Wine is one of my favourite things… ever. It’s quite possible I love it too much. Since my parents moved to Niagara a few years ago we make it a habit to drop in at one or two wineries en route to check out what is new and ask lots of questions.
In these last years I have learned so much more from the wine makers themselves than the past 15 years working in restaurants doing pairing seminars. Our LCBO here in Ontario stocks some great wines, but there are a vast many superior, unique wineries and small batch vineyards (as well as microbreweries for beer but that’s a whole other kettle of fish), that it really pays off to visit them directly. Most of our favourite places were found completely by accident… like Cornerstone Winery in Jordan Valley. We just happened off the highway to avoid holiday traffic (and let Emmett out so he didn’t barf – he was majorly carsick in his first puppy months), and stumbled into the dearest little family run place where the family patriarch – with great insight and passion – walked us through everything on their tasting list.
It’s these off the beaten track places that offer the greatest surprises. On our first trip to Niagara on the Lake Johnny and I took some bicycles out for what turned into an epic ride. It may have had something to do with the giant ice wine slushies from The Ice House we started our day off with – at 11 am – or it may have been that we basically rode until we almost passed out (not because of over consumption, although we did consume along the way). We went to every winery we passed, some tiny independent places, some huge corporate establishments. It was how our trip ended that may have changed our view on wine forever.
Just before 6pm when most places are winding down, we rolled up a huge gravel driveway leading to an immense Italian-esque manor that transported us to a very surreal place. This was our first glimpse of Colaneri and it has never disappointed in the 4 years we have been visiting since.
Disclaimer: The following gushing words about Colaneri, Michael and Pam at the tasting bar, and the wines themselves are purely motivated by our love for them, I have not been compensated. We have been buying wine from them since that first day, sometimes spending more than we can afford, but it is worth it for something truly special.
I always send people to Colaneri when they say they find it too intimidating or daunting to walk into a tasting room. That first visit anywhere can make you feel ignorant or out of sorts and if you happen into a place with less than interested staff it can wreck your experience for a good while. We have found some great people in Niagara, passionate and very willing to share what they know, but every visit to Colaneri is consistently welcoming and utterly informative. First off we met Michael. He offers up information on their Appassimento and Ripasso styles, he thoroughly describes aromas, mouth feel, food pairings, even where and how he likes to sip it – on the deck under the stars, in front of the fireplace, with a special meaty dinner. Every visit is a treat.
The best wine I have ever tasted – EVER – is their 2009 Syrah. Johnny and I both were so taken aback that wine could be so unique and surprising. It is pretty hilarious to watch the astonishment spread across each other’s faces when tasting and smelling new vintages. Unfortunately that vintage is now gone (single tear), but we have found an equal love for their new Merlot. Like their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc that we had to say good bye to, there never fails to be another darling waiting in their cellars.
I guess this very biased tangent springs from my excitement of choice patio weather approaching. Sitting outside under the stars, staying up late playing board games, listening to records and chatting, or just being. Their wines always make an appearance at our special occasions – like the Amarone we had on NYE – or any night that we make special. Maybe it is because this new pasta I made seems to make Johnny so happy (and it was so easy), or maybe I’m just feeling a little sentimental. All I can say is salute Colaneri – me mouthy likey!
CALABRESE PASTA WITH ARUGULA, FOR JOHNNY
I may not always be able to express my excitement and pride for those I love – cooking is the way I attempt to do that. Johnny is a genius musician and creates such unique and beautiful music, I wanted to try and make something just for him. I took his favourite flavours – ingredients he frequently enjoys on pizza – and tried to balance them into a classy-ish dinner party worthy pasta. There are a lot of bold things going on here, so the lemon is very important to lift the dish. If your lemon is small or doesn’t give off much juice, maybe have another one handy in case you need a little extra zing.
125g Calabrese salami, sliced into 2″ strips
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 head of garlic, divided into cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 cups roasted red peppers, sliced – or a 370ml jar, drained
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
2 cups arugula, firmly packed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 tbsp pesto sauce
1 tsp anchovy paste
500 grams pasta, either spaghetti or linguine
grated parmesan cheese for serving
Fill a large pot with cold water and salt to cook your pasta and place over high heat to boil.
Place a large pan over low heat and add 2 tbsp oil. Once heated, add your garlic and cook very low and slow for about 5 mins. It is very important to keep an eye out, burnt garlic is terrible and bitter. If you do burn the garlic, get rid of it and start over with a clean pan, it will ruin your whole dish otherwise. You aren’t looking to brown the garlic, just get it soft and sweet. It won’t take much more than 5 mins, remove the garlic from the pan and wipe clean if there are black bits.
Put your pan back on the burner and heat to medium/medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp oil and add your salami. Make sure when you slice it you also separate the pieces so it will all crisp up rather than just heat through. Fry for about 5-7 mins. * Be warned that this will smoke rather aggressively. I love the spiciness of the Calabrese style salami, but consequently it gives off a lot of smoke and will get into your lungs… it’s worth it though. When it gets nice and crisp turn off the heat and remove the pan.
In a large bowl combine the peppers, arugula, parsley, pesto and the zest of the lemon.
When the water has boiled, cook your pasta according to the package instructions to al dente. When it is cooked to your liking, use tongs or a spaghetti server and scoop the noodles into the bowl. Let some of the pasta water tag along for the pasta to soak up and loosen everything to combine. Toss it all together adding the garlic and juice of the lemon. At the very end add your salami. make sure you wait to do this until just before serving so it remains nice and crisp. Finish with a little drizzle more of olive oil and grate over some cheese at the table.