Winemonger Talk

  • Bitterness in Liguria - with recipes!

    My mouth is still bitter when I think of the trip to the winery of Giobatta Vio in beautiful Liguria, Italy. The birthplace of pesto-- the land of artichoke. I think of the salted breezes and fresh seafood that comes with that scent, and the incredible bottles of Pigato, Vermentino and Rossese that were tasted. And of course, the meal: a five course feast featuring the wines and local bounty. And yes, I can still taste the bitterness.

    Bitter, because I was not there.

    Your Winemonger is a team, lead up by myself and my husband Stephan and then our various (spectacular) specialists who have lead us in our hunt for like-philosophied wines when we grew our portfolio beyond the borders of Austria. In Italy, that was Alessia Botturi (who has, sadly for us, since moved on to work at Antinori, but whose husband Diego Meraviglia has stepped in and about whom I really must write something about soon: he has more accolades as a sommelier and Italian wine specialist than I knew existed.)

    Giobatta Vio in the kitchen

    But back to Liguria. The story of the visit was already once gone over here in this post written by our Ms. Botturi, but when Jon Bonné, wine editor over at the San Francisco Chronicle published an article this past weekend about Vermentino and Pigato and highlighted the wine of Giobatta (Bio Vio), and even included a photograph taken by my husband, I was reminded of the trip not taken. And I knew that I needed to share what they ate on that day- seven (count 'em SEVEN) courses, all featuring seafood, artichokes and basil, and all prepared by Chiara Vio (Giobatta's wife and partner)

    So this is what was laid out upon the table, all paired with the Pigato, Vermentino and Rossese wines:

    Affatati Mistifried fishiesPescetti Fritti of AlborelleTortine di Carciofi FrittiPesto Pasta TrofieTrofie al PestoPasqualina Ai Carciofi Baccala' alla LigureCalamari con Ripieno di Pesto ai Carciofi

    -A quick snack of affattati misti just to get the ball rolling
    -Pescetti Fritti of Alborelle - wee little fried fishies
    -Tortine di Carciofi Fritti - Fried Artichokes
    -Trofie al Pesto - Trofie pasta (homemade, of course) with pesto
    -Pasqualina Ai Carciofi - Artichoke Pie
    -Baccala' alla Ligure - Stockfish done Ligurian style
    -Calamari con Ripieno di Pesto ai Carciofi - Calamari filled with artichoke pesto

    -Recipe for Pasqualina Ai Carciofi (not from Chiara Vio)
    For pastry:
    500 gr flour
    40 gr olive oil
    1 glass of water
    3 teaspoon of salt

    For stuffing the pie:
    12 artichokes
    100 gr of grated Parmesan cheese
    1 onion
    5 eggs
    300 gr ricotta
    some fresh parsley and marjoram.

    Prepare the pastry by mixing flour, olive oil, water and the salt. The result is soft dough; let it rest for 1 hour.

    Prepare the artichokes by removing the outer leaves, cutting the stems and the thorns. Secondly, cut the artichokes into thin slices and place them, for a few minutes, in some water with a lemon (cut the lemon into 4 parts).

    Meanwhile make brown slowly 1 onion, some parsley and marjoram. Then, add the artichokes, some salt and cook everything in a covered pan.
    When all is cooked add eggs, parmesan, a pinch of marjoram, salt and ricotta. Mix everything with a spoon. Roll out the dough and with a rolling pin make 4 puff pastry. Place on a baking pan 2 pastry and then pour the artichokes mixture uniformly.

    Finally cover the pie with the other 2 pastry and brush with 1 egg yolk.
    Cook for about 45 minutes at 200 degrees.

    Recipe for Calamari con Ripieno di Pesto ai Carciofi (also not from Chiara)
    Ingredients (serves 4)
    1.4lb whole squid, tentacles included and cleaned.
    7.5oz peeled prawns
    3 artichokes
    1 small bunch of parsley (finely chopped)
    1 medium bunch basil (minced)
    2 cloves of garlic
    1 glass of dry white wine
    1 lemon
    extra virgin olive oil
    salt & pepper

    Pre-heat your oven to 390 F

    Clean and prepare the artichokes, slice them very thinly and place straight into lemon water.

    Begin gently heating the peeled garlic clove in some olive oil until garlic is golden but not burned, and then remove it from the pan.
    Drain the artichokes of the lemon water and place them in the pan and increase to a moderate heat. Continue cooking till slightly tender.

    While the artichokes are cooking, clean the squid and rinse well under running water.

