Lambrusco Tasting at Osteria Morini

6 Lambrusco, Italian Sparkling Red Wines – Ranging from $7-$25, these wines range from dry to sweet, as well as from pale in color like a rose to inky purple like a sparkling red wine. All 6 wines are easy to drink and are perfect for pairing with food. The blog post includes details from a wine pairing dinner. | AGlassAfterWork.com

6 Lambrusco, Italian Sparkling Red Wines – Ranging from $7-$25, these wines range from dry to sweet, as well as from pale in color like a rose to inky purple like a sparkling red wine. All 6 wines are easy to drink and are perfect for pairing with food. The blog post includes details from a wine pairing dinner. | AGlassAfterWork.com

Banfi’s Lambrusco seminar at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC15) inspired the focus for this year’s tasting. In the WBC15 session, I learned that Lambrusco is the most purchased Italian red wine in U.S. retail chain stores. And, I realized that while I love ordering Lambrusco out at restaurants, I knew very little about the wine, I rarely bought a bottle to drink at home, and even less frequently wrote about it on the blog. So, I decided while still at the conference that 2016 was the year I would publically embrace Lambrusco, and what better way to do that than by organizing a Lambrusco wine dinner for my work colleagues.

Setup at Osteria Morini for 2016 Lambrusco Tasting

Setup at Osteria Morini for the Lambrusco tasting

At least once a year, my department does a team-building event. Several months after I started at this job, I offered to do an Albariño wine tasting for one of these gatherings. Since then, our annual staff bonding has occurred over food and wine. Usually, it’s just for the 15 people in my division that are located in DC. This year, however, the tasting ended up being while the regional members of our team were in town, so our size actually doubled. None of my coworkers are wine experts and only a couple could even recall ever having a Lambrusco before our dinner.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the wine, Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine made from a family of grapes that are unique to the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. This northern part of the country is about the size of Massachusetts and is particularly well known for the food that comes from the area. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Lambrusco makes for a perfect wine pairing with many of these items.

As luck would have it, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in DC–Osteria Morini–specializes in food from the Emilia-Romagna, so there was no question about holding the wine tasting dinner there.

Lineup for 2016 Lambrusco Tasting

Lambrusco tasting lineup

There were 6 different Lambruschi (the plural of Lambrusco), ranging from dry to sweet, as well as from pale in color like a rose to inky purple like a sparkling red wine.

Donelli Lambrusco di Sorbara

Donelli Lambrusco di Sorbara

Donelli Lambrusco di Sorbara (winery)
SRP: $15 (purchased in restaurant for $40 a bottle)
Grapes: 90% Lambrusco di Sorbara and 10% Lambrusco Salamino
Medium pink color with flecks of ruby and a pale pink foam
Roses and violets mixed with strawberries and raspberries
Lighter bodied with bright acidity.
3.5 Corks

Albinea Canali "FB" Lambrusco

Albinea Canali “FB” Lambrusco

Albinea Canali “FB” (winery, snooth)
SRP: $20 (*provided as a sample)
Grapes: 100% Lambrusco Sorbara
Pinkish-red
Fresh and fruity with lots of strawberries and hints of yeastiness that comes from the second fermentation in the bottle
Lighter bodied with refreshing tartness
Dry
4 Corks

Albinea Canali Ottocentonero

Albinea Canali Ottocentonero

Albinea Canali Ottocentonero (winery, snooth)
SRP: $20 (*provided as a sample)
Grapes: 50% Lambrusco Salamino, 40% Lambrusco Grasparossa, and 10% Lancellotta
Darker ruby with hints of purple and a pinkish foam
Cherries and blackcurrant on the nose
Flower petals and sour cherry in the mouth
Dry, almost bitter finish with bright acidity, but pleasantly so.
3.5 Corks

Riunite

Riunite

Riunite (website, snooth)
SRP: $7 (*provided as a sample)
Grapes: Lambrusco Maestri, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Montericco, and Lancellotta
Dark ruby with hints of violet and purplish, foamy top.
Big and fruity—strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries
Medium bodied with soft tannins.
Sweet
4.5 Corks

Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Grasparossa

Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco Grasparossa

2013 Fattoria Moretto Monovitigno
Cost: $25 from Wine Library
Grapes: 100% Lambrusco Grasparossa
Dark, purplish ruby with a nice foam top
Mixture of strawberries and blackberries with hints of sour cherry, rose petals, and something herby
Medium bodied with soft tannins
Hint of sweetness
4.5 Corks

Bell'Agio

Bell’Agio

Bell’Agio (website, snooth)
SRP: $15 (*provided as a sample)
Grapes: Lambrusco Salamino and Lambrusco Grasparossa
Dark ruby with hints of purple and foamy top
Mixture of raspberry and blackberries
Full-bodied with a bit of acid and soft tannins
Luscious and sweet
4 Corks

2016 Lambrusco Tasting Menu at Osteria Morini

2016 Lambrusco Tasting Menu at Osteria Morini

What I still love about these wine dinners is that they’re not just about the wines, but also about experiencing the wines with good food and company. And, the restaurant definitely didn’t let us down when it came to good food.

cheese and charcuterie board

cheese and charcuterie board

The evening started with a cheese and charcuterie board to go with our first Lambrusco–the Donelli Lambrusco di Sorbara, which is the only bottle we opened from the restaurants wine list. The Lambrusco and the boards were enjoyed cocktail hour style, with everyone standing our talking, eating, and sipping away. After that, we sat down to dinner at two long tables, where we indulged in a 4-course, family style dinner.

The Antipasti Course - Polpo alla Piastra, Polpettine, and Burrata

The Antipasti Course – Polpo alla Piastra, Polpettine, and Burrata

After the about 30 minutes of standing around talking, we settled into our seats for dinner. The Albinea Canali “FB” was served with the antipasti course–Polpo alla Piastra (charred octopus, fregola, and tomato); Polpettine (mortadella & prosciutto meatballs, pomodoro), which is one of my favorite dishes at Osteria Morini, and Burrata (house-made mozzarella, grapefruit, and pistachio). The FB is a lighter, drier style of Lambrusco. And, while the FB paired nicely with all three dishes, I could not get enough of combining it with the octopus. I kept taking a sip of wine, then a bit of octopus, and another sip of wine. It was one of the few dishes I went back for seconds on, even knowing how much more food was left to come.

The Primi course (rigitoni, gramigna, and cassarecce) with the Albinea Canali Ottocentonero

The Primi course (rigitoni, gramigna, and cassarecce) with the Albinea Canali Ottocentonero

For the second course (or Primi course), we opened the Albinea Canali Ottocentonero to drink with three different pasta dishes–a Rigatoni (made with braised wild mushrooms, rosemary oil, and parmigiano), a Gramigna (made with pork sausage, carbonara, and pecorino), and a Cassarecce (a squid ink pasta with scallops, squid, rapini, and calabrian chili). The Gramigna is usually my go-to dish at the restaurant, but I think that’s because I never had the Cassarecce before. The Cassarecce was my favorite of the night, and when put with the acidity and flavors of the Lambrusco, both the food and the wine came to life in a way that took what was already enjoyable individually and just made them sing together.

The main course (or secondi) actually featured two Lambruschi–Riunite and 2013 Fattoria Moretto Monovitigno–and they were paired with several different types of meats–Anatra (duck breast, spaetzle, trumpet mushrooms, spinach, radish); Branznio (Mediterranean seabass, chickpeas, charred broccoli, taggaisca olives, and bagna cauda); and Grigliata Mista (lamb porterhouse, pork ribs, chicken sausage, and hanger steak). Our side dishes, which I somehow missed getting a picture of, were Patata Fritti (crispy red bliss potatoes with pecorino) and Spinaci (buttered spinach).

The Secondi Course - Anatra, Branzino, and Grigliata Mista

The Secondi Course – Anatra, Branzino, and Grigliata Mista

The Riunite has a bit of sweetness, definitely more than the Fattoria Moretto Monovitigno, but that made the pairings even more interesting because everyone agreed that both wines matched the food beautifully. Several coworkers mentioned that they never really experienced a “good” pairing and the difference it can make in how the wine and the food both taste, but that this course really highlighted the possibilities for them.

It’s also worth noting that during this course, we tasted both the least and most expensive wines of the night. Interestingly, they were also both the favorite wines of the night. When it came to these two in particular, since we were tasting side-by-side, I asked everyone to show their hand for preferences before reveling the cost of the retail cost of the wines, and it was split almost exactly down the middle.

Dolci course with the Bell'Agio

Dolci course with the Bell’Agio

Finally, we finished the evening off with our last Lambrusco–the Bell’Agio–and dessert (Dolci course). This Lambrusco was the sweetest of the night, and its sweetness was particularly nice with the flavors of the Tiramisu (mascarpone mousse, lady finger, amaretto, and coffee crema) and Torta al Cioccolato (chocolate ganache and praline crunch).

Overall, the tasting was a huge success! I’ve had several coworkers follow-up when they’ve ordered Lambrusco at a restaurant or bought a bottle to share at home, and that is the ultimate sign of success for me. A special thanks to Joe and Dino at Banfi for generously providing 4 of the 6 wines we tasted and to Jonna, Rubio, and the rest of the Osteria Morini DC team for an unforgettably delicious evening.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had Lambrusco? If so, what are your thoughts on the type of wine? Do you have a favorite?

Origium Garnacha – Beautiful, Bold, and Under $10

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

2014 Origium Garnacha – At $10, this Spanish red wine has an amazing quality-price ratio. This wine would be perfect for girls’ night -- talking and laughing over a plate of Jamón Serrano, Manchego cheese. Everyone will think you splurged on the bottle, even though you didn’t. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a bottle and your girlfriends. Cheers! Ratings 4.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com
Roy Lichtenstein's Bull I, Bull II, Bull III, Bull IV and Bull V from the Bull Profile series

Roy Lichtenstein’s Bull I, Bull II, Bull III, Bull IV, and Bull V from the Bull Profile series

Last Saturday was Hubby’s birthday, so instead of doing our normal weekend errands, we spent the day walking around DC and visiting the special exhibits at the National Gallery of Art. We love going to the museums during the winter because they’re usually less crowded, but the Power and Pathos exhibit, which displayed 50 bronze statues from the fourth century BCE to the first century CE, was surprisingly packed. The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L. exhibit, on the other hand, was virtually empty and more how we expected to find the entire museum. I preferred the Power and Pathos exhibit, but seeing both was a fun and Hubby seemed really happy with how it all worked out.

Inside Hubby's homemade birthday ice cream sandwich

Inside Hubby’s homemade birthday ice cream sandwich

After the museums, we had a few hours at home relaxing before heading out to dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak and then came home for some homemade birthday ice cream sandwiches. I, of course, paired mine with wine.

The 2014 Origium Garnacha (winery) is from Carinena, Spain and is made with 100% Garnacha grapes. The wine was a deep ruby with flecks of purple. On the nose, there were strawberries and black cherries with hints of white pepper and something floral (roses maybe?). In the mouth, there were black cherries, strawberries and raspberries followed by something floral. The wine was medium-to-full bodied with low-to-medium acidity and tannins.

2014 Origium Garnacha – At $9, this Spanish red wine has an amazing quality-price ratio. This wine would be perfect for girls’ night -- talking and laughing over a plate of Jamón Serrano, Manchego cheese.  Everyone will think you splurged on the bottle, even though you paid under $10.  So, what are you waiting for? Grab a bottle and your girlfriends.  Cheers! Ratings 4.5 out 5 | AGlassAfterWork.com

2014 Origium Garnacha

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one!  What are you waiting for? With an SRP of $9, don’t walk…run…to buy this wine. When I taste press samples, I always go through and take my own notes before l read the accompanying information because I rather not be influenced ahead of time. I expected this wine to be double the cost, so to say I was shocked when I saw it was less than $10 would be an understatement.

I was sorry I didn’t have Origium Garnacha to go with my steak and potatoes from dinner because would have made for a really nice pairing–big enough flavors to not get lost in the steak, but not such a big wine that it would have overpowered the meal. This would also be a great wine to pair with a cheese and charcuterie plate, particularly if you have Jamón Serrano and Manchego. Ultimately, I paired the wine with my chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich, which worked surprisingly well, and then simply enjoyed another glass while indulging in an evening of food-coma laziness.

Question of the Day: Do you have special birthday celebration traditions, like baking a particular type of cake or going to a specific restaurant, or do you tend to take each birthday as it comes?

Suggested Retail Price: $9
Received as a sample.
Overall: 4.5 Corks

Ruffino’s $10 Chianti

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

Moleskin wine journalI admit it…even though I love technology and all the apps that make writing a wine blog and being active on social media so fun, there is nothing quite like writing my tasting notes in a journal. Every year, I get a new Moleskine, and at this point, I actually keep wine journal and beer journal. I just love grabbing that black book with its thick off-white pages and my glass full of liquid possibility and entering my zone for a few moments to really think about what I’m drinking. Then, I scribble down all my thoughts and impressions. At the end of the year, I love to look back on the memories on everything I drank.

Inside my 2016 wine journalI get it. It’s old-school.   It’s duplicative, especially since I usually post my thoughts on Vivino or UnTappd and Instagram soon after tasting. I can’t help it. I still love it.

My first wine of the year was the 2013 Ruffino Chianti (winery, snooth), which was made in the Chianti region of Italy with 70% Sangiovese grapes and 30% other undisclosed varieties. The wine was a clear medium ruby. On the nose, there was the classic cherries and violets. In the mouth, there were slightly sour cherries with hints of violets and herbs. The wine was light-to-medium bodied with low-to-medium tannins and high acidity.

2013 Ruffino Chianti - This $10 Italian red wine is nice on the wallet and begs to be paired with a pepperoni pizza. | AGlassAfterWork.com

2013 Ruffino Chianti

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass. At an SRP of $10, is inexpensive and ok with food. Hubby and I made our own little holiday dinner that first weekend in January, so I paired the wine with turkey and mashed potatoes. The pairing worked nicely, although the wine really was screaming “drink me with pepperoni pizza.” After dinner, I continued to enjoy the wine while knitting on the couch and watching trashy TV, which was a nice way to spend the evening even if the acidity in the wine was a bit much. All in all, this isn’t a wine I would search out, but at the same time, it’s also not a wine that I would avoid…especially if I had the right food.

Question of the Day: Do you keep some sort of written journal (either for food, wine, beer, or something else)?

Suggested Retail Price: $10
Received as a sample.
Overall: 3 Corks

Beaujolais Nouveau = Holiday Time!

2015 Beaujolais Nouveau closeupThe third Thursday of November–Beaujolais Nouveau Day–is really the start of the holiday season for me. Yes, it’s a marketing gimmick. And, yes, the wine is not a mature sophisticated wine, but it’s fun, festive, and I always look forward to its release.

In case you’ve never heard of Beaujolais Nouveau, it’s a wine made in the Beaujolais region of France. Unlike most wines, Beaujolais Nouveau is harvested, fermented, bottled, shipped, and (hopefully) enjoyed by wine lovers all within a 6-8 week period. It’s not meant to be aged. In fact, the longer it sits, the less enjoyable it becomes. The whole purpose of Beaujolais Nouveau is to enjoy it while it’s fresh, fruity, and immature with the idea that it gives you a sneak peak at what it’s more mature sibling–the Beaujolais wines–will taste like when released.

2015 Georges DeBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

2015 Georges DeBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

The 2015 Georges DeBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau (winery, snooth) is made with 100% Gamay grapes and is a deep purple color with a touch of ruby. On the nose and in the mouth, there were strawberries and blueberries with hints of cream and bubble gum. The wine had a medium body, smooth tannins, and low-to-medium acid.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $10 a bottle, the quality/price ration makes this wine well worth buying. In fact, it’s the best vintage in recent memory. While very fruit forward, this vintage will make a good food wine. Whether it’s appetizers like a chevre crostini and plate of savory olives, turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving, or your Christmas dinner ham, the 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau would be a nice match.

That said, I didn’t pair it with anything. Instead, I opened it and drank a couple of glasses on the Friday evening after Beaujolais Nouveau Day. It was perfect as I curled up on the couch with Hubby, watched TV, and kicked up a week-long holiday vacation. The only thing missing was a fire, but the weather in DC was just too warm for that.

Question of the Day: What are your thoughts on Beaujolais Nouveau? Are you a fan or is it too gimmicky for you? If you’re a fan, did you try this year’s vintage?

Price: $10
Purchased at World Market
Overall: 4 Corks

Sunday Baking: Spanish Garnacha & Strawberry Cookies

*** I received this wine as a sample. ***

Bodegas Ruberte Tresor 2012 Garnacha corkMarch was a big work travel month for me. I spent the 9-17 in Austin for SXSWedu and SXSW, both of which were great conferences. I learned a lot at the sessions, had some fantastic networking opportunities, and even got to drink some great wine at places like Max’s Wine Dive. However, by the time I finally walked in the door late at night on March 17th, I was ready to be home. I missed Hubby and was tired of living out of a suitcase. Plus, conferencing is exhausting because you’re on all the time, so all I really wanted to do was to put on some comfy clothes, open some good wine, and hibernate for a few days. Since my cousin was coming into town that weekend, it wasn’t quite a full-on hibernation, but Hubby and I spent Sunday morning at brunch with her and her boyfriend, just catching up, eating good food, and enjoying each others company. After that, it was back home for some cookie baking and more relaxing.

By March 22, the weather was getting warmer, I had just spent a week in Austin with gorgeous weather, and I had a bad case of Spring fever. Nothing says Spring like strawberries, so I grabbed extras at the grocery store and decided to make Cream Cheese & White Chocolate Chunk Strawberry Cookies. To go along with the cookies, I opened a Spanish Garnacha.

2012 Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha

2012 Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha

The 2012 Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha (winery) is made in the Campo de Borja district in the northwest of the province of Zaragoza in Aragon, Spain. The wine was made with 100% Garnacha/Grenache grapes and was a bright medium-to-dark ruby red color. On the nose, there were Bing cherries and strawberries. In the mouth, there were Bing cherries, strawberries and hints of white pepper. The wine had a medium body, medium acidity, and low-to-medium tannins.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely!  If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed.  At an SRP of $10 a bottle, this wine has a great quality/price ratio. It was easily drinkable on it’s own, and I was sorry that I didn’t have some Serrano ham or Manchego cheese to pair with it. It would be a great summer red because it’s flavorful without being too heavy or having too much heat, although it is 14% abv so don’t let the fact that it’s well-balanced fool you into thinking that it’s low in alcohol.

As for the cookies, they turned out to be easy to make, and while they were a little heavier than I expected (probably due to the combination of butter and cream cheese), the flavor made for a nice treat.

Overall, the combination of the strawberries in the cookies and the red fruit flavors of the wine made the two a nice, Spring-y pairing. It was exactly what I needed after leaving the nice Austin weather and a long work-trip behind.

Question of the Day: Have you started transitioning to Spring and Summer wines yet?

Cream Cheese, White Chocolate, and Strawberry Cookies
(*adapted from OMG Chocolate Desserts)
Yields: 2 dozen

Bodegas Ruberte Tresor 2012 Garnacha and Cream Cheese, White Chocolate, & Strawberry Cookies

Bodegas Ruberte Tresor 2012 Garnacha and Cream Cheese, White Chocolate, & Strawberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tablespoons flour
  • 5 oz white chocolate chips

Directions

  • Pour lemon juice over chopped strawberries and let drain. Set aside.
  • In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  • Add cream cheese, and mix until combined.
  • Add eggs, and mix until combined.
  • Add vanilla, and mix until combined.
  • On low speed, add dry ingredients, and mix until just blended (about 30 seconds).
  • Stir in white chocolate with wooden spoon.
  • Sprinkle strawberries with 1-2 tablespoons of flour. Toss until all the strawberries are coated with a thin layer, then add gently to the batter.
  • Divide dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Line cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats and place in refrigerator to chill.
  • Take a rounded tablespoon of chilled dough and roll between the palms of your hands to create 1-inch balls.
  • Place cookies on lined, chilled cookie sheets. Keep cookies about 1-2 inches apart.
  • Press to flatten slightly.
  • Bake for 12 minutes or until edges become golden brown.
  • Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Suggested Retail Price: $10
Received as a sample.
Overall: 3.5 Corks