferably wild caught
A bit of cream or whole milk
1/2 cup white wine


Put on a large pot of water for the linguine.

IMPORTANT:  Wash the mussels and remove any beard.  Then, soak them in salty water for 10 minutes – they will get rid of any grit or sand.  Remove and hold aside.

Put the pasta into the boiling water to cook.

Meanwhile, in a heavy pot, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Use a low heat, don’t let the garlic brown.  Add the chopped tomatoes to the onion and garlic. Let is all simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add about 1/2 cup white wine, turn up the heat momentarily to cook off the alchohol, then set heat back to medium low.  Add the mussels into the pot the with onion, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, and cover.  Let it all cook for about 6 minutes.

Before you drain the linguine, reserve 1 cup of pasta water.  Now, drain the linguine.

Remove the cooked mussels from the pot and put them aside.  Add 1/2 of the pasta water to the “broth” of garlic, onion, white wine, mussel juices.  Add 3 tablespoons or so of cream or whole fat milk. Taste for salt, pepper.  Raise the heat to medium, add the pasta, add the chopped parsley, toss well, let it all thicken slightly.  If it seems a bit dry, add the rest of the pasta water.  Plate on a large serving plate, place the mussels on top of the finished pasta and serve immediately.

Wine pairing suggestions:  Falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, Fiano Sicilia, Grillo, Inzolia / Catarrato blend

Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2005

Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2005

The end of all good music is to affect the soul.
—- Claudio Monteverdi, from his 8th Book of Madrigals

gaja-promisLike good music, good wine should stir the soul.  As if inspired by that “Giver of delight”, Euterpe, Muse of Music, Angelo Gaja’s Ca’ Marcanda Promis 2005 reminds me of what Monteverdi was meaning in the quote above.

The legendary Angelo Gaja began thinking of branching out beyond his native Piemonte during the 1990’s.  Two areas of Tuscany – Montalcino and Bolgheri – areas especially well known for their high quality reds, eventually became home to Gaja winemaking ventures that play an important role in the production of his wine Promis.  In a way characteristic of other Gaja wines, Promis is deliberately made as an IGT wine, thus allowing the maestro to work outside of DOC disciplinare regulations in determining varietals and blend from both of these Tuscan production areas.

Although Gaja represents 4 generations of Piemontese winemaking, he came to Tuscany as a “learner”, not a “teacher”, translating generations of Piedmont winemaking experience to realize unique and optimal results with the Tuscan terroirs.

Produced at Ca’Marcanda, Super Tuscan Promis is a blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, from the Ca’Marcanda estate in Bolghieri, and 10% Sangiovese from Gaja’s Montalcino property Pieve Santa Restituta, production areas that map incredibly well to producing phenomenal results with those specific vines.  Fermentation is carried out separately by varietal.  Maturation takes place in a combination of new and used barriques for 18 months, followed by several months of bottle ageing.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The whole orchestra plays at once with Gaja’s Promis.  A profound harmony seems to come from somewhere deep within the wines core, all the wine’s components reverberating in sympathetic reaction.  The wine sent a garnet wave of crushed velvet swirling lush, warm, dark cherry fruit all over my tongue, embellished with notes of spice, herb, and leather.  The finish is sensational, long and delicious fading to pianissimo and disappearing into silence.  Where some wines lead with an incredible sense of place, that is not quite the case here:  though still decidely “Italian”, the astonishing thing about this wine is the integration of its parts –  you look for a seam, but there is none to be found – magnificent balance, incredible craftsmanship.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Egg pasta, especially with morel or mushroom sauce; Ravioli, especially stuffed with ricotta or pumpkin; Ossobucco (braised veal shanks); Sushi; Beef Bourguignon; stuffed mushrooms; steak

Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

Recipe:  Mushroom Risotto

porcini-risotto-thumb3Risotto!  Is there anything in all of Italian cooking with a more meditative cooking process?

The making of risotto has a way of bringing one’s attention to the here and now in a condition of effortless concentration.

Ingrediants are few, but technique and timing are important.

About 20 minutes.

Have at hand:

Plenty of hot chicken broth, preferably home made.  If you use store bought, it’s OK, but shoot for organic, low salt chicken broth.
Dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water, finely minced
Fresh mushrooms, finely minced
Onion, finely minced
Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone rice – I generally plan for 1/3 cup of uncooked rice per person
Olive oil
White wine
Butter, room temp
Grated Parmiggiano or Pecorino cheese


Over medium low heat, warm the pan for a couple of minutes.  Put in a some olive oil,  enough to saute the onion.  Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes or till translucent. Now add the uncooked rice, stirring a bit with a wooden spoon. Look closely at the grains of rice: when they are translucent around the ends and still opaque at the very center – takes only 1 to 2 minutes – pour in some white wine. Stir.  Let the wine nearly evaporate.

