Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trust This Tip!

Looking for the best coffee in NYC, the freshest fish in New Orleans, a great little hotel in Paris or simply a romantic spot to watch the sunset in Florence? A new edition to swirl and savor, T3 offers a travel, food or wine related tip that you need to know about! Discovered during our adventures and travels, these are not paid endorsements but simply tried and true tips for inquisitive minds.

This Weeks Tip!
La Florida, The Best Pizza Ever (so far)– The sunken ruins of Largo Argentina in Rome, where Julius Caesar met his assassins and numerous stray cats have now found sanctuary, is right next door to the best pizza we've ever had. We stumbled upon La Florida (flor-EE-da) one afternoon while spending the day eating nothing but fabulous street food in this most amazing city. It offers one of the best deals you may find on pizza, with a large variety with loads of local ingredients that always seems to be fresh out of the oven. It’s a perfect place for a quick, inexpensive lunch, and don't forget to check out the ruins and visit the cats (Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary) while you are there.

La Florida
Open 6 days a week, closed Sundays; 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Via Florida 25 in Largo Argentina
Phone: (+39) 0682004382

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Wine of the Moment, Champagne Drappier Carte D'Or

Isolated a couple of hours’ drive south-east of Epernay, the Aube vineyards of the Côte des Bar seem like a different wine region. But this is still Champagne, even though the region is closer to Burgundy than Reims, and it produces some intensely flavored Pinot Noirs which provide a different flavor profile to that of its northern cousins. The more powerful pinot noir grape from the Aube results in a fuller bodied and more assertive complex style with a very fresh and dry finish. The great houses to the north are well aware of the quality of their neighbor's wines: a big house like Veuve Clicquot will have up to 20% Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bar in their Yellow Label blend and the legendary Krug also buys grapes here.

Wine has been produced from the soils surrounding Champagne Drappier for some two thousand years. The present custodian of the business and the home is Michel Drappier with his father and mother still on hand to help (and children waiting in the wings to carry on the tradition), but the Drappier family history goes back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. Remy Drappier, a merchant draper (hence the name) from Reims and his son, Nicolas (1669-1724) were suppliers of wine to Louis XIV. It was in 1808 that Louis Drappier moved to Urville and began to develop the business that is still thriving today. The family's heritage is linked with stories of Cistercian monks and their leader, St-Bernard of nearby Clairvaux Abbey, one of the most influential religious figures of medieval France. However,wine production actually began during the First century AD, when the Gallo-Romans first planted vines on the site.

The Champagne Drappier Cart d'Or-Brut is predominantly Pinot Noir, with just a little Chardonnay added to provide that buttery smooth palate. It is fresh but mature, has complex flavors and full rich fruit. This has only 7 per cent white grapes, making it almost a blanc de noirs. It has a strong, savory, bready, developed bouquet showing lots of yeasty notes. The rich, smooth, very appealing flavor has a streak of lemony acidity running through it and a clean and dry finish.

Always searching for bargains, and they are few and far between when it comes to Champagne, I saw this wine on one of our distributors close out lists. I bought what was left, but at this price, there wasn't a lot...so supplies are limited, but you can buy this great little bubbly for $25. Seriously, this is a ridiculous price for the quality of this Champagne and you should not waste time in calling me or stopping by if you want some. We bought a case for our personal consumption and the other 2 are up for grabs! A great way to bring 2010 with a recession buster Champagne!

Wine Spectator: Elegant style, displaying floral, mineral and citrus aromas and flavors matched to a creamy texture. Well-balanced, classy, firm and long. Ideal as an aperitif, but could match light dishes as well. Drink now through 2012. 90 pts.

$25, just silly....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Missy's Pumpkin Roll

Dessert at my parent's house on Christmas day always presents a dilemma as we have to chose between my mother's fresh pumpkin and apple pies as well as my sister-in-law's homemade pumpkin rolls. But since we are all such good dessert-loving-sugar-addicts, everyone take a small piece of all three ("small" being defined very differently between the males and females of the family), topping off the pies with a little whipped cream or ice cream. I always save roll for last, the moist pumpkin spiced cake with its silky cream filling melt in your mouth and make it the perfect end to the perfect meal! Thanks Missy for sharing your recipe!

-3 eggs
-1 cup sugar
-2/3 cup pumpkin
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
*you will also need a clean dish towel sprinkled with powdered sugar to keep from sticking)

Cream Cheese
-1 cup powdered sugar
-1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
-2 tablespoons butter
-3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
-Powdered sugar for topping (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, sugar and pumpkin.
2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.
3. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well blended.
4. Line a 10 1/2" by 15" jelly roll or cookie sheet with wax paper that extends over the lip of the pan. Pour the batter onto the cookie sheet, spreading evenly.
5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Prepare a clean kitchen towel by sprinkling heavily with powdered sugar.
7. After baking, turn the cookie sheet onto the towel, the cake should slide out onto the towel. Keeping the wax paper, start at one end and roll up the cake up lengthwise into the towel. Cool 30-40 minutes.
8. While the cake is cooling, make the filling, by stirring together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and butter. Mix well.
9. After the roll has cooled, unroll it, removed wax paper and spread the filling evenly over the cake. Roll back up without the towel. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until filling is firm.
10. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cultivating Gratitude

I awoke early in my parent's home in chilly Pennsylvania this morning, made a cup of coffee and huddled back under the covers to write in my journal on this merriest of days. As one tends to do on days such as this, I began to think about all of the treasured gifts life has given me.

I am so thankful and fortunate to have the gifts of -
+ a wonderful family and circle of friends who truly care about me
+ a loving partner to share my life
+ work that makes me smile
+ a safe and happy home to lie my head at night
+ loving animals that make me laugh and warm my heart daily
+ physical and emotional health and well being
+ an inquisitive mind always seeking, always open

My message to myself this Christmas day is to let go of fear and seek to be the best person you can be, today and everyday. Cultivate gratitude and be thankful for all of the wonderful gifts life has given you.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Club Swirl December Selections

Part wine club, part discount program, "club swirl" offers a great way to try new and exciting wines from around the world. Benefits include our 2 wines of the month, discounts on all wine purchases and tastings, invitations to special members only tastings, advance email notices on special wines brought into the store and more for only $39.99/month! Memberships applications are available, call 504.304.0635 for more details.

