Strange fruit; Narince, an indigenous Turkish delight


I’ve written about Vinkara Winery in the past, they happen to be my favorite producer of Turkish wines available in the US. Distribution is growing on the East coast as Fine Terroir Selections LLC, based in Ct. has taken on a number of Vinkara’s best wines. While I’ve always been a fan of Vinkara’s Kalecik Karasi (a juicy red full of sour cherry, red currant and stoney minerality), their Narince was something I’d never tried.

Narince (pronounced Nah-rin-djeh) means “delicately” in Turkish. Grown mainly in the Anatolia region with most plantings in Tokat and along Yeşilırmak (river), Narince’s large, plump, oval grapes produce highly aromatic wines, full of lush scents of apricot, orange and fruit blossom.  The best examples are capable of aging due to its high acidity and balance that can be achieved in stellar vintages.

ImageWhile both Narince’s from Vinkara are delicious wines filled with flavors of ripe fresh apricot, white peach and orange blossom I prefer the 2012 for its fresh, clean finish. Fans of Chardonnay will love the 2011 Narince Reserve,which has a fuller, heavier mouth feel with a touch of spicy flavor, due to a 14 month stint in oak followed by further aging in bottle. To pair I suggest Turkish dolmas, a dish made from the prized leaves of Narince, rolled and stuffed with a mixture of rice, flavored with olive oil, lemon and spices.

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Stuffed Dolmas

Stuffed Dolmas

Dolma recipe

Serves 8 people.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. pine nuts

1 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves

2 tbsp. fresh chopped dill weed
1 tbsp. ground sumac
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 8-oz jar grape leaves
Garnish- Chopped preserved lemons, crumbled feta if desired

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add onions & garlic. Sweat the onions & garlic until tender, then add the mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add the rice, stock and enough hot water to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat until the rice is half-cooked, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, carefully remove the grape leaves from the jar without ripping them. Drain the liquid and rinse the leaves in warm water and set in a colander to drain. Trim off any stems.

When the rice is ready, stir in all the other ingredients and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool enough so that it can be handled with bare hands. Take one grape leaf and place it smooth side down, vein sides up. Place about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon (depending on how big the leaf is) of rice mix at the bottom of the leaf. Fold the sides and then roll the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Place a steaming rack in a large pot and arrange the dolmas on the steamer. It is OK to stack them. Place enough water at the bottom of the pot to almost reach the bottom layer of dolmas. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 45 minutes, or until rice is totally cooked.

Remove and place on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped preserved lemon and feta.



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Filed under Travel, unusual grape varieties, wine and food culture, Wine Education, Wine Pairing Recipes

NYC Hot Sauce Expo; Experiencing the pain, savoring the flavor

Experiencing the fire at NYC Hot Sauce Expo

Experiencing the fire at NYC Hot Sauce Expo

It may have been a cold and rainy weekend in NY, but, thousands of NYers experienced a brutal heat wave inside the second annual Hot Sauce Expo, held at the Penn Plaza Pavilion. Over 40 vendors assembled to show off their sauces, condiments, snacks and even ice cream, all spiked with varying degrees of heat. To quench the fire (or fan the flames) a section of craft distillers and beer vendors were busy pouring samples of liquid courage for those feeling the burn at this unique event.



VIP tickets included unlimited samples of beer, cocktails and all the samples you wished to try in the main room, filled with enough scoville units to implode the insides of a seasoned sideshow fire-eater. Personally I’m glad I hit up the alcohol portion first or I might not have been able to handle what I was going to experience later on in the hot sauce hall. Bloody Mary’s made from a base of infused Stoli Vodka, Murph’s bloody mary mix, beef broth and bacon were a crowd favorite, along with Clyde May’s Alabama Whiskey and Tirado Gold, a corn whiskey made by a former doctor at the first farm distillery in the Bronx. Sailor Jerry was offering up a pop up barbershop and pin-up make overs along with their Rum based cocktails, one of the most unusual things I’ve ever seen at a tasting.

Armed with a few shots under my belt I headed over to meet culinary pyro Sam, of Zack and Zane’s, a beekeeper with a line of insanely hot sauces, mustard and a line of cream cheese spiked with Habanero peppers. Who would think a pretty little jar with a gold top could make your eyes water? Holy Jesus on a cracker! This stuff packed a punch, one I wasn’t expecting as the creamy texture soon exploded into pure heat. It would be sure to add flavor to any cream sauce or dip, and many recipes are offered up on the web including the devil’s eggs, a dish that would blow the lid off of your next picnic to say the least. Creative use of balance made this a winning booth for me, with products in a range to please every palate. terry

Terry of Baron's Kitchen

Terry of Baron’s Kitchen

My favorite of the show was a Portuguese Repolho Relish crafted in West Hurley, NY by Terry Baron of Baron’s International Kitchen. Using family recipes from the Caribbean, the West Indies and Portugal, Terry, a former marketing executive, is heating up the kitchen with marinades, sauces and condiments that I loved. I can’t wait to try her relish with a cheese plate.

Hundreds of samples were available, everything from the mildest of salsa (named girly, girl!), to gasp inducing products with names to match. I wasn’t as brave as some, one young woman who resembled a whirling dervish convinced me to avoid something called Volcano Dust. Clearly not something to try if you’re not up to busting a move or two.

Everyone had great fun at this event, I look forward to next year, I think it will only get better, and now I’ve got a bit of experience navigating my way around the pain to savor the pleasures offered at this event filled with flavor.



Till next year.......

Till next year…….

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Filed under NYC Wine Bars and Restaurants, Travel, wine and food culture, Wine Pairing Recipes

Discovering Carmignano, An afternoon with Countess Bea Contini Bonacossi

Countess Bea Contini Bonacoss

Countess Bea Contini Bonacoss

Some food and wine experiences stay with you as wonderful memories, the taste of a particular wine or dish can transport you to a time or place that send you daydreaming, fondly recalling the aromas and flavors you enjoyed long ago. For me, the best are composed of not only the food and wine but the stories shared by the people associated with them. Last week, happening upon a tasting of the wines of Capezzana, visions of a most extraordinary wine luncheon hosted by Countess Beatrice Contini Bonacossi were brought to mind.

Countess Bea stormed into NYC in September 2013 ready to share the unique story of Capezzana, part of the smallest DOCG in Tuscany, and the oldest appellation in Italy, dating back to 1716! Armed with treats she brought from home ( including farro from her own farm and a yeast starter) she hosted a number of events for press in an artist loft she rented. Chef Paul Lang, who spent time at the estate learning the family recipes, was brought on board to create menus that mirrored a typical meal at Bea’s estate.

I was fortunate to attend one of these events that began with a vertical tasting of  Villa di Capezzana (Sangiovese, Cabernet blend) and ended with a Vin Santo Riserva, served with Bea’s fresh-baked bread and regional cheeses drizzled with a magical elixir made from Capezzana’s vintage olive oil, herbs and honey.  Not your typical press luncheon. The attention to detail, unpretentious warmth and authentic experience made me want to go home and book a week-long stay with Bea and her family! For now I’ll have to be happy to be able to enjoy the fine wines and olive oil made there.

Vertical tasting of Villa di Capezzana

Vertical tasting of Villa di Capezzana

Capezzana is situated in northern Tuscany, in the commune of Carmignano in the province of Prato, 20 km from Florence, on the slopes of Monte Albano and close to the Tuscan Apennines. The location describes the uniqueness of its climate, the altitude (approximately 200 m above sea level) is such that daytime temperatures in the summer are high, where nights are cool, due to the winds off the Apennines. Today the Capezzana estate is home to fine wine and olive oil production, an agritourism farmhouse featuring tours and cooking classes, and La Vinsantaia, a wine bar serving Capezzanna’s wines and specialties grown and prepared at the estate. This is a true family affair with Bea as Capezzana’s spokesperson and her three siblings taking the reins in other aspects of the business. Bea’s sister Benedetta is the winemaker, her brother Vittorio in charge of the vineyards, her brother Filippo handles the company’s olive oil business and the younger generation runs the wine bar.  A visit to Capezzana to meet this enterprising family would surely be a dream come true for any food and wine aficionado!

