Food, Wine and Music: Paul Cullen and Tune Your Palate

Paul Cullen, former Bad Company bassist, has turned his attention from rock music to Italian food and wine with music to accompany both. Through his enterprise, Tune Your Palate, he will arrange to cook delicious authentic Italian dishes for you and your friends in your own kitchen. He creates wine pairings to match and then plays music while you enjoy both. Sounds like a delicious idea doesn’t it?

Paul was recently a guest on one of Protocol Wine Studio’s #WineStudio online sessions. We followed the discussion on Twitter as he told us a bit about his music, his cooking and the wine he serves with his family recipes. We had the opportunity to taste two of those wines, which we received as tasting samples.

I was inspired by Paul’s story to do some research into the two wines we received as well as regional Italian dishes that might accompany them. The pairings took us to two regions in Italy.


LambruscoDenny Bini Podere Cipolla Lambrusco NVmedium ruby in the glass abundant, frothy bubbles. Aromas of red fruit and dried hay are followed by flavors of black tea, berries, celery and dried hay. Tannins are noticeable, the wine is dry and the finish is short to moderate in length. ABV 11%.

From start to finish this wine is an adventure. The label is playful, the bottle is closed with a crown cap and the color and fizz are just plain fun. And I’ll bet you are not often served a chilled red wine, much less a red wine with bubbles. It’s not a serious or contemplative wine. Just drink it and enjoy it. It was perfect on a wintery evening, but I would imagine it would be very refreshing on a warm summer afternoon as well.

As I noted, we enjoyed this Lambrusco chilled but some prefer them to be served at closer to room temperature. It was nice to taste the wine chilled and then notice the change in flavors as it warmed. As you would expect, the fruity flavors of the wine are more appreciable as the wine warms in the glass.

Lambrusco describes both the wine and the grape variety used to produce the wine in the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardi regions of Italy. Lambrusco is produced in a variety of styles from dry (secco), to sweet (amabile) to very sweet (dolce).

Denny Bini Podere Cipolla Lambrusco is produced from grapes grown organically (though not certified) and are hand picked. Native yeasts were used for the alcoholic fermentation, and the second fermentation took place in tank under pressure – the charmat method – and bottled without the addition of sulfur. The chamat method of sparkling wine production is less expensive than méthode traditionnelle, and produces a sparkling wine that preserves the fruity character of the grapes.

As is common with Lambrusco, the wine consists of a blend of Lambrusco varieties: 30% Lambrusco Marani, 30% Lambrusco Salamino, 20% Lambrusco Maestri, 10% Lambrusco Grasparossa and 10% Ancellotta, a non-Lambrusco variety that lends tannins and acidity.

Lambrusco-pastaOur food pairing for this wine was Strichetti Pasta with Asparagus and Prosciutto — a pasta dish prepared with bow-tie pasta, prosciutto, asparagus, mascarpone, grated Parmigiano Reggiano and onions. I found the recipe on a website called Mange Bene Pasta. The sub-heading of the website is “Chi manga bene, vive bene. Who eats well, lives well.” It’s hard to argue with that.

The pasta was lovely. The saltiness of the proscuitto and Parmigiano Reggiano, mixed beautifully with the creaminess of the mascarpone. I like being able to have my vegetables too, and enjoyed the addition of the asparagus. The dish was a snap to put together and made a perfect weeknight meal.

This food and wine pairing was surprisingly delicious. We found the Lambrusco light enough in flavor so that it did not overpower the pasta. The bubbles were nice with the creaminess of the dish and the herbal flavors in the wine matched well with the asparagus.


Vallarom-Marzemino2013 Vallarom Trentino Marzeminobright ruby in the glass with tart cherry aromas. Tart red fruit flavors follow with a hint of green tea in the background, bright acidity and smooth tannins. This wine is lively and energetic thanks to the acidity, the tart fruit flavors and a light to medium body. Right up my alley. 12.5% ABV.

This wine shouts cool climate with the tart fruit flavors and bright acidity. It was a bit too tart for Pete’s liking, but I thought it was just delicious. After drinking the wine at room temperature the first day, we recorked the bottle and refrigerated the wine. The next evening I enjoyed a glass, chilled, and it occurred to me that this wine would be a perfect choice in warm-weather months as well.

Trentino DOC is located in northeastern Italy within the Trentino-Alto Adige region. The climate is cool, the elevation alpine and hillside vineyards are planted in soils composed of chalk, limestone and sand.

Marzemino is a variety indigenous to northern Italy and the oldest vines used for this bottling are over 30 years old. The vineyards are certified organic and the fruit is hand picked. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel with native yeast only. Large neutral wood barrels are used in the aging of this wine. Production is small, only 250 cases.

I love the internet. Once again, after a brief search, I found a website with recipes for many regional Italian dishes.  Italian Notes  had a dish from the Trentino region that looked like it would pair nicely with the Vallarom Trentino Marzemino.

Vallarom-Marzemino-and-chickenPetto di Pollo Ripieno (stuffed chicken breasts) required a bit more preparation than the pasta dish, but the result was well worth the effort. The stuffing included grated parmesan, speck (I used pancetta), bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts, salt, pepper and rosemary. After browning the stuffed chicken breasts, I braised them in white wine. The chicken was tender, the filling savory and the pan juices made a delicious gravy.

The Vallarom Marzemino paired perfectly with the savory, rich flavors of the chicken. The tart fruit flavors and the crisp acidity were palate cleansing and stood toe-to-toe with the savory, salty flavors of the chicken. This combination is a keeper!

Both of these wines are among those imported by PortoVino. From their website:

Our goal is the same as when we started: not to be a sip-and-spit importer, but to be intimately connected to and searching within Italy’s culture, language, geography, people, and cucina for exceptional terroir-driven wines that transmit tradizione, a bit of anarchia, and lots of convivialitá.

PortoVino looks for wines made by small producers, often using organic farming practices and in a hands-off winemaking style. Or, as they put it on their website: “Groovy Italian wines.”

This installment of #WineStudio was a great learning experience for us. Thanks to Protocol Wine Studio for organizing the tasting and to Paul Cullen for spending time telling his story and the story of these interesting wines.



  1. Isn’t Paul just great! Love your review of the wonderful evening! Cheers.