Monday, April 30, 2012

Barolo & Barbaresco---Made From the Same Grape

Barolo is one of the world’s greatest red wines---it’s made in Italy’s northern Piedmont district in the village of Barolo.  Barbaresco, another magnificent red wine, is made from grapes grown <10 miles away in the village of Barbaresco.  Both of these world-class wines are made 100% from the nebbiolo grape.

Often referred to as the “King of wines,” Barolo is a complex powerhouse chocked full of nuances of ripe strawberries, roses, chocolate, spices and occasionally even white truffles.   Barbaresco, has shades of the same aeromatic and flavor profile, however, it is usually a little less full bodied and less tannic than Barolo.  If Barolo is the King, then Barbaresco is the Queen. 

Nebbiolo ripens later than most other grapes, thus the Wine-Knows tour in October is perfectly timed for the harvest of this grape.  We’ll be visiting the small town of Barolo (with its medieval castle that has now been turned into a wine bar), as well as the vineyard-draped Barbaresco village.  By the end of the trip, folks will know if they prefer the King or the Queen.   

Next BLOG posting:  Piedmont’s other red grape---BARBERA

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Best Pork Chop You’ve Ever Cooked

I recently took a group of Wine-Knows clients to dinner at Richard Sanford’s winery in the Santa Rita Hills near Santa Barbara.  I hired a chef to wave his magical wand and create a dinner worthy of Sanford’s award-winning Pinots.  The chef exceeded my expectations (very hard to do) and cooked one of the top pork dishes I’ve ever tasted.

I am often disappointed with pork, especially chops.  They’re often dry and/or tough.   After one bite of these seriously over-the-top chops I knew there had to be a secret.  There was---it was the brine.  Those of you thinking “That’s too much work for me” STOP RIGHT THERE.  I’ve timed it and the brine takes all of 2 minutes to assemble.  The chops marinate for 3-4 hours.  No big deal.

We grill these morsels of heaven over mesquite, but the chops are so amazing that even a gas grill would do the trick.  Think juicy, flavor-chocked, and melt-in-your-mouth tender.  Here’s the magic brine:

1 Quart water
4 Tablespoon kosher salt
4 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 Tablespoon crushed juniper berries
2 cloves garlic

Marinate at least 2 hours.

Thank you, Kurt Alldredge, owner of the Chef’s Touch!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Voluptuous Vermentino

                                       Aga Khan's Hotel Pitrizza, Sardenia

I’ve written about this varietal on several occasions in this BLOG.  I can’t help it that I’m in love with this Italian white wine from the west coast of Northern Italy.  Spring has sprung and Vermentino is one of the perfect ways to celebrate its arrival.

Although it was a few decades ago, I still remember by first glass of Vermentino that I had on U.S. soil---I was dining in Carmel at Casanova’s (then and still now one of Wine Spectator’s top wine lists in the country.)   That particular Vermentino was from the island of Sardenia (located off the Tuscan coast).  One sip and I was instantly transported back to the outrageously gorgeous resort on Sardenia’s Emerald Coast built by the Aga Khan---without a doubt one of the most special places I've ever been.  I immediately ordered several cases of the wine, Costamolino by Argiolas.  Our cellar, today, is never without a couple of cases of this Vermentino.

While Sardenia is the epicenter for the some of the best production of Vermentino,  it’s also made on the Italian mainland.  The French make it on Corsica as well as and the French mainland (where it is called “rolle.”)   Think understated elegance…citrus laced with layers of apples and pears…nicely balanced with good acidity.

Unfortuantely, most folks can’t spell or even pronounce this wine (Vir men teen o).  That’s one reason the price remains low---supply and demand.  You can pick up a good bottle for under 20 bucks…much cheaper than a $1,500 room at the Pitrizza.  Those of you traveling to the Italian Riviera this Fall with Wine-Knows can be assured that Vermentino will be on the dinner table.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chateau Yquem

Chateau Yquem is difficult to miss.  Sitting magnificently atop the highest knoll in Sauternes, it is surrounded by sloping vineyards on all sides.  Chateau Yuqem is also difficult to pronounce for many.  Most importantly, Chateau Yquem is very difficult to visit (almost impossible during the harvest), but Wine-Knows is thrilled to learn that we have been accepted on a private visit to the chateau this September on our harvest tour of Bordeuax.

Chateau Yquem (proncounced ee-Kem), produces one of the world’s most famous and most expensive wines.  (An 1811 Yquem sold last year for $117,000…that’s $26,000 for the glass…or nearly $2,200 per sip.)  Grapes on the estate are hand-picked, one by one, at the perfect maturity level.  One of Yquem’s many claims to fame is that they make only one glass of wine per vine.  In horrible years (like 1964, `972 and 1974), they made no wine…a nearly unthinkable commitment to quality. 

 Viva La France!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Great Buy Prosecco

                      Prosecco countryside on the 2010 Tour to Venice & Friuli

We use Zonin Prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine made in the hills outside of Venice) in aperitifs that call for sparkling wine.  One of our favorite aperitifs is the Aperol Spritz (discussed earlier this BLOG).  The bright  color of this drink alone should stimulate your appetite, but it’s the taste that will completely seduce you.

Prosecco is a varietal wine made from the Prosecco grape which is native to the Venice region.  Zonin is produced by Italy's largest privately held wine company.  This sparkler is dry and fruity so its a perfect mix for pre-dinner cocktails.

Zonin can be purchased at Trader Joe’s for the bargain price of $6.99.  Again, this Prosecco goes perfectly when mixed with other things.  If, however, you’re serving a just a glass of Prosecco to wine savvy friends, then I would choose another brand (like Le Colture—this Prosecco is outrageously good).  That being said, Zonin mixed with Aperol would certainly delight any oenophile.