A Hot August Night….Sizzles with the tastes of South America

Churrasco Beef Sandwich Pin It

This is what happened when we gathered a small group of people to an Italian restaurant to enjoy the cuisine of South America paired with Chilean wines. An amazing time with our Ambassador, Javier Guinzazu.

Javier and David

David and Javier

From a young age, Javier always had a passion for wine.  Having parents from the premier wine producing region of Argentina, Mendoza became the setting for his early education.  His family vineyards, which are still run by his father today, were regularly visited as a child and helped teach him the intrinsic values terroir and careful vineyard practices.  This unique heritage fueled his fervor for wine and inspired him to one day work closely with wines from South America.  He has spent the last five years dedicated to several wineries from Chile and Argentina, working in different facets  to help promote the most authentic wines from various regions.

He is currently specializing in the wines of Chile and helping to spread the excitement over emerging regions like Casablanca and Leyda Valleys, and seemingly obscure varietals like Carmenere and Sauvignon Gris. Chilean wine is mostly known for its value, but variety and quality that are now coming out of the region are incredible.

 

Halibut and Shrimp Ceviche

Halibut and Shrimp Ceviche

Chilean Sea bass

Chilean Sea Bass

Churrasco Beef Sandwich

Churrasco Beef Sandwich

 

Before I did this wine dinner I was not very knowledgable about food and wines from Chile. My focus primarily has been on Italian food and wine. For me it was exciting to research and then cook the fabulous cuisuine of the foods from Chile. Even though the foods are different from the Italian regions, their are some similarities. The Spanish have had some great influence as well. The Spanish came to Chile in 1541 and they brought grapes, olives, walnuts, chestnuts, rice, wheat, citrus fruits, sugar, garlic, and spices. They also brought chicken, beef, sheep, pigs, rabbits, milk, cheeses, and sausages.

Before I did this wine dinner I was not very knowledgable about food and wines from Chile. My focus primarily has been on Italian food and wine. For me it was exciting to research and then cook the fabulous cuisine of the foods from Chile. Even though the foods are different from the Italian regions, their are some similarities. The Spanish have had some great influence as well. The Spanish came to Chile in 1541 and they brought grapes, olives, walnuts, chestnuts, rice, wheat, citrus fruits, sugar, garlic, and spices. They also brought chicken, beef, sheep, pigs, rabbits, milk, cheeses, and sausages.

Ultimately for me what it comes down to is having the opportunity to share and to experience the culture of food and wine of different countries with my customers who have now become my friends.

Ciao for now

Maria and Alexia

Maria and Alexia

Cheers

Cheers

Vego and Jorge

Vego and Jorge

 

 

 

Summer Is Never a Dull Moment!

Waterskiing on the Columbia Pin It
Waterskiing on the Columbia

Waterskiing on the Columbia

Summer can be an amazingly busy time for all of us. Between taking sets on the ski lake, camping, going to parades and riding my bike, I still find time to organize and take time to facilitate all of our out of town guests we will be hosting for either wine touring, cooking amazing foods or setting up for our coming wine dinners. I don’t know how I manage to fit it all in, but it is those things in my life that keeps my juices flowing. It is those things in life that inspire me.

Chilean Mountains

Chilean Mountains

Seabass

Seabass

Empanadas

Empanadas

First on the agenda, a guest from Chile will be joining us, Javier Guinazu. He will be hosting a wine and food event in our wine bar in which he will be presenting and tasting us on his incredible wines from Chile. It is fun finding recipes to compliment the wines  from Chile. Whether it’s Chilean Sea Bass, or Pebre, a Chilean Chile Pepper Salsa, or something tasty like an empanada. Served with Cousino-Macul Sauvignon Gris, Antiguas Chardonnay & Antiguas Cabernet, & Terranoble Gran Reserve Carmenere.

The following week will involve 4 Italians arriving from Milan. Two of them great friends, and their business associates. We will be taking a road trip to the Willamette Valley, introducing them to the great Pinot Noirs from this region. They are fascinated with trying the wines of Washington, Oregon and California. Seeing this region from their perspective is going to be so fun. Three of  them have never been to  America. After spending a few days in Oregon, off we go to Sonoma for a few days to introduce them to the wine of Northern California. The big, bold Cabernets, along with the buttery Chardonnays. It is going to be fun and funny traveling in a mini van with 4 young Italian professionals. They will continue on their journey for three weeks, going to Big Sur, Santa Barbara and finally ending up in San Diego.

 

Matteo and Maria
Matteo and Maria

Fast forward to September when we will be hosting Andrea Librandi, our good friend and Chef/ pharmacist from Calabria. Andrea’s family has always been in the pharmacy business since he was born. Following in the foot steps, of his father, brother and sister, who all work at the same pharmacy, he felt that this is what he should be doing. Andrea’s true passion however, is food and wine. He is a talented chef who studies and executes amazing dishes in his free time. He wants to come to America to learn what it’s like to work in an Italian Restaurant in Seattle. Not only will he be helping out at our restaurant, Grazie Ristorante, but will be hosting a series of cooking classes and special dinners. The first dinner he will be cooking for is a Paella dinner paired with the great wines of Spain. Stay tuned for all of our upcoming events and fun and funny stories of the adventures of our Italian explorers.

Andrea

Andrea

 

Ciao for now!

Lambrusco!

lambrusco-wine2 Pin It

lambrusco

Lambrusco has both an incredible and a sad history. On one hand, this is a fascinating, long-lived grape. When you drink lambrusco, you are drinking a wine that was enjoyed by the Romans of the Roman Empire. The Romans adored Lambrusco. It was easy to grow, high yielding, and very popular. You can easily imagine Caesar sipping his goblet of Lambrusco, nibbling on cheese, and looking out over this holdings.

Over the centuries, many different types of Lambrusco came into being. This is often hard for new wine drinkers to understand. When you have a grape like “Chardonnay”, they are all genetically identical. What someone did, many centuries ago, was decide on the proper “Chardonnay” flavor – and then all vines from that point forward were literally cuttings from that one vine. They are all exact copies of that original Chardonnay vine. It is like how all Red Delicious apples are the exact same as one original ancestor Red Delicious apple.

However, with Lambrusco, that type of pinpoint managment has not gone on. Lambrusco freely pollenated in the wild with other grape types, just like dandelions and other wildflowers do. The result is a number of different Lambrusco varieties. Yes, they all taste similar, just like dandelions look similar. But they aren’t exactly the same, as most modern wine grapes are.

When the 1970s came along and people in the US were all drinking cheap sweet wine, Lambrusco became very popular. It was inexpensive and while there are dry (non-sweet) versions out there, the Italians flooded the US market with the sweeter styles since that’s what people wanted.

The “sad” part of all of this is that once wine drinkers began to expand their tastes, they automatically looked at all of those 70s style wines as “pure evil” and began making fun of them. They looked down on lambrusco as “fruity and like punch”. They laughed at all pink wines for the same reason. In these grand, sweeping judgements, they denigrated a lot of wines which really are quite delightful in certain situations.

To salvage their reputation, the Italians have lobbied hard to only allow lambrusco to be grown in Italy and for only Italian Lambrusco wines to carry “lambrusco” on their label. The problem was that other locations would grow a random cheap red grape and then call it “lambrusco” to get people to buy it. Countries are now sorting this issue out as they sort out similar issues with Champagne and Port.

In general you can find cheap, bad-tasting lambrusco – but you can also find delicious, fresh, fruity lambrusco that is perfect to go with a summer salad. There are also dry lambruscos and even sparkling lambruscos. Give a few a try and see how you like them! Don’t judge a lambrusco based on a super-cheap bottle, though. It could easily be that you aren’t even drinking lambrusco, and would improperly malign the real grape based on the imitation.

A lambmrusco should generally be served at about 50F. If you’ve ended up with a cheap lambrusco that is lacking in good flavors, then dropping the temperature down a few degrees can help to mitigate that.

Grappa Anyone?

grappa Pin It

grappa Grappa: Italy’s Elixir

Grappa is a uniquely Italian drink. Traditionally, made from pomace, the discarded grape seeds, stalks, and stems that are a by-product of the winemaking process, Grappa has been around since the Middle Ages. For generations, Italians have sipped this “firewater” after meals and even added a little to their morning espresso, to “correct” it. Once considered an acquired taste, popular only in Italy, Grappa, today, is making itself known around the world. Distilleries from Australia to Oregon, as well as Italy, are trying their hand at making Grappa, with surprisingly good results.

History of Grappa

Grappa was originally made in Bassano del Grappa, a town of around 40,000 residents in Italy’s northern Veneto region. It is from this town that Grappa gets its name. Grappa started as a by-product of the Italian winemaking trade, a rough drink made with what was available, potent enough to get the farmers through the cold winter months. It was good at warming you up, but not particularly tasty, similar to the grain alcohols of the Midwestern United States. Grappa, largely, remained a drink of the poor workmen and farmers until the 1960s.

Making Grappa

Grappa glass

Similar to France’s brandies and Cognac, and Portugal’s Sherry, Grappa is a distilled beverage. That means the mixture of grape pieces and alcohol is heated gently, allowing much of the mixture to evaporate, and leaving a potent concentration. Today’s Grappa is about 40 to 45 percent alcohol. That’s 80 to 90 proof. After distillation, Grappa is usually stored in glass bottles for about six months before it is distributed. The flavor profile of Grappa depends on the grape varietal used, and, generally, Grappa is potent and dry. Occasionally, a producer will add a little syrup to sweeten the lot. This sweeter Grappa is particularly popular in the American market.

The character of Grappa changed in the 1960s, thanks, largely to the efforts of one woman – Giannola Nonino. Her Nonino distillery, in Percoto Italy, has been producing Grappa since 1897. In the early 1970s, she began making Grappa from a single grape, as opposed to the customary mélange of grape leftovers. She sought to make a quality drink, one to rival the great eaux-de-vie of France. It was an uphill battle. She sold very little of her first, 1973, production. Undaunted, she offered her Grappa free to journalists, restaurateurs, and asked that it be served at important commercial and government dinners. She poured the drink herself and told her story as she filled the glasses. Slowly, in this way, the charismatic Ms. Nonino created a following.

The Nonino Distillery’s first single grape Grappa was crafted from the Picolit grape. Today, over a dozen different grapes are used for single grape Grappas, called “monovitigno” Grappas, a term Ms. Nonino coined herself. In 1984, the same Nonino distillery gained government approval and began producing a higher quality Grappa made from whole fruit. They began with grapes and in

the following years, produced products using cherries, pear, apricot, peach, and raspberry, among other fruits. Seeking a way to show off their new products, Nonino is also responsible for the stylish glass bottles in which Grappa today is sold, a dramatic change from the old medicinal-style bottles.
Grappa’s popularity has spread all around the globe. Once unknown outside of Italy, today Grappa is being produced all over the world, from Oregon to South Africa. These outposts use the indigenous grapes of their regions, such as Oregon’s Pinot Noir, creating unique and tasty variations on the Italian theme.

Buying Grappa

Like wine, Grappa comes in all varieties and qualities, with the flavor based on the grape or fruit used. Grappa is available in wine stores and premium liqueur retailers throughout the United States. Expect to pay from $10 for a simple bottle to over $100 per bottle for a single fruit variety. Although you will often see the decorative Grappa bottles lined up behind bars and at restaurants, Grappas are actually best stored in a cool, dark place. Out of light and heat, they can last several years, though they will lose some of their fragrance as they age.

Drinking Grappa

Traditionally, Grappa is served chilled in small glasses and served after the meal, as the Italians believe that it aids digestion. Correctly, Grappa should be swirled gently in the glass and then brought to your nose, before tasting. It is then tasted in small sips. In Italy, Grappa is also added to espresso to make a “Café Corretto,” a popular after-dinner concoction. In the United States, you’ll find Grappa at higher-end Italian restaurants and retailers. If you’ve never tried Grappa, you’re in for a treat. It’s a fiery, but tasty beverage, just the thing for a cold winter’s night.

Written by Sandy Mitchell