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Italian Red Wine

A Quick Sip Of Wine: Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

italian red wine Caleo Salice Salentino 2012 puglia italy

Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

Not every bottle of wine needs a long writeup to describe it. Some bottles of wine need only a few words, and my sip of Caleo Salice Salentino 2012 is one of them. Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the wine. On the contrary, the Caleo Salice Salentino a fine bottle of red Italian wine for $9.

What Grape is Caleo Salice Salentino Made From?

Not a bad question, I’m glad you asked it. Salice Salentino is a wine producing region in Puglia. A warm region in southern Italy, Puglia, also called Apulia, is the heel of Italy’s boot. While there are a number of grapes made into wine in Puglia, Negroamaro is the primary grape in wines from Salice Salentino. Negroamaro can be blended with up to 20% Malvasia Nera di Brindisi or Malvasia Nera di Lecce to make the red wines of Salice Salentino.

italian red wine Caleo Salice Salentino 2012 puglia italy

Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

Tasting Notes on Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

I tried to find information on the Caleo winemaker and vineyards. Unfortunately, little other than reviews or companies selling the wine was available. At $9, I don’t expect much out of this red Italian wine. Rather, I expect it to be simple, quaffable, and work well with pizza, pasta, or grilled meats. The aroma is black cherry, cola and a little earthiness. The wine is not overly tannic, and negroamaro in general is a soft, fruit driven wine. On the palate, there is cherry meeting an earthy, leather core. The wine is quite dry, with fine but noticeable tannin. With my meat lover pizza, a pine needle or menthol component shows up on the wine, with the earthiness more front and center on the palate, and the fruit taking a back seat. This wine will not appeal to those who prefer a fruity, new world Cabernet Sauvignon. This is no fruit bomb. It’s a simple, straight forward, old world Italian red wine.

Are you an Italian wine lover? Which wine from Italy is your favorite? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

I Vasari – An Italian Red Wine Worth 20 Bucks

Italy

Italy

One of my goals for 2014 is to focus on Italy. Not only wine from Italy, but food, architecture, travel, and culture. Some of those things I’ll write about, and others I’ll just enjoy quietly. Of course, I love food and wine from around the world. However, a new collaboration with Lora from Cake Duchess has me thinking about Italy more than anyplace else right now. I started this Italian goal on New Year’s Eve by sipping a very nice Italian red wine, the I Vasari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 Old Vines from Fratelli Barba. Winner of Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri award in 2012, this Wine Spectator 90 point,  $20 wine has a lot to offer.

italian wine review I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Old Vines from BARBA

I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Old Vines from BARBA

What is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo?

Dissecting the label on this bottle of wine, the name of the wine is I VASARI, it was produced in the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC region of Italy. The Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOC region spans from the Central Apennines foothills down to the Adriatic coast. It’s one of Italy’s most mountainous regions. The grape Montepulciano is a red Italian wine grape variety that is widely planted in central and southern Italy. It’s rarely found in cooler northern Italy, as it typically ripens later, and needs the warmer weather to ripen sufficiently. To carry the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC designation, the wine must be at least 85% Montepulciano, the rest can be the same or Sangiovese. The I Vasari is 100% Montepuciano grapes. Finally, the producer is BARBA, which you find on the bottom of the label.

I Vasari 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Tasting Notes

After decanting about 30 minutes, the I Vasari 2008 had a bright purple color in the center of the glass to a purple/garnet outer ring. The nose was not very expressive, dried cherries and tobacco. The palate was dry, a medium body with medium to firm tannins. There were flavors of leather, dried cherries, and a tiny hint of white pepper. The finish was a mix of dried cherries and pine needles.

I Vasari grapes are from a single vineyard called Colle delle Corte, which is at 230 feet above sea level. The vineyard overlooks the Adriatic sea in the Colline Teramane, some of the finest growing area for Montepulciano in the entire region. The vines in this vineyard are, on average, 30 years old. The wine is aged 14 months in French oak, 50% new and 50% used, though it’s well integrated in the flavors of the wine.

Wine Pairings for Surf and Turf I Vasari montepulciano d'abruzzo and pol roger champagne

Wine Pairings for Surf and Turf

We sipped this wine while enjoying our New Year’s Eve dinner of Surf & Turf. The meal was a slow one, and over the hour or more that we savored each bite and sip, the wine opened up rather nicely.  The dried cherry flavors became much more prominent, while tobacco and new found graphite or mineral notes seemed woven into the fruit. The last sips were indeed savored, and I would give this wine 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the decanter before serving. The I Vasari Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 is a nice, old world wine that for $20, works very nicely with a steak dinner.

What part of Italy would you like to visit? Leave me a comment, and perhaps we can explore it together! Cin Cin!

 

 

Lambrusco .. Seriously

The last time someone gave me a bottle of Lambrusco, she was 82, it was a 1.5 liter jug, and it cost about a nickle. I thanked her kindly, and promised her I’d let her know how it as. Secretly, I hoped to leave the state before I saw her again, never having to admit it went right down the drain. So when my friend, and newly Certified Sommelier Kirk told me to throw this bottle in the fridge and try it one night, I was a bit taken aback. This is someone who a year ago helped me pick three killer wines for my CBS 12 Thanksgiving segment. Surely, he’s lost his marbles.

Cavicchioli Lambrusco Dell'Emilia

Cavicchioli Lambrusco Dell’Emilia

I’m happy to report Kirk still has his marbles, and the wine wasn’t half bad. The Cavicchioli family has been making this wine since 1928, hence the label, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It’s made with three grapes, sorbara, grasparossa and salamino.  You have to go in knowing this is a simple wine.

The $8  Cavicchioli Family Lambrusco Dolce won’t stand up to bold pasta or grilled meat dishes. It’s not meant for that. Think of this as a perfect backyard sipper. It’s meant to be served chilled, and it’s semi-sweet palate of black cherry and cola will pair well with an antipasta dish, some appetizers, and some desserts. This may actually be the red wine for your chocolate pairing needs. The wine is frizzante, which means it has a light effervescence quality, and though the palate is fresh fruit and cola, there is an earthy, rustic component to the flavors that says old world.

This budget focused red wine ties in perfectly with my CBS 12 television segment with Suzanne Boyd. It’s pretty short, and gives you some other wines under $10 to try.

You can check out the article Suzanne mentioned in the clip that has more budget focused wines. Then, let me know when the last time you had Lambrusco was. And if you haven’t tried it, I’d love for you to grab a bottle and let me know what you think. Just leave a comment below.

Making Meatballs and Pairing Red Wine

Recipe for Sicilian meatballs paired with red wine

Sicilian meatballs paired with red wine

I can’t think of anything that brings people together better than food.  The notion of breaking bread goes back to biblical times.  However I’m sure the first time Ogg charred a hunk of brontosaurus, he invited Brugg for some and they told stories about when Trobb fell in the tar pit. Food, regardless of cuisine, transcends age, race, and political affiliation. That is why it’s very important to me that my son, now 13, not only gains an appreciation for good food, but also learns how to prepare it.
Even a 13 year old can cook this recipe for Sicilian meatballs

Even a 13 year old can cook this recipe for Sicilian meatballs

You would think that when teaching a 13 year old to cook, I’d start with something basic like pasta or grilled cheese.  I’m a fan of the Go big or go home philosophy folks, so we went with Sicilian style meatballs.  It’s a recipe I found in Food & Wine September 2007 magazine, and after making once right after reading, I saved the recipe for future use.  My son helped me when I first prepared them, so perhaps there was a tie to the dish. We started by reviewing the ingredient list and reading through the steps twice. It is important to understand the steps and the order in which we will use the ingredients, as well as having everything ready before we turn on the oven.

Batasiolo Sovrana and Heitz Cellars red wines to pair with meatballs

Batasiolo Sovrana and Heitz Cellars red wines to pair with meatballs

Before I give you the recipe, I will of course tell you about the wines paired with this fantastic meal.  My selection was Beni di Batasiolo 2009 Sovrana Barbera D’Alba. I paired this Italian red to not only stay on theme with an Italian meal, but also because the grape pairs well with the beefy meatballs while being able to handle the acidic tomatoes.  Like Ogg, I invited Brugg to break bread and share the meal.  Brugg is actually my friend Kirk, who brought his red wine contribution to the meal.  He chose a bottle of Heitz Cellar 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, another wine option that works well with meatballs and tomato sauce.

The Beni di Batasiolo Sovranna 2009 is a Barbera d’Alba. The barbera grape is grown in various places in in Italy, and this one is from Alba, a region in Piedmont, Italy. The bouquet is full of dark berries, violets and the oak notes of spice like cinnamon. The palate is medium to full, and dusty old world flavors come across at first. Dried strawberries and dried raspberries mingle with white pepper. It’s a full flavored wine bursting with taste. There was firm acidity on the finish of the wine, and it lends itself to be a wine to pair with food.

