Friday, September 27, 2019

Celebrating Abruzzo Wines with the Ferzo Passerina, Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Caldora Chardonnay #ItalianFWT

For the month of October, #ItalianFWT bloggers are invited to explore Abruzzo wines with Dave from Cooking Chat. It was also awesome to receive some wine samples of this region from Donna White through the support of Gwen from Wine Predator. Thank you all for making this pairing experience so easy and enjoyable. Having the Ferzo Passerina, Citra Montuplciano d’Abruzzo and Caldora Chardonnay in hand, let the celebration begin!

Abruzzo is located between the Adriatic Sea and the massifs of Gran Sasso d’Italia and Majella. Blessed with the strong temperature contrasts between day and night as well as the good ventilation, the terroir ensures an ideal microclimate for the vines and produce grapes of high quality. Approximately 65% of the region is situated in the inland mountain region and is distinguished by a continental climate, while the rest is the coastal area that has broad hilly strip and mild climate.
Photo Credit: Wine Folly
Montepulciano is one of the most widespread indigenous grape varieties in the region and represents more than half the regional vine base. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo alone represents over 80% of the total number of DOC wines produced in Abruzzo and is one of the top three DOC wines produced in Italy. This is followed by the white grape Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, another protagonist in Abruzzo’s wine history. There are also a series of native, national and international grape varieties such as Passerina, Pecorino, Cococciola and then Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.


Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP 2017 ($10 SRP)*

Wine Description
Codice Citra was founded in 1973 when 3,000 small family growers decided to unite to form a winery dedicated to quality. The property, with its 6,000 hectares—14,800 acres—covers the majority of the Chieti province. Since its foundation, Codice Citra has focused on cultivating the most important, indigenous grape varieties within the province of Chieti.

About the Vineyard
These family owned properties, some with only one hectare, create a mosaic of small vineyards stretching north to south along the Adriatic coast and east to west from the sea to Majella Mountain. The range of climate and topography offers unparalleled quality and variety.

Wine Production
Hand-harvested grapes are vinified in stainless steel tanks with a long maceration at a controlled temperature. The must is frequently pumped over to intensify the aromatics and the color. The wine is then finished in stainless steel tanks.

Tasting Notes
Deep ruby in color with purple highlights. Classic Montepulciano aromas of wild berry, dried herbs, and black pepper are framed by chewy tannin and bright acidity.

The Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is made of 100% Montepulciano grape. When thinking about what food to pair with this wine, many ideas came to my mind – roast beef, Guazzetto oxtail or aged cheddar cheeses. However, I decided to marinate pork belly in different sauces and seasonings, and put them on the grill, making the last use of the outdoor BBQ for the summer season.

The pork belly I picked up from Costco was pre-cut to ¼ inch thick and is around 12 inches long for each piece. I then cut them in half by length and marinated them with the sauces and seasonings overnight. The fun part for this dish was to marinate the pork belly in 8 different flavors, making a pork belly tasting flight. The marinating sauces/seasonings I used are chili sauce; ginger, scallion and salt; 5 spice and soya sauce; Montreal stick seasonings; salt and rice wine; fish sauce and dried onion flakes; fermented tofu sauce; and Hoisin and Oyster sauces. When grilling the pork belly, I started with the lowest heat to allow the meat to fully cook inside. After 20 minutes, I turned the grill to medium heat so the meat can pick up the charcoal flavor and color and became crispy. The Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a perfect wine for the pork belly as its yeasty and blackberry flavors go so well with the deeply flavored pork. The bright acidity also cut through the fatty layer of the pork belly and made it extra juicy and light. I cut the pork belly up in cubes and it was amazing to see how fun it was to pop a pork cube in the mouth and sip this wine along, perpertually!

Passerina IGP Terre di Chieti 2017 ($26 SRP)*

Wine Description
Ferzo,” in Italian refers to a patch of fabric that, when stitched together with others, creates a sail. The union of the finest viticultural “patches” in Abruzzo gives life to Ferzo, a distinctive line of wines which embody the best of region’s indigenous grape varieties.

About the Vineyard
The vineyards that source Ferzo Passerina are found in the rolling hills that stretch between the Adriatic Sea in the East to the Appenine Mountains in the West. The relationship between mountains and sea is always felt in this part of Italy as temperature variations yield a constant breeze known here as the "brezza di terra".

Wine Production
Native to Abruzzo, the Passerina grape produces wines of tremendous character. The grapes are expertly farmed in pristine vineyards before undergoing a gentle pressing and 6-hour cold soak before fermentation in stainless steel.

