Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blogging Has Moved!

Hi There!  Denise here!

In case you are looking to read up on my current activity throughout the Pennsylvania wine industry, please follow my new blog: Wine & Grapes U.

As of 2014, this blog was developed  as a collective team effort from Penn State faculty, staff, and students working on wine grapes and wine research or a part of the Penn State Extension family.  Postings cover everything from wine marketing material, growing grapes, wine region visits, to making wine.  Enjoy... and cheers!

You're just a click away: Wine & Grapes U., a university of wine and grape information!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's in My Glass Wednesdays! 2010 Gewurztraminer by Blair Vineyards

It's been about a week since my last blog post... I'm afraid my traveling schedule is catching up to me.  I really must learn a quicker way to archive pictures... Perhaps it's time for a smart phone.  ;)

Anyway, I thought I'd kick off with another great Pennsylvania Winery: Blair Vineyards in Kutztown, Pennsylvania!  For those in the wine biz, you may recognize this winery from the March 2012 Wines and Vines cover photo.  Known for their excellent Pinot Noir, Blair is surely making a name for itself.  I had the opportunity to recently taste the 2010 Gewurztraminer (Gewurz... becoming a new favorite variety for me...) and I thought today would be a great day to share!

Blair Vineyards
(Photo from Google Images)

2010 Gewurztraminer by Blair Vineyards

Blair Vineyards 2010 Gewurztraminer
(Photos by author)

The D-2010 Scale 
2010 Gewurztraminer by Blair Vineyards (Kutztown, Pennsylvania)
Appearance (10 points possible): Pale straw yellow, brilliant and clear. - 10 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Fresh rose oil with hints of wild flowers, slightly pungent, bright citrus subtle nuances of spice. - 16 points
Taste (10 points possible):  Medium-bodied and with a filled texture in the middle palate, which is not common for Gewurz.  Full of floral and spicy flavors, slighly hot from the higher alcohol, with a crisp lemon drop character. - 7 points
Balance (5 points possible): The wine fills in nicely and is fairly well integrated.  The higher alcohol, for me, of course unbalances this wine. - 4 points
Finish (5 points possible): Lingers with hints of spice and lemon drops and a slight touch of heat. - 5 points
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  Sleek bottle with traditional Blair label.  Closed with a synthetic cork and capsuled.  Overall, nice presentation.  - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  Blair's labels are characteristic to me.  As a consumer, I've come to recognize and remember his labels.  I like that the colors are altered depending on the variety and that the label itself is textured.  This is a nice touch. - 10 points
Other (5 points possible):  No extras on this wine! - 3 points
Total Points: 90 points
Overall Thought: I have come to recognize Gewurztraminer as not being overly well integrated in terms of it's mouthfeel.  I think the thing that turns consumers off from this variety is that Gewurz tends to be up front with tons of flavor and feeling, no middle, but then lingering with a slightly toned-down finish.  Overdone, and Gewurz can be a very chemical-bitter mess, but done right, and this variety is always ready to please.  This Gewurz is quite different.  There has less of that general disconnect on the palate and it's filled with lots of flavor and structure.  For those people that want to try Gewurz, I recommend this one.  It's a great wine to compare with others of that variety.
Food Pairings:  Gewurz is a great stir-fry wine.  Right now, I'm thinking of a finely made chard stir fry with some roast chicken and rice that this would pair with magically.
Cost: $13.99
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 1... Price is all relative, and I believe you're really getting a great deal here.
Where to buy: Check out Blair Vineyards online.  Remember if you are PA resident, the wines can be shipped directly to your doorstep!  Don't stop at the Gewurz with this producer.  I highly recommend the Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris (one of my favorites in the state!), and the Chardonnays.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Feature: Baked Asparagus and Glazed French Radishes with Cabernet Franc

Here in Pennsylvania, it is fresh lettuce, asparagus, turnip, and radish season.  If you're lucky, you may be able to also find some early ripening strawberries out there!  Oooo, strawberries.  As I'm working harder to get on the "eat local" kick, I thought I'd try to feature a meal produced primarily from local produce.  This week: fresh asparagus and radishes. 