Meditation begins:

Using a ladel, move some hot chicken broth into the rice, just enough to keep the rice moist and creamy, but NOT so much that the rice is loose and soupy.  Add the mushrooms.  The broth will soon be absorbed by the rice. Meanwhile, stir and Don’t let the rice consistency dry out.

Put more chicken broth in just ahead of where the rice begins to tighten up, again adding just enough to keep the rice moist and creamy. Keep stirring.  Repeat this process until the rice is cooked slightly al dente, about 20 minutes.

NOTE:  I find it really improves the final consistency of the risotto to energetically shake the pan now and again during cooking, moving the mixture around as you continue to stir.

When the rice is cooked, finish by stirring in a generous amount of butter and the grated cheese.  Test for salt / pepper.

Serve with extra grated Parmiggiano or Pecorino at the table.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

The earthy-ness of mushroom risotto pairs wonderfully with Chianti or Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Carmignano, Valpolicella, Barbera, or Nebbiolo Langhe.

Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina Sannio 2007


I suggest a word collage to set the mood:

Falanga. Ancient grapes before mount vesuvius destroyed pompeii. 79AD. years of voLcANic ash soaring. falling. archeoloGy History sand limestone mINerAlity.


feudi_falanghina_label_hr1By the beginning of the 1960’s, an indirect impact of phylloxera on viticulture, war and disinterested vineyard owners had all taken their toll on Falanghina, a varietal indigenous to Italy’s region of Campania.  No one was talking about Falanghina.  No one, that is, except Franceso Avallone.  Avallone was an attorney with a passion for history and a deep interest in the vines which the Romans had grown in Campania centuries before and the wines that they had produced.  With property he’d purchased on a volcanic plain north of Naples and by propagating surviving Falanghina, Avallone delivered Falanghina from near anonymous extinction.

The name Falanghina derives from the Latin word “falanga”, a wooden pole, in reference to the manner of cultivation as it known was to the ancients who used wooden poles to train and support the vines.  With the feminine diminuative “ina” ending, affectionately:  “little wooden pole”.

Located in the Irpinia region of Campania at Sorbo Serpico and established in 1986, Feudi di San Gregorio is a great champion of varietals native to Campania and Southern Italy.  The Feudi wine book is a diverse catalog based upon ancient varietals with wines presented in a updated style showcasing regional terroir while maintaining a vital link with tradition.

Feudi Falanghina Sannio is made of 100% Falanghina produced from a collection of smallish vineyards within the Sannio zone – Ponte, Apice, Torrecuso, Bonea and Montesarchio – from vines planted between 1985 and 1990.  The vineyards lie at altitudes of 1,000 to 1,300 feet.  Soil is mixed volcanic typical of the area with sand and limestone.  The majority of the grapes are sourced from outside growers with whom Feudi has long term contracts of 15+ years. Feudi has stipulated operating policies / practices to which growers must adhere and manages them closely.

Grapes are hand-harvested and moved directly to the winery via refrigerated transport.  They are then soft pressed to render only first free run juice.  The juice undergoes cold fermentation in stainless steel (without malolactic fermentation).

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The color is reminiscent of summer straw and you can catch reflective kaleidoscope greens if you look closely enough.  Aromas of Granny Smith apples, lime, and flowers on the nose. A sense of creamy tropical fruit – banana, mango – on the palate that finishes firmly with clean citrus and minerals.

Food Pairing Suggestions:  Seafood: grilled or fried fish; sushi, sashimi or maki; seafood risotto; Salads: caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil), “Ceasar” type salads with or without chicken; Pasta: served with an oil base; Poultry; grilled vegetables, mozzarella di bufala

Recipe: Dandelion Greens

dandelion-greens-plated-thumbItalians love their bitter greens!

Bitter greens are used quite extensively on the Italian table: sauteed with garlic and oil, used in salads, cooked in soups, placed on top of crostini, combined with pasta and risotto – just to name a few 😉

The complex flavors of bitter greens are really enhanced when contrasted against the flavors of other foods and Dandelion greens are one of the season’s best – if you’ve not given them a try I encourage you to get out to your garden, local farmers market or grocer.

Preparation is crazy simple:

dadelion-greens-cooking-thumbWash the greens thoroughly.  Heat some olive oil in a pan on medium low.  Brown a few pieces of garlic but don’t burn them.  Put in the greens all at once as if to “smother” the oil in the pan – keeps spattering minimized. Once the greens are cooked tender to your liking, remove them.  Cut them into smaller pieces with 2 or 3 passes of the knife or mezzaluna if you wish, takes 2 seconds.  Salt as you wish (salt will help balance the bitter component.)

A Few Serving Suggestions:

On top of crostini as an appetizer, along with slices of pecorino
Wine:  Vernaccia or Orvieto

Combine with a dish of pasta and spicy sausage
Wine:  Chianti, Nero d’Avola, Morellino, Rossi di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso

Combine with a dish pasta seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and toasted breadcrumbs
Wine:  Vernaccia, Orvieto, Verdicchio, Falanghina

With roasted potatoes and sweet sausage
Wine:  Chianti, Nero d’Avola, Morellino, Rossi di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso

As a pizza topping
Wine:  Your favorite regional red or white

Of course, you could serve simply as a side dish to meat and seafood entrees !

Fattoria Ambra Carmignano Montefortini 2004


Fattoria Ambra Carmignano Montefortini 2004

fattoria-ambra-carmignano-thumbFrom the 15th century poem “Ambra”, written by Lorenzo de Medici and so evocative of the Tuscan countryside, the Fattoria Ambra takes its name.  The mythical wood nymph Ambra, before being caught by the god Ombrone, was transformed into a rocky prominence which later became the site for Lorenzo’s beloved villa Ambra. The poem celebrates villa Ambra at Poggio a Caiano and the beauty of the Tuscan land.

Fattoria Ambra, which is located nearby Poggio a Caiano, the Ombrone River, and the Medici villa, counts among its vineyards the important Carmignano crus of Montalbiolo, Elzana, Santa Christina, and Montefortini. Montalbiolo and Elzana are DOCG single cru riserva bottlings while Montefortini and Santa Christina are bottled as DOCG single cru normale.  Vineyards total about 18 hectares.

Carmignano wine is based on a minimum of 50% Sangiovese, a maximum 20% of Cabernets Sauvignon or Franc singley or together, and varying amounts of other allowable varietals such as Merlot, Syrah and  Canaiolo as prescribed by the Carmignano disciplinare.  The range of “uva Francesca” – French grape – has been in these parts since the 1700’s and is said to have been introduced by the Medici.  Hmmm…the original predecessor to Super Tuscans?

Most references to the Carmignano production zone set it at just under 100 hectares, making it the smallest zone in Italy.  I believe, however, the area had grown to over 150 hectares by 2005 and have seen recent references to suggest a larger production area.  In any case, the zone is a small one and if not the smallest in in Italy, is certainly one of the smallest, and was decreed as “controlled” area in 1716 with a notice issued by Cosimo  III de Medici, Duke of Tuscany.

The Montefortini cru is approximately 100 meters altitude with a sandstone type of soil.  Fattoria Ambra is very singleminded about quality grape selection.  “Green” vineyard practices include use of only organic fertilizers, herbicides are not used at all and pesticides are mainly based on copper / sulpher.  Between the rows, plants are allowed to rise and are returned to the soil as organic fertilizer.  

Pre/cold maceration is carried out to ensure that primary aromas are maintained. 50% of the wine goes to 350 – 500 litre tonneaux and 50% is destined to oak cask (botti) for a period of 12 months.  Only very low dose of S02 is applied to the wine.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A vivid hue of crimson, the wine was quiet at first, but benefitted from 30 minutes of open air, revealing an intriguing, winey bouquet scented of violets.  Friuty black cherry, rich, and smooth – a smoothness I’ll attribute here to the French varietals – with suggestions of anise, clove, and tobacco.  The finish is moderately long ending in a final cadence that calls to mind just how well structured the wine is.  A wine of aristocratic personality relying more on finesse than brute strength to achieve structure, harmony, and balance.

Food Pairing Suggestions:  Grilled or Roasted Meats:  try roast lamb or pork with rosemary and sage, or grilled steak with olive oil and squeeze of lemon;  Barbecued Meats:  ribs for sure;  Liver Dishes:  chicken or calves liver;  Stews and Pasta:  with rich, spicy sauces;  Cured Meats; Aged cheeses.  Also try this wine with international foods like sushi, sashimi, or maki; Indian or Chinese dishes of mild -medium spice.


Grilled Sea Scallops

Grilled Sea Scallops

grilled-scallops2-thumbWe are always on the lookout for super fresh food products that respond to simple cooking techniques and taste great.  Marry such dishes with an equally good wine and the magic always happens!

We grilled large sea scallops, let them caramelize on the outside with a cooked inside that stayed soft and moist. What a sexy contrast of textures!

Here’s How:

Fire up the grill.  Lay out the scallops using tongs.  Let them sit a minute to caramelize a bit on the underside.  Turn the scallops over – the developed crust will help resist sticking – now let them caramelize on the newly turned bottom side. 

Your done!

Plate the scallops; and a squeeze of lemon if you like.

Suggested wine pairings:  Grillo (Sicily);  Orvieto (Umbria); Falanghina (Campania); Cortese (Piedmont); Vermentino (Maremma);  Soave classico (Veneto)

NOTE:  Before you fire up your grill, brush it with olive oil to help prevent sticking.