Tasting Notes
Medium yellow in color, bursting with bright aromas of ripe stone fruit, mineral, citrus blossom, and freshly cut grass. Lively and aromatic with a balanced and refreshing finish.
Monkfish - Photo Credit:
To pair with this exclusive Ferzo Passerina, I have grilled some monkfish chunks. Don’t be fooled by monkfish’s monstrous look, it has a mild sweet taste and the texture of a lobster. It’s called a poor man’s lobster for a reason.  I asked the fishmonger to remove the skin of the fish and cut them in large chunks so it was suited for BBQ. I marinated the fish in finely chopped ginger and garlic for ½ hour prior to the grill. Skip or go light on the ginger if you don’t like the spicy taste of it. After putting the fish on the hot grill (medium heat), I seasoned with salt and pepper generously. The fish took about 20 mins to cook. Flipped the uncooked side of the fish after 10 mins. The Ferzo Passerina has an amazing white flower note on the nose. It was a great aperitif before the BBQ began. When it was time to enjoy the fish, the wine’s hint of sweetness like the ripe peaches, the robust texture and minerality interacted well with the ginger-marinated fish.

Caldora Terre di Chieti Chardonnay 2017 (SRP $11.99)

Wine Description
Delicate stalk-stripping and crushing. Pressing, static clarification, fermentation of clean must for 20 days at 12°C.
Caldora, part of Farnese Vini - Photo Credit:
About the Vineyard
Caldora is one of the largest cooperative wineries in the Abruzzo. Total holdings consist of around 1200 ha, in which only the best 200 ha are selected, vinified, and bottled under the Caldora name. The majority of these plantings are located within the Ortona area in a microclimate that runs through a 25 km band between the Adriatic coast and the 3000m high Mount Maiella.

Tasting Notes
Bright straw yellow. Intense with persistence. Perceptible aromas of tropical fruit. Full-bodied and balanced.

With the pronounced notes of tropical fruit in this Chardonnay, I think a plate of seafood risotto will be its ideal match. Using the Great British Chefs’ Risotto Recipe as a reference, I reduced the amount of cheese and made a lighter version of the seafood risotto. The Caldora Chardonnay is a no brainer with this seafood risotto as its medium body works really amazingly with the assortment of seafood, especially the succulent and buttery scallops.

When celebrating with Abruzzo wines, food is no doubt a crucial part of the experience!

Disclosure: The wines in this post are samples. All opinions are my own.

Join the #ItalianFWT Abruzzo Twitter Chat

On Saturday, October 5, at 11 am ET / 17.00 CST the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group will explore Wines from Abruzzo, and related food and travel, in the #ItalianFWT chat on Twitter. Enter the hashtag #ItalianFWT in the search field on Twitter and click Enter. Click “Latest” to show the latest live tweets.

Don't miss our blogger friends' posts about Abruzzo wines here: 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Simple Daily Meals with Señor Sangria to Welcome the Fall

By Pinny Tam
Since my blog coverage of Señor Sangria published in May, Señor Sangria has made a significant milestone. It is now served in Yankee Stadium in New York. Congratulations! No doubt in my mind that Señor Sangria is a great drink that is liked by a lot of people on many occasions and for many seasons. In this blog, I’m going to “dress” up Señor Sangria so you can drink more of it in a fun way in the fall and serve it with meals that remind you of the summer.
It is still pretty warm in early fall in New York and New Jersey. Maybe you are not ready to serve warm mulled Sangria. Maybe you don’t want to switch to heavy liquors and eat hearty meals quite yet. Whatever reasons you may have, Señor Sangria continues to offer the taste and versatility for the months to come. To dress up the Classic Red, Classic White, and Apple Raspberry, I simply add some fruit - canned lychee, dried tamarind and fresh raspberry to the drinks. The canned lychee is widely available in any grocery stores nowadays. A lot of people have tried it through drinking lychee martinis and know that this fruit is very sweet and has an amazing flowery aroma. Having it with the Classic Red just makes the Sangria smell so aromatic and sweet. It’s also fun to nibble on the spongy lychee. The dried tamarind that is usually salty and spicy elevates the Classic White to an amazing drink that has so many layers of flavors – sweet, spicy, salty, and tangy. For the Apple Raspberry, it is logical to have the fresh raspberry to add some freshness to it. 
The Señor Sangrias, with or without added fruit, are just pure pleasure at dinner times for me. Unlike a bottle of wine which you typically should finish it within a day or two once it is open, These Sangrias have longer “shelf time” when you put them in the fridge after they are open. In my experience, the flavors are not changed much even they are in the fridge for a week. Of course, it is important to make sure you put the cap back on as tight as you can to reduce oxidation. 
Although many foods go well with these Sangrias, nothing is easier and quicker than making some juicy beef and salmon burgers and oven-roasted chicken wings. For the burgers, you can use your favorite store-bought beef patties that may be left from the summer BBQ or like me hand-make some beef patties with your choice of added vegetables like scallion, onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. The added vegetables just brighten up and elevate the taste of an ordinary burger. I occasionally also fry an easy-over egg and overlay it atop the burger. 
If I haven’t made you hungry yet, I also like a salmon burger for dinner. There are a lot of high-quality salon burger patties out there to make your prep time down to nothing. But if you choose to make salmon patties on your own, all you need to do is to lightly poach some salmon, flake it, mix it with an egg and some bread crumb, form it into patties and pan-fry it. When done, drizzle some sriracha mayo over your salmon burger and you are left with the job of finishing this finger-licking good healthy burger. The Classic White is probably the best accompaniment for the salmon burger. 
Cooking whole chicken wings may seem to be an intimidating task to some people as they are difficult to cook – the tips are burnt, and the little drumsticks are undercooked when the wings are not flattened. One trick I learned is to skew the wings with metal or wooden skewers prior to roasting the wings in the oven. I like the metal ones as they won’t be burnt in the oven and are reusable. Skewing the wings to a close-to-straight line allows the heat to cook every part of the wing. The golden wings will be the perfect finger food for the Sangrias.
Disclosure: The Sangrias in this post are samples. All opinions are my own.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Miolo Alisios Pinot Grigio Riesling and Raw Ahi Tuna 3 Ways #WinePW

Alisios Seival Estate Pinot Grigio Riesling and Ahi Tuna Rice Burger
Happy time is to have a wine that’s readily available to you right at the time you really want it. Right after my trip to Japan in August, I have a lot of seafood and wine pairing ideas in my mind due to the sweet memory of all the amazing sushi I ate. In addition to tasting sakes, I’m planning to taste a lot of whites before the red wine season arrives. Thanks to Susannah from Avvinare, I received a bottle of Alisios Seival Estate Pinot Grigio Riesling Brazil 2017. This sample is one of the amazing wines from the largest Brazilian wine exporter, Miolo Group. The Miolo Group is also a member of the Wines of Brazil consortium, the sponsor for this month’s #WinePW samples. Let’s learn about Brazilian wines and see how I pair the Alisios Grigio Riesling with raw Ahi tuna!
Brazil Wine Regions (Photo Credit for
Brazil, the largest country in Latin America and the fifth largest wine producer in the Southern Hemisphere, has been producing wines since the beginning of its colonization. However, it was the arrival of Italian immigrants, a process initiated in 1875, which brought importance to the activity.

Miolo Headquarter Located at Serra Gaucha (Photo Credit of Wines of Brazil)
The Miolo Wine Group is Brazil’s largest wine exporter, producing and bottling more than 12 million liter of wines per year, and knowingly owns the greatest amount of vine land in Brazil. The Miolo Winery is located in picturesque Serra Gaucho in Bento Gonçalves city. The Miolo’s family history in Brazil starts in 1897 when Giuseppe Miolo, a young Italian man with passion for grapes and wines, immigrated from Piombino Dese, in Vêneto to Bento Gonçalves, a new Brazilian county by Italian immigrants. He began growing grapes in the same year. During the 1970s, Miolo was one of the pioneers, planting and supplying European grape varieties. After years as a supplier of grapes, the company decided to produce its own wines in 1990.
Alisios Seival Estate Located at Campanha (Photo Credit of Wines of Brazil)
Alisios Seival Estate Pinot Grigio Riesling Brazil 2017 is produced in Campanh, which is Brazil's most southern wine-producing region, located along the country's border with Uruguay. While it is not quite as well known as the neighboring region of Serra Gaucha, Campanha begins to attract attention for the quality of its wines.

The terrain of Campanha consists of low, rolling hills and flat lands known as Pampas in this part of the world. The area has a relatively temperate climate given its low latitude, which it shares with the northern Sahara Desert. Particularly in the higher elevations, the altitudes between 650ft and 1000ft above sea level, result in long sunny days which are followed by cooler evenings.  This daily temperature variation extends the ripening period, which leads to a balance of flavor and acidity in the grapes.

Campanha's sandy soils consist of granite and limestone and are not rich and fertile – a typical profile associated with the South American Pampas. The free-draining nature of these soils ensure the vines are not swamped with water during periods of rainfall, but enough water is stored in the lower reaches of the ground that irrigation is not necessary during the growing season.

Viticulture in Campanha has grown in the past decade as winegrowers, like Miolo, have looked to cheaper and more forgiving landscapes in Rio Grande do Sul than the mountain slopes of Serra Gaucho. 
Alisios Seival Estate Pinot Grigio Riesling Brazil 2017 is a perfect example of a blend wine, 50% Pinot Grigio and 50% Riesling, in this case that works miracles. This wine showcases dynamite synergy through the grapes. It has the pale straw hue and attractive aromas of white pulp fruit, ripe apples and apricot on the nose. It’s packed in explosive apple and pear flavors that are brought by Pinot Grigio. Riesling, the equal partner, offers an amazing textural palate that is attributed by the crisp mineral note at the finish. Balance, which means good structure, refreshing acidity, solid minerality and lingering aftertaste, is the magic word to describe this wine. When pairing food with this wine, raw Ahi Tuna comes to my mind due to its compatibility with Asian flavors. Eating raw fish is not that common in Chinese cuisines. However, the uprising trend of eating shellfish and fish, raw or cooked, in any exotic way you can imagine sweeps through Asia lately. While the video footage of live octopus fought for its life by latching on to an eater’s face is brutal, eating raw Ahi tuna is relaxing and fun. I’m preparing three Ahi tuna dishes to complement this wine: Ahi Tuna Sashimi Rice Bowl, Miso-Infused Ahi Tuna Tartare and Ahi Tuna Rice Burger.
Ahi Tuna and Seasoned Seaweed over Brown Rice and Quinoa
For food safety and taste, sushi grade Ahi tuna should be purchased from the fish monger or from the frozen section. Sashimi is thinly sliced fish and typically is eaten with a mix of soya sauce and wasabi on the side. This sashimi rice bowl - Ahi tuna sashimi slices laid over a bowl of whole grain rice and quinoa, is probably the healthiest meal you can imagine. The refreshing acidity of this Alisios Pinot Grigio Riesling simply just brightens the Ahi tuna and brings out the freshness even more.
Ahi Tuna Tartare
When people talk about tuna tartare, people think of soya sauce, sesame oil, ginger and scallion mixed into the chopped up tuna. Replacing all these ingredients with light miso sauce and a dash of lemon juice is my new tuna tartare receipt. 

This miso packet is a fast-food version of the miso that is meant to be used for a quick soup in a cup at work or at home. It is a light sauce instead of the thick paste in the container. The miso actually makes the tuna tartare a bit creamy, a great complement to the mineral note from the Riesling side of this wine.

Rice burger is pretty hot right now. We ate one in a fast-food shop in Hiroshima and loved every bit of it. To mould the burger buns, I oil-sprayed two bowls and pushed an half an inch seasoned sushi rice to the bowls. After setting the rice in the freezer for half an hour, I put cut up tuna cubes, cucumber and tomato onto one side of the “bun” and finish the burger atop with another rice bun. The tuna is cut in cubes of the size you like and is seasoned with soya sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, a dash of lemon juice and chili oil, and honey.  The Alisios Pinot Grigio Riesling has the light body yet solid texture, mingling mingles well with the vinegary sushi rice and the saltiness of tuna. Having a great Brazilian white wine and my Ahi tuna prepared in three ways, another happy food/wine pairing moment in the making!

Disclosure: The wine in this post is a sample.  The ideas are my own.
To see what the #WinePW bloggers are pairing their Brazilian wine with, check out:

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares "A Brazilian Sparkler +Frango à Passarinho and Pao de Queijo"

Linda of My Full Wine Glass will be posting "Head to Southern Brazil for High-Quality Wine"

Cindy of Grape Experiences writes "Wine and Dine Brazilian Style with Alma Brut White Sparkling Wine from Salton Winery and Fried Calamari"

Gwen at Wine Predator shares "A Poet Pairs Poetica Sparkling Rosé from Brazil"

David of Cooking Chat will be pairing "Brazilian Beans, Greens and Bacon with Sparkling Wine"

Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings will be serving "Miolo Alisios Pinot Grigio/Riesling and Raw Ahi Tuna 3 Ways"

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm will be adding "Enjoying Indian Summer with Alma Sparkling Brut from Brazil"

Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs will be sharing "Friends, Seafood, Bubbly and Chardonnay:Our Brazilian Wine Pairing Dinner"

Debbie of The Hudson Valley Wine Goddess writes "Celebrating Garden Harvest with Brazilian Wine"

Sarah of The Curious Cuisiniere showcases "Pastel de Queijo and Brazilian Sparkling Wine Pairing"

Jill of L'Occasion posts “Bubbles from Brazil: a Treat for Wine Lovers

Jennifer of Vino Travels muses about "Brazilian Sparkling Wines with Salton Brut"

Susannah at Avvinare , I'll post about "Miolo Merlot Paired with Brazilian Skirt Steak with Golden Garlic Butter."