Celebrating Summer with 4 Wines from the NE Mountains of Italy with 4 Vegetarian Courses #ItalianFWT

While I couldn’t get to the mountains of Italy, I did take 3 of the 4 wines to the mountains of southern California — Big Bear Lake to be exact!

Who knew the cuisine of the Südtirol region of Italy to be so deliciously seductive?

Or that Alpine foods combine Italian sophistication and lightness?

Or that there are so many wonderful vegetarian choices? Not me!

What we found in the northeastern mountains of Italy: specialities from both culinary traditions, Italy and the Alps, a unique cuisine with many enticing dishes along with excellent and unusual wines! 

This month the Italian Food Wine Travel group of bloggers explores wines from northeast Italy with  Snarky Wines; read Kevin’s informative invite or his equally educational preview.

With four wines from Südtirol to focus on, Sue and I developed the menu by emailing recipes to each other writing “OMG! So many of these recipes sound so good! How do we choose?” For example, recipes about South Tyrolean specialities or these 89 recipes from South Tyrol!

Because Sue wanted to do a coursed meal where wines pair up with specific dishes, we decided this would be a great opportunity: we’d focus on the dishes that would pair well with the DOC wines of the region –two unusual reds, a Schiava (also known as Vernatsch) and a Lagrein, plus two well-known whites, a Gewurztraminer and a Pinot Grigio.

The cuisine of the region offers many varied and unusual options which reminded me of when we wrote about wines from the Italian Alps two years ago.

What made this dinner stand out also was that Sue chose a menu that was vegetarian, and that most of the courses were boiled then served with a sauce.

Also: There is gnocchi, and then there is homemade gnocchi.

I’d never had homemade gnocci before and there is a world of difference. Sue says it is not that difficult to prepare, but surprisingly this is the first time she’s done it for one of our wine pairing meals!

These wines and pairings are perfect for summer– light, refreshing, and don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen with the oven on!

Wines and Pairings
Samples for review consideration, all opinions my own, no money exchanged.  

2017 – Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer  DOC Alto Adlige – 14.5% alcohol

The “deep cellar” at Castel Sallegg goes back 1,000 years and its consistent year round temperature plays an important role in the development of the wines.

The grapes come from a single vineyard called Kaltern – Lotterbrunnen located 230 m above sea level at Lake Kaltern. Soils are warm, medium-textured sandy loam.

Color: Pale gold, definitely a golden hue, like the color of elderflowers.

Nose: Honey, fruit, floral. Bright fresh stone fruit, honeysuckle, jasmine, star jasmine, green grape must.

Palate: This is not a sweet gewuztraminer – it is very spritely, lots of acidity and minerality. nice clean finish. The acidity cleanses the palate, with a lingering tangerine pith, maybe even grapefruit.

Pairing: The wine tames the bitterness of the radicchio.

This is nice dry gewürztraminer dances well  with the radicchio.

Frying the radicchio in olive oil brings out a sweetness in the radicchio, then the bed of a arugula with its peppery flavors are nice with the  wine as well. The olive oil leaves a lovely creamy umami palate. It goes beautifully with the creamy goat cheese.


2016 – Peter Zemmer Alpine Pinot Grigio Riserva “Giatl”- Sudtirol – Alto Adige – 14.5% alcohol – SRP $38

Giatl refers to a nearby hamlet and means “little property” or “little vineyard” in the local dialect.

According to sources, grapes come from ““Grand Cru” terroir south and southwest of the village, a half-moon-shaped outcrop rising 13- to 16-feet above the surrounding area. The site spans 24 acres, of which two-thirds are owned or leased by the Zemmer family. Grapes come from the best six acres, four parcels with vines ranging 15- to 30-years in age. Here, instead of the sandy soil prevalent in surrounding vineyards, sand, shingle and chalk dominate. Heat-storing rocky sediment facilitates a longer hang-time. High chalk content gives otherwise poor soil the optimal pH value for nutrient intake by the vines. Lastly, those seemingly trivial extra feet of height enable the vines to capitalize on the benefits from the “Ora,” a breeze from the south that blows throughout growing season afternoons, refreshing grapes and keeping disease at bay.”

To slow growth and reduce yields, Peter Zemmer grafted vines onto a special rootstock. To enhance fruitiness, grapes undergo a short, cold maceration. Zemmer vinifies in large French oak barriques and 460-gallon casks, then stores it there for a year. Next the wine is aged for six months on the lees in stainless steel to acquire additional complexity. After bottling, the wine rests for six months before release. It can be cellared and will continue to evolve for another six-to-eight years.

Color: Pale gold, medium to light hue, the way that the light bounces off of the wine is very platinum.

Nose: Ocean breezes, light fruit such as pear, golden delicious apple. Light white flowers in the background of tuberrose, night blooming jasmine, gardenia.

Palate: Dry, crisp, and light, tons of acidity. Both John and I felt like this is a Pinot Grigio like we’d never had before. This wine has a nice mouth feel reminding us more of Viognier. John always feels that Pinot Grigio is the water of wine. This is not that kind of pinot grigio: it has more complexity and pleasing characteristics. It’s very rich and complex with savory elements.