December Selections:
Laetitia Brut Cuvee

Situated in southern San Luis Obispo County, Arroyo Grande Valley weather is typically known for cool spring days, followed by a handful of warm days, all leading up to a late April bud break. Mild summers feature many days of light fog resulting in low yields, concentrated fruit and excellent acidity.

A beautiful panoramic view of Pismo Beach and Avila Bay on California’s Central Coast can be seen from Laetitia’s Estate Vineyards. Only four miles from the ocean, their hillsides receive a thin band of fog in the morning, intense sunshine during the day and coolness in the evening. This microclimate, coupled with extended growing seasons, high acidity and low pH, produces grapes with intense flavor and complexity. The well-drained soils yield small crops of great depth and varietal character.

The Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc grapes were hand harvested, whole cluster pressed and tank fermented using champagne yeast. The wine is encouraged to undergo malolactic fermentation and then bottled in the springtime, implementing true Méthode Champenoise tradition. They target 24 months en tirage for the Brut Cuvée program. From bottling, to aging, riddling, disgorging and labeling, the sparkling wines are carefully moved, by hand, many times before they are ready to be released.

A classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, each varietal contributes its own special character to the finished cuvée. The result is a wine that is perfectly celebratory, crisp and suggestive, as only a sparkling wine can be. Warm biscuit dough, ripe apricots and summer cherries all show themselves in this irresistible sparkling wine.


Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir

Situated in southern San Luis Obispo County, Arroyo Grande Valley weather is typically known for cool spring days, followed by a handful of warm days, all leading up to a late April bud break. Mild summers feature many days of light fog resulting in low yields, concentrated fruit and excellent acidity.

Planted on cool benchlands overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Laetitia’s vineyard has low-yielding, rocky volcanic and limestone soils that produce incredible, concentrated fruit. Planted with a wide selection of Pinot clones, this Estate bottling is a fantastic example of the quality this vineyard produces.

2007 Estate Pinot Noir has slightly higher acidity. In a true test of the vintage’s merit, this wine did not require fining. Estate Pinot was aged for 11 months in an exclusive selection of French barriques, a combination of Francois Freres and Rousseau; with 30% being new oak.

Bright fruit aromas offer a perfumed nose of wild raspberry, maraschino cherries, rhubarb and rose petals that yield to a dark & mysterious palate with
framboise, brown sugar, dark chocolate, vanilla smoke and toasted meringue.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chicken Soup to Soothe the Soul

Kerry woke up this morning with the cold that is being passed between our group of friends, so I decided to make her a little chicken soup soothe her head and her soul. The food situation at home gets a little dismal during the holiday since we basically live at the shop for the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years. After a quick trip to Rouses for organic carrots and celery and some Sanderson natural chicken legs, raiding the pantry, herb garden and frig, I scrounged up enough ingredients to make a pretty delicious soup!


* 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 2 medium onions, chopped
* 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
* 3 celery ribs, chopped
* 4 cloves of garlic sliced thin
* big pinch of peperincino
* big pinch of dried oregano
* 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
* 1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
* 4 chicken thighs on the bone, skin removed
* 2 chicken breasts, skin removed
* 2-1/2 quarts water
* 1 quart cold water, or as needed
* 2 Tablespoons "Better than Bouillon" organic chicken base (Wholefoods)
* fresh chives for garnish
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* egg noodles or grains, we used the "Seeds of Change" organic 7 grain blend

Heat 2 T. of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the chicken thighs and breasts until almost cooked through.

Heat the other 2 T. of oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. First throw in the garlic and quickly heat until they sizzle. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Throw in a pinch or peperincino, thyme, oregano and rosemary and stir to coat the veggies with the herbs.

Add the chicken pieces and the rest of the oil from the skillet and stir fry together with the veggies for a few minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, about 2 hours.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then pull the meat from bone and put the chicken pieces back in the pot. Stir the meat back into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add noodles or grains, garnish with chives and serve hot.

The Fig Report, Week 6

Not much to report this week, but my little cutting is still alive and growing, although the growth is a little slow...at least we are moving in the right direction!

Via del Sale, Ancient Traditions Thriving in a Modern World

It was a stunningly beautiful morning on the west coast of Sicily as we journeyed out to the "Via del Sale" or salt road that runs between Trapani and Marsala. With the Egadi Islands to the left and the breathtaking, looming Monte Erice to the right, the shimmering salt flats dotted with the old windmills come into view. The lagoon of Stagnone has been home to the salt works of Trapani since the Phoenicians began the ancient method of hand-harvesting of sea salt as early as 1154 B.C. The shallow waterway, high temperatures and winds that aid in the evaporation make is the perfect home for the checkerboard of shimmering rectangular evaporation pools that hold the sea water during various phases of evaporation.

"Ettore e Infersa" signs along the road guide you to the historic production area started in 1922 by two passionate men of the same name. Committed to the maintaining the ancient methods of salt mining brought by the Phoenicians, their company still harvests the salt by hand and even restored the 500 year old windmill so that it can again be used to grind the salt and power the pumps that move that water from pool to pool during the various stages of evaporation.

During the months of June through, September the salt is gathered once it reaches the last pool and evaporation is complete. It is taken by wheelbarrel to areas between the pools and arranged in small heaps. Throughout the winter these heaps are protected by layers of roof tiles until the spring, when the salt preparation begins. (We were there in October so the harvesting had already taken place and the piles of salt were being readied for the winter months. Some of the photos above are mine and the ones of the harvest are from the web.) The natural harvesting process allows the salt to maintain the trace elements found in sea water like magnesium, iodine and potassium which make it more flavorful, soluble and complete.

There is a museum at the site where you can view a video of the history and the process, go to the top of one of the windmills and buy gifts. We did all of the above and our fellow guide on the trip, Elisabetta, told us that the salt made by this company was available in the states. When I got home I went to our local Italian market, NorJoes, and found the Antica Salina by Sosalt, the place we visited!