    Cut off the tentacles at the base of the body.
    Chop the tentacles up finely with the prawns.
    Add these to the pan with the artichokes and allow to cook through.
    Add half a glass of wine to the pan and allow to reduce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Place the contents of the pan, along with the basil, into a food processor and pulse a few times.
    Stuff the filling into the empty cavities of the squids.
    Use a toothpick to close the opening.

    Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a non-stick pan and place in the stuffed squids and brown lightly on all sides.
    Splash with the remaining wine and a handful of chopped parsley and place the pan in the oven to finish cooking for 30 to 40 minutes.

  • San Francisco: Drink a Glass of Bubbly at the Balboa Cafe to Help a Village in Haiti

  • Jingle Jingle Jingle... the Holiday Cases are Here!

    A Half Case of Cheer

    We do it because we care about you... we really really do. We want to make your holidays livelier AND easier! We want you to have that perfect bottle of wine on hand to uncork on a moments notice, while saving you the hassle of getting in your car, braving the elements and waiting in long lines after wandering aimlessly down aisle after aisle of wines that are all probably lovely, but may or may not be quite right for the season. And do we even need to mention how easy it makes your gifting? Get it all done as you keep cozy at home.

    So here you go!
    Our Full Case of Holiday Cheer (that's 12 bottles) for $380.00 and our
    Half-Case of Holiday Cheer (yes, 6 bottles) for just $137.80

    A Full Case of Cheer

    We've made our list and checked it twice, and selected only the wines we truly believe match the kinds of things getting cooked up this time of year, be it latkes or goose or lobster, turkey or carp or prime rib. Gingerbread houses! Mincemeat pies! We've got you covered. How do we do it? By selecting FOOD WINES. Wines that won't overpower whatever it is you are cooking up: wines with just enough weight to hold up, but not so much that they drag you down. You should want to have another glass (and another and another), rather than a mouthful that makes you as full as everything you have on your plate combined. Festive wines!

    So as we said- treat yourself and order a few cases delivered home to have on hand. Then pick your favorite folks and treat others to the best gift ever-- and when you use our "duplicate cart" option, you can just keep adding addresses without having to start all over again loading up the cart.

    Get with the jingle. Your Winemonger loves you and wishes you the best holiday season EVER.

  • The Taste of Dutch Chocolate and Fine Red Wine

    No, we do not sell this wine.

    Chocolate Wine
  • Wine Tasting and Sale in Marin to Benefit Public Schools November 10th

    The 2nd Annual Yes! Benefit Wine Tasting and Sale

    Join Winemonger along with Argot, Calluna Vineyards, Cazadero Winery, Community Wines, Couloir Wines, Cowan Cellars, Easkoot Cellars, Kendric Vineyards, Maysie Cellars, MDB Selections, Slanted House, and Westerhold Family Vineyards in a tasting and SALE (that's right-- you can buy bottles and take them home with you right then and there!). All of the wineries are offering their wines at a discounted price AND are giving 15% of the proceeds to benefit the music and arts programs at the public schools in Marin county.

    A mere $40 (proceeds to benefit) gets you in the door where, at last count, over 42 wines will be poured.

    Yes! Benefit Wine Tasting and Sale
    November 10th, Saturday, 5:30-8:30 PM
    Fairfax Pavilion*
    Fairfax, California

    *The Fairfax Pavilion actually has no address. If you've ever been to Fairfax, this won't come as a surprise.
    Here are DIRECTIONS to get there:

    The Fairfax PavilionFairfax Pavilion

    From points east of Fairfax, head west on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. into the town of Fairfax. As soon as you see the Welcome to Fairfax sign (Pancho Villa’s will be on your left) drive .4 miles. You will see a Rino gas station on your right. Turn left on Claus Drive (at the light), and then make an immediate right followed by an immediate left on Bank St. Continue about 200 feet, and as soon as you see the Fairfax mural turn right into the Pavilion parking lot. The Pavilion is the big red building in front of you on the hill. If the lot is full there is free parking on the adjacent streets.

  • Are You Really a Giants Fan? Meet Vogelsang

    Vogelsang the Wine

    While it might not be spelled EXACTLY the same, our theory is that the "a" turned into an "o" when the Vogelsongs arrived in America- also because one pronounces this wine the same way as the last name of the epic Giants pitcher. We also think the font is not unlike that of the Giants logo AND it's pretty October-ish in general.
    Oh- and foil capsule on the bottle is even orange. It's as if winemaker Michael Wenzel knew we'd want this wine this week...

    A little bit more about Ryan Vogelsong:
    Ryan Andrew Vogelsong (born July 22, 1977) is a Major League Baseball pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. In addition to an earlier stint with the Giants (2000–2001), he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (2001–2006), and for the Nippon Professional Baseball League's Hanshin Tigers (2007–2008) and Orix Buffaloes (2009).
    His career was revitalized as he established himself as a dominant force in the fifth spot in the Giants 2011 rotation after Barry Zito got hurt. He made the 2011 All-Star team, and in 2012 posted a streak of 16 consecutive quality starts, allowing 3 runs or less in at least 6 innings each game.

    A little bit more about the wine:
    Vogelsang is a single vineyard in the Neusiedlersee Huegelland town of Rust, a mildly climbing hillside with southeast exposure. The light and stony soil, on a bed of slate and granite/gneiss shows itself of primary importance in giving the Furmint an extra bit of aromatic depth and much finesse. The characteristically smoky tone of the variety exhibits wonderfully pearsy notes spiced with lime-zest. There’s no wood-tones evident, but the creamy texture of the wine suggests that it benefited from studious months spent in old wood. Shows the great concentration of many 08ers, without some of the green tannins that the red wines occasionally carry.

    NOW BUY IT HERE (click me)
    Ignore the picture on the buy page- what you'll get is what you see here

  • Spooky (looking) Halloween Wines

    chicken feet optional

    Halloween launches our official favorite time of the year.... Fall weather, changing colors, then Thanksgiving, then the December holidays capped with the first snow of the season. But let's not get ahead of ourselves! For now, it's time to think HALLOWEEN.

    I'm pretty sure it's the Gothic writing on the bottle, or perhaps the dark spice in the wine, but Umathum reds are really THE wine to be opening on Halloween night. Especially if you are having friends over for a Halloween party... they're not only excellent wines, but they just do look the part. The glass corks are pretty cool, too. Bonus? We just received a shipment of new vintages, including the crazy popular Gelber und Roter Traminer alongside the classic Zweigelt and St.Laurent bottlings.

    Umathum wines are 100% biodynamic, so there's even a good story to tell involving buried bones, nettles and lunar cycles....

    Umathum St.Laurent Classic - $19.90/bottle
    Umathum Zweigelt Classic - $23.50/bottle
    Umathum Gelber und Roter Traminer - $24.90/bottle

  • Meet Holzapfel - Our Newest Winery from the Wachau!

    Holzapfel Winery Wachau

    Weingut Holzapfel is situated in a former farmstead, established 700 years ago by the Canons of St Pölten, which was updated to the baroque style by Jakob Prandtauer, architect of the famous Stift Melk. At that point in history, most of the vineyards in the Wachau belonged to the Catholic Church and its nearby monasteries; the farmstead was the center for the harvest and fermentation of wine grapes and for the administration of local sales.

    Today, the estate consists of some fourteen hectares of land under vines, cultivated and worked with traditional methods. Among their vineyards are outstanding sites like Achlieiten, Vorederseiber, Weitenberg, Klaus and Kollmitz.


    Grapes of first-class quality flourish on these stony and mineral-laden soils, which contain in places significant elements of limestone and mica schist. But it's not only the outstanding vineyards and the attention paid to rigorously reduced yields that are responsible for the distinctive nature of the Holzapfel grapes. The climate-conditions specific to this particular part of the Wachau produce extreme variations of temperature between daylight and nighttime, which, together with the various elevations of the vineyards, encourage an acidity which imparts freshness and elegance to the wines.

    Karl Holzapfel strives to create clear and fine fruit-driven, characterful and lively wines for daily enjoyment, as well as dry and compact Smaragd wines with complex aromaticity and great cellaring potential.

    After fermentation, the wine remains in extended contact with the fine lees. In this fashion, unmistakable wines with style and clear, delicate fruit are created, which exhibit the best possible balance between minerality and crisp acidity. Through this individual art of vinification, wines develop a special identity and suit a great number of occasions for enjoyment.

    Holzapfel's assortment includes wines in all three quality-categories Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd, produced from the grape varieties Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Weissburgunder. The "Selektion Hippolyt" is particularly impressive for its special creaminess, elegance and finesse, which reflect the special wizardry of the Wachau Valley.

  • Lamb Meatballs & Collard Dolmades with Jagini Blaufrankisch

    As summer turns to fall, we like to cook "crossover" meals- we're not yet ready for stews and massive chops, but we want something cozier than a salad of summer vegetables. On our menu? This recipe for lamb meatballs and collard dolmades that we clipped from the New York Times a while back. It fits the bill perfectly. You can make it as an appetizer or hors d'ouvre, or just make a bit more and dinner it is! (yes, you can have your last-of-summer-veggie salad on the side....)

