Fast Food My Way !

The odds were surely stacked against me. It was already getting late when I arrived back home from a long cycling ride, tired, sweaty, crazy hungry, not feeling like performing a full out assault at the stove top, and eating alone. Did I mention crazy hungry?

pasta-chicken-sausage-peppersOperating in survival mode, I fell back to a tactic that always works for me: Pasta and ????

A reconnaissance mission to the refrig turned up leftover grilled chicken sausages with peppers and onions. We’re in business !

7 minutes later I had perfectly cooked pasta ready to roll, married it with the chicken sausages / peppers / onions, added a bit of extra virgin olive oil and grated pecorino.

To drink: a good bottle of Chianti Rufina from last night is still drinking well.

Done. Grabbed a book, and dined in peace and quiet.

There are definitely times when a commitment to eating and drinking well will challenge me. If I keep the habit, though, I always have odds and ends around to make something tasty when the going gets tough !

Featured Producer: Giuseppe Rinaldi

The next time you drink Barolo, offer a toast to the Marchesa Falletti Giulietta Vitturnia Colbert di Maulévrier. It was she who wanted her nebbiolo wine to celebrate in name the place of its origin: Barolo.

Indeed, Marchesa Giulietta was “…a cultured…and generous benefactress and the leading light in a generation of Barolo makers who laid the foundations of town’s future fortune.”1

True, guys. It took a woman to name Italy’s King of Wines 😉

giuseppe-rinaldi-barolo-brunate-le-costeMany times I had the good fortune to return home with my bag of wine samples still containing a taste or two of Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo left in the bottle. In the words of singer-songwriter James Taylor, these were days where “Daddy loves his work”.

It is odd to me that Rinaldi so often flies beneath the radar of many die hard Barolo geeks – this producer is a pillar of quality and tradition in Barolo winemaking. So, I am happy to write here about three vintages of Barolo Brunate – Le Coste from this exceptional producer.

Giuseppe Rinaldi entered the wine business through the portal of a long family tradition in winemaking, leaving behind a professional life as a veterinarian and taking over the family wine business in 1992 when his father, Battista Rinaldi, passed away.

Although the label of “traditionalist” would apply here, I more like to think of Rinaldi as a classicist, as it is a word that conveys a certain intelligence and respect not only for traditional viewpoint, but also for principles and ideas which tradition rests upon. A subtlety, yes, but one that I think is more accurate in terms of where Rinaldi is coming from, so to speak, and one which he deserves.

If you are a Barolo lover, I am guessing you are already familiar with the name Brunate. But if not, you’ll want to remember it: Brunate is among the grandest and finest of Barolo crus and constitutes the lion’s share (80%) of Rinaldi’s Barolo Brunate – Le Coste cuvee. Brunate is known for wines of great balance, permeating fragrance and considerable structure. Le Coste, another highly regarded Barolo cru, is fantastically located with good southern exposure and excellent sun, and completes the cuvee. (Yes, a cuvee – although classic and traditional, Giuseppe Rinaldi does not fear original thinking.)

The Rinaldi Barolo cuvees – there are 2 – are made from 100% nebbiolo grapes sourced from the estate’s plots – in this case Brunate and Le Coste – and follow the same traditional vinfication course: long macerations on skins, daily punch downs by hand and maturation carried out in large wood vats, and aged for 3+ years in botti, the large casks of Slavonian oak ubiquitous to traditional Barolo winemaking.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste 2001

Medium garnet color with translucence reminiscent of fine crystal. Cherry kirsch, flower, and spice aromas interlace an alluring incense. Exquisitely complete flavors of red fruit, flower, tobacco, and powdered chocolate and a spirit of feminine strength. Finishes with the firm embrace of classic Barolo tannins.

Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste 2000

Medium ruby color. A smokey, brooding perfume of red berries, dark fruit, earth, tobacco, eucalyptus. That mood continues on the palate with rich, shaded sensations of cherry kirsch with hints of truffle and plum. Masculine in personality compared to the 2001, the wine finishes with a handshake of aftertaste and firm tannins that do not miscommunicate what you are drinking.

Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste 1999

Slightly darker than medium ruby color. Incredibly complex on the nose – earthy aromas seem to breathe in and out an entirely other perfume of roses, leather, and berries, as if each embodies the other. Delicious acidity underscores the intensity of ripe dark berry fruit and hint of pipe tobacco. Powerfully tannic, massively structured, with an ethereal, slowly retreating finish strung with haunting images of aroma and flavor.

NOTE: Rinaldi wines are intended for long cellaring – don’t make the expensive mistake of buying a recent vintage and opening it for dinner tonite ;-).

