Earlier this month Kobrand Wine & Spirits brought its Tour d’Italia to the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead. Winery owners and winemakers shared their latest releases with members of the wine trade and media.
Among the many delicious wines there were a number of standouts. Take a look at the AG’s picks in the snapshots below (click to enlarge), and look for them at wine shops and restaurants in the Atlanta area.
Piedmont (Northwest Italy) — Michele Chiarlo Veneto (Northeast Italy) — Masi Agricola Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Northeast Italy, east of Veneto) — Fernando Pighin & Figli Tuscany (Central Italy, on western side) — Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute, Tenute Silvio Nardi
Vino Venue was the location of a friendly food fight last Thursday for the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Cook-Off for a Cause. Three top local chefs competed to see whose dish paired best with the Italian red wine for the chance to win a donation to their selected local charity.
Allegrini is an estate and winery located in Fumane di Valpolicella, just north of Verona in northeastern Italy. Now in its third year, their Cook-Off for a Cause has traveled through eight U.S. cities and donated more than $35,000 to charity.
The competing chefs for the Atlanta cook-off were Ford Fry, Kevin Gillespie and John Metz. They were chosen because they all source locally and add importance to the community.
Chef Gillespie of Gunshow was competing for the FitWit Foundation, which improves the lives of Atlanta children and teens through fitness, tutoring and personal development programs. Since 2008 more than 500 kids have participated in the program.
As the chefs prepared their dishes, Marilisa Allegrini gave an overview of the estate and wine. Marilisa is the sixth generation of her family to work in the wine business and manages the winery with her two brothers.
The Palazzo della Torre is a blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese made in the ripasso style. After the harvest, 70% of the grapes were vinified immediately and 30% were left to dry until the end of December. The wine made at harvest was blended with the fermenting juice of the dried grapes, initiating a second fermentation. This winemaking style helps to create a more complex and concentrated wine. The wine spent 15 months in one year-old French oak barriques.
The Allegrini Palazzo della Torre is dark ruby red in color, with an intense dark berry aroma and flavors of blackberries, ripe and dried cherries, mocha and dates.
The chefs had a couple of weeks to get to know the wine and come up with their dishes. Guests were asked to judge each dish based on three criteria: the dish on its own, the uniqueness of the dish and how well it paired with the wine.
Up first was Chef Fry, who paired the Palazzo della Torre with Pekin duck risotto. Duck stock added a rich flavor to the Arborio rice, which had duck cracklings, foraged mushrooms and herbs folded in. Rich without being heavy, the risotto matched the elegance of the wine.
For the second round Chef Gillespie served a smoked cabbage dumpling with country sausage, caramelized turnips and potato puree. The smoky and savory flavors in the dumpling paired nicely with the cherry notes and tannins in the wine.
The final round was a rustic country rigatoni from Chef Metz. The pasta was served with oregano roasted chicken, sausage meatball, oven roasted tomato, baby escarole, oyster mushroom, canellini beans and parmesan cheese. Hearty and with layers of flavor, the pasta complemented the layered and complex wine.
After dining, discussing and casting votes it was time to announce the results. The winner: Chef John Metz, who thanked the audience and spoke passionately about his cause. The Atlanta Community Food Bank will receive $3,000 from Allegrini.
Chef Kevin Gillespie came in second, and Chef Ford Fry came in third. Their causes will receive $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.
Italian winemakers and their representatives took over the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco earlier this autumn for the Simply Italian great wine tour. With stops in Chicago and Las Vegas, the tour offered the chance to share the wide variety of magic Italian winemakers weave with their grapes.
More than fifty wineries from all over Italy poured their best wines at seminars and the grand tasting. While some were established labels, others came to the United States to find importers for their brands.
Seminars highlighted the range of grapes grown and the full gamut of wines produced all over Italy. At one session fourteen wines took participants on a fascinating tour. We started with non-vintage Prosecco from Carpenè Malvolti that demonstrated the fruity aroma yet dry finish of this sparkling wine.
Moving through a procession of increasingly complex whites, we continued to some remarkable reds. The 2005 Rubesco Riserva Vigna Monticchio from Cantine Giorgio Lungarotti, a blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo, was one of the most complex of the tasting with notes of dark cherries and silky tannins. The 2006 Mille E Una Notte (meaning 1001 nights) from Donnafugata was another spectacular red blend. This contained 90% Nero d’Avola and 10% of “the best grapes harvested at Contessa Entellina in 2006.” The aroma was of dark fruits and the taste had a great balance of fruit and earthiness with a slight tannic finish.
Simply Italian might be a misnomer, as the variety of grapes, wines and regions was anything but simple. Among the variety of interesting wines here are several that stood out:
Perla Del Garda is a small producer from Lonato, a town in Lombardy in northern Italy. Coming from generations of farmers, this brother/sister team started releasing their own wines only a few years ago. Their white wine, Perla 2009, comes from the Lugana region within Lombardy. It is produced from Trebbiano grapes. Very tasty, the wine was crisp and flinty with a slightly smoky touch. Their red, Terre Lunari, is a blend consisting of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. It showed nice fruit, tempered by the earthiness of the Cabernet Franc and soft tannins.
From the island of Sardinia came Argiolas with flavorful, distinctive wines. The 2010 Costamolino is a white wine made from the Vermentino grape. It had notes of tropical fruit with a slight sweetness reminded me of a Riesling. The 2008 Perdera comes primarily from Monica grapes. It had a gorgeous deep red color, with dark fruit flavors culminating with a peppery finish. The 2005 Turriga is 85% Cannonau grapes with 5% each of Carignano, Bovale Sardo and Malvasia Nera. This medium bodied, food friendly wine was one of my favorites.
Valentina Cubi brought a great range of wines using basically the same grapes from the Veneto region in northeast Italy. I was impressed at the different tastes that are all called Valpolicella (the name of the region within Veneto). The 2009 Iperico was a lighter red with nice flavor. It was made from 65% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 10% Molinara. The 2004 Morar was a well made, full bodied wine of greater complexity. It was composed of 70% Corvina, 25% Corvinone and 5% Rondinella. The third Valpolicella, a 2005 Arusnatico, had the same composition as the Iperico but tasted altogether different. The distinction is that the Arusnatico undergoes a second fermentation on the stems in February. This treatment produces a deep red, well-structured wine that is both fruity and spicy. It fills the mouth and finishes with silky tannins.
For a wine lover constantly in search of new tastes, this mini tour of the varieties of Italian wine beyond Pinot Grigio and Chianti was quite a revelation. I recommend trying bottles from different grape varieties to compare with your old standards for a fresh experience.
Maxine Howard is the West Coast correspondent for the Amateur Gastronomer.