Wine & Food Pairings
Late Summer Smoked Salmon Salad served with Casalfarneto Verdicchio dei Castelli die Jesi
Late Summer Smoked Salmon Salad
For the Salad:
4 oz Honey Smoked Salmon
¼ teaspoon garlic
¼ teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon capers
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup diced cornichon French pickles
1 pinch cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Combine all the ingredients and place in the refrigerator to cool
For the Honey Mustard Garnish:
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon dill weed
Combine all ingredients and place in small serving ramekin
Garnish for the Salad:
4 large, washed strawberries, sliced
1 French baguette, sliced for the salad
The Finished Plate:
Place Salmon salad on the center of a serving plate garnished with fresh kale
Place sliced strawberries on one corner of the platter
Place Honey mustard sauce on the platter
Lay sliced baguette in the remainder of the platter
Spread a nice portion of the salad on the slice baguette, garnish with two slices of strawberry and drizzle with honey mustard
Casalfarneto Verdicchio dei Castelli die Jesi
“Where is that? Why did you decide to go there?” These are the two most frequently asked questions I received from friends, who found out about my trip to Italy. The roads in Italy are well travelled by tourists, especially the country side of Tuscany, the beachside resorts of the Italian Riviera and the great cities of Florence, Rome and Venice. Knowing that I had a last minute opportunity to travel, and that millions of globetrotters had been making their plans for months, I decided to go to the less visited area of Le Marche. This area bordered by the Adriatic is a destination for many Italians, but not for many Americans. When the area isn’t located in the travel books, you know you are in for an authentic adventure. However, after several Italian wine importers listed Marche as their favorite areas, I decided to take their word for it. After all, if the land and people reflected my affinity for the wines from Le Marche, I would be happy.
While I have enjoyed many of the red wines from the area like Montepulciano and Sangiovese, Verdicchio is the king of white wine in Le Marche. Now, coming from Colorado, I didn’t think I would be impressed by the hills of the area, but I was amazed. For miles, the countryside is covered like a beautifully crafted quilt with an endless patchwork of green vineyard rows, bright, yellow sunflower fields, wheat colored grasses or trees. The view from one hilltop just reveals many other hill tops with the same beauty and history. Upon the tops of many, lie Ancient Etruscan “Castles” and walled villages. They appear perfectly preserved as they have been since the 14th century. Most amazing is the steepness of the hills and how they are farmed. Some vineyards can only be hand-picked, while others are machine harvested only in a certain manner as not to topple the tractor.
The Castelli dei Jesi wine producing zone encompasses the hilly territory around the town of Jesi in the province of Ancona. Just a few kilometers outside one historical village in the Jesi district, lays the small estate of Casalfarneto. Because the winery wasn’t established until 1995, the facilities are most modern, with almost a zero environmental impact. Their cellar and winemaking facilities are hedged into the underside of a hilltop that retains a constant, cool temperature. The stainless steel tanks, lines and presses are all computerized. At Casalfarneto, they are able to combine tradition and history with modern winemaking. Even though the estate is an infant, from the Italian wine making perspective, the vines are up to forty years old. They try to coddle the vines, but at some point, the vines are not productive, so a replacement plan is always in place. And of course, like any wine, the ancient limestone like soil and cool maritime breezes, influence the wine equally with the wine making.
Just as the vines are pampered, the grapes are babied. They are handpicked according to ripeness and then gently pressed with the free run juice immediately cooled. The juice ferments into wine and is aged in a process that takes about 5 months. The wine is constantly monitored. This process all results in a fresh, floral bouquet and a taste of balance and freshness with a finish of bright acidity. .. Summer in a bottle.
Verdicchio is a native grape to Le Marche with documents noting its presence since the 14th century, although winemaking has been happening there for thousands of years. The Verdicchio dei Castelli die Jesi DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) mandates a minimum of 85 percent Verdicchio with Trebbiano and Malvasia permitted to fill in the remaining portions of wine. (In the 1980’s the production of Verdicchio exceeded that of better known varietals like Chardonnay, however today, the estimates are greatly reduced to about 10 percent of that level).
Like all the regions in Italy, the wine produced pairs impeccably with the regional fare and the whole reflects a rich history, tradition and land. From what I experienced, the Italians don’t seem to be interested in homogenizing food, and regional influences are deeply rooted. Granted, I did see that there were influences from the likes of outlet malls or even an IKEA store in the middle of no-where. But when it comes to food and wine, the rules are relatively strict. Drink and eat wines from the area. This tradition is easier to understand considering Italian history. The country wasn’t unified until the 1860’s. So for centuries, the Italian peninsula was divided into numerous city-states, each with its’ own language, culture and food. In addition, the rocky and hilly terrain must have been prohibitive for easy transit.
Thankfully, this is still the case. Just as one can experience the amazing architecture of the Romans and the Renaisance with a simple stroll through the streets of cities like Rome, we can also experience the rich history of the Italian cuisine.