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More Irish Wine

September 28, 2016

I’m traveling through California (sampling wines) – so this post will be short and light.

Years ago I wrote about Irish wine, as well as the history of wine being traded for sheepskins near the Dingle peninsula.

Now the same winery I wrote about is graced with serious reviews, as shown in the video below….

Thanks for tuning in, and please check out my latest Forbes posts about bread, Claus Meyer, and Calaveras County wine from northern California.

The Power of Food, Why Vets Turn Sommeliers, and The Taste of Zambela

September 13, 2016

First – friends who own La Galerie Restaurant recently hosted food and cuisine visionary Claus Meyer‘s flying visit from New York to Blaye, Bordeaux – which lasted less than 18 hours total. The buffet dinner was spectacular.


This visit is significant, because if this renowned food personality/philanthropist responsible for co-founding the 4 time recipient of the best restaurant in the world (Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark) embarks on a restaurant, it could become a worldwide focal point for innovation, quality, and respect for using local ingredients. Rather than inspect Paris or the city of Bordeaux, Claus has eyes on our little city (population about 3,000) of Blaye (pronounced ‘bl-YE’). Why? Perhaps because business partners suggested the benefits of this location, perhaps because his epiphany regarding food occurred decades ago in the nearby French city of Agen, perhaps because – like his restaurants in Denmark and Bolivia – the venue is not mainstream. Perhaps all these reasons contribute.

During a 6 am drive to the airport I managed to ask questions (included in my latest piece for Forbes). The man is straightforward, funny and energetic.

Second – Someone sent me a piece from The New York Post about how the need to impose order on stressful situation is why some military veterans are attracted to becoming wine sommeliers.

Third – a group of us co-own an exclusive 1 hectare (2.5 acre) vineyard near Blaye – previously owned by movie comedian Gerard Depardieu, and later by renowned artist Thierry Bisch. The red wine (Etalon Rouge; note this website is outdated) is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and the white is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.


Harvest is coming soon. If anyone is interested in bottles of 2015 (a stellar vintage), please let me know as my storage space is running out (shipping to the U.S. is for a minimum of 6 bottles).

Fourth – below is another recipe from the forthcoming book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion. It is a recipe for Zambela dough from Maria Galassi’s winery in the Emiglia Romagna part of Italy. This general purpose dough can be creatively used for all sorts of desserts. I recently made half-moon shapes stuffed with chocolate chips, pine nuts, raisins and powdered hazelnuts. Thumbs up.


Zambèla Dough

From Maria Galassi, Owner of Galassi Maria Winery, Paderno di Cesena, Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy


Preparation Time and Quantity –

15 minutes to prepare dough, 20 minutes to knead, 30 to 60 minutes to form pastries, 15 minutes to cook. Serves 10 people.


Ingredients and Amounts

Flour – 5 cups (500 grams)

Sugar – 1½ cups (300 grams)

Zested peel of 1 lemon

Baking powder – 1 teaspoon (5 grams)

Brown sugar – as needed

Eggs – 3

Butter – 7 ounces (200 grams)

Lard (or shortening) – 1 tablespoon (14 grams)


Preparation –

  1. Pre-heat oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).


Recipe –

  1. Put all ingredients in large bowl, then mix together. Start with dry powders and lemon zest, then add others.
  2. Now knead this dough until it is consistent and homogeneous—about 20 minutes.
  3. Regardless what you make below, the baking time is about 15 minutes, or 25 to 30 minutes for larger items.


Maria wrote –

“Now it’s up to you – with this dough you can put no restraint on your imagination! This is what I do – I prepare a double dose of the dough and prepare three or four things.

You can:

  • Prepare classic oven cooking by rolling out the dough until getting a thin pastry, cutting in any shape you like, and covering with sprinkles.
  • Make circles, fill them with jam, and fold them into half-moon shapes.
  • Add other ingredients, such as chocolate drops, raisins, chopped hazelnuts, pine nuts – then cut into any shape you want. My advice – raisins and pine nuts or chocolate and hazelnuts. Really excellent!
  • Roll out the dough, spread it with jam or cocoa paste or almond paste, then roll it into the shape of a strudel.
  • Add some cocoa powder – 1 tablespoon (50 grams) –and some milk to half the dough, and making huge cookies.
  • Using two pieces of dough (one with cocoa powder, one without) you can superimpose two rectangles of rolled out pastry, roll this into the shape of a cylinder, cut it into slices and get a ‘girella’ (Swiss roll).
  • Shape it into a ‘ciambellone’ or ‘zambèla (similar to a chiffon cake), and cover the surface with brown sugar.