    Jagini Blaufrankisch 2008

    And what will pair perfectly? The Jagini Blaufrankisch 2008.

    Among a portfolio of special and distinctive wines, this one manages to stand out. A collaboration between growers Hannes Schuster and Moric’s Roland Velich, the Jagini Blaufränkisch is grown from selected old-vines sites in Hannes Schuster's neighborhood of Zagersdorf, and then finds its way to wine under Roland’s very gentle and patient hand. Jagini offers quite a striking contrast to the more linear minerality of the Moric wines from Mittelburgenland, showing a succulence of fruit and a luxuriance of texture that even goes beyond what one normally associates with the Neusiedlersee Hügelland, those gently inclined sunny hillsides on the West side of the lake, where people have been making wine for the better part of three thousand years. This wine aims to preserve some of that ancient heritage, and hits the mark dead-center.

    Lamb Meatballs and Collard Dolmades

    1/4 cup medium-grind bulgur
    1 pound ground lamb
    1 small onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
    Salt and ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
    16 to 20 untorn collard leaves
    Lemon wedges, for garnish.

    1. Soak bulgur in hot water to cover until tender, 15 to 30 minutes. Drain bulgur, then squeeze out as much water as possible. Combine bulgur with lamb, onion, garlic, cumin, mint, salt and pepper. Shape into 1-inch meatballs, handling mixture as little as possible.

    2. Put olive oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat; when hot, add meatballs and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, turning every couple of minutes. Serve immediately or cool and proceed with recipe.

    3. Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Trim stem ends of collard leaves and discard. Put half the leaves in the boiling water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are just pliable. Use a slotted spoon to remove leaves from water and transfer to a colander; run leaves under cool water; drain and gently squeeze to remove most of the excess water, leaving them just damp enough so they will stick together when rolled. Repeat with other leaves.

    4. Cut leaves in half by running a sharp knife along each side of stem, removing stem in process; trim top and bottom, making a large, rectangular-shaped leaf. Lay one leaf down with widest part facing you. Put a meatball in middle of leaf, bring two sides of leaves together and roll like a burrito to seal it. Put each stuffed leaf, seam side down, on a serving plate. Repeat, cooking and stuffing remaining leaves. Serve with lemon wedges.

    photo: Evan Sung for The New York Times
  • Pork Medallions with Roasted Figs and a Blaufrankisch Red

    When the Williams-Sonoma Wine Club paired up their recipe for Pork Medallions with Roasted Figs and a mighty Blaufrankisch red wine from Austria, we were totally down with it. We like the pork, we love the figs, and do we even need to say how we feel about the Blau? I think not.

    The kicker was the hard apple cider glaze... we just spent the weekend at the Apple Fair in Boonville, so we've got apples on the brain.* If you can get your hands on some, we recommend using the Apple Cider Balsamico from the Apple Farm in Philo.

    With the weather finally cooling down, this recipe is just perfect- and which Blaufrankisch to choose? We're going to say it honestly: decide what kind of a night it is, and let your wallet be your guide. The MORIC Alte Reben Blaufrankisch wines are spectacular, but they are not inexpensive. On the other side of the spectrum, the Winzerkeller Andau Blaufrankisch is not nearly as complex or elegant, but is just fine for the job particularly for what it costs. Somewhere in the middle? Try Wenzel, Schuster, Jagini, Umathum... a different bottling of Moric... there are many to choose from and all of them will warm your bones poured alongside this dish.

    Pork Medallions and Roasted Figs

    Pork Medallions with Roasted Figs
    1 pork tenderloin, about 1 1/2 lb., cut crosswise into 4 medallions.
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 Tbsp. olive oil
    1 cup hard apple cider
    1 sprig fresh rosemary
    2 tsp. grainy mustard
    8 figs, halved lengthwise
    1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

    MAKE IT:
    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

    Season the pork with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Cook the pork, turning once, until browned, 4-5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Add the cider, rosemary and mustard to the pan, bring to a boil, and scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until the cider is reduced by half, 3-4 minutes. Return the pork to the pan, place in the oven, and cook for 6 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the pork, and add the figs. Return to the oven and cook until the pork is tender and registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 6-8 minutes longer.

    Transfer the pork and figs to a serving platter. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk in the butter to make a sauce. Spoon the sauce over the top of the pork and figs and serve right away.

    *In Boontling, the language they speak in Boonville, the word for girlfriend is Applehead.

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