Winter Solstice Italian Style

Many years ago we began a tradition with our friends Cindy and Robert to pause in the busy holiday season to celebrate Winter Solstice together. We take turns hosting dinner each year on December 21 to relax with good food, wine and great company. This year was my turn to host our Winter Solstice dinner and since I have had such a great Italian year I wanted to honor December 21 Italian Style. I have many fantastic bottles of Italian wine in my wine cellar so I began planning our Winter Solstice dinner by first selecting a wine.

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I chose a beautiful Amarone purchased at Jimmy’s Dallas, a fantastic Italian grocery store and great resource for Italian wines and food. Since I traveled to Valpolicella as a guest of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella I try to purchase wines produced by wineries that are members of the Consorzio whenever I find them in Dallas. I am happy to say that although I did not visit the Le Ragose Winery they are a member of the Consorzio!

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Winter Solstice Amarone2Le Ragose Amarone Classico DOC 2006: This beautiful Amarone poured a deep garnet with orange highlights into the glass and opened with a bright bouquet of red cherries, spice and licorice. On the palate this wine was incredibly smooth with mouth filling flavors of bing cherries, spice box, black pepper, dark chocolate and smoke. It offered round acidity that was elegantly balanced with refined tannins that lingered on the palate. This Amarone was crafted of 50% Corvina, 20% Rodinella, 20% Corvinone and 10% other authorized grapes. It was made in the traditional Amarone style and aged in Slovenian Oak casts for 4-5 years. The Le Ragose Amarone was produced from estate vineyards sitting about 1,200 feet in elevation in the town of Negrar in the Veneto region. The vineyards are ideally situated with a southwest exposure and soils of clay and magnesium, calcium and iron based gravel; with vines averaging 30-60 years old. The average retail price of this wine is $56, which is a great value for this high quality wine that received 90 points on Wine Advocate and 93 points on Snooth. I highly recommend this wine and I will certainly be purchasing more for my own cellar very soon! Click here to find this wine near you or search for it on Google.

Winter Solstice dinner

Winter Solstice dinner3

Since I had selected such an excellent wine I wanted to pair it with an Italian dish fit for the first day of winter, which was windy and cold in Dallas. I make spaghetti with meat sauce for my family frequently and it is a crowd favorite; however, I had never made an authentic pasta with Bolognese sauce. I spent weeks researching Bolognese sauce; reading recipes from multiple web sites and comments/reviews of the recipes. I finally decided on Williams-Sonoma Bolognese Sauce. I followed the directions carefully, used my own judgment when it seemed appropriate and the sauce turned out perfect! Furthermore, it was quite easy to make. You can find this recipe on my Pinterest Recipe Board; I encourage you to try it and let me know what you think. We added a delicious salad, crusty Italian bread with EVOO from Valpolicella with Italian herbs for dipping and yummy homemade Christmas cookies for dessert. It was a wonderful meal; the wine paired perfectly with dinner (no surprise), the company and conversation was awesome, the roaring fire in our backyard kept us all warm and the tradition continued!

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Winter Solstice cookies

Le Ragose logoFrom the Le Ragose web site:

The quality of a wine cannot be distinguished from the place of origin of the grapes and from the persons who produce it.”

North of Verona, in the town of Negrar, at the Valpolicella zone’s highest point (350 m – 1,148 feet), the Le Ragose estate overlooks gentle, lush green hills.
In 1969, enologists Arnaldo Galli and his wife Marta bought the 70-acre Le Ragose estate, which had been abandoned. Recognizing that many excellent vineyard sites had been abandoned in favor of more easily-farmed sites on the plains, they replanted the Le Ragose and Le Sassine vineyards and began making Amarone and Valpolicella in as natural a way as possible.

Marta Galli, often referred to as “La Signora del Vino,” was voted “Wine Maker of the World” in 1990 by her peers, in part because of her influence in re- establishing Valpolicella as a classic in Italian wine and helping it achieve a DOC designation. She was also a founding member of the prestigious VIDE organization of small family-owned estates that promote excellence and typicity, as well as Le Donne del Vino, an international group for women in wine.

Le Ragose photo

Paolo (manager) and Marco (winemaker) now manage the property and remain faithful in the vision they share with their parents – a vision where even the simplest wines are made to evolve and age beautifully for years. The family commitment is to focus on quality and not on quantity, with the outmost respect for traditions, but always keeping an eye on modern technologies, both in vine-growing and in cellar.

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My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with the Le Ragose Amarone Classico DOC 2006 and our Winter Solstice dinner tradition is “Peace” from George Winston’s album December. It is a beautiful song and in full Winston style manages to depict not only “peace” but peace in the depths of winter. It is soul soothing and a perfect accompaniment to our wonderful evening.

Get your own bottle of Le Ragose Amarone Classico DOC 2006 and let me know what song you would pair with it. Cheers!



4 responses to “Winter Solstice Italian Style”

  1. George Winston. I bought that cassette, yes a cassette, longer ago than I care to admit. Can’t remember the name of the company that put out a whole series of ‘cool’, new agie music. You are correct. The song oozes winter. I will have to see if I still have it or play from Spotif as its snowy and cold here today.

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