Thursday, July 13, 2006

Review: 2004 Salvatore Molettieri Irpinia Aglianico

Crisp, dark purple/ruby in color. This one took a while to open up, but after about an hour or so, the wine revealed aromas of herbaceous wood/brush, dark fruit, coffee, a bit of anise and a deep floral note (roses?). Earthy, moderate to ripe fruit on the palate, definitely on the tannic/acidic side, especially mid-palate to to pair this one with food. Initially i wasn't that impressed by this wine, but it improved with some air and had enough character that it really grew on me. By the end of the bottle i was wishing i had another. For the price, I think i slightly prefer the Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico (although i havent had it in a while), but its in the same ballpark.

2004 Salvatore Molettieri Irpinia Aglianico ($17.99)
RATING (scale of 1-5): 3.4

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Review: 2002 Secco-Bertani Valpolicella Valpantena Ripasso

Deep garnet in color. Nose of prunes/dark fruit, wood, spice and a meaty, gamey undercurrent. Nice weight and feel in the mouth; almost silky on the palate, but not soft or flabby. Well-balanced, with good acidity, concentration and a nice lingering, slightly bitter finish. An interesting and surprisingly complex wine for the price. Very good value and definitely recommended.

2002 Secco-Bertani Valpolicella Valpantena Ripasso ($17.99)
RATING (scale of 1-5): 3.8

Friday, June 23, 2006

Review: 2003 Firriato "Chiaramonte" Nero D'Avola

Made from 100% Nero D'Avola grapes; partial maturation of 6 months in barrique. On the nose, notes of raisin/fig, dark berry, vanilla and spice. A bit alcoholic (14.5%); enough to feel it in the nose. Round, full and balanced on the palate, definitely leaning more towards an "international" style. Overall i'm kind of on the fence on this one...certainly a nice enough wine in terms of balance and drinkability, but a little too generic in character for me, especially for the price. Additionally, i remember the readily available (and slightly less expensive) Morgante Nero D'Avola being similar in style, but more enjoyable.

2003 Firriato "Chiaramonte" Nero D'Avola ($22.00)
RATING (scale of 1-5): 2.7

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Review: 2001 Le Filigare Chianti Classico

Easy drinking, fruit-driven Chianti Classico. Aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, tobacco and some licorice that showed up after being open for a while. Medium-bodied, with smooth, ripe fruit on the palate, turning a bit tart on the finish. Not a whole lot of acidity or tannin, but still maintains enough balance to keep it from feeling flat or overoaked.

Chianti and Chianti Classico are wines that tend to vary quite a bit from one producer to the next, even within the same vintage, so it's worthwhile to do a little research and try some different bottles to find a style and/or producer that you like.

2001 Le Filigare Chianti Classico ($21.99)
RATING (scale of 1-5): 3.3

Friday, June 09, 2006

Review: 2004 Pra Soave Classico

A delicious 100% garganega-based white wine from this high-quality producer in the Soave Classico region of Veneto. Pale straw/yellow in color. Exhibits lovely floral, citrus and green apple fragrance. Luscious, almost dewy on the palate, with flavors of fresh melon, honey, citrus and tart apple, with a finish that makes you smack your lips and want more. Unoaked but still full-flavored and pleasantly rich without being too sweet. Clean and well-balanced, with refreshing acidity, and good with or without food. I paid $15.00 for the bottle at my local wine shop, although i have seen it for less elsewhere. At that price, it's difficult to find a better Italian white than this one...

2004 Pra Soave Classico $15.00
RATING (scale of 1-5): 3.9

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Review: 2001 Bindella Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (from Tuscany; not to be confused with Montepulciano d'Abbruzo) is a sangiovese-based wine with a widely variable style that lies in between Brunello and Chianti Classico; somewhat of a middle child. Perhaps because of this, Vino Nobile can offer a good value in Tuscan wines.

The Bindella Vino Nobile is a blend of 85% Prugnolo Gentile (aka Sangiovese Grosso), with 15% Canaiolo, Colorino & Mammolo grapes. Deep ruby/garnet in color. Full, fragrant nose of saddle leather, tobacco leaves, and savory cherry. Follows through nicely to a rich, full-bodied palate with flavors very similar to the aromas, along with a hint of earth and brush. Chewy texture in the mouth, with very well balanced acidity. Nice finish, with a bit of earthy spice. A good amount of oak in this one without being overpowering. Overall, i was impressed with this wine...a rich, aromatic, well-balanced red for under $20. Paired deliciously with homemade pasta & a rich (tomato) meat sauce. Definitely recommended.

2001 Bindella Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ($17.99)
RATING: (scale of 1-5): 3.8

Monday, June 05, 2006

How to: Homemade Gnocchi Recipe

Perhaps more than any other dish, people always seem to be impressed or intrigued at the fact that i always make my own gnocchi, and i'm often asked how to make them. And I can't say i blame them, because i love gnocchi; they're a comforting and versatile alternative to pasta, with a character all their own. I'm a bit of a gnocchi snob, mainly because i grew up with a grandmother that made consistently amazing pasta, which pretty much spoiled me as far as that goes. And in my experience, even at good Italian restaurants, the gnocchi are usually mediocre at best, and the worst resemble something squeezed out of a play-doh factory. And the packaged gnocchi you can buy at the grocery store? Forget about it.

Despite the fact that they are pretty simple to make at home, they do take some time and patience, and if you mess them up they are either little piles of mush or tough, chewy nuggets that are not worth the effort to eat. But, when you make them right, they are incredible; tender, pillowy and delicious, with just enough resistance to the tooth...a perfect vehicle for your favorite sauce, or even just some butter and freshly grated cheese.

There are endless variations on recipes for gnocchi, although there are 3 primary variations: potato gnocchi, a gnocchi made with semolina "alla Romana", and one made with ricotta cheese. I generally make the potato's how:

POTATO GNOCCHI (serves approx. 5-6)


3 lbs. potatoes (i prefer either russet or yukon gold)
2-3 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg
pinch of salt

Step 1: Boil or steam the whole, unpeeled potatoes until fully cooked. I prefer to steam them (since the potatoes end up drier) although it does take a bit longer (about 40 mins, give or take). So, if you're in a hurry, go ahead and boil.
Step 2: After the potatoes are done cooking, peel them and mash them (while still hot) untill most of the chunks are gone and you have a smooth consistency. Add a pinch of salt while doing this.
Step 3: Place the mashed potatoes on whatever surface you'll be working the dough on (countertop, cutting board, etc.). Then, form a well in the center of the potatoes.
Step 4: Add 1 egg to the well you just made. Using a fork, first, mix the egg, then gradually work in the potato until you have a wet, uniform potato/egg mixture.
Step 5: Gradually add flour to the mixture, working it in little by little, until the dough is able to be kneaded by hand. Here, the amount of flour you use with vary depending on how wet the potato mixture is. I generally find that by the time i'm finished, i've used between 2-3 cups of flour. Once it's dry enough to work without it sticking to your hands, gently knead the dough into a ball, gradually adding more flour until you achieve the desired consistency (the dough should be fairly firm, smooth, and dry to the touch). Here, it is important not to overwork the dough, or make it too dry/firm with the flour.
Step 6: Cut a piece of dough from the ball, about 1 inch wide. Gently rough the dough in your hands, just enough to get it started. Then on the countertop, continue rolling the dough out (gently!) until it is about as thick as a finger. Be sure to use just enough flour on the countertop to keep the dough from sticking.

Step 7: Cut the rolled dough into approx. 3/4 inch pieces. Then, very gently press down on the piece of dough with your middle finger (or whichever one is most comfortable for you), and roll the piece towards you, in a soft, downward flicking motion (this should all be one smooth movement). The piece of dough should end up rounded, with a small concave shape where your finger was. This will take a bit of practice, but goes fast once you get the hang of it.
Step 8: As you finish pressing and rolling your gnocchi into their final shape, place them on a floured baking sheet, keeping the gnocchi from touching each other. If you're going to be using them at a later date, place the baking sheet of gnocchi in the freezer until they are solid to the touch. Then, remove them from the sheet and place them in a freezer bag or other storage container and return them to the freezer.
Step 9: To cook the fresh or frozen gnocchi, simply place them in a large pot of salted, boiling water, stirring just enough to keep them from sticking together in the water. As they cook, the gnocchi will float to the top. Let them continue to cook for 2-3 minutes after they begin to float, testing them as the cook. Your actual cooking times will vary, but they should be soft and tender to the bite, with just a bit of chewy resistance. If they are undercooked, they'll be mushy and doughy; overcook them and they'll be tough and hard. When they're ready, just drain them and serve em up with your favorite sauce...