a community of wine lovers


February 2012


Winter pruning
Though the sun is shining today, February is traditionally a bleak time of year in a vineyard. The vines, void of their foliage, stand bare in their rows, looking almost like grave markers in a cemetery. It's a dead time of year all around, no doubt about it. But there is work to be done, most notably the arduous task of winter pruning, the cutting back of dead wood in anticipation of new growth to come. This is a backbreaking, manual task that simply needs to be done, vine by vine. For Geoff, at his vineyards across various sites around Ebford, winter pruning involves cutting back one by one some 22,000 vines! Yet it is a task he enjoys all the same. Says Geoff, "I love the solitude of winter pruning, being outdoors in all weather, just me, my iPod, and my secateurs." Of course Pebblebed has always had a strong community ethos and Geoff invites any who are interested to experience life in a vineyard to come along and lend a hand. At the end of it all, on March 25th, those who have helped are invited to enjoy an end-of-pruning Pebblebed vineyard lunch of steaks cooked over a fire made from the discarded vineshoots. For further information, email geoff@pebblebed.co.uk


Vino Kitchen Italian Table - this Wednesday Feb 22
Our next Vino Kitchen Italian Table takes place this Wednesday February 22nd and we still have places available. We don't feel somehow that we are quite out of winter yet so this will be a meal of warming foods for winter. What's on the menu? As always, we'll decide closer to the day, depending on what is available at market as well as the weather prospects. It could be a first course of Tuscan ribollita, the classic, hearty vegetables, bread and olive oil 'soup' that is so thick and full of goodness that it is almost solid. Or perhaps an insalata invernale - a winter salad of bitter greens, roasted beetroot and juicy, sweet and sour 'blood' oranges from Sicily. For a main course, I'm leaning towards la casoeula, a mountain hot-pot from Lombardy, made with sparerib pork chops, sausages, savoy cabbage and (of course) polenta. But if it warms up, who knows, we might opt for something altogether lighter. We'll see. As always, we would be delighted if you would like to join us. To reserve your place email marc@vino.co.uk or call me on 01392 873778 as soon as possible.

The dates for Vino Kitchen Italian Table are:

Wed February 22nd

Wed March 21st

Wed April 18th

For more information about the Vino Kitchen, see www.vino.co.uk/vinokitchen.html

Mario Fontana's visit to Topsham and Exeter in January
Last month, I was invited by Andy McLarin to help devise a special Piedmont wine dinner in the MC Café Bar & Grill at ABode Exeter. These are always hugely enjoyable events of great food, great wines and friendship and conviviality so I had no hesitation in accepting Andy's offer. Together with Craig Dunn, the Executive Chef at the Michael Caines Restaurant, we devised a menu that paid homage to the foods of Le Langhe, the region from where Barolo wine comes from, and the 5-course meal was accompanied by the range of wines produced by Mario Fontana at Cascina Fontana, including Gavi, Dolcetto d'Alba, Barbera d'Alba, two vintages of Langhe Nebbiolo and Moscato 'Dorato'. When I told Mario about the evening, he said that he would like to come over to be with us. So on the morning of the event, he drove from his home near Alba to Milan, flew to Paris, and then caught another flight to Exeter. We just had time to drop in to Darts Farm where we saw Jim Dart and then had a quick pint of Otter Amber at Route 2 before going straight in to Exeter. It was a great evening, made particularly special with Mario there to explain something about not only his wines but his approach to life in general. For Mario, this very brief visit was important too for it brought back to him the long history of travelling over from Italy to Exeter and Topsham with his wines, first bringing them to Nello's more than 20 years ago. Here are Mario's thoughts and recollections on a splendid evening.


Vino recipe: Ricotta al forno

ricotta al forno
By popular demand, here's the recipe for the baked ricotta enjoyed at the January Vino Kitchen. It's a simple dish to prepare and makes a great starter. It's also perfect for a light lunch.

Serves 4

500g ricotta
2 eggs
60ml double cream
50g freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano
Handful of mixed fresh herbs (flat leaf parsley, basil, thyme, marjarom), finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Salad leaves dressed with vinaigrette

Mix the ricotta with the eggs, double cream, the finely chopped herbs and about half the grated parmigiano (we use an electric whisk for this but a hand whisk will work fine too). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon into a baking dish and top with the remaining grates parmigiano. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 175 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until the ricotta is set - it doesn't have to be too solid - in fact we like it a little wobbly.

Add some dressed salad leaves to a plate and top with a spoonful or slice of the baked ricotta.

Suggested wine: Cascina Fontana Gavi 2010

Best to all,

Marc and Kim




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