Fresh French Radishes - A bit earthier and lighter in flavor than regular radishes
(Photo by author)

I found a "baked asparagus" recipe on the Food Network, that I changed a little bit and have added here:
Baked Asparagus with Balsamic Butter Sauce
fresh asparagus
cooking spray
salt/pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

1) Set oven for 450 degrees.
2) Wash and trim larger ends of asparagus.  Spray Pyrex baking dish with cooking spray.  Lay asparagus in the baking dish and spray with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
3) Bake asparagus for 12 minutes or until soft.
4) In a small pot, melt butter on the stove.  Add Balsamic vinegar and blend.
5) Drizzle on asparagus after it is finished baking.

I paired the asparagus with some glazed radishes... from another slightly altered recipe from the Food Network.

Sugary Glazed Radishes
fresh French radishes
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

Directions:1) Wash and trim edges of radishes.
2) Slice radishes in half length wise.  Place radish halves in a medium sized cooking pot.  Fill pot with water until it reaches about 1/3 of the height of the radishes.  (Note: radishes should not float, but should have contact with the water.)
3) Begin heating the water on a medium-high heat.
4) Add butter and sugar.  Cook until all the water has evaporated.  Smother radishes in sugary-butter glaze.

And for a protein, I added some spinach-feta chicken sausage.  Not local, but still yummy!

Chicken sausage, glazed radishes, and Balsamic-butter baked asparagus
(Photo by author)

Wine Pairing: Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc has some of the vegetal, asparagus flavors associated with the variety, I believe it can be a good pairing here. Cabernet Franc is the sister grape to Cabernet Sauvignon, which consumers generally seem to be more aware of in the wine market.  Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is usually made dry and is a big, bold red wine.  Common flavors associated with Cabernet Franc include herbal, cooked asparagus, red cherries, blueberry, violet, peppery, and spicy.  This grape is usually blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in red blends. 

Looking for some great Cabernet Franc wines?  The good news is that the Mid-Atlantic specializes in Cabernet Franc. You can find this varietal from New York all the way down through South Carolina.  Here are some of my suggestions:

Although I do not have a picture of their Cabernet Franc label, this wine is full bodied with soft tannins and flavors reminiscent of cherries, cranberries, and herbs.  Below is a picture of the Crossing Vineyards label.
Crossing Vineyards Wines
(Photo by author)

Galen Glen Cabernet Franc (PA) - $15
An absolute steal for a medium-bodied Cabernet Franc variety wine.  This wine has fresh cherry and herbal flavors.  It's quite soft on the palate with a velvety smooth and oaky finishin.
Galen Glen Cabernet Franc
(Photo by author)

There's something absolutely delightful about the smoky tobacco Cabernet Francs from Virginia.  They pair magically with food.  This Cab Franc from Veritas is the perfect example.  It exhibits bright red fruit up front with a tobacco undertone and peppery finish.
Veritas Wines
(Photo from A Glass After Work Blog)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's In My Glass Wednesday! 2009 Art Series Riesling by Anthony Road Winery

I think we'll see a lot of Riesling this week.  It's an enchanting wine variety and one that I think everyone can really enjoy because it comes in so many different styles.  If you missed Monday's post, make sure you check it out.  :)

2009 Art Series Riesling by Anthony Road Winery

(Photos by author)

The D-2010 Scale 
2009 Art Series Riesling by Anthony Road Winery (Finger Lakes, New York)
Appearance (10 points possible): Straw yellow, brilliant and clear. - 10 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Freshly canned peaches, sweet with a slight pungent character, floral, and citrus. - 17 points
Taste (10 points possible):  Medium--bodied with firm acidity and balanced sweetness.  Fresh fruits on the palate, smooth, and a lingering finish.  Slight hints of hay/straw and fresh pebbles. - 8 points
Balance (5 points possible): This wine seems well balanced.  The sugar and acid blend quite well.  All pieces of this wine are in harmony. - 5 points
Finish (5 points possible): Quite lengthy with a slightly sweet finish.  Hints of pineapple and fresh pebbles. - 5 points
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  Sleek green bottle, Riesling style (Mosel or Alsace shape and color)  Label and capsule match in their Burgundy red color.  Back label provides extra information for wine buyer.  - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  I think what's awesome about this wine, other than it's quality, is the label uniqueness.  Designed by the owner's wife, Ann Martini, this label stands out among the traditional Anthony Road labels.  And it's well done.  It looks well-made and well thought out. - 10 points
Other (5 points possible):  I'll give this wine an extra point for the sweetness scale and extra parameters printed for the buyer's information. - 4 points
Total Points: 94 points
Overall Thought: This is the perfect company wine when it gets warm outside.  It's got fresh, fruity flavors and a hint of sweetness that everyone can appreciate.  Plus, you can serve it with almost anything.  You can serve this with fried fish and chips, pasta, pizza, salads, cheeses, anything!
Food Pairings:  I guess I jumped the gun on this one.  I paired it with my ever favorite Thai food, but it's definitely a wine that can go with anything!
Cost: I actually forget how much this was, and I can't quite find it online, but I believe it was in the $15 range, but it could've gone up to about $30. 
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 2... But it's all relative.  This Riesling is good quality and worth the investment.
Where to buy:  It appears that you may only be able to get this at Anthony Road Winery.  Looks like a road trip to Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Seeing Lots of PA Riesling this Spring and Summer...

In a recent article published by Taste magazine, the Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits magazine, they published an article on Riesling's popularity and quality in regions similar to Alsace, France.  And their regional discussion stopped in the Pacific Northwest with a slight mention of New York's Finger Lakes.  I will agree that both of these regions are quite dignified in their Riesling quality and deserve recognition.  I'll also agree that Taste is primarily published to market those wines and spirits that are actually sold in the PA Wine and Spirits stores.  But what surprised me the most was that they failed to recognize a region that is in their backyard: Pennsylvania.

Riesling, well-known for its food friendliness and variety of styles is indeed a perfect summer wine.  It ranges in sugar level: anywhere from completely dry to semi-sweet/off-dry, to very, very sweet.  Never be intimidated to pair the sweeter Rieslings with dinner!  You may be surprised at how well they complement meals.

Lots of Riesling in this Tasting... Including those from Nimble Hill
We Even Had Riesling Glasses!
(Photo by author)

You can even find it in a dessert style as Late-Harvest Rieslings or Ice Wine Rieslings.  Pennsylvania producers actually make several of these styles.  These wines are delightful with many cheeses, and I often hosts guests with an assortment of cheese and a variety of Rieslings.

Remember, if you live in Pennsylvania, these Pennsylvania wineries can ship directly to your doorstep!!

In Erie, a region that has great growing conditions for Riesling, you'll find those wines, again of varying sugar levels, with vibrant acidity making it refreshing on hot summer days or perfect for pairing with many light summer dishes including salads, grilled veggies, white-sauce pasta dishes, seafood, fried food, and even sushi!  The flavor profile of Erie Rieslings dominates with a pineapple character.  Try some from Mazza Vineyards or Presque Isle Wine Cellars.

Presque Isle, One of Erie, PA's Premier Riesling Producers
(Photo by author)

In the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, I believe you'll find a slightly lower acidity level, but still very refreshing and well structured.  This region dominates with an apple and floral character, with just a hint of the petrol character that some Riesling lovers really enjoy.  I think many of these pair beautifully with summer harvest risottos.  Try these drier Rieslings from Briar Valley Vineyard &Winery, Greendance Winery, and Glades Pike Winery.

Briar Valley in Bedford, PA has been Nationally Recognized for their Dry Riesling
(Photo by author)

In the middle of the state up through the north east corner near Scranton, many of the Rieslings bring forth a definite citrus and grassy character.  These are the Rieslings that I enjoy eating with mussels, scallops, and white fish in general.  Lots of great acidity that marries quite well with shell fish.  But these are also great aperitif wines to get the party started!  Try Rieslings from Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery, Shade Mountain Vineyards, Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery, and Mt. Nittany Vineyard & Winery.

Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery Riesling
Produced in State College, PA
(Photo by author)

The Well-Recognized IFR Sweetness Scale So You Can Always Get the Appropriate Sugar
Content You'd Like with Your Riesling
(Photo by author)

As you move towards the south east corner of Pennsylvania, I believe you'll find many of the Rieslings to carry a bit more of a floral character and just a hint of peaches.  You'll probably find some of the wineries here really capture that "mineral" character that we see in the wine news.  These are seductive Rieslings - meant to capture our love for the coming Spring blossoms and are perfect for early evenings with fruit salads, cheesecake, curries, or spicy grilled sausages.  Just remember, if you're going to grab a Riesling for dessert with a food, make sure the wine is sweeter than the [food] dessert itself, or the Riesling will taste dry and bitter.  Try Rieslings from Manatawny Creek Winery, Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery, Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery, Galen Glen Vineyard and Winery, and Pinnacle Ridge Winery.

My point: don't rule out what may be quite close to you.  Although Pennsylvania is so regionally diverse, there are so many styles to accommodate all wine drinkers' preferences.  But this is one grape that we shouldn't rule out.  :)  Cheers!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Feature: Fajitas and Cava

I love fajitas... who doesn't?  You can make them with a whole array of foods.  One of my all time favorite fajita recipes is actually from the Food Network's Ellie Krieger.  Absolutely love her cookbook, by the way!  I've already shared a few of her recipes on here, and I'm sure you'll see more.  :) 

Steak Fajitas with Avocado Lime Salsa
(Photo by author)

Steak Fajitas (Recipe by Ellie Krieger)
Steak Fajitas Ingredients
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
A pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/4 pound top sirloin steaks cut 1-inch thick
12 small corn tortillas (5 to 6 inches in diameter)
3 cups shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 cups Avocado Lime Salsa, recipe follows

Avocado Lime Salsa Ingredients
1 large cucumber peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (about 2 cups)
2 avocados, cut into chunks
1/2 red onion, diced
2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 jalapeno chiles, chopped, plus more to taste

1) In a small bowl stir together chili powder, garlic, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper. Rub spice mixture on both sides of steaks.

2) Grill or broil steaks for 5 to 6 minutes on each side for medium rare, turning once. Remove from grill and let meat sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Carve into thin slices.

3) Warm tortillas by placing them on the grill, for about 30 seconds, turning once. Or place 6 tortillas at a time between 2 moist paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds. Wrap in cloth napkin or place in a tortilla warmer to keep warm. Place the carved steak, warm tortillas, cabbage, cilantro, lime and Avocado Lime Salsa in serving dishes and let diners make their own tacos at the table.

4) For avocado lime salsa, place cucumber, avocado and onion in a large bowl and add lime juice and salt. Add cilantro and chiles and toss gently.

Wine Pairing: Cava
Ummm Cava!  Who doesn't love Cava?  Some of the best value sparkling wines out there is with Cava these days.  Trader Joe's sells some of the best $5 Cava I've ever had!  What is Cava, you ask?  Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine that must be made in the traditional (second fermentation is in the bottle) method.

Quality Seal
(Photo by author)

Cava: Love This Packaging!
(Photo by author)

What I loved about this Cava that I bought for this wine pairing:
1) The packaging totally lured me into buying it.  (Even though I did wonder if there was something to hide under all those plastic covers.)  :)
2) The price was right... $12.
3) It had a relatively light citrus flavor with hints of bready, cream, and yeastiness.  It reminded me very much of a light, young Champagne.
4) It went very well with the spicy jalapenos, and was a great way to refresh your palate in between bites.  Yumm!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What's in My Glass Wednesdays! 2010 Three by Clover Hill Winery

What a great find in Pennsylvania!  If you like Cabernets or Cab blends, this is definitely a wonderful old-world style blend that will surely knock your socks off.  The Generations series from Clover Hill Winery features limited release wines that definitely have something to say.  For those unfamiliar with Clover Hill Winery, I encourage you to visit their website: there's lots there to explore!

