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Felsina Beradenga Chianti and Tuscan Sausage and Tortellini Soup

In the world of wine there are some wines that are just misunderstood. Riesling is probably the best example, Viognier is another; but the one wine with the most baggage is probably Chianti. Everyone knows Chianti, but it seems not many understand Chianti. Those of us of a certain age remember the straw basket wrapped Il Fiasco Chiantis of yore. Chianti like many regions was a victim of its own success. Now don’t get me wrong we sell a lot of Chianti and here dedicate as much floor space to wines of Tuscany as we do those of Bordeaux.

If you wanted to try a benchmark Chianti I can think of none better than Fattoria di Fèlsina. Located in the village of Castelnuovo Berardenga in the province of Siena, Felsina has long been one of the great names in Chianti. Fèlsina produces one of the finest ranges of ageworthy and complex Chianti bottlings in all of Italy. Fèlsina has never capitulated to the use of international varietals, Sanigovese is what you will see growing in their vineyards.

Their elegant full bodied wines are some of the most well regarded in Tuscany. Felsina has been awarded the coveted Tre Bicchieri 17 times in the Gambero Rosso. The single vineyard Rancia is one of the most highly rated wines in Chianti. A personal favorite is the Beradenga Chianti Classico. Guiseppe Mazzocolin, who runs the estate of Felsina says the wine, a blend of selected top wines from all of his vineyards, falls qualitatively between the Berardenga Rancia Riserva bottling and his regular Chianti Classico. I find this wine to be outstanding nearly always. First produced in 1983, it’s a harmonious and rich red, 100 percent Sangiovese, with lots of ripe fruit and silky tannins.

Fèlsina’s 2013 Chianti Classico Berardenga shows a great level of richness and general intensity. The wine reveals a very full and luscious set of aromas with cherry and blackberry in pole position. Lighter tones of spice and tobacco fill in at the back and give the wine a greater sense of aromatic lift. The mouthfeel is also characterized by velvety richness – a delicious vintage.

Once again the critics are unanimous in their praise.


Wine Spectator- 92, Wine Enthusiast – 92, James Suckling – 92, Advocate – 91+, Vinious – 91

Chianti is a personal favorite of mine, speaking as a chef there are few wines that are more food friendly. The mix of acid, earth and fruit is a natural for pairing to everything from hearty soups, Pastas of all sorts, grilled cheese sandwiches or Steak. With this weather I could think of few dishes as satisfying as a Hearty Tuscan style sausage and kale soup.

This soup is ready in about 25 minutes and makes a wonderful supper, all you need is some good crusty bread, a drizzle of olive oil and a nice bottle of Chianti.

Tuscan Sausage, Kale and White Bean Soup with Tortellini

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sweet sausage, casing removed
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leave
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 cup red wine
1 15 ounce can Tomatoes
52 oz chicken broth
115 ounce can white cannellini beans
1 lb Cheese tortellini, fresh
1 bunch kale, stems removed chiffonade
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Freshly Grated Pecorino Toscano

For printable recipe and instructions 

We hope you enjoy the recipe and find time to share some good food and wine with friends and loved ones.

Brined Fresh ham with Cider Mustard Glaze

Everyone has heard the expression, as American as Apple Pie? How about American as Apple Cider? Everyone has heard the story John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed, but most people don’t know is that what apples he propagated were less likely to be pie and more likely to be cider, and hard cider at that.

The apples that Chapman brought to the frontier were completely distinct from the apples available at any grocery store they weren’t primarily used for eating-they were used to make America’s favorite beverage at the time, hard apple cider.

“Up until Prohibition, an apple grown in America was far less likely to be eaten than to wind up in a barrel of cider,” writes Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire. “In rural areas cider took the place of not only wine and beer but of coffee and tea, juice, and even water.”

In the US today there is nothing short of a cider renaissance, with cideries opening up at record numbers. Here in Northwest we are at a center of the action, for decades Washington has been synonymous with apples and with over 175,000 acres of orchards we produce over half the apples in the US.


We are blessed with many great cider producers but a personal favorite is Finnriver. Finnriver Cidery was founded in 2008 by Eric Jorgensen and Keith and Crystie Kisler.  The roots of the cidery began in friendship and farmland and now, with several thousand heirloom cider trees in the ground, farming and fermenting continue side by side on 80 acres in Chimacum Valley on the Olympic Peninsula.

Finnriver is at the forefront of the craft cider revival and farmcrafts a range of traditional, contemporary and seasonal ciders made primarily from organic Washington fruit, along with a line-up of spirited fruit wines.

Cider is an excellent choice for Thanksgiving, the sweet-tart flavors are a natural with the flavors of the thanksgiving table. The lower alcohol is also a nice bonus for a long lazy supper.

Here’s another wonderful alternative or addition to you holiday table.


Cider Brined Fresh Ham with Cider Mustard Glaze 

***** Brine

1 (6 to 8-pound) bone-in fresh ham

2 cups kosher salt

2 cups sugar

2 bay leaves

2 Tbs fennel seeds

2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes

4 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 gallons water

12 ounces Hard cider


4 medium scallions, coarsely chopped

2 small jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 lime, juiced and zest

2 large cloves garlic

2 Tbs chopped fresh ginger

1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme

2 Tbs chopped sage

1 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ cup olive oil


1 cup Dijon mustard

1 cup whole-grain mustard

1 cup honey

1 cup Apple Cider

Printable Recipe and Instructions

Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and Maple Glazed

Now, not all whiskies are created equal. Some are grassy, some smoky, some smell of citrus and some of salt. That smoky briny quality of Scotch is a perfect compliment for Oysters.

Some like Bourbon are sweet with hints of maple and caramel. Bourbons like these are perfect with a dense chocolate dessert (I make a Bourbon Chocolate torte that fits the bill nicely.) Apple Pie? Pumpkin Pie? Oh how about Pumpkin Pie? I think there is quite possibly no more American way to finish up your Thanksgiving dinner than with a tumbler of Kentucky Bourbon.

What could be more American than Apple Pie? How about Barbecue? How about Steak?

Below is my recipe for a Maple Bourbon Glazed Tri Tip Steak. This dish is a balance of sweet, spice, smoke and umami that pairs beautifully with a nice aged bourbon.


Maple Bourbon Glazed Tri Tip Steak

2-3 lb. Beef Tri-tip

Marinade: 1 tsp. course ground black pepper 1 tsp. chopped garlic ¼ tsp. ground thyme ¼ cup bourbon 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Glaze: ¼ cup Bourbon 2 Tablespoons Grain Mustard 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup 1 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar 2 Tablespoons Siracha

Roasting: Olive oil Sea salt Black pepper

1. Day 1: Trim Beef of any excess silver or fat. Combine ingredients for marinade. Place Tri Tip in a Ziploc bag with marinade at let rest overnight in refrigerator.

2. The next day remove tri tip from marinade and let come to room temperature.

3. Preheat oven to 250 degrees

4. Combine ingredients for glaze and set aside

5. Rub Roast with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

6. Prepare a roasting pan with a wire rack.

7. Heat a large cast iron pan on stove top. Sear each side of tri tip to brown 3-4 min each side.

8. Place roast on wire rack and place in oven.

9. Roast for about half an hour and brush roast with glaze.

10. After 20 minutes turn roast and brush with glaze again, repeating every 10 – 15 minutes until center of roast reaches 130 degrees.

11. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Printable Instructions + Recipe


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