My favorites of the day -

Villa di Capezzana D.O.C.G. 2008: Villa di Capezzana is the flagship of the estate. It is composed of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The cellar at Capezzana has vintages dating back to the 20s, I was blow away by how well the older vintages stood the test of time. Fine wine making at its best is certainly in practice here.

Vin Santo Riserva D.O.C. 2006: A blend of Trebbiano and San Colombano,  this Vin Santo is said to be the favorite of the matriarch of the estate! This rare wine is the perfect ending to any meal! I found myself reaching for more to pair with the lovely cheeses served at the end of our meal.

Available online at Frankly Wine

Capezzana olive oil, honey drizzle for cheese-

After tasting Chef Paul’s drizzle I had to make my own at home with Capezzana’s olive oil! Enjoy!

A magical drizzle for any cheese!

A magical drizzle for any cheese!

2/3 cup Acacia honey

1/3 cup Capezzana vintage olive oil

2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Toast slivered almonds in skillet over low heat till slightly golden, remove from heat and allow to cool at  room temperature. Blend honey and olive oil in deep bowl with whisk or stick blender till well mixed. Add almonds and thyme and stir with large spoon till evenly distributed. Serve drilled over cheese or for bread dipping.

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Filed under cheese pairings, Travel, wine and food culture, Wine Pairing Recipes

St. Patrick’s Day Cocktail Time; Jameson Mocha Flip

St. Patrick’s Day tipples can be quite predictable. Guinness, Irish Whiskey, Irish coffee and Bailey’s are present at many celebrations. I’m a big fan of Irish Whiskey, but when it comes to Bailey’s I’d rather make my own spin on it for a fresher cream flavor with a touch of coffee and spice.

Using organic light cream, fair trade dark chocolate and high quality coffee turns this St. Patrick’s Day inspired drink into a craft cocktail. One you can enjoy year round, as an after dinner treat, alone or with a rich chocolate cake!

Jameson Mocha Flip

Jameson Mocha Flip

Jameson Mocha Flip

1 oz. Jameson

1/2 oz. cognac

2 oz. organic light cream

1 oz. mocha syrup

Syrup recipe -

1 cup strong brewed espresso coffee

1 3.5 oz. Organic dark chocolate bar, 70% cacao

1/2 cup refined sugar

1 pinch each, sea salt, nutmeg, cinnamon

1/2 vanilla bean, sliced in half

break up chocolate into small pieces in small saucepan. Add espresso, sugar, vanilla bean, salt  and all spices. Simmer on low heat, stirring with wooden spoon until chocolate is melted and sugar is incorporated. Simmer for 10-15 minutes till just slightly thickened. Remove vanilla bean. Cool and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks. Can also be used over ice cream, pancakes or in chocolate milk!

Build cocktail -

Fill medium-sized cocktail shaker with ice. Pour cream, Jameson, cognac and syrup into shaker. Shake until outside of shaker is chilled and frosty. Strain into up glass and garnish with ground cinnamon. Enjoy!


