What to Drink with What You Eat

James Beard Award winners Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page have released an iPhone appicon that conveniently places all of the food and drink pairing information from their book What to Drink with What You Eat at your fingertips.

This clever app delivers when you need it:  at the restaurant, the wine store, or the food market.  Information for the application is from their acclaimed book — which is currently listed as Amazon’s #1 “Most Wished For” wine book  and was also named the Georges Duboeuf “Wine Book of the Year”.

The app allows you to search by either Food or Drink to find an ideal pairing:

In the Food section, you can either search by typing what you’re looking for in the top bar, or scroll down an alphabetical list of hundreds of categories:

Click a desired category and the app returns a list of optimal beverages that enhance the flavor of the food you’ll be eating.  You can do the same in reverse — search by Drink to retrieve compatible foods that will enhance whatever is in your glass:

It’s a great deal at only $2.99.  Check it out at the iTunes store.

Not an iPhone user?  You can always buy the book!

What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers


Ricette Classiche: Brasato al Barolo

As autumn submits to winter, the frigid air outside suggests the perfect meal for a Sunday evening gathering – Brasato al Barolo.  Beef braises in the oven for hours, lazily simmering in red wine, and produces an aroma like no other.  It permeates the house with reminders of Piedmont, the magical alcove surrounded by an arc of the majestic snow-capped Alps.

Braising is a centuries-old but ingenious method of cooking that transforms a less desirable cut of meat into a succulent and flavorful delicacy that does wonders to warm the soul on a cold winter’s night.  In The French Laundry Cookbook, Thomas Keller says this about braising:

“When you’ve pulled your pot from the oven to regard your braise, to really see it, to smell it, you’ve connected yourself to generations and generations of people who have done the same thing for hundreds of years in exactly the same way.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Every major cuisine seems to have its method of braising meat in liquid; the French have Pièce de Boeuf Braisée / Boeuf à la Mode, in America we have Yankee Pot Roast, and in Italy it’s Brasato.  The Italian word is a derivative of brace, meaning “hot coals”.  In the past a heavy pot was buried in glowing coals where the meat would simmer for hours, with more embers placed upon the concave lid.

In Italy braising is used extensively – for a piece of meat or game, sometimes fish or fowl – the most common being beef.  It can be marinated beforehand, sometimes with herbs, spices, and/or vegetables.  Typically the meat is first browned (gilded) in fat or oil before simmering in liquid for three to five hours.  In Lombardy they add cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves.  In Liguria they use dried mushrooms, some ham, and a mixture of wine and beef broth – and sometimes they substitute pork for beef.  In Piedmont, the classic recipe is Brasato al Barolo [braise of Barolo wine].

What gives brasato its delicious flavor and tenderness are two components in the roast one doesn’t usually associate with quality meat:  fat and sinew (connective tissue).  When these parts of the roast are heated to 150° they begin to melt, losing their toughness and dissolve into the muscle fibers, creating a velvety texture and delicious earthy flavor – a process that dry heat is unable to effectively achieve.

Continue reading “Ricette Classiche: Brasato al Barolo”

It’s All About Authenticity

Sangiovese grapes at Casanova di Neri


Forget about scores.  They’re not the problem


From Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer

Authenticity is the transformative force right now.  The best wines made today — the most persuasive wines — come from the regions, the zones and, above all, the producers and consumers where the demand for authenticity is strongest. 

Conversely, many of today’s shallowest, most facile wines are created by winegrowers — and sometimes celebrated by wine critics — who dismiss, disregard or are even contemptuous of authenticity. 

Those who refuse to acknowledge authenticity — either as producers, critics or consumers — are certainly numerous.  But look around:  Are they convincing anyone?  Growers who use reverse osmosis and spinning cones to deconstruct and reconstruct their wines are furtive, not evangelical, while those who pursue authenticity are winning the proverbial hearts and minds and, not least, palates. 

Today’s transformation of fine wine is rooted in authenticity.  Because without a belief in, and an adherence to, authenticity, why bother? 

Read the whole thing. 


International Wine Challenge Announces 2010 Winners

One of the world’s most prestigious and influential independent wine competitions, the International Wine Challenge (IWC), unveiled the results of the 2010 Trophy and Great Value Wine Awards at the Lords Nursery Pavilion this summer.  Over 100 wines were awarded this year, along with 14 Great Value Wines judged for their style, availability and price.

World-class Italian wines included:

Champion Red Wine:  Castello Romitoro, Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG, Riserva, 2004

Great Value Champion, Sparkling:  Medici Ermete, Lambrusco Reggiano DOC, Concerto, 2009


Local trophies included:

Amarone Trophy:  Cantine Riondo, Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC, Trionfo, 2006

Edmund Penning Rowsell Trophy, Bolgheri Trophy:  Grattamacco, Bolgheri Superiore DOC, L’Alberello, 2007

Italian Botrytis Trophy:  Moncaro Terre Cortesi, Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi DOC, Tordiruta, 2006

Italian Red Trophy:  Castello Romitoro, Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG, Riserva, 2004

Italian Sweet Trophy:  Cavit, Vino Santo Trentino DOC, Aréle, 1998

Lambrusco Trophy:  Albinea Canali (Cantine Riunite & Civ), Lambrusco Emilia IGT, Ottocentonero, NV

Marche Red Trophy:  Vico Vicari, Lacrima di Morro D’Alba DOC, Lacrima Del Pozzo Buono, 2008

Soave Trophy:  Pieropan, Soave Classico DOC, La Rocca, 2007


Italian Luca Gardini Named World’s Best Sommelier


Luca Gardini of Milan’s Ristorante Cracco has been voted the Best Sommelier in the World in the latest competition sponsored by the Worldwide Sommelier Association in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Originally from Cervia (Emilia-Romagna) but Milanese “by adoption”, Luca says he has “wine in his veins” and always wanted to work in the wine trade.

Prior to his current role, he trained under Giorgio Pinchiorri of the Enoteca Pinchiorri, the three-Michelin star restaurant in Florence.  Currently, Gardini covers the same role at the two-Michelin star Ristorantre Cracco in Milan which is one of the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

His ambition is to promote the “Made in Italy” brand worldwide, as he believes this is something that he can do for his country, which, he says, has given him so much.  He wants to disprove the myth that red wine cannot be drunk with fish and advises wine lovers to keep all white wine in the refrigerator at home.

Gardini won out over 14 other wine experts from as many countries in a competition that included a rigorous written exam, wine tasting, and wine serving.

“This was a great success for me but I would like to commend the magnificent spirit with which all the contestants competed in an atmosphere of true friendship and mutual esteem,” Gardini said in a statement issued by the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS).

Milan Krejci of the Czech Republic finished runner-up while local hero Hector Garcia placed third.

The next world championship will take place in London in 2012.

Vinum Nostrum: Arte, Scienza e Miti del Vino Nelle Civiltà del Mediterraneo Antico

Vinum Nostrum:  Art, Science and Mythology of Wine in Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations

Florence’s Palazzo Pitti (Museo degli Argenti [Silver Museum]) currently features a fascinating exhibition where visitors are taken on a fascinating journey through the history of wine.  Can’t make it to Florence?  You can visit the exhibit’s excellent website.

The exhibition is divided into sections on Georgia and the Caucasian Region (where the grapevine was first domesticated), Ancient Egypt, the Near East, Etruria, Magna Graecia and the Italic World, the Routes of Dionysius, and Pompeii.

Visitors learn about the religious and cultural values associated with wine in the different civilizations, methods of production, the grapes used, how the grapevine spread throughout the known world, and how the Romans – the first civilization to turn winemaking into an industry – transported the product.

Many vessels that were made to hold wine are on display, the most important of these being a wine storage container from Georgia, which is 8,000 years old.  It is the oldest known vessel for storing wine in the world and is on loan from the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi.

Other original artifacts, sculptures, frescoes, paintings and mosaics, all of which contribute to the story of wine down the ages, are also on display.  Artifacts from Pompeii have been particularly important in helping experts chart the history of wine production and consumption.

The exhibit runs through May 15, 2011.

Entrance fee is €10.00.


Until October 30th:  8:15 am – 6:30 pm

October 31st:  8:15 am – 5:30 pm

November 2nd – February 28th:  8:15 am – 4:30 pm

March 1st – March 26th:  8:15 am – 5:30 pm

March 29th – April 30th:  9:15 am – 6:30 pm

Closed:  First and last Monday of each month, December 25th and January 1st.

Just Published: Jay McInerney at the Wall Street Journal

Jay McInerney marks his debut as wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal today.  Jay is the author of seven novels, including his 1984 bestseller Bright Lights, Big City.  His wine columns for House & Garden are collected in Bacchus and Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar.  He will be writing the column alternately with Lettie Teague, the former Executive Editor of Food & Wine.  They also are co-blogging for the Journal’s On Wine.   

No one who knows Jay will be surprised to hear that he devotes his first column to rosé champagne, specifically Moët & Chandon’s 1990 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé.   

Until now, there’s never been an Œnothèque rosé, and collectors and geeks have been buzzing in anticipation of this one.  It is really spectacular, one of the greatest rosés I’ve ever tasted, richer and more voluptuous than the 2000.   

Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk and an important quality pioneer for champagne.  Contrary to popular belief, he did not discover the champagne method for making sparkling wines.  The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was 1921, released for sale in 1936, and, as Jay points out, probably the first prestige cuvée.   

If you have a chance to visit the winery you should.  It’s a magical place full of history.  I had the opportunity to take a private tour a few years ago and taste some wonderful vintages.   

Jay talks about “the chalk tunnels of the Moët & Chandon cellars deep under the town of Épernay.”  I snapped a picture of them while I was there:    

Say what you want about the French, but they make the world’s best sparkling wine.  I’ve always been tempted to add champagne to our all-Italian wine list, but never have.  Most restaurants in Italy will offer at least one champagne.   

Jay has a special way with words when telling a story.  Combine that with an acutely perceptive palate for food and wine, and you get a fascinating wine column.  It’s always fun and interesting when Jay visits Bellavitae.   

I’m sure he’ll occasionally write about Italian wines and I heartily recommend his new column in the Weekend Edition of The Wall Street Journal as well as the blog.


Dining at Bellavitae

                                             Michael J. Gelb'sWine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices [Hardcover](2010)

James Beard award-winning authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg came in for dinner tonight.  Joining them were Michael J. Gelb, author of just-published Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking: Uncork Your Creative Juices, and his lovely wife, the accomplished mezzo-soprano, Deborah Domanski.  Michael’s book sounds very interesting and has received terrific reviews.

By the way, Karen and Andrew’s new book, On Mastering Wine, will be published this year.  If it’s anything like The Flavor Bible, we’ll put it to good use here at Bellavitae.