Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food, Tradition

Sagre, Mercati, Cibo e Vino in Veneto 

Mercatini di Natale, Verona
Veneto, also known as Venezia, is the beautiful region in northeast Italy,
bordering Austria & Slovania, and extending from the Dolomites to the Adriatic Sea.  The Veneto has 7 provinces: Belluno, Padua, Rovigo, Treviso, Venice,  Verona and Vicenza. Venice (Venezia), of course, is the regional capital city, which is also appropriately referred to as the "City of Water" or "Floating City," due to its islands and Grand Canal, and for being situated on the Venetian lagoon.  Venice, Verona, Vicenza and the Botanical Gardens in Padua are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  These are beautiful and outstanding places to see when visiting Veneto, but they are especially charming during the holiday season.
Celebrations, Feasts and Festivals
Mass at St. Marks Basilica, Venice-need we say more?  This is the grand Holiday Mass at the Duomo in Venice.
St. Marks Basilica, Venice (Duomo)
San Nicolo di Bari, (Babbo Natale, Santa Claus)
Festa di San Nicola di Bari takes place on Murano Island in Venice. This festival includes a procession on the water and celebrates San Nicola, known in Italy Babbo Natale, or as the original Santa Claus.  San Nicola di Bari is regarded as the patron saint to children, merchants, sailors and others, loved for his kindness and dedication and legendary gift-giving. La Chiesa San Nicolo al Lido is located in Venice and houses his remains.  San Nicola's final resting place was in Bari, Italy, where there are other celebrations.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception- Traditionally celebrated December 8th throughout Italy, with feasts, parades and music. It was officially declared a Feast Day by Pius IX in 1854.
Fiere di Santa Lucia – Traditionally celebrated December 13th throughout Italy with parades and other festivities.  The one in the Veneto takes place in Verona's Piazza Brà. St. Lucia or St. Lucy, is honored for ending the famine by arriving on a ship with grains. Therefore, grain dishes, such as Cuccia (soup), are traditionally eaten on this day.  Other traditions involve children leaving coffee for Santa Lucia, carrots for her donkey and wine for her escort.  Gifts are then left for the children by Santa Lucia the next morning. Hmm, sounds like Santa. 
Santa Lucia Markets & Festival, Piazza Brà

Natale in the Arena-Exhibits and global nativity scenes on display throughout the month in the Arena di Verona (Piazza Brà).
Arena di Verona
Murano Glass Christmas Tree-The tallest glass Christmas tree, found in Murano, which is known for the spectacular Murano glass. 
Murano Glass Christmas Tree

Murano Glass Decorations
Holiday Markets  

Asiago Christmas Market-The Asiago Christmas Garden celebrates just that-Asiago! There is cheese, toys, crafts, decorations, food and more, all sold in little wooden huts.

Cortina d’Ampezzo Christmas Market-Holiday market located on Via Corso, that has traditional crafts, exhibits, shops, mulled wines, roasted chestnuts, sweets, music and more.  Other things not to miss are Cortina Fashion Week, showcasing designer fashion in the exclusive shops and the Snowboardcross Europe Cup event in the surrounding Dolomites.
Cortina d'Ampezzo
Campo San Polo Christmas Markets-Markets selling wine and crafts, located in the heart of Venice, near the Rialto Bridge. Here you will also find the outdoor ice-skating rink for everyone, from the novice to the figure skater. 
Piazza Campo San Polo
Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt-Piazza dei Signori in Verona will feature beautiful German Christmas markets with food, crafts, decorations, gingerbread cookies, pastries, bratwurst, and other typical Bavarian-German fare. More markets are nearby Cortile Mercato Vecchio and Piazza del Tribunale, which have all types of traditional Venetian food, wine and gifts.
Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt
Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas Markets)
Bassano Grappa
Bassano del Grappa Market-Bassano del Grappa is on the foothills of Mount Grappa in Vicenza.  It is not only the home of Grappa, but also home to the Epiphany festival and markets.  Epiphany is a national holiday celebrated in Italy on January 6, based on the story of the three Magi who came to visit Jesus and offer up gifts. From that, La Befana was born, in which a woman flies in on a broomstick and brings gifts to children.  Both La Befana and San Nicola are honored in Italy.  In Bassano, the markets have chocolate, toys, food, crafts and everything that delights, including a carousel, skating rink and Lilliputian Train to transport everyone around.

Bassano del Grappa
 *Others holiday markets of note include the ones in Bussolengo (Flover), Belluno and Treviso.

