Once all the words are broken down, it's actually not much longer than the names of many Californian bottles, but a primary difference between the Italian bottle-naming system and the one we use in the U.S. is that we tend to start with the name of the vineyard (think, St Francis Merlot and Cambria Chardonnay).While we rarely deviate from that system, the Italians like to get creative and keep wine drinkers on their toes: sometimes they put the name of the vineyard first, sometimes it comes last, and sometimes they throw in clever nicknames. Many times, they will create a wine that is composed of multiple grape varietals, so they can't just call it a Chardonnay or a Vermentino because there are three or four other grapes involved; thus, they must invent another title for it all together.
When I do my research each week, I decide on an Italian wine I want to try, write down every single word in the title -- including the year it was made -- and then take it with me into the store to be certain I'm getting exactly what I want. This week, however, I was running short on time and needed a wine to take for a picnic at the Hollywood Bowl, so I paid a visit to The Wine Crush, which happens to be two blocks from my apartment. When I told the man behind the counter that I needed something light and dry that would pair well with bruschetta, he guided me to the Occhio A Vento, and it was every bit as summery and refreshing as I hoped it would be. It was dry and crisp, with hints of apples and pears. I would definitely recommend it for a summer picnic, especially if you happen to be eating bruschetta . . .
Speaking of which, this week's recipe comes courtesy of my friend and co-worker, Ashlyn Bolender, who has so many great cooking ideas that I figured I would go ahead and use one of them for my blog this week! (With her permission, of course.) She takes an average, run-of-the-mill bruschetta and tops it with a sweet balsamic glaze that ties all the flavors together -- sort of like what salad dressing does for lettuce and what milk does for chocolate cake. You just can't have one without the other.
Ashlyn's Brilliant Bruschetta
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced long-ways into thirds
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 baguette, sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pan on high heat, and wait until it starts lightly simmering. Add the brown sugar, stir it together, and then turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
While the glaze is cooking, get out a large bowl and add the sliced grape tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix everything together and put it in the fridge so that the flavors can marinate while the glaze continues to cook.
Once the oven is preheated, arrange the baguette slices onto a cookie sheet and bake them for 5-10 minutes, until they are crisp and nicely toasted. Top each baguette slice with the tomato mixture and then use a spoon to drizzle the balsamic glaze on top. Oh, and if you are taking this on a picnic, be sure to package the bread, the tomatoes, and the glaze all in separate containers.