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEAT: red meats and game, either braised, stewed, roasted, especially try Brasato al Barolo (beef braised in red wine) served over polenta; veal stuffed with cheese and flecks of truffle; Risotto: hearty risotto cooked with red wine (barbera or nebbiolo); Cheeses: well aged cheeses.


1. A Wine Atlas of the Langhe: The Great Barolo and Barbaresco Vineyards: published by Slow Food Editore, authored by Vittorio Manganelli and other writers, edited by Carlo Petrini. NOTE: This is an absolutely incredibly volume and highly recommend it for your reference library or general reading.

Appreciating Wine: The Taste Experience

“The Dance”, Henri Matisse

French artist Henri Matisse is famous for compositional concepts that reduce art (read: simplify) to the fundamental components of line and color. His lyrical work “The Dance” nicely expresses the idea.

In the context of appreciating wine, the work of Matisse gave rise to an interesting question for me: What are the axiological elements of wine most fundamental to appreciating the taste experience?

What we evaluate, indeed appreciate about a wine has a lot of moving parts, so to speak: the wine’s appearance, color, aroma, flavor, acidity, balance, tannin, touch, aftertaste, etc.

For me, harmony or Balance among all those components is the trump card criterion in terms of my front line appreciation of a wine.

But there, too, is the incredible intimacy of wine to consider – after all, it is held in the mouth, touching lips and tongue – an intimate energy that is expressed and communicated through sense of touch.

Actually, much of what we ooh and ahh about in wine is quite related to the perception of “touch”.

Balance and Sense of Touch together give dimension to wine and help to inform other impressions I may ultimately have about a particular wine, impressions less accessible to language perhaps, but that nonetheless intuit a sense of soul, an understanding of a wine’s unique identity, it’s totality.

Perhaps you agree? Or what components do you imagine to be most fundamental to your experience appreciating wine?

Your impressions may be different than mine and that’s OK! Would love to hear 🙂

*Photo Credit:
“The Dance” by Henri Matisse borrowed from the BBC, original article here.

Valdicava Rosso di Montalcino 2006

Valdicava Rosso di Montalcino 2006

It is amazing how many times the word “opulent” has been used to describe the wines of Valdicava.

Feel free to test me on this – search for “Valdicava+opulent” and see what the search engines return.

valdicava-logo-rosso-di-montalcinoThe Valdicava estate and its wines have assumed a fame of almost mythic proportion among Italian wine cognoscenti. And while I understand the references to “opulent”, it is interesting that the popular focus seems fixed upon concentration, weight, and power.

Permit me to offer an alternate word: Balance.

The final, resounding chord of the Beatles masterpiece “A Day in Life” – sheer rhapsodic beauty reverberating harmonic structure on pinpoint balance – seems, for me, a more accurate impression of what Valdicava wines are all about.

The historical Abbruzzese family toiled on the land as sharecroppers, until Martini Bramante – grandfather to Valdicava proprietor Vincenzo Abbruzzese – bought a substantial 300 hectares in the 1950’s. Bramante, who made a first Brunello in 1967 and years later considered selling Valdicava, was joined by Vincenzo in 1987. Vincenzo began making improvements consistent with fine wine making and brought in consulting oenologist Attilio Pagli who, along with agronomist Andrea Paoletti and Abbruzzese, complete a tight triad of partnership in practice and philosopy.

The Valdicava estate is located in Tuscany in one of the coolest areas of Montalcino, on sloping land in a valley of the same name. Estate practices include high density / low yield techniques and the estate’s philosophy reflects the notion that great wines begin in the vineyard. It is here that I believe the Valdicava “magic” exists — there is a pursuit of that philosopy which is so well executed that the vines are denied nothing to grow and everything that would make them lazy or apathetic, another paragon of balance in the Valdicava storyline. As the old Chinese saying goes, “Tea in the cup, tea out”.

Sangiovese grapes for the Valdicava Rosso di Montalcino are harvested from the estate’s Lago, Cipressi, Filai Lunghi, and Nova vineyards, vinified separately and a final blend determined depending on quality of harvest. At an eclectic crossroads of tradition and modernist thinking, Valdicava makes use of both Slovenian oak cask and French barrique to bring out its wine’s best expression and balance.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Regally hued plummy, dark garnet color, and a constantly morphing mélange of tobacco, earth and herb aromas mingle with those of sweetly ripened dark fruit. Rich, dark fruit of incredible purity and clarity on the palate. This Rosso, in structure, is much closer to Brunelli I’ve tasted than it is to other Rossi. Balance and form are so in harmony with this wine that I’m not sure if “structure” applies so much as “architecture” may. A lengthy finish that is at once elegant, intense, in sympathetic reverberation with all the wines components. Molecules of art.

NOTE: This wine will benefit from 45 or so minutes of air time.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEAT: as first choices, go with beef, lamb, or prosciutto wrapped veal, though turkey, game birds and pork work well, too; PASTA: pasta dressed with meat or mushroom sauces, especially consider classic “pici” or pappardelle; POLENTA: dressed with meat or mushroom sauces; OTHER: Stuffed porcini mushrooms (especially done on the grill).


The Siren Song

200px-funerary_siren_louvre_myr148The Sirens were a mythological trio of half-bird, half woman beings, seductresses, whose enchanting music and voices compelled unwary sailors to crash upon the rocky cliffs surrounding the island of Sirenum.

Pass the ear plugs, please. There are those who design to sell me a version of wine as merchandised pleasure toys. Shout outs of over-the-top wine experience, “insane” aromas and “ultimate” flavor “bursting” from the wine glass.

I resist, lest I crash upon rocky cliffs in the shallow waters of misconception.

Beauty in wine arrives with less obvious fanfare.

An understanding of wine and a for-real personal wine culture are better nurtured with a more thoughtful consumer mentality.

“Taste” is, of course, about flavor and aroma – but it is a sense of place, earth, tradition, innovation, culture, history that connects taste to emotion and intellect.

Learn. Taste. Think. Carry earplugs 😉

*Image of the Siren from Wikipedia at

Elio Altare Barbera d’Alba 2005

Elio Altare Barbera d’Alba 2005, DOC

Beauty will result from the form and correspondence of the whole, with respect to the several parts, of the parts with regard to each other, and of these again to the whole; that the structure may appear an entire and complete body.

*……..Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture (1570)

Good wine and architecture – wine and art, in fact – are not so different at their core, are they? The ideal of Beauty translates across mediums, recognizable in its many forms and perspectives. Palladio would surely have appreciated the beauty in balance and form of Elio Altare’s Barbera D’Alba !

elio-altare-barbera-dalbaIn case Elio Altare has somehow slipped beneath your wine lover’s radar, Altare has been a creative, innovative force in Piedmont winemaking, especially within the Barolo zone, and is known for producing lush, elegant, expressive wines. Altare’s innovations – the use of rotary fermenters and barrique aging to name two – have earned him an association with “il modo nuovo” of winemaking. It is of no matter if I sympathize with modernist or traditionalist beliefs in terms of my vino: I recognize the beauty of Altare’s wine in either case.

The Altare estate consists of 10 hectares located in the commune of La Morra in the Piedmont region of Italy, including vines in the famous Arborina and Brunate crus. Vineyards are planted in greatest measure to Nebbiolo, followed by Dolcetto, Barbera, and a small bit of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Altare’s farming philosopy leans more toward the organic and he has invested in professional consultation aimed at preserving the soil’s ecosystem. For more than 3 decades no chemical herbicides or fertilizers have been employed, the Altare estate using cows to produce manure for its own uses. Only sulpher and copper based vine treatments are administered and So2 doses used in the wines are kept at low levels.

Barbera grapes for Altare’s Barbera d’Alba are grown on 2.5 hectares of south-east / east exposed vineyard with vines averaging 10-30 years of age in mixed soil of sand and clay at 250-280 meters altitude. Maceration is carried out over 4-5 days in temperature controlled rotary fermenters and the wine is then aged in French barrique for 5-6 months.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Spectacular pomegranate-colored reflections ornament the wine’s purple core. Perfumed with aromas of dark berries and sweet spice. My sense of touch was immediately turned on by the wine’s inviting warmth and voloptuous softness in the mouth. Sensational, concentrated red berry fruit, superbly balanced acidity and tannins that continue right through a long, satisfying finish, in a final impression of balance, form, and flavor.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: try with a bison burger covered with sauteed mushrooms and melted gorgonzola cheese (beef works well, too), or stews of boiled beef, pork, or chicken; RISOTTO / POLENTA: beef broth-based risotti, arancini, or polenta served with leek sauce or meat ragu; PASTA: tagliatelle with mushroom sauce & parmigiano reggiano, tortellini or gnocchi with meat ragu; OTHER: cured meats and medium aged cheeses, onions stuffed with veal & breadcrumbs, hearty bread & cheese soup, classic “bagna cauda” and, of course, pizza !

For an eclectic, international food pairing, try this wine with Chinese or Thai wide noodles, aka “chow fun” noodles, served with brown sauce flavored with meat or mushroom!


*Source of quote: Sprezzatura, p.221, authors Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish