First, let me apologize for not having written in such a long time. Family commitments and a few personal situations came up and I just didn’t find the time. But, we’re here now, so here we go…
This column is about food and its counterpart, wine. You put those two things together and you have a good, a real good combination. There is a lot of history in my thinking. Growing up Italian In a predominantly Italian section of the Bronx, NY had an effect on me which continues to First of all, let me apologize for not having written for such a long while. Family commitments and a couple of other issues kind of kept me a little busy. But I’m back now, so here we go…today. And I am sure that long and storied background also affected my two sons. Good food was always available and abundant all through my life and this is the story of that.
Growing up next to family was the center of this life. Grandparents, uncles, aunts cousins were always around and we all had things in common. Far beyond an address, a family name or genealogy, we cherished food, wine and each other. Food was fresh in those days, a freezer was a small compartment on top of the refrigerator used mostly for ice cream and ice cubes. Shopping for dinner was part of the daily routine except for what my grandfather brought home from the macaroni store which he owned. Yes, that’s right. MACARONI. Not pasta or noodles but macaroni. This covered cuts like ziti, rigatoni, farfalle and such. Spaghetti was a separate issue altogether and possibly another food group.
The wine was another story because mostly, we drank homemade wine. As soon as I was old enough to cross the street it became my job to go and buy it. So, there I was at about ten years of age, walking the six blocks to the house where the man made his wine, carrying two empty glass gallon jugs. That was easy. But that same walk home with those same two glass bottles, now full of this precious stuff, well you get the picture. I never thought about it but at that age I was a bootlegger!
Now time has moved on but I never grew out of those days. Drinking wine was and is now a part of daily life. Sticking to red wine was easy because that’s all I ever saw. So a foray into whites was unimaginable until I was married. I was introduced to a whole new world and wine with dinner became the norm. White with fish and red with about everything else. Television ads influenced me mostly but I kind of stuck to the Italian based reds. I bought CK Mondavi Fortissimo by the gallon and a few other brands (Carlo Rossi in particular) which were really from California but sounded imported. At the risk of sounding snobbish I can’t imagine now how I drank that stuff. Not too long ago someone gave me a glass of it and LORD, it was horrible. I guess tastes change over time.
Later I learned that any wine that says “Montepulciano d’abruzzo” on the label is a fine wine and a good pick. This wine is regulated and consistent so brands like Cantina Zaccagnini became a staple. A hearty wine, this pairs well with everything but is particularly good with a dish like a porterhouse or beef ribs. It adds to the flavor of the meat without overtaking it and also gives the meal a touch of class, kind of a finishing touch. A feeling of satisfaction. Another wine in this class is Castiglioni Frescobaldi, my personal favorite. You see, I told you the story of the homemade wine above because that is what the Castiglioni wine reminds me of. Flavor, texture, strong tannins and oak set it a league apart in my mind. Your Sunday gravy crowd will really sit up and take notice of this one.
Now don’t discount the whites here though. Italy and New Zealand both make excellent wines at reasonable prices. One brand in particular is Prophecy, which has a winery in both countries and others around the world. The pinot grigio delle Venezie is an outstanding wine. Citrusy and flavorful it adds a tang to a lighter dish like chicken or fish or a primavera. With a smooth aftertaste it can linger just long enough to let you appreciate it while not interfering with the next forkful of food. Prophecy also produces a sauvignon blanc distilled in the Marlborough region of New Zealand. With a taste of grapefruit and lime zest (a rarity in any wine) it is a refreshing drink on a hot day made for sitting on the patio, maybe with some light cheese or fruit. It is a perfect aperitif as well as a good dinner wine when paired with fish such as a flounder or trout. Prophecy wine also sports some very distinctive and beautiful labels which will actually add to the mood and decor of your table. The sauvignon blanc shows a high priestess which inspires greatness in yourself while the pinot grigio is adorned with the star representing inspiration toward a hopeful future.
Memories are a funny thing. We tend to remember things fondly most times and edit out the bad. My wine experience has been a pleasurable journey which I hope to continue. So many wines, so little time really rings true here. But life is a journey, not a destination. I hope to wander across many more brands and vintages before I go to that great winery in the sky. So come along and join me. I’d love the company and we just may discover something.