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This three-member panel – Monique Soltani, Ellen Landis, Thrace Bromberger – tastes and judges a “flight” of rosés, awarding medals to the worthiest.

Welcome back, my friends – I hope life is treating you well on this summer’s eve!

I’ve just finished packing my overnight bag, and early tomorrow I’ll head up to Sonoma for one of my favorite events of the year: the International Women’s Wine Competition.

 

During the Sweepstakes Round, on Day 2, all of us taste the top-scoring wines from every panel. We raise our hands for each wine that we like to determine “Best Of Class” and “Best of Show.”

For the next day and a half, I’ll be joining two dozen or so colleagues – all female wine professionals – to judge 1,000+ wines from around the world.

Why women only? Because, in the U.S. at least, women buy at least 80% of wine. (Makes sense, considering who brings home most of the groceries!)

 

In the Sweepstakes Round, we’ll taste 30+ “Best of the Best” wines from every panel. Check out all the glasses in front of me (I’ve already worked through the whites!

My fellow judges represent many segments of the wine profession – including winemakers, educators, retailers, writers and more.

During the main event tomorrow, our panels award gold, silver and bronze medals to the most deserving entries. The next day, in the Sweepstakes round, we all taste every panel’s top-scoring wines to choose “Best In Class” and “Best In Show.”

We also honor the top wine made by a female winemaker with a special award. Here’s star winemaker Shauna Rosenblum, in a series of Sweepstakes pix from the archives, when she learns she’s won for one of her marvelous Zinfandels –

 

 

 

 
I’ll be back after the Competition to fill you in on the fun details – to bring you into the “inner sanctum” of the judges’ chambers – and to reveal our winning whites, reds, rosés and sparklers!

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Until then, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

Eating Italian in New York – Part 1!

I landed at Siri’s Brooklyn apartment in late afternoon, just in time for us to tuck into a tasty spread that Siri had ready. Smoked salmon. Spicy salame. My favorite, authentic smoked mozzarella – and lovely bubbles to wash everything down.

Welcome back, my friends – I hope life is treating you well!

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind week in New York, making up for lost time since my last visit.

Naturally, I spent most of my stay with my wonderful daughter Siri. I also managed to get together with my childhood friend Maria and several cousins, and visit my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College (just outside New York City) for a class reunion.

 

Cin cin! Toasting our mother-daughter reunion with vintage Gruet sparkling rosé. Perfect!

I’ll be patching in some quick, fun posts about various and sundry doings in and near the Big Apple – including a phenomenal indoor/outdoor glass-sculpture exhibit by Dale Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden – in the next days and weeks.

I’ll also bring you a post about Siri’s cool boutique, Treehouse Brooklyn.

 

Even Siri’s Maine Coon kitty Lucky gets into the act at our luxurious snack table. (See the big boy on the right?) Enjoy your kitty treats, Lucky!)

(Click to see her gorgeous hand-crafted “Sirius Lux” jewelry and her “Big Fun Thing” line of comfy, eco-friendly clothing).

For now, though, I’d like to share with you some of my food cravings, which I like to feed during every visit.

 

 

Emily’s Pork Store (aka Jerry’s) makes immense sandwiches stuffed with cold cuts, cheeses, marinated mushrooms, artichokes, hot and/or sweet roast peppers… My mouth is watering!

I told Siri that I’d been longing for some of her local pizza, and for a sandwich from the “pork store” next to Treehouse.

Williamsburg, the Brooklyn district where she lives, features many different ethnic neighborhoods,from Dominican to Polish to Hassidic, happily cheek by jowl alongside each other.

 

Just look at those fat sausages and chubby orbs of cheese. Reminds me of my childhood!!

But the 8-block stretch of Graham Avenue between her apartment and Treehouse is strictly Italian – so much so that it goes by the alternate name of “Via Vespucci.”

So, what’s a pork store? (Every Italian neighborhood seems to have at least one.) Better to show than tell, actually.

 

What a sandwich – prosciutto, capicolla (aka gabagool’ if you’re Napoletano), roast peppers, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic. Plus tangy-sweet Castelvetrano olives and nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Clos du Bois. Perfect!

Check out these dried sausages and cheeses, hanging from hooks throughout, ready to be carved into thick, sumptuous sammies.

I’ll leave you with this irresistible pic – my idea of the perfect Jerry’s sandwich.

Maybe this week I’ll roast up some peppers myself, lay in some mozzarella, thin-sliced prosciutto and great bread, and try to come close….

Wish me luck!

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Until next time, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

“Shrimp Scampi” Day – *Easy* Recipe!

*Such* an easy way to cook shrimp! I've poured a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, for "contrast" with the rich buttery sauce.

*Such* an easy way to cook shrimp! I’ve poured a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, to contrast with the buttery sauce.

Welcome back, my friends! Here’s a question for you –

What do Mt. Fujiyama, Rio Grande River and Shrimp Scampi all have in common?

Here’s a hint: Herb Caen, San Francisco’s late, great humor columnist, would assign all of them to his infamous “Department of Redundancies Department.”

Right. “Rio” means river in Spanish. “Yama” is Japanese for mountain.

And yes – you guessed it – “Scampi,” in Italian, translates to the whole clan of shrimp and their kin, including what are often called prawns and langoustines. (To complicate matters further, these names have different meanings in different locales.)

Beautiful young garlic bulb, perfect for chopping and sautéing.

Beautiful young Farmers Market garlic bulb, perfect for chopping and sautéing.

So yeah, we’re basically saying Shrimp Shrimp.

What’s really going on here is that the “Scampi” in “Shrimp Scampi” has come to mean the whole *cooking method* of sautéeing with garlic in butter and/or oil.

By the way, these tasty little crustaceans take the top spot, year after year, as America’s favorite seafood – and as a menu item, “Shrimp Scampi” is one of the most popular ways we enjoy them.

Cooking “Shrimp Scampi” is so simple, I almost don’t want to call this a recipe, but at least it’ll show you a couple of my personal twists…

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RECIPE: EASY “SHRIMP SCAMPI”

Ingredients:
For 1 lb. peeled medium shrimp (prawns, langoustines)
4 to 6 cloves garlic (or more), peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil or butter, or a combination
1/4 cup dry white wine
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges
Herbs, e.g. parsley, cilantro (optional)

Method:
Sauté chopped garlic in olive oil and/or butter, over low-medium heat, until cooked through and golden-colored. Remove from pan and set aside.

Raise heat to medium-high and add shrimp. Cook, stirring often, until shrimp just turn pink. Add wine to pan and cook briefly to evaporate alcohol. Turn heat off, add lemon juice, and return cooked garlic to pan.

Transfer shrimp to serving bowl and add lemon wedges and (optional) herbs. Serve hot with bread, rice or pasta, and a crisp white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.

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Add garlic back to pan after shrimp is cooked.

Add garlic back to pan after shrimp is cooked.

The finished dish ~ just add bread, rice or pasta!

The finished dish ~ just add bread, rice or pasta!

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Hope you enjoy Shrimp Scampi Day. And if you do try my easy recipe, please let me know how you like it!

Until next time, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

OK, you caught me. Here's a selfie with winemaker Claudia Benazzoli, who just poured me some of her Valpolicella Ripasso 2013.

OK, you caught me. Here’s a selfie with fourth-generation winemaker Claudia Benazzoli, who just poured me some of her Valpolicella Ripasso 2013.

Benvenuti, amici miei – welcome, my friends!

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s peek into the little known, yet delicious world of Lugana wines.

As I mentioned then, I got to know these wonderful whites – and their producers – during an industry-only tasting yesterday at San Francisco’s venerable St. Francis Hotel.

 

Beautifully organized tasting, on the 12th floor of the St. Francis in SF.

Beautifully organized tasting, on the 12th floor of the St. Francis in SF.

