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Mediterranean Grilled Eggplant

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Recipe Credit: The Cooking Channel

It’s summertime again and time to eat delicious grilled meals. That is if you live in a house and have a barbecue, and let’s face it, grilling a steak on your indoor stove is a pretty smoky ordeal… So in looking for a delicious indoor grilled recipe that does not smoke out my guests, I came upon this recipe from the Cooking Channel which I just love. It is light and can be served as a light meal or taken out to your barbeque to enjoy outside.

INGREDIENTS

About 8 finger eggplants
Olive oil

FOR THE YOGURT:
Half a cucumber
3/4 cup (200g)thick yogurt
A clove of garlic
about 12 mint leaves
A teaspoon black onion seeds (optional)
Warm flat bread such as pita, to serve

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Wipe the eggplants and cut them in half lengthwise. Pour a thin layer of olive oil into a baking pan and place the eggplants, cut side down, in the oil. Bake until soft and squishy, about forty minutes.

To make the cucumber yogurt, wipe the cucumber half and grate coarsely. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside in a colander for half an hour. Squeeze the cucumber dry in the palm of your hand, then stir it into the yogurt. Peel and finely crush the garlic, chop the mint leaves, and stir both into the cucumber and yogurt. Toast the black onion seeds lightly in a nonstick pan. Transfer the yogurt to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the onion seeds.

Serve the eggplants on plates with the cucumber yogurt. Spread some of the baked eggplant onto a piece of the flatbread and spoon over a little of the yogurt. Based on this recipe’s Greek/Mediterranean influence, my wine pairing suggestion is the fresh and light bodied Maschofilero white from Boutari in the Greek Pelopponese. Buon appetito and cin cin!

Kellerei Cantina Terlano Südtirol

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In my humble wine opinion, the country of Italy is the hardest wine country in the world to understand. There exist so many different wines, foods, regions, cultures and grapes including many unheard of indigenous grapes that are coming back into the wine scene both locally and internationally. An example of this is Südtirol, located in Italy’s northernmost province. It is a place on the map where Alpine peaks mesh with Mediterranean scenery, the German with the Italian language are spoken and centuries-old traditions still remain intact. It is a true melting pot to say the least where it is not uncommon to find someone called Hans Casiraghi.

Terlano is a wine-growing village located halfway between South Tyrol’s main towns of Merano and Bolzano where the Adige flows through a wide valley in a south easterly direction. The village and vineyards lie against the rock of Monte Tschöggl on the left side of the valley. Because of its climate and geology, the area around Terlano has qualified for a DOC designation of origin (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) the second highest Italian wine classification. It is the equivalent of the French AOC… In addition to “Alto Adige” as the geographic designation of origin for South Tyrol, the wines are additionally labeled “Terlano” in recognition of the special character of the immediate land and surroundings. The term “classico” is used for those grape varieties that typically grow in the traditional wine-growing area between Andriano, Nalles and Terlano.

Founded in 1893, the Cantina Terlano winery is now one of the leading wine growers’ cooperatives in South Tyrol, with a current total area of 165 hectares, that produce some 1.2 million bottles of wine a year.The vineyards at Kellerei cantina face south in order to receive full days of east-west sun exposure. Their vines are planted at altitudes of 820 feet and 2,953 feet. At the lower altitudes, red grapes such as Cab. Sauv. and Pinot noir are grown to attain a result of riper fruit. At their higher altitude vineyards, whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are grown in order to produce grapes with fresh acidity. Here, the soil composition is of a sandy, stony limestone, just what vines like in order to keep themselves always working for their water intake.

On the tasting table today are two of Cantina Terlanos’ lovely wines. The first wine I tasted is the 2012 Terlaner Classico composed of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is of a vivid star bright color with a light green rim variation showing signs of a young wine and medium legs (not too much alcohol). On the nose, there are lovely notes of limestone, citrus flower, lime, grapefruit and a slight thyme herbal note. The palate is of limestone, grapefruit and unripe peach. This is a very elegant, well balanced, easy drinking wine with a nice dry finish and medium acidity. With 13.5 % alcohol, a wine to definitely keep at home. Pairs really well with a grilled white fish topped with herbed compound butter… This wine shows no signs of oak on the palate, the nose or in the color. Pure stainless Inox steel.

The second wine I tasted is the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Winkl. The color is of a star bright as well with a light green rim. On the nose, there are notes of green bell pepper, pineapple, green mango, passion fruit, limestone and a herbal component much like cut green grass. The palate gives flavors of green mango, green bell pepper, pineapple, tropical banana and a sage herbal note.

As well, this is a very balanced wine with no components out of proportion. The Sauv. Blanc. Winkl is a fresh, medium acidity, easy drinking wine with again, no signs of oak aging and 13.5 % alcohol. For a food pairing suggestion, try a grilled red snapper with tropical fruit salsa wrapped in the traditional French en papillote method… These are two exceptional wines made in an elegant manner from an amazing Northern Italian winery. In the USA, find the wines at http://www.wine-searcher.com. Cin cin and enjoy!

Tenuta Tolaini Tuscany, Italy

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Merlot vine with barley growing at the base for aerating the soil and composting to provide vines with nutrients. Very well thought out.

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Me amongst the vineyards.

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Custom made vine pruning tractors.

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Imperial bottle for 100 people in the cellar.

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Diego and I.

Pier Luigi Tolaini is an Italian who moved to Canada at a young age. He became a trucking magnate and a big wine lover… Pier Luigi is a simple and very successful business man who likes to be called Louie. Half the time he lives in Winnipeg, Canada and the other half under the Tuscan sun. Tolaini’s home and winery are located at Strada Provinciale 9 di Pievasciata, 28
Loc Vallenuova 53019 Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena.

Since 1998, Pier Luigi’s grapes are ripening into world-class Bourdeaux blend style wines and causing a big stir among the local and international wine world. In the winery, a combination of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauv., Petit Verdot and Cab. Franc. are being used. For a consultant, Tolaini is working with world renowned French vintner Michel Rolland who has achieved a sort of “rock star” status in the wine world. Michel flies in from time to time to give advice to the Local Italian resident winemaker.

I had the pleasure to tour Pier Luigi’s facilities with Diego Bonato the winery General Manager. Diego is a very knowlegeable and personable young man from the Veneto region of Italy. It was amazing walking the vineyards and learning so much from him. First of all the whole production is 100% organic. During very dry periods, a very costly and intricate system of drip irrigation has been installed and a sort of hygrometer is used to tell how much water the vine stems have inside and when too dry on the gauge, the watering system is activated.

Pier Luigi is also the creator of a small tractor which is custom made and used during pruning times (usually in Spring). He came up with this idea in his garage in Winnipeg and now has them manufactured in Italy specially for his winery. The way these hands-free operated little tractors with tank treads work is that they move sideways along the rows of vines, allowing a field worker to use his hands to prune. The workers achieve momentum by pressing a gas pedal and using a joystick for forward, reverse and sideways motion much like a commercial crane operator does. In turn, an army of workers can cover a vast amount of vineyard in a shorter period of time. This is the only winery I know of in Tuscany using this method of pruning. It is not a cheap investment but when you want to be the best, only the best will do…

Finishing off the tour in the wine cellar was amazing! Pier Luigi bought an ancient Tuscan villa to house all of his wine operation and small winery offices. He actually had the villa gutted out and designed as a winery. The pressing and crushing stages of the winemaking process are all done on the roof of the villa cellar. No pumping over of the juice is done, instead the juice flows by gravity. This allows for the polyphenolic tannins in the grapeskins to not crush in a violent way causing less harsh tannicity. This is a method that I can highly relate to and really believe in myself.

Finally, while in the cellar, Diego was kind enough to let me try three of Tolaini’s wines… I first sampled their entry level Tolaini Chianti Classico Riserva which is of a single vineyard number 7 comprised of 100% Sangiovese (Tuscany’s king grape), grown on Galestra terroir, a sort of Tuscan clay. This wine had a lovely ruby color with notes of dark cherries, black berries, porcini mushrooms, black crushed pepper and red rose flowers. This Chianti Classico was very fresh, with great acidity, showing signs of the unique microclimate of the area. A true, typical Chianti Classico riserva with 13.5% alcohol.

Next up, Diego poured me a sample of their Valdisanti which is comprised of Cab. Sauv. And Cab Franc., a Bourdeaux inspired wine. The fruit for this wine is sourced from their Tenuta San Giovanni. Notes of baking spice permeate the nose and on the palate, lush red fruit coat the mouth with a lingering of tobacco. A fine wine I must say also with 13% alcohol.

Finishing off, I tried their top of the line Picconero which is a blend of 65% Merlot, Cab. Sauv. and Petit Verdot from the Estate’s Tenuta Montebello. The first appearance is of an intense dark purple color with a nose of dark fruit, tobacco and leather. This wine, like the rest, were very elegant in the mouth, smooth and well balanced. Nothing seemed to be out of place… All in all this was an amazing experience and thanks to Diego’s immense passion and knowledge my tour of Tolaini was made even better than expected. When in Tuscany, I highly recommend a stop at Tolaini! Great travels to everyone…