Winery of the Month: Castello di Monsanto, Tuscany, Italy

After being forced to leave his home in Tuscany during World War II, Aldo Bianchi returned to attend a wedding at Castello di Monsanto. He was struck by the beauty of the magnificent estate near his hometown of San Gimignano. He worked to acquire the medieval property and he and his wife Giuliana set out planting new vines and renovating the castle and farmhouses.

Castello di Monsanto is located halfway between Florence and Siena. The Bianchi family has been producing Chianti Classico for more than 50 years and have celebrated family, passion and excellence in winemaking since their first release in 1962. A village of ancient Etruscan origin, the name and locality of Monsanto dates back to 998 A.D. Long before the Bianchi family arrived, the Sangiovese grape has grown at Monsanto for over 200 years.

Wine of the Month: Monsanto Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva

Made from 90% Sangiovese grapes, Chianti Classico Riserva is a rich, intense and complex wine with distinct notes of spice, brilliant flavors of red berry fruit, outstanding acidity and nicely weighted tannins.

An accessible example of the unique style and character of Castello di Monsanto wines. This multi-faceted wine can be enjoyed now or left to develop and evolve as the years roll by. It is the most widely produced Monsanto wine, underlining the company’s belief in Sangiovese, which acquires strength and energy from the soil that must be patiently awaited. Monsanto is one of the oldest wines in Italy, it appeared on the market in the 1960s and has become an ambassador for the entire denomination around the world.

Decanting is recommended for one hour before serving.

Food Pairings:
Beef, Pork, Marinara Sauce, Roasted Meat, Hard Cheeses, Salami. Sangiovese wines from the Chianti region have high tannins and acidity. They are balanced by rich flavors and fats like those found in red meat, butter and olive oil. 

Fig & Blue Cheese Pizza

4 cups bread flour or 00 flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 F)
1 tsp sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, torn
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
4 fresh figs, quartered
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 Tbs walnut pieces
Fresh basil, For garnish

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the flour and salt.  In a 2-cup measuring cup combine the water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over the top and let stand for 5 minutes until yeast is foamy. Turn on the mixer and begin drizzling the yeasty water over the flour mixture. Mix on low speed for 7 to 10 minutes until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoon. If it is too stiff or dry, add more water by the tablespoon. Its structure should be smooth and stretchy.

Lightly oil a large bowl with the olive oil. Form dough into a ball, transfer to the bowl and turn to lightly coat with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for an hour or until dough has doubled in size. Divide dough into 2 pieces; shape into balls and place on a lightly floured work surface, leaving a few inches between the balls. Loosely cover with a damp dish towel and let rise for about 30 minutes. (If you’re only making one pizza, the other dough ball can be refrigerated or frozen before the 2nd rise.)

On a lightly floured work surface press dough ball into a round disc by pressing with fingertips around the edges of the dough. Press out from the center of the dough to the edge while turning the dough at the same time. Finish rolling it out to about 12 inches using a rolling pin. Transfer dough to a round pizza pan.

Spread the pizza sauce around the dough. Add the remaining toppings and transfer to a preheated 475° F oven. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn if necessary. Remove when dough begins to brown and puff and cheese melts. Add fresh basil for garnish.

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