Cantina Rotaliana – Teroldego Rotaliana Wine from Trentino

clesurae teroldego rotaliana private bike tours One of the most interesting, and for me the most rewarding, hallmarks of our Bike the Wine Roads tours in Italy is to introduce the unique varietals found in Italy. The Italian wine landscape is amazingly diverse, with over 350 varieties officially documented by the Ministry of Agriculture, and over 500 more in circulation. Italy boasts an immense number of microclimates concentrated in a very small area, and we often find ourselves cycling through a locale in which a favorite traditional wine has found it’s perfect home, an integral part of the regional history and economy, but unheard of elsewhere. One example we find in the northeastern region of Trentino is a wonderful, full-bodied red – Teroldego Rotaliano.

Teroldego is considered the king of Trentino wines. Local legend has it that the name itself derives from Tiroler Gold, the “gold from Tyrol”, which is how this wine was referred to at court in Vienna. However, it actually takes its name from its traditional method of cultivation, in which it is trained on a system of “tirelle” or wire harnesses. Recent DNA analysis has revealed that it is related to the French varietals Dureza and Syrah. Some authorities compare Teroldego to Zinfandel, with its spicy red fruits, but this is not accurate. Its acidity and snap makes it a versatile food wine.

piana custom bike tours italyIt flourishes only in the Piana Rotaliana, or Campo Rotaliano area, an alluvial plain just outside of the city of Trento between the Adige and Noce rivers. This plain possess an excellent microclimate for wine cultivation, which resullts in the specific characteristics of Teroldego – it’s full bodied flavor and rich bouquet. In spite of many efforts to reproduce the vineyards, environment, and irrigation in other regions, no one has successfully replicated these high quality wines anywhere else. For many years, it was used exclusively as a blending wine, mixed with sub-standard grapes to produce an only somewhat drinkable wine. Eventually, the producers realized the benefits of eliminating the inferior grapes and producing a high quality single varietal wine, and we are just beginning to see some of the benefits of this decision. Teroldego wines are quite distinctive, with intense fruit, full body, and a strong, dry taste.

cantina rotaliana private bike toursDuring a recent visit to Trentino, I visited the Cantina Rotaliana in Mezzolombardo. Originally stablished in 1931, the winery’s production facility is now housed in brand new headquarters at the entrance to the town, equipped with the latest wine production equipment. Their objective is to maintain a successful balance between innovation and tradition, with modern facilities still located in the heart of Piana Rotaliana, land specifically suited to the cultivation of Teroldego.

The winery is a collaboration of close to 300 local growers, and produces a nice varied portfolio, with center stage reserved for it’s Teroldego. The Cantina also offers six whites, reds including Merlot, Cabernet and Lagrein, two Champagne sparkling wines produced under the Trentodoc, a red, rose and white blend under the name Thamè, a Gropello based red – another rare indiginous grape varietal from Trentino, and a selection of grappa.

muller thurgau rotaliana private bike toursDuring my visit, I began with a taste of one of their whites, a Muller Thurgau. It’s reputation locally is of a varietal that grows better than any other on high hills, it hails from vineyards belonging to Maso Saracini, on the high hills around Trento, and in Valle di Cembra. It is crisp and clean, with a grassy aroma. It is minerally and well-structured with a long lasting finish.

thame rosato rotaliana private bike toursNext, I sampled one of their Thamè line, this one a rose, a blend of Teroldego and Lagrein, one of my other favorite varietals from Trentino. A perfect wine for a summer afternoon, clean and fresh, and flavors of cherry and berries, and floral notes. The higher acid content makes it a great food wine, pairing well with a cured meat antipasti typical of Trentino, or a vegetable risotto.

teroldego rotaliana private bike toursMoving on to their premier wines, I enjoyed first their 2010 Teroldego Riserva. To earn the “Reserve” designation, the wine must age a minimum of two years. This particular wine spends some of its time in large oak barrels, and the remainder in small oak casks called “barriques”. Redolent with flavors of fresh berries, with a bit of herbs, spice and wood, it exhibits a slightly smoky nose and nicely balanced tannins. Robust and earthy, it offers an authentic feel.

Finally, their starship offering, their Clesuræ Teroldego. The Clesuræ Project, as the winery refers to it, focuses on quality from the vine to the bottle, with the goal to produce a Teroldego wine of international class.

Clesuræ is a Latin term which evokes the ancient times when some open fields, considered the best for wine grape cultivation, were enclosed. Oenologist from the Cantina selected particular vineyards in the heart of the Campo Rotaliano, those known historically for producing the best wines. The vines here have an average age of 45 years. During the growing season, these vines are pruned to reduce the yield, producing grapes much more concentrated in flavor than the standard Teroldego.

During vinification, there are two additional ways in which Clesuræ differs from the traditional Teroldego Rotaliano. First of all, the malo-lactate fermentation process and the aging of this wine happen entirely in barriques (small French oak barrels with a capacity of 225 litres) where Clesuræ stays for 14-16 months. During this time this wine undergoes a series of transformations, due to the oak’s permeability. In fact, the oxygen gradually softens and smoothes the vivacity of this red wine, making it more balanced.After its stay in the barriques the wine spends at least 8-10 months in bottle, again, longer than usual for a Teroldego.

The results were very successful – the 1999 and 2002 obtained one of the most prestigious awards for an Italian wine producer: Tre bicchieri from the Gambero Rosso Guida Vini d’Italia.

Dark ruby red, this has an amazingly spicy and complex nose. Strong flavors of cherry fruit and berries, with notes of plum, oak and earth. A toasty, lingering finish with delightful balanced tannins. An elegant wine that will age well. A very polished wine, that succeeds very well in displaying the true potential of this unique varietal Would pair wonderfully with a hearty braised meat, or sharp aged cheese.

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Strudel di Funghi – Mushroom Strudel

strudel di funghi italiaoutdoors bike tours italyMushrooms are cultivated, found wild, and used in the cuisines of both Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. I’ve just returned from a month visiting both areas, and feasted on many seasonal dishes showcasing the local varieties. Wild mushrooms have been prized since ancient times; the Pharoahs of Egypt controlled their distribution, and they were referred to as “food of the gods” in ancient Rome. Due to the limited growing season of the wild varieties, they were in short supply until the French developed methods to cultivate them. In the late 1800s, entire families from Venice traveled to France to work in the mushroom farms in the caves near Paris, and learn these techniques. These families returned to Italy and began their own mushroom farms. These first farms were located in the caves around Costozza, a town on one of our favorite bike tour routes through the Berici Hills, as these possessed the optimum humidity and temperature for mushroom growth.

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Cycling near Custozza

Caves are also used for cultivation in Trentino-Alto Adige, but the many woodlands of this area are a source of a huge variety of wild mushrooms. There are the well-known wild varieties that are found in the Veneto as well – chanterelles, porcini and chiodini, but also many lesser-known: penny buns caps, pine mushrooms, parasols, russulas, Caesar’s agaric, and even 12 different species of Trentino black truffle.

mushroom forager private bike toursI led a cooking class on two of our recent fall tours, and came up with this recipe to take advantage of the lovely mushrooms found in the local markets in Italy this time of year. We had some wonderful chanterelles, porcini, and a rare treat for me – the Caesar’s mushroom, not found here in the US. We simplified the recipe even further, replacing the zabaione with a drizzle of truffle oil made with black truffles found outside our door in the Berici Hills. filling italiaoutdoors custom bike tours italyStrudel di Finferli con Zabaione al Tartufo

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, or my recipe from here
1 pound mixed fresh wild mushrooms, or a mix of fresh and reconstituted dried
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For zabaione:

2 eggs, separated into whites and yolks
2 tablespoons prosecco
1 tablespoon beef stock

Truffle oil or truffle cream

Remove the frozen pastry from the freezer, and bring to temperature following the manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat the oven to 350°.

Clean the mushroom by brushing and wiping; do not hold under running water. Slice the mushrooms.

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a sauté pan. Add the shallots and saute until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and saute until aromatic, another minute or less. Remove from heat, and season with the parsley, salt and pepper.

Roll the pastry out into a thin sheet. Spread the mushroom mixture over the middle third of the pastry, lengthwise. Cover the mushrooms with the remaining pastry, rolling up, and place on a sheet pan. Brush with the egg whites. Bake in the oven until bubbling inside and golden outside.

For the zabaione:

Fill a saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Place the egg yolks, prosecco and broth in a stainless steel mixing bowl, place the bowl in the saucepan (creating a bain marie) and whisk the ingredients together over the simmering water until creamy and beginning to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, and truffle oil or cream.

Slice and serve.

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Semifreddo di Pesche ed Amaretti – Peach and Amaretti Semifreddo

semifreddo di pesche luxury ski holidaysI’ve enjoyed some wonderful semifreddo desserts in Italy, and when I make them at home, they are always a hit, and surprisingly simple. I am traveling back to Italy shortly for a few private tours, as well as our Bike the Amarone Wine Roads tour, and we will be spending a few days near Verona. Besides producing wonderful wines, Verona is also home to the “Pesca di Verona IGP”, some of the best peaches in Italy. So looking forward to my visit, and finding wonderful local peaches here at home, I was inspired to create this recipe.

verona region cycling tours europeThe trademark “Pesca di Verona IGP” applies to peaches and nectarines which are certified as to the varietal, sugar content, taste balance, color and size. The IGP regulations guarantee the locale of production, restricting it to 18 communes in the province of Verona. There are a total of 22 varieties, with early, mid and late season availability. They are easily identified by their special packaging. These peaches and nectarines are a big business in this area, involving thousands of farms, over 100,00 tons of product for in excesss of 60 million euro annually. Peach desserts are a specialty of Verona, and often include almonds and amaretti, an almond flavored cookie.

peaches verona bike tours europeSemifreddo translates to ‘half cold’, and refers to an entire class of semi-frozen desserts, with flavors ranging from chocolate to coffee to hazelnut to an endless array of fruit based versions. Today, the majority of recipes I see for semifreddo are made by combining equal parts ice cream (or gelato, if they are Italian) with whipped cream. However, a traditionalist would cringe at these modern versions.

amaretti bike tours italyA good semifreddo has a very specific texture, a perfect balance between hard and creamy, lighter and softer than ice cream. Traditional recipes use one part whipped cream combined with one part custard, combined with the flavor component. For semifreddo all’italiana, this custard is an Italian meringue, egg whites whipped with a warm sugar syrup, producing a smooth and shiny meringue.

peaches peeled luxury ski holidaysMy cooking is all about maximizing the flavors with a minimum of fuss. I don’t end up with the perfect semifreddo, but I do end up with a delicious dessert without spending all day in the kitchen. Here, I use the classic ingredients – whipped cream, meringue, and a flavor component, pureed peaches with almonds and amaretti. But I just used a basic, simple meringue – no simple syrup, thermometer and determining ‘soft ball stage’, just egg whites mixed with granulated sugar. In the recipe below, I also simply mixed the three main ingredients together – the meringue, the whipped cream, and the peach puree.

Semifreddo di Pesche ed Amaretti

2 lbs. ripe yellow peaches
12 – 14 amaretti
1/2 cup toasted blanched almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap.

Peel and pit the peaches, quarter them, and put them in a food processor with the amaretti and toasted almonds. Puree until smooth, about 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, whip cream to medium peaks, set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the egg whites, sugar and sea salt to stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg mixture into the whipped cream.

Pour the peach mixture into a bowl and fold in the whipped cream and the egg whites. Pour into the loaf pan and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Turn out onto a serving plate, remove the plastic wrap. Cut into inch wide slices and serve immediately, garnished with toasted almonds, peach slices and whipped cream.

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5 Tips for a Great Insalata Caprese – Caprese Salad

caprese insalata full bike tours italyIt seems a bit silly to talk about a formal recipe for this dish – a few ingredients, a bit of chopping, and you are done. But this simple dish illustrates the importance of great ingredients, and doing little to them. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse was once criticized by a fancy French chef, who described her food as “not cooking, just shopping”. Her emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, and doing relatively little to them, is how Italians often cook – this is how we cook on our Italy cycling tours. Dishes are simple, ingredients few, and limited to products that are being harvested from farms that morning. When you have great components, great food is easy to make.

caprese ingredients cycling tours italyAccording to Faith Willenger, Insalata Caprese (the salad from Capri, an island off the Amalfi coast) was created in the 1950s at the Trattoria da Vincenzo for regulars looking for a light lunch. It would be served only in the summer, and consisted of a just-picked tomato and fresh fior da latte, cow’s milk mozzarella, as there are no buffalo on the island. On Capri, it would be served with wild arugula and wild oregano. Today, it is found on tables throughout Italy, usually with mozzarella and basil, and is very popular with tourists. However, unless the caliber of the components is high, it is a rather mediocre dish. Here are my tips for making a great Caprese salad.

  1. Fresh just-picked tomatoes – this one tip means that I don’t bother with Insalata Caprese 9 or 10 months out of the year. Feast on it while tomatoes are fresh, but don’t bother with the tasteless January tomatoes shipped in from who knows where. You are not doing much to the ingredients, so if they don’t have flavor, your salad won’t either.
  2. A great cheese – A fresh, local mozzarella or a great imported fresh cheese. I would choose even a high quality goat or ricotta before resorting to a packaged processed mozzarella. Here, I’ve used burrata, a creamy mozzarella.
  3. Good olive oil – Once again, ingredient quality. This is the excuse to invest in a nice, high quality extra-virgin olive oil, not the cheaper olive oils on your grocery shelves.
  4. No vinegar – This would fight with the delicate cheeses. You want to enhance the natural flavors of the ingredients you’ve selected with care, not overwhelm.
  5. Don’t forget the salt – Something that many overlook, but salt is used to activate your taste buds and allow you to taste flavors. And use kosher salt or sea salt; not iodized.

caprese insalata close bike tours italyInsalata Caprese

1 pound fresh local tomatoes; a mix of different varities of heirloom tomatoes makes a lovely presentation
Fresh cheese – mozzarella, burrata, even goat or ricotta
Fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade) (or substitute arugula)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice tomatoes crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices. I like to use a serrated knife for this.