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A bowl of soup, a glass of wine, and thou; Gamay loves French onion soup

Gamay infused onion soup with Comte cheese

Gamay infused onion soup with Comte cheese

Many people only think of Gamay as the grape associated with Beaujolais Nouveau, an early release wine, originally made to celebrate the end of harvest. Clever marketing launched it into the American market in the 80s, complete with colorful labels and midnight parties to celebrate its release on the third Thursday of November. Fermented using carbonic maceration, it’s a fruity, fun wine with flavors of  juicy strawberry, walnut and candied apple. Admittedly I’m not a fan. But, there’s so much more to this grape, and the wines made from it, not only in Beaujolais but the  in Loire Valley, Canada and parts of the United States. One of my favorite local wines, from NY’s Hudson Valley, is in fact Whitecliff Winery’s Gamay 

miss vicky fIn Beaujolais the vines are generally trained in low to the ground bush (goblet) system and grown in limestone-clay and granite or schist based soils that give many of the cru wines a distinct quality. AOC Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages are wines that can be flinty, perfumed beauties with a rich silky texture. Wines from one of the ten “cru” villages tend to be more structured and even capable of aging. My favorites hail from the cru’s of Fleurie and Morgon, their velvety tannins and fresh acidity makes them a perfect wine to pair with roast chicken, turkey, a number of softer aromatic cheeses and brothy soups. These wines can also be used to make a memorable French onion soup or coq au vin! Great values abound with many of the better wines in the $15-25 range.

My picks!

Chateau des Moriers, Miss Vicky Fleurie, 2012- This Fleurie is fresh, elegant, fun and sexy. You will love its feminine style and  flavors of ripe cherry and red currant.  Soft and crispy in the mouth, with aromas and taste that bring to mind a bouquet of spring flowers.

Michel Guignier, AOC Beaujolias, 2012- Soft, juicy mouthfeel with a stoney finish. Wonderful segway into the world of Gamay. Serve with a slight chill.

Domaine J Chamonard Le Clos de Lys Morgon 2012- Cranberry, ripe cherry, herbs, earth and fresh, juicy acidity with a velvety mouthfeel.

Soup, soupe or sop?

Our modern use of the word soup derives from the French word soupe but when cooks in the Middle Ages spoke of soupe ( or sop ) they were most often referring to  a dish comprising primarily a piece of bread or toast soaked in a liquid or over which a liquid had been poured. The bread or toast was an important  part of this dish and a handy way to eat it without looking like a barbarian.

Mentions of onion soups date back to Roman times but a ravenous French monarch seems to be credited with the version we enjoy today. Stuck in a hunting lodge without a stocked pantry this resourceful man created a tasty soup from wine, bread, butter and onions. Perhaps he had his cooks add cheese when he returned home and recreated it for his friends? I don’t know if this fable is true, regardless, whoever thought of this perfect marriage of wine, bread and browned, crispy, melted cheese was a genius. It’s a delicious and comforting treat.

I’ve made many different versions of onion soup. There are literally hundreds of different recipes suggesting adding everything from Champagne to Sherry. Trial and error led me to perfect the recipe below, I believe red wine makes a more flavorful version and eliminates the sweetness that adding a Sherry can bring. Including the use of Comte cheese instead of Swiss or Gruyère brings another level of joy to this classic. Made and served with Gamay this soup is sure to become a favorite to add to your table.

Perfect onion soup

Perfect onion soup

Onion Soup Gratinee

makes 5 to 6 servings


2 tbsp butter

4 cups sliced onions

2 shallots sliced thin

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

6 whole peppercorns

2 cups Gamay wine

2 oz brandy

5 cups beef stock or broth

1 lb Comte cheese, sliced thin, available at many specialty grocers and cheese shops

8 slices toasted baguette

Preparation- In large stock pot melt butter and add onions, shallots. Cook over low heat for 45 to 1 hour stirring occasionally. Onions should be carmelized and brown.

Add all liquid and spices and simmer for 1/2 hr at low boil.

In flame-proof bowls divide soup making sure to have an equal portion of broth and onion. Top with toast to fit around top of bowl, break pieces if necessary to cover surface. Top bread with sliced cheese and bake in preheated 400 degree oven till browned and bubbly.


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Filed under Soups, Wine and Cheese Pairings, wine and food culture, Wine Pairing Recipes