I am a sun worshiper for sure. A few hours poolside with a great book or magazine takes my stress level to something more manageable. It unravels the chaos of a schedule that includes bouncing between restaurants, warehouses, private cellars and events. In between the meetings and deliveries, as I drive from place to place there’s usually a single question I ponder: “what do I want for dinner tonight?”. While I map my route for the most efficient time frames, I’m also opportunistically thinking about the farms and markets that will be on my route that day: Turner Farm, Northside Farmer’s Market, Hyde Park Farmer’s Market? Or do I hit Findlay Market as I walk Remi to the Hart & Cru office? The options are plentiful, because this is the time of year where we are all spoiled with the spoils of nature’s bounty. This time of year cooking is just somehow easier, more fun.
Before I sat down to write this week, I sat at a kitchen table with Patrick Hague of Dutch’s. In between the planning of a private event, the conversation was mostly about who has the best produce and what we love about each market in town. The talk was made even more mouthwatering because Patrick was slicing beautiful tomato after beautiful tomato, juices running and the singular smell of that sun-ripened fruit permeated the air.
But there’s a big debate that arises when we move to the subject of what to drink? Believe it or not, pairing wine with tomatoes is misunderstood. It is such a versatile ingredient you really have to think through how you’re using it, the level of freshness, how raw or cooked you plan to go, what seasoning you’re craving. We could trot the globe looking for inspiration on how people in different geographies prepare and pair tomatoes, but for me the most instructive is the Italians.
For Italians it’s definitive: NO WHITE WINE WITH TOMATOES. In spite of the fact that it is the middle of summer and we might crave crisp, chilled white wines, red wine goes Tomatoes and not just any red but more specifically Sangiovese (the grape) which is primarily grown in Chianti.
I could, and probably will do, a full dissertation on the grape at some point, but to keep this Sunday read lighthearted and easy lets just say Chianti has a special place in my heart. Some of the worst wines I have ever tasted were from this small region between Florence and Sienna. But, I have also had some of the best wines too. Crave-worthy wines that I keep stocked in my own cellar. Chianti and more specifically Chianti Classico vary drastically in style due to the hand of the winemaker and the style of wine they are trying to produce.
For Example, Chianti Colli Sensi from Sono Montenidoli still allows the use of white grapes to be blended in and Elisabetta Fragioli demands this wine be served with a bit of a chill to it. This is the perfect wine for a Caparese or Panzanella salad.
Then you can step into Riecine Chianti Classico in the town of Gaiole, which is a serious and textured wine but still light. Made from 100% Sangiovese, this wine is aged in a mixture of cement, used barrique barrels, and old tonneaux large wood cask. This is my go-to wine to pair with pasta where the sauce is tomato based and incorporates other summer vegetables and spicy sausages (or red pepper flake for you vegetarians). This is also a great match for pizza whether you grill your own or grab a take-out pie from Taglio, A Tavola or Forno.
If you move your kitchen outside during the summer so you can grill your meats and tomatoes you can stay with the Chianti Classico or move to something a bit bigger. Sangiovese from further south in the hills of Montalcino. The wine I would drink is Rosso di Montalcino, a baby Brunello (a younger version of the famed Brunello). Because it’s a warmer climate the wines get more sunshine and the grapes riper. The qualities of these wines can stand up to red meat and the intensity of flavor that comes from cooking over fire.
So spoil yourself this week by heading to a farmers market and picking up some juicy tomatoes. Talk to the folks who grow the delicious fruit. Make a meal where tomatoes are the centerpiece and try out an Italian wine.
Here’s what Patrick and I concluded. Farmers markets we frequent:
Also, here are a few of the Sangiovese wines I love in case you come home and you’re thirsty.
SANGIOVESE - aka, Tomato Juice
SONO MONTENIDOLI $23 btl
Il Garrulo Chianti Colli Senesi, San Gimignano, Tuscany IT
A throw back Chianti being produced with a mixture of red and white grapes that is delicous with a bit of a chill.
Monte Bernardi $25 btl
Chianti Classico Retromarcia, Panzano, Tuscany IT
Made by sommelier loved winemaker Michael Schmelzer. The wine is coming from the famed hills of Panzano and shows the traditional side of rustic food friendly Chianti Classico.
Riecine $30 btl
Chianti Classico, Gaiole-in-Chianti, Tuscany IT
One of the top names in Chianti Classico and grown with incredible respect to the soil and sustainability of the vineyards.
Pian dell'Orino $55 btl
Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany IT
A name to know in the collectors world seeking out Brunello. However, the Rosso di Montalcino is drinking insanely well right now.
CINCINNATI MARKETS WE HIT
google any of these to find hours and events programmed through the summer.
- TUESDAY : Loveland Farmers’ Market:
- TUESDAY : Wyoming Ave. Farmers’ Market:
- WEDNESDAY : Northside Farmers’ Market:
- WEDNESDAY : Farmers’ Market at Summit Park (Blue Ash):
- THURSDAY : Madeira Farmers’ Market:
- SATURDAY : Anderson Farmers’ Market:
- SATURDAY : Covington Farmers’ Market:
- SATURDAY : Montgomery Farmers’ Market:
- SATURDAY & SUNDAY : Findlay Market:
- SUNDAY : Hyde Park Farmers’ Market
There are many more markets happen throughout our community. I highly recommened going to finding farmers you love their product and give some respect to their hard and delicious work.
See you next Sunday.
Kevin O. Hart
I am sure this reading has made you thirsty. Feel free to reach out and let us curate some incredible wine just for you.