Sunday, May 29, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 21: Ettore Germano Herzu Riesling & Robiola Tre Latti

Where are we? Riding the ceremonial final stage from Cuneo to Torino.

From the Giro siteCuneo is named after the shape of the plateau it lies on, at the confluence of the Gesso and Stura rivers. Several hundred metres of porticos and the wide Piazza Galimberti, the most exclusive part of the city, make it a large open-air shopping centre. Bordering the main roads are ancient church portals, the Town Hall and mediaeval houses, while the narrow alleys hold treasures such as the churches of Santa Chiara and Santa Croce, and the former Jewish ghetto in Contrada Mondovì. Cuneo has a rich vegetation, with many gardens and parks, such as the Gesso and Stura riverside park.
COOKING: Bagna cauda, gnocchi alla bava (potato dumplings seasoned with an onion and cheese sauce), croset (fresh pasta), cuneesi al rum (rum-filled chocolate truffles)

Turin was the first capital city of the Kingdom of Italy. In the words of the great architect Le Corbusier, it is “the city with the most beautiful natural position”, as it sits at the heart of Italy, lying close to both the sea and the mountains. Marked by a centuries-old Roman chessboard pattern that can still be seen in the city centre, Turin thrived and prospered especially from the 17th century onwards, as the Savoy family invited the most prominent architects of that time to enrich and embellish their capital. A number of majestic remnants of the Baroque age have survived to the present day, including the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, Piazza Castello with its historic buildings, and the residences of the House of Savoy in Venaria and Stupinigi.Turin then embraced Art Nouveau between the 19th and 20th centuries. Those were also the years when the Mole Antonelliana – the symbol of the city and current seat of the National Cinema Museum – was completed. Turin, the regional capital of Piedmont, is a city of sports, as demonstrated by the 2006 winter Olympics and the designation as European Capital of Sport in 2015. 

COOKING: Typical local appetizers, such as hand-chopped Fassona meat, Olivier salad, vitello tonnato, bell peppers and lingua in salsa verde (veal tongue with a parsley sauce); bagna cauda, agnolotti (with tomato sauce, truffle seasoning, or roasted meat sauce), boiled and wine-braised meats, turineisa (meat-stuffed courgettes), breadsticks, gianduja chocolate

WINE: Canavese, Pinerolese, Valsusa, Erbaluce di Caluso, Collina Torinese (white, red and rosé)

Speaking of cooking:
Nice bike:

The stage: The traditional mainly ceremonial last stage. But are there any sprinters left to contend? They will go around a circuit 8 times, which given the rain could be tricky. 

More attacks would come.  Thirty seven kilometers to go and the two escapees had a minute over the bunch and 37 over several chasers. The roads looked wet in parts. Indeed, a crash in the pack with Chaves and Uran down, among others. The race jury announced that the clock had been stopped for the GC contenders. So long as they finish, they will maintain their placings. There would still be a sprint finish though. 
Twenty kilometers to go and the gap was 43 seconds. Fifteen kilometers to go and it was about 30 seconds. Eleven kilometers to go, Van Emden was out alone with about 10 seconds. Seven kilometers and he had 14 seconds. At the front of the peloton, Jungels was working hard to bring him back. 6.7 and he was caught as Colbrelli crashed hard after possibly making contact with a spectator.
Three kilometers to go and they were all together. At long last, the sprint and Giacomo Nizzolo finally had his Giro win. Behind, in safely, Vincenzo Nibali.




Wine: Ettore Germano Herzu Riesling 2012
From the importer: Serious Riesling is a pretty new thing in Italy, and when Sergio Germano planted the grape in the hills south of Dogliani, about half an hour from his home in Serralunga, he had no idea how well it would do. He knew he loved the variety and wanted to see how it would come out. The experiment worked: the soils are limestone-rich, the altitude provides excellent fresh acidity, and year by year the 'Herzu' ('steep' in the dialect of the village where it's grown) shows more and more clear Riesling character, and more and more class. The wine shows hints of lime-peel, wet stones, and flowers, with a faint hint of the gasoline aroma that is so varietally typical. All stainless-steel fermentation and aging.