Pairing: Good with the asparagus tart. It loved the creamy custard in the tartlets, and the creamy crust, maybe with a bit of asparagus, but not too much. But if you get too much asparagus with the wine, it tends to bring about a bit of bitterness in the palate. Asparagus is a tough pair.


2017 – Colterenizo St. Magdalener  12.5% alcohol
95% Vernatsch and 5% Lagrein, grown together in the same vineyards

By the numbers:

  • 1960 Foundation.
  • 300 winegrowers.
  • 300 hectares of vineyards on altitudes from 230 to 650 meters
  • 12 varieties.
  • 65% white wines, 35% red wines.

Color: Jewel tone and clear, like the gem that you want to wear on your finger, like a light garnet. very, very translucent

Nose: Bright fruit, cranberry, strawberry, rose, raspberry, camphor, dusty rose and carnation. the more time you give to this wine, the more this wine gives to you.

Palate: Bright, and fresh for a red wine. It tastes like the fruit was just picked, it does not get any fresher than this.  tart bing cherry and cranberry. fennel up front and black licorice on the back end.

Pairing:  OMG what a different, crazy interesting pairing. We loved that it was all vegetarian. There is a meatiness to this dish. John pointed out it is like a beef meatball without the meat.

The wine also went quite nicely  with the gnocchi as well; it was all about how the tomato richness paired with the wine.

2017 – St. Pauls Lagrein   13.5% alcohol

Considered one of Alto Adige’s most beautiful growing areas, these 175 hectares of vineyards around the medieval wine village of St. Pauls on the south side of the Alps include differing soil types that date from the last Ice Age. Vines receive 1800 hours of sunshine and are cooled by downdrafts from the Gantkofel massif results. This substantial diurnal shift creates ideal conditions for excellent quality, complex wines.

Vineyards are worked by hand by a collective of families committed to the triple bottom line: planet, people and profit. They are motivated to work sustainably “by assuming responsibility for the future, without our current actions creating obstacles to future development opportunities. In particular this means ensuring human health, care of the vineyards, and protection of the environment.”

“We feel a responsibility towards future generations, for our children and our grandchildren… we would thus like to make a measured contribution to improving our future by means fo our current actions, all along the production chain.” Read more about their commitment to sustainablilty here. 

If you visit, they offer wine tastings but what really excites us is the opportunity to hike in the vineyards.

Color: Dense, dark, dracula’s blood, theatre curtains, maroon crayon

Nose: Cherry, raspberry, blackberry, tobacco, black walnut, cherry cordial, nice herbal notes, sage, mint,

Palate: Big bold, big bold cherry, clean and acidic, bright tart cherry, tobacco on the finish. raspberry, fresh raspberry as if you are taking it right off the plant. There is also a nice earthy silty quality to the finish.

Pairing:  The sweetness of the gnocchi and the sweetness of the wine are incredible together. So good and so different, the butter, the tomato, the nutmeg, the umami, brightness of the tomato. there is a pepper finish like a Syrah.

  • Check out this month’s participants: 
    • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla hunts down “Coniglio in Agrodolce + Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Gialla 2017”
    • Wendy tries “Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Pizza with a Terlano Pinot Bianco” over at A Day in the Life on the Farm
    • Linda investigates “Alto Adige: Is this wine region Italian or Austrian?” at My Full Wine Glass
    • Gwendolyn is The Wine Predator, and she will be “Celebrating Summer in the Mountains of Italy : 4 wines with 4 courses from Südtirol”
    • Jeff at FoodWineClick! will be getting back to nature with “A Food-Friendly Skin-Fermented Vigneti delle Dolomiti”
    • Cindy will be taking a look at “Picolit – A Historic, Rare, Sweet Dessert Wine from Collio DOC” over at Grape Experiences
    • Jennifer will be taking her Vino Travels to the farthest reaches of Italy’s northeast to discover “Friulian Reds with Zorzettig”
    • Lauren, The Swirling Dervish, will be trying out “Elena Walch Müller Thurgau with Summertime Shrimp Pad-Thai”
    • Katarina will be look closer at “Aquila del Torre winery: An Oasis in Friuli Focused on Local Identity and Innovation” at Grapevine Adventures
    • Host Kevin will be doing a bit of a double-header at SnarkyWine, with some “Mountain Bubbles and a Tannic Finish”


5 thoughts on “Celebrating Summer with 4 Wines from the NE Mountains of Italy with 4 Vegetarian Courses #ItalianFWT

  1. I love how you both really dive into the food and wine of each region with multiple pairings. when I traveled there I had some simple pairings that were just delicious. Looks like yours were wonderful as well!


  2. I’ve got so many delicious take-aways from your post: fried radicchio, beet root meatballs, gnocchi – I don’t know where to start! So interesting to see how each of the wines paired with the food as well. What fun!


  3. Such a great feast! And I totally agree with you that the reds of this region are perfect for summer. Completely underrated!


  4. What a great lineup of wines you had chosen for this month’s theme. The food looks very delicious too. I am a fan of food and wine from Alto Adige.
    Lagrein and Schiava are also fav varieties…


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