If you are using a fairly firm cheese like mozzarella, you can slice it as well. Place the tomato and cheese slices on a serving platter, alternating. If the cheese is too soft to slice, serve as I did – just place the cheese in the middle of the serving platter.

Garnish with the basil strips, drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and serve.

To chiffonade basil:

Take several basil leaves and stack them together. Flatten and place on a cutting board.

flat basil leaves ski tours italyRolll up the leaves, as if you were rolling a cigar.

rolled basil leaves ski holidays italyWith a SHARP knife, cut the roll crosswise into thin strips.

chiffonade basil leaves wine bike tours italyToss the strips with your fingers to separate.

chiffonade basil private bike tours italy

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Caponata Griglia – Grilled Caponata

caponata swordfish sicily bike toursCaponata, a mixture of eggplant, tomatoes and other vegetables in an agrodolce, is a relish we see throughout Italy as we explore Italy by bike, from Sicily to the Veneto. The sweet and sour flavor combination found in agrodolce, from ‘agro’, sour and ‘dolce’, sweet, is often attributed to the influence of the Arabs, who supposedly introduced it to Italy through Sicily. However, we see the same combination of flavors in the traditional Venetian dish, saor, served over fried seafood. The Romans, like the Arabs, Asians, and other nations in medieval Europe, didn’t separate sweet from savory, so it is likely that agrodolce made it’s way into Italy through many kitchens.

caponata ingredients cycling tours italyAgrodolce (and saor) are made by reducing sweet and sour elements, traditionally wine vinegar and sugar. Often other flavoring elements are added, like onions, raisins, and pine nuts. There are many ways to use it, as a accompaniment for poultry, rabbit, or seafood; served over wide noodles, or topped on a crostini with ricotta.

eggplant sicily bike toursCaponata is made by cooking eggplant, capers, and onions in an agrodolce. Tomatoes were included later, as they didn’t arrive in Italy until the 16th century. It originated as a seagoing fare, as the vinegar acted as a preservative – and might explain it’s popularity in the cuisines of Sicily and the Veneto, both with seafaring histories. It then became known as ‘inn food’, with caponata coming from the Latin word for inn, “caupo”. The rich would use it as an accompaniment for meat; the poor would enjoy it as is, not being able to afford meat.

grilled caponata ingredients italy bike toursTraditional recipes for caponata call for fried eggplant, which can be quite heavy and high in fat. I love the flavors, but prefer a lighter preparation, so I grill everything first, then combine in the agrodolce sauce for a last few minutes of cooking. It keeps in the refrigerator for several days, but it usually doesn’t last that long, given the many ways it can be put to use – on chicken, pork, or fish (it is wonderful on swordfish), on pasta, as a sandwich spread, or a pasta sauce.

caponata crostini italy ski toursCaponata Griglia – Grilled Eggplant Caponata

2 large or 4 small eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise in 1/2-inch thick slices
2 fresh peppers, halved and seeded – I like to use mixed colors
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 tomatoes, 4 plum tomatoes, or 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, extra for brushing
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/2 cup pitted mixed olives
1/4 cup currants
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.

Brush the eggplant, peppers, onion and large tomato halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stick a toothpick sideways through each slice of onion to hold the rings together while grilling. Cherry tomatoes I use raw – they are too tricky to grill. Grill the eggplant until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes each side. Grill the peppers until soft and blackened in spots. Grill the onions until just soft. Grill the tomatoes until charred all over, about 8 minutes. Remove the eggplant, peppers, onions and tomatoes from the heat and cut into dice.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant, peppers, onion, tomatoes, olives, currants, capers, sugar, vinegar, and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil and mint; taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the caponata to a bowl and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. The caponata can be made in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring the caponata to room temperature before serving.

For Grilled Caponata Crostini with Ricotta

Grill the bread on both sides until slightly charred, about 30 seconds each side. Remove the bread from the grill and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each slice of bread with a spoonful of ricotta cheese, and a spoonful of the caponata. Drizzle the top of each slice of bread with more olive oil and scatter basil on top.


Posted in antipasti, Fish, Gluten Free, Ricotta, Travel, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Veneto Food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment