Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010

Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010
Italy – Tuscany
13% ABV
My Rating: 88 points
Trader Joe’s

I am a fan of Super Tuscans; they are often big, rich wines. Tuscany is home to some of the most recognized wine regions in Italy, like Chianti, which have specific regulations on which grapes can be used in production and how much.  Like Chianti, many Tuscans contain Sangiovese, either on its own, or blended with grapes that are not native to Italy. This 80% Sangiovese, 20% Syrah blend is well balanced; the acidity that Sangiovese is known for is balanced out by the big tannins found in Syrah. This food friendly wine is a great buy from Trader Joe’s and pairs well with Italian food.

Ruby colored, cherry, wood, with drying tannins. Nicely balanced and medium bodied.

Pair with: pasta dishes, medium/aged cheeses, pizza

Recipe pairings:
Sausage and Peppers
Creamy Chicken a la Vodka
Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup

From the winemaker:
“Our Toscana is produced with 80% Sangiovese and 20% Syrah grapes, attentively harvested by hand and selected to give birth to this wine that refines for twelve months in barriques by 225 litres in the cellar of Poggio al Casone Estate, legendary vineyard of the Castellani Family. The estate is situated in Crespina, ancient village on the Pisan Hills just few kilometers from the Tuscan coast.”

Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014


Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014
Italy – Piedmont
12.5% ABV
My Rating: 87 points
Trader Joe’s

There is a lot to like about Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014.  At only $5.99, it is a small fraction of the price of Rosa dell Olmo’s underwhelming $14.99 Barolo, but much more enjoyable.  First of all, it’s hard to beat the price.  Trader Joe’s carries more than a few wines in the $6 range, but not all of them are drinkable.  This Barbera is a pleasant, everyday table wine with 12.5% ABV, so you can enjoy more than one glass, especially with pizza or just some cheese and crackers.  The bottle refers to distinct “red fruit” and they’ve nailed that description.

Ruby colored, maraschino cherry, black cherry

Pair with: pizza, light pasta dishes, poultry dishes, medium aged cheeses

Recipe pairings:
Everyone’s Favorite Mac and Cheese
Chicken Scampi
Zucchini Pesto with Chicken and Farfalle

From the winemaker:

“An everyday and easy to drink red wine.  Deep ruby red in color, with pleasant and distinct red fruit notes, it is dry and rich, and has a remarkable silky texture.”

Everyone’s Favorite Mac and Cheese

Who doesn’t love Mac and Cheese? It’s the one food we’ve all been eating since we were kids, but there are thousands of ways to prepare it. Sometimes you enjoy it from a box, complete with its bright orange cheese powder. Sometimes you enjoy it at a steakhouse, with fancy cheeses and shaved truffles. This recipe comes to mind when I want home-cookin-comfort-food-Mac-and-Cheese. It’s a variation of a recipe my Mom has been making since I was a kid, and it takes the classic Mac and Cheese flavor of cheddar cheese, combined with the creaminess and melt-ability of Velveeta, and topped with a buttery crumb. Come to think of it, I have been told more than once that this was the “best Mac and Cheese I’ve ever had.” So here it is, my recipe for Everyone’s Favorite Mac and Cheese.

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
4 tbsp. butter, divided
3 tbsp. flour
3 ½ cups milk
8 oz. cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
12 oz. Velveeta, cut into cubes
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and set aside. In a large stock pot, melt 3 tbsp. butter on medium-low heat. Whisk in flour, and stir until bubbly, 2-3 minutes. Add milk and half of the cubed cheese and stir until starting to melt. Add remaining cheese, salt and pepper and stir until smooth and cheese is melted, being careful not to let the milk boil. Fold pasta into cheese sauce and pour mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a small skillet, melt remaining tbsp. butter on medium-low heat and add seasoned bread crumbs. Stir until starting to turn golden brown. Sprinkle evenly on top of macaroni. Bake macaroni in 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbly.


Wine Pairings:
Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014

District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
California – Monterrey
13.5% ABV
My Rating: 87 points

It’s difficult to find a great Cabernet under $15, but District 7 delivers a fruit forward, easy drinking wine. Medium bodied with moderate tannins, this is a good one to drink on its own or pair with food. Less bold than a typical Cabernet, and without any real oak, I would pair this with a more casual meal, rather than a big steak.

Blackberry, raspberry, well balanced fruit, acidity and tannins.

Pair with: ribs, burgers, BBQ chicken

Recipe Pairings:
Best Baby Back Ribs
Best Ever Oven Baked Chicken

From the winemaker:
“California has 17 grape crush districts. District 7 is Monterey County, a windy and cool coastal region known for producing complex and balanced wines. For nearly 50 years, our family and dedicated employees have been sustainable farming this remarkable land. We hope you enjoy this Cabernet Sauvignon specially selected from our estate vineyards.”