Category Archives: unusual grape varieties

Île de la Beauté Rosé, Dom. Fazi, 2013; A refreshing Summer steal from Corsica

A Summer steal under $10

A Summer steal under $10

Admittedly I’ve tasted very little Corsican wine, but, by chance my favorite go to refresher of last summer and this season both hail from this island in the Mediterranean Sea, to the west of Italy and to the southeast of the French mainland. Corsica is known for its rugged, steep terrain, savage beauty, ancient winemaking history and an assortment of native grapes including Sciaccarellu, a thick-skinned gem used to make meaty, peppery, reds and an aromatic, herbal rose that pairs well with many summer starters.

My current favorite summer sipper,  Domaine Fazi, IGP Ile de la Beute (translation, Island of Beauty!) Corsican Rose is made from a combination of Sciaccarellu – 35%; Merlot – 30%; Grenache – 25%, and  Cinsault -10%, all vinified separately using cold liquid stabilization and cool fermentation to preserve the unique flavors and aromas of the grapes. A truly magical mix of fruit that creates a simply delicious wine for under $10! With just a whisper of herbal spice, ripe berries and a long, balanced finish this relatively low alcohol (11.5%) wine is one to have on hand all season. This wine is just GOOD! Try it with everything from tapas to simple grilled dishes or with my tasty turkey burger below. I suggest ordering a case as at this price its sure to go fast. Available at Astor Wines, $9.96


Mediterranean Turkey Burger

The best turkey burger you'll ever eat!

The best turkey burger you’ll ever eat!

Makes 4 burgers

1 pound ground Turkey

1/4 cup finely chopped Kalamata olives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/4 cup chopped red pepper

2 med shallot finely chopped

1 teaspoon course grind pepper

1 teaspoon sumac spice,

1 teaspoon lemon zest

For garnish- 1 cup sautéed spinach, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper

1 cup Mt. Vikos Feta cheese, crumbled and drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sriracha sauce to tast

e Lightly mix all spices and chopped veggies into ground turkey. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Form into burgers and cook on lightly oiled preheated grill, about 5 minutes for first side, flip and top with feta, cook additional 5 minutes. Do not push down on patty while cooking as you want a juicy burger! Place on warm toasted roll with sautéed spinach, Sriracha sauce and tomato. Pour some rose and enjoy!

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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.

Check out Vinkara on Facebook for news and availability in US

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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Versatile, Food Friendly, Alsatian Pinot Blanc with 3 Cheese, Spinach Crespette

alsace treatsThe region of Alsace is filled with delicious wine, food and flavor unlike any other in France. Located in Eastern France along the Rhine bordering Germany and Switzerland its wine and food are a unique blend of different cultures and history. Town squares are full of people eating Quiche, piles of Choucroute garnie (smoked pork steeped in kraut), Flamm’kueche  (flatbread baked with onion, lardons)  and local superbly foul Munster cheese.

White wines shine here. It’s known for its lean, sleek Riesling, rich style of Pinot Gris and spicy Gewürztraminer. Another winner in white are the Pinot Blanc wines of the region. The Pinot Blanc wines of Alsace can be some of the best choices for a number of food pairings. It must be noted that producers in this region often blend Pinot Blanc with Auxerrois as Auxerrois offers less acidity, a richer texture and a slightly spicier note than Pinot Blanc, many in Alsace believe the two varieties mix well together. Therefore, a wine labeled as Pinot Blanc can be either 100% Pinot Blanc, or a blend of the two varieties. Wines that are made entirely from  Auxerrois are labeled accordingly.

Ancient cellars in Strasbourg hospital

Ancient cellars in Strasbourg

The best examples are medium bodied with a long fresh finish. Fruit forward yet dry, slightly floral yet not overly perfumed with aromas of blossom, peach and pear drop. The versatility of this wine marries well with not only egg, cream based or cheese dishes, it also can be served with many vegetables and green salads. Many are also a steal when it comes to quality for price. I recently tasted a few favorites to select  a pairing for crespettes in béchamel, stuffed with 3 cheeses and spinach. The three below were my choices for a simple yet elegant meal made from homemade crespettes, a bit of a cross between crepes and pasta, served in a silky cream. Pick up one of these finds and try my recipe for a special night of food and wine heaven.

20130622_144447Pinot Blanc, Louis Sipp ,2012- The name says it all, this wine is worthy of sip after sip full of fresh white blossom, minerality and ripe tree fruit. A steal at under $15.

Lucien Albrecht Reserve Pinot Blanc 2012- For under $12 this is ridiculously good. Ripe fruit with a weightyzind h p texture. Juicy peach, pear, a touch of spice and a crisp lingering finish.

Zind Humbrecht Pinot Blanc 2011- I’ve honestly never had a wine from this domaine that I didn’t like. Zippy ginger, smoke, lush fruit and a plush texture. This is anything but neutral. Delicious for around $20.

Louis Sipp Pinot Blanc with Spinach Crespette

Louis Sipp Pinot Blanc with Spinach Crespette

3 Cheese and spinach crespette with bechamel sauce

Recipe and ingredients


16 oz. fresh ricotta, you can sub part skim if you cannot find fresh

2 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella,( 1 cup for filling, 1 cup set aside for topping)

1/2 cup shredded parmesan Reggiano

1 cup finely chopped spinach, sautéed in 1 tsp. butter, cooled and drained of any liquid

1 large egg

pinch of sea salt, white pepper

Cook spinach and set aside to cool. In large bowl mix all other ingredients. Add spinach and blend. Cover and refrigerate, may be made a day ahead.

For crespettes:

3 Large eggs, room temperature

1.5 cup whole milk, room temperature

3 tablespoons Melted Butter
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon sea salt

pinch white pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

crepeWhisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper till well blended, add melted butter and whisk again till well incorporated. Put flour in large bowl and slowly add egg mixture blending with whisk or stick blender with smooth. Stir in parsley, cover and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Pre heat large fry pan over medium heat (greased lightly with olive oil), add a small ladle full of batter and work pan around to spread batter into circle. Cook till set and flip carefully to cook top side. Do not over cook, just a very light golden brown is fine. Separate with foil or wax paper as you work. Makes 12 medium-sized crespettes.

Ingredient for béchamel sauce-

6 tablespoons butter, 3.5 tablespoons flour, 2 cups milk

directions for my  favorite bechamel  recipe.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Assemble and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour- In large roasting pan ladel enought bechamel to cover bottom. Fill crespettes with spinach/cheese mixture as shown above and roll into tight tubes. Arrange tubes lengthwise and cover with more sauce, making sure to get sauce  in between each tube. Top with reserved mozzarella, cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15-20 minutes till just slightly browned. Serve with additional sauce and extra cheese if desired.

*Note, I also added blanched asparagus in between crespettes but this is not necessary.

Enjoy! Cheers!

out of the oven

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Lagrein; An unusual grape for delicious wine and cheese

Alto Adige, the scenic home of  Lagrein

Alto Adige, the scenic home of Lagrein

Alto Adige is an idyllic fairy land filled with mountain views, delicious wine and local flavor. This small region, nestled in the Italian Alps bordering Austria may be better known for its aromatic white wines, including the heady Gewürztraminer, but, the indigenous red grape Lagrein is producing a number of well made wines worthy of a second look. Admittedly when I visited this region I wasn’t really focused on tasting reds. Looking back on tasting notes a dizzying amount of perfumed prose was scribbled in every margin to describe the many whites I sampled in the area. But, after a day of tasting whites I longed for a red to sip with my lunch served al fresco on that chilly fall day, pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter. My server brought me a few different local reds made from Lagrein to sample and as I sipped through the selection I was impressed with the quality and flavor. This wine added to an already memorable day spent in one of the most picturesque settings  I’ve experienced in my travels. While wine shopping the other day I spotted a few bottles of Lagrein, it instantly transported me back to that perfect day spent in Alto Adige. I couldn’t wait to get home and fill my glass with vinous memories!

press lunch at Seehofkeller

press lunch at Seehofkeller

At one time Lagrein was mainly used to make “Lagrein Kretzer”, the only rosé wine with old traditions in the Alto Adige region. The remaining quantity of juice was vinified as very dark  red wine that was often used to add more color and body to wines made from another indiginous red, the more fashionable Schiava. While the lighter bodied Schiava is a favorite in the region an interest in fuller bodied reds brought focus into developing Lagrein into a premium wine able to meet consumer demands in the 80s. Today with controlled yields and modern cellar practices Lagrein is producing a number of tasty reds with deep rich color, a plush mouth feel, silky tannins and a bright fresh acidity. They are the perfect pairing with the salty, smokey flavors in the local cured porktacular named Speck or any number of the regions cheeses.

My under $20 pick from Elana Walch

Elena Walch Lagrein

My favorite Lagrein is produced by Elena Walch, an architect turned winemaker when she married into one of the most prestigious producers in the region. Elena’s Lagrein is luscious. Grown in limestone soils at Castel Ringberg (the estates best vineyard), situated high over Lake Caldaro, Walch’s Lagrein is cool fermented in steel then aged in large French oak barrels. It’s filled with flavors and aromas of violet, stewed plum, cooked cherry and a stoney earthy minerality. A long lingering finish and balanced acidity make this a fabulous wine to pair with many foods, especially a local cheese that is bathed in the same grape, Weinkase Lagrein.

Buy this wine

Weinkase Lagrein translates to wine cheese, a no brainer for pairing. The Italian cooperative dairy that produces Lagrein cheese has 4,000 farmer members, with an average of nine cows each. I can only image the amazing pastures these lucky cows

stinky goodness

stinky goodness

must graze in. After creating wheels of a smooth, buttery cheese the cheesemakers drop it into vats of Lagrein wine along with garlic, onion, peppercorns and a variety of spices for several days, then it ages for an additional 6 weeks. The smell and flavor of this cheese reminds me of a giant Italian sub drenched in herb vinaigrette or even bratwurst with grilled onion. The smooth creamy paste melts in your mouth, it is slightly tangy yet buttery and satisfying. Tasters on more than one occasion have asked me if it contained some type of meat. It really is a must try! Be sure to pour a glass of Lagrein to pair with, it’s really a magical marriage made in Italian wine and cheese heaven, Alto Adige.

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Pairing for chilly, chili nights; American flavor to fill your bowl and glass

A Hudson Valley gem!

A Hudson Valley gem!

Hudson Valley red wines have always held a place in my winter wine glass. Fall harvest festivals stock my larders full of decisions for chilly evening sipping, with Cabernet Franc the prominent grape variety among them . Made from locally sourced fruit  Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc can produce medium bodied, lush, dark berry filled wine with just the correct amount of acidity and tannin. Many exhibit a touch of earthy character that I like to call Hudson Valley funk, think crushed Autumn leaves and forest floor. Perfect food wines to serve with a variety of dishes including hearty soups and winter one pot meals.

Another stellar choice is the hybrid Baco Noir, a specialty for more than one vineyard in the Valley. While some have never heard of this hometown favorite is has a bit of a cult following. Hudson Chatham’s Baco (my personal favorite), featured in several NYC wine shops, has gained a loyal fan base and is changing the minds of many sceptical vinifera snobs. Its flavor and aromas of bright cherry, cooked strawberry, gravely stone, a hint of roasted walnut and juicy finish remind me a bit of a Cru Beaujolais.

Pick up a Hudson Valley red and conjure up a pot of my recipe for Chicken chili! The touch of savory, slightly spicy heat pairs well with the cooked berry flavors in the wine. Use a local cheese to garnish and experience a bit of American flavor, in your glass and belly filled with yummy winter warmth.

White Bean Chicken Chili

white bean and chicken chili

white bean and chicken chili

Ingredients, 4 dinner sized servings

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 large boneless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into medium dice

2 celery ribs, 1 carrot, 2 medium onion, 1 large jalapeño pepper (ribs and seeds removed), 2 cloves garlic, 1 large green pepper-  all cut into small dice

2 cups Great Northern dried white beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon Cajun spice, I like Slap your Mama but your favorite will do

1 teaspoon kosher salt

white pepper to taste

5 cups chicken broth

1 cup peeled whole tomatoes, puree in blender or mash into pulp by hand

For garnish

2 cups shredded sharp cheese, I use Tumbleweed from 5 Spoke Creamery but you may sub your favorite local cheddar

1 cup sour cream

2 chopped scallions

1 sliced avocado (optional)

Add oil to large stockpot over medium heat. Add all veggies and cook till onion is translucent. Add chicken and cook for 10 minutes stirring often. Add all spices and stir to incorporate, cook for a few minutes to blend flavors. Add drained beans, chicken broth, tomatoes and bring to low simmer. Cook for 2 hours or till beans are soft and liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally . If you like a looser chili you may add a bit more broth or water.

Serve topped with shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped scallion.



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