Tom’s Comments –

These are delicious, both the crust and insides.

It’s not often you have the pleasure of being told to put all ingredients in a bowl and mix together, but that is how easy the preparation is. Start mixing with a wooden spoon, then use your hands. Instead of a rolling pin I used a wine bottle (a trick learned decades ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa). Because there are no moving parts, this provides greater control.

To make half-moons, first make circles about 5 inches (12½ centimeters) in diameter. Fold each circle of pastry over, and crimp the touching edges at one end and continue crimping forward along the semi-circle until the pastry is shaped first like a funnel, then like a half-moon. Before closing it, you ‘stuff’ additional fillings inside to make the pastries full and generous.





Claus Meyer’s New Venture, and Culinary Beauty from South Africa

August 30, 2016

In just over a week’s time, chef Claus Meyer will visit our small town of Blaye in the countryside of southwest France. Claus was a co-founder of the Danish restaurant Noma – which was ranked best restaurant in the world four times – and is also founder of the newly opened Great Northern Food Hall, as well as Agern Restaurant, in Grand Central Station in New York. He is a visionary regarding the importance of food to good living, has hosted several international cooking shows, and is quite the philanthropist – running charitable organizations in several locations, including Bolivia.

There is a distinct possibility Claus may open a restaurant here in an existing building in Blaye. Regardless, he’ll spend a casual evening with a group of about 70 locals at La Galerie restaurant, where a buffet featuring local foods will be served. Claus will also speak and share the value of learning about (and using) local ingredients when preparing a meal. From this region that includes our local oysters, estuary caviar, cèp mushrooms, seasonal asparagus and more (including, no doubt, our local Blaye and Bourg wines).

I’ll write more after the event and will post a Forbes article.


Sleepy vineyards around Blaye

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This week’s preview of a recipe for the forthcoming book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion is quite special in that it encompasses several facets of a main course, and was specifically designed and created for this forthcoming book by a chef of growing renown in South Africa – Carmen Muller. The dish goes well with Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmund red wine (hence the recipe’s name). If this is unavailable, try a full-bodied, excellent quality Bordeaux blend. Thanks Very Much both to Chef Carmen Muller, and to Guest Liaison Manager Genevieve Dorman of Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons, South Africa.

Baron Edmund Braised Veal Brisket, Celeriac Purée, Crispy Sweetbreads, and Pickled Mushrooms

From Head Chef Carmen Muller of Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons, Franschhoek Valley, South Africa


Photo courtesy of Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons


Preparation Time and Quantity –

Baking time for the brisket 3 to 4 hours. Serves 6 to 8 people.


Ingredients and Amounts


Braised Veal Brisket Ingredients

Veal Brisket – 3⅓ pounds (1½ kilograms)

Onions – 3

Celery stalks – 3

Carrots (large) – 2

Garlic cloves – 4

Tomato paste – ½ cup (100 grams)

Red wine (Bordeaux blend, such as Baron Edmund*) – 2 bottles

Beef stock (homemade is best) – 1 quart, or 4¼ cups (1 liter)

Vegetable oil – as needed

Salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves – to taste


* Includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.


Veal Brisket Preparation –

  1. Pre-heat oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius).
  2. Chop onions, celery stalks, and carrots.
  3. Crush olive cloves.


Veal Brisket Recipe –

  1. Heat a large frying pan over high heat and brown veal brisket on all sides.
  2. Remove brisket from frying pan and place in large, deep, roasting tray.
  3. Fry the mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) in vegetable oil. When almost browned, add garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.
  4. Add tomato paste, and caramelize with vegetables.
  5. Add red wine, about 1⅔ cups (400 milliliters) at a time, then reduce down before adding the next 1⅔ cups (400 milliliters).
  6. Add stock, and reduce for about 10 minutes.
  7. Skim the surface, then place veal brisket in a deep tray and bake in pre-heated oven for 3 to 4 hours until tender, but not falling apart.


Celeriac** Purée Ingredients

Celeriac – 2¼ pounds (1 kilogram)

Milk – 1 quart or 4¼ cups (1 liter)

Cream – ⅘ cup (200 milliliters)

Water – as needed

Salt, white pepper – to taste


** Celeriac (also known as celery knob or turnip root celery) is a type of celery with a large root and lower stem that has little starch. In the U.S. this be found at some Asian markets. Substitutes include parsley root, chopped celery, or can even include carrots.


R&R Tasting Centre

The Tasting Centre where Carmen Muller prepares dishes – Photo courtesy of Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons

Celeriac Preparation –

  1. Wash and peel celeriac, then slice into thin rounds.


Celeriac Recipe –

  1. Put celeriac into a pot and pour milk and cream over. Add water as needed to cover the vegetable in liquid, and heat on grill.
  2. Season lightly with salt and white pepper.
  3. Simmer until cooked.
  4. Strain celeriac out, keeping liquid.
  5. Make a purée, adding a small part of cooking liquid if needed. Season to taste.


Crispy Sweetbreads Ingredients

Sweetbreads – 10 ounces (300 grams)

Cake flour – ¼ cup (20 grams)

Butter – 4¼ tablespoons (60 grams)

Salt, pepper – to taste


Crispy Sweetbreads Preparation –

  1. Fill a large bowl with iced water.


Crispy Sweetbreads Recipe –

  1. Put a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Blanch the sweetbreads for 2 minutes.
  3. Place sweetbreads into large bowl filled with ice water.
  4. Remove sweetbreads and place on paper towel.
  5. Pull outside membrane off, and slice into serving portions or cubes of about 1 to 1½ inches (3 centimeters).
  6. Dust sweetbreads lightly in flour, then season with salt and pepper. Dust excess flour off.
  7. Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat, then gently fry sweetbreads until golden and crispy (about 5 to 7 minutes).


Pickled Mushrooms Ingredients

Wild mushrooms – 18 ounces (500 grams)

Sherry vinegar – 5⅓ tablespoons (80 milliliters)

Olive oil (extra virgin) – 1½ cups (350 milliliters)

Thyme and rosemary sprigs – 2 each

Garlic cloves – 2

Chili (dried) – 1⅓ tablespoons (1 gram)

Salt – ⅘ teaspoon (5 grams)

Ground black pepper – 2 teaspoons (5 grams)


Pickled Mushrooms Preparation –

  1. Chop mushrooms into desired shapes.
  2. Crush garlic cloves.


Pickled Mushrooms Recipe –

  1. Place all ingredients, except mushrooms, into a large pot.
  2. Heat on medium until just below boiling.
  3. Remove from heat and add chopped mushrooms.
  4. Let marinating mushrooms stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
  5. Refrigerate mushrooms for up to 3 weeks.


 Serving –

Place some celeriac purée on a warm plate and ‘smear’ with a large spoon into a desired shape. Place some of the glossy veal brisket on top, and the crispy sweetbreads around. Place the pickled mushrooms as desired. Garnish with parsley micro-herbs.

Comments –

Carmen writes –

“What we serve is not fine dining, though a lot of French influences and techniques are present. There’s ample room for creativity here, and we really do have a blast in the kitchen.”

Carmen’s other culinary creations include grass-fed mac ‘n cheese, braised springbok shanks with wild mushrooms…and seared tuna with chipotle caponata and chickpea ‘chips.’

Genevieve Dorman (Guest Liaison Manager) writes –

“Carmen created this amazing food and wine pairing for your book. She creates delicious masterpieces and won the EatOut Nederburg ‘Rising Star Award’ and was acknowledged for her ability to create astounding dishes with a small staff or two and a rather small kitchen. She is known for creating a variety of inventive, delicious and ever-changing dishes designed to pair with, and show off, the excellent wines attached to the estate.

“Carmen insists on limiting wastage in the kitchen and making everything, where possible, from scratch. This includes a daily dose of stocks, jus and sauces; jams and flavored butters – even the crystallized ginger that accompanies her Valrhona Chocolate Negus…She designed a recipe that could be easily produced in a small space that resembles a traditional South African ‘mosbolletjie’ [sweet brioche made with grape juice and flavored with aniseed]…that might be served with butter flavored with truffle duxelles, or homemade free-range duck liver parfait.”

R&R-chef-5 (1)

Chef Muller – Photo courtesy of Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons


Tom’s Comments –

This is a hearty, rich dish where taste and texture sensations are balanced—the fat of the meat with the vinegar acidity of mushrooms, the crunchy sweetbreads with smooth celeriac purée. The complexity and timing of this dish requires relative confidence with cooking skills before you try it out for a dinner party. Consider the ingredients, make substitutions accordingly if necessary, and plan out your sequence and timing.

Serve with an excellent quality Bordeaux blend, possibly the same you cooked with.





International Nomads Changing The World

August 17, 2016

I.  The Cookbook – 

Friend Denise Chang-Yen wrote from Calgary last week to say she successfully cooked the empanada recipe provided on the last post here. It’s great to hear that a recipe from Chile, formatted and photographed in France, was tested by a friend in Canada. The internet continues to connect us – as do wine and food…

The cookbook The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion is still being prepared. Recipes have been collected and formatted for consistency. Measurements have been provided in both Imperial and Metric units. All dishes are now being test cooked and photographed. I’ll keep contributors informed as progress moves forward. And yes, I will be cooking those South African recipes soon and shall include some of the stellar photographs you sent me (with attribution) on this website. In the meantime, a recipe for delicious chicken and mango curry couscous from British Columbia is included below.

IMG_0411 TM photo

Chicken and Mango Curry Couscous

From Denise Brass, Co-Owner of Camelot Vineyards, Kelowna, Okanagan Valley Wine Region, British Columbia, Canada


Preparation Time and Quantity –

Total preparation time including cooking – 40 minutes. This includes 10 minutes to grill the chicken and 3 minutes to toast almonds. Serves 3 to 4 people.


Ingredients and Amounts


Chicken breasts – 2

Couscous (cooked) – 1 cup (160 grams)

Mango – 1

Raisins – ½ cup (75 grams)

Spring onions – 3

Almonds (sliced) – handful

Curry powder – 2 teaspoons (5½ grams)

Salt – ½ teaspoon (3 grams)

Stevia* – ¼ teaspoon (2½ grams); or ½ cup (100 grams) sugar

Cumin powder – ¼ teaspoon (½ gram)

Olive oil – 3 tablespoons (45 grams)

Pepper – to taste




Lemon (large; squeezed into juice) – 1

Agave or honey – 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters)

Salt – ¼ teaspoon (1½ grams)

Curry powder – ½ teaspoon (1 gram)


*Stevia is a plant-derived sugar substitute without calories. Alternatively, ¼ teaspoon of stevia extract powder is approximately the same as a ½ cup of sugar.


Preparation –

  1. Cook couscous.
  2. Peel and slice mango.
  3. Dice spring onions.


Recipe –

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet on low to medium heat.
  2. Combine curry powder, stevia (or sugar), cumin, and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Coat both sides of chicken breasts with this mixture.
  4. Grill chicken on a skillet until cooked through, turning over as necessary – about 7 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness (cut open to ensure meat is cooked before taking off heat).
  5. After it is cooked, cut the chicken into small, bite-sized pieces.
  6. Toast almonds in a separate pan (to provide them with a crunchier taste) – 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together – chicken, couscous, mango, spring onions, raisins, and almonds.
  8. Prepare dressing, then pour over other ingredients and mix.


Serving –

Denise wrote –

“Sometimes I add a bit more lemon, curry powder, or cumin at the end for more flavor.”


Comments –

Denise wrote –

“This is one of a few personal favorite recipes, provided by my daughter Timika Brass who now resides in Austria.”


Tom’s Comments –

This is a delicious smorgasbord of flavors. You may want to make the dressing first so that you can serve the chicken while it is still piping hot. Remember to cut the mango slices small enough so they are bite size. Serve with a white such as a Riesling, or a dry rosé.


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II. International Gypsies: Charlene’s Story – 

Yesterday I visited the town of Mirambeau – midway between the cities of Bordeaux and Cognac in France – to check out the renovated 5 star hotel Château Mirambeau. I posted that article on Forbes.

On the way home I took a 15 minute detour to the town of Montendre to eat and visit the newly opened wine bar called Le Cha’bernet – which is a play on words from the name of the owner (Charlene) and the grape (Cabernet Sauvignon).


Charlene at her store wine bar

It turns out Charlene opened her wine bar only a month ago, and apparently neighbors are enthusiastic, especially during the summertime Tuesday ‘night market,’ when plenty of locals swarm around the town square buying food and wine and listening to live music.

Charlene is a sommelier who studied at La Rochelle and worked in one, two, and three Michelin star restaurants in France (including, coincidentally, at Château Mirambeau, where I had visited earlier), Switzerland and England. She also worked at a wine store in Saint Émilion.


She now sells wine from all over France, as well as non-French wines, including Argentinian Malbec, Chilean Carmenere, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Sicilian Zibibbo (the label calls it a ‘meditation wine’ – intriguing).  She runs the store alone for at least ten hours a day, and sells food as well as wine – cheeses from Limousin, Charentes, and the Pyrenees mountains, as well ham and charcuterie.


Charlene is one of many roaming nomads met in recent years who travel the world to learn their trade, then return home to use their knowledge to gain income and share their experiences with others. It is this incessant flow and tide of intelligence and experience that improves the world, opens minds, broadens cultures and keeps innovation churning. In preparing the cookbook mentioned above, I found recipes for Italian gnocchi from Tasmania, Australia; for chicken masala from Chile, and for chimichurri from Italy. The boundaries of the world are fading as new generators of innovators travel far from what is known and comfortable to seek excellence and experience. Bravo.

Well done neighbor, and good luck with business.

My other recent Forbes posts are included here.



Spanish Intrigue and Austrian Appetizer

August 2, 2016

During the past months a lovely Spanish neighbor has gifted me twice with fare from her home country: Salamanque ham and bottles of unfiltered wine made from hand-picked Prieto Picudo grapes. These grow in tight, pointed clusters in the Valdeleña vineyard of the Ribera del Cea, Spain.

Always eager to sample wines from lesser known grapes, I uncorked this puppy and sampled it with the Spanish ham, sliced tomato (fresh picked from her garden) and organic comte cheese. The wine is like a sweet Merlot on the nose, round in the mouth, and includes tastes of charcoal, smoke and jam. After months of drinking low-alcohol Bordeaux French wines—this packed a punch with 14 percent alcohol. Although I don’t agree with the label’s saying it has a ‘long charming aftertaste,’ it’s easy drinking, and grows on you with time.

Which is why I’ve just poured a second glass.

IMG_0733 (3)

Prieto Picudo grapes in this wine from northwest Spain

Aged 12 months in oak, this wine is decent to drink with red meat or charcuterie. It originates within the Castilla y León region of Spain (in the central to northwest portion of the country) and is produced by Bodega Melgarajo—which is basically a late-1990’s sustainable rural development program, now run by a group of 170 winegrowers. Incidentally, Wine Spectator Magazine mentioned this wine producer in the final paragraphs of a 2013 article.

IMG_0677 (1)

Gracias, Monica!

While on the topic of Latin culture, I recently cooked a batch of 50 empanadas from a recipe provided by Lapostolle winery in the Colchagua Valley of Chile. This stunning multimillion dollar winery was carved out of a granite mountain and enables the production of gravity fed wines – inspired by French Bordeaux blends, but including the local Chilean Carmenere grape.

The production of these empanadas took plenty of preparation time, but were well appreciated by all who sampled them. A recent dinner gathering (thanks Jonathon and Danielle) included guests from the UK, Holland, South Africa, Germany, Canada, and the U.S. enjoyed these nibbles. My Spanish friend also sampled them (and approved) while seated outside our local Cave de La Citadelle wine bar with a glass of local French wine: a melding of two amazing food and wine cultures.

Here is the recipe.

Cheese and Mushroom Empanadas

From Wine Team and Winemaker Andrea León Iriarte at Casa Lapostolle, Colchagua Valley, Chile


Preparation Time and Quantity –

2 to 3 hours to prepare (depending on your speed with forming individual empanadas), and 30 minutes to fry. Makes 50 empanadas.


Ingredients and Amounts



Vegetable shortening – 3½ ounces (100 grams)

Salt (kosher) – 1½ teaspoons (7.5 grams)

Warm water –⅔ cup (160 milliliters)

Flour – 3 cups (300 grams); plus extra for rolling out dough



Olive oil (extra virgin) – 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters)

Onion – 1⅓ cups (200 grams) [about 1¼ medium size onions]

Button mushrooms – 12 ounces (340 grams)

Dry white wine – 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters)

Egg – 1

Cheese (Gouda) – 6 ounces (170 grams)

Vegetable oil – as needed for deep-frying

Salt and fresh black pepper – to taste


* Rather than make pastry dough, you can use good quality pastry dough purchased from a store. It’s better to make your own if you have time.


It takes a few hours to make these – but is worth it

Preparation –

  1. Remove stems from mushrooms, then dice caps.
  2. Dice onion.
  3. Beat egg and add 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of water.
  4. Shred Gouda cheese.
  5. Heat water.

Recipe –


  1. Heat vegetable shortening in a small saucepan over low heat. When it begins to melt, add salt and warm water.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Put flour in a food processor. While it is running, pour half the set aside melted shortening liquid inside. Stop the processor, set to pulse, and while on pulse slowly add remaining liquid. (Alternatively, you can mix by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon.)
  4. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly for a few minutes – until smooth.
  5. Form dough into a disk or a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until cool.


  1. Heat oil in a 12-inch (25 centimeter) skillet. Add onion, then sauté on medium heat until soft.
  2. Add mushrooms and sauté until ingredients begin to brown. Add wine and cook until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Lightly flour a surface and roll dough out as thin as possible. Cut 3-inch (7.5 centimeter) diameter circles out of dough, saving scraps (which can be re-rolled, but only one time). The easiest way to do this is place a glass onto the rolled dough and twist.
  4. Place a small pinch of cheese on each circle and top with about ½ tablespoon (2 to 3 grams) of mushroom mixture, leaving a ½ inch (1 centimeter) border around the filling.
  5. Brush egg wash around edges and fold dough over to make a half-circle.
  6. Tightly crimp edges by folding them over or using fork tines.
  7. Heat vegetable oil in a 2-inch (5 centimeter) deep fryer, sauté pan, or wok. When the oil reaches 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius), slowly drop the empanadas inside, 6 at a time.
  8. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool before serving.

Serving –

Lapostolle recommends drinking Sauvignon Blanc wine with the empanadas. Alternatively any white Bordeaux blend works.


Tom’s Comments –

These are excellent and attractive vegetarian appetizers.

It takes about 1½ hours to have the dough ready to press, and ingredients all ready. Assembling the empanadas should be an assembly line process. I put three bowls before me: shredded cheese, mushroom/onion mix, and beaten egg. After putting a pinch of cheese and a half spoon of the mushroom/onion mix dead center of each dough circle – one at at time – I folded the dough over, crimped the edges, dipped the semicircular edge in the egg mixture in a rolling motion, then finally crimped each side with the tines of a small fork.




Now another recipe, taken again from the book I am assembling: The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion. These Austrian breadsticks are another appetizer/nibble to enjoy with a glass of wine.


Salzstangerl Bread Sticks

From Ariane Umathum of Umathum Wines, Frauenkirchen, Burgenland Wine Region, Austria


Preparation Time and Quantity –

15 minutes to prepare bread stick dough, 30 minutes for the dough to rise. Another 35 minutes to knead and form bread sticks, and 20 minutes to cook. Total time—1 hour 40 minutes. Makes 64 bread sticks.


Eat with beer or wine in the sunshine

Ingredients and Amounts

Flour (fine) – 2¼ pounds (1 kilogram)

Salt – 2½ teaspoons (14 grams)

Water (lukewarm) – ¼ cup (60 milliliters)

Milk – 2 cups (½ liter, or 500 milliliters)

Yeast – 1 package

Sugar – 3 tablespoons (40 grams)

Cream – ⅘ cup (200 grams)

Salt and caraway seeds – as needed

Preparation –

  1. Pre-heat oven to 480 degrees Fahrenheit (250 degrees Celsius), or wait until after step 2, below, to do this.


Recipe –

  1. Add yeast to lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar.
  2. In a bowl, make dough by mixing flour, salt, milk, yeast mixture, cream and sugar. Mix with a wooden spoon, then with hands. Knead for 2 to 3 minutes. Then put in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and leave in a moderately warm place, such as near the pre-heating oven or in sunshine. Let it rest and rise for at least half an hour.
  3. When dough is ready, cut into 8 parts.
  4. Knead each of 8 dough pieces for 2 to 4 minutes each on a floured surface such as a table. Then then cut each of the kneaded lumps, one at a time, into 8 more parts.
  5. To knead this dough, roll each of the lumps between your hands to make 6 to 10 inch (15 to 25 centimeter long bread sticks.
  6. Take each bread stick and roll it in a plate in which olive oil has been placed, then roll this oiled bread stick in another plate where salt and caraway seeds have been sprinkled. With practice, it will take about 30 seconds to coat each bread stick this way.
  7. Put some olive oil on a baking tray and place bread sticks on the tray. Reduce oven heat to 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
  8. Bake bread sticks for between 15 and 20 minutes.


Serving –

Ariane writes –

“To give you a typical Austrian recipe, I chose salzstangerl. They fit wonderfully with wine and are so easy to prepare. In Burgenland they are often served at wine tastings.”


Tom’s Comments –

These salty delights will keep you reaching for more, and will make you thirsty enough to reach for more wine. You can choose how long or how thick you want the sticks, though ¼ to ½ inch (⅔ to 1¼ centimeters) thick works well. The use of two plates with olive oil and with the combined salt/caraway seed mix is my idea—just to provide assembly-line efficiency to the process. The alternative is to sprinkle the sticks on the baking sheet, but unless they are oiled, the seeds will not stick.

This recipe provides plenty of breadsticks, so you can halve the recipe if you want. However, even if you halve the recipe, you will need two baking sheets.

These sticks go well with red or white wines, preferably dry rather than sweet.



Finally, my latest Forbes posts are here, including a tribute to winemaker Denis Dubourdieu, and a piece on how Romans enjoyed luxury in western France.

