Eat more Kale

Here’s that Hungarian spicy sausage and lentil soup (with extra Kale thrown in) that I’ve been telling you about. With porcini mushrooms and smoked paprika added to the mix, this cool weather comfort food will jump start the taste buds and warm the belly with savory goodness. Paired with Irish Cheddar topped crusts and the Alain Jaume Grand Veneur Reserve Cote du Rhone, this recipe covers all the basic food groups; sausage, cheese and wine. Just add more.

Storm weather update!

Day Two:

The Fonseca 20 year Tawny Port has become the surprise hit of October. Day two showed an evolution of the port with butterscotch and toffee flavors dominating the eastern seaboard of my glass. With this much gale force and strength of character there probably won’t be a third night. Batten down the cork top!

Frankenport from Fonseca

This late October day finally feels like Autumn; cooler temps, cold rain drizzling down, leaves raining to the earth floor and of course the Frankenstorm – led by a woman named Sandy. If only this year’s “S” hurricane had been Shelley, then we would know for sure that the literary stars were inauspiciously aligning, too.

The one thing that a cool fall climate and a doomsday scenario have in common is their remedy; namely a good glass of warm, sweet port. My muse had been waiting for quite some time for me to open a tucked-away bottle of Fonseca’s 20 year Tawny Port. A fourth reason to do so would not be necessary.

With a blend of several grapes including Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional, the Fonseca 20 year hits the catwalk with a kaleidoscope of orange tinted amber and an autumn appropriate reddish-brown, reminiscent of fading leaves from an old red maple. Its sweet warmth balances the mood with caramel apple and plum pudding notes. “Here then I retreated, and lay down happy to have found a shelter…from the inclemency of the season.” - Frankenstein’s beast

Martin RAY Cabernet

With many of the major wine publications panning 2010 Cabernets from Napa and Sonoma Counties, this fall may be the last best opportunity (for a year or more) to get some quality Cabernets from California’s two classic wine growing regions for this varietal. I decided to do some additional research to see what’s left out there and my first find was rock solid.

The 2009 Martin Ray Sonoma County Cabernet reminds me of what I love most about the fall season. Namely, that the cooler weather and darker skies call for a deep, rich red wine to compliment both the evolving mood and seasonal food that we are embracing. This heartier, cozier and soul-elevating persona is best paired with an affordable but classy Cab like the Martin Ray. The warm cedar aromas and decadent black cherry fruit of this Sonoma County Cabernet will inspire you to gather with old friends for a perfectly grilled, garlic laden, thick, juicy steak.

What’s for dinner: Lamb pie and red Rhone

My oh my, that’s one good looking pie!

There’s a whole lot of different versions of a meat pie, but this may be my favorite. Lamb and root vegetable meat pie is like taking a nice gamey stew, wrapping it up and baking it. Think southern stew, meets Cornish pie pastry meets a savory Provencal Lamb recipe.

And most importantly, don’t forget to treat yourself to a nice French Rhone to accompany it. The Chapoutier Bila Haut Cotes du Roussillon Rouge is an affordable Rhone with dried plum and blackcherry nuances along with its own version of some gamey aromas and a sleek structure.

Spicy Curry & Zesty Zinfandel

One of the common ruts that we consumers get into, is thinking that we must have a Riesling or Gewurztraminer with a spicy Asian dish. It does match well and it’s always a safe choice. But playing it safe doesn’t bode well for adventuresome experimentation and pleasant discovery.

My good friend, Mama Desai, artfully put together this unbelievable Indian curry Sunday night and paired it up with an all-American Zinfandel. Nice Surprise! The Pedroncelli Mother Clone had enough of that zesty California Zinfandel to pair-off well with the menagerie of exotic spices in the dinner. And its solid fruit forward style made it just right for a little palate cleansing between bite-fulls or in my case platefuls.

Italy’s forgotten wine regions

The forgotten fields of Italy’s central vineyards cover a swath of land from the Marche to Molise and include the not-to-be-overlooked regions of Umbria, Lazio and the Abruzzo. The grape varieties in these five central Italian regions are immense, albeit unusual. So much so, that it would be challenging to elaborate on all of them in one succinct review.

Nonetheless, with a vast collection of choices to draw from this quintuplet of regions, one doesn’t have to do any selective grape picking to find alluring winners. After shuffling through some Italian reds from the cellar, I noticed that the two wines that piqued my curiosity were both from the middle of Italy.

My initial inquiry involved a wine from Italy’s central-most region, Umbria. This tiny landlocked area produces well-known Trebbiano-based white wines from Orvieto, as well as original and inspiring red wines like Sagrantino and the more recognizable Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet and Merlot. All should make it onto the shopping list of wines to try out.

The 2009 Falesco Merlot, that triggered my interest, provided two talking points that encouraged me to do a little more research. First, the wine had received some remarkable reviews and acclaim (from other wine writers) for such an affordable bottle. And second, the world-renowned winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, who happens to be a personal favorite, made it.

Cotarella’s Falesco Merlot exudes an immediate sense of plush blueberry enjoyment. Its polished mouth feel is notably consistent and creates the sensation that this wine has a serious tendency to make itself disappear. The legendary status of Cotarella continues to grow just as the remarkable reviews of this wine hold much merit.

The second selection that showed promise is produced in the oft forgotten and seldom mentioned region of Molise. Considered by some to be more southern Italian, Molise makes red wines that consist of grapes like Montepuliciano, Aglianico and Sangiovese. It is perhaps Italy’s least known wine producing area.

But that doesn’t discourage it from boasting about its incredibly food-driven wines. Take, for example, the 2008 Di Majo Norante Ramitello.

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Cacio e Pepe

The Eternal City called me into the kitchen tonight for a classic Roman dish, Cacio e Pepe, or cheese and pepper. Remarkable easy to make, Cacio e Pepe needs but a few key ingredients; namely authentic Italian cheeses and the best pasta you can find or make.

I substituted the spaghetti with perchiatelli (the #15 long, round pasta) for a little more thickness. And don’t be intimidated by the Parmesan bowl- it’s easy to make. Buon appetito!

We enjoyed our Cacio e Pepe with some balsamic drizzled romaine and what might very well be my choice for the best French red value of the year. More on the wine in an upcoming piece for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Broadsided

The new 2010 Broadside Cabernet totes a one-two punch of focused fruit with blackberry aromatics and whiffs of Cedar trunk. Sourced from the Margarita Vineyard in Paso Robles, Broadside was recently listed by the New York Times as a Top 12 American wine value. Drier and seemingly less manipulated than a lot of California Cabs in the $15 range, the barrage of beefy notes would have Major Tom agreeing that it’s “just begging for a hunk of meat on the grill.”