Venetian Holiday Gastronomy

Although there may be some variation due to the varied geography of the Veneto (coast, mountains and plains), Venetian cuisine is characterized by polenta, risotto, grilled chicken, pork or beef, and of course, seafood, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. The holidays are no different, especially the winter holidays, which usually involve fish-based dishes, whether stewed, baked, grilled or fried.  Typical dishes are Risotto de Pevarasse (Venetian clams risotto) Branzino al forno (oven baked Branzino), Baccala’ Mantecata (salted codfish), Linguine alle Vongole (linguine and clams) or seafood and pasta. Antipasto is prepared with local meats and cheeses, but for the holidays, ossocollo (venetian sausage, made from the pigs neck) is often included. Typical desserts include tiramisu, panettone, pandoro and Mostarda con mascarpone. 

There are several great wines produced in the Veneto region, which is part of the Tre Venezie (Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Alto Adige and Trentino and Veneto). In terms of Venetian vino, the most notorious might be Amarone della Valpolicella, Valdobbiadene and Cornegliano Prosecco, Soave and Bardolino Superiore.  However, there are 13 DOCG's, 26 DOC's and several IGT wines in the Veneto.

The Wining Hour's Venetian Holiday Selections:

We have several favorite wines in this region, but we decided to narrow it down for a feasible holiday celebration.

1. Nino Franco Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Rustico DOCG 
Nino Franco is one of the oldest wineries in the Valdobbiadene wine region. Rustico Prosecco Superiore is absolutely refreshing, creamy and delicious.  Lemon, apple, pair and white flowers on the nose, green apple and minerals on the palate. Very flavorful. 100% Glera grapes. Because we do enjoy Italian bubbly, we figured we'd pop another:

Altadonna Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG
Fresh, young and vibrant. Altadonna is extra dry with lemon and white peach on the nose and melon, peach and apple on the palate. This sparkling wine wakes up the palate with complex mineral notes. Smooth and refreshing. 100% Glera grapes.

Both proseccos would be delicious as an aperitivo, alone or paired with antipasto, mature and hard cheeses, fish, seafood and chicken.

2.  Borgo San Lorenzo Soave Classico 2012 DOC
Soave is one of Italy's best known whites, and this one presents a good example.  Borgo San Lorenzo Soave Classico is clear to bright yellow in appearance.  It has lime, grapefruit and floral aromas aromas with zesty citrus, pear and melon on the palate. This Soave has a distinct minerality, which is no doubt due to its tuffaceous soil.  Borgo San Lorenzo blends Garganega and Trebbiano for this fruity and delicious Soave.  Soave pairs nicely with seafood, chicken, duck or pork.  We would pair it with an olive oil and herb roasted branzino or our favorite, linguine and clams.

3. We must preface #3 by mentioning how much we love Amarone.  However, Amarone can be expensive.  Here are two reasonable options:

Cantina Negrar Amarone della Valpolicella Classico la Tirela, 2012 DOCG
Made with Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes, Cantina Negrar's Amarone is a dark berry red in color, with intense red fruit aromas and notes of figs and coffee. Delicious tastes of cherry, cigar, black currant and chocolate caress the palate.  This Amarone is a heavy-hitter wine, concentrated, smooth and powerful. 15% ABV. Ready for another?

Antiche Terre Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
Antiche is another tasty Amarone. Made with Corvina Veronese and Corvinone Rondinella grapes, this Antiche is a full-bodied Amarone that tastes of plum, cherry and raspberries. 15% ABV.  Pairing options for Amarone are seafood or pastas in red sauces, grilled meats and hard cheeses.  Note that Valpolicella Ripsasso is yet another tasty option if you enjoy this wine.

4. A Venetian Grappa, such as the one listed above from Bassano.  No Italian meal is complete without grappa!

There you have it-traditions and simple wine and food pairings for a Venetian Holiday!

From a variety of holiday markets, nativity exhibits, concerts, shows, food and wine, the infamous Mass at St. Marks Basilica and more, the Veneto region is the place to be during the winter holiday season.  As a bonus, there are far less crowds in Veneto than in several other regions.

Have you experienced Venezia during the holidays?  Have you visited any other Italian regions during the Holiday season?   

Well, there are more Christmas and Italian holiday treasures to be discovered.  Join my fellow bloggers below and if you catch us in time, chat with us live on Twitter this Saturday December 3rd at 11am EST #ItalianFWT.

Vino Travels -Christmas in Molise

Feast on History – Feast of the Seven Fishes in Italy: Myth or Tradition?

Culinary Adventures of Camilla – Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti

Avvinare – A Florentine Christmas

L'Occasion - 5 Italian Christmas Dishes and Wine Pairings

The Wining Hour - A Venetian Holiday: Wine, Food,Tradition

The Wine Predator - Italian Holiday Traditions Adapted to California Conditions: 3 dishes with wine

Next month Susannah from Avvinare will host coastal reds and whites along with foods and travel to coastal regions on January 7th. 

About The Wining Hour
The Wining Hour writes about wine, Italy and global travel.  The Wining Hour boutique caters to wine-lovers across the globe by offering all wine-related items.  The Wining Hour markets unique wine décor and furnishings, accessories, glassware, barware, wine racks, storage and cooling options, games, gifts and more. The Wining Hour also hosts #wininghourchat on Twitter (@wininghourchat) on Tuesday's at 9 p.m. EST.(For more, see links at the top of this page)

For more information, please visit­­­

Get Social with The Wining Hour:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Highlighting Harvest Ridge Winery

Harvest Ridge: Wines & History on the Northeast

Photo c/o Harvest Ridge Winery
Unbeknownst to many, there are several wine regions in Northeastern U.S., including Long Island Wine Country, New York State Finger Lakes, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland that produce excellent wines.  Living on the Northeast, I always have a vested interest in learning more about such regions.  Therefore, it was delightful to learn more about Harvest Ridge Winery, in the Atlantic Wine region.
Photo from Harvest Ridge Winery
Harvest Ridge Winery is a family-run winery located in Delaware, in an ideal wine-growing region. The climate and soil of Delaware and the surrounding regions have been likened to that of Bordeaux. According to Harvest Ridge, "Our location here in Marydel provides us with advantageous growing conditions due to the fact that our vineyard is midway between the Atlantic Ocean to the East and the Chesapeake Bay to the west. The shallow warmer waters of the Chesapeake offer our grapes a longer warmer growing season which is ideal for red varietals such as Malbec.  The Atlantic cools our vineyards at night and keeps humidity low, which helps to prevent mold that might be negatively affect the grapes." Location, location, location!  Wait, there's more...

The winery's property encompasses the border of both Delaware and Maryland, hence, Marydel.  In fact, it is located on the historic Mason-Dixon Line.
Photo from World Atlas
Originally, the Mason–Dixon Line was a demarcation line between Pennsylvania and Maryland.  It also included the western border of Delaware, which was initially a colony of Pennsylvania.  The Mason-Dixon Line also functioned as a symbolic divider between the Northern and Southern states, or slave and non-slave states during the American Civil War. Harvest Ridge Winery, then, is in quite a historic location!  In fact, one of the original witness stones and crown markers (#47), is still on the property.

Stone #47
(Photo from Harvest Ridge Winery)
Due to it's historical significance, the number “47” from the original witness stone is a prominent feature on the Harvest Ridge Wine labels. Moreover, as Harvest Ridge is family owned and operated, the theme of “family” is also made manifest in their logo.  The logo depicts the Harvest Ridge tree, which represents the family roots, ties, or interconnectivity of the Nunan family.
Harvest Ridge Winery Logo
Harvest Ridge Winery was founded by Chuck Nunan in 2005, although he had been making wine since 1995.  The first vines, which were, Chardonnay, Viognier, Malbec, and Merlot, were planted in 2011 and they have continued to be a staple in the Vintage Atlantic Wine Region.

The Wining Hour's Harvest Ridge Tasting:

This enables  So the lower humidity levels help to keep our vineyard healthy and cooler nights also help to preserve the aromatic esters in our grapes ultimately resulting in much more fragrant wines."

2014 Harvest Ridge Winery Sparkling Vidal Blanc
Vidal blanc is a hybrid grape developed by Jean Louis Vidal.  As it is a very winter-hardy grape, it is used mostly in the U.S. for both dry and sweet wines and in Canada and Sweden to make ice wine. Harvest Ridge Winery's Sparkling Vidal Blanc is a bubbly, off-dry dessert wine with a nose of citrus fruits and pineapple, peach and green apple on the palate. This wine is refreshing and acidic with 12.2% ABV.

2014 Harvest Ridge Winery Pinot Gris
Pino Gris, which gets its name from its grayish-purple grapes, produces more neutral flavor profiles. This one, by Harvest Ridge Winery, spiced it up a bit.  This is another off-dry wine, but with vibrant fruitiness.  It has floral aromas of apple blossom and honeysuckle and a palate of Asian pair and nectarine.  The minerality, characteristic of this varietal is evident, as there are undertones of graphite. Harvest Ridge Pinot Gris is medium-bodied with 12.6% ABV.