So if you are a foodie and a purist, you need to try this salt! It comes in a fino/fine grade that is a little finer than Kosher salt and a grosso/course. If you can't find it, I've added it to the Swirl and Savor store, click here for Antica Salina. Also for more information and photos go to the Sosalt website at www.sosalt.it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Tragic Loss of Artist Rudy Rowell

We are so sad to say that Louisiana lost a talented artist and a most wonderful human being yesterday when our friend Rudy Rowell was killed in a car accident. He was a kind and gentle man and both he and his work were loved by many. We will miss you Rudy, I hope you know how much joy you brought to others through your work and your humble spirit.

"Coffee and cigarettes. Low slung hats. Film noir. House bands. Dark bourbon. Road side bars. Muddy delta roads. Fried catfish. Fat Mama's tamales. Rainy mornings. Summer front porches. Blues. Soul. R&B. Lost at mardi gras. Mysterious tattoo. Beignets. Bloody marys. Wrinkled tuxedos. Jazz fest gospel tent. Sunday brunch mimosas. Graceland. Pensive. Poignant. Family proud. Piney woods. Southern accent. Old money. Natchez azaleas. Chicken-strapped crab traps. Small town Mississippi. In the deep south, atmosphere is destiny. Heat. Humidity. Water. Wind. Wet. Sticky. Hurricanes. Our unique cultural experience dictates the high style in which we survive. My art is my atmosphere and my experience. It resonates with those that have the same tension in their souls- no matter how it got there."

-Rudy Rowell

Monday, December 7, 2009

The DC10 Holiday Dinner

The DC 10, our crazy group of wine and food fanatics, held our holiday dinner on Saturday night with a theme of "holiday songs". Festive, silly and very creative, a great time was had by all. I'll do a complete post later in the week, but here is a photo of our presentation of Frosty the Snowman! Handmade butternut squash ravioli with butter and sage and dressed for success with a sauteed mushroom hat, peppercorn eyes, a carrot nose (of course!), habanero pepper mouth, sage leaf scarf, cardamom buttons, radish sprout grass and a little dirty New Orleans snow of crushed amaretti cookies, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and freshly grated nutmeg.

The Fig Report, Week 4

So far so good this week! With all of the dreary weather we've been having, I've enlisted the help of one of Kerry's grow lights that she uses for her micro greens "farm". There is definitely another leaf beginning to bud and I am starting to see some roots sprouting out through the bottom holes of the pot!

For the full story on my little Sicilian fig cutting go to: For the Love of Figs

Wine of the Moment, Caposaldo Prosecco

During these festive holiday times, I am constantly searching for great bubblies at all price points. And while Prosecco used to be the answer for fun, inexpensive sparklers, lately I find the prices are climbing without any great increase in quality. Needless to say, I was very excited when Antonio brought me this wonderfully refreshing, well made Prosecco that I could sell for under $15!

Italy's famous sparkling wine is made primarily in the district of Valdobbiadene (Val-do-bi-ad-en-ay) near the town of Conegliano in the region of Veneto. Prosecco is the actual name of the grape that is used to make this sparkling wine and many of the best examples are 100% Prosecco. As this is a grape that is prized for its delicate flavors and aromatics is made using the Charmat method rather than the Champagne method, the French method of making sparkling wine. The Charmat method allows the wine to go through the second fermentation in pressurized tanks rather than in individual bottles. The shorter, tank fermentation helps Prosecco preserve the freshness and the flavor of the grapes.

The fruit for the Caposaldo comes from 4.5 ha owned by an artisanal small producer Antoinio Fattori along with those of other local growers he works with in Valdobbiadene and Conegliano in Treviso. Estate-grown Prosecco fruit, sourced and hand-harvested from high-density, low-yielding vineyards, with an average age of 20 years. It has lovely fruit with citrus, green apple and acacia flowers. The fine and persistent bubbles creates a soft, round mouth feel. Pleasant acidity, freshness and full-bodied flavor finish make this a a versatile wine excellent for an aperitivo, appetizers or throughout your whole meal! The best part, it's only $13.99!

Trust This Tip!

Looking for the best coffee in NYC, the freshest fish in New Orleans, a great little hotel in Paris or simply a romantic spot to watch the sunset in Florence? A new edition to swirl and savor, T3 offers a travel, food or wine related tip that you need to know about! Discovered during our adventures and travels, these are not paid endorsements but simply tried and true tips for inquisitive minds .

This Weeks Tip!
Castelvetrano Olives (nocellara del belice) – In the Belice Valley of northwest Sicily, olive-growing dates back to the 8th century BC and the Greek colonies. The flat, red soil and warm Mediterranean climate provide the perfect growing conditions for some of the best olives in the world. Castelvetranos are harvested young and cured in lightly salted brine, which accounts for their bright green hue and meaty texture. With a mild, nuanced flavor that's both salty and sweet, the fruit appeals not only to olive aficionados, but also to those who shy away from stronger, brinier varieties. I was very excited to find these deliciously plump, meaty olives on the Wholefoods olive bar when we returned from Sicily! If you can't find them, you can purchase them here at the swirl and savor store.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lidia's Fagotini Di Prosciutto Di Parma (Prosciutto Purses)

All of that writing about the Bastianich Vespa Bianco made my mouth water, so I had to cook something to pair with it! And of course a recipe from Lidia's Italy was most appropriate! I forgot to buy the chives when I went shopping so I substituted with fresh thyme stems, a little tricky to tie, but they worked!

Cook the “purses” just long enough to brown them. Overcooking will make them salty and, as Prosciutto di Parma is a carefully cured product, it doesn’t need to be cooked to be rendered edible. When buying the prosciutto, ask for slices from the widest part of the ham that will measure about 8 inches by 4 inches.

Yields 20 purses

20 sturdy fresh chives, each at least 5 inches long
10 thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma, each approximately 8- x 4- inches
20 teaspoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Ripe fresh figs, cut into quarters or thin wedges of ripe cantaloupe or honeydew melon

Bring a large skillet of water to a boil and add the chives. Stir, separating the chives gently, just until they turn bright green, about 5 seconds. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water and let stand a few seconds to stop the cooking. Remove the chives and drain them on paper towels.

Cut the prosciutto slices in half crosswise to make pieces that measure approximately 4- x 4- inches. Place 1 teaspoon grated cheese in the center of each square and gather the edges of the prosciutto over the cheese to form a “purse” with a rounded bottom and ruffled top. Pinch the prosciutto firmly where it is gathered and tie it around this “neck” with a length of chive. Continue with remaining prosciutto slices, cheese and chives.

In a large, preferably non-stick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over low heat. Add half of the purses and cook, shaking the skillet very gently occasionally, the undersides are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and cook the remaining purses in the same manner. Serve hot with fresh figs or ripe melon pieces.

The Return of an Old Friend

The life of a wine on the shelves at Swirl can be short lived. Sometimes is has nothing to do with popularity, just the mere fact that due to our ambitious schedule of 2+ tastings per week combined with my inability to pass on new and interesting wines, our inventory is ever changing and evolving. The positive side to this is that you, our treasured customers, are constantly getting exposed to cool and different wines, lots of obscure varieties, exciting new regions and up and coming wine makers. The downside is that a wonderful wine may get pushed out of the rotation just because I need space for the 10 new wines we'll be bringing in for this weeks lineup of tastings!

Such is the case of one of my favorite wines produced by a family who have been part of an Italian wine and food "revolution" in this country. Ignited by the matriarchal maven of Italian cooking, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, and fueled by her son Joe's ever-expanding array of projects, the Bastianichs have played a major role in bringing the culture of Italy to our tables. I've written often about Lidia, have had the privilege of meeting Joe through our friends at Neat Wines and have been enamoured with the family and their projects for quite some time.

So the "old friend" that has returned is the 2004 Bastianich Vespa Bianco, the flagship wine of the Bastianich winery in Friuli. My personal pick for our Thanksgiving meal, and an open spot on the racks gave me the perfect excuse to bring back this store favorite. The Vespa is one of what Joe calls "Super-Whites," the blends that command the most respect in Friuli. The Super-Whites from Friuli are quite different from the whites of other Italian regions, beginning with the fact that they're blended. The grape varieties generally include Friulano(Friuli's most famous grape), Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.

This 5-time Gambero Rosso Three Glass winner was created to showcase the power and evolution that a great Friulian white can have. Consisting of equal parts Sauvignon and Chardonnay with a measure of Picolit, Vespa Bianco becomes a sum of its parts, a wine of uncommon complexity.

In the most recent issue of Gambero Rosso magazine, Bastianich Vespa Bianco was named one of the top “50 Bianchi d’Italia”. The wines chosen were not vintage-specific. This was an overall ranking of the best white wines in Italy over the past 23 years.

Bastianich Vespa Bianco ranked number 32 overall, among some of the greatest and most famous whites in all of Italy. Their placement in the Top 50 is especially noteworthy considering that many of the other wines mentioned in the article have a much longer winemaking history than Bastianich.

Winemaker's Notes: A tightly wound balance of minerality and citrus, evolving over time into a more viscous expression of wildflowers, clover honey and mature pear. The palate sensations are more like those of a red wine. Its powerful tannic structure and acidic backbone lend it not only immediate impact but a long life. Vespa Bianco can be further aged up to 7-10 years after the vintage.

Gambero Rosso 2007

Superbly complex, and veined with cream and banana, it is lifted by fresh fruit to the heights of elegance. The supremely balanced, gutsy palate is textbook stuff, making this a particularly sophisticated Three Glass champion.
Tre Bicchieri - Gambero Rosso

The best part? You can get this kind of quality and longevity for $28.99!

For more information on Bastianich wines, Joe and Lidia, check out these great links including Joe's blog, "The Buzz", the source of those great wasp photos!

The Buzz
Joe Bastianich
Lidia's Italy
New York Restaurant Insider, a great article on Lidia and her incredible life journey
Swirl and Savor: Lidia, my past posts on Lidia and some of her recipes

Wine of the Moment, 2007 Cholila Ranch Malbec

I've been really getting into the wines from Patagonia lately. They offer something different from the usual, delicious values that come out of Mendoza, Argentina's wine capitol. Some 400 mile south of Mendoza in a scrubby, arid, windy, crazy place, Patagonia is home to some of the southernmost vineyards of the world! But don't pack your bags and expect some tourist haven, this is a desolate region, great for grapes, but not a whole lot of anything else.

The region boasts plenty of sunshine and dry climate along with a wide range between day and nighttime temperatures. But the strong winds that blow through the area are a huge challenge in terms of tangling vines and they also destroy many of the buds during flowering. The winds can also cause wine grapes to grow a thicker skin resulting in harsher tannins if the winemaker isn't careful. Poplar trees planted on the perimeter of the vineyards are used as a windbreak and help prevent vine shoots from twisting. The upside to the winds is that they keep the vines dry and keep away pests and disease so the use of chemicals is almost non-existent.

How does the taste differ from Mendoza Malbecs? I get a little more plum notes than the usual black fruits and a hint of graphite as well, but the same soft tannins and light acidity; very pleasant and something a little different for Malbec fanatics.

Matt Lirette of Lirette Selections brought me the Cholila Ranch Malbec, made by a 100% Argentine winemaking team, led by legendary Argentine winemaker, Roberto de la Mota. A fun tidbit on importer Fran Kysela's website,
In February 20, 1901, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, boarded the British ship Herminius and steamed off to build a new life for themselves in the "United States of the Southern Hemisphere". They settled in a sheep ranch at Cholila Ranch, in the deepest Argentine Patagonia, under the alias of James Ryan and Harry A. place, where they were considered respectable citizens. - Extract of "Digging Up Butch & Sundance", by Anne Meadows

From Importer Fran Kysela: 2007 Cholila Ranch Malbec is made from 100% Malbec. The estate-grown grapes are manually harvested, carefully sorted, and destemmed. The wine undergoes traditional maceration for 21 days with selected yeasts. Cholila Ranch Malbec is aged both in American and French oak for 9 months, followed by a minimum of 6 months bottle aging prior to release. Deep purple color. Aromas of ripe plum and mulberry with violet hints. Ripe black fruits and fig on the palate with touches of smoke and vanilla. A truly powerful yet balanced wine with a persistent finish.

Desperately Seeking Chocolate

but not just any chocolate....

This was a difficult morning for me. I am an early riser, 5 to 6am, and one of the highlights of my morning is a cup of cappuccino made with our freshly roasted espresso blend and a piece of chocolate. But today wasn't just any chocolate, it was the last piece of Cioccolato di Modica that I brought home from Sicily last month. I almost cried as the last crunchy, spicy bite hit my mouth and immediately got on line to see if I could mail order some. I don't think I can live without this chocolate!

So what makes this so different? Everything. It is like nothing I've ever tasted before, and believe me I've tasted a lot of chocolate...The town of Modica, located in the Ragusa province of southeast Sicily, is custodian of a 400 year tradition of Sicilian chocolate-making. Being part of the Spanish kingdom for so many years meant that Sicily was often one of the first recipients of the new foodstuffs being brought back from South America. Cacao was one of these and today Modica still specialises in making granulous chocolate, often flavored with chili pepper, cinnamon or vanilla, that is based on Aztec methods and recipes.

As in the Aztec tradition, Modica’s chocolate is defined by the cold, often hand-processing of cacao, which eases the cocoa butter out of the beans, just enough to make a firm paste. The cool temperature keeps the texture of the chocolate paste rough, enhanced by the added sugar crystals that remain intact. With no added cocoa butter, vegetable fats or emulsifiers, Modica’s chocolate retains all of the cacao’s intense flavor and aroma, a one-two punch to the senses.

So if you are lucky enough to find Cioccolato di Modica, what do you get? The first thing you notice is the packaging: hand-wrapped in a layer of parchment paper and then in a layer of kraft. Tied with a waxed ribbon, very old school. And the bar itself: solid as a marble slab, and yet fragile as an ancient painting, freckled with a layer of reddish blooms. The chocolate itself is bitter, with gritty crunches of sugar for punctuation; this had none of the creaminess we expect from chocolate in this country—it is brittle, it is delicate, it is ethereal. No added milk or extra cocoa butters and, of course, no preservatives or additives.

It is the essence of purity, a chocolate that remains boldly true to its original format, as defiantly traditional as the Sicilians themselves.

It will be in the shop soon, I'll let you know...

The Fig Report

It has not been a good week for my fig cutting. I think that using the heat in the house is creating an inconsistent environment. The second leaf that had begun to sprout has turned brown and has died so I am adding back the plastic container for a little while.

Step 6
When new shoots and leaves extend from the cuttings, remove the bottle cap. If the cuttings continue to grow after several days, remove the bottle. If they wilt, replace the bottle and try again in a few days. If they thrive, it is time to transplant the cuttings. Cross your fingers! I did this yesterday and there already seems to be another shoot or leaf trying to pop through.

Click here for the story on the journey of the little Sicilian fig cutting: For the Love of Figs

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No Cop-Outs, Following My Heart on Turkey Day!

I just finished my post on our Thanksgiving Hit List of food and wine pairings for your holiday meals, so it got me thinking about what we will be drinking. And I started to feel like I took the easy way out, as do most wine/food writers, suggesting all of the classic pairings when I knew that I personally would probably not be drinking any of those wines. While it would be lovely to bring the traditional Champagne, nicely followed by an Alsatian Riesling or Oregon Pinot Gris and finished off with a beautiful red Burgundy, my heart, of course, is always in Italy. Why play it safe just because everyone else does? After all, isn't that what this business is all about for me, finding those obscure varietals, interesting producers and unlikely choices that the average wine drinker would probably not even know about or where to get? So, here I am writing another post, take it or leave it, on what I really want to drink on Thanksgiving day!

We've been invited by friends to go to the beach for turkey day with our only responsibility being that of bringing the wine. We'll be working late on Wednesday so that, unfortunately, leaves no time for cooking and makes bringing the wine an easy task. It will be the usual fare, no Italian influence here, just good old American food.

Sparkling was the easiest choice. Thanks to our friend Jared at International Wine and Spirits, we just received a case of the Murgo Sparkling wines from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. Made with Nerello Mascalese grown volcanic soils these are the most unique bubblies I've tasted in a while. The Brut greets you with crisp apples and yeast on the nose with bright citrus tones on the palate and a wonderfully long finish. The rose, also of Nerello Mascalese, has delicious cherry, red fruits and a delightful mineral, almost smoky finish. It will be a hard choice, so I'll most likely take one of each...

Whites become a little more difficult to chose because there are SO many amazing Italian white food wines. The first that comes to mind is the Bastianich Vespa Bianco, a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 45% Sauvignon and 10% late-harvested Picolit. Stone fruit intertwined with smoke and a touch of earthiness; somehow fat and crisp at the same time. But then there is also the Fontanabianca Arneis with its concentration of plump, ripe fruit and distinct white spice, lively acidity and notes of yellow peach in the finish. And I can't forget the wine I just tasted the other night with Matt Lirette, a 2010 Tre Bicchieri winner, the Rocca del Principe Fiano di Avellino. It greets you with pretty scents of flowers and soft apricots with that tell tale touch of smoky minerality exhibited by wines born out of volcanic soils. So, this will be a hard choice, but one or two of these will be coming with us!

I knew which red I would drinking on Thanksgiving day the first time I tasted it at the Planeta winery in Sicily. The Planeta Cerasuolo is a delightful wine is named for its remarkable color as cerasuolo means "cherry red" in Italian. Made from two local grapes, the Frappato imparts ripe berry flavors and freshness, while the Nero d'Avola gives it a supple tannic structure, richness and intensity. It offers an immediate bright cherry fruit component that dominates the aromatics, but then gives way to the blacker, earthier fruits of the Nero on the palate. Soft, supple, fresh and lively it is a wonderful change for Pinot Noir lovers looking for something on the wild side! A GREAT pick for Thanksgiving, it will really shine with turkey and cranberries!

So there you have it, my true picks for holiday wines for those of you adventurous enough to care! Have a great holiday no matter what you drink!

Our Annual Thanksgiving Hit List

I think you've figured out by now that we are fanatics about pairing food and wines and I just love making selections for holiday meals. So what should you drink with all of those sides and mounds of turkey? There are so many answers to that question that sometimes the best choice would be to open a bubbly, white, red and rose, put them on the table and let people chose for themselves! But don’t forget to have Aunt Mary’s bottle of White Zinfandel on hand, because it’s all about personal preference!

Here are a few pairing tips and recommendations from our selection. We’ve picked options at low, moderate and higher price points so there is something for every wallet. The wines will have a special “holiday pick” tag on the shelves and if you purchase any four of these wines for your celebration, we’ll give you a 10% discount. And we’ll be featuring 5 of these wines in our Swirlin’ Dervish Thanksgiving Tapas on November 24th so come in and try them with some holiday fare to see what will best suit your menu!

For the wide array of flavors on the Thanksgiving table, sparkling wines are a no-brainer. Bright acidity, fruit and yeasty undertones make bubbly extremely food-friendly. Especially good are Brut rosé and Blanc de Noir, which can take you from the lox or chevre hors d'oeuvre to the vinaigrette salad right through the turkey and potatoes and onto the pie. The Pinot Noir grapes in these wines provide body, some tannin for texture, red-fruit character, complexity and acid balance. The bubbles from natural carbonation from the yeast, in concert with the wine's acidity, help cleanse the palate for the next course.
Our Pick: Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir, $16.99; J Sparkling Rosé, $23.99 or Taittinger Brut Rosé, $69.99

White wines with lively fruit and acidity and little to no oak are also versatile. With its aromas and flavors of citrus, apple and pear and zippy acidity plus herbal notes, Sauvignon Blanc pairs with everything from butternut-squash soup to green salad to turkey with a dressing made of briny oysters and herbs. Even notoriously tough-to-pair Brussels sprouts will sing with Sauvignon Blanc. Alsatian and German whites like Rieslings, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris with their tropical fruit, citrus, green-apple, pear and mineral notes combined with thirst quenching acidity, work with almost any Thanksgiving dish except the cranberry sauce.
Our Pick: JanKris Sauvignon Blanc, $12.99; Saarstein Riesling $14.99; Meyer Fonne Riesling, $25.99 or Sineann Pinot Gris, $18.99

"Serious" dry rosés made from Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah or Mourvedre grapes or blended proprietary rosés have acidity to balance the citrus, red and stone fruits and usually sport structure and a long finish but light tannins.
Our Pick: Barnard Griffin Sangiovese Rosé, $11.99; Lioco Pinot Noir Rose, $15.99

Beaujolais, Gamay is a favorite "go-to" pick for Thanksgiving. It brings soft, easy drinking affordability to the table that's perfect for the cornucopia of flavors and large group setting that Thanksgiving entails. It has bright fruit flavors to perk up the milder dishes and enough structure to hold its own with the more robust courses made with sausage and herbs.
Our Pick: Pierre Chermette Beaujolais, $15.99, Domaine du Nugues Beaujolais Village, $15.99

Syrah and Zinfandel have the spice, dark fruit and berries to bring out the best in cranberry sauces as long as the wine has soft tannins and ripe, forward fruit and the sauce is balanced -- moderately tart and not too sweet.
Our Pick: Windmill Zinfandel, $12.99; Five Vintners Zinfandel, $23.99 or Baileyanna Syrah, $19.99

The best single wine to choose for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir. This versatile varietal has tangy red fruit of strawberry and cherry, with nice acidity to balance and low levels of tannin. With elegance and a touch of earthiness to lend complexity, Pinot Noir will subtly support most things on the Thanksgiving table without overpowering them. Cranberry sauce and dessert are exceptions again, with the sauce too tart and the dessert too sweet.
Our Pick: Domaine Sarret Pinot Noir, $12.99; Wild Rock Pinot Noir, $17.50, Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir, $23.99 or Moises Yamhill Carlton Pinot Noir, $39.99

So there you have it! But remember the most important thing is to drink wines that make you happy with people that make you smile, because that is what it's all about!

Chef Richard Papier's Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup

Local culinary talent Chef Richard Papier will be heating up the shop on Tuesday with his take on Thanksgiving classics for our monthly tapas night. He'll deliver 5 freshly prepared tapas items that I'll be pairing with my favorite wines for your Thanksgiving meal. One of the courses will feature his deliciously spicy Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup that I'll be pairing with the Sineann Pinot Gris from Oregon and I've convinced chef to give us the recipe!

Serves 4-6

* 3 to 4 medium sweet potato (about 2 1/4 pounds)
* 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 3 cups chicken
* 1-2 cups water, as needed
* salt and pepper to taste
* 8 oz Mexican chorizo

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees
-Oil, salt and pepper sweet potatoes and place on a sheet pan . Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until very tender, on 400 degrees. Set aside to cool. When the sweet potato is completely cool, scoop the flesh from the skin.
-While the sweet potato is baking, cook the onion and the chorizo in a saucepan, over moderately low heat, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the onion is softened, and the chorizo is fully cooked.
- Add the broth and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, covered. Add the sweet potato pulp to the sauce pan and blend.
-Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, in batches, and puree until smooth. Add enough water to achieve the desired consistency, and salt and pepper to taste.
-Return the soup to the sauce pan and cook over moderate heat until it is hot.

For the Love of Figs, Continued!

The story continues! Click here if you missed my initial post on the crazy journey of this twig cut from a tree in Sicily now growing in my office: For The Love of Figs. I'll post weekly updates on our progress!

Step 5
Water the cuttings only when the soil dries out completely. Lift the container and if it feels light, place it in a shallow pan filled with water. Allow the soil in the container to soak up water from the pan. Remove the container when the soil is moist again. I finally did this a few days ago.

Step 6
When new shoots and leaves extend from the cuttings, remove the bottle cap. If the cuttings continue to grow after several days, remove the bottle. If they wilt, replace the bottle and try again in a few days. If they thrive, it is time to transplant the cuttings. As you can see, the cutting has thrived, so I'll be transplanting it this week!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Venerable Vini Biondi

It was our first rainy morning since we started the trip. We headed out early to meet Ciro Biondi, the current owner of Vini Biondi, with instructions to meet him at the piazza in front of the church of S. Alfio in the town of Trescastagni. Well of course it took us twice as long to get there, as it does traveling anywhere in Sicily, but after a few phone calls, the accommodating Ciro arrived at the piazza and asked us to follow him up the mountain to his vineyards.

The Biondi family has owned vineyards on the Etna since 1635, but didn't start producing their own wine until the late 1800's. Over the past hundred plus years they have seen countless medals and awards, partnerships, periods of prolific production countered with declines in quality, all leading to the present day tutelage of Ciro Biondi. In 1999, an architect by trade, Ciro decided to restore his family vineyards. He hired renowned Salvo Foti, considered one of the most gifted interpreters of native varietals in Sicily, as his winemaker and the match has resulted in multiple Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri awards for his red wines.

We followed Ciro up the winding roads first to Monte Ilice, a dormant volcanic crater whose slopes rise to a steep 900m at a 50% gradient! A blanket of fog lay over the top of the mountain, obscuring much of the 2 hectares of east facing vineyards that stretch up right to the edge of the crater. They are planted with bush trained Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio using 2meter poles to help hold the soils in place on the steep gradient. Of course everything has to be done by hand, so Ciro has a 300 meter cable lift to bring materials up and down the mountain. At harvest, it takes 4 people 10 days to hand select the grapes from the Monte Ilice vineyard. It is an incredible vineyard site and a definite source of pride for Ciro.

The soils here are amazing. Although in the photo it just looks like fertile black earth, it is actually more like a gravel of ground volcanic rock and sand. It is these soils and the dramatic climate on the slopes of the volcano that make the Etna so unique and one of the most exciting spots in the world of wine today.

We piled back in to the cars to follow Ciro to his next vineyard site, Carpene, where he nostalgically recalls the days that wine was still made here in the old palmento. The typical winemaking structure of the 19th century, the palmento at Vini Biondi is built into the hillside with openings on the upper part of the back wall where the grapes would be brought in to stone basins for foot treading. By gravity, foot-trodden musts would pour into fermentation basins on the lower floor. While no longer used for production, it has been beautifully restored and makes for a wonderfully romantic setting!

Next we headed to Ciro's current production facility where we tasted from the fermentation tanks, freshly picked Nerello Mascalese, and the Outis, a consistent Tre Bicchieri winner from Gambero Rosso. The Outis is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio that come from his east facing Monte Ronzini vineyards at 620m. He also popped a bottle of his newly released and current award winner, the 2006 M.I.(Monte Ilice), that was just announced as a Tre Bicchieri recipient for the 2010 edition!

Beautiful wines, amazing vineyards and a gracious host, we totally enjoyed our visit with Ciro and Trescastagni. As Ciro headed off to a filming in the vineyards with British chef and restaurateur Gary Rhodes, we went back done the mountain into town for a delicious lunch!

Click here for the full slideshow of our visit: Vini Biondi

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wine of the Moment, 2008 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Sicily's only DOCG region, Cerasuola di Vittoria, is not known very well outside the island. Having received DOC status in 1973 and DOCG as recently as 2005, this area of south eastern Sicily produces one of the most distinct Sicilian red wines. Cerasuolo wines are bright and lively, thoroughly refreshing, and while not the most complex wines in the world their lightness and vivacity insistently invite you back for another glass. They're versatile with food and actually stand alone beautifully as well.

This delightful wine is named for its remarkable color as cerasuolo means "cherry red" in Italian. Made from two local grapes, the Frappato imparts ripe berry flavors and freshness, while the Nero d'Avola gives it a supple tannic structure, richness and intensity.

The Planeta Cerasuolo is 60% Nero d’Avola, 40% Frappato and aged for four months in 100% stainless steel. It offers an immediate bright cherry fruit component that dominates the aromatics, but then gives way to the blacker, earthier fruits of the Nero on the palate. Soft, supple, fresh and lively it is a wonderful change for Pinot Noir lovers looking for something on the wild side! A GREAT pick for Thanksgiving, it will really shine with turkey and cranberries!

Kerry's Sicilian Caponata

One of the culinary joys of our recent trip was eating and comparing each cook's version of Sicilian Caponata, a condiment of chunky fried eggplant and other vegetables and seasonings, jam-packed with flavor—sweet, sour, salty all at once. A staple of the Sicilian diet, caponata is served in a variety of ways and every family has its own recipe. We learned how to make it during our cooking class with Silvia at Mandranova (see me stirring on the right) and have been craving it ever since! It can be used as a condiment for fish and meats, served with pasta, spooned onto bruschetta or just eaten on its own.

We were in charge of the Antipasti course at a Sicilian dinner Saturday night at our friend Carol's house. Kerry developed her own recipe for caponata, combining her ideas with classic ingredients and techniques from Silvia at Mandranova and Lidia Bastianich. It got rave reviews from the crowd!

3 eggplants
2 yellow onions (1 pound approx), cut in 1-1/2 inch chunks
5 or 6 ribs celery, trimmed cut in 1/2-inch chunks
1-1/2 cup cerignola or other large green brine-cured olives, pitted and cut in ½-inch pieces
5-6 fresh plum tomatoes
1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup capers if desired
1 cup cooking grade olive oil
extra-virgin olive oil
12-15 large fresh basil leaves
few springs of flat-leafed parsley
coarse sea salt or kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
dried peperoncino flakes
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar

Note: if olives are super salty, you may want to add less salt to the vegetable mix.

Trim the eggplant ends and partially skin them using a peeler to alternately remove skin in a striped fashion. Cut them into chunks about 2-inches long and 1-inch thick. Toss the chunks with 2 teaspoons of salt and drain in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse and pat them dry with paper towels.

Meanwhile pour the red wine vinegar and 3/4 cup water into the small pan, stir in the sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced by half and syrupy, then remove from the heat.

Slice the onions into 1-1/2” pieces. Trim the celery stalks (and peel them if they’re tough and stringy) then chop in 1/2-inch chunks. Cut the plum tomatoes in half and scrape out the seeds and ribs. Slice lengthwise into 3/4-inch or so thick wedges. Roughly chop the pitted olives into ½-inch pieces.

To fry the eggplant, pour the cup of cooking grade olive oil into the skillet and set over medium-high heat, 360 deg. Spread all the eggplant chunks in the hot oil and fry for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing and stirring frequently, until the eggplant is soft and cooked through and golden brown on all sides. You will probably have to do this in a few batches as you don't want to crowd the eggplant. Lift the chunks out of the oil with a slotted spoon and spread them on paper towels to drain.

Pour ¼ cup of the extra virgin olive oil in another large skillet and set it over medium heat. Stir in the onion and celery chunks, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, tossing often, until they’ve wilted and lightly colored, 8-10 minutes or so. Toss in the olives and the capers, heat quickly until sizzling. Dilute the tomato paste with ¼ cup or so of water then mix in. Scatter in the tomatoes wedges and fold them in with the other vegetables. Season with another ¼ teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste, a few generous pinches of peperoncino. Cook until the tomatoes are hot and softened but still holding their shape, about 5 minutes.

Next pour the vinegar syrup all over and stir it in. Cook the vegetables together for about 8-10 more minutes, then turn off the heat. Tear the basil leaves into shreds, roughly chop the parsley and stir them into the vegetables. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

Take the eggplant pieces and layer over the bottom of a large serving dish. Add the rest of the vegetables on top of the eggplant, but do not mix together. Allow the dish to cool and rest for 1 hour, then gently mix together. Drizzle the top with a bit of your finest olive oil and serve.

*We served the amazing 2006 Murgo Sparkling Rose from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily with the antipasti platter. Made with Nerello Mascalese, this is the most unique sparkling wine we've tried in a long time! Currently available only at Swirl, $33.99.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

For the Love of Figs...

I've been wanting to plant a fig tree for a while now. We were at our friend Kaysey's house in Covington last year and picked fresh figs from a tree right off of her balcony one morning for breakfast. Drizzled with a little honey and spread with fresh goats cheese, they are to die for! So I start looking online, trying to figure out what kind of fig tree I wanted and where I would get it. Should I order one? Should I just find one locally? Could I grow one from a cutting?? For the last year I've been contemplating planting a fig tree but somehow it never seemed to happen.

Sometime before we went to Sicily I was again looking at growing from a cutting. I found out it was relatively easy, but how would I decide where I wanted to do a cutting from? The right answer didn't come, until we were in Sicily...

On a windy Sunday afternoon in Sambuca di Sicilia, we were walking the beautiful grounds of Planeta's Ulmo winery with Chiara Planeta. Having just finished an amazing tasting of way too many of their wines, we were heading into the dining area of the 16th century farmhouse for lunch, when I noticed a beautiful fig tree on their property. After more wine and a delicious lunch of local foods, I asked Chiara if I could possibly have a cutting from their fig tree. She said of course and cut off a small piece about 6-8" long. As delighted as I was to have it, I now just had to figure out what to do with it!!

So, I put the cutting in my purse and tried to recall what I had read about propagating fig trees from cuttings. When we got to our next lodging spot, Mandranova, I was so enthralled with the place that I had forgotten about my cutting. Four days later at our last agriturismo, I found it and decided to put it in a glass of water. Our next stop was Roma for a few days and then home so I wrapped the bottom in a paper towel soaked with water and then put it in a plastic bag. I was a little nervous about getting it through customs, but it made it into the states and into our kitchen.

Well we came back with way too many things to do, so I just stuck it in water again until I had time to do something with it. Another week went by, it was now more than 2 weeks since Chiara had cut it for me, when I found a post about propagating fig trees at gardenguides.com. By this time is was starting to get brown and I really didn't have much hope for it, but I figured what the hell, it couldn't hurt to try. Here are the instructions that I followed:

Step 1
Cut stems for rooting in late winter. Cut 1-year-old stems growing in the center of the tree. Make the stems between 6 and 8 inches long and approximately as thick as a finger. I kind of got this right, but we did not take it from the center of the tree and it wasn't late winter...

Step 2
Line the bottom of the plastic container with newspaper and place 2 to 3 inches of potting soil into the bottom. Place as many as four cuttings in one plastic container, standing them so that the cut ends are in the soil. Add more potting soil to fill the container--you should see just the tips of the cuttings.

Step 3
Water the soil and place the container in a location where there is bright sun, but not direct light. Keep the temperature at 70 degrees F or higher. My office at home seems to be working well. It has lots of windows and gets light from the east and south.

Step 4
Cut off the bottom of a plastic bottle--a soft-drink bottle works well--and place the bottle over the container. Keep the cap on the bottle. I used an orange juice container that Ron had left in the frig during his house/dog sitting stay.

Step 5
Water the cuttings only when the soil dries out completely. Lift the container and if it feels light, place it in a shallow pan filled with water. Allow the soil in the container to soak up water from the pan. Remove the container when the soil is moist again. I have not had to do this yet, probably in a few days.

Step 6
When new shoots and leaves extend from the cuttings, remove the bottle cap. If the cuttings continue to grow after several days, remove the bottle. If they wilt, replace the bottle and try again in a few days. If they thrive, it is time to transplant the cuttings. This where I am now, I just removed the cap, take a look at my photo!! I am amazed that this thing is actually growing after what I've put it through...

So, I'll keep you posted as to how the rest of this goes, but so far so good! Keep your figures crossed and hopefully one day I can be giving some of you cuttings from my Planeta fig tree from Sicilia!!

Thanks Chiara!


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