Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Underwood 07 - Toscana

Our second evening's feast at Underwood was more traditional, certainly in terms of the Sangiovese-based wine pairings. We prepared simply seasoned but well marbled ribeye steaks, oven roasted potatoes with olive oil, sliced heirloom tomatoes and basil (both from my garden), sauteed snowpeas with heirloom garlic, and a tossed salad with garden veggies.

Our wine journey began with Marchesi Antinori's Chianti Classico Riserva 2000. While I had many of Antinori's "Super-Tuscans" as well as wines from his Puglian properties, his Chianti was new to me. And not surprisingly, it was beautiful. Ruby red with bright cherry fruit, well-balanced acidity and plenty of those leathery-tobacco notes. I did note, however, that it was fuller bodied than most Chianti, certainly from traditional producers.

While everyone was enjoying their first wine, I began the arduous process of removing the traditional wax seal closure on our next wine: a jeroboam (3L) of Poggio Amorelli Oracolo 2003. While I had removed the wax seal closure on large-format bottles previously, it is never any easier the next time. In fact, it is usually tedious and always messy. But the process is generally rewarding and it certainly was this time. While I missed the opportunity to visit this property in Castellina in Chianti, I have always loved wines from this producer which include an amazing Chianti as well. The beautifully named Oracolo from Poggio Amorelli is technically a "Super-Tuscan" despite being 100% Sangiovese and traditionally styled. The 2003 has a rich garnet color with an intense earthy, leathery nose and gobs of ripe cherry berry fruit on the palette with all components in remarkable balance (amazing considering the 2003 vintage) and a long, silky finish. The wine practically screams grilled meats! While perhaps not the best vintage ever, this wine is truly noteworthy. And that was a good thing considering we had copious amounts of the Oracolo to drink.

Underwood 07 - Piemonte

Everyone needs a friend who owns a "camp" in the Adirondacks. And everyone needs a friend who shows up with an amazing line-up of wines to accompany the meal they are preparing to honor the occasion. I was preparing a meal that could best be described as "Swiss-Germans comfort food". The menu included breaded pork shops, sweet and sour red cabbage, truffle oil and garlic mash potatoes, and fresh apple sauce. If it were to be enjoyed in Italy, this meal would probably be found in the far north: Friuli, Trentino-Alto Adige, northern Lombardy, etc. With a little stretch of an oenophile's imagination, I decided to pair the meal with a line-up of Nebbiolo based wines.

We started with Produttori del Barbaresco's Langhe Nebbiolo 2004 as we sampled cheeses and finished cooking our feast. Everything Produttori del Barbaresco makes seems to be of quality. They are the quintessential example of a sucessful modern Italian cooperative with 58 growers representing over a quarter of the Barbaresco zone's production and making wine from 9 famous Barbaresco crus. The Langhe Nebbiolo 2004 was feminine, elegant, and well-balanced with that perfect traditional aromatic profile one expects from Nebbiolo. The wine was on the lighter side but still had sufficient structure to transition nicely into our next wine and our dinner.

With our final wine decanted, I opened and poured everyone Aldo Conterno's Quartetto Langhe Rosso 2000. For anyone who has never experienced a "Super-Piemontese" wine, look no further. A blend of equal parts Nebbiolo, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, this modern styled wine is a blockbuster. Aged in French oak barrique, the Quartetto's blend begs contemplation and constant swirling to fully admire the beautiful bouquet and its endless evolution. While certainly a traditionalist in nature, this modern gem of wine never ceases to amaze me and could convince anyone as to the sucess of blending international varietals with Piedmont's great red grapes.

With the drink-now 2000 vintage having set the stage, it was time to unleash the fruited monster inside Gianni Gagliardo's Barolo 2000. Combined with the vintage and the producers's modern style, the Tortonian soils of La Morra yield the softer, richer, and more opulent characteristics amongst Barolo wine's many faces. Not to say there wasn't ample tannicity and structure to this wine, because there certainly was. Big and chewy with wafts of dried fruit and earth, this wine probably deserved cuisine more typical of its origin, but we suffered through its magnificence nonetheless. If you ever want to try amazing Barolo, check out Gianni Gagliardo.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fall Trade Tastings

As a professional in the food and wine industry, we tend to spend way too much time "on premise" or simply working at the restaurant. It is always a pleasure to step out and attend a wine tasting, or perhaps two. This past week I was lucky enough to attend two wonderful tastings: one at an establishment overlooking Lake Champlain featuring the VIAS portfolio and "Il Professore" George Schwartz and the other out on the lake featuring several importers including Winebow. I had the opportunity to taste several wonderful wines.

From the VIAS portfolio I particularly enjoyed:

Suavia Soave Classico 2006- a nice crisp quality and set apart stylistically from some of the big names like Pieropan

Castello di Luzzano Malvasia "Tasto di Seta" 2006- apricots and mint, slightly frizzante, always wonderful

Castello di Rampolla Chianti Classico 2004- traditional, earthy, barnyard qualities from an established Panzano property

Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino 2001- saddle leather, coffee, huge, foreboding, and wonderful, very ageworthy

Terredora di Paolo Taurasi 2001- tar, pepper, tobacco, and tannic, big and chewy, great vintage

La Poderina Moscadello di Montalcino 2003- Tuscany's moscato, beeren-auslese nose, peach and apricot, fabulous finish

From the Winebow portfolio I particularly enjoyed:

Argiolas Perdera 2005- big but elegant, from Monica, Carignano and Bovale Sardo, well made, great value

Renieri Rosso di Montalcino 2003- great things are happening from Marco Bacci's "other" Tuscan property, ripe cherries,
cedar, leather, and fruit forward

Tasca d'Almerita Regaliali 2003- perhaps Sicily's best cooperative, great wine, great value-check out their Rosso delConte