“Good full red. Captivating aromas of ripe red cherry, mocha and violet complicated by an herbal nuance. Sweet, dense and juicy in the mouth, displaying bright flavors of dark cherry, flowers and spices. Finishes very smooth, savory and spicy, with outstanding energy and focus and plenty of early appeal. This complex, multilayered wine strikes me as the best I have ever tasted from Feudi del Pisciotto.” 93 points Ian D’Agata, Vinous Media
Cerasuolo. If I had to use one word to fully describe Paolo Panerai’s excellent wine ‘Giambattista Valli’ that would be it. Cerasuolo means cherry like. This wine is so chockfull with bright cherry, pomegranate and strawberry flavors I had to wonder if my wife didn’t swap the wine with fresh cherry juice to fool me.
The wine is named after noted designer Giambattista Valli as part of a collection meant to celebrate Italian fashion. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the sole Sicilian DOCG wine and is made from two native Sicilