Two-Cheese Pasta … with Chianti Classico

Pairing:  Two-Cheese Pasta Paired With 2010 Il Grigio da San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Food:  This dish’s full name is Penne with Tomatoes, Olives and Two Cheeses and first appeared in Bon Appetit magazine back in the late 70’s. It has been a favorite of ours for many, many years. The spiciness of the red hot pepper flakes, the saltiness of the brine-cured olives, and the creamy, out-of-the-ordinary flavor of the Havarti cheese all add up to a tasty and unique pasta-eating experience. And those flavors combine exceptionally well with the more traditional pasta ingredients of basil, garlic and parmesan cheese.

Three Cheese Pasta with Chianti Classico

Wine:  Chianti Classico is the longest established viticultural region in Chianti and part of the larger wine region called Tuscany.  The vineyards of Chianti Classico cover almost all of the land between the cities of Florence and Siena. And Sangiovese is the star of these vineyards. It is an iconic landscape recognizable to most anyone even with little more than a passing knowledge of Italy.  This area is the quintessential Italy. This San Felice blend is 80% Sangiovese and 20% other native grapes.

Il Grigio Chianti

Tasting Notes:  A dark, ruby red color. On the nose one gets a fragrant assortment of spices … mace, nutmeg and vanilla. A rich, diverse palette of flavors including sweet earth, chocolate and several layers of fruits … plum, black raspberry, and fig all wrapped in exquisite vanilla. And a warm, lingering finish of chocolate fig … is there such a flavor? Luscious … this is one of the finest Chianti Classicos we have ever tasted! The wine complements the two cheeses, and the olives bring out the sweet earth notes of the wine.

Other Foods That Pair Well with Chianti Classico:  Bolognese (Pasta with Meat Sauce), Pizza, Grilled Lamb or Steak, Lasagna

Other Wines That Pair Well with Two-Cheese Pasta:  Barbera, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Rioja

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Tuscan Roast Chicken paired with a Super (Duper!) Tuscan Red Wine

Pairing:  Tuscan Roast Chicken with 2008 Arcanum Valadorna Toscana

Food:  Most of the time, we plan out what we want to eat over the course of a week, then decide which wine in our inventory would make for a good pairing. Occasionally, however, we start with a wine that we have been looking forward to drinking and construct a dinner that we think will showcase the wine particularly well. The Arcanum Valadorna has been sleeping quietly in our cellar for a few years. It seemed that now might be a good time to enjoy it. Knowing that the wine is from Tuscany, we looked for flavors that help define that local cuisine. Chicken is a good canvas to work with, especially a home-grown hen.  Rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and lemon all are staple ingredients in a Tuscan kitchen. So we made a paste using a generous amount of chopped fresh rosemary (about 3T), garlic (4 cloves), olive oil, salt and pepper. Tucked some of the paste under the skin of the breast and thighs, and rubbed the rest all over the outside of the chicken and sprinkled it with some additional salt and pepper. We then stuffed the cavity with four sprigs of fresh rosemary and a quartered lemon (squeeze each quarter a little bit before putting each in). Roast at 425F for an hour (check after 45 minutes and bast with some of the juices). Let stand for about 15 minutes while you make a simple sauce with the pan juices, a bit of wine, and a little butter. Mind-blowing how good the chicken is prepared this way!


Wine:  Speaking of mind-blowing, we now come to the Arcanum Valadorna.  It could be said that this wine defines a Super Tuscan, or at the very least is a wonderful exemplar. 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, both key components of French Bordeaux, which the Italians are showcasing in a Super Tuscan. Some Tuscan winemakers would say that they are showing up the French by beating them at their own game (but I’m not going to go there!). Arcanum’s vineyards are located in the southeast corner of the Chianti Classico wine region, bordering the ancient town of San Gusmé not far from the city of Siena. The Arcanum website linked below showcases the stunning estate, vineyards, wines, and region.


Tasting:  Wow … where to begin. First note that this wine benefits from decanting about 1.5 hours before the meal. Medium to dark ruby in color. One gets leather, black currant, chocolate and coffee on the nose. The palate presents flavors of sweet red cherries, red currants, rich earth, and spices. The extraordinary depth and layers of flavors are what stand out in this wine. One can almost sense the rosemary from the chicken on the finish. Anyone who has been to Tuscany surely catches the overwhelming smell of rosemary in the air. Hedges of this herb are everywhere … an important part of the terroir. This is a very special wine … perhaps to be served on a very special occasion. One of the best wines we have tasted.

Other Foods That Pair Well with This Wine: Grilled Meats (especially Steak), Roast Lamb, Roast Pork, Pasta with Meat Sauce

Other Wines That Pair Well with This Food: Chianti Classico, Brunello, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Red Bordeaux (especially Saint-Émillion)

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