2014 Harvest Ridge Winery Chambourcin
It was both interesting and exciting to taste this wine, as this varietal was a first for us.  Chambourcin is another hybrid grape, French and American, developed by Joannes Seibel (Seyve) in the Loire Valley. Chambourcin is a very productive grape and known for its resistance to fungal disease, which is why it is often found in North America, Canada and Australia.  Harvest Ridge Winery's Chambourcin is very aromatic, with cherry, raspberry, cedar and leather.  Big, dark red and black jammy fruit on the palate, along with violet, cedar and tobacco leaf. This Chambourcin is aged 16 months in New American Oak barrels and has 12.8% ABV.  This wine is structured, with low acidity, soft tannins and a lingering finish. Harvest Ridge says their Chambourcin is a "medium bodied, lightly oaked, dry red wine made in a Chianti style." Others regard Chambourcin as a popular alternative to Bordeaux.  Either way, you can't go wrong. As it will pair well with many things, pairing with chocolate would be a good move.  

2014 Harvest Ridge Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
Ahh, who doesn't love a Cabernet Sauvignon? This Harvest Ridge Cab is rich and bold with a nose of blackberry, smoky black current, and baking spices.  The palate is lush with black currants, figs, prunes and chocolate. Full-bodied, 13.4% ABV with firm tannins and smooth finish.

If you find yourself in the Northeast, near Maryland or Delaware, be sure to check out Harvest Ridge Winery to taste their wines and explore this historic location.

What are your favorite wineries or winemakers in the Northeast?

Read about Rosé in another Northeastern wine region: 7 Rosés from Long Island Wine Country.

About The Wining Hour
The Wining Hour writes about wine, Italy and global travel.  The Wining Hour boutique caters to wine-lovers across the globe by offering all wine-related items.  The Wining Hour markets unique wine décor and furnishings, accessories, glassware, barware, wine racks, storage and cooling options, games, gifts and more. The Wining Hour also hosts #wininghourchat on Twitter (@wininghourchat) on Tuesday's at 9 p.m. EST.(For more, see links at the top of this page)

For more information, please visit­­­

Get Social with The Wining Hour:

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Picturesque Pienza: The Ideal Renaissance Town #Travel

An Italian Pearl: Pienza

Pienza, the picturesque Italian town, originally known as the village of Corsignano, is in Val d'Orcia, between Montepulciano and Montelcino, close to and south of Siena.  Pienza is the birthplace and home of Enea Silvio Piccolomini,  a Renaissance Humanist who later became Pope Pius II in 1458. The Renaissance, known as the period (14th-17th Century) in which Europe experienced a great cultural rebirth, which manifested itself in the marvelous art, architecture, sculptures and literature of the period. Humanism, or human perspective, was the philosophy that permeated the art world at that time.  In 1949, Pope Pius II used his money, power and influence to commission the rebuilding and renaming of his birthplace, Corsignano, into the ideal Renaissance town, which we know today as Pienza.  Pienza is exactly that, an outstanding manifestation of all things Renaissance, in terms of its astonishing art and architecture.  In fact, the Historic city center and the whole town of Pienza itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you truly want to explore art and history when visiting the Tuscan region, without the crowds, do not miss the quaint, picturesque, Renaissance town of Pienza. Here are some things to see, do and taste in Pienza:

TO SEE in Pienza:
As Piccolomini, or later, Pope Pius II, transformed Pienza into his ideal Renaissance town, he ordered the building of many palazzi  to beautify the city.  He hired the famous architect and sculptor, Bernardo "il Rossellino," to design the city under the guidance of another quintessential Renaissance Man, Leon Battista Alberti.  You must see what they produced:

Palazzo Piccolomini-this self-titled palazzo was the home of Silvio Piccolomini.  It has magnificent and most impressive loggias on all three floors to ponder over the breathtaking gardens and panoramas of the Val d'Orcia Valley. Of note, too, is that scenes from Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, were filmed at Palazzo Piccolomini.

Palazzo Piccolomini
Palazzo Communale-the town square or city hall
Palazzo Communale

Palazzo Borgia-also known as museo Diocesano, a beautiful museum.
Palazzo Borgia

Cattedrale dell'Assunta-the duomo, or church of Pienza, also known as Domus Vitrea, or house of glass due to its beautiful stained glass windows. Examine the beautiful artwork and paintings and admire the octagonal bell tower.
Duomo, Cattedrale dell'Assunta

Other palazzi of note are Palazzo degli Ammannati, Palazzo Tommaso Piccolomini, Palazzo Salomone Piccolomini, Palazzo del Tesoriere and Palazzo Lolli.

