July 20, 2011

BeeHind the Vine: Alessandro Lunardi of Frescobaldi

Alessandro Lunardi has been with the Frescobaldi family for over 20 years and is well versed in every aspect of wine from viticulture to marketing. I had the opportunity to chat with Alessandro following an evening he hosted recently, “Everyday Wines From the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi family."

Alessandro opened up about this historic family, their fabulous wines and even offered some of his own tips:

Tell us about the history of Frescobaldi wine.
The Frescobaldi Family has been making wines for 700 years from spectacular estates scattered in the Tuscan countryside. They are passionate about their vineyards and define themselves as “stewards of the land”, for this reason they make wines with a strong sense of place. They have been constant innovators, and have often challenged the status quo from when they first planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in their Castello di Pomino Estate, to the creation of Mormoreto, a Bordeaux blend wine, made since 1983 at the Nipozzano estate. The guiding philosophy for the Frescobaldi's is getting the most from the land. Sometimes that means adhering to traditions and sometimes that means new ways of looking at their estates and different varieties. The Frescobaldi's have always been strong advocates of the Tuscan viticultural tradition they belong to, vigorously advocating that Sangiovese can make world class wine when planted in the right place.

Why is working at Frescobaldi so important to you?
Because Frescobaldi is a great company and an exceptional family where people represent “the” core value. When you work at Frescobaldi you are embraced in the family values and ethics, you share the passion and dedication of everybody, and are made part of the magic and success of the company. In addition this is a very well managed company, with clear strategies, a managerial structure that is second to none, and excellent support for those like me who are in the “front line”.

Which is your favorite Frescobaldi wine?
It’s hard because I like them all … each has a soft spot in my heart. But if I have to pick two wines stand out: Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino is for me the essence of great Sangiovese, made from vineyards on volcanic soils in the South West of Montalcino, it epitomizes the great elegance and harmony that belongs to everything in Tuscany; but above all I adore Mormoreto, a wine made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, that has the classic style, aristocratic complexity, and gorgeous structure of the greatest wines of the world. And despite its French appearance Mormoreto breaths of Tuscany from the moment you pour it in a glass. And lastly Mormoreto frames the courage of the Frescobaldi family: when it was not fashionable at all, they decided to plant those unfamiliar varieties because they were the best to express that vineyard site … and this dedication to the place just amazes me.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Frescobaldi wine app? Any plans for future apps?
It is a new tool that will allow the consumers to enjoy wines. We are looking at expanding our reach to the consumer, especially the younger generations, providing as many tools as necessary to understand our wines and the places where they come from … so, stay tuned, there will be more coming!

Prior to joining Frescobaldi, you were a Wine Education Manager for Robert Mondavi - what is your biggest advice to individuals who are just starting to learn about wine?
The single most important advice to those who are starting to learn about wine is “trust your palate!” There is so much intimidation in our industry, with so many wines experts, and so much information that it may be frustrating to many people. I believe when it comes to wine nobody is wrong, it’s a question of pleasure, and each palate is different, so concentrate in understanding and appreciating what you drink, do some homework, and little by little refine you palate, but stick to it! Don’t drink a wine just because it received a high rating from a critic. This is how I started … and it worked.

Any advice for the more seasoned enthusiast, too?
I may just suggest to always drink wine with food, and evaluate how they complement the meal. I hear so many people talking about the extremes of wine, concentration, power, richness, and I am afraid we often forget that the ultimate experience is to have balanced wines that dance on your table with right meal.

Where do you see the future of wine extending to?
I think in the future, wine will be linked more closely to the place where it comes from, beyond the labels or the catchy fantasy names. I believe the younger generations, who are much more informed, are interested in discovering the stories and the places behind a wine, and are interested in experimenting. I also believe environmental sustainability in the vineyards and in the winemaking will be a strong trend. I continue to see more women in wine, at all levels, winemakers, sommeliers, sales reps, and customers. I am amazed by their acute sensitivity to wine and how accurate they are in their descriptions. I think women have one more 'gear,' a greater sensitivity for identifying and describing the nuances of fine wine.

If the world were to end tomorrow, what food and wine pairing would be your last supper?
Ahhh! Tricky question! I am from Tuscany and love our wines, but if had to pick the last bottle of my life it would be a Grand Cru Burgundy from a great vintage of the past, with the divine foie gras stuffed quail my sister-in-law, Sophie, makes.

Alessandro was kind enough to offer me several new Frescobaldi wines to try at my leisure, so be sure to check back each day this week to discover vicariously through my sipping!

July 18, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Champagne Float

Bubbly and sorbet can actually team up to create an instant classic. Not to mention the combination is a great almost-guilt-free indulgence. If you have your own ice cream maker at home (or if you just want to snag some Breyer's at your local supermarket) try mixing up the below concoction on a hot summer's day:

Champagne Float
  • Korbel Champagne (or other sparkling wine)
  • 1.5 spoonfuls of Lemon Sorbet
  • 1 Tsp. Lime Syrup
  • Diced strawberries or blueberries (optional)
  • Fresh Mint
Add champagne, syrup and sorbet into a small bowl. Use an immersion blender to infuse all of the flavors. Pour into champagne flute and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Optional - drop in a few diced strawberries or blueberries to the bottom of an empty champagne flute. to add color to your presentation.

July 12, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Dutch Root Beer Float

Italy has gelato, the Midwest has frozen custard, even the future has "nitro ice cream." Fact of the matter is that summer is in its prime and sometimes a sweet frozen treat is just what the doctor ordered. But how about amping up your frozen treat with a little liquid cool? Try this indulgent Dutch Root Beer Float from Van Gogh Vodka:

Dutch Root Beer Float

  • 2 oz. Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka

  • 1 scoop fat-free vanilla ice cream

  • 6 oz. chilled diet root beer
Add the vodka directly to a tall glass, then top with root beer, and lastly the ice cream (add slowly, as it has a tendency to overflow). Garnish with a long straw and enjoy!

