2007 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore

Well, here we are: week #2 of my Italian wine tasting! This week was especially great because it was combined with watching the series finale of LOST with one of my bestest friends.

I decided to divide up my tastings by region in Italy, so I will be tasting a minimum of at least one white and one red from all the major wine producing regions in Italy. (I say major because there are twenty different regions of Italy in total, so I won't have enough time to get through all of them, plus some of them don't produce popular wine that is shipped to the United States, and some of them don't produce any wine at all.)

That said, this week I chose to taste a red wine that is also produced in the Veneto region and it is called Valpolicella. Like Soave, it has different rankings of Classico and Superiore, plus there is an especially great version called Valpolicella Rispasso--so if you can get your hands on one of those, it sounds pretty delicious! It is created by taking a regular old Valpolicella and mixing it with a mass of pulp and grape seeds from a different wine called Amarone. Amarone is supposed to be the highest quality of red wine produced in the Veneto region and I would have tried it for my blog had it not been so darn expensive. The cheapest bottle of Amarone they carry at BevMo is $65.99 and the one after that is on sale for $99.99-- can we say not in my budget?? Here is the exact wine I tried:

2007 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore ($13.99 at BevMo)
This is a great red wine, and a large part of why I liked it is because it tastes so different from any other red wine I've tried before. My Wine Bible describes it as being "rich" with flavors of "dried cherries and licorice." Hmmm, licorice -- maybe that was the flavor I tasted but couldn't quite name? I'm going to go ahead and add earthy into the mix of adjectives and peppery, too. For $13.99 a pop, it's definitely worth buying a bottle and giving it a go around.

Tessa and I paired it with eggplant parmesan, so here is my adaptation of a recipe that my friend Lisa taught me how to make when we were studying abroad together in Florence many, many years ago:

                                      Eggplant Parmesan

3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jar Fresh Mushroom Prego spaghetti sauce (24oz.)
A few swigs of red wine for cooking
1 cube Dorot Chopped Basil (Trader Joe's freezer section)
Crushed black pepper (to taste)
1 eggplant, sliced
1 cup Italian Style Bread Crumbs
Lots of extra virgin olive oil
8-10oz. shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Begin by slicing the eggplant, tossing it into a colander and then placing the colander inside a large bowl. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt so that each piece is covered, and then fill the bowl with water. Allow the eggplant to soak in the salt water for at least 30 minutes. This step is important because it takes away the eggplant's natural bitterness. Also, placing them first in a colander and then in a bowl helps to anchor them down a bit because those eggplant slices really love to float!

While the eggplant is soaking in the salt water you can begin making the marinara sauce. Start by sauteeing garlic and onion in olive oil until it's translucent, then add the Prego. Pour a few swigs of red cooking wine into the jar of Prego, put the lid back on it and then shake it up so that you can get all the extra bits of pasta sauce out of the jar, then pour it into the pan. Next, add the frozen cube of basil and some crushed black pepper and stir everything up. Put the heat on low and allow the sauce to simmer, uncovered, while you bread and fry the eggplant.

Pull the colander of eggplant out of the salt water and rinse it thoroughly under the faucet. Measure out at least one cup of Italian Style bread crumbs onto a plate and then heavily coat each slice of eggplant in bread crumbs. If the eggplant starts to dry, just quickly run it under the water again so that the bread crumbs will actually stick to it.

After you coat each piece in bread crumbs, place it in a pan and fry both sides in olive oil until it is golden brown, then place it on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. It will be impossible to premeasure the amount of olive oil you will need. Eggplant sucks up olive oil like crazy, so just keep adding it as necessary.

Once all your eggplant slices have been breaded and fried, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and get out an 8" x 11" baking dish. Spoon a small amount of the marinara sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish-- just enough to lightly coat the bottom. Then, cover the whole bottom with an even layer of eggplant slices, top them with a little bit of marinara sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. Then add another layer of eggplant and follow the same pattern of adding marinara and cheese until everything is used up. Bake for 30 minutes and enjoy!  

This is Pouce, our honorary LOST fan and wine tasting buddy