I love this time of year. Although the changing of the seasons can seem a little schizophrenic. 80 degrees one day; raining and overcast the next. But this is harvest time, the final bounty of summer. True, it can be hard to plan for dinner just because of the bounty. Here is a dish that is ideal for the cooling weather.
Truffle Mushroom Risotto. Made with sautéed mushrooms and spiked with truffle and porcini this is a rich creamy side dish or Primo for an elegant dinner. I always make a little extra so I can have it for lunch the next day.
One of things I really like about this dish is that it pairs well with an array of wines. It plays well with nice Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay when served as a starter but also holds its own alongside fuller bodied reds. The earthiness of the mushrooms and the added umami of the Grana Padano make for a perfect match to a rustic styled Sangiovese.
I am a big fan of Sangiovese and I think that Chianti doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Sangiovese and Chianti in particular, is a food loving wine. Italians drink wine with food and make wine to go with food; every meal; every day. So there is a lot of really great Italian wine that you can afford to drink every day. You can get yourself a great Chianti for not a lot of money. Take for example the Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2013, a wine that Antonio Galloni called, “… a jewel of a wine from the Frescobaldi family.” The Frescobaldi are a prominent Florentine noble family that have been involved in the political, sociological, and economic history of Tuscany since the Middle Ages.
“The 2013 Chianti Classico I Bastioni is terrific. Bright red berry, rose petal, mint and anise are some of the signatures in a refined Chianti Classico that exemplifies the style of wine that is typical of the northern reaches of the appellation. The 2012 also shows the potential at Collazzi, which appears to be considerable. Merlot and Malvasia Nera round out the blend.” 92 points Antonio Galloni, Vinous
If you are planning on serving this dish with something more robust like Brasato or Bistecca Fiorentina you could step up to a “Super Tuscan”. These are wines made with international varietals like Cabernet. These wines make for a great conciliation between old world and new. If you are entertaining people who are familiar with Napa than Siena, this makes for great compromise.
I have favorite go to “Super” – Montepeloso A Quo. This wine is a balance of Cabernet, Montepulciano and Sangiovese with a little Alicante Bouschet from one of Tuscany’s most exciting winemakers.
Quietly over the past decade, Montepeloso’s Fabio Chiarelotto has emerged as one of the towering winemakers of the Tuscan coast. His windy site sits above the famed Tua Rita estate in Suvereto, producing red wines that are among the region’s most refined. When he purchased Montepeloso in 1998, it was already well on its way to international stardom. Chiarelotto could have rested on that reputation, but he felt that as the vines and been planted and trained, the site would never reach its full potential. And so he spent years reshaping the vineyards.
For eight long years, Chiarelotto painstakingly reshaped the estate’s vineyards. With each vintage, he experimented with blends and techniques that would harness the latent power provided by the terroir, but temper it so that the terroir could fully express itself.
Looking back, he made the right decision, as today Montepeloso has few rivals on the Tuscan coast for producing wines of riveting complexity and great elegance. Proprietor Fabio Chiarelotto succeeded in capturing the best elements of these sites while also shaping his wines with a level of finesse that is remarkable.
“The 2013 A Quo is a robust red blend based primarily on Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. The quality of the primary fruit is succulent, plump and rich. So are the background aromas of cinnamon, vanilla bean and toasted almond. This was a good vintage across Tuscany. The finish is exceedingly rich and supple with firmly yielding tannins.” 92 Pts Wine Advocate
So no matter if you how you serve this Truffle Mushroom Risotto there is a wine out there for your mood, company or menu.
Truffled Mushroom Risotto
2 cups Water, or more if needed
1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small Onion, Diced
2 cups Arborio Rice
2 cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
1 Dried Whole Bay Leaf
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 sprig Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
Ground White Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 truffle finely grated
4 ounces Crimini mushrooms, or combination of seasonal mushrooms
2 tablespoons Butter
2 ounces Marsala
2 scallions sliced
Grada Padano Cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
1⁄2 cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Flat Leaf Parsley, Chopped fine
- Combine 2 cups water and dried porcini mushroom in a small sauce pan and simmer to reconstitute.
- In a large pan sweat onions in olive oil add Arborio stir to coat with olive oil
- In small batches add chicken stock adding just enough to cover the rice.
- Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and white pepper
- Using a microplane finely grate truffle into rice.
- Strain porcini and reserve the liquid. Finely dice the porcini and add to risotto.
- Slowly cook risotto over medium heat adding stock and reserved porcini water. Cook until rice is al dente, cooked to be firm to the bite. Add more water if necessary.
- Add cream and continue to stir remove from heat add about 1 cup of Grana Padano and chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning if needed.
- Garniture: sauté fresh mushrooms in butter until brown and soft, deglaze with Marsala and add fresh scallions set aside.
- To serve garnish with mushrooms and serve with extra Grana Padano
During the summer months I cook almost every meal outside. When I have time I Barbecue but many nights it is easy to fire up the grill for dinner. Salmon, Chicken, pork all work well, and there is something spectacular about grilled vegetables. Asparagus is so simple and quick I grill them up almost every chance I get. And then there is steak.
Around the globe, for as long as we have been around we have cooked over an open fire. If there is one thing quintessential dish that seems the grill was invented for is steak. There are many variations of the dish as there are languages on the planet. In Italy it is customary to serve a grilled steak simply with just salt and pepper and maybe a squeeze of lemon, alla Fiorentina. The simplicity of the dish is characteristically Italian so use the best ingredients for the greatest results
Here is my simple version that cooks quickly and makes quite an impression.
Grilled T-Bone with Lemon and Parsley
2 ea 1 lb (1 ½” – 2” thick) T-Bone
¼ Cup Olive Oil, plus more for serving
Black Pepper, freshly ground
*** For Serving
2 Cups Arugula
2 lb Asparagus
1. In a bowl large enough for steak place rosemary and steak and drizzle with olive oil. Let the steak rest outside the refrigerator for at least an hour before cooking.
2. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat (450 -500).
3. Using tongs, lay steak over the hottest part of the fire, cook 2 – 5- 7 minutes. Turn the steak and sprinkle with salt. Cook on the second side until browned, 2 – 3 minutes more.
4. Remove the steaks to a carving board and let rest for at least 5 minutes before carving.
5. Cut the steaks away from the bone and carve into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the meat on warmed plates season with salt and pepper.
6. Garnish with lemon wedges and arugula
7. Have more sea salt and pepper available at the table
8. Serve with Roasted Potatoes and grilled asparagus
Now in Florence they would have drink a nice Chianti or Brunello. But I like go even lighter in the summer, and a perfect summer red is Barbera. Barbera has ancient origins, the first documented mention of the grape is in 1798, in a letter by Count Giuseppe Nuvolone-Pergamo of Scandaluzzo, deputy director of the Società Agraria di Torino (Agrarian Society of Turin). Barbera-based wines were well regarded even then, for their rustic yet generous character.
Barbera wines are esteemed for their deep color, low tannins and high levels of acidity. When young they offer fresh flavors of cherries, blueberries and raspberries. Relatively rich, bold and flavorful, the most powerful examples might just be compared to Barolo or Barbaresco. Barbera is a great summertime wine. Serve it slightly chilled and it makes a great afternoon supper wine, especially on a hot day.
One of our favorite producers is Renatto Ratti. Founded in 1965 about Renato himself and now his nephew Massimo runs the operation. The original winery was built in an old abbey located halfway up the hill in the valley of Barolo. Here buttressed by steep slopes lined by orderly vineyards, lies a precious jewel from the 15th century: the Abbey of Annunziata. From the 100 acres of vineyards, the Renato Ratti winery produces Barolo, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba.
Many of you have been asking about the La Caja China roaster, stacked with an assortment of Friulian delights, on our entry way carpet. We’ve brought in a pig roasting box emblazoned with Scarpetta Wines and we can’t wait to share the excitement with you!
Scarpetta Wines was started by Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Patterson. Bobby is a Master Sommelier and James Beard Award Winner. Lachlan is an award winning chef. Together, they own Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Co. which was nominated this year for Outstanding Restaurant in America. Accolades aside, these guys know what they are doing and they’re doing it right. They bring the countryside of Friuli to every glass and plate they present.
With an obsession with Friuli, Bobby and Lachlan have been blazing their way through the states. And, we have some of their Scarpetta Wines in our store to celebrate!
Join as we serve Porchetta Panini along with Scarpetta Wines at our Scarpetta Pig Roast event on Saturday, June 3rd, 2-PM. We hope to see you there!
Italy! The Land of the Vine, according to the ancient Greeks; nowhere else is wine so closely intertwined with daily life in every village throughout the Italian peninsula – not even France. Nowhere else is there such a enormous array of excellent native varietals.
Beginning Sunday April 2nd, Sommelier Arnie Millan will be offering an in-depth look at Italian wine with three classes, each organized by region:
1. April 2nd – The South (Campagnia, Sicily, Puglia, Calabria, Sardinia, Basilicata) 1-4:30PM in the Sky Lounge $69
2. April 23rd – The Center (Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, The Marches, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Molise, Abruzzi) 1- 4:30PM in the Sky Lounge $69
3. April 30th – The North (Piedmont, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy, Veneto, Alto Aldige/Trentino, Friuli-Giulia-Venezie) 1-4:30PM in the Sky Lounge $69
Join us for the complete series $195, tickets available here>>
Each region, its history and wines, will be discussed in depth. Classes will include tasting regional wines. We will taste 8 wines per class from the Italy’s greatest appellations. Free parking is available in Esquin’s lot on the South end of our building. The Seattle Times recently named Arnie “The finest Wine Mind in Seattle.”
FOOD + WINE CLASSES with Lenny Rede
April 9th – Bourbon and Barbecue! 2-4PM in the Sky LoungeTwo great tastes that taste great together. We will explore a variety of styles of barbecue and an equal number of bourbons, including a few local favorites! Do’s and don’ts on how to make your next BBQ the best party ever. $49 Call 206.682.7374 to register. Advance registration is necessary. Gift Certificates are available.
In the world of wine that at times seems overwhelming in its complexity from the number of varietals, ever-changing rules, new and evolving appellations, wine styles, trends and so on, Italy may pose the greatest challenge. Spend some time unlocking some of its mysteries, however, and you’ll be endlessly rewarded.
A case in point is the relatively obscure grape named Lacrima, an indigenous varietal of the Marche region of Italy’s eastern coast. Lacrima translates as ‘tears’, the moniker supposedly earned by the variety’s tendency to release droplets of juice through the thin skin of fully ripe grapes when they inevitably rupture. It is almost entirely found in the DOC Lacrima di Morro d’Alba and owes much to local producer Mario Lucchetti, who played a pivotal role in its survival and modern day renaissance.
Azienda Agricola Mario Lucchetti is the third-generation estate that he helms alongside son Paolo, daughter-in-law Tiziana and acclaimed winemaking consultant Alberto Mazzoni. It now produces four separate iterations of Lacrima, including ultra small quantities of a highly sought after Amarone-styled example, as well as a Verdicchio on 34 acres that Mario began planting in the early 1980s.
We were able to sit and taste through the current vintage of Mario Lucchetti wines with Paolo and Tiziana a couple of months back prior to their release. It feels like we’ve been waiting a lifetime for these wines to arrive – that’s how much we enjoyed them.
As we quizzed them on farming and winemaking techniques, the pair repeatedly stressed the hands-on, small scale approach they take in every aspect of production, from employing hand harvesting to ensure optimum selection to using only organic treatments and forbidding the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides altogether. They use nothing but ambient yeasts and renounce the use of oak, or other grapes for that matter, in order to showcase 100% Lacrima at it’s unmasked best. This is worth noting in a DOC which allows blending of up to 15% of Montepulciano or Verdicchio to help round out a vintage.
Light to medium-bodied, Lucchetti’s reds are perfect summertime wines that will pair nicely with lighter fare, outdoors on one of Seattle’s warmer afternoons, perhaps with a slight chill on them. And don’t be fooled – these wines do have some aging potential (3-6 years). They’re also priced fantastically, so don’t be shy about grabbing a bottle or three next time you’re in the store. Give them a shot and let us know what you think!
I’ve always been a big fan of Prosecco, the charming and thirst-slaking Italian sparkling wine, for festive and casual bubbles imbibing. At a recent lunch at Serafina, I was reminded what a great food wine it is as well. Prosecco belongs on your lunch (and dinner) table!
The Proseccos we enjoyed were from Valdo, a shop favorite. Their Brut DOC is a machine here at Esquin. The staff loves it and so do our customers. They also make an excellent Rosé Brut, though don’t call it Prosecco! The Italian wine laws in the region have recently changed to protect the good name of true Prosecco; it has to be made from the Glera grape and in a specific geographic area. The Rosé is made from the Nerello Mascalese grape (surely you’ve heard of it) and is a joy to drink. Ultra-fun! It was perfection with the Calamari, especially with the touch of chile flake giving a little heat. (The Brut DOC was no slouch with it, either. I was alternating back and forth between the two.)
Most unexpectedly, the Prosecco even worked with a sweet pea and ricotta ravioli (with taragon butter and sauteed pea vines, to boot) The sweetness of the peas was a nice match with the DOC Brut, which has a whisper of sweetness.
But my favorite pairing was with the tuna at the top of the post. I devoured it with two special Proseccos from Valdo: The “Cuvee di Boj” and “Cuvee Fondatore”. Both have DOCG status, which denotes the highest quality in the Prosecco region. These Proseccos were drier, more elegant, and most harmonious with the tuna and its melted leeks, fingerling potatoes, and frisee salad with a basil-grapefruit vinaigrette.
It was a wonderful lunch made even more wonderful by convivial dining companions and and special guest Dr. Pierluigi Bolla, the President of Valdo. Hard to think of a more personable and genuine ambassador for the region and the wines. Bravo!
Full disclosure: I was a guest of the importer and distributor who provided the food and wine.
It’s here: the big finish to the three-day Italian wine extravaganza that is VINO 2011. A tasting of wines so deep, so enormous, and so loaded with every type of wine imaginable (reds, whites, rosés, sparklers, dessert) that I desperately needed this map:
Once again, navigating your way through an event like this requires strategic planning. My first order of business was to hustle to the Allegrini table to see my friend Robin.
Not only is he a dapper and charming fellow, he happens to represent two of my favorite Italian wines. Pictured is the Amarone, which for a wine of such concentration, richness, and strength somehow finishes with an elegance belying its brawny profile. And I wouldn’t dare step away from the table without trying what I consider to be an iconic wine of the Veneto: La Poja. It’s a single-vineyard, 100% Corvina that you need to get into your glass ASAP. (I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention that Robin knows where the best pizza in New York is: Kesté. Check out this review with great photos from one of my absolute favorite food blogs, John and Elana Talk About Food. But I digress….)
So where did I go from here? I decided that I just was going to try totally unfamiliar wines. Like this late-harvest Primitivo from Cignomoro. It was a sweet, but not cloying, red wine that I would love with some fromage blanc cheesecake or blue cheese. (I dig the labels, too.)
Or how about a Passerina from the Marche? Made by Domodimonti, it’s a crisp and dry white. And I really liked their Pecorino (not the cheese, the grape) which had a nice richness from oak aging and would be great with heartier seafood dishes.
Needing a break from wine, I wandered over to the area of the tasting I call “Aperitif Alley.” (Or possibly more accurate, the “Digestive Detour.”) Loveliest was a beautiful anise liqueur from Varnelli, pictured on the left. I adore the flavor of black licorice, especially in clear alcoholic form.
This post was composed in the VINO 2011 Press Room, and greatly aided by the genius-in-a-pouch combo of espresso, sugar, and Varnelli over ice.
Full disclosure: The Italian Trade Commission has provided my transportation and accommodations.
Greetings from VINO 2011 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, a wine conference sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission. How do you navigate a wine tasting with over 80 producers, each pouring multiple wines? Do you try them all? Although tempting (purely in the interest of seeking more wine knowledge, ahem), the answer is no. I did a quick survey of the room and honed in on one target: bubbles. I’ve always loved the wines of Northern Italy for their freshness and purity so it was no surprise that I flipped for the sparkling wines of Maso Martis from the Trento region. Pure, elegant, and crisp, I found a lot to love from the Brut, Brut Rosé, and the Brut Riserva.
Another highlight was a red wine from Talis in Friuli, the Purpureo. It’s a Bordeaux-style bend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve been recently exposed to a ton of red wine that has been lavishly slathered with oak, so it was a great change of pace to drink a red that tasted of fruit and varietal character(s) rather than oak. I guessed that the Purpureo was unoaked, but it turns out it gets a brief stay in the barrel. But don’t confuse unoaked with wimpy; it had plenty of tannin to balance the fruit. I wish I just could have walked off with the bottle, headed to the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria, and curled up in a big chair with only a good book to accompany my wine. (I guess it wouldn’t of hurt to ask if I could have done so, no?)
So what are some of your recent wine discoveries?
Full disclosure: The Italian Trade Commission has provided my transportation and accommodations.
Sometimes you can learn a lot about a wine from a back label. Let’s take the Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede for instance. This single-vineyard gem is not only thirst-slaking, palate-cleansing, and party-starting, but the good folks at Bisol are kind enough to let you know the vintage of the bottle in your hand. Even better, you can tell when it was bottled by deciphering the lot number. No Rosetta stone necessary: L10082 means it was bottled on the 82nd day of 2010. With most Proseccos, and sparkling wines in general, there is no way to discern freshness based on what you see on the label. (And here is where I must say that we sell oceans of bubbles at Esquin; nothing that we love sits around for any extended period of time.)
This is a practice I would like to see more sparkling wine producers undertake, beyond their vintage-dated offerings. For non-vintage wines that do not go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, why not stamp the date it was bottled on the back label? If it’s good enough for Budweiser, it’s good enough for all your quality sparkling wines that peak in their youth.
Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede: $20