Fall is harvest, and that means bountiful, hearty foods and flavors. As the temperatures drop, people are drawn to warm flavors that make you feel good inside. Hearty Italian wines pair wonderfully well with these hearty foods and flavors.
But you don’t need to do a full on complicated meal (like we did here) to take advantage of the plentiful fall foods like squash and tomatoes.
For this month’s “fall” theme for the Italian Food Wine Travel prompt, we decided to take an easy uncomplicated route because our schedule was just too hectic to do anything more! On a recent weeknight, Sue dropped by Trader Joe’s for raviolis and she made a sauce (recipe below) which we paired three wines from August’s #WineStudio that I was too sick to taste (plus a Prosecco!)
- Castello di Magione 2013 Monterone Grechetto Colli del Trasimeno DOC
- Castello di Magione 2014 Sangiovese Umbria IGT
- Castello di Magione 2008 Morcinaia Colli del Trasimeno DOC
But these weren’t just any Italian wines. As this is a post for #ItalianWFT, I wanted Italian wines that had a nice travel story. And these do–they come from a CASTLE! And they have a great story that includes the Order of Malta which is active in 120 countries and is working hard on various relief projects including recovering from the devastating August 2016 earthquake.
Importer Clay Fritz, owner and winemaker of Fritz Winery in Dry Creek Valley, is a member of The Order of Malta – The Knights of the White Cross, an ancient religious order that provides global relief efforts to areas affected by natural disasters and conflicts using funding from their winemaking. According to their website, “The Sovereign Order of Malta is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. A lay religious order of the Catholic Church since 1113 and a subject of international law, the Sovereign Order of Malta has diplomatic relations with over 100 states and the European Union, and permanent observer status at the United Nations.” While active around the world, they have been particularly important following the magnitude 6 earthquake August 24 in Italy.
Originally built in the Seventh Century as a hospital for pilgrims traveling to Rome, Castello di Magione’s wine production began 900 years ago in the Middle Ages. Influential , and it remained an important influence in the history of viniculture worldwide. Located on the hills around Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, plenty of sunshine and exposure ensure ripeness and quality. Castello di Magione is famous for its contributions to awareness of and appreciation of its native grapes, Grechetto and Sangiovese, which we tasted.
So once you have these wines in hand by ordering them from Fritz Winery (or another Grechetto or Sangiovese!) it is very easy to pick up some pre-made pastas and sauces at any convenience store; however if you make your own simple sauce it makes a world of difference and it is not that difficult to do.
For this easy meal full of fall flavors to pair with these special Italian wines, Sue picked up some pumpkin honey roasted ravioli from Trader Joes and topped them off with her own brown butter sage cream sauce with fresh sage we picked from my garden. We sliced in half and baked a kombocha squash which we then cut into curls to frame the pasta. You can eat the edge of the squash or discard it, but ti made for a pretty picture!
RECIPE FOR BROWN BUTTER SAGE CREAM SAUCE: To make this simple sauce, melt butter in a frying pan, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped sage and sauce till butter starts to turn brown. The butter will boil. Watch carefully, don’t let it burn. When brown, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream and stir, simmering slowly till the pasta is finished. Pour over pasta and sprinkle with a bit of the chopped sage for garnish.
Castello di Magione 2013 Monterone Grechetto Colli del Trasimeno DOC 13.5% ali $15
Too many people think that every still white wine coming out of Italy is Pinot Grigio and everything that bubbles is Prosecco. NOT TRUE! According to the Wine Scholar Guild, “Italy grows 350-600 genetically distinct and commercially relevant grape varieties. One hundred of these are widely cultivated within its borders.”
In the past year as we have been tasting a number of very interesting Italian wines, we have discovered we are both passionate about Grechetto, a lively, fresh white wine from indigenous Italian grapes that really isn’t grown very much any where else in the world.
As first, we first noticed that this had a funk on the nose: a funk that could be interpreted as a richness, earthy and minerally like sulphur. On the palette we picked up the minerals. The finish is clean and clear and lingering.
This Grechetto has so much going on. So nice with the oysters! This is a stand up type of white wine; it does not lie down. It went well with the oysters and can go the distance all the way to the heavy cream sauce on the ravioli. It went really well with a nice warm cheese; remember to put your cheese out early, and let it sweat and let it breathe for a while. We made a burrata cheese and tomato salad with a simple olive oil and balsamic salad that went beautifully with both the Grechetto and the Sangio.
Tomatoes are bountiful in the fall and what a better way to experience fall flavors than with a fresh tomato caprese salad that went so beautifully with this wine.
Castello di Magione 2014 Sangiovese Umbria IGT 13% alcohol $25
This is a beautiful Sangiovese and a great example of this classic Italian wine. On the nose, it just smells like a Sangio: very Spicy! This will go so well with a margarita pizza. Not a huge finish, it is what it is, not too expensive, a good food wine, a good pizza wine. The Grechetto went better with the salad. The sangio goes better with roasted tomatoes like we had on our appetizers plate (recipe here). With this pairing, it was fantastic. It needs that cooked tomato, garlic flavor to shine. Think traditional red sauce fare. It is bright with fresh wild fruit and shiny in flavor that cuts through dense flavors and does well with the cooked stewed sauces of traditional Italian sauces.
Castello di Magione 2008 Morcinaia Colli del Trasimeno DOC 14% alcohol $35
A blend of 40% Cabernet, 40% Merlot and 20% Sangiovese, the roundness, fruits, yet complex spice and herbal notes in this wine makes it taste like it is much more expensive. The nose is full of fruit and inviting, and the fruit on the palate has a backbone to it. You can taste the cherry from the cabernet, the spicy sangio, and the plum and berries from the merlot.
This wine went really well with the ravioli with cream sauce, but I felt that I needed more meat and fat to enjoy this wine fully when it was first opened. However after revisiting this wine with the ravioli and cream sauce, we decided that it not only went well with the cream sauce, but if we made it to go with a mushroom ravioli it might even go better. The earthiness of the mushroom should go very nicely with the earthy qualities of this wine.
This wine went best in our opinion with the Toscano cheese that was on our cheese plate. The salty, peppery, creamy characteristics of this cheese paired perfectly with this wine. I still wanted meat with this wine: more fatty richness to pair with the spicy, decadent, earthy, rich, qualities of this wine.
La Gioiosa – Prosecco – St Ajarosa – Brut – dry $12
I like the bottle and label of this wine. Bright yellow for harvest and gold for a rich quality. We decided to pair our Prosecco with a little pumpkin bread pudding with a drizzle of whisky hard sauce.
This prosecco has a great yeasty quality with some almond and citrus qualities. I really liked this and I generally do not like prosecco very much. At the end of the meal to have something bright and lively is a nice palette cleanser. All of the different flavors that have been in your mouth might create a challenge to ending your meal with a great finish. The flavors in this prosecco finished the meal off nicely. Was there a bit of spearmint in the finish?
We also added a bit of prosecco to the whiskey sauce which added a fluffier quality. The whisky sauce kicks this simple store bought then cooked at home dessert up a notch–or two!
There are times when you try to pair a sweet dish with a sparkling wine whether it be Prosecco or Cava, or Champagne. However this Prosecco went beautifully with the pumpkin bread pudding with whisky hard sauce.
This is a beautiful brunch wine. It will go well with maple sausage, honey baked ham, those types of savory sweet dishes. This Prosecco is also unusual because it has a yeasty quality that is often missing in Proseccos. We wonder if this would go well with other baked caramelized plates.
We originally thought about making a prosecco cocktail (pumpkin spice) with this. however after having tasted this wine, we didn’t want to spoil the wonderful quality of this wine.
The key here was that the dessert was not too sweet nor to savory. For this dessert to work, there needs to be a yeasty quality to the wine. We loved the nose on this wine: so yeasty and wonderful. This was a really nice way to end a meal.
Honestly, I did not even want to open up this wine because of a general aversion to Prosecco, but this is a wonderful Prosecco and it changed my mind, maybe because it is more similar in style to a Ferrari from Trento or Champagne because of this yeasty, almond, nutty quality as opposed to a sweet, simple, straight forward fruit profile. However, it is not as fresh. This wine has a really nice complexity: a nutty rich buttery quality that you would get in an almond croissant with a little roasted pear fruit. This would be beautiful with a roasted fruit dessert!
Note: all of the wines reviewed above were received as samples for my consideration. Thank you to my sponsors and to #WineStudio for this wine scholarship!
See what others are harvesting–links here and a taste from titles below:
Mike from Undiscovered Italy writes about the Montefalco Vendemmia Festival
Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog prepares Caprese Stuffed Roasted Eggplant and Barbera d’Alba
Jeff from FoodWineClick gives us his Top 5 Reasons to Visit Piemonte in the Fall
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog is Celebrating Italian Harvest
Jennifer from Vino Travels is Welcoming Autumn with the Campanian Wines of Mastroberardino
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla makes Truffles, a Whole Fish, & Barolo
Want to learn more about Italian wine? Bongiorno says the Wine Scholar Guild:
“Studying Italy is akin to studying the wine production of 20 different countries. Far from boring, it equates to the quintessential intellectual challenge. There are some whopping misconceptions out there about Italian wine. Can you tell which are true and which are false?
1) Every white wine coming out of Italy is Pinot Grigio. Untrue! Italy grows 350-600 genetically distinct and commercially relevant grape varieties. One hundred of these are widely cultivated within its borders.
2) Italian varieties grow well in other countries. Not! Most of the native grapes are homebodies.
3) Italy is a fertile, flat plain that produces a sea of equally flat wines. Lies! Plains account for the smallest percentage (23%) of the Italian landscape. Most of Italy (77%) consists of mountains and hills that produce structured wines meant for table.
4) Italy lacks great wine terroirs. Another falsehood! From glacial moraines to volcanic elements, Italy has got it all! In fact, Italy has active volcanoes still today and volcanic soils can be found in Toscana, Lazio, Basilicata, Campania, and Sicilia.
5) Pronouncing Italian appellations will not increase your sex appeal. Yeah, right!
6) Lambrusco is good wine. Actually, this is true. The sweet, fizzy beverage largely sold internationally is nothing like the tantalizingly dry yet fruity Lambrusco drunk by the Italians.
7) Chianti is best served with liver and side of fava beans. Let’s not even go there! There is a world of wine styles within Italy, so it is easy to find a wine to match up with almost any cuisine.
Find out the truth about Italian wines by joining San Francisco Wine School’s premiere Italian Wine Scholar session starting October 3rd 2016. This course will be instructed by Chris Miller, Certified Sommelier and instructor at San Francisco Wine School. Chris Miller has been in the wine industry for 20 years and specialized in Italian wine retail and distribution for a decade. If you are curious to see what the study materials look like, you can access a free section of the manual on Piedmont as well as access our E-learning module on the wines of Valle d’Aosta. Please use password “preview” to access the content.”