BTW, my friends, I’m following through on my promise to smuggle you into cool, “insider” wine-and-food events with me!

At this walk-around tasting, hosted by the wine consortia (associations) of  Lugana and Valpolicella – neighboring wine-growing regions in north-central Italy – I was able to talk one-on-one with the dozen or so winery owners and winemakers from both areas.

(I trotted out my trusty (but rusty) college Italian, but all of the winery principals spoke excellent English.)

 

Unlike the white-wine-centric Lugana region, which we explored yesterday, Valpolicella features reds, in several different, widely varying styles. And unlike Lugana, which America has only recently discovered, Valpolicella is already firmly established here. Several of its wines, in fact, enjoy almost a cult status, and can fetch prices well above $100.

 

The lighter style of Valpolicella has much in common with Nouveau Beaujolais, including an early release, soon after harvest.

The lightest style of Valpolicella; fresh, fruity, unaged; has much in common with Nouveau Beaujolais, including an early release, mere weeks after harvest.

The three main grapes grown here are Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella. “Basic” Valpolicella – fresh, fruity and unaged, and the region’s best-known style – compares to a nouveau Beaujolais.

The Valpolicella Classico style, aged for at least a year, is fuller bodied and more complex.

 

My first Amazon of the day – from Ca' dei Frati. Definitely a sign of good things to come!

My first Amarone of the day – from Ca’ dei Frati. Definitely a sign of good things to come!

Next, the Amarone style amps up the weight and concentration of Valpolicella, due mostly to a unique, labor-intensive technique that dates back to the ancient Greeks.

After harvest, carefully chosen bunches of grapes are spread out on straw mats to dry.

 

As they shrivel, and the water evaporates, their sugars, acids and aromatics concentrate. These raisined grapes are pressed, the juice is fermented completely, and the resulting dry wine aged in oak barrels.

 

When I saw "Tinazzi" as this winery family's name, my eyes must have blurred a bit – because it looked like "Tinari," my maiden name...

When I saw “Tinazzi” as this winery family’s name, my eyes must have blurred a bit – because it looked like “Tinari,” my maiden name…

As you may imagine, Amarone is exceptionally rich and complex – and often quite expensive – $50 and (way) up. It’s not surprising that Amarone has acquired a bit of a “cult wine” status.

For a less pricey alternative, though, there’s the Ripasso (twice-passed) style, sometimes referred to as “baby Amarone.”

 

The Ripasso process adds the pomace (grape solids that remain after pressing) from the Amarone production to Valpolicella wine from the same vintage, and the second fermentation this kicks off builds in extra layers of flavor.

 

I enjoyed sipping both the Amarone and Ripasso wines from Scriani.

Amarone and Ripasso wines from Scriani.

Unlike the ancient Amarone method, this technique was only just developed in the 1980s.

Though noticeably lighter than Amarone, Ripasso wines, thanks to the dried grapes that both styles are based on, share a “family resemblance.”

 

And their price tag – often only $15-$25 – is far more approachable.

Wonderful cheeses (tiny mozzarella balla balls in pesto, Humboldt Fog, red wine-soaked cheddar) and other assorted nibbles. to keeper palates fresh throughout the tasting. Delicious!

Wonderful cheeses (tiny mozzarella balls in pesto, Humboldt Fog, red wine-soaked cheddar, great brie) and other assorted nibbles. to keep palates fresh throughout the tasting. Delicious!

Finally, a dessert version of Amarone, called Recioto and made using a similar drying technique, has lower alcohol (because the fermentation is stopped before it’s complete), and retains a generous amount of residual sugar.

It’s dense and inky, with berry-jammy, dark cherry and chocolate flavors – and wonderful on its own or alongside not-too-sweet chocolate desserts.

Come back tomorrow, my friends, and join me for a wonderful dinner at Perbacco – one of San Francisco’s best-loved Italian restaurants – for a freewheeling tasting of Lugana and Valpolicella wines.

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Until then, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

Something *completely* different – from Italy!

Something *completely* different – from Italy!

