Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wine & Food of the Giro 2015 Stage 21: Azienda A. San Giovanni Il Chiaretto Valtenesi Rose & Panna Cotta

Where are we: Torino - Milano 185 KM - Flat

Michelin tells me that "Formerly the seat of the Dukes of Savoy, Turin is best known today as the capital of the Italian car industry and the headquarters of Fiat, which was founded here in 1889. The city’s industrial vocation, however, does not eclipse the fascinating charm of its historic centre, mainly the work of architects Juvara and Guarini, or its busy cultural programme, which includes a host of festivals and the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, a fantastic museum worthy of the birthplace of Italian cinema."

Of Milan they say "The capital of Lombardy is the second most important city in Italy in terms of its population, political influence and cultural and artistic role, and the country’s most important economic, industrial and commercial centre. Milan delights visitors with its smart avenues lined with luxury boutiques, its magnificent Duomo (cathedral), major art galleries, and busy, lively atmosphere. The city is also home to the legendary Teatro alla Scala, one of the most famous opera houses in the world." Lots more info here on their tourist website, including some fun themed itineraries for visitors. 

The stage: This is how the Giro ends, with a sprint stage into Milan.  Much like at the Tour, the last stage is mainly ceremonial, up until the sprint finish.
Today's stage finishes with seven circuits, of 5 kilometres in length, around the centre of Milan.

Speaking of that sprint ahead, this could get ugly:

Thirty kilometers to go and an attack by Durbridge and Keisse. With three laps to go, they had about thirty seconds. Assorted mechanicals may have changed the situation for the sprint finish, as the lead duo cruised along with a gap of forty four seconds with ten kilometers remaining. Gaps were appearing in the pack behind. Lots more punctures as well. 

Five kilometers to go and the gap was thirty two seconds. Wow. Three kilometers to go and it was looking good for the duo out front. That was some crazy cat and mouse, but at the end it would be Keisse. Why not a fun and unexpected finish for this Giro?



Wine: Azienda A. San Giovanni Il Chiaretto Valtenesi Rose 2014 
From FranklyWines $17.99

From the producer: A special rosΓ© native to this area of Lake Garda. A beautiful coral pink in colour , pleasantly fruity with a light body. Created from four grape varieties: Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera and Sangiovese. The name derives itself from the once only slight vinfication and brief contact with the grape skins at the midnight hour of the first night. Perfect for warm summer evenings on its own, but also provides an excellent accompaniment to white meats/fish, seafood, pasta and rice dishes. Must be drunk within three years of the vintage. The recommended serving temperature is 12°C.
Our vineyards, situated in the proximity of the San Giovanni farmhouse and the winery, in Raffa di Puegnago, consist of about 15 hectares of loose and permeable land, rich in coarse soil of glacial origin. The Cap del PriΓΉ and the Villa Romana vineyard were among the first crus, dating back to the mid-seventies and consisting primarily of Groppello and Marzemino grapes. A further 12 hectares are situated just a few kilometres to the south, in Picedo di Polpenazze, planted in the early nineties with the best Groppello clones in the Arzane cru, along with other local varieties and two hectares of Riesling.

I say: Aren't we a lovely pink wine to end things?  Crisp and tart strawberries and cherries.  This ia a buy a case and drink all summer kind of rosΓ©.

Food: Panna Cotta
Ending in pink here as well. Panna cotta is one of those so simple desserts that I should make more often. Dissolve gelatin in water and then combine that mixture with warm cream with vanilla and sugar. You can add other flavors, but the simple version is my favorite. For the Giro, we served it with raspberries.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wine & Food of the Giro 2015 Stage 20: Cappellano Barolo Chinato & Grissini

Where are we: Saint-Vincent - Sestriere 196 KM - High Mountain

Saint-Vincent is a town in the Aosta Valley region of north-western Italy. Saint-Vincent, elevation 575 metres (1,886 ft), is a popular summer holiday resort with mineral springs (recommended for liver and stomach disorders).

Sestriere is an alpine village in Italy in the Province of Turin. It is situated in Val Susa, 17 km (11 mi) from the French border. Its name derives from Latin: ad petram sistrariam, that is at sixty Roman miles from Turin.

The stage: Cima Coppi (the highest point in the race) day!
The break of the day was not getting a lot of time today:
What they have ahead:

That small gap would continue to drop and with forty six kilometers to go, it was under one minute.

Thirty seven kilometers to go and Kangert attacked the  main group,. That group shrunk quickly. 

Thirty two kilometers to go and an attack from Landa. Contador chased, but could not hold that pace. Next off: Hesjedal, but he would quickly be caught by Contador, Uran, Aru , Kangert and Kruijswijk. 

Behind, another attack from Hesjedal. That group would split, with Contador isolated as the others surged forward. 28.5 kilometers to go and Landa would catch Zakarin. Landa would cross the Cima Coppi first. Behind, Contador looked to be struggling.
Seventeen kilometers to go and Landa and Zakarin had 47 seconds on the chasers and 1:33 on Contador. 

Ahead, Landa appeared to sit up and wait for the group behind. That group would catch Landa and Zakarin. Interesting team tactics.

Six kilometers to go and that lead group had a minute over Contador behind. Zakarin would have a chain issue and was dropped from that lead group. Two kilometers to go and Aru attacked. Uran followed, but he could not hold the wheel. Aru would ride away for victory on the stage. Next in Hesjedal followed by Uran and Landa. Contador came in 2:24 down on Aru.



Wine: Cappellano Barolo Chinato 
From FranklyWines

 From the importer

The four hectares of vineyards owned by the Cappellano family are principally in Serralunga d’Alba and are supplemented by a small parcel in the neighboring village of Novello from which Cappellano produces his Nebiolo d’Alba.  The vineyards in Serralunga are situated in the Gabutti cru which is on the western slopes of Serralunga at approximately 300 meters altitude. The land is farmed according to organic principles and the production of the wine is accomplished following the credo of “Vini Veri”: indigenous yeasts are relied upon, the use of sulfur is strictly limited, vinification is traditional (long fermentation, extended aging in large, old botte) and the wine is not filtered prior to bottling.  The Barolo Chinato is produced by following the family recipe handed down generation to generation.  The “medicinal” herbs and spices are ground using a stone mortar and pestle.  Both the recipe and the process are family secrets. 

I say: Wine with quinine bark, herbs and spices. You can drink it as an apertif or digestive or anything in between. It can also be used in cocktails. More here and here. Chocolate, flowers, orange, cherry.

Food: Grissini
Grissini because doesn't everyone love a breadstick? 
I used the recipe here from Thekitchn. 
It is simple enough to follow and you can add herbs and spices to your own preference.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Wine & Food of the Giro 2015 Stage 19: Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex Et De La Salle & Beet and Potato Gnocchi

Gravellona Toce - Cervinia 236 KM - High Mountain

The regional website tells me that "the most important building in Gravellona Toce is the Romanesque Church of San Maurizio, news of which dates back to at least the 10th century. It had a tormented history and was used as a leper hospital in the 17th century. Its walls – decorated on the outside with hanging arches – have rectangular windows that have taken the place of the original single lights. Inside, in the single nave, cross vaults with a 15th-century roof were recently replaced with bare trusses. The bell tower – which is independent from but directly connected to the church – dates back to the end of the 11th century and is on the north side. The bell chamber and orthogonal cupola were added later."

 From the tourist website: "An infinite snowy area that begins at 1,524 metres, in Valtournenche, embraces Breuil-Cervinia, rises up to 3,480 metres of Plateau RosΓ , touches the 4,000 m peak of Piccolo Cervino, climbes up to 4,478 m to the top of the Cervino. An area where the infinite snow continues on the Swiss side to Zermatt.  An area where the snow is the setting of sport, holidays and fun.  The tourism vocation of Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche has it’s beginning more than two hundred years ago. Excursionists and academics were the pioneers of a tourism that united sport, scientific study and intellectual exchange.  In 1936, a new Breuil-Cervinia was created. The construction of the first cable car was a cutting-edge work of engineering excellence. The Hotel "Gran Baita" situated at the foot of the slopes, with the cable car departure station annexed to it, anticipates by over half a century the concept of an integral complex for skiing. Breuil-Cervinia became the Queen of the snow.  From sport to cinema, politics and commerce, those who count meet here."

The stage:  Late start to video this morning. As it started, the situation on the road:

Thirty seven kilometers to go and Kiryienka was caught by the peloton. Thirty three kilometers to go and Visconti had 2:21 on the pink jersey group. Sixteen kilometers to go and Visconti remained out front alone with a gap of 1:37. 

Thirteen kilometers to go and the gap was just about one minute. Ten kilometers to go and they were all together. And, action! Attacks from within the leading peloton and very soon there were only five left at the front:
Aru, Landa, Contador, Hesjedal and Kruijswijk. Attacking that group, Hesjedal, with Aru following. Six kilometers to go and Aru had passed Hesjadal. Five kilometers to go and he had forty seconds over the pink jersey group. Behind, Uran caught and passed that group. Ahead, Aru's lead grew and he would win the stage. Next in, Hesjedal. Third, Uran.




Wine: Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex Et De La Salle
From Dig  $28

From the importer:  Ermes Pavese is a youthful grower in the commune of La Ruine just outside of the town of Morgex in the high Alps minutes from the summit of Mont Blanc.  Pavese works the native grape known as PriΓ© Blanc. Starting with barely two hectares of vineyards, situated at about 1200 meters above sea level, Pavese has gradually expanded his holdings in this high altitude zone. He now produces three versions of Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle.  Because these vineyards are so isolated, Pavese has been able to work with the original, pre-phylloxera root stock since that malady never infiltrated this area when it came sweeping through Europe many years ago.

A stunning wine from the highest vineyard site in Europe, with annual production of about 12,000 bottles of this austere, racy, mineral white wine  with vivacity and length.

I say: Gulped this down while assembling a lasagna for another stage. And gulpable it was.  Pale straw in color. Peaches, flowers, minerality, and acid.

Food: Beet and Potato Gnocchi

Another Pasta by Hand recipe. I felt fairly accomplished with this one, making gnocchi from beets I had grown in our back garden.
It turns out, it has been my favorite so far of the recipes I have tried from the book  

There is a Jenn Louis Beet Gnocchi recipe here,  though it is rather different from the one I made. That version features roasted beets mixed with potatoes and no ricotta. That said, the ricotta version sounds great.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wine & Food of the Giro 2015 Stage 18: Castello di Neive Grignolino & La Tur

Melide - Verbania 170 KM - Medium Mountain

Melide is located in the district of Lugano in the canton of Ticino. The village lies very close to the mountain Monte San Salvatore and is directly on the Lake of Lugano. It is apparently well known for Swissminiatur. Their website tells me that "Swissminiatur was inaugurated on 6th June 1959 and celebrated its 50 year anniversary in 2009. In an area of 14,000 m2 visitors can admire more than 120 models at scale of 1:25 which represent the most important buildings, monuments and transportation means in Switzerland. A 3,560m long model railway with 18 trains runs through the park."

Verbania is the capital city of the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola in Piedmont. The tourist website tells me that ""Verbania, a garden on the lake": this is the image of itself with which Verbania, in its marvellous natural setting on the Borromean Gulf, welcomes visitors. Gardens and parks are a major tourist attraction of the area, an ideal destination for those seeking a relaxing holiday with, as backdrop, a landscape of breathtaking beauty and harmony. In the 19th century Lake Maggiore was discovered by literary and artistic travellers, whose descriptions of the area helped to make it a favourite destination of the European upper classes. The lake, with the Borromean Islands set into it like jewels, which so fascinated these Γ©lite tourists, now has a public boat service, and the palaces and gardens of the islands are easily reached from Verbania.
Following the example of the Borromeo family, members of the English aristocracy and the wealthy Lombard bourgeoisie built the profusion of summer residences which were to have a profound impact on the landscape, and still adorn the lake shores today."

The stage:  Off they go again. Our break of the day is large:
Nocentini, Bongiorni, Gilbert, Moinard, De La Cruz, Chavanel, Ferrari, Cunego, Weening, Busato, Villella, Haga, Belkov, and Siutsou.


With seventy six kilometers to go, they were over eleven minutes up.  Cunego crashed and abandoned the race. In that same crash, Ferrari was dropped from the break. Fifty five kilometers to go and it was over twelve minutes. Under fifty kilometers to go and they started to climb, ten kilometers of nine percent with some patches of thirteen percent. Behind, a crash with what seemed to be most of the remaining Sky team. Not down though, Konig and Eisel. Mechanical issues for Landa and an attack by Contador. Payback?

Forty kilometers to go and our lead group contained Gilbert, Chavanel, De la Cruz, Moinard, Bongiorno, Nocentini and Siustsou.

And the break would make it. 


Gilbert would ride solo to victory, while behind, Contador gained more time on his rivals. 




Wine: Castello di Neive Grignolino
Sample from Winebow 
$SRP 16.00

From the importer
Castello di Neive and the surrounding 150 acre estate are owned by the Stupino family, siblings Anna, Giulio, Italo, and Piera.  The Castello di Neive winery began when Giacomo Stupino, the family patriarch, capitalized on his experience as a surveyor and his knowledge of the area to purchase favorable vineyards and land whenever possible.  In the small cellars of their family home, the Stupino’s began their first wine production (including Messoirano, Montebertotto, Basarin, Valtorta, and i Cortini) and, over time, their acquired vineyards grew with the family’s production and ambitions.  In 1964 the family purchased the castle with its spacious cellars, along with more land and farmsteads in Santo Stefano and Marcorino.  This marked a turning point when the Stupino’s were able to renovate the castle cellars and reorganize their vineyards to produce wine according to modern methods.  When Giacomo died in 1970, Giulio and Italo oversaw the transition from tenant farming to direct management of the land, initiating production and export of Castello di Neive wines abroad.

Location of Vineyard: The cellars of Castello di Neive are extremely large, clearly demonstrating the designers’ optimism that the winery’s quality would be easily recognized.  Castello di Neive comprises a 150 acre (60 hectares) estate, all in the Neive town council, in the Langhe area of the Piedmont region. Sixty-two acres (25 hectares) of the property are devoted to grape growing and all the production (approximately 12,000 cases a year) is obtained from Castello di Neive’s own vines in the following vineyards:  Basarin, Cortini, Gallina, Marcorino, Messoirano-Montebertotto; Santo Stefano and Valtorta.

This Grignolino is a small-production gem (at 4,000 bottles annually) that is incredibly food friendly.  Made from 100% Grignolino grapes, it shows the lightness and finesse which has made Grignolino a widely-appreciable wine.  Following fermentation, this wine is aged for 3 months in stainless steel to preserve its fresh, fruit-forward aromas.

Tasting Notes: Light ruby in color, aromas of red fruits and roses complement undertones of Bing cherries, strawberries, and hints of spice box.  On the palate, crisp acidity and smooth tannins make for a food friendly wine.

I say: I do like my Northern Italian reds. Light red fruits and flowers. Lots of acidity.

Food: La Tur cheese:
From the great wine region of Piemonte comes La Tur: a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full, with a lingering lactic tang.

Learn more here or here

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wine & Food of the Giro 2015 Stage 17: Cave des Tilleuls Humagne Rouge & Polenta Taragna

Where are we: Tirano - Lugano  134 KM - Flat

Tirano is a town in Valtellina, located in the province of Sondrio. It is adjacent to the Switzerland-Italy boundary. The river Adda flows through the town.

Lugano is a city in southern Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.  It is the 9th largest city of Switzerland by population, the largest city in Ticino, and the largest city with an Italian speaking majority outside of Italy.
The city lies on Lake Lugano, surrounded by the mountains of the Lugano Prealps. Its warm summers and the fact that in recent years it has attracted an ever growing number of celebrities, entertainers, and successful athletes have given it the nickname of the "Monte Carlo of Switzerland". The city tourist website is here.

The stage: Should be one for the remaining sprinters. Many of them went home last week, so this is a reward for those that chose to stay. Our break of the day Bandiera, Berlato and Kiesse. Nice weather for their likely to be doomed attempt.

With fifty six kilometers to go, their gap was under two minutes. Thirty seven kilometers to go and the gap was just over a minute, as they neared the Swiss border. The catch came at around twenty five kilometers to go and hey, Adam Hansen! Fifteen kilometers to go and he had around twenty seconds. Eleven kilometers to go and it was under ten seconds and then he was caught. Alas. There went Slagter and then Gilbert, followed by Paolini. Two kilometers to go and Paolini was up front solo.But he would be caught. Sprint! Nice work by Lampre.

Stage: Sasha Modolo 


Wine: Cave des Tilleuls Humagne Rouge
From Frankly Wines

From the importer:
Working with the indigenous varietals of the Valais, the Cottagnouds are traditionalists, yet they also manage to push the boundaries with their wines.  They experiment with their vinification to unlock the potential of each varietal, going so far as to produce a Jura-style Vin Jaune of Amigne, the marquee grape of the Valais.

Fabienne is responsible for the vinification of the wines and Marc-Henri manages the vineyards.  This couple takes a holistic approach the production of their wines and the favorable climate that surrounds the Valais provides great advantage to organic farming as this spectacular region is blessed with abundant sunshine and moderate rainfall. 

The Humagne grape variety is a difficult one to grow to maturity.  The fruit for this wine is normally harvested towards the end of October and this extended growing season allows the grapes to develop character in a slow and measured way.  An intriguing rustic sense suggests the wild nature of the peaks around this vineyard.  This is a rugged wine that, we believe, will prove its worth over time as a unique and satisfying expression of the particular terroir of the Valais.

I say: A red Swiss wine. How could I resist?  Deep color, full bodied, with berries.

Food: Polenta Taragna
I admit it, this is not a pretty food. But I wanted to try this regional specialty. Essentially you combine traditional polenta with buckwheat flour. It is then finished with cheese, in my case, Taleggio. Some sources suggest it is a meal alone, some suggest serving with sausages. Rib-sticking either way.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wine & Food of the Giro 2015 Stage 16: Vercesi del Castellazzo Pezzalunga & Apple Strudel

Where are we: Pinzolo - Aprica
174 KM - High Mountain

Pinzolo is a small town  situated in Val Rendena in Trentino in the northern Italian Alps. The tourist website tells me that the town is located at an ideal elevation of 700-800 m a.s.l. in the wide Sarca valley, at the feet of majestic mountains - granitic on the right side and dolomitic on the other. 150 km of pistes in the Campiglio Dolomiti di Brenta Val di Sole Val Rendena ski area are served by 61 ski lift systems, including the new Pinzolo-Campiglio Express cablecar, which wend their way through ever-changing landscapes and also descend into the valley.

Aprica is a town in the province of Sondrio, Lombardy.  It is located on the eponymous pass, connecting Valtellina to Val Camonica.
Its main source of income is tourism, utilizing the areas geography to offer skiing (winter) and mountain biking (summer) opportunities.

The stage: The hardest day of the Giro? Maybe. The riders are worried:

Certainly beautiful though:

The break of the day: Pellizotti, Zardini, Bookwalter, De la Cruz, Niemec, Fernandez, Felline, Hesjedal, Armee, and Mihaylov. As the gap dropped, Hesjedal went out the front solo.  
Sixty kilometers to go and there were gaps in the peloton with Contador behind the lead group after a suspected puncture. He was about forty seconds behind Aru, but was chasing with teammates. Fifty kilometers to go and Hesjedal was forty seconds over the main peloton and one minute over the Contador group. 
A few kilometers down the road and the breakaway had been caught. Contador was still behind and had burned through all of his teammates during the chase. 


Cycling Twitter thinks that Contador will make it.

Ahead, Landa looked stronger than Aru. With about forty kilometers to go, there was Contador. The gaps had been wrong and he could see the Aru group ahead. Sure enough, he went by them, chasing Kruiswijk ahead. Landa went with him. They would make the catch, making it a group of three at the front of the race. Thirty eight kilometers to go and the gap to Aru was already around one minute. Apparently there is weather ahead:

And there were the crazy fans. Out of the road, please!

Ahead, Contador was at the front for the descent. And now, a bike change for Aru. He had been riding with Amador, but would now continue solo. With just under fourteen kilometers to go the gap was 1’04” to Trofimov, 1’31” to Amador and Hesjedal, and 1’47” to Aru. I'm worried about the grupetto. Fingers crossed that they will make it in time. Adam Hansen has records to set, after all.

Four kilometers to go and they started to attack each other out front. Landa was looking very good for the stage win. 

Stage: Mikel Landa


Wine: Vercesi del Castellazzo Pezzalunga Rosso
from Dig $20

From the importer:The Vercesi del Castellazzo estate is located in the village of Montu Beccaria, 30 miles southwest of Milan in the heart of the Oltrepo' Pavese region in the hills overlooking the city of Stradella, south of the Po River.  The winery was established in 1808, when the great-grand father of the present owner (Dr. Franco Vercesi) purchased the castle in Montu that was built before the 12th century by the Beccaria family, a noble family from the important town of Pavia. Ultimately, the castle was given to the Barnabite religious order during the 1500s and was converted to a monastery.  Napoleon’s invading army seized the property and, at that point, the Vercesi family , long-time vine-growers, acquired the building and property to be used as the family residence and cantina.  The fourth and fifth generation Vercesis are now in place.

Producer website:

I say: 30-40 % Barbera, 20-30 % Croatina, 10% Vespolina, 30-40 % Pinot Noir. Wayne at Dig describes the wine this way: "Castellazo's barbera-based blend strikes a bright and earthy balance. Berry, plum, and sour cherry notes combine with dashes of black tea, smoke, and mint. This is one of the great matches for pasta and pizza."

I agree. This is a pizza wine indeed. Fresh and gulpable with berries. I'll be buying more of this one.

Food: Apple Strudel
Why, yes, apple strudel. We'd never made one before and it turns out it is the signature dessert of the region. At K's insistence, it was srved with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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).

In northern Italy, such as the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, you can find strudel in various forms -- sometimes made with puff pastry, sometimes with shortcrust pastry. But the Trentino way is very much like what you find in Vienna: a thin, somewhat-flaky, and crisp pastry that gives way to something soft when eaten at room temperature a few hours after baking."