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celebrating the food and wine of italy

It was going to be quite a night. As I strode through the doors I was immediately welcomed with kisses on my cheeks. From there a crisp glass of Etrusco Tili, a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend, was nonchalantly eased into my hand while I was showered with greetings in gusto; Benvenuto! Salute!

It was the start of what would be an overall feeling that I had ventured to Italy sans a passport that evening. Beth of OMG! Yummy had graciously invited me over for a marvelous food and wine fete hosted by her and guests from Umbria. The Angelinis, whom she had met a couple years earlier while on vacation, were touring California bringing the food and wine of Italy with them. Their trip happened to coincide with the two year anniversary of Beth’s blog and it was a perfect excuse to celebrate.
The Angelini family for eight generations have run Enoteca Properzio. Located south of Assisi, in a quaint hill-town called Spello in the Umbrian region of Italy, the enoteca is popular amongst locals and a perfect spot to enjoy fine wines.

After mingling for a bit, a slight tapping on a glass of wine beckoned the crowd to gather at the dinner tables. Cin cin! We all raised our glasses and sat down to an impressive line-up of wines and splendid delicacies that began to emerge before us. It was a celebration for our taste buds as we were transported to Italia with each bite and each sip of wine. To add to the festivities, our ears were drenched in the romantic musings of Roberto who described each wine and shared stories in his native Italian. His daughter Irene, a trained sommelier translated his words and contributed her own thoughtful insight. She also shared a bit of history about her beautiful homeland, while Roberto also showed us a lovely way to keep the corks attached to the bottles of wine after they were opened. Undoubtedly we were all thoroughly entertained.

The food may have been simple, but the flavors were bold and memorable. We started with fresh prosciutto and genoa salami from a local market, then moved onto bruschettas to highlight the flavor of extra virgin olive oils. Olio Extra Vergine Di Oliva and an extra-virgin olive oil labeled as Dottor Alberto Cipolloni. Beth shared that even the great restauranteur and chef Alain Ducasse lauds the olives oils of the Assisi Spello area.

The twenty-five year aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena was unbelievably impressive. Just a hint drizzled atop the bruschetta and olive oil it produced a complex burst of syrupy sweetness on the tongue. From there we tasted a medley of different tapenades including white truffle, black truffle, arugula, and a sundried tomato. This was followed by a variety of Pecorino cheeses. The wine flowed, courtesy of Irene’s brother Luca, who also is part of the family business. He and Irene graciously poured wine after wine and helped serve the simple but delectable bites prepared by their mother Danielle.

The strangozzi pasta prepared with fresh crushed black pepper, the Olio Extra Vergine Di Oliva, and Gran Riserva Pecorino was delizioso. Using the finest yet simple ingredients, the strangozzi pasta which had a beautiful texture when you bit into it, mixed with the olive and cheese produced an incredible creaminess with bits of peppery spiciness. It was a favorite. I love dishes that are simple to prepare where the best ingredients get to shine.

To pair with the red wines we were served a lovely beef tenderloin with oven-roasted seasonal vegetables. I indulged in the wine, bruschettas and pasta quite a bit to fully enjoy the main course at this point but I assure you it was delicious. Dessert was my kind of cookie, a crispy tozzetti, essentially a chocolate biscotti that had perfect chunks of chocolate baked in. Again simple yet pure chocolate baked into each bite. To complete the meal was a bold glass of grappa.

Nine wines plus grappa were served over the course of several hours. We drank more than we actually tasted as all the guests were deep in conversation or listening to the stories and descriptions of the wine as told by our Italian hosts. As noted we started with the Etrusco Tili, it was the first I heard of a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend; it’s a crisp white elegant wine. From there we enjoyed the Sette Note, a dry well-bodied white. We then moved onto Brusone La Porrona, a Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Cesanenese d’Affile and Sangiovese blend. From there we had Assisi Rosso Riserva Tili, a smooth 100% Sangiovese red with notes of plum. Another first was the 100% Sagrantino Anni. A deep red, with notable bouquet, the Sagrantino is a mature wine and popular in Umbria. The Nadel Poderi Morini is a Sangiovese, Longanesi, Merlot and Centesimo blend, full bodied red wine with a beautiful composition. Next on the list came the Amarone della Valpolicella Fattoria Garbole, a blend of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara all varietals that were new to me. With this many wines and the parade of food before us, it’s a testament to the Kurni Oasi degli Angeli that it stood out from the lineup. This could be because you could distinctly taste banana with a bit of vanilla. It’s described to have berries, tobacco and leather, and the tannins delicate, I would say creamy on the palate. 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the Kurni captured my attention. The last wine for the evening Rubacuori Poderi Morini, a 100% Centesimino and pairs well with dessert. Finally Grappa di Amarone Berta Selezione Enoteca, strong licorice to end the meal.

Every detail impressed us throughout the night, including the fact that the Angelinis brought a book Grandi Vini: An Opinionated Tour of Italy’s 89 Finest Wines by Joseph Bastianich with them to share more information about the wine. An extraordinary party, the evening ended similar to how it had started, only with added hugs and kisses, the Angelini family had become friends by night’s end. Many, many thanks to Beth and her family for hosting such an exquisite and memorable evening. It was an opportunity to truly celebrate the food and wine of Italy, and do it in a warm and inviting setting with a wonderful group. Arrivederci! Ciao!

Be sure to wish Beth a happy two year anniversary and read:
Cin Cin: Celebrating The Food and Wine of Italy and Two Years of OMG Yummy
To bring a taste of Italy to your home visit: Enoteca Properzio

Thanks to @techsavvyteen @dormantchef @omgyummyblog for sharing their cameras and the photos.

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great wine is worth sharing : ridge monte bello

Early last summer I had the pleasure of attending a blogger wine tasting at Ridge Vineyards. The tasting was hosted by the charismatic Christopher Watkins, Ridge Monte Bello’s manager of hospitality and retail sales, a guy who knows his wine and how to blend words beautifully. After warming our palate with a bottle of 2008 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay, and having an assortment of cheeses to nibble on, we embarked on a vertical blind wine tasting of eleven Ridge Monte Bello vintages that were released over several decades. The event was fabulous and an opportunity to experience the art of wine tasting.

The bottles were initially wrapped in brown paper bags. Each wine was poured with ample time to savor each and review its appearance, complexity, characteristics and finish. We all jotted down copious notes about each wine, hypothesizing aloud and sharing keen observations. The bottle were reveled only after all eleven wines were tasted.

It was clear to pick out the more mature wine by color and taste. The 1977 wine was nearly brown along with noticeable sediment and you could taste the years on your palate, while the youngest wine, the 2010 yet unreleased impressed us all greatly with it’s vivacious color and bouquet.

Much time has passed since the actual tasting, though it was undoubtedly a memorable experience. A recent novel idea caught my attention which motivated me to capture the event, beyond just in pictures, and hence this post.

Preserving the wine labels, from any event or a favorite bottle is a brilliant way to make a memory last. I was fortunate I brought a few bottles home from that day and saved them. Since it was my first blogger tasting, I thus decided the first entry in my new notebook would be dedicated to Ridge and a good excuse to finally share the experience.

With food I often say you eat with your eyes, and capturing morsels of food is feasible through photos. For wine, photography certainly helps tell a story; visuals help paint a picture. Taking great photos whether it be of food, or wine, is an art as well. No doubt though that words truly convey the taste of a wine. To vicariously enjoy Ridge Monte Bello and enjoy thoughts from that day, I recommend reading Blind Tasting 11 Vintages of Ridge Monte Bell by Fred Swan. More wonderful reads from the tasting and about Ridge by bloggers including Richard Jennings and David Tong are noted below.

Drinking wine may be a timely event, but the experience can linger and make a lasting impression. Participating in wine tastings with a range of participants from sommeliers and aficionados to the wine enthusiasts is a great way to share, learn, and nurture a passion for wine. Capturing notes and the memories makes the art of wine more accessible, for everyone.

A partial list of wine and food bloggers who joined the event including our host:
Christopher Watkins 4488 A Ridge Blog
Fred Swan NorCal Wine
Richard Jennings RJonWine
Dave Tong SCM Wine
Louis Villard SpiltWine
Mel Wine Maven in Training
Sheri Pork Cracklins

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award winning wine in the judean hills: flam winery

Tucked away in the Judean Hills off a dirt road rests the small winery of Flam. If you’re familiar with the pristine and manicured views of Napa or the lush landscapes of Sonoma, the short bumpy road leading directly up to the winery may deter you a bit at first. But once inside, your palate will more than enjoy the journey of tasting splendid wine.


My visit to Flam was somewhat spontaneous. Camera in tote, I detoured from visiting family and instead headed on a day trip so my lens could capture pastoral views and the Biblical landscape of Israel. My friend, who was also graciously serving as our chauffeur, decided to start our day near Beit Shemesh at Tavlin, a spice store at the foothills of the Eshtaol Forest. It was a serendipitous moment when I spotted the sign for Flam Winery which just so happens to share the same nook as Tavlin, along the hillside.

The doors to the winery were initially locked, but I was determined to visit. I was elated when Israel Flam, a patriarchal figure, happened to walk by the main gate, greeted me and ushered me in. Little did I realize at that moment that this visit would far exceed my expectations. Both the opportunity to taste the wine at the source, and to do so with one of Israel’s pioneer winemakers turned into a memorable experience.

Flam Winery, a family-run boutique business was started by Golan, Flam’s winemaker, and his brother Gilad along with their mother Kami while tapping into Israel’s expertise. During my visit as he poured wine, Israel Flam shared bits of his absolutely impressive career which began back in the early 1970s. Influenced by Prof. Cornelius Ough, a well-known professor of viticulture and oenology at the University of California at Davis, Israel went on to study oenology and in fact completed his studies at U.C. Davis in the United States. He returned however to his roots in Israel and embarked on a thirty-five year career evolving into a renowned winemaker.

Israel Flam

Israel Flam

As my ears indulged in tidbits of Flam history, my palate indulged in simply elegant wine. I gazed at the color of each, inhaled the beautiful bouquets and let the taste linger. Each wine impressed me. The wine has impressed many, garnering international accolades including those extended by Robert Parker.

The first wine we enjoyed was a crisp and vibrant Flam Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay. From there Flam Classico, a rustic Merlot and Cabernet blend, onto a rich Flam Superiore Syrah. We ended with an elegant and smooth Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

Just as I wrapped up my last sip of wine, Golan visited the tasting room to greet an executive chef from a top Tel Aviv restaurant. The chef was enjoying a bicycle ride on his day off in the Judean Hills and ventured over to Flam. It was delightful to watch Golan share the wine and paint a picture of enjoying their aromatic Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay for example on a warm afternoon. Soon he and the chef were whetting our appetites crafting menus and pairing the wine with delectable dishes. Superb cuisine deserves superb wine, and Flam delivers with grace.




Before your visit to Flam Winery, be sure to call ahead for an appointment. As with all of the country, you can trip over layers of history, be struck by breathtaking views and stumble into beauty, the Judean Hills are no exception and worth a visit. A helpful resource for planning your trip: Vineyards and Wineries between Jerusalem and the Northern Negev. Flam wine can also be found at Israeli Wine Direct.

Interesting articles and more about Flam:
Flam Winery: A Family Affair
The Elegant Wines of Flam
Tasting in the Judean Hills
Israel Flam: from Mass Market to Boutique
Flam Winery – The venerable European-styled family boutique winery, that is now kosher
Israel’s Winemaking Revolution


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a year of yumivore: the best of twitter: #wine

Saying goodbye to 2011 with a glance back at past tweets, I found a log of each season’s best bounty served up in tantalizing recipes, mesmerizing photos, intriguing articles, and a journey around the globe. Sifting through Twitter brought lots of smiles and even laughs as I stumbled on tweets such as #lessambitiousmovies or #lessambitiousfilms and food movie swaps such as #vegetarianfilms Cinnamon Paradiso. There was also lots of wine to enjoy.

Here’s a look back at some of the best articles and resources from 2011 on all things #wine:

Why swirling wine in a glass makes it taste better
Wine Types Chart
Learning to enjoy wine with Noble’s Aroma Wheel
How to Wine with Class: 7 Vintage Tips For Beginners
Vino 101: A Crash Course in Wine Lingo
Best Hidden Secrets Of The Wine World: Second Labels
The World’s 15 Best Wine-Producing Regions
Winemakers Rising to Climate Challenge
Knowing the lingo of wine
A Simple Wine and Recipe Pairing Trick post

Blogs & Local Love
How to Taste Wine Like a Sommelier – Back to Bakas
Day-Visit to Napa Valley #travel
Napa Valley Wineries With The Best Eats article
The best of Dry Creek
California Wine Country: Where to Eat #food #travel

How Cork Is Made #photos
Indulge in The Art of Wine

Cheers to all for contributing great #wine content, including:
@alawine @israeliwine @RandallGrahm @EricAsimov @norcalwine @rickbakas @poortastemag @TweSommelier @FoodWineTrails @awanderingwino and so many more …

What’s your favorite post from 2011?