All of these fabulous palazzi are centrally located in Piazza Pio II.
Piazza Pio II

Pieve di Corsignano-the Romanesque Church that was around when Pienza was Corsignano.
Image result for Pieve di Corsignano pienza pinterest
Pieve di Corsignano

TO DO in Pienza:
Throughout the year, Pienza has several festivals to celebrate art, music and more!

Fiera del Cacio-Cheese festival.  Pienza is known not only for being a true Renaissance town, but the city is also known for its delicous cheeses (cacio). The city celebrates its cheese with tastings and events all week and culminates with Fiera del Cacio, which involves a historical parade and show with flag throwers and drummers.  The winning cheese producer for each category is announced and then the Palio del Cacio al Fuso (a game involving a cheese race) is played.

Watch this brief video of the Palio/Fiera del Cacio: 

Via dell'Amore-When in Pienza, you must walk on the road of love, you just have to.  Also admire the art and architecture and quaint shops.

Visit  Neighboring Towns- Montepulciano, Montelcino and Siena are all nearby, you can't be that close and not visit those historic towns and villages as well.

TO TASTE in Pienza:
As noted, Pienza is famous for its cheese, as it is also called La Citta del Cacio, or city of cheese. The town is recognized for the local product made in the area, the flavorful  Pecorino di Pienza DOP, which is also referred to as cacio. In Italy, they tend to refer to cheese as cacio in the south, formaggio in the north.  Therefore, you must taste some cacio while in Pienza.

Cacio e Pepe-The classic dish of cheese and pepper, often made with homemade pici, or pasta.

Other things to taste in Pienza include other local cheeses and honey, fondue with mixed sheeps cheeses, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Pollo al Mattone, Bruschetta della sciorna and Biscotti di Prato. As Pienza is in Tuscany, you will find the typical Tuscan gastronomy of olive oil, cured meats and truffles, ribollita (soup), lamb and wild boar.  

Wine-Pienza is not a huge wine producing town per se, but you may find local restaurants and shops that have homemade wine and small local production wines.  However, Pienza doesn't have to make wine--they have neighbors who produce Vino Nobile di Montepuciano, Morellino di Scansano, Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montelcino. When in Pienza, there is an abundance of excellent wine at your fingertips.

The Wining Hour in Pienza

So, of course we sip the good stuff.  We always enjoy delicious Brunello di Montelcino.

Tenuta Lamiata 2009 Brunello di Montelcino is a favorite. With its dark purple appearance and aromas of black cherry, tobacco, earth, cassis and spice, this wine does not disappoint. The palate explodes with succulent blackberry and boysenberry, awesome freshness and fine tannins. It scored 90 points from James Suckling, who calls it. “A delicate, delicious Brunello with plum, cocoa and hints of hazelnut character. Medium to full body with a delicate finish. Outstanding energy at the end. Drink or hold.” Our thoughts exactly.

When in La Bella Italia, specifically Tuscana, be sure to see this picturesque pearl-Pienza.  For more of Italy's lesser known pearls...

Check out these other unique towns of Italy from my fellow bloggers.  If you catch this in time you can join us on a live chat Saturday November 5th at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there!
Lugana: Italy's (Mostly) Hidden Gem by Martin Redmond, ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
Going Home to Capaccio-Paestum (see below) by Danielle Oteri, Feast On History
A Weekend Guide To Visiting Camogli by Valerie Quintanilla, Girl's Gotta Drink
Norcia: Gastronomic Delights and Tragic Earthquake by Chandi Wyant, Paradise of Exiles
Positively Piceno by Mike Madaio, Undiscovered Italy
Wines on the Island of Sardinia with Vigne Surrau by Jennifer Genitle Martin, Vino Travels
Picturesque Pienza: The Ideal Renaissance Town by Li Valentine, The Wining Hour
(alphabetical by blog name)

Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #ItalianFWT

About The Wining Hour
The Wining Hour writes about wine, Italy and global travel.  The Wining Hour boutique caters to wine-lovers across the globe by offering all wine-related items.  The Wining Hour markets unique wine décor and furnishings, accessories, glassware, barware, wine racks, storage and cooling options, games, gifts and more. The Wining Hour also hosts #wininghourchat on Twitter (@wininghourchat) on Tuesday's at 9 p.m. EST.(For more, see links at the top of this page)

For more information, please visit­­­

Follow The Wining Hour: