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Bressan in Friuli – The Wine, the Food, the Passion

16 Oct

Awesome! Lori and my visit to Bressan was one of the highlights of our research trip to Northern Italy. Fulvio Bressan, the winemaker is quite a character and his wife Jelena is his partner in their way of life, which is about making great wine and finding “balance”.

Fulvio is a man of many details and with reasons for what he does (for more on that, see companion blog Bressan in Friuli – “Ingredients” for Making Great Wine ”). He is passionate about life and winemaking, and lives life on his own terms. He is opinionated, but at the same time has logical reasons for his viewpoints. We personally agree with their philosophy which resonated with us during the visit. They don’t (won’t) provide wines for evaluation by the so-called “pros”. At times, Fulvio hasn’t allowed wine critics/writers to visit his winery and taste the wines. Fulvio said that the two wine evaluating groups in Italy are run by “mafias”, not to be believed or trusted.

Fulvio studied in France, Bordeaux, with the director of Margaux his mentor. He told Fulvio that he “must think like a vine” in order to make great wine. Fulvio also spent time in Burgundy and loves Pinot Noir. He says that 8 or more clones are needed to make good Pinot Noir – he uses 10. Napolean brought Pinot Noir to Friuli, so it’s been in Friuli a long time, not to be considered “international”.

Lori, Jelena, Mr. Pink, Fulvio

Fulvio will not sell his wine to those who want it for the wrong reasons, such as because it’s famous or because it’s the right price. In our opinion the Bressan wines are special and deserve appreciation. As Fulvio said, he makes wine the way he wants to, and if others like it, fine, if not, fine as well. Lori and I love it.

In the winery we had a spectacular barrel tasting of Pignola 1997, from acacia barrels, complex on the nose and the palate and very long. It’s still “young”, with significant tannins. Pignola is even harder to handle than Pinot Noir, but it’s a passion of his, the “Friulian Barolo”. Next was a Pignola from the same year but from a white cherry barrel. As Fulvio said, it’s “too arrogant”, with a little sweetness on the nose. Then he blended the two Pignola’s together in the glass and Voila!…even more wonderful than the first one. Wow!


Fulvio’s father appeared (in a hot pink shirt – see pic), and it was apparent where Fulvio’s passion comes from…..”he’s a philosopher”. Even without a language in common, the father was charming and expressive. He invited us to lunch and insisted that we choose whether to have fish or meat with the pasta. We chose fish…he went off to make lunch saying that everyone should be ready to drop everything and come to lunch when he called…which sort of happened. Lunch was outside under a canopy in a pleasant little area (see picture of Lori,

Lunch at Bressan

Jelena and Fulvio), with much food and a continuation of wine tasting (actually, drinking, since it was lunch).

The pasta with fish was fabulous, paired first with Carat 2006, a field blend of Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia, golden in color, since that’s the color of the grapes. Fuvio says the field blend gives a different result than blending wine from the grapes separately….blending causes a reaction that changes the taste. Carat is macerated with the skins to give it more flavor and body, which requires healthy grapes. This wine’s complexity and flavors evolved in the glass, hard to explain, as are all the Bressan wines we tasted. A plate of tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil and spices, and another plate of “pepperoni” (roasted orange peppers, also in oil and flavored) were simple and delicious as well. The father makes his own prosciutto (he was a butcher for 40 years), and

Two Prosciutto’s, Lori and Bressan Wine

he served two types, both tender and delicious ( in the picture with Lori and 2 Bressan’s).

The second wine with lunch was Pinot Noir 2006, which Fulvio makes because he loves Pinot Noir and wants to make it “the right way”. This is a Pinot to be experienced first-hand, unlike any we’ve had. The nose is mindful of Pinot Noir, yet has an earthiness and other magical qualities on the nose and in the mouth that, again, are difficult to explain. As Fulvio pointed out, this wine goes with all the foods.

Next was a peppery Schioppettino 2006 that paired wonderfully with desserts. We loved both a special bitter dark chocolate with grainy sugar and a dried sweet orange peel, from a friend in Sicily. Fulvio called the importer and gave us contact information for us to be able to get these products….stay tuned.

After lunch Fulvio took us back into the winery for one more wine, Moscato Rosa, a rare and hard to grow grape that we’d experienced in the Alto Adige for the first time as a dessert wine. Fulvio said that if one waits one day too long to pick, the vines fall down and the crop is lost….he did that one year and his father, who usually wants to pick before Fulvio chooses to, “broke his legs” for a year. This Moscato Rosa is dry, with elegant nuances of rose petals and orange peel. “One more thing” he said and he led us back into his wine bins and pulled out a dust covered 1997 Pignolo and a 2003 EGO Cab Franc/Schioppettino (50/50), Fulvio’s signature wine, which in fact he signed….looking forward to drinking them. What a great experience….we left having new friends (see “family pic”)!

For more on Bressan, go to


Anna Maria Abbono

17 Sep

Our visit to Anna Maria Abbono was one of the many highlights of our research trip to Northern Italy. We’d met Anna a couple of years ago in the Boston area and brought several of her wines in to Pairings…her Barbera is our favorite in the store and her Dolcetto’s have been impressive as well.

Anna’s winery is located near Dogliani, in the Langhe area of Piedmont, on a dead end road up Imagehigh where the view is spectacular. It’s wonderfully quiet and the life is a balanced multi-culture. They grow hazelnuts and have geese and various vegetables. Anna is in the fourth generation of a small family winery and where they continue to develop new wines. Their small Imageproduction of 70,000 bottles includes 10 types of wines (see picture of Lori behind the wine bar) because they like to experiment. They’ve bought some property in the Barolo area, so in the future we can also drink Barolo from Anna.

The wines are grown sustainably, exceeding requirements for organic. For instance, their wines are very low in sulfates (a preservative in all wines), 40ppm where the organic requirement is being under 80ppm. This low level eliminates the headaches that Anna gets from many other wines. It was interesting to hear her talk about sulfites and how whites tend to need more than reds since the tannins, acidity and alcohol in reds are natural preservatives.

We started with a new line of white wines, which make sense because of the high altitude, large daily temperature changes and wind. One is Nechetta (yes, that’s the grape), which we never heard of before this trip and a Riesling, very unusual for the area…both fresh and nice….and they’re still experimenting with these wines.

Next was an unusual rose of Nebbiolo, lovely and fresh with big acidity and notes of strawberry rhubarb. The grapes are pressed and the skins immediately removed because of the tannins in Nebbiolo.  This rose was complex on the palate and long, and changed in the glass as we sipped.

San Bernardo is a special single vineyard Docetto that Anna makes only in the best years….awesome! The line-up of wines is excellent, but this was Ray’s favorite. Before leaving, Anna Maria gave us two bottles of this, one perhaps to drink during the trip…we’ll see. I hope you will have the chance to try this wine (at Pairings or elsewhere).

The 2007 and 2009 Dolcettos, the Barberas, the  Cado (this means gift) Langhe Rosso (Barbera and Nebbiolo),  and her Nebbiolos are impressive as well. Perhaps we should have a (blind?) tasting of her reds?


After going through the wines Anna brought out three cheeses and salamis for lunch and we continued the wonderful friendly visit with Anna and sipped some wine. We especially liked trying cheeses from very nearby. Bra, a hard cheese from the town of Bra a few kilometers away, a Morazano, like the Robiola due Latte we have in the store but firmer, and a Castelmano which was crumbly and assertive at the same time.  The graciousness and hospitality is definitely something we try to emulate in the store – great reasons to travel to learn about wine, foods, and how to live life.

Awesome Mourvedre!

31 Jul

We had an awesome pairing of 6 Mourvedre’s (see picture of part of the group) with a lamb, caramelized onion and blue cheese pizza (among other food pairings). For some reason hard to fathom, Mourvedre is not very Imagewidespread, but is truly impressive. Any of you who like powerful, dark (and even brooding) wines with dried plums, truffles, leather, etc. will love this wine. We started with 2011 rose from Chateau Pibarnon which was quite lovely, and full. Someone averred that with his eyes closed he might think it was a red. This is a rose that can age (we had a very fine 2005 recently). The next was a monastrell (the Spanish name for mouvedre) which, though inexpensive, got better and better over time and was deemed the best value. The rest of the wines are higher in price, and all were wonderful in their own way, evolving in the glass as we sipped them. The Pibarnon from Bandol is a classic, with great complexity and layering; the Tablas Creek (Paso Robles) started earthy and opened up wonderfully. The Boislauzon, an unusual Chateauneuf de Pape of 100% Mourvedre, was powerful and yet balanced. The L’Aventure is different from the others, more of a blend with oak treatment, and very powerful. The rest of this blog was prepared before the tasting, and is on Mourvedre and the wines tasted.

Information on Mourvedre

One of the most difficult wines to pronounce, Mourvèdre (moor-VED-ruh ). is native to Spain, where it is known as Monastrell, originally from the Spanish town of Murviedro, near Valencia. Even more confusing, when it first arrived in CA, it was known as Mataro.

Mourvèdre was brought to Provence in the late Middle Ages, where it was the dominant varietal prior to the phylloxera (similar to aphids) invasion at the end of the 19th century. The phylloxera invasion was particularly devastating to Mourvèdre. Whereas most of the other Rhône varietals were easily matched with compatible rootstocks, Mourvèdre proved difficult to graft with the existing phylloxera-resistant rootstock. Thus, when the vineyards were replanted, most producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape chose to replant with varieties that were easier to graft, such as Grenache. For decades, Mourvèdre was found almost exclusively in the sandy (and phylloxera-free) soil of Bandol, in Provence.

Compatible rootstocks for Mourvèdre were developed after World War II. Shortly thereafter, Jacques Perrin of Château de Beaucastel led regeneration efforts in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and made Mourvèdre a primary grape in the red Beaucastel wines. Chateau Boislauzon is one of the only CdP’s that are 100% Mourvedre. Château de Beaucastel was also instrumental in bringing Mourvedre to Paso Robles (along with other Rhone varietals).

Mourvèdre is a late-ripening varietal that flourishes with hot summer temperatures. In the vineyard, Mourvèdre is a moderately vigorous varietal that does not require a great deal of extra care. The vines tend to grow vertically, making Mourvèdre an ideal candidate for head-pruning (the method traditional to Châteauneuf-du-Pape), although vines can also be successfully trellised. When head-pruned, the weight of the ripening grapes pulls the vines down like the spokes of an umbrella, providing the ripening bunches with ideal sun exposure.

Wines made from Mourvèdre are intensely colored, rich and velvety with aromas of leather, game, and truffles. They tend to be high in alcohol and tannin when young, and are well-suited to aging. The animal, game-like flavors present in young Mourvèdres can be so strong that they are occasionally mistaken for the bacteria Brettanomyces. In a well-made Mourvèdre, these flavors should resolve into aromas of forest floor and leather with aging.

Chateau Pibarnon 2011 Rose, a blend of 65% Mourvèdre, 35% Cinsault. The production is mostly direct press (80%), with the remainder (20%) made by the saignée (“to bleed”) method.

Altos De La Hoya 2008, Monastrell, Jumilla, Sp Good power with surprising elegance and structure; Aroma – bright red fruit   Taste – fruit, black tea, soft tannins; Steven Tanzler 91

L’Aventure Estate Côte à Côte 2006

 40% Mourvèdre estate, 30% Grenache estate, 30% Syrah estate. 700 cases produced. Deep ruby and garnet circles describe the color, while explosive red fruit aromas and spice dominate the nose. Hints of ripe blueberries and black cherries, along with acacia and graphite add complexity to this polished wine. Full bodied with a very long finish. Cellar for 10 -12 years.   Parker 96 “Another superstar in the L’Aventure portfolio, it possesses an inky/purple color along with a sumptuous, sweet bouquet of roasted meats, blackberry liqueur, creme de cassis, licorice, and chocolate. Dense and full-bodied with fabulous intensity, opulence, and flesh, but no hard edges, it will provide immense pleasure over the next decade”.

Tablas Creek, 2005

This wine is composed of Mourvedre 90%, Syrah 10%, from Paso Robles, CA. A powerful nose with barnyard and truffles; smooth in the mouth, with plums, black fruit, leather and long length. Tablas Creek says: “a classic nose of roasted meats, plums and spice. Juicy and full in the mouth, it features lingering notes of plum, currant, coffee, chocolate and leather, with a long mineral finish”. Peak maturity now and over the next 3 years Steven Tanzler 91


Château de Pibarnon, 2005

About 95%  mourvèdre, the rest Grenache. Mourvedre ripens late and performs best in the warm Mediterranean climate of Bandol. At Pibarnon, to ensure perfect maturity, the grapes are often picked 10 days later than is customary in Bandol. The upshot is a wine that compares favorably with great names from the more prestigious vineyards in France. When young, Pibarnon Rouge displays a massive floral bouquet with black cherries and spices. The firm acidity of the Mourvèdre gives good definition and a solid foundation for long term development. With time the wine mellows, exhibiting a harmonious elegance and wonderful heady flavors of truffles, wet leaves and cinnamon. Wine Spectator 95

Chateau Boislauzon, 2006

The wine, the 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape Le Tintot, shows meaty bacon fat notes intermixed with blueberry, truffle, and fresh mushrooms. Dense, tannic, and long, it should age effortlessly for 20 or so years given the fact it is all Mourvedre. I am not so sure producing a 100% Mourvedre wine in Chateauneuf du Pape is going to be well-accepted in the marketplace, but it is a small cuvee and certainly impressively done. Robert Parker  92 -94 points.

Tonnato Sauce

24 Jul

Lori and I first had the pleasure of tasting Tonnato sauce when traveling in Piedmont, Italy. It’s tuna and lemon Imagebased, with anchovy and caper flavors, nice on boiled eggs as an appetizer or on cold chicken, turkey, veal or pork sliced thinly. Traditionally the meat would be poached, but cook it any way you want and let it cool…especially nice on a warm (or hot) day. Tonnato sauce also is great for dipping in raw vegetables. The picture is a cold plate dinner on a hot summer evening of sliced chicken, raw veggies and tonnato sauce with a rose of Pinot Noir.

Tonnato Sauce

1 4-oz can of oil packed tuna (not drained)

4 teaspoons of capers (drained)

1 tsp of anchovy paste (or 3 fillets)

3 teaspoons of lemon juice

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

3 teaspoons of lemon juice (or use lemon olive oil and leave out the lemon).

2-3 tablespoons of water (white wine, broth or other liquid)

Salt and pepper

Put the tuna, capers, anchovy paste, lemon juice (if using), and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a food processor and puree for about 11/2 minutes until very smooth. Slowly pour the olive oil into the feed tube with the motor running and then the same with the other liquid until the sauce in thick (put pourable). Cool for at least an hour in the fridge.

Wine Pairings: A Jacquere (yes, that’s the grape) from Savoie, Fr., was an excellent pairing with the tonnato sauce on boiled egg. Jacquere is a crisp white so, for instance, sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio (etc.) will pair well. With a cold protein (see above), a rose on the full-bodied side (a rose of Pinot Noir worked well for us, see picture)), or any red with minimal tannins.

Variations: Add other ingredients you like to the food processor, such as Dijon mustard (a bridge to Pinot Noir) hot pepper flakes or sauce (think zinfandel or a wine with a little sweetness, like Riesling or Gewurztraminer).


1 Jul

Every time I make Risotto I reminded how easy and good it is. It doesn’t have to be stirred constantly, just enough to keep from scorching or burning on the bottom. Use a heavy saucepan that handles the heat and you can be doing other things after each addition of liquid. Risotto has many variations….add anything you like or want to pair with the main course. This version uses porcini’s, but feel free to replace them at will….peaches, hazelnuts, etc. See below for a discussion of pairings.

Mushroom Risotto

1-2 ozs Dried porcini (or other mushrooms)
a finely chopped onion
4 tbs olive oil
2 cups of risotto rice
About ½ cup of white wine (room temperature or warm)
About 5½ cups of hot broth
About 1/3 cup of grated parmesan
2+ tbs of butter

Reconstitute the porcinis according to directions
Keep the strained liquid for the broth (about one cup)
Rough chop the mushrooms

In a heavy large saucepan heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft and/or golden
Add the rice and saute’ an additional couple minutes or so stirring off and on.
Add the wine, stir until absorbed
Add the mushrooms
Add the broth a little at a time (around one cup at a time)
Stir off and on until all the liquid is absorbed, preventing sticking on the bottom
Stir in the butter and parmesan, cover and let sit a few minutes, or until you’re ready to serve.

Wine Pairings: My favorite pairing, especially with

Porcini Risotto was paired with the Stags’ Leap Cab on the left

porcini’s, is Nebbiolo (specifically, Barolo or Barbaresco), but any bold red can work. We paired this with Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon at one of our Saturday Pairings. Generally, any red wine with “barnyard”, “forest floor” or “mushroomy notes” (like some Pinot Noirs) are fine.

Potato, Onion and Bean Tortilla

23 Jun

Wine Pairing Suggestion: This Spanish tortilla is versatile…use as an appetizer, tapas or side dish, especially in the summer. Eggs are notoriously hard to pair with wine, but combining them with potatoes, onions and herbs makes it versatile. Our Saturday Pairing is a gruner vetliner (Austria). Also, a fresh white or dry rose.…even a smooth red (think tempranillo from Spain) will be fantastic. For more flavor, set out a bowl of your favorite salsa.

• 2 Spanish (or sweet) onions, sliced thinly
• 12 oz waxy potatoes cut into ½ inch dice
• 11/2 cups of your favorite canned beans (e.g., Navy or Fava) drained & rinsed
• 1 tsp of chopped fresh thyme (or other fresh herb you like)
• 7 extra large eggs
• 3 tbsp of chopped chives (and or parsley)
• 3 tbsp of olive oil
• Salt and pepper

1. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a 9in non-stick frying pan
2. Add and stir the onions and potatoes, and continue to cook over low heat for about 20 min (this is pre-cooking, not browning).
3. Stir in the beans, thyme, add salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking for about 5 min
4. In the meantime, beat the eggs, add in the chives and pour over the potato and onion mixture
5. Turn the heat up slightly (still less than medium) until the egg on the bottom sets and browns
6. Gently pull one edge away from the side and tilt the pan so the uncooked egg goes underneath
7. Once the top has set (no free liquid), turn off the heat and let it cool
8. After 20 min or more, slide the tortilla onto a plate or cutting board.
9. Cut into whatever size pieces you like, and serve warm, if possible.

Ham and Gruyere Savory Quick Bread

19 Jun

Wine Pairing Suggestion: This bread is delicious and a good pairing with Pinot Noir.
• Gruyere: ½ cup coarsely grated plus ½ cup finely grated plus 4oz 3/8 inch cubes
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tbsp baking powder
• 5 oz baked ham cut into 3/8 inch cubes and browned in olive oil
• 1/8 cup chopped fresh thyme
• 3 eggs beaten
• 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• Salt and pepper
1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper
2. Heat the oven to 350 oF.
3. Spray and 9×5 loaf pan with non-stick oil (or coat with oil or butter)
4. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ½ of the coarsely grated gruyere
5. Toss the 3/8 ham and 3/8 gruyere with the dry ingredients
6. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, yogurt, oil, thyme and the finely grated gruyere
7. Combine with the dry ingredients, just until smooth
8. Add to the loaf pan & sprinkle the rest of the coarsely grated gruyere on top
9. Bake for about 45 min (use the clean toothpick rule)
10. Cool for about 20 min, remove from the pan and serve when ready