2008 Fratelli Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

This week, we move from Umbria to the coastal region of Abruzzo, just a bit farther south. According to my Wine Bible, Abruzzo has the perfect climate for producing wine: lots of sunshine, hills, and coastal breezes from the Adriatic Sea. However, the one important element it is lacking is human creativity and artistry. Rather than trying new techniques and working to make flavorful and innovative bottles of wine -- as they do in say, Tuscany -- the vineyard owners in Abruzzo have focused on producing large quanitities of cheap table wines. Therefore, in comparison with other wine regions in Italy, it is not as highly revered.

Karen MacNeil, the author of the Wine Bible, says that one of the only wines she would recommend from this region is called the Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. So, guess what I decided to try this week! It's a red wine that is described as being full, fruity, and most importantly -- top value. As I've mentioned before, Italian wines can get rather pricey, so when I see the words "top" and "value" in the same sentence, I'm all about it.

2008 Fratelli Montepulciano D'Abruzzo (on sale, $8.99 at BevMo; regularly $10.99)

On a scale of 1-10, I would give this wine about a 6. It didn't exactly knock my socks off, but that's partially because I found it to be sweeter than I generally prefer. It's certainly fruity and also quite smooth. I would say that if you're partial to lighter Merlots and Cabernets, then you just may like this one. In my opinion, it was no Valpolicello.

In addition, I chose to pair it with a quiche, and it helped me gain a better understanding of what can happen when the wine overpowers rather than complements the meal. I just drove up to Auburn yesterday and I got to make this meal for my parents last night. We all agreed that when we took a bite of quiche and then followed it with a sip of wine, the wine would take over and completely drown out the taste of the quiche.

SO, word to the wise, try the wine and the recipe in isolation of each other.

My spinach and feta quiche recipe, however, is awesome! (if I do say so myself). I like it because it's really tasty, but still has a ton of nutritional value. Plus, it's made with my healthy, whole wheat pie crust -- a recipe that I've spent the last year trying to perfect.

Spinach and Feta Quiche

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour (+ 1/8 cup to add later)
2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup ice water

Mix the whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup of the white flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Add the canola oil so that the batter will be crumbly.
Next, add the ice water and thoroughly mix together. The dough should be a little sticky at this point, so you will need to add the extra 1/8 cup of white flour until it becomes the typical dough consistency. Knead it all together with your hands.

Form the dough into a ball and then wrap it in wax paper and stick it in the freezer for about 30 mins. This hardens the dough and makes it easier to work with.

After 30 minutes, take it out and use a rolling pin to roll it out on a lightly floured surface.

Place it in a 9" pie plate and use your fingers to shape the edges into whatever design you'd like. Then use a fork to stab holes into the bottom and sides of the crust so that it doesn't bubble up once it's baking inside the oven.

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, chopped
6 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
6 oz. bag baby spinach
crushed black pepper to taste
6 oz. feta cheese
4 oz. shredded cheddar
1 egg, beat
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sautee garlic and onion in olive oil until they are translucent. Add the mushrooms and spinach until everything is cooked down, season with crushed black pepper.
Take the pan off the heat and add the feta and 2 oz. of cheddar. Mix it all together and then dump it into the pie plate on top of the whole wheat crust.
Crack the egg into a bowl and then add the milk. Whisk them together and then dump the egg/milk on top of the pie filling

Lastly, top it with the last 2 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese and pop it in the oven for 35 minutes. When you take it out, it should be golden brown on top.