Food: Robiola Tre Latti
The "tre latti" (three milks) indicates that this cheese is a blend of cow's, goat's and sheep's milk, in proportions that probably vary with the seasons. Mixed-milk cheeses such as this one are common in regions where farmers keep mixed herds. They help the cheesemaker manage seasonal fluctuations in milk supply. 
The cheese itself is very creamy, with a slight tang.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Wine and Food of the Giro 2016 Stage 20: Institut Agricole Regional & Sola Cheese

Where are we? In France to start, heading 134 kilometers from Guillestre to Sant'Anna di Vinadio.
 From the Giro site: Guillestre, located in the French province of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, lies at the crossroads of major communication routes among the valleys and towards the Alpine passes leading to Italy.
The village thrives on winter and summer tourism, which is growing steadily as the location offers many sporting opportunities, as well as a spa resort at the “Plan de Phazy” hot springs.
COOKING: Traditional cheeses and cold cuts, Guil Durance lamb, sea buckthorn (argousier) and larch flower syrup; honey

Vinadio, at the heart of the Stura river valley, is a major tourist and thermal resort. For centuries, it marked the frontier between France and Italy, which explains the wealth of military fortifications stretching for 1,200 metres, on three different levels, with approx. 10 km of internal routes.
The most famous landmark is the sanctuary of Sant’Anna, the highest-rising sanctuary in Europe (2,035 m). The church was erected on a rocky surface that ancient glaciers had smoothed out, which explains its unusual slanting floor.
COOKING: Crouset (fresh pasta) with cheese sauce, oula al fourn (vegetable soup), agnello sambucano (native lamb meat), wild game dishes

The stage:  With so many riders close at the top, today should be very interesting. Indeed, riders attempted to form a break from the very start. A reminder of our top 10 on GC going into the day:

1 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge 78:14:20
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:44
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:01:05
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:48
5 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff Team 0:03:59
6 Bob Jungels (Lux) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:07:53
7 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team 0:09:34
8 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:12:18
9 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Dimension Data 0:13:19
10 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:14:11

Kruiwijk, by the way, is starting the day with a rib injury after his snowbank crash yesterday.  

The early break consisted of Mikel Nieve (Team Sky), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), Stefan Denifl (IAM), Tanel Kangert (Astana), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Rein Taaramae (Katusha) and Aleksey Rybalkin (Gazprom).

Horrible news from the Tour Belgium of another bad moto crash, injuring riders and causing the neutralization of the stage.

Ahead, attacks seemed likely.

With 50 kilometers to go Nieve had 15s seconds as a gap to the chasers with the Maglia Rosa group  at 8.55.
A few kilometers on and Nieve would be caught by the chasers. Forty six kilometers to go and they had 8:45 over the pink jersey group.

Thirty two kilometers to go and the gap to the main pack was 9:45. Twenty seven kilometers to go and it was time for that group to start climbing. When would the attacks start? I have hit the point in the stage when I start to hear the helicopters as the Jaws theme. 
Twenty one kilometers to go and Astana finally comes to the front. The peloton was getting smaller, but at 18 kilometers to go, that main favorites were still all there. Scarponi to the front. The word of the day so far is wait. And there went Scarponi followed quickly by Nibali. The other favorites would catch them. Action time? And then there were eight.

Lots of attacks from the group up front, fighting for the stage win, as behind things remained steady with Scarponi continuing to lead the group. Twelve kilometers to go and there went Nibali. He appeared to be distancing Chaves and Valverde. Eleven kilometers to go and he had a twenty second gap. Keep in mind, he started the day 44 seconds back. Nibali made it to his teammate Kangert. Could he help? Behind, Uran had arrived to help Chaves. Wow. 
Seven kilometers to go and Nibali was alone. Behind, Chaves could not stay with Uran and Valverde. This is remarkable. At the top of the climb, the gap from Nibali to Chaves was 55 seconds.
Ahead, Rein Taaramae looked to be in position to take the stage win. Second, Atapuma. Third, Joe Dombrowski. 
And behind the came in, with Valverde gaining time as well. The big winner, obviously, Vincenzo Nibali as he will win this Giro. 



Wine: Institut Agricole Regional Fumin 10 
From the importer:
IAR was established in 1951 as a professional agricultural program, designed to preserve the indigenous Valle d’Aosta agrarian products (vegetables, fruits, cheese, wine), and to teach the next generation as well. Master winemakers and professors work both in the fields and in the lab. A large part of the group’s focus is also on genetically identifying the many indigenous grape varietals. IAR is responsible for determining the origins and traits of many clones and phenotypes of vitis vinifera.
Deep color, lots of vibrancy, herbal, cherry

Food: Sola cheese
Sola is a cheese with a tradition that lies in the alpine pastures, as documented by the historian Tulio Pagliana in a study on the lives of the shepherds of the Upper Tanaro Valley.The name derives from the particular shape of the cheese on maturing, which is similar to that of the sole of a shoe.
Semi soft, mild, sweetness, slight tang, really like this one. Favorite cheese of the race!

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