Don’s May Collector’s Series Top Picks

20100903_lowalcohol_wines_190x190May offers another fine line-up of collectible wines, with each wine bringing something special to the table.  Consequently, it comes down in my mind solely to a matter of additional bottle age, which leads me choose Seghesio’s 2008 Barolo as my first Top Pick.  Seghesio has carved out an enviable record for producing majestic Barolo over the past decade, and the wonderful 2008 vintage in Piemonte shines through in this month’s offering.  Given that this youthful Barolo wine drinks beautifully now and still promises further development earns it a top spot.  My second Top Pick goes to the very limited edition 2010 Au Bon Climat 30th Anniversary Edition Chardonnay.  This is a masterful, larger than life Chardonnay that makes a bold statement, yet it pairs magnificently with full flavored dishes, something few Chardonnays do well.  Au Bon Climat produces an Anniversary Edition only every five years, and this Anniversary Edition is to my taste the most complex and interesting I’ve sampled.  I hope these two choices don’t diminish the quality and pleasure to be found in Girard’s excellent 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, this month’s other selection.  It is a polished, sophisticated Cabernet that offers plenty of appeal now and will continue to drink beautifully for a decade.  But alas, there can only be two Top Picks.  A votre santé.


Spring Risotto: Risotto with Asparagus, Peas, Parsley, and Lemon

A perfect bright spring dish that is satisfying enough for those cool damp spring evenings.

Editor Notes: We used far more fresh parmesan than called for in the recipe. 1 tablespoon between two people is far less parmesan than I have ever used in a dish, but this is just a matter of personal taste for (i.e., addiction to) cheese. Also, I don’t know if it was my rice, but I had to use 4 cups of stock as opposed to the recommended 3 cups. I always seem to need more broth when I make a risotto though, and I’ve never been able to figure out why. All in all, a great dish!” – Food52 Review

Serves 2

  • 3 cups vegetable brothSpring Risotto Food52
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 6 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided use
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3/4 cups arborio rice (preferably Vialone Nano)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is best with this dish)
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • pinches fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup frozen petite peas
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the vegetable broth in a small covered saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down as low as it will go and keep the pot covered.

Peel and finely chop the onion and set aside. Peel and mince the garlic and set aside.

Melt 4 teaspoons of the butter in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and cook until almost all the wine is absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Add ½ cup of the hot vegetable broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the broth has been absorbed – this will take about 3 minutes. Repeat this process until the risotto is slightly al dente. [Note: you may not need to use all of the broth.]

While the risotto is cooking, prepare the asparagus. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard them. Cut the stalks into 1” pieces (I like to do this on the diagonal). Put the asparagus into a microwave-safe bowl and add the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Stir well and cover the bowl with a microwave-safe plate. Cook on high power for 2 ½ minutes, stirring halfway through.

Transfer the asparagus to a plate and add the peas to the bowl. Microwave the peas uncovered on high power until they are just defrosted, about 45 seconds. Do not overcook or they will shrivel up.

Combine the lemon zest and parsley in a small bowl and set the mixture aside.

When the risotto is done, remove the pot from the heat and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter. Stir well until the butter is melted and evenly distributed. Add the asparagus, peas, and lemon juice and stir to combine.

Recipe courtesy of

Don’s May Premier Series Top Picks

copa-cavaThis month’s first Top Pick has to be the 2009 Torre Oria Cava.  This is a sparkling wine that both refreshes and stimulates.  Furthermore, it’s a proven crowd pleaser.  Equally important, it doesn’t pretend to be French Champagne or something it’s not.  It’s Spanish Cava through and through.  It tastes wonderful au naturel or as an accompaniment to all kinds of foods, including spicy Asian dishes.  It also makes a splendid cocktail.  One of my favorite ways to begin an evening is to put a ripe, scented strawberry at the bottom of a flute, add just a dash of Grand Marnier, and then fill the glass with Torre Oria. It’s a excellent way to start the weekend or make some new friends.  Why not give it a try?  My second Top Pick belongs to Vistalba’s Corte C.  For me, this second Top Pick is a tough choice because I really like Domaine du Tauch’s delicious, easy to drink Fitou from the South of France. Yet, Vistalba’s wine is equally impressive for different reasons.  Vistalba’s Corte C is a gratifying blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon that will continue to gain further depth and complexity over time.  It also makes a great accompaniment now to steaks and barbecue.  Vistalba’s wines are more than a cut above your average Argentine Malbec and Cabernet, and Corte C delivers the evidence.   A votre santé.  Don

Looking Forward to Penticton

Okanagan Valley, BCIf you are like most folks, you’re asking yourself a question: What’s Penticton?  Penticton is a beautiful city in the Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia, a special place framed by two large mountain lakes that just happens to be blessed with a dry, sunny climate that’s ideal for growing grapes.  Penticton is also home to a burgeoning wine industry and the source of many of Canada’s finest wines.  Yes, Canada does make wine and some very good wine indeed.  Penticton also happens to be the site of this year’s International Wine Bloggers’ Conference, which I will be attending from June 6-8, 2013.  I’m looking forward to the conference and the opportunity to meet other wine bloggers from around the world.  Just as important, I look forward to learning more about what they and other wine drinkers find most exciting today in the world of wine.  I’m also relishing the idea of learning more about the people and the exciting wine industry around Penticton.  And of course, I anticipate tasting some of Canada’s most compelling wines while attending the conference.  As an added bonus, just prior to the International Wine Blogger’s Conference a number of the conference attendees, myself included, will be participating in a short wine trip through Washington State – another voyage of discovery worthy of anticipation – so stay tuned for more on these ventures!



Some Reasons to Drink Cava

Spanish ChampageCava is Spain’s answer to Champagne, although a case can be made for Cava offering more of a rebuke to Champagne than a retort.  After all, Cava hails from a different climate and terroir than Champagne, and Cava is produced primarily or entirely from indigenous Spanish grape varieties such as Xarelo-lo, Parellada, Viura, and Macabeo, rather than the traditional French varietals inherent in Champagne.  Naturally, all of this accounts for differences between Cava and Champagne, thereby rendering each nation’s sparkling wine unique.  But then, there is also the difference in price.  The vast majority of Cavas sell for under $20.00 a bottle.  Is there much French Champagne available for half that price?  Yet, like Champagne good Cava is produced by the same traditional method of fermentation in the bottle, and the end result is plenty of good drinking bubbly.  The most compelling reason to drink Cava is simply this: Nobody makes better dry sparkling wine for the money than Spain’s Cava producers.  With the addition of champagne yeasts during fermentation, the acid rich musts of Spanish Cava yield sparkling wines of rich flavor, softness and finesse that can at times rival those of Champagne.  Where Cava may even have the “edge” on Champagne is in its soft, round, lingering finish – the antithesis of French Champagne which can often possess just a bit too much acidic verve in its aftertaste or finish to suit some tastes.  Consequently, I enjoy Cava more often than Champagne because Cava is affordable, versatile, and appealing to a wide audience.