The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, June 8-11, 2015: Your Body of Knowledge

A look back at the week that was

A bunch of Albana grapes

A bunch of Albana grapes

It’s all about adding to your body of knowledge, your skill set, and your enjoyment this week on the blog. We began with kick-off to our series Italian White Wine Grapes and this week’s look at grapes from Albana to Cortese. We closed with Garrett Kowalsky’s three simple steps to conquering the wine list (and making you master of their domaines). In between, Crystal taught you how to celebrate the everyday ordinary beauty with Fantinel’s delicious $16 Prosecco, and John Camacho Vidal gives you two cocktail recipes to use up anywine that might be leftover, sparkling Sangria and Mojitos!

By the end this week’s series of blog posts, you know what you’re drinking, how to choose it, and how to make the most of it!

But don’t miss our experts’ body of knowledge. On Monday, Garrett gives you two cool, sophisticated white Burgundies for summer drinking. On Tuesday, John shows you how to pair Jamón Ibérico with Spanish wines for ultimate flair. David Gwo offers a brace of affordable Vosne-Romanée on Wednesday. And Francesco closes out the week by telling you exactly how and why Roberto Voerzio and Giuseppe Rinaldi are classic, iconic Italian winemakers.

Now go out into the world and use what you’ve learned. The wines are waiting for you to drink them!

Taking Respite in Pescetarian Fancies and Good Wine

Pan-Seared Scallops and Carrot Risotto, a recipe

After counting bottles of wine sold, adding up numbers, and dealing with the ins-and-outs of managing financial and operational enterprises, I find solace and indulgence in the evening’s respite.  Luckily, my better half is a foodie and I get to tag along for the ride.  She loves taking the two of us on savory excursions to wind down when we’ve both had long weeks at the office.  My contribution is always the wine, and I try to find that special bottle to do her creations justice.

Last night, we had a tasty recipe that will satisfy any pescetarian’s craving, and I have the pleasure of sharing it with you.  We try to use fresh herbs from our balcony garden and veggies from our CSA when possible.


3 Tbsp olive oil

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 cups finely diced carrots

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

5 cups vegetable broth

1/3 cup minced onion

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine (use a good cooking wine)

1/2 cup freshly shredded pecorino Romano cheese

1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 lb dry sea scallops (if stored in liquid, rinse and pat dry)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1.Heat 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter over medium heat in a medium sized heavy-bottomed pot; add carrots and stir until the carrots are coated with the butter and oil. Add 1/2 cup water, salt, and the sugar; cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown, about five minutes. Reserve half of the carrots; in a blender, purée other half with 3/4 cup of hot water.

2. Heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat in same (unwashed) pot used for carrots. Add onion and cook until translucent, about five minutes. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil. Add wine and cook, stirring, until wine evaporates. Add carrot purée and cook, stirring, until mixture absorbs most of the liquid.

3. Add about 1/2 cup of the broth, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid. Repeat process, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time and stirring often till each addition is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes; at least 1 cup broth will remain).

4. Fold in reserved carrots, Pecorino Romano cheese, parsley, and thyme. Add up to 1 cup of broth (1/4 cup at a time) to loosen the risotto. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

5. Sprinkle sea salt on the scallops. Heat 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter over medium-high heat in a pan until almost smoking. Place the scallops in the pan, and do not move them for two minutes. Turn to cook the other side for one minute. Serve 5 scallops on each serving’s bed of carrot risotto.

As I take the elevator down from our corporate headquarters, I usually stop on our new sales floor (which, by the way, you should definitely check out if you have not) and visit our sales operations. They are not only extremely hard working, but they help me make these most important everyday drinking decisions.

For this meal, they suggested the Hofstatter Bianco Barthenau Vigna S. Michele 2006.  When my wife and I sat down to dinner, the nose of the wine threw us off, as we sensed whiffs of honey and a mineral-saline quality.  I thought it would be much stronger on the palate, but it was actually quite mild in flavor with a light fruitiness that complimented the saltiness of the cheeses in the carrot risotto very well.  It’s a viscous full-bodied white, almost straw yellow, making it look like a Chardonnay to me.  The subtle lingering of the wine and ambrosial decadence of the scallops definitely put my weary mind at ease.  It’s good to be home.


Wacky Food Pairings

The eternal question of what to put with barbecued eel answered

One of my favorite things about working at IWM is the array of wines and food I get to experience on a daily basis.  Being a New York City native has allowed me to become quite versed in my knowledge of many cuisines and, of course, plenty of wines.  But lately I have become ho-hum when it comes to my usual indulgences.  These days I am inspired by chefs such as Wylie Dufresne, Pichet Ong and our very own Kevin Sippel.  I want more of the eclectic.  I want New York to be a melting pot that goes straight to my taste buds.   I want a new mixture of all I know, collaged with the present day abundance of history, art, culture and cuisine.  Therefore, I have taken the extreme challenge of creating a sort of wacky, yet classic, tasting with wonderful and proper wine pairings that teeter just over the edge of comfort.

First off, I was inspired by our client dinner last fall when I had an amazing experience of tasting a great array of Italian wines.  For antipasto, I would love to pair our Bruno Giacosa 2005 Spumante Brut with baked artichoke and traditional fried abalone.  The biscuity, bready taste of this frizzante wine combined with the tangy, crunchy aspect of the baked artichoke and fried shellfish is so exquisite that it’s sure to tingle the taste buds.

Next would be our Mastroberardino 2005 Taurasi Radici paired with one of my favorites, poached egg with wild mushroom soup and gruyere fonduta.  The savory yet complex flavors of this Aglianico wine paired with the mixture of egg, fungi and cheese would be a dream as our primi course.  Maybe not quite as wacky, but it’s a superb classic pairing that no one can argue with!

Sea urchin tends to be an iffy avenue when it comes to pairings.  After consulting with a few of my IWM coworkers,  the Chardonnay Querciabella 2007 Batar with its subtle complexity and soft oak seems to be the unanimous vote for our Chef Kevin’s Strigoli pasta dish with rock shrimp, roasted calamari and sea urchin.

For our fish course, I went down a road in Taiwan and have chosen to pair barbecued eel with an IWM favorite, the Merlot based Bodega Chacra 2009 Mainque.  Bodega Chacra’s hailing from Argentina and the eel dish’s coming from Taiwan makes this course the ultimate in wacky and enticing.

Last but not least, I would love to feature a Pichet Ong classic dessert, foie gras Napoleon! This dessert features cacao nibs, hazelnuts, salty foie gras and tangy red pepper jam.  My unusual pairing for this course would be our rich, sumptuous and berry-laden Begali 2005 Recioto.

Although we don’t have all of these wines currently in stock, this wacky tasting event will become a reality the day we do.  Here’s to the eclectic, the new and the experimental!


Pairings for a Healthy–but Happy–New Year

There’s no need to sacrifice the yumminess for healthiness

January is a month of renewal and rejuvenation.  We start to remember that  our health needs more constant attention and bodies need to move more often.  But how to make our quest for health jibe with our wine and foodie obsessions? Is there a way to combine decadent, gourmet foods and wine with a nutritional lifestyle? I like to think that I can take on the challenge of a foodie-health lifestyle and I have some wonderful pairings to prove it!

Here’s one dish I really like to make, a Winter Squash Risotto with Radicchio. Combining winter squash and risotto is a splendid, savory delight.  The natural sweetness of winter squash paired with the slightly bitter flavors of the radicchio make for a wonderful, warm dish for the season.  And at only 333 calories, this as an officially health-conscious dish.  Squash works beautifully with dry Riesling, specifically Frecciarossa’s 2008 Riesling Gli Orti.  Also, Champagne is never a poor choice for this celebratory dish.  I recommend Roger Coulon’s 2002 Brut Blanc de Noirs. It’s so crisp and delicious.

Milk-Fed Veal Chop Wrapped in Young Leeks is another homey, yet elegant healthy dish that I love making after the holiday season.  Although the recipe calls for crème fraîche, you can replace it with nonfat or low fat Greek yogurt. Veal is a perfect pairing for the Nebbiolo grape, and my best bets for pairing this dish would be the Cantalupo 2004 Ghemme and the Ada Nada 2000 Barbaresco Valeirano.

Another course I wouldn’t dream of going without would be dessert.  A light, healthy option I love would be Crème-Caramel Flan, and this one has less than 200 calories, paired with the Querciabella 1990 Orlando di Vin Santo Vin Santo.  This silky, light flan and its caramel richness is the perfect, complementary pairing for notes of dried apricot, candied orange and hazelnuts Querciabella’s dolce wine contains.   This is the last vintage of this particular Vin Santo, so be sure to pick one up before they are gone forever!

Hope–and enjoyment of food alongside a healthy lifestyle–isn’t lost.  We can always tweak ingredients and cut portions to make up for the treats and holidays throughout the year.  It’s a relief to remember that wine is the most calorie-friendly alcoholic beverage and contains cancer-fighting  antioxidants.  Go wine! In moderation!

Leftover Champagne

Things to do before good bubbly goes bad

To celebrate the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, I went to a BYOB sushi restaurant with some friends, and everyone was generous enough to bring several bottles of sparkling wines from different countries. It was interesting (and delicious) to compare Prosecco vs. Cava vs. Champagne, all paired with different kinds of sushi rolls.

The meal was fantastic, but I think we all over estimated the amount of food and wine that we could all consume, so we ended up bringing a lot back home. So the question becomes what to do with leftover Champagne? Champagne is such a special drink that you don’t want to waste it, but you also don’t want to turn it into something that’s any less glorious than in its pure form. So here is my idea for a glamorous after New Year’s Champagne meal.

To start, I am going to prepare a Champagne Risotto. Risotto needs a lot of liquid to soften and cook, so why not make part of that liquid Champagne? You can add some vegetables of your choice, but I think this recipe with asparagus and prosciutto from the Food Network sounds amazing. (Link embeded, but you can also click here.)

The main dish will be chicken with truffles and a Champagne sauce, which I found on Epicurious. This is definitely a way to transform what could be an average meal into something amazing. Depending on my budget after the holidays, I might have to leave out the truffles and substitue porcini, but I’m saving by re-using the Champagne! (Click here too.)

For dessert: Champagne truffles. There are several different methods and variations on how to make them, some easier than others; this one that I found on Free Recipes looks both manageable and yummy. You can make them in advance as well, and they will surely impress your dinner guests. It’s an example of an easy recipe that will be delicious no matter what. (Final spot to click.)

This meal will be a great way to start off my year, and hopefully set the precedent for how I will be dining in 2011. Do you have any culinary tricks or savory secrets in how you use your leftover bubbly?

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