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wine, dine and a movie

Looking at a glass half-full, but full of beautiful buttery Chardonnay that is, film choice for this week is Bottle Shock. Having just celebrated the 35th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris and a few days later International Chardonnay Day, Bottle Shock pairs beautifully with, and continues the theme of both celebrations. Released back in 2008, even if you’ve already seen the film, it makes a cozy wine, dine and movie evening. I recommend putting together a cheese board, selecting a few bottles of wine from Napa and settling back to take a trip back to 1976 through wine country. If you haven’t seen the film yet, it’s available on instant streaming via Netflix or even on Amazon.

Wine aficionados or oenophiles – pause for a side note – the word oenophile is of Greek origin, philia love of oinos wine. An oenophile is a lover of wine. Though I’m a wine enthusiast, admittedly I’m not an enthusiast of the word.

Back to our vinophiles or vinos (insert your own favorite term of endearment) and history buffs will be quick to point out the movie has historical inaccuracies. But I stress the point it’s a movie, not a documentary, and I personally welcome the opportunity to spend an evening with actor Alan Rickman. In addition, I soaked in every moment of blond blades of grass, miles of open Napa Valley hills, tranquil settings, rustic old wineries, pick-up trucks you want to hop into and grapes growing on the vine. By this point you may have figured out I’m a bit of a romantic. If you enjoy being swept away by scenery, with an entertaining story to go along with it, you won’t be shocked to discover you’ll enjoy this film. It always comes down to a matter of taste, but Bottle Shock is at least my taste in movies. Cheers!

Bottle Shock Fan Page


Bottle Shock The Movie

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the judgment of paris


May 24th marks the anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting also known as The Judgment of Paris. In 1976, as America was celebrating its Bicentennial, English wine merchant Steven Spurrier founder of l’Academie du Vin, France’s first non-government wine education program, organized a blind wine tasting event. Eight French men and one French woman taster, all with distinguished wine credentials, were selected as judges for the panel. Assembled at Paris’ Intercontinental Hotel, California Cabernet Sauvignons were pitted against top red Grand Cru wines from Bordeaux, and California Chardonnays competed against the notable whites from Burgundy.

The results of the tasting were astounding. To the judge’s chagrin, the wines selected in first place were shockingly California’s Stags Leap 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon produced by winemaker Warren Winiarski and 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay produced by winemaker Mike Grgich. When the results were announced it was “like a vinous shot heard round the world.” noted Barbara Ensrud of the Wall Street Journal. Until this moment in time, French wines were unrivaled, their superiority had been sealed. California had been regarded for primarily serving plonk productions. To suddenly have fine California wine, produced by pioneers who took their craft to a new level, take the center stage in France and command first place was overwhelming. Ronn Wiegand later in an article captured the implications of The Judgment of Paris: “The French monopoly [on fine wines] was crushed permanently.” The quality of French wine was in no means tarnished by the verdict, its reputation of course remained intact . The event however put California wine on the map- and that’s something we can raise a glass to.

SFMOMA dedicated an exhibit to the historic event: How Wine Became Modern. For expanded details and interesting reading visit:

Chateau Montelena: 1976 Paris Tasting

Stags Leap Wine Cellars: The 1976 Paris Tasting

Warren Winiarski History and Legacy

Grgich Hills Estate – Judgment of Paris

Grgich celebrates 50 years of making wine – and history – the Napa Valley

The vintner who did it his way

The Day California Wines Came of Age

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how wine became modern: 1976

Design + Wine 1976

Celebrating modern day wine’s influence on culture, art and design the story begins with the Judgment of Paris and then touches on cultivating grapes, to wine-making, bottling, tasting and even the language of wine.

Life-size photomural evoking Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper

Original bound copy of Time magazine, article by George Taber

1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay

Stags Leap 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon

Read more about the exhibit:
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art SFMOMA
A Vine Show
Wines and Vines Exploring the Evolution of Wine

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how wine became modern

Design + Wine 1976 to Now

Shades of Wood- depicts a chromatic spectrum across eleven bottles of white wine.

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