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On Sunday morning I woke up early and went to the market. Overnight, we had what I hope will be the last snow of the winter and it seemed like perfect weather for meatballs. I got home from the market and went to work. I like to make my meatballs and sauce in the morning so it has the day for the flavors to marry. After I had completed my work in the kitchen, I headed downstairs to continue work on my cellartracker project and kept an eye out for a good pairing.

The Meatballs
I have always loved a good meatball, probably because my mom’s are so good. I remember her meatballs from when I was a little and she still often makes them when we go home. Her spaghetti and meatballs are one of my favorites meals as they deliver a lot of comfort, love and flavor.  In developing my take on meatballs, I have tried to measure up to my mom’s while also doing a few things to make them my own.

One of my takes on meatballs has to do with how I handle the breadcrumbs. I incorporate breadcrumbs three ways — sautéed with the garlic, shallot and onion; soaked in milk; and added to the ground meat. I use ground beef, veal and pork (about 2 parts beef to 1 part veal and 1 part pork). I sauté some garlic, shallot and onion with garlic salt, celery salt, salt and pepper, poultry seasoning and the breadcrumbs. While that is on the stove, I soak some breadcrumbs in milk and when done I combine everything in a bowl and combine the sautéed ingredients with the meat, add the breadcrumbs soaked in milk  and then add more bread crumbs, dried parsley, parmesan and pecorino cheese, a couple of eggs and some chopped pine nuts. I cook the meatballs in a pan at a gentle heat and pull them when I think they are about 75 percent cooked. By this time, I have made a basic tomato sauce and add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

For a wine pairing, I actually considered pouring a red wine from Jura. I really like the wines from Jacques Puffeney and Jean-François Ganevat — they are bright and acidic and seem like they would pair well with Italian fare. I also considered something from Arianna Occhipinti, but inventory is starting to dwindle and all of her wines had been entered in cellartracker and I wasn’t inclined to undo any of my work quite yet. In the end, I found the perfect candidate — a Dolcetto d’Alba from Cappellano.

The Wine
Teobaldo Cappellano is considered a legend and one of the last great traditionalist winemakers in Barolo. In 1983, he banished all journalists from his cellar unless they agreed to review his wines without scores.  As a result, he is not very well-known in the United States — but is held in very high esteem in the wine world. He was once quoted as saying, “If there is one thing that makes me crazy, it’s spitters of wine…the ones who taste a wine by rolling it around in their mouths and then they spit it out. I worked my butt off to make wine to drink, not to spit!”

He has been described as a “wine artist,” and a “poet, philosopher and winemaker in his spare time.” He was also president of the influential Vini Veri group and a longtime leader of Italy’s sustainable agriculture movement. He was best known in Italy for his Barolo Chinato, a tonic of wine, spirit and herbs, chiefly quinine, invented by his uncle Giuseppe at the end of the nineteenth century. Endorsed by the House of Savoy, the former Kings of Italy, Cappellano’s Barolo Chinato became the standard by which all others were measured.

The estate produces 2 Barolos, 2 Barberas and a Dolcetto. Annual production is around 15,000 to 20,000 bottles. The wines are fermented along traditional lines for 2-3 weeks, without added yeasts, in stainless steel (designed by Cappellano himself) and glass-lines cement vats. Then they go into barrels for a minimum of 3 years, sometimes longer. They are bottled without filtration. His wines are imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

Teobaldo Cappellano died February 20th, 2009 after a serous illness. He slipped into a coma while undergoing surgical treatment and never recovered. He was 65 years old. His son Augusto carries on his legacy.

His Barolos will put you back at least $90 a bottle, but his Barbera and Dolcetto are good values, the Dolcetto is available for about $25 a bottle. Aromatics of red fruit and some Old World funk on the nose. Red fruit with sour cherry and cranberry, some vegetal notes — good acidity and soft, dusty tannins. This bring a bit more structure than some of the more fruit driven Dolcettos, certainly a more soulful and thought-provoking example of the varietal. The wine is very food friendly and comforting — a very good wine and a solid pairing with the spaghetti and meatballs.

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I spent much of the weekend entering my wines into cellartracker. Though it is rather time consuming process, I had come to the conclusion that I need to do something to track my wines. In the process of getting organized, I realized I had more Muscadet than I had thought. I decided to do something about that and set aside a bottle from Luneau-Papin. I thought it would be fun to cook something on Sunday that might pair well with it. I have had the wine on three previous occasions and really liked it. It’s an interesting example of the varietal in that it offers just a touch of residual sugar. It spent 42 months on the lees — it’s a bit rich and almost creamy, but brings all the acidity you would expect from a Muscadet.

There’s nothing like Muscadet with fresh oysters or clams and it is always a great choice for seafood dishes. That said, the varietal is very versatile and pairs well with many things beyond just seafood. I happen to love it with spicy Asian dishes.  A few weeks back, I made curry laksa — and was eager to make it again. The Pueri Solis seemed like a perfect pairing. The spice would work well with the touch of residual sugar and acidity. In addition, the soup’s broth has some sour and citrus flavors (in part from the fish sauce, lime juice and red curry paste) that would pair well with the wine’s citrus notes.

Unfortunately, this time my curry laksa was not quite as good as the previous effort. I made the chicken broth from scratch, buying a whole chicken and cooking it with water, a couple of celery stalks, a couple of carrots, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, lemongrass, a little fish sauce, soy, mirin, fresh thyme, curry powder, tumeric and various other spices. After the chicken was cooked, I removed it and let it cool and then pulled all of the meat. I put the broth through a strainer and put it aside.

In a dutch oven, add some curry paste and oil over medium heat. After about 7 minutes, add shallot, ginger and garlic. After 5 minutes, add the chicken, serrano pepper, green onions and spices (curry powder, tumeric, poultry seasoning). Add chicken broth, 2 star anise, 2 cloves and a small handful of chopped cilantro and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, you could also add shrimp if you like and simmer until cooked (about 5 minutes). Add coconut milk, more cilantro and baby bok choi and let sit for 10 minutes.  In a bowl, place bean sprouts, green onion, cooked Chinese noodles and bean thread, add the soup and 1/2 of a boiled egg.

The last time I made this, I only used chicken thighs that I dry rubbed with curry, tumeric, cumin and salt and then grilled. I thought the meat was much more flavorful and resulted in a better bowl of soup. I was able to improve this on the second night by adding some grilled chicken that I had marinated. I also opted for David Chang’s Slow-Poached egg that puts the standard hard-boiled to shame.

The Muscadet did pair very well, though a riesling, grüner or chenin blanc might also be good options.

The Luneau-Papin Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Pueri Solis 2005 is imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation to run the domaine, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name (Domaine Pierre de la Grange). There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin.They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are well into their seventh decade.

Related posts:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sevre et Maine L D’Or 2002
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007
Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002

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This weekend I spent a little time downstairs picking out the wines for Thanksgiving.Thanksgiving is always a great time for wine. For me, it is a holiday spent with family and loved ones that come together to share a special meal. It is a time to raise a glass and a time to reflect and give thanks. All of this is facilitated and made more memorable by wine.

Thanksgiving is also a time for endless columns on wines to serve at Thanksgiving. I hope this isn’t one of them — all I will say is that the wines I chose this year are wines I enjoy and have meaning. They also very food friendly. Muscadet is one of the great food wines that also works well as an apéritif. Once food is served, the Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec will bring weight, richness, complexity and acidity to the table. For red wine, a lot of people propose Zinfandel as the ultimate Thanksgiving wine, but I think Beaujolais (it’s a harvest wine and the tart and sour cranberry characteristics make it a natural fit). This year, the last bottle was selected as an homage to Marcel Lapierre. Here is the lineup for Thanksgiving 2010:

Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sevre et Maine L D’Or 2002
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec 2007
Domaine du Vissoux Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionnelle VV 2009
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Jean Foillard Fleurie 2007
Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2009

Related posts:
Alice Feiring on Marcel Lapierre
Eric Asimov on Marcel Lapierre

Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2002
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005

More Thanksgiving Recommendations:
Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato Sicilia IGT 2006
Rhys Pinot Noir
Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2007
Daniel Bouland Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2008
Sean Thackrey Pleiades XVIII Old Vines
Jacques Puffeney Arbois Poulsard “M” 2006
André Perret Condrieu Chéry 2006
André Perret Saint Jospeh 2007
Gerard et Pierre Morin Sancerre Chêne Marchand 2007
Pascal and Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre Cuvée Les Coûtes 2008
Lopez de Heredia Rioja Tondonia Rosé 1998

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Bar Goiz Argi

Bar Goiz Argi

There are moments when time, place and taste come together to create an experience that results in something that is not only memorable, but forever changes your senses. I had Txakoli before I went to San Sebastian and I was intrigued, but when I had Txacoli in San Sebastian it was a revelation.

Last year after 3 days in Barcelona, we headed to San Sebastian. It seemed like the perfect stop on way to Paris. I had never been and wanted to go as it looked beautiful and had a reputation as a major food destination. San Sebastián and its surrounding area has the most Michelin stars per capita in the world (Arzak, Mugaritz, Berasategi, Akelarre…).  In addition, San Sebastian is home to tasty snacks similar to tapas called pintxos, which are found at the bars in the old part of town.

Brochetas de Gambas at Bar Goiz Argi

Brochetas de Gambas at Bar Goiz Argi

The first night, we stopped in at Bar Goiz Argi, ordered some pimientos and brochetas de gambas. Everyone seemed to be drinking Txakoli, so I ordered a glass as well. The occasion, place, food and drink all came together in a way that only seems to happen a few times in life.

Pimientos at Bar Goiz Argi

Pimientos at Bar Goiz Argi

When I returned home I started to have cravings for Txacoli and pintxos. So this summer I planted pimientos de padron and stocked up on Txacoli. Granted, I have a soft spot for Spanish whites (Godello, Grenache Blanc, Albariño and Verdejo come to mind…) — but Txacoli might be the most exciting and unique wine from Spain.

Once in danger of extinction, Txacoli is undergoing a major renaissance and for good reason. Grown within sea-breeze distance of the Atlantic, the best Txacoli (choc-o-lee) tend to be light and crisp, with sharp citrus flavors and mouth-wetting acidity — making it a great food wine. To accent the wines’ freshness, producers capture a bit of residual CO2 in the bottle. That little spritz accentuates the minerality and acidity and makes the wine sing.

There are three DO certified varieties: Álava, Biscaya and Getaria.

Alavan Txakoli
Arabako Txakolina in Basque, Chacolí de Álava in Spanish. This variety comes from the far north-western end of Álava. It is the youngest of the three DO varieties of txakoli, having gained certification in 2001. It is yellowish in color, very acidic and slightly frothy. Wine making has a long tradition in this region, going back as far as 760AD in the historical record. In the late 19th century grapes were grown on more than 500ha of land, declining to 5ha in the late 20th century before the recent revival.

The most commonly used grape for this txakoli is Hondarribi Zuria (“white Hondarribia”) but other grapes are also permitted: Bordeleza Zuria (Folle Blanche), Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng), Izkiriota (Gros Manseng) and Courbu.

Biscayan Txakoli
Bizkaiko Txakolina in Basque, Chacolí de Vizcaya in Spanish. This variety is made in most parts of Biscay, except for the far western end. This was the second txakoli to receive the DO certification in 1994. The region produces some 700,000 litres of txakoli annually. Records of wine making in this region go back to the 8th century and references to txakoli go back several centuries themselves. The quality of the txakoli varies, as the microclimatic conditions vary.

Both white and red grapes are used for making txakoli in Biscay. White varieties are Hondarribi Zuria and Folle blanche (called Munemahatsa in Biscay); the red variety used is Hondarribi Beltza (“black Hondarribia”). Historically another light red variety called Oilar Begi (“chicken eye”) was also used. This variety was on the verge of extinct but is making a slow comeback.

Txakoli from Getaria
Getariako Txakolina in Basque, Chacolí de Guetaria in Spanish. This variety comes from a small region in Gipuzkoa around the towns of Getaria, Zarautz and Aia and is of a very pale yellow to green color. This was the first variety of txakoli to receive the DO certification in 1989. Annually some 900,000 litres are produced in this region, mostly on south-east facing slopes to protect the vines from the harsh atlantic weather. Unlike the other varieties which are grown as most varieties of grapes, the grapes for this Txakoli are grown according to the treille or trellis system (called parra in Basque).  The white variety used is Hondarribi Zuria, the red grape is Hondarribi Beltza.

In terms of specific producers/bottlings, Gurrutxaga, Ameztoi and the Ameztoi Rubentis are probably my 3 favorites, though I also really like Uriondo Bizkaiko and Xarmant.

Txakoli Gurrutxaga 2009
Bodega Gurrutxaga was founded by Gotzon Urezpi in 1998 after having purchased an old winery and vineyard in the Mendexa region of Bizkaia. With a beautiful landscape facing the sea, Iñigo has been working to restructure the existing vines and plant new vines on surrounding land. They currently have four hectares planted to Hondarribi Zurri, Hondarribi Beltza and Mune Mahatsa. In the next few years they will be planting eight additional hectars in the surrounding hills creating one of the largest single estates in Bizkaia.

Bodega Gurrutxaga’s 2009 Txakoli is made from 60% Hondarribi Zuri, 20% Mune Mahatsa, and 20% Txori Mahatsa fermented in stainless steel. Light gold in color with a nose of sea salt, citrus and floral notes. Loaded with minerality with notes of brine, citrus and pear. Rich and flavorful. While it is acidic and crisp, it has a softness and elegance not always found in a Txakoli. Imported by De Maison Selections. 10.5% alcohol. $18-20 a bottle. Recommended.

Ameztoi Rubentis Txakolina 2009
Just five minutes down the coast from San Sebastian, Ameztoi’s vineyards overlook the Atlantic Ocean. The Ameztoi family has been making txakolina in Getaria for seven generations, utilizing the indigenous Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza grapes to craft a light, crisp wine bottled with residual carbon to give it its signature natural spritz. By adjusting the blend to increase the amount of Hondarribi Beltza, the red txakolina grape, Ameztoi has made this rosé txakolina that retains all the freshness of traditional white txakolina.

The wine has a beautiful pink hue with tutti-frutti aromatics with notes of strawberry and raspberry. On the palate, candied red fruit with citrus and a touch of quinine. Tart and slightly sour acidity, light bodied and totally refreshing. I would love to pour this blind and ask people what they were drinking…Imported by De Maison Selections. 10.5% alcohol. $18-20 a bottle. Recommended.

Related post
Lopez de Heredia “Viña Gravonia” Crianza Blanco Rioja 1999

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This week’s recipe is Thin Spaghetti with Basil Pesto and Tomato Salad from Meg Mateo Ilasco. View the recipe at Design*Sponge.

About Meg: Meg is a writer, illustrator, and the designer behind Mateo Ilasco, a stationery and home product company.

Her work often expresses a penchant for old-fashioned methods, humble materials, manual design, and physical craft. Meg is also known for her hit entrepreneurial book, Craft, Inc. and for Modern Economy, an indie design sample sale she hosts twice a year. If you’re in the Portland, OR area this weekend Meg will be holding Modern Economy: Portland this Saturday, July 19th from 10:30 am to 3pm at the Ace Hotel.

You can also get a sneak peak into Meg’s Bay Area Home.

Suggested Wine Pairing: Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay

This would certainly make almost anyone’s list of top 10 California Chardonnays. Newton’s Chardonnay is unfiltered and fermented with wild yeast, native to Newton’s Carneros vineyards — still fairly small production and really a well made wine.

Stunning golden straw in color. More impressive (and complex) in the mouth than on the nose, soft citrus with some green apple, pear and a hint of jicama and almond, notes of mineral and wet stone — some exotic fruit, amazing balance with a pure and long finish.

A great food wine that would enhance any meal — or be totally memorable on its own. I like this wine pairing with the pasta, pesto and tomato given that it has very good acidity to cut through the flavors of the pesto and the minerality works well with the tomato and pesto components of the dish.

This certainly sits in my top 3 Chardonnays of all time and is a must. Highly recommended. BottleBuys.com was selling this for about $36 a bottle and I have seen it priced as high as $64 a bottle, so shop around for the best price.

A dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley or a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand would be great alternatives (and better values) — as both offer good acidity and minerality.

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This week’s recipe is citrus granita with shortbread cookies from Lisa Neimeth. View the recipe at Design*Sponge.

Originally from New York, Lisa Neimeth is a ceramic artist now living in San Francisco. Though she loves her new hometown, she also spends a lot of time in New Mexico, tromping around the land where Georgia O’Keeffe and Agnes Martin have walked. She loves to collect-literally and figuratively-on the beach, in the mountains, in the desert, flea markets and on the street..and incorporate all of these images into her work. Tableware is her passion right now and she spends a lot of time creating hand formed plates, platters and bowls of various sizes impressing vintage and found objects with hand etched details. See (and shop) more of Lisa’s beautiful work.

Suggested wine pairing: Bonny Doon Muscat Vin de Glaciere
Bonny Doon is going to stop making this dessert wine — and suggest you buy it now before it is no longer. The wine has an amazing nose of apricot, spice and jasmine. Apricot, orange blossom and lemon zest on the palate. The citrus components of the wine that are similar to the primary flavors in the granita and pairs well with shortbread.

This wine was served with dessert at every state dinner during the Clinton years. How it ended up being served to dignitaries and heads of state is an interesting story. When Bill Clinton was running for his first term as president, Randall Grahm gave a bunch of wine to the campaign in California. When Clinton won the presidential election, the head of the California campaign called and told Randall he would present the Clintons with a bottle of wine from Bonny Doon. Randall took a bottle of Vin de Glaciere and signed it — “Bill, I trust you will like this wine so much you will virtually inhale it! Randall” — true story as I was the trafficker of the bottle of wine.

Bonny Doon has released a Pacific Rim Riesling Vin de Glaciere that will replace the Muscat, but the phasing out of the Muscat does mark an end to an era.

About the weekly wine pairings with Design*Sponge
I will be providing the weekly wine pairing for the recipes edited by Kristina on Design*Sponge. The In-the-Kitchen-With column appears every Friday at noon, and features the recipes of design*sponge readers’ favorite designers. Design*Sponge is a daily website dedicated to home and product design run by Brooklyn-based writer, Grace Bonney. Launched in August of 2004, Design*Sponge features store and product reviews, sale and contest announcements, new designer profiles, trend forecasting and store/studio tours.

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Kristina at Three Layer Cake posted a great recipe for Roman-Style artichokes. Her recipe also includes her beautiful photography as well. Read her post along with the recipe at Three Layer Cake.

I selected the Mas de Bressades Rosé 2007 to pair with the artichokes. Mas des Bressades is considered by many as one of the top estates in Costières de Nîmes, located 35 miles southwest of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, on the western side of the Rhône.

All of their wines are worth seeking out because they are consistently well made and very good values. Their rosé is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 20% Cinsault and is vinified completely in tank. Some people might equate pink wine with sweet, but it is a dry rosé. Raspberry and strawberries come through on the nose. On the palate, it is loaded with lychee and raspberry as well as rose water, wet stone and a hint of white pepper.

Rosé wines are usually great food wines and pair well with most foods (except steaks, creamy cow’s milk cheeses). They are especially well paired with dishes that have salty or spicy components or garlic components. I tend to think of artichokes as usually being bit salty or at least tasting best when they are well salted — and the recipe calls for some Italian parsley, basil and garlic.

You could also serve Mas de Bressades Viognier/Roussane blend as well. But it’s spring — and for me, the release of the latest vintage of rosé wines is always one of the best rites of spring.

I’ll have to see if I can find some artichokes at the market to try her recipe and the wine pairing this weekend.

In regards to wine pairings, I read a very interesting article this week that indicated that while it is important to compliment, accentuate, and play off the flavors and characteristics of the food — it is also critical to keep in mind that there is a critical third component as well — the people drinking the wine.

A good sommelier or wine merchant, should always ask what types/styles of wine you enjoy as their first question. I would be a bit reluctant to follow their advice if they don’t ask you what wines or types of wines you enjoy. Their first job is to get a sense of your palate. Once they have done that, and only then, can they begin to consider the food and suggestions for a wine pairing.

For example, Sauternes and Foie Gras is one of those classic pairings; however, some people do not like Foie Gras. People generally understand that and will probably think about their guests and whether or not they would eat Foie Gras before deciding to serve it. But when pairing a wine, people usually are more focused on the food, rather than their audience. Some people don’t like Sauternes, and maybe something like a Chenin Blanc, that usually has just a bit of sweetness might be a better pairing for a given situation.

In a forum such as this that isn’t possible, but is something that is important to consider when you consider suggested pairings, they are only one possibility — your palate and that of your guests need to be taken into account as well. All of this being said, I think it is also always a good idea to try new things and expand your palate — and let your sommelier or wine merchant now that you are open to suggestions that fall outside of your usual preferences — and also to encourage your friends and guests to try new things as well. After all, some of the best memories are also the most unique as well.

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