Disclaimer: A bottle of Van Gogh Dutch Caramel Vodka was provided by Truth Be Told on behalf of Van Gogh Vodka. All opinions are at the discretion of the reviewer.

July 11, 2011

Cocktail Corner: Frozen Berry Dream

Normally when I see someone dropping an ice cube into their glass of wine, I shake my head in shame. But truth is, those people may have been setting the landscape for a hot new trend. Even Moet & Chandon has caught on, and is introducing Ice Imperial, the first champagne crafted specifically to be enjoyed over ice.

I love being a trendsetter, but to that point, that means taking this concept one step further now. So, given the sweltering heat of summer, I'm thinking an icy treat is in store for all. Cue tones playing "Jack and Jill went up the hill." Its the Ice Cream Man coming! Well, sort of.

Check in all this week to enjoy adult icy treats with a twist, starting with this Berry Dream from The Cocktail Guru, Jonathan Pogash, sure to satisfy your sweet tooth:

Berry Dream
  • 2 oz. Van Gogh Açai-Blueberry Vodka
  • 1 scoop sugar-free raspberry sorbet
  • 1 tsp. coconut cream
  • 3 oz. skim milk
Add ingredients to blender and blend. Pour into hurricane or tall glass. Garnish with coconut flakes and fresh seasonal berries.

Disclaimer: A bottle of Van Gogh Açai-Blueberry Vodka was provided by Truth Be Told on behalf of Van Gogh Vodka. All opinions are at the discretion of the reviewer.

July 7, 2011

Pairing Party: Chilean Sea Bass and St. Supery Virtu

There's no better time for having a fresh fish dinner than during the summer months when evening cravings tend to be a bit lighter. When flying back last week from Cabo, I was reading Hemisphere magazine and uncovered a refreshing recipe for Herb-crusted Salmon Steak with White Bean Stew from Chef Marcel Lagnaz, Senior VP of Operations and Partner of Gourmet Foods, Inc.

The picture look delectable, but given that I am not a big salmon fan, I decided to tweak a few ingredients to each recipe and devise something all my own. The end result, Chilean Sea Bass over Small White Bean Stew.

For cooking the fish (for one person), you'll need:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • (1) Five-ounce Chilean sea bass fillet
  • Salt and pepper
Place oven on broil setting, on high. On pan, coat with a small layer of extra virgin olive oil. Place sea bass fillet on the pan and baste with additional oil oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for approximately 10-12 minutes. The time will depends on thickness of the fish, so check every so often and remove once the item is slight white and flaky.

For Small White Bean Stew, you'll need:
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing
  • (1) can Goya small white beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) small yellow onion
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced small
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar
Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute onion and red pepper for about 4 minutes. Sprinkle on garlic salt to taste. Add beans and saute for another 3 minutes. Keep stirring. Add vinegar and tomato and saute for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve beneath sea bass fillet.

Pairing Party Suggestion -- 2006 St. Supery Virtu
This popular Cali vineyard is know for its blends of classic Bordeaux grape varieties, and this particular meritage white blends Sauvignon Blanc with Semillion. While is a bit fuller bodied for a white, you'll definitely score a few hint of mouthwatering fruits, like peaches and nectarines, and a little taste of oak.

Cost: $28/bottle
Where to Buy: St. Supery

July 5, 2011

Cabo ReWINEd

Hola! It's summertime in Los Cabos and the living is indeed easy. The water is perfect (well, minus the oversized Pacific waves), the fish are jumping, and with high's in the 90s everyday, the weather is unbeatable. Don't believe me? Look at Mama WinoBee and I amidst the endless blue...

Its the ideal setting for vacation, but also to my discovery, a foodie's salvation! From traditional Mexican to extraordinary seafood and classic bistro fare, my personal culinary journey was plentiful (my current waist size is proof!).

And perhaps one of my most enjoyed meals was at La Frida Restaurant, a 2011 AAA Four Diamond Award winner and home to award-winning Chef Antonio De Livier. It wasn't just because of the amazing ambiance, oceanfront views, and overpriced La Crema Chardonnay (cough, $270 pesos, cough) I took in that I made me enjoy this experience most, but rather because of the exceptional blend of flavors and ingredients contained in each portion of my meal - from the best local fish, meats and vegetables to his own adventurous combination of spices. Just look at the artistry of my BlueFin Tuna alone...

On a separate "non-grub-indulging" note, who knew Mexico actually has three regions where they produce wine - the highest producing one being in Baja where Cabo is!? It's true!

The North area includes Baja and Sonora, and then further South is the La Laguna area. Most of these areas have a fairly warm climate, which tend to make Mexican wines spicy, full-bodied and ripe, which is exactly what I experienced with the two wines I tried:

Sandy Hill Sauvignon Blanc
San Vincente, Mexico
Tasting Notes: Super young wine thats very light on appearance, nearly clear. On the nose, a combination of lemon, lime and grapefruit with a surprising hint of papaya. Overly ripe and similar to drinking lemon juice straight from the bottle. Late linger of grassy notes helps subtle acidity a smidge, but overall not a must-have.

Red Clay Cabernet Sauvignon
Pueblo Bonito - Mexico
Tasting Notes: Dark ruby, nearly onyx in color. Plethora of dark red fruits like blackberry and plum with a tobacco undertone. On the finish, overcome with smokey notes.

To live vicariously through my consumption, check out the video blog and pics below... no shoes, no makeup, no problems!