In Italy, wine is very much a part of the culture and I grew up being well acquainted with it.
In my region, the month of October means the weather is cooler after the humid summer, the grapes are just beginning to get that fullness that signifies readiness for winemaking. I remember the smells of the grapes, the way the skins appeared full to bursting with juice – the juice that would become wine.
Working in restaurants just about my whole life also meant being involved with wine. Wine and food go together and if you are a cook like me, you need to know what wines go well with which foods as well as which wines go into the food itself.
In the restaurants I worked at in Italy, Mezzacorona Wines often factored in. Our restaurant bought from their wineries and we sold it with our dishes and I used it to put in my food. Imagine my surprise running into them on Twitter and finding out they have a U.S. branch. It felt a little like being at home and the kind gesture of them sending me a bottle of my favorite, a rich red Cabernet called Cantodoro Stemmari made me smile. I knew then that I’d not only drink it, I’d create a recipe just for their wine and so I did.
Cherries are now in season here in California and they permeate the markets here perfuming the air with their redolent aroma. I’d cooked some in wine and sugar, eaten them fresh and made ice cream. This time I was going for risotto. I imagined how they would taste against the winey richness of the rice and what would pair well with it. Gorgonzola, I thought – something creamy and sharp to cut through the richness of wine and the sweetness of the ripe cherries. It worked better than I had hoped – creamy, rich red risotto turned dark and decadent with hints of sweet and tart, the tang of the gorgonzola uplifting and highlighting the wine and cherry. It looked beautiful on a stark white plate garnished with fresh cherries and served with, of course more Stemmari Cantodoro.
Along with the recipe, I’ve included a video that I made with the help of friends Gina Ruiz and Alan Ishii. I love Alan’s superior editing skills and his genius talent with musical composition that make my cooking videos so much more fun and elegant.
*Disclosure: I was given a gift of wine by Mezzacorona, but my decision to create the recipe was my own and I was not compensated for it or this post. All photos (we add stills to the video) and video were taken using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Microsoft Windows 2520 tablet on the Verizon Network.