Italy 2016 - In Vino Veritas

Italy 2016 - In Vino Veritas

Well this took a while! As this post is coming months after returning from 3 more amazing weeks spent in Italy this summer, it will be a bit short on description. But, I do have some pictures! There were food and wine highlights all around this summer. Here is a list of the best sips from my time in Cortona and Milano.

1981 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
 - enjoyed two bottles of this incredibly traditional Brunello in celebration of my anniversary, even though Mary was back home in Kansas. The wine was still filled with dark fruits, and flavors of pepper, tobacco, and mushrooms lingered in the mouth. It was especially fun to share this wine with a table of mostly students! Only 3 out of 11 people were actually older than the wine! This was a wonderful of-menu find at Taverna Pane e Vino, pulled out from the back just for me. Love that place!

2000 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo
- another incredible wine found on the list at Taverna Pane e Vino, and priced in a way that I just couldn't pass it up. Mascarello produces what is possibly my favorite barolo (at the very least one of my top 3). I have experienced only a few vintages, but this includes the 1957 which was inspiring. Mary and I visited the cantina several years ago, and the wine is just filled with so much tradition and passion. 2000 is an incredible vintage, and to me is drinking so beautifully now. Filled with perfumes of lavender, this wine just rocks. Also enjoyed sharing this with a number of students, watching their eyes roll back in their heads as they enjoyed their glasses.

Castello di Bossi Wine Dinner
- the fantastic Enoteca Molesini hosts amazing wine dinners in Cortona each week at different restaurants around town. This was the first time I have been able to attend one, and it was sensational. As I was flying solo this time, I got placed at the table of people without family/spouses, etc - meaning I sat with a group of Australian guys on holiday and also, Marco and Paolo (the enoteca owners) and Stefano - the winemaker for Castello di Bossi and Ranieri. I think I got a pretty good table! Plus - the dinner was at Pozzo Antico, one of my favorite spots in Cortona. The wines:
1997 Corbaia
- this was a treat that came to our table because of the wine maker and wine shop guys. A delicious Super-Tuscan (Sangiovese/Cab Sauv) that was young and powerful despite nearly 20 years in bottle. 
2001 Girolamo
- this Super-Tuscan is 100% Merlot and is an example of why I think Italy does the best Merlot outside of Pomerol (and when you factor in price it has to be considered the best for the $). Usually found younger in retail stores, this wine needs the time and age to really express, and 15 years seems about right!
2013 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico
- a simply DELICIOUS traditional chianti classico made in Castelnuovo Berardenga - my favorite chianti classico region. The winery sits adjacent to Castell'in Villa with each property's hills meeting on the valley floor. Love this wine. 
2012 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Riserva
- I was not as big a fan of the riserva, although it was still delicious. The riserva is aged a bit in barriques, producing a bit more of the oak/wood flavors and tannins than I tend to dig in my favorite wines. It was a very tasteful version of this style, though, and was a big hit with most in the room

Salvioni - 2012, 2013, 2014 from botte
For the past 4 summers now, I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit the SMALL (one room) cellar of the Salvioni family for a tasting from barrel with Alessia Salvioni. This year, I was privileged to taste the 2012, 2013, and 2014 vintages, each at different times in their evolution. This was the 3rd time I have been able to taste the 2012 in this way, and it has been an amazing process to watch it evolve into the monster brunello it will be when released. Masculine and powerful, the 2012 is going to be one to watch. The 2013 was elegant and filled with incredible structure. A different kind of monster is brewing there - a beautiful one! 2014 is much lighter. They aren't sure if they will make brunello yet for this vintage. I love this place!

Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino (2011)
Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (2007)
Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (2004)
Conti Costanti Rosso di Montalcino (2013)

 - Costanti was a new visit for me, and I got to enjoy two trips to the estate. I chose Costanti as one of the wineries for the Cortona Sessions wine tour and was invited to visit in advance of the group for a private tour and tasting to see what it was all about. This gave me two opportunities to taste these incredible wines. The base brunello was tremendous. A traditional wine with all of the typical notes found in good brunello:  a bit of cherry, chocolate, and nice roundness. Though young, the 2011 Brunello was awesome and can be enjoyed or saved for years to come. The Riservas lived on another planet. They were truly tremendous! The 2004 in particular was almost haunting. An incredible chocolate, rosemary, and caramel combination with soft, elegant tannins. The 2007 was also brilliant, but the '04 just knocked it out of the park. Costanti produces one of the best Rosso di Montalcino bottlings I've ever had. It was unique for its incredible freshness and lightness. Made with tremendous care, this was a real highlight and I was so lucky to be given two bottles by the folks at Costanti which were enjoyed to their fullest during concerts back in Cortona! 

Terralsole
- Our annual trip to Terralsole winery as the 2nd stop on our wine tour is always an incredible experience for all. They prepare a beautiful meal for our group of some 35 people, and are so incredibly generous in the tasting room. We enjoyed the 2006 Solista (100% Syrah), 2006 Pasticcio (Cab Franc/Merlot/Sangiovese), 2006 Coldoro (100% Merlot), 2009 Rosso di Montalcino, 2006 and 2010 Brunello and possibly some others that I have forgotten because of so many on the menu that day! Their wines are in a fruit-forward style, and are very powerful. Real crowd pleasers to everyone on the tour. And such a beautiful group of people giving us the experience.

 

 

 

2010 Tignanello
- Yup. Tignanello. One of my all-time favorites and a wine I had not had for several years. I had a bottle of this on my last night in Italy at a fantastic little restaurant in Milano (Stendhal). It is just a perfect wine every time. I love it.

2008 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino
- Poggio Antico's normale bottling is one of my go-to brunellos. The 1995 is still one of my favorites I have ever had. We shared a few bottles of this at Osteria del Teatro in Cortona amongst the Sessions faculty. It was a perfect sharing brunello. Easy to drink, lots of character, but, because 2008 is a simple vintage, it was a wine that just felt perfect for the evening. I actually love 2008 for that reason. Not going to age for decades, but just great to drink. Ready to party.

The Rosso di Montalcino Collection
- Most of the dinner gatherings had us ordering nice bottles of rosso or chianti classico as the wine for the meal rather than spending on brunello or others. The highlights were:  Valdicava 2013, Casanova di Neri 2013, Cerbaiona 2013.


The Wine List (ratings on 10 point scale; "+" indicates will improve over time)

1981 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
2000 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo
1997 Corbaia
2001 Girolamo
2013 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico
2012 Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Riserva
2012 Salvioni (from barrel)
2011 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino
2004 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
2007 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
2013 Conti Costanti Rossi di Montalcino
2010 Tignanello
2008 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino

9
9+
7
6
6
5
9+
7+
9+
7
6
8+
6

A Vegan Feast:  Mary's Birthday

A Vegan Feast: Mary's Birthday

Mary's birthday was May 12. Our life together has so many significant moments marked by food and wine. Most of them involve some beautiful meat or seafood, pasta, and incredible wine. Mary's path has led her to a vegan diet, something I think we both knew was coming. As a cook, this is definitely tough for me, as I want to lather things in butter, sear/roast/braise proteins, and do beautiful and elaborate platings around significant main courses. Cooking "fancy" vegan dishes has never been a specialty! A lovely risotto, perhaps a beautiful ratatouille, a delicious ribolitta, simple pastas, or some kind of vegetable curry has really been the highlight of my vegan toolbox. So, I bought a new book (Great Chefs Cook Vegan) and started reading recipes and looking at photos to see what might taste great to both of us, and what would be 'fun' to tackle for an eventful vegan meal. 

The Wine
2010 Marchese Antinori, Tignanello

The Meal
Course 1:  Sunchoke soup with pickled radishes
Course 2:  Grilled portobello mushrooms with avocados and a jalapeño oil
Course 3:  Cauliflower Steaks on quinoa

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The Sunchoke Soup was the winner. Really delicious. Ever worked with sunchokes before???? What a pain in the butt! Beautifully nutty and slightly sweet. The pickled radish pops a little bit of extra brightness into the dish. It was great (thank you Thomas Keller)!

 

 

The mushrooms turned out to be a good dish, but a bit on the boring side. The jalapeño oil (using roasted jalapeños) was really nice, and the avocado provided some nice flavors, but overall it was a bit dull. Would have been great alongside some other dish, but not so much as a stand-alone plate. I also wish I had found King Oyster Mushrooms instead of portobellos. Alas....next time.

 

The cauliflower steaks were awesome - largely because of the delicious quinoa bed! Leeks, garlic, olive oil, and herbs, sautéed and then blended into the quinoa as it cooked in a beautiful vegetable stock. Diced zucchini worked in and a cauliflower steak seasoned, and placed on top, drizzled in good olive oil – yum. A vegan dish for a carnivore! 

 

 

THE WINE:  2010 Marchese Antinori, Tignanello

Tignanello holds a very special place in our hearts. On our first trip to Italy in 2006, we stayed at the Antinori estate, and our porch overlooked the Tignanello vineyard. This is our favorite wine in the Antinori collection. A supertuscan blending about 80% sangiovese with 20% cabernet (Solaia is the reverse), it manages to retain all of its "Italian-ness" while adding the richness and power of the cabernet. It is spicy, elegant, and able to take us on a voyage back to Tuscany every time. We have not had a bottle of Tignanello in several years, and the 2010 vintage is a tremendous one. But.... the wine is not ready yet. It is singing with nice fruit and softness, but the roundness and earthy qualities of the landscape aren't there yet. This wine will be great in just a few more years.

The Wine List (ratings on 10 point scale; "+" indicates will improve over time)

 

6+

2010 Marchese Antinori, Tignanello

 

NYC:  3 Days - 6 Stars - Le Bernardin, Casa Enrique, The Spotted Pig, Gramercy Tavern

NYC: 3 Days - 6 Stars - Le Bernardin, Casa Enrique, The Spotted Pig, Gramercy Tavern

Just returned from a fantastic few days in New York City that included a great concert, visiting great friends, eating some amazing meals, and drinking some lovely wine. The highlight:  Le Bernardin. Chef Eric Ripert's 3-star seafood masterpiece in Midtown which has been at the top of my list of restaurants to visit for the past two years. This incredible meal was followed by a one-day impromptu tour of 3, 1-star restaurants from Queens, to the West Village, to the Flatiron District. Along the way, some barolo, a lot of white burgundy, and some génépi.

Le Bernardin
wines:
• 2010 Puligny de Montrachet, Le Caillerets, Domaine de Montille
• 1996 Meursault, "L'Ormeau", Boyer-Martenot

The two white burgundies that we ordered to accompany our meal were perfect complements to the entire evening. The Montille was crisp and refreshing with a beautiful nose and round mouthfeel. Just a touch of oak and supreme elegance that matched the refinement of the food. The Meursault was a super cool wine. At 20 years old, this wine had a delicious 'funk' when first poured, and more of a rusty hue. It was filled with the minerality so common to Meursault and perfectly complimented the richer courses at the end of the meal. This was a brilliant wine for the money, and the first sip was probably the best drink I had during my stay in NY. 

food:  
The food was beautiful. The highlights on every dish were truly the sauces – Lemongrass Consommé; Sauce Perigord; Wild Mushroom Casserole...wow. While the entire meal was brilliant, two dishes were absolute home runs:  the Langoustine and the Halibut. The Langoustine was sweet and perfectly cooked, paired with one of the most delicate and flavorful Fois Gras torchons I have ever had. It's sauce was earthy and unbelievably decadent. The halibut was beautiful, but was made almost transcendent by its mushroom sauce. The chanterelles were divine. Even better than the morels. Incredible. Following dinner, the staff was kind enough to give us a quick tour of the kitchen, even as service was winding down following our 3+ hours in the restaurant.

chef-s-tasting-for-website-5.5.16-mj1.jpg

3 MORE STARS!
In addition to the memorable evening at Le Bernardin, I shared a delicious brunch at Casa Enrique, a One-Star Michelin restaurant in Long Island City, enjoying a delicious Huevos con mole. Later, we ventured into the city seeking Belgian beer at Vol de Nuit in the Village, followed by dinner at the original gastropub, The Spotted Pig (another star). The Spotted Pig was good, but much of the food was a bit heavy on the vinegar. Enjoyed another white burgundy with dinner, this one a Premier Cru Saint Aubin from producer Paul Pillot. Skipped desert in hopes of venturing to Eleven Madison Park for another beverage and desert, but they were post Kentucky Derby party, so we continued our walk and landed at the bar at Gramercy Tavern. How it is I have never been here is crazy! What a great place. We ordered some delicious deserts (Kumquat Upside Down Cake with Green Curry Ice Cream; Vanilla Custard Pie with Strawberry Sorbet) and shared a nice bottle of 1999 Rocche de Manzoni Barolo, Vigna Cappella di Santo Stefano (perhaps slightly tainted, but filled with the big, modern, aggressive styling of Rocche). A cab ride back to queens and a sampling of some French and Italian Génépy/Genepì ended a brilliant trip. 


The Wine List (ratings on 10 point scale; "+" indicates will improve over time)

6+
7
8
6

2011 Paolo Conterno, Barolo, Rive del bric
2010 Domaine de Montille, Puligny Montrachet, Le Caiilerets
1996 Boyer-Martenot, Meursault, "L'Ormeau"
1999 Rocche dei Manzoni, Barolo, Vigna Cappella di Santo Stefano

 

 

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the uncorked pianist is the home of thoughts, musings, wine tastings, and other random stuff from me. salute!