The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Guado al Tasso 2014 Bolgheri Vermentino

A bright, juicy under $23 Antinori Vermentino with a perfect recipe complement

WH1916-2Today, I’m going to share a great Italian recipe with you: “Rombo al forno con le Patate.” Even better, I’m going to put it with the perfect wine pairing, Guado al Tasso 2014 Bolgheri Vermentino from Antinori, a sharp and floral new release from this Bolgheri estate. This classic Italian recipe is as good as it is healthy; it’s also simple and focuses on the high quality of one of the most noble fish from the Mediterranean: the Turbot.

One of the most prestigious wine producers in Italy, Antinori gained international renown for crafting the world-famous Tignanello, Solaia, Cervaro della Sala and, of course, Guado al Tasso, the flagship wine of the estate of the same name. The Guado al Tasso estate is located near Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast, 60 miles southwest of Florence. Its 750 acres of vineyards sit in the center of the so-called “Bolgheri amphitheater,” the rolling hillsides that surround a splendid plain that slopes gently towards the sea; it’s a microclimate with unique characteristics.

In the glass, this ’14 Vermetino is almost straw yellow kissed with green highlights, and its nose is quite floral but delicate. The fresh and precise, palate is mineral laden, and it holds the typical notes of a Bolgheri Vermentino such as citrus fruit, and flowers. Fresh and acidic, this wine’s balance is perfect and it has a long and savory finish. Less than $23 a bottle, this Vermentino is especially good for the price!

Now, here’s your ideal pairing, “Rombo al forno con le Patate”


One small Turbot, 1 ½ lb per person

3-4 Yukon Potatoes



Black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil


Pre-heat the oven at 375F

IMG_3516Peel the potatoes, and put them in a water bowl to minimize starch and avoid oxidation.

Slice the potatoes thinly with a mandoline slicer and make a layer on a baking sheet, add olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary



IMG_3518Add the Turbot on top, incise the fish on the top and add some olive oil




IMG_3520Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 375F




IMG_3522Serve the fish with the potatoes with a delicious fresh glass of Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Vermentino 2014 and enjoy the rest of the evening


Buon appetito!


Why Nebbiolo is Autumn’s Wine

A case for Nebbiolo and a bonus risotto recipe!

A bunch of ripe Nebbiolo

A bunch of ripe Nebbiolo

Fall has the most magical look in Aspen. The groves of shimmering green trees turn to yellow and set the mountains ablaze with color. And this color change means that it’s time to drink red wine. Fall reds are tricky; I feel the need to keep summer alive, but I also have the desire to embrace winter. For me, autumn usually means Nebbiolo wines. I consider the Nebbiolo grape the most interesting of Italian red grapes and I associate it with the autumnal season—for one thing, the grape gets it name from the dense October fog that settles over the vineyards!

Picking Nebbiolo

Picking Nebbiolo

I’ve long loved the Nebbiolo grape, not only for its earthy nose, but also for its robust characteristics. Before I had any formal wine education, I had the privilege to travel to Piemonte multiple times. I’ve seen the rolling hills and the nebulous fog. I’ve drunk the different Barolo and Barbaresco vintages and I smelled the centuries-old cellars. Without any knowledge about the grape or the wine, I was able to appreciate Nebbiolo with an innocent palate. My most recent trip was with my sister; we were driving a badass sports car from Umbria to Milan and decided a detour into Piemonte was in order. We drove into the hills of Alba in the afternoon with no place to stay and no understanding of the language. We parked and began walking the cobbled streets. As we passed a restaurant before it opened, the chef called out to us, and after a confused conversation, we had an amazing place to stay and a fantastic meal. Later that night in a small restaurant with wooden benches and walls cluttered with years of wine bottles, the chef brought us a Barolo Risotto that literally changed the course of my life.

Winemaker Maria Teresa Mascarello and Sergio Esposito

Winemaker Maria Teresa Mascarello and Sergio Esposito

The beauty of Nebbiolo is that it is so terroir-driven and so expressive that it changes drastically depending on where it is grown and what winemaking techniques the producer uses. However flexible, Nebbiolo has a very distinctive quality so that it can easily be distinguished from any other grape on the planet. Whether it’s a Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe Rosso or a Nebbiolo blend, wine made with Nebbiolo is distinctive because of its nose of tar and flowers, its slight medicinal note, its light color, and its deep fruit and tobacco finish. Additionally, Nebbiolo has an uncanny ability to age. A young Nebbiolo wine is drinkable, of course, but the nuances that it will develop over time are incomparable. Nebbiolo’s tannin and acidity are the backbone of its aging ability and a reason why this wine is such a fall affair.

The pairing of Nebbiolo to fall is a perfect one because the dark fruit flavors and earthy tones remind me of decaying leaves and the smell of the chill in the air. The thick skins of the Nebbiolo grape create a tannic structure that pairs well with the heavier fall foods such as ragu, braised meats, pastas and, of course, risotto. Risotto was one of the first Italian dished I learned how to make and it still influences my Mediterranean culinary style. To toast to the new fall season, open a bottle of Nebbiolo and drink it while experimenting with my Barolo Risotto Recipe.

Julia’s Barolo Risotto


3 tbs good quality olive oil

1 clove garlic

¼ cup dry vermouth

1 cup Arborio rice

4 cups veggie stock

2 cups Barolo wine

1 tbs butter

Salt and pepper


Heat the stock in a separate pan or kettle so that it’s simmering when you’re ready for it.

Put the olive oil in a thick-bottomed risotto pan, on medium-low heat. Mince the garlic and add to the oil. One soft, add the rice and stir to coat each grain with the oil. This protects the rice grain and allows for the starch to generate slowly.

Once the rice has been coated deglaze with the vermouth. Some people use wine at this point, but I like the herbaceous quality that the vermouth creates. Let the vermouth reduce with a simmer at medium-high heat. Season with salt, but not too much.

Pour a cup of simmering stock onto the rice; stirring slowly and constantly, let the stock become absorbed by the rice. Before the bottom of the pan goes dry add another cup of stock. Continue to stir constantly. The consistent agitation of the rice allows the starch to come out and create the creamy texture so desired in risotto. One the second cup of stock has been absorbed, add a cup of wine. Continue to add cups of stock and wine until the rice is al dente, but always end on the wine. Turn off the heat and season with the salt and pepper to taste. Add the tablespoon of butter to mount the rice. Serve immediately.

Inside IWM, September 21-24, 2015: The Romance of Wine

A look back at the week that was

640px-Romeo_and_juliet_brownWe began the week with a reflection on encountering the wines of Josko Gravner in Verona, one of the most romantic cities on earth. On Tuesday, we enjoyed Michael Adler’s enjoyment of a $17 Barbera that he shared with his amor. On Wednesday, we salivated over Stephane Menard’s delicious recipe for papardelle ai funghi porcini (for two). And we closed out the week with a brief, helpful guide on making the most of your wine tasting–we love a good tasting.

Our experts brought you wines in pairs, each duo selected with your enjoyment in mind. John Camacho Vidal opted for a pair of Bruno Giacosa beauties. Likewise, Crystal selected two wines from the same producer, but hers was Vosne-Romanée’s Domaine Lamarche. Garrett suggested you welcome fall with open arms with a pair of gorgeous sparkling wines. And Will Di Nunzio closed out the week with a history lesson in the Incisa della Rocchetta family, choosing wines from Bodega Chacra and Tenuta San Guido.

Cheers to you and your ongoing romance with wine, and thanks for letting IWM be a part of your love!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Brut NV

A bright, delicate Italian sparkler that’s perfect to share

vongoleOn a warm summer night, one of my favorite appetizers is called “sauté di vongole,” a dish that I discovered spending some time with my friends in Naples, Italy. This dish is as simple as it is delicious. While you can pair it with a dry and refreshing white wine, it’s even better with a bubbly one, turning your simple first course into something unique!

My favorite alternative to “vongole veraci dell’Adriatico,” the clams you find on the Amalfi Coast, are Manila clams, which despite their name you can find everywhere. I prefer them to cockles because they are more delicate and closer to the original Italian vongole. First, carefully clean all the clams—one bad clam can ruin your dish and the rest of your night, so be very careful. I find that one pound of clams to serve two people is perfect for an appetizer. Keep your clams in the fridge covered by a damp kitchen towel so they can breath and stay humid.

Then, in a large pot, make a “soffritto” with extra virgin olive oil and two cloves of garlic split in half. Gently fry the garlic at medium heat for two minutes and add the clams into the pot. Cover the pot and increase the heat. After a few minutes, the clams will start to open and release their water and create the steam. Gently stir to make sure all the clams open. Once all the clams are open, add one glass of dry white wine, stir gently and let the alcohol evaporate without the lid. After 3-4 minutes serve the vongole in a small bowl. Use a small ladle to pour the “jus” on the clams and avoid the sediments you might find on the bottom of the pot. For a final touch, sprinkle fresh-cut Italian parsley at the very end.

When I served this dish over the weekend, a Franciacorta, Italy’s answer to Champagne, was at the table with us: Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Brut NV. This vibrant pale golden bubbly offers a smooth and persistent sparkle and the classic character that you would expect of a wine fermented in the bottle. With hints of minerals and toasted bread enhanced by delicate citrus notes, this wine is a fantastic combination of clean and fresh while smooth and harmonious.

My wife and I absolutely enjoyed this under $30 half bottle of Franciacorta from Barone Pizzini; it turned a simple dinner into something truly special. I highly recommend it!

Recipe: Linguine with Fresh Basil Pesto and Pomodorini

A delicious, easy recipe for very authentic pasta

Homemade-Pesto-MortarI love pasta! When I was about 12 years old, my father went to a ten-day class at a revered culinary school in Umbria to learn how to cook restaurant-worthy food for his four children. At the time, it didn’t occur to me why he was doing it, but ever after that experience, he made the most delicious meals. From as few as just the two of us to a hundred guests at a time, friends and family alike would never miss a chance to enjoy my dad’s legendary barbecues and dinners.

In particular, his greatest praise came from his specially marinated meats, which were always grilled to perfection, but above all, his extraordinary pastas garnered “Oohs” and “Ahs” from diners.

I’d sit and watch in amazement as he poured heart and soul into his pasta dishes. Each step of the process meticulously thought out, executed like a symphony, and explained in full—what he was doing and why he was doing it. While I gained a lot from his technical knowledge, what I gained most from watching my father cook was the love that he put into each dish.

Although my father seems to have an infinite repertoire of unbelievable dishes with his own little twist on each, this recipe for pasta with pesto is one he never made for us, so I dedicate it to him and promise to make it for him one day soon. Salute, Papà!


1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves

2 peeled garlic cloves

16oz. Pomodorini (Cherry Tomatoes)

2oz. freshly grated Pecorino

4oz. freshly grated Parmigiano

2tbls Pignoli (Pine Nuts)

Coarse Sea Salt

Ground Black Pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

1lb Linguine (1 box)

Preparation: 30 min.

Servings: four

Pesto gets its name from the original method of pounding and grinding its ingredients in a mortar, so I suggest using one to get the best results. You can use a food processor, though.

Place the garlic cloves in the mortar with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and start to pound into a white paste.

Add the fresh basil leaves a bunch at a time and continue to pound/grind in a circular motion until a liquid paste forms.

A little at a time, add the pecorino and parmigiano in and continue to mix into a brighter green homogeneous paste

Add the Pignoli and pound or grind them in so that they break up into small pieces

Add some olive oil, a bit at a time, and mix until you reach the desired consistency

Sprinkle in some freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves and put the in a medium saucepan with some olive oil.

Add a ½ a teaspoon of salt, cover and simmer on a medium flame until the tomatoes are soft.

Once soft, crush the tomatoes into a bit of a pulp with a wooden spoon, cover and remove the saucepan from the flame, letting sit to cool down while preparing the pasta.

Fill a pot with water, add 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to boil, then add the pasta.

Once the pasta is ready, save ½ cup of the pasta broth and strain the pasta.

Mix the pesto into the crushed tomatoes, then add to the pasta, mixing gently yet extensively.

Add some of the pasta broth to the mix and sprinkle in some parmigiano.

Plate, serve and enjoy!

Linguine-Pesto-PomodorinoWe grow our own basil at home, so this was extra fresh and a real treat. My wife and I enjoyed this last Saturday with a wonderful Per Linda Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013, although it would also pair nicely with a crisp Pinot Grigio or a Verdicchio.

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