Three by Clover Hill Winery
Three, 2010 Bordeaux Blend
(Photo by author)

The D-2010 Scale 
2010 Three by Clover Hill Winery (Pennsylvania)
Appearance (10 points possible): Deep ruby color with great color density. - 10 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Some nice red fruit character, with strong hints of tobacco,  plum, mushrooms, violets.  Quite varietal. - 17 points
Taste (10 points possible):  Medium- to full-bodied with some tannin that is moving back in the palate.  This indicates the wine still has some aging time... at least another 3 or 4 years, I'd say.  Perhaps more.  Great red fruit essence and slight tobacco notes.  Finish is lingering and powerful with hints of raw oak and fruit. - 9 points
Balance (5 points possible): This wine still has some aging time, which pulls it slightly off balance in terms of tannin structure.  However, that's expected from such a young wine and I would say that some may still enjoy this wine where it is right now.  Great body, length, and flavor. - 4 points
Finish (5 points possible): Very lengthy with hints of red fruit and raw oak. - 5 points
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  Heavy glass bottle, Bordeaux style.  Dark label and capsule with synthetic cork.  Relatively nice package, but I'd personally opt for the natural cork here due to its style.  - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  Quite chic and classy, but probably difficult to find in an array of bottles.  In the tasting room, I'm sure these labels stand out compared to their other labels. - 7 points
Other (5 points possible):  No big extras on this one. - 3 points
Total Points: 90 points
Overall Thought: Bordeaux varietal blends are always the keystone in the wine industry... or so they seem.  Consumers are obsessed with Cabs, but I feel that we've become overly aware of one style of Cabernet blends without much awareness for the original old-world style.  The great thing about Mid-Atlantic wines is that many of them represent a true old-world style, but made in the U.S.  "Old-world" Cabs have less fruit-forward aromas and flavors, usually not as much alcohol, and a bit more acidity, but for us wine folk - we love it!  It's different, unique, and it shows expression and style of the winemaker.  I like this wine for those reasons: a blend of 44% Cabernet Franc, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 12% Merlot - there's definitely something in this bottle that is intriguing.  Plus, you can't beat the $18 price tag for such an unique wine.  These are definitely food wines so if you find it difficult to drink just sipping, I highly recommend some bread and cheese at the very least, and I'm sure your experience will change.
Food Pairings:  A true steak wine.  The low alcohol, crispness, and defined flavors will go nice with a steak meal.  Really, this will go well with any red meat. 
Cost: $18
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 1... Price is all relative, and you're getting quite a good bargain for the quality in the bottle.
Where to buy:  Pennsylvanians are in luck!  You can order this wine directly from Clover Hill Winery or order online!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Interview With a Winemaker: Aaron Pott from Blackbird Vineyards and Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley Winery

While on a trip in Sausalito a few weeks ago, a friend of mine presented a Sauvignon Blanc wine from Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley Winery.  After living in Napa for about two years, I came to appreciate their Sauvignon Blanc style, and truly found this to be an amazing representation of that style.  I truly enjoyed the bright, citrus and tropical fruits that complement a characteristic Old World creaminess.  The smooth and elegant structure, with just a touch of flintiness, is so appealing that it’s difficult to resist a second (or third) glass. 

Ma(i)sonry Wine Labels
(Photo from Google Images)

Ma(i)sonry, located  in Yountville, California (Napa County) was built in the early 1900s by Charles Rovegno and local mason, Angelo Brovelli.  Charles was an Italian immigrant that settled in the future wine-producing region of California, which was, at the time, a large agricultural area.  Angelo is well known for his many bridge additions throughout Napa County.  Today, this old stone building in Yountville serves as a historical relic featuring many boutique wine labels and a valuable art collection.

Maisonry Napa Valley
Ma(i)sonry Winery in Yountville, CA
(Photo from Google Images)

The Ma(i)sonry wine is created as a premier, small production lot, artisan label by the Blackbird Vineyards production team.  These wines are crafted from select Napa Valley fruit to capture the finest terroir of the valley.  For a full collection of the wine labels at Ma(i)sonry, please visit

(Photo from

My friend that brought the wine kindly enough introduced me to the winemaker, Aaron Pott.  Below is an excerpt of our discussion regarding Aaron’s background and his thoughts on Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley Winery’s Sauvignon Blanc.

Aaron Pott, Winemaker

Denise’s Press Fractions (DPF): How did you decide to become a winemaker?
Aaron Pott (AP): [Taken straight from the Blackbird website, and a true story.]  Aaron Pott’s curiosity began at a young age of 9 when he ordered a glass of milk in a venerable Parisian bistro.  When the waiter responded – in halting perfect English – that “milk is for babies” and prompty produced a glass of watered down red, Pott realized that wine was a beverage of choice for adults and immersed himself in the world of wine trivia.

DPF: What was your inspiration or objective while making this Sauvignon Blanc?
AP: Great Sancerre.

For those unfamiliar with Sancerre, this is one of the Loire’s (France) premier Sauvignon Blanc regions.  Geographically speaking, Sancerre is relatively close in proximity to the more well-known region of Pouilly-Fume.  Many Sauvignon Blanc’s produced from Sancerre are often marketed as being “racy” (oo-la-la!) with a dynamic gooseberry flavor.  These wines from Sancerre became quite popular in the 1970s and 1980s, standing alone as an important wine style.

Map of France with Sancerre pointed out
(Map from Google Images)

Also a topic of great discussion: what are gooseberries?  Native to the European region, gooseberries are a fruit that is often used to supplement desserts or made into fresh jams.

(Photo from Google Images)

DPF: What do you like best about Ma(i)sonry’s Sauvignon Blanc?
AP: It’s funky mineral groove, bright acidity and lack of wood.  I am also making a Sauvignon Blanc fermented in barrels for Ma(i)sonry.

DPF: Where can people buy this Sauvignon Blanc, and what do you think, food-wise, that it goes well with?
AP: You can buy it [online] at  I think it goes with many things, my favorite being salumi or just sipping alone.  It is great with fish!

(Photo from Google Images)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Feature: Antipasti Salad and Prosecco

It's getting to be that time of year again... you know when it gets warm enough that you want to start eating salads as the main course.  Salads don't have to boring, but can be a lot of fun filled with an exorbitant amount of flavors and supplemental foods to add to the lettuce base.  Sometimes, one doesn't even need a lettuce as the base!

This salad that I'm featuring is from the Food Network, but I have it here with some of my edits for reader convenience.  I loved this salad for it's multiple flavors: the anise (black licorice) from the fennel with a crisp, watery, crunchy bite; the oily, soft, and green flavor of the marinated artichokes; the smokey and peppery taste of the roasted red peppers; the citrusy sweetness of the Parmigiano-Reggiano; the light pepper taste of the argula; the sharp, sour flavor of the kalamata olives; and the bright pungent taste of the red onions.  With a touch of homemade dressing, this salad is divine!  

Antipasti Salad
(Photo by author)

Antipasti Salad (from the Food Network)

1/4 medium red onion, minced (I'd recommend low amounts of onion because this 
1/2 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cored
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 jarred roasted sweet red peppers, chopped (about 3&4 cup)
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and quartered, if whole
2 cups baby arugula
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted (about 2 ounces)
1/2 to 1 cup freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 small garlic clove, peeled (I skipped this because raw garlic upsets my tummy! You can always opt for a dash of garlic powder or garlic salt and then skip the salt addition.)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (I used whatever citrus I could find in my fridge)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1) For the salad: To mellow the minced onion, soak it in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain well, pat dry, and put in a serving bowl.

2) Meanwhile, make the dressing: Smash the garlic clove, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and, with the side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Put the paste in a bowl and add the orange zest, vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper, to taste. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream to make a smooth, slightly thick dressing.

3) Using a handheld mandoline or a knife, cut the fennel lengthwise into long, thin slices. Add to the onion and toss with the chickpeas, peppers, artichoke hearts, arugula, parsley, and dressing. Scatter the olives and shave the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top.

Shopsmart: Baby arugula has smaller, more tender leaves and a slightly less peppery and assertive flavor than "grown-up" arugula.

Know-How: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings are a simple way to add texture, taste, and eye appeal to salads. To make them, hold the cheese firmly in 1 hand and run a vegetable peeler firmly across the longest edge of the cheese to peel off long, thin strips.

Wine Pairing: Prosecco
Prosecco and Antipasti Salad
(Photo by author)

What better wine to pair with an Italian-based antipasti salad, than an Italian-style sparkling wine?  Prosecco is the great every-day meal starter kind of wine, or a great thing to buy if you like fruity-styled bubbly.  I chose a $10 bottle of off-dry Prosecco from our local Wine & Spirits (PA) store.

(Photo by author)

Again, $10 with minimal sweetness.  This wasn't as sweet as some other Prosecco's I've had in the past.  I would definitely ask your wine buyer what they'd suggest based on your sweetness preference.  But lots of great, lasting bubbles (this bottle actually lasted me two days).  The carbonation really helps clear the palate from the difficult-to-pair antipasti salad.  The wine itself acts more like a palate cleanser, especially with the strong onion flavor.

And with so many flavors involved in the salad, it's quite difficult to find a wine that will go with it.  But the bright citrus, crisp melon, touch of honey, fresh pears, and apple peels of the Prosecco really came together for me with this salad.  They went hand-in-and-hand, and married quite well together.  As you let the wine sit, one can even get a touch of that bready/yeasty note that many enjoy in bubbly from Champagne.  Definitely a wine worth trying with or without the salad.  Cheers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What's in My Glass Wednesdays? Monica di Sardegna by Dolia

Here's a variety I bet most of you haven't heard too much about: Monica.  The Monica is an Italian-native red grape variety that grows primarily in Sardinia, Italy.  Sardinia is one of the inlet islands of Italy (see map below).  The Monica grape is known to make Rhone-style (or Syrah-like) wines, but in an Italian fashion.  I've heard that those labels that say "di Sardegna" indicate a drier style of wine compared to other label classifications.  [It actually says "dry" on the back of the label.]  It is often blended with Carignano, which we don't see too much of in the market either.  All in all, this was my first Monica wine experience, so I hope you enjoy it.

Map of Italy
(Photo from Google Images)

Dolia's Monica di Sardegna
(Photo by author)

Monica di Sardegna by Dolia

The D-2010 Scale 
2010 Monica di Sardegna by Dolia (Sardinia, Italy)
Appearance (10 points possible): Deep ruby color with good color density.  Some purplish edges, perhaps indicating it's youth.  Not overly clear. - 10 points
Aroma/Bouquet (20 points possible): Fresh red fruits with an emphasized floral component.  As the wine opens, hints of leather, earth, and smokiness shoot out from the glass.  The nose is very Rhone-like for me.  I could see how this could easily pass as a Syrah. - 17 points
Taste (10 points possible):  Medium-bodied with crisp acidity.  Some herbaceousness on the palate with complementing red fruits.  Some minor astringent that adds depth and complexity to the wine.  Hints of leather and smokiness in the finish, but is relatively pleasant. - 9 points
Balance (5 points possible): I think this wine comes together.  It's very Rhone-like in its style and quite pleasant.  No one attribute really pulls away from another, however, as time progressed, I did notice that the wine was a bit hot. - 4 points
Finish (5 points possible): Lengthy with hints of leather, red fruit, and a slight edge of smokiness. - 5 points
Quality of Package (5 points possible):  Heavy glass bottle with the DOC seal indicating it's quality.  Nice engraving at the bottom of the bottle.  - 5 points
Label Marketability (10 points possible):  The label is catchy but plain.  I have to admit that I didn't find this wine easily.  I found it through notes and recommendations on shelf at Total Wine. - 6 points
Other (5 points possible):  No big extras on this one. - 3 points
Total Points: 89 points
Overall Thought: This was an enjoyable wine.  I'm glad I purchased it and I will probably purchase it again some day.  I was impressed that the wine was marketed as a Rhone-style and it didn't disappointment.  Honest marketing is always a good thing.  :)
Food Pairings:  I could see this with lamb or even bar-b-q as the wine carries a nice bright red fruit characteristic.  I had this with pasta in a red sauce, and it went fairly well
Cost: $11
Splurge Factor (out of 4): 1... A good and unique buy for under $20.
Where to buy:  This wine was purchased at Total Wine.  Enjoy!!