Though I’ll happily pop the cork of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or creamy Chardonnay when I’m enjoying “white wine food” – or an aromatic Riesling, Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer for a change of pace – I’ll always welcome the chance to try something completely different.

So naturally, I jumped at the chance to head into San Francisco yesterday for an exclusive, industry-only tasting of wines from two historic growing regions in north-central Italy.

You’ve probably heard of one of them – Valpolicella, in the province of Verona.

 

"Brolettino" from Ca' dei Frati, a Lugana white made 100% from the native Turbiano grape varietal.

“Brolettino” from Ca’ dei Frati, a Lugana white made 100% from the native Turbiano grape varietal.

Today, though, we’re spotlighting the other region – Lugana – which lies just west of the better-known Valpolicella.

Fairly small and well-contained, bordering gorgeous Lake Garda and straddling both Verona and Lombardy, Lugana is only just starting to become known in the U.S.

 

And in my not-always-humble opinion, its unique, delicious and versatile wines *definitely* deserve a prominent place at America’s table!

Luca Formentini, president of Lugana's Wine Consortium, shows how the cold climate of the Alps affects the Lugana wines. (The blue area is Lake Garda.)

Luca Formentini, president of Lugana’s Wine Consortium, shows how the cold climate of the Alps affects the Lugana wines. (The blue area is Lake Garda.)

Because of Lugana’s geography, geology and cool climate, white grapes dominate here.

(Think chilly Germany and its Rieslings, Gewürztraminers… you get the picture!)

In fact, when you see the name “Lugana” on a bottle, you know that the wine in it is white.

By far the main varietal grown here is an indigenous, winter-hardy grape called Turbiana, which has adapted beautifully to Lugana’s often-rugged conditions.

 

The powerful aromas of Lugana wines make it a great "standalone" wine – but it truly shines at the table.

Lugana’s fragrant whites are great “standalone” wines – but they truly shine at the table.

Before even taking my first taste of a Lugana white, I was struck by the *look* of it while it was being poured for me. I didn’t even need to swirl it to see how viscous it was, and how it coated the glass.

This is common with sweet, late harvest-style wines – but these Lugana wines are dry.

What’s more, I could smell the wine before I’d even lifted it from the table to my nose.

 

Wow! Ripe peaches and apricot (wines from some of the other producers came through with guava, papaya and passionfruit), plus nuts like almond and hazelnut, and some exotic florals.

A delicious "spumante" (sparkling) wine from Lugana.

A delicious, crisp and amazingly food-friendly “spumante” (sparkling) wine from Lugana.

All this, plus a soft, mouthfilling texture and crisp finish. Beautiful wines on their own – beautiful wines to enjoy with food.

They’re varied, too – especially since many producers also make “Superiore” and/or “Riserva” bottlings, with even more complex flavor profiles.

And if that’s not enough, you’ll even find “Vendemmia Tardiva” (late-harvest) and “Spumante” (sparkling) styles of Lugana.

 

Could Lugana wine be America's next big white?

Could Lugana wine be America’s next big white?

See what I mean when I say that Lugana wines deserve a prominent place at America’s table?

Tomorrow, I’ll bring you back to this extraordinary tasting, and to the elegant dinner that followed.

 

We’ll also meet some of the top producers, from both the Lugana and the Valpolicella regions, and taste some exceptional wines – both red and white.

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Don’t miss “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules” of Food and Wine Pairing, “10 Wines ~ 10 Pasta Recipes” and more in Drink Wine With Dinner® ~ An Introduction!. Special Price – $7.95!

Do You Have Your Copy Yet??? Don’t miss “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules” of Food and Wine Pairing, “10 Wines ~ 10 Pasta Recipes,” and lots more in my fun, foolproof ebook, Drink Wine With Dinner® ~ An Introduction. Special Price $7.95 – Download Yours Now!

Until then, my friends,
Arrivederci,
e tanti auguri felicissimi –
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules of Wine and Food Pairing.”

It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

Email me anytime at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina