Friday, May 27, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 19: Barolo & Bra Duro Starvecchio

Where are we? Visiting France. Riding from 162 kilometers from Pinerolo to Risoul. 

From the Giro site:  Pinerolo, lying at the edge of Val Chisone, is known as the “town of cavalry”. Horsemen have come here from all over the world to learn the most important skills in horse-riding since the 19th century.
One of the major events is the historical re-enactment of the legend of the “Man in the iron mask”. According to folklore, this mysterious historical figure was said to live in the village of Pinerolo, and a little monument on the San Maurizio hill was dedicated to this legend.

Risoul, located in the French province of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, is a major winter and summer tourist destination, offering visitors a stunning mountain landscape and a well-equipped ski area. Risoul is also known for the production of a famous apple variety bearing the same name, which used to be exported even to northern Africa, thanks to its extended preservation period.
COOKING: The Risoul apple 
WINE: Hautes-Alpes, Méditerranée (white, red and rosé)

The stage: 
The break was slow to get organized, but eventually it was there.

Scarponi would be the first over the top, winning the Cima Coppi, for being the first over the highest climb of the race. Next over Nieve and Ulissi. Behind, riding together Nibali, Chaves and Kruijswijk. Valverde would cross about one minute behind them. Fifty kilometers to go and the pink jersey was down in a dramatic crash into a snow bank.
Kruiswijk was back on the bike and chasing Nibali and Chazes ahead. A very scary crash for Zakarin, off the road. Eventually news came that he was sitting up, probably with a broken collarbone, which given the way the crash looked, was good news. 

The time gaps seem to be all over the place today.Twelve kilometers to go and the gap to Monfort from the Chazes-Nibali group was dropping quickly. 

Ten kilometers to go and that group caught Monfort. Nibali attacked, followed by Chaves and Nieve. Behind, Kruiswijk was losing his group. He looked to be cracking. Yikes. Just under seven kilometers to go and Chaves was the virtual pink on the road. At just about the same time, Ulissi rejoined the front group. Several attacks from Nibali had him solo in the lead.  The fans at the roadside were thrilled. Three kilometers to go and he had about 13 seconds over Chazes. Nieve would catch Chaves, as further behind, Kruiswisk seemed to be recovering slightly. 

I admit it. I'm very happy for Nibali. 

He finished and then sobbed. Now time to watch the gaps behind. Indeed, Chaves into pink. Tomorrow will be very interesting. 

Stage:Vincenzo Nibali 



Wine: 2001 Alessandro e Gian Natale Fantino "Vigna dei Dardi" Barolo Riserva

From the importerIf you are not yet familiar with brothers Alessandro and Gian Natale Fantino of Monforte d’Alba, here is a great opportunity to meet these Barolo veterans. Natives of Piemonte, they boast extensive experience crafting old-school, terroir-driven Nebbiolo. Alessandro managed winemaking for twenty years at the esteemed Bartolo Mascarello estate, before ultimately teaming up with his brother in the family cellars as the fratelli focused exclusively on their own production.
    The Fantino holdings in the steep Bussia vineyard of Monforte are crucial to this endeavor. They sustainably work old vines in the small Dardi sub-section, a perfectly exposed plot that gives rich, structured Barolo as good young as it is old. The traditionalist ways in the cellar, with spontaneous fermentations and an eschewal of new oak, only serve to highlight the impeccably farmed fruit from this time-tested site.

    We are thrilled to present this special offer of the 2001 Fantino Barolo, in the heart of its peak drinking window. Alessandro lauds the vintage for the elegant, feminine wines it yielded. Full-bodied yet delicate in aroma and texture, it is loaded with savory, spicy, earthy aromas that could only come from the King of Wines. Perfectly mature, this Barolo is ready to be uncorked tonight and fully capable of taking a holiday feast to the next level. Hats off to Sandro and Gianni!

I say: Wow. Showing its age in the color. Rust notes in the red. Mature, but not old. Savory, spicy, really just a joy to drink. 
Food: Bra Duro Starvecchio Cheese

Made in the Cuneo Province of Piedmont, this is the more aged Bra making it firm to hard in texture and more concentrated in its flavors of nuts, herbs and hay. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 18: Spanna & Bettelmatt Cheese

Where are we? Riding 244 kilometers from from Muggio to Pinerolo.
From the Giro site
Muggiò: The city was probably founded by the Longobards. It has survived as a rural village for centuries, and then it embraced industrialisation after World War II.
Muggiò thrived and prospered especially in the 18th century, when it became the country residence of two noble Milanese families, Casati and Isimbardi. Valuable neoclassical buildings have survived to the present day, such as the wonderful “Villa Casati”, the current seat of the Town Hall.
COOKING: Cassoeula (or cazzoeula, a traditional pork and savoy cabbage stew), trippa (tripe soup), polenta, risotto alla monzese (saffron and sausage risotto); torta paesana (stale bread and chocolate cake)
 Pinerolo: Pinerolo, lying at the edge of Val Chisone, is known as the “town of cavalry”. Horsemen have come here from all over the world to learn the most important skills in horse-riding since the 19th century.
One of the major events is the historical re-enactment of the legend of the “Man in the iron mask”. According to folklore, this mysterious historical figure was said to live in the village of Pinerolo, and a little monument on the San Maurizio hill was dedicated to this legend. 
COOKING: Tomino del Talucco (cheese), panettone basso, torta Zurigo (chocolate pie with a crème Chantilly, nougat and chocolate filling) 
WINE: Pinerolese (red and rosé)

The stage: Today we have a large break to start things off:

With 80 kilometers remaining, their gap was 11:30. 

Twenty six kilometers to go and Brutt would be caught by a reduced break group of 11.  The gap was still over thirteen minutes. And so it would continue with Moser and Brambilla gaining a small gap over their breakaway companions.

But at the end:



Wine: 2010 Vallana Spanna del Piemonte
From the importer: Spanna, the local name for Nebbiolo, is a grape of terroir. While the Langhe showcases a beautiful expression, especially in the Barolo and Barbaresco regions, no list is complete without the wines of Alto Piemonte. Here, at the base of the Alps, at the foot of Monte Rosa, where the Mediterranean and Continental climates meet, Alto Piemonte takes on a charming and highly aromatic character. Alto Piemonte has acidic soils, rather than the alkaline soils of the Langhe, giving the wine its acid backbone and ultimately the structure and character that adds to the age ability. These vineyard sites are on gently sloping terraces along the left bank of the river Sesia and Lake Maggiore. Vallana owns vineyard sites within Colline Novaresi including the 2 important crus of Boca and Gattinara.
The classical labels that adorn Vallana’s bottles represent the family’s connection to the past, as well as their deep roots in the wine world. The estate as we know it today was formed in 1937, but the Vallana name was synonymous with great wine as early as the 18th century. Vallana is situated in the village of Maggiora in the Alto Piemonte, more than 100 miles north of Barolo. Today, the estate is run by Giuseppina Vallana, together with her son Francis, a Ph.D. in Viticulture and Oenology, and her daughters Marina and Miriam.
I say: Deep garnet. At first tastes of balsamic and cherry. With some air, herbal notes and hints of licorice.

Food: Bettelmatt cheese
From the importer: The history of using alpine huts in Val d’Ossola has been known since before the first century. The mountains of this area, even at very high altitudes, have wide, sheltered pastures for the animals and it is this characteristic that the local alpine shepherds have turned to good account in creating excellent cheeses throughout the centuries.  The most famous alpine cheese-making hut in the Ossola area is Bettelmatt, in the high Val Formazza, in the northern part of Ossola, but equal fame has spread to those in Toggia, Kastel, Sangiatto, Lago Vannino, Alpe Forno and Poiala – all situated at over two thousand metres and all in the Val Formazza. They have a very limited production of only a few hundred forms each every year. These are all made during July and August and used to be brought down to the valleys by mules but, more recently, they make the trip down in helicopters. Since the summer season of 2003, in order to distinguish them from their numerous and widespread counterfeits, the alpine Toma from Bettelmatt have been fire branded with their name.
I say: Very yellow. Firm. Almost Fontina-like.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 17: Rosso di Valtellina & Polenta

Where are we? Riding 196 kilometers from Molveno to Cassano d'Adda.
From the Giro site: Molveno
The city lies on the shores of the lake of the same name, at the foot of the Brenta Dolomites.
This “valuable pearl in an even more precious casket”, as the famous Italian poet Fogazzaro used to call the city, gets most of its charm from its stunning natural landscape, with marvellous reflections of the splendid, verdant conifers and beech forests in the crystal blue waters of the lake.
Molveno is a renowned tourist destination, which offers the possibility to go hiking around the lake, to climb up to mountain huts, to go sailing or to engage in winter sports.
COOKING: Carne salada (traditional corned beef), venison and mushroom dishes, polenta, knödel
Cassano d’Adda: Favourably located, rising slightly higher than the plain underneath, and with a large number of streams, Cassano has always been a major trading hub and a militarily strategic site.
The city hosts many valuable natural areas, such as Isola Borromeo and the Pignone Park, as well as a number of historical and artistic landmarks, including the Visconti castle and Villa Borromeo – D’Adda.
Cassano d’Adda was hometown to Gianni Motta, cycling champion, and winner of the 1966 Giro d’Italia.
COOKING: Polenta, cassoeula (a traditional pork and savoy cabbage stew), trippa (tripe soup)
The Stage: The expected breakaway to start the day.

Today was expected to be much less of a GC battle and more one for the sprinters or breakaway, but we shall see. Sixty-one kilometers to go and the gap was at 2:40. Fifty three kilometers to go and just over two minutes, so it was on the way down. 

But maybe not down quickly enough?

In the end, after a late attack the surprise winner of the stage would be Roger Kluge.

1Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo68:11:39 
2Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge0:03:00 
3Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team0:03:23 
4Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team0:04:43 
5Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Team Katusha0:04:50 
6Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team0:05:34 
7Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-Step0:07:57 
8Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team0:08:53 
9Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:10:05 
10Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension Data0:11:03

Wine: Balgera Rosso di Valtellina 2010
Nebbiolo from Valtellina, an area that hugs the Swiss border. This wine shows beautiful wild strawberry and minerality. It's fresh, long, and honestly, quite amazing for the price.  
From the importer:  The Valtellina is a very small wine-producing region in the mountains north of Milan, just south of the Alps that border Switzerland. The predominant grape variety is Nebbiolo, usually referred to here as Chiavennasca, and this is (along with the Barolo/Barbaresco area and the string of appellations in northern Piedmont, such as Ghemme and Lessona) one of the best places for this classic variety. The Valtellina valley runs East-West, and the steep slopes on the northern face of the valley are terraced for grapevines in what the Italians call 'heroic viticulture;' the amount of work involved in establishing and maintaining the terracing alone is hard to imagine, never mind working the vineyards. The soils here are largely morainic, the climate distinctly cooler than the Barolo zone, and red grapes are grown at altitudes up to 500 meters or more, which is unusual in northern Italy.

Food:  Polenta prepared simply and topped with leftover Bolognese.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 16: Bele Casel Extra Brut Prosecco & Lavarone Vezzena cheese

Where are we? Still in the Dolomites Riding from 132 kilometers  from Bressanone to Andalo. 

From the Giro site: Bressanone/Brixen Art, culture and history of ideas are the deeply rooted features of the city of Brixen, South Tyrol. It has a thousand-year old history, and is considered as the oldest city in the whole region; it was a favoured destination for emperors, as well as a sumptuous episcopal city. Major annual events include the traditional Christmas Market, a unique opportunity to enjoy local crafts and savour the delicious, traditional sugary treats, just a stone’s throw away from the Plose Ski Area, where you can spend wonderful days in the snow. 
COOKING: Spätzle, knödel, wurst and sauerkraut; strudel, strauben (fried funnel cakes); South Tyrolean speck
WINE: Sylvaner, Traminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot gris, Veltliner (white, Doc Bressanone)
Lying on a verdant plateau, and surrounded by lush conifer forests, Andalo was originally divided into twelve separate hamlets (which can be still clearly identified) that grew around ancient mountain farmhouses, and scattered all over the wide grassy plain that stretches from the Paganella mountain to the eastern slopes of the Brenta Dolomites.
The city has grown steadily over the years to become a renowned summer and winter tourist destination.
COOKING: Carne salada (traditional corned beef), venison and mushroom dishes, polenta, knödelWINE: Teroldego Rotaliano (red), Metodo classico (white); Grappa trentina

The stage: The remaining sprinters are probably not very happy about the remaining stages.
Today may be a challenge. Lots of early attacks and excitement.

They are riding very quickly today, much faster than the fastest predicted time from the race organizers. With Dombrowski dropping from the front group, Cannondale was now leading the chase for the Chaves group. Chaves would attack from that trailing group and with 18 kilometers to go was only 13 seconds behind. Fifteen kilometers to go and an attack by Valverde. Zakarin and Kruiswijk would go with him. Nibali looked to be struggling. His group would be caught by the Chazes group. Thirteen kilometers to go and they were 22 second behind. Ten kilometers to go and they were 30 seconds back as Nibali looked to be in big trouble. Alas, cue the shark has sunk type jokes.

Ahead, Valverde had to be the favorite for the stage victory. Sure enough, he would take the day. 



Wine: Bele Casel Extra Brut Prosecco
The hillside vineyards and winery are situated in the province of Treviso between the small towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiandene in a little known subzone of the Prosecco DOCG-Asolo Superiore.

The family owns 1.5 ha and controls and farms another 10 ha of vineyards through long-term contracts. The hillside vineyards belonging to the family are all organically farmed and produce three very distinct Proseccos – Extra Dry, Extra Brut and Col Fondo. 

I say: Light, small bubbles. Apple and citrus, with some peach. This is lovely.

Food:  Lavarone Vezzena cheese
From Slowfood: This cow’s milk cheese is made with milk from two milkings, one of which is skimmed for cream. The technique is the same as for other medium-fat Alpine cheeses, but Vezzena is made unique by the wild herbs of the Lavarone plateau and a long aging. Even when very aged, it still preserves an exceptional buttery smoothness, releasing aromas that change depending on exactly when the cows were pastured. After a year or a year and a half, the eyes disappear and the very yellow paste becomes slightly grainy. The fragrance becomes more complex and herbaceous, spiced notes fill the mouth. It takes time for Vezzena to reach its full potential and for it to be obvious why it is one of the jewels of Trentino cheesemaking and why Emperor Franz Joseph wanted it on his table every day.
I say: Very firm, reminds me of gruyere

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 15: Ansitz Rynnhof Vernatsch & Apple Strudel

Where are we?  Watching an uphill, 10.8 kilometer time trial in the Dolomites from Castelrotto/Kastelruth to Alpe di Siusi/Seiseralm.Why two names? This area was once part of Austria, so it is a multi-lingual area. 

The Giro site says: A mediaeval town and the major centre of the Seiser Alm (the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe), Kastelruth, where the native languages are German, Italian and Ladin, stretches with its towers and belfries in the wonderful setting of the Dolomites, part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Mount Schlern, with its unmistakable rocky profile, is the signature landmark of this territory.
Major activities include hiking and skiing, respectively in the summer- and wintertime.
COOKING: Legumes soups, knödel, strudel, krapfen, Christmas sweet treats

The stage: Up they will go. The time trial today is short and steep. The early finishers were coming in close to 30 minutes, with Boswell in the hotseat at 30:04. 28:39 for Foliforov. Wow. Apparently it is the best time ever on this climb. 
Nice place for a time trial:

With the top GC contenders on the road, Foliforov's time was holding. Zakarin though, was looking very fast. Our penultimate rider of the day:

And our race leader:

And wow, was he fast. Looking very good at the first time check with the fastest time of 9:07. 
Nice day for Valverde, coming in at 29:02. Bike change for Nibali. That won't help. Chaves in at 29:19. Nibali, angry on the road, pushing spectators away as he rides. Nibali in at 30:49. Ouch. 



Wine: Ansitz Rynnhof vernatsch
From the producer: The history of the Rynnhof can be traced back to the Middle Ages. In 1438 the indication of origin "an der Rynnen" appeared for the first time in a document. The property probably takes its name from an open water channel that once ran by. In 1479 the Prince-Bishop of Trento made the estate over as a fiefdom, with its wine-growing lands being mentioned even at that time. Winemaking therefore has a long tradition at the Rynnhof. 

In 1516 the noble von Greiffensee family came into possession of the wine estate and held it for over 100 years. Four more aristocratic families followed them up until the middle of the 19th century. It is likely that not all of them resided permanently in Tramin, but that they simply stayed there during the wine harvest with the intention of enjoying the fresh grapes and the new wine produced from them.In 1862 the Tramin hospital fund inherited half of the house, with the remainder purchased shortly thereafter. A private chapel was built at the estate entrance. The property subsequently served for a time as a hospital. In 1928 Oswald Bellutti finally acquired the Rynnhof and established himself there with its family.

I say: Speaking of grapes that I love, it is time for vernatsch, also known as schiava or even Trollinger. Strawberries and violets. 

Food: Apple Strudel We used the recipe on Food52 here. From the link: "You may not think of strudel as a classic Italian dish: The name strudel isn't even Italian, but rather German. This is what makes regional Italian cuisine so interesting. The country's geography –- its borders, its landscape –- factors into the character and traditions of each region.
Apple Strudel -- a dessert of apples, pine nuts, and raisins or currants rolled up in paper-thin pastry -- is the defining dish of Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige region. This autonomous province borders Austria to the north and is squeezed between the Veneto and Lombardy regions to the south. Knowing this -- and that the region was part of Austria until after the first World War -- helps explain why this Austrian favorite is also beloved in Italy. Strudel's history goes back even further, though: It was brought to Austria by the Turks (there's an undeniable similarity between strudel and the more ancient baklava).

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 14: Nusserhoff Lagrein & Rose of the Dolomites

Where are we?
The Giro site says: Alpago is a wonderful “terrace” surrounded by the Dolomites, a circle of mountains reflecting off the blue-green waters of Lake Santa Croce. A perfect place to lie on the beach or to go sailing, kitesurfing and windsurfing, thanks to the breeze that blows from Sella Fadalto every day, and taking advantage of a ban to motorboat
The trees of the Cansiglio forest provide the perfect setting for summer hikes and winter sports. The plateau, with its rich history, is home to a Cimbrian enclave, to which a museum has been dedicated.
COOKING: Agnello dell’Alpago (local lamb, Slow Food presidium), mame (typical local beans), sciosele (small mountain snails), traditional cold cuts and cheeses, lavaret dishes (lake fish)

Lying in a sunny valley at the foot of Mount Sassongher, Corvara has a long tradition as a holiday resort. Alta Badia offers tourists coming from all over the world more than 400 km of hiking trails, 500 km of ski slopes, mountaineering opportunities and, especially, breath-taking views of the most beautiful peaks of the Dolomites.
The native language of the majority of the locals is Ladin; their culture is deeply rooted and has been preserved over the centuries by the mountains.
A famous long-distance road bicycle race (granfondo) called “the Dolomites Marathon” takes place in the valley every year.
COOKING: Barley soup, turtres (savoury spinach- or sauerkraut-stuffed pancakes), ravioli with a spinach stuffing, furtaies (fried funnel cakes)

Wine: Nusserhoff Lagrein 
Eric Asimov in the New York Times has things to say: "FEW things are simple in northeastern Italy, least of all lagrein, a red grape that can produce fresh, aromatic, highly seductive wines. Why, just last week, I asked a linguistically minded friend who is fluent in Italian for the proper pronunciation of lagrein. Here is his response, or part of it:
“Lagrein is a tough one,” he said, “in part because it’s pronounced using a Germanic, as opposed to an Italianate vowel system.” He went on to offer his preference, lah-GRAH’EEN, but allowed that lah-GRINE and lah-GREYE’NE (where greye rhymes with eye) were also acceptable. Well, linguists are nothing if not perfectionists. But even allowing for such hairsplitting, lagrein comes with ample grounds for confusion. It is grown primarily in Alto Adige, a region so far to the north in Alpine Italy that it practically touches Austria and Switzerland. There, the culture is more Tyrolean than Italian, and the first language is often German. Many wines from the region are labeled in both Italian and in German. Even the name of the region, Alto Adige, does not speak for itself; it is generally rendered bilingually with its German counterpart, Südtirol (South Tyrol, using the Germanic vowel system, of course)."
I say: A very happy wine for me. Lagrein with some age on it. Fuller and earthier than some some lagrein, but with enough acid to balance it out. Black cherry. Hint of an aged balsamic. Still vibrant on day three. 

Food: Loacker “Rose of the Dolomites”  
How could I resist? I went with the dark chocolate version. Alfons Loacker started in his little patisserie in Bozen in 1925. All products are produced and processed in Auna di Sotto/Unterinn (South Tyrol/Italy) and Heinfels (East Tyrol/Austria), according to traditional family recipes.