Archive | July, 2013

Fresh, Summer Grilled Peach Caprese Salad


Summer is flying by rapidly but there is still time to enjoy fresh and light meals… And let’s not forget entertaining and good wine. Not everything has to be grilled steak.

I have made this recipe in the past with great success. It is very light and for the big eaters, this summer caprese can work as a side salad with Shrimp or seafood dishes. This recipe is relatively easy to make and takes no time at all.

For the ingredients, you will need the following.

– 1 1/2 pounds fresh peaches, halved and pitted
– 1 lb fresh Mozzarella cut in half
– 1/4 cup equal parts mint and basil
– 4 tablespoons very green olive oil (not the yellow, cheap blend stuff)
– salt and pepper to taste
– 2 teaspoons butter

Cut the peaches and mozzarella into thin slices. Next, on a hot buttered griddle, grill the peaches until they start to caramelize and get grill marks. Hand tear the herbs to give that uneven rustic look. Arrange the peaches and mozzarella on a serving tray. Add herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste…

My perfect pairing advice would be to enjoy and serve this salad with an unoaked chardonnay or a light Italian Pinot Grigio from Friuli-Venezia Giuglia. My everyday go-to Pinot Grigio is the fresh and floral Riondo Pinot Grigio…
Buon appetito!

Winemaking Communities of The Tuscan Region


2009 Ramón Bilbao Limited Edition Rioja



So much talk about the Ribera del Duero lately. Some people are forgetting to drink Rioja wines… Although many wineries in Rioja have modernized their facilities and are making more modern-styled wines without so much oak, Rioja wines are still a force to be reckoned with.

Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, is located in the Rioja Alta (Northwest region of Rioja) in a town called Haro which is located at 1,572 feet above sea level. The Vitis Vinifera plantings were originally brought to the area by the ancient Romans… Many factors such as climate, grape varietal and terroir give these Rioja wines their fruit-forward characteristics, with a very balanced level of acidity and alcohol.

The town of Haro, is famous historically, as the place where French Negociants would go to buy wine from local producers when the Phylloxera grapevine pest devastated a large amount of French Vineyards in the mid 19’th century… Here, vineyards are planted on both sides of the River Ebro which helps regulate temperatures much like in seaside vineyards. The climate of Rioja is considered to be continental with long winters and short, hot summers.

Bodegas Ramón Bilbao was founded in 1924 by Ramón Bilbao Murga. When the last of the family descendants passed away, the winery was bought out in 1972 by a large corporation with new shareholders. Their mission was to keep Ramón Bilbaos’ winemaking philosophy very alive. The winery is not considered boutique by any means, but their wines are of great quality nevertheless.

On appearance, the 2009 Ramón Bilbao limited edition Rioja is a clear wine with no sediment. The intensity level is of a medium plus with a radiant, dark garnett color and ruby rim. Long, elegant legs give noticeable signs of a higher viscosity wine.

On the nose, this Rioja is of sound condition with no noticeable flaws (such as cork taint, bottle shock etc.). The intensity level of the Ramón Bilbao limited edition Rioja is a medium with youthful aromas. For the fruit component, I sensed the presence of cherries, blackberries and raspberries with an earthiness of dry, dark soil and dry gravel stone. There is a very slight presence of charred oak hence the vanilla bean baking spice. Other components of this wine on the nose are allspice, red roses, black pepper and tobacco.

On the palate, the 2009 Ramón Bilbao limited edition Rioja is a dry wine with a medium plus body. Unripe cherries, blackberries and raspberries coat the palate with a minerality of dry soil and gravel stone. This wine does have some oak but not too prominent… Other notes are of red roses, slight vanilla bean, black pepper and tobacco. Tannin levels are high which probably means that the skins were left in contact with the free-run juice for some time. Alcohol levels are medium with medium acidity and a medium complexity. The finish is a medium plus.

Overall, I found nothing wrong with this wine… It is made in a more modern style with less oak unlike most European wines so some people might miss having this characteristic. The 2009 Ramón Bilbao limited edition Rioja makes for an easy-drinking weekday wine to have at home and for an average retail price of around $15 it will not break the bank. Alcohol is 14%… Made of 100% Tempranillo ( the main grape of the Rioja Region), this wine pairs really well with Spanish chorizo, Spanish Stew (Fabada) or manchego cheese. Remember, regional wines with regional cuisine go best when possible.