Tasting notes for Beni di Batasiolo Sovrana 2009 Barbera D'Alba

Pairing Beni di Batasiolo Sovrana 2009 Barbera D’Alba

Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 is a Napa Valley, California wine. The bouquet is gorgeous, a sensual nose of mocha laced dark cherries. There are subtle spice notes that waft from the glass as well. The palate is full, but silky. Beautiful notes of chocolate cherries, but not sweet. The oak aging fills the glass with lovely spices.

Both the Beni di Batasiolo Sovranna and the Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon wines work so well with a meal of meatballs and tomato sauce. One did not stand out over the other as a better pairing. The Barbera D’Alba from Batasiolo became a bit less acidic and fruit took more of a center stage with sipped after a bite of meatball. For the Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, the sweetness of the fruit and mocha are a little more subdued with the meal.
Tasting notes for Heitz Cellars 2007 Cabernet sauvignon Napa Valley Red wine

Sipping Heitz Cellars 2007 Cabernet sauvignon Napa Valley Red wine

Back to the recipe. Your mise en place includes
  • Two 28-oz cans of crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Four slices of white bread
  • 1/4 cup of water (drinking quality)
  • 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or currants
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons)
  • freshly ground pepper (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon died marjoram
  • 2 lbs ground beef (chuck)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
ingredients to make perfect Sicilian meatballs

ingredients to make perfect Sicilian meatballs

In a 5 quart or larger sauce pan, pour the Italian tomatoes in and season with salt and pepper. I added about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 tsp of pepper, then added more slowly throughout the simmer, to taste. Add the 1/4 cup EVOO, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil (medium high heat), then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes (low heat).

After your sauce is on low and simmering, in a large bowl soak the 4 pieces of bread in the water. If you need less water to soak the bread, use less. If the bread is still dry, add a little more. Once the bread is saturated, squeeze out the water and place bread in another bowl. Mash the bread into a paste, then stir in the beaten eggs, garlic, parsley, marjoram, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until smooth and well combined. I like to stir the sauce every 5 or 10 minutes while mixing and rolling out the meatballs.

mixing the ingredients for perfect italian meatballs

mixing the ingredients for perfect Italian meatballs

Add the ground beef, cranberries (or currents), pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Mix these ingredients until well combined. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, slowly add and mix in the bread crumbs. Kneed the mixture until it is firm enough to roll into balls.
You will roll the meatballs into about 36 meatballs, each about 2 to 3 tablespoons of mix. Tuck the pine nuts and cranberries inside as much as possible.I placed my meatballs on a cookie sheet covered with wax or parchment paper while rolling them out. Once you’re about finished, turn your oil on medium-high in a large, no-stick skillet. Did you remember to stir the simmering sauce?
roll your mixture into 36 meatballs

roll your mixture into 36 meatballs

Heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. I check the oil by putting a tiny piece of meatball in. If it doesn’t immediately start to sizzle, it’s not ready. Once it starts sizzling, then you’re ready to cook.  Work in batches, placing about 10-12 meatballs into the oil at once. I recommend using a slotted spoon to roll them into the oil gently, to prevent splattering.
You’ll cook the meatballs for about 12 minutes, turning at least 3 times throughout that time to ensure each side is done. Never turn your oil past medium high or the meatballs will burn. Using a 12″ skillet or frying pan will allow you to place about 12 meatballs in it. A 10″ pan will of course accept less. Transfer the meatballs to a plate that is lined with paper towel, and continue cooking the rest of the meatball mixture.
using an all-clad skillet to cook Italian meatball recipe

using an all-clad skillet to cook Italian meatballs

Once finished, place all of the meatballs into the sauce. Again, use a slotted spoon to gently roll them in, to avoid splatter.
After all of your meatballs are in the sauce, allow them to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. I like to gently stir every 10 minutes to allow the meatballs on top to get to the bottom and continue to cook evenly.
delicious and easy Italian Sicilian meatball recipe

delicious and easy Italian Sicilian meatball recipe

Personally I like this dish without pasta. Fill a bowl with a few meatballs and some sauce, sprinkle with a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and serve. Some bread to sop up the sauce is all I like.  Robin, my son and Kirk all had some pasta with theirs and were quite happy. As for teaching my son how to cook, he made the entire meal, including frying the meatballs. He did so well, he went to his mom’s and made this awesome Italian meatball recipe it for her birthday the next week.  Maybe we will do Boeuf Bourguignon next!