Monday, November 15, 2010

Chateau Montelena Wine Dinner

How does a fine dining establishment pull off a high-end wine dinner for 100 people after a natural gas explosion miles away shuts down their kitchen? I don't how Bistro 41 made it happen but they did and without a hitch, at least from the patrons point of view!

George Blanckensee, Marketing Director from Chateau Montelena in California, has lots of ties to Southwest Florida and was the man of the hour when he arrived with the a wine that rarely leaves California, the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Only 500 cases were made and we drank one prior to sitting down to the five course dinner.

First course: Braised pork belly over caramelized apple sauerkraut served with a 2009 Potter's Valley Riesling. The wine had lots of acid but was still flowery with peach and melon on the finish. Only 1500 cases were made. Combined with the fatty pork and bold apple sauerkraut it was rich and delicious.

Second course: Arugula with Dijon vinaigrette, topped with St Andre cheese, candied tomatoes and hearts of palm served with an '08 Chardonnay. It was not a typical California Chardonnay full of oak. It was brighter but still rich and for me was better with the delicious salad than on it's own. I was told the chef cooked those candied tomatoes for 5 hours at low heat, wow!

Third course: Au Poivre Diver Scallops over wild mushroom thyme grits and a beurre rouge served with the 2007 Zinfandel. The scallops were cooked perfectly! The Zin was soft and elegant, not an alcohol bomb like many can be. It was smokey and jammy and had yummy cocoa. I was surprised at how well it went with the dish and was curious to see how it would pair with the next course. So I saved a little, hard as it was.

Fourth course: Oak grilled Colorado Lamp Chop with a melange of roasted butternut squash and rutabagas topped with foie gras butter and served with the 2006 Estate Cabernet. This is Chateau Montelena's flagship Cabernet and it never disappoints. It's Bordeaux-style with more fruit than oak, earthy and goes down with ease! Great with the lamb! By the way, the Zin was good with it too!

Fifth course: Tart trio of strawberry, Maytag bleu cheese and dark chocolate served with a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was like "playtime"! I took a sip of wine after a bite of each tart, then I combined all three tarts in one perfect bite, then just the cheese and chocolate, then the chocolate and fruit and by now you get the picture. Each combination was fantastic with the wine. What a great way to experiment with flavors. Quote of the night: "This is the Cab that I wish for and think of" (when wanting a good Cabernet)!

The pairings brought out so many wonderful flavors, the enthusiasm was bursting, the company was incredible, the service was impeccable, the chef's outstanding and to pull off a meal like this in the midst of a crisis that later shut down the restaurant (and hundreds of others) was more than impressive! Bravo!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Viva Italia Part II

I have delayed long enough in continuing my ravings from the Kobrand and Republic National Italian wine tasting I went to last month. I honestly didn't know where to start so lets go right for the top!

Sassicaia! It's considered to be one of Italy's leading Bordeaux-style red wines and it is delicious! I tried the newly released 2007 vintage of this Super Tuscan gem that received 95 points by the Wine Advocate. (All of the wines in this blog have ratings of  over 90 points!) It's still a little tight and takes awhile to open but it definitely lives up to it's reputation!

For a 1/3 of the price and just a couple of points shy of Sassicaia I found the 2004 Tenuta La Fuga Brunello di Montalcino, Le Due Sorelle. I was told that this may be the first time this wine has been distributed to Florida. It was a beautiful deep ruby color with flavors of berries, a little chocolate and yes, leather. I wanted to be alone with it for a few minutes.

Some other outstanding Italian reds to look for right now are the 2004 Castello del Terriccio, Lupicaia. The wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Petit Verdot to round it out. It's limited, it's over $100, it's big and balanced, it has lots of layers and it's delectable. I think it could use another couple years in the cellar. A little more moderately priced is the 2008 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo. It's a Sangiovese blended with a little Merlot that is juicy with black fruit and soft tannins.

One final nugget to leave you with: 2007 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno. This bad boy made the Wine Spectator's Top 100 List! The blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is dark and dense. I smelled a bit of blueberry and tasted alot of dark fruit with some coffee on the finish. Nice layers that once again will make this wine age nicely!

The wines of Sette Ponti are all fabulous!