2007 Mandra Rossa Fiano

This week, we are taking a hop, skip, and a leap all the way down to Siciliy -- you know, that little landmass that is being "kicked" by the boot?

The climate in Sicily is a winemaker's dream, plus it has strategically located port cities that make it ideal for trading. The most famous wine produced in this region is one you have likely heard of, and it's called Marsala -- as in Chicken Marsala. Over the years, it has become more of a cooking wine than a "sipping and enjoying wine." I believe this is partially because it is fortified, which means that alcohol is added to it. Fortified wines are also called port wines, and port wines are an acquired taste. They are very strong and from my experience need to be expensive, otherwise they simply do not taste good.

For all of those reasons, I decided to skip the marsala tasting and opt instead for a lesser known Sicilian varietal called Fiano.

2007 Mandra Rossa Fiano (on sale for $7.99 at BevMo; regularly $11.99)

This wine has an interesting history. The fiano grape originated over two thousand years ago and was called Vitis Apiana (translated as, beloved vine of bees). The grapes were so sweet that swarms of bees were actually attracted to the vines. And -- just as a sidenote -- before I even read that little fact, I happened to describe this wine as being a "golden honey color." Coincidence? I think not.

Indeed, Fiano does taste sweet, but it is also highly acidic. The acidity makes it pair well with richer foods, like creamy cheeses and sausage dishes. I found it to be rich in texture, as it seemed thicker and heavier than most white wines. I enjoyed it for its uniqueness, and thought it paired well with the following salmon dish:

Baked Salmon with Black Bean Mango Salsa

4 salmon filets
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp. honey
sea salt and crushed black pepper, to taste
3 cubes Dorot frozen cilantro (Trader Joe's freezer section)
1 lime, cut into 8 thin slices
4 small cloves of garlic, sliced in half
15 oz. can black beans
15 oz container Papaya Mango Salsa from Trader Joe's
1-2 oz. goat cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cut 4 squares of foil, each large enough to loosely wrap the pieces of salmon individually and create a "foil tent" around each one. We're going to be baking the salmon in the oven, and by loosley wrapping it in a foil tent, all of its natural juices will be preserved and it will actually marinate in them and be tender and delicious by the time we take it out. Just you wait!

Use one tablespoon of olive oil per piece of fish. Half of that tablespoon should be spread evenly along the bottom of the foil so that the fish doesn't stick. The other half should be brushed along the top of the filet. Next, add one teaspoon of honey per salmon filet and evenly spread it along the top, as well. Place the frozen cilantro cubes in a microwave safe bowl and melt them down. This should only take about 10 seconds.

Stir them up, spoon a small amount onto each filet, and then top with salt and pepper. Lastly, add two slices of lime to each filet, and two garlic halves. Each piece of fish should look something like this:

Next, fold the sides of the foil together to create a loose tent around each piece of salmon. It kind of looks like a foil-wrapped baked potato, except minus the potato.

Plop them all in the oven for 20 minutes. While they are cooking, get out a medium-sized sauce pan and add the black beans and papaya mango salsa to it.  Mix them together, thoroughly, and let the sauce simmer on med-low heat so that all the flavors come together.

When the fish is finished, take the sauce off the heat and only if you want to, add an ounce or two of goat cheese to the salsa to make it creamy and rich. I mainly did this so that it would pair better with the wine, but if you don't like goat cheese, then skip it all together! The sauce tastes awesome even without it, although I warn you that it is a tiny bit spicy. The goat cheese helps to tone down the spiciness.

The salmon is fully cooked when the oils inside the fish start to turn an opaque white. Once that has happened (it really should only take 20 minutes), unwrap each piece of fish and then throw away the lime and garlic slices. Top the salmon with the black bean mango salsa, and enjoy!