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“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

 

NATIONAL SAUVIGNON BLANC DAY – JOIN ME!

Although I planned to cook my oysters for Sauvignon Blanc Day, I also love 'em raw...

Although I’m cooking my oysters for International Sauvignon Blanc Day, I also love ’em raw…

Welcome back, my friends! Ready to enjoy one of my fave food-and-wine combos with me?

Ever since I found out that we’d be celebrating National Sauvignon Blanc Day today, I’ve been thinking about oysters. Raw, sautéd, even barbecued or smoked – just bring ’em on!

For me, Sauvignon Blanc has been a go-to white for decades.

It’s a great “food wine,” and because it varies so much in style, I find I can pair it with an amazingly wide range of meals.

Normally, Asian-style flavors aren’t the first that come to mind when I plan a meal for Sauvignon Blanc. But since the “Sauv Blancs” I’ve been enjoying lately are bright and fresh-tasting, leaning more toward citrus and tropical fruit and less toward anything grassy or herbal, I thought I’d push the envelope a bit and give my very simple oyster recipe an Asian twist. [click to continue…]

Mimi checks out Meadowcroft’s “Taste Our Double-Gold MALBEC” sign

Mimi checks out Meadowcroft’s “Taste Our Double-Gold Malbec” sign. (Twist my arm!)

Though I knew it was World Malbec Day when I set out this morning for tastings and lunch in Sonoma, I hadn’t imagined that I’d get to taste any until dinnertime.

But through sheer luck, my friends Mimi, Diane and I, who were out exploring for the day, stumbled on a tiny tasting room in the Cornerstone marketplace, where Routes 121 and 116 meet.

 

We had just enjoyed a simple but delicious farm-to-table lunch at Park 121, which features local wines from this cool-climate Carneros region.

Wonderful grilled baby artichoke to start our lunch at Park 121

A grilled baby artichoke to start our lunch at Park 121

 

On our way back to the car, when we spotted the Meadowcroft Wines sign, we couldn’t pass up the chance to do some quick sampling – especially with the “Taste Our Double-Gold Malbec” sign out front.

Elaine pours generous samples of the award-winning Malbec

Elaine pours us the Double Gold-awarded Malbec

As we bellied up to the Meadowcroft tasting bar, Elaine greeted us warmly and poured us each a generous taste of the Malbec, which had recently earned a “Double Gold” award at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

A swirl, sniff and sip revealed a rich, medium-full body and tons of flavor.

We tasted dark berries and chocolate, a little spice, a whiff of smoke, a touch of vanilla from oak aging. Quite a lovely, well-balanced wine all around, and a really fine example of the varietal. In fact, if I’d been on the judging panel, I would have given it high marks, too.

 

With dozens of brands coming in from Argentina, at bargain prices, Malbec is truly a wine to get to know.a

With dozens of brands coming in from Argentina, at bargain prices (even under $10!), Malbec is truly a wine to get to know

But, you ask, what the heck *is* Malbec, anyway?

Well, just a few years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find any in the marketplace – except from Argentina, where Malbec is planted in profusion. Now, though, it’s making inroads into California vineyards, and it’s becoming much better known.

 

Just a few of Argentina's many brands of Malbec.

Just a few of Argentina’s many brands of Malbec.

Originally, Malbec played only a small role in the wine world, primarily in Bordeaux.

Early ripening and frost sensitive, it historically has been mostly used as a blending grape, joining Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot in Bordeaux’ world-class reds.

 

But when it’s planted in warmer climates where it can flourish, Malbec develops mouth-filling, mouthwatering flavors and holds its own quite nicely as a standalone varietal.

Look at that inky-dark color! This Malbec is from Catena, one of Argentina's best-known and most highly regarded producers.

Look at that inky-dark color! This Malbec is from Catena, one of Argentina’s best-known and most highly regarded producers.

Malbec is generally fuller-bodied than Merlot, and not as “green” as Cabernet Sauvignon, two of its better-known cousins.

It’s full of dark red and black fruit flavors – plums, cherries, berries – plus spice, leather, tobacco and more. Big and robust, and usually quite tannic, Malbec is not for the faint of heart.

But remember, since fat and protein in food grab hold of tannins (so the tannins don’t grab hold of your tongue) and make your wine taste mellower and easier to drink, you’ve got an easy fix.

 

Can't wait to sink my teeth into a great piece of beef tonight, and pour 2 or 3 Malbec's with friends.

Can’t wait to sink my teeth into a great piece of beef tonight, and sip 2 or 3 Malbecs with friends.

Just grill up a big steak (the way the gauchos do on the Argentine pampas), nibble on some cheese while it’s cooking, and sip on some Malbec.

Why not try several while you’re at it (the price is sure right!), so you can explore a range of flavors and styles.

And if you like the stuff (what’s not to like!) keep looking for Malbec in the marketplace. You’ll find tasty, well-made wines for special occasions – and for “just because it’s Tuesday.”

Happy World Malbec Day! Enjoy it today – or anytime!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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 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 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