Comparing the Langhe Region of Italy to Napa, California

July 20, 2016

Every two weeks I email out a notice about my wine blog – Vino Voices. This goes to a list of friends and wine lovers which grows slowly over years.

I also write short online articles for Forbes. My readership of those posts is greater than those who read this blog. Yet I decided to continue writing this independent blog – separate from Forbes.

Why? Because you followers have read me through the years. I want to provide you with fresh material that is informative and useful. Although this takes time, it’s satisfying. I appreciate your readership. Bottom line: thanks for following this blog through the years.

This week: Langhe and Napa…


The castle of Barolo

Piemonte, or Piedmont in English, means “foot of the mountain” when translated from Italian. It is the second largest of 20 separate regions that make up the country of Italy. This parcel of land with close to 5 million people sits in the northwest of the country – inland from the Mediterranean and south of the Italian Alps.

The Piemonte region is further subdivided into 8 provinces. One in the southwest corner is named Cuneo. Within Cuneo is a region known as Langhe. This, translated, means “the tongue,” perhaps a reference to a spit of geological outpouring, a wash of ancient soils.

In 2014 a total of five regions, including much of the vineyards of the Langhe-Monferrato region, were designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. This increased the number of such sites within Italy to 50 – a greater number than for any other country.

The Langhe is home to famed wines produced from the Nebbiolo grape – Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as from another red grape – Barbera, and the sweet bubbling Moscato d’Asti made from the white Moscato grape.

This land bubbles with hills, each dotted with ancient castles. The region has a reputation for astounding food: hazelnuts grow close to vines, wild boars that provide cinghiale meat roam hillsides, and cheeses and breads here are outlandishly tasty.

Within the Langhe different towns sit on their own hilltops. These include locales we visited: Barolo, La Morra, and Montforte d’Alba.


A Californian transplanted to Piemonte

Last week I visited with friends. While driving, one asked me to compare the Langhe region to the Napa wine region in California in the U.S. I am no great fan of Napa, thinking their wines generally overpriced and overoaked. However I do consider Napa an attractive location. Considering its reputation in the world, I deliberated the question and found some general comparisons.

There’s a sizable difference in size between these two regions. The Langhe includes some 3,300+ acres under vine, whereas Napa has some 45,000+ acres under vine.

Just as Napa is one American Viticultural Area (AVA) with 16 sub-AVAs, the Langhe includes its own divisions – but these are more complex, and accord to grape types produced as well as the quality of resultant wines (the governmental designation of the highest quality wines – DOCG, or Denomanazione di Controllata et Garantita – is applied generously, and deservedly, to the Langhe). Both Napa and the Langhe are vine lands interposed with what were once villages with smaller populations – Oakville and Yountville in Napa, for example, and La Morra and Barolo in the Langhe. But whereas Napa is generally a linear, broad bottomed valley accessed via two semi-parallel roads, the Langhe is topographically more complex – with multiple hills circled by swirling valleys accessed via dipping, switchbacked roads.

Villages in Napa and the Langhe were traditionally farming communities, bonded to neighbors through trade. But to protect themselves from sword wielding invaders, each castled hilltop in the Langhe retained agricultural independence in case of attack or siege.

Both locales include hot, hilly terrain influenced by cool maritime influences – the Pacific Ocean to the west of Napa, and the Mediterranean south of the Langhe. Both have soils that were once ocean floors – lifted to dry land some 150 million years ago in Napa, and 30 million years ago in the Langhe. Whereas Napa is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, the Langhe has its famed Nebbiolo grape – both of which produce tannic bold wines that command stiff prices due to limited production and cachet.


Breakfast in La Morra

The food is legendary in both places. In Napa the tradition evolved more recently when increased wealth provided visitors who could pay steeper prices, luring in Michelin quality chefs. The Langhe has a longer and more traditional culinary history filled with natural bounty – truffles, rich cheeses, hazelnuts and soft breads beyond description.

Our time there was scant. The only tasting of Barolo we had time to enjoy was at 10.30 am. I happily obliged, as did my colleagues (except the driver) and none of us spit out what we drank. When in a gold mine, enjoy the gold, as we did by swirling and comparing the Barolos we liked best. The surprise – and it was large –  was the cost, which appears to have diminished since I last visited almost a decade ago: now 21 to 35 Euros buys a bottle of extremely decent wine, a bargain from a collective group of producers based out of locales such as La Morra (which produces one third of all Barolo wines).

I first visited Barolo eight years ago and was given a vertical tasting of some amazing wines by a local winemaker. Since then I’ve had an affinity for this land. Do I have a preference between Napa and the Langhe? Good question. In order to decide, perhaps it would be best to visit both locales again to drink wines and eat local foods. Twist my arm.

Click here to read my latest Forbes posts.





Grit And Power – Rosé Wines from Bordeaux and Cahors

July 6, 2016

Pink and Ready to Drink

Welcome to Summertime…

July 4th kicked off mid-summer in the US, while Bastille Day – July 14th – will soon do the same here in France.

First – my other wine/food blog posts for ForbesLife can be accessed by clicking here.

Second – last week  I visited, with friends Les Kellen and Clarissa Schaefer, the cities of Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Monte Carlo along the French Riviera for the eye-opening art exhibit of neighbor, friend, and artist Thierry Bisch. Thierry was commissioned by Prince Albert II of Monaco to paint 20 images of endangered wildlife from throughout the world. The Prince’s Foundation invited us to Monte Carlo to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of its efforts, during which it has funded 370 projects throughout the world (including Solar Impulse and actions to help save the Mediterranean Blue Fin Tuna).

While on the riviera, friends and I tasted several wonderful Provencal rosé wines.

After returning home to Bordeaux, I compared four local rosés against those from the Côtes d’Azur. Together with wine aficionado, wine judge, restaurateur, wine store owner, vineyard proprietor and entrepreneur Les Kellen – we sat in the sun on this 4th of July Monday and uncorked lunchtime bottles before plates of smoked trout, smoked tuna, oysters from the Bay of Arachon and chunks of bread ripped apart from a baguette.

Two of the rosé wines were exclusively Malbec, and all wines included 13% alcohol.


Here’s the scoop:

2014 Château La Rose Bellevue (75% Merlot, 25% Cab Sauv, 5% Cab Franc)

This wine from 20-year-old vines provides easy summertime drinking, and has more fruit and flowers than minerals. The acidity pairs well with smoked tuna and seafood. Relax and enjoy this – poolside if possible – on a July or August afternoon, or while having pre-dinner drinks with great friends, excellent food, and casual conversation. This balanced and polished wine comes from a producer consistent with quality.

2014 Le Puits de la Cassagne (100% Malbec)

Don’t laugh, but there’s a surprising and beautiful taste of crunchy buttered toast here with a hint of citrus. The wine is zesty, tense and well crafted. It’s not as seductive or seaside mellow as a Provencal rosé because it’s fiery. Forget about lazy afternoon drinking with this puppy: pop the cork when you’re revving up for action like a power evening after Bastille Day celebrations.

2014 Clos Triguedina Malbec Rosé (100% Malbec)

This is from east of Bordeaux – in the country of Cahors with typically chalky, tannic wines. “From Cahors, but in the style of a claret,” Les said after tasting this dark pink rosé. The wine has decent, balanced acidity – just right for knocking back while eating a plate of fresh oysters. This is beefier than Bordeaux rosés, but has a smooth and longer than expected finish. Beware ladies – there’s attractive wildness to this elixir you may find compelling.

2015 Château de la Grave Hommage Rosé

Full in the mouth, this rosé includes doses of citrus that provide balanced acidity. “In the style of Provence,” Les declared, while swirling a glass above a plate of seafood. This well-balanced beauty is also well priced. Within my Bordeaux hometown, it has become a reliable staple.


Happy Fourth of July


Comparing Bordeaux and Cahors rosés to those from Provence – here are conclusions:

These summer wines may lack precision and finesse of Provencal rosés: their acidity is more dominant and the fruits jumpier. But for price versus quality, the value is excellent (they also match well with seafood).

La Rose Bellevue and de la Grave are classic rosés, well-balanced with slightly tart (de la Grave has punchier fruit, while Bellevue has a cleaner taste of citrus).

Matching Provence against Bordeaux and Cahors rosés is like comparing a Vermeer painting to a Jackson Pollock, or a gothic flying buttress to a Romanesque vaulted arch, or the temperate Mediterranean climate to more moody Atlantic afternoons. The terroir – where wine reflects location – differs.

How the grapes of Provence grow and acquire eventual taste depends less on topography (mountains and valleys) than on climate – which is steadier in the Mediterranean. Similarly, grapes in flatland Bordeaux are jolted by jabs and spikes of temperature – hazy mornings followed by full throttle sunny afternoons. After tasting multiple bottles of rosé and taking a jaunt across France I learned that – regarding the fingerprint of terroir (and how these wines consequently taste) climate trumps topography.


A few recent and well written articles about rosé wines include Rosés From Provence by Eric Asimov of The New York Times, and Nick Passmore’s 20 Top Rosés For Summer 2016.

Again, my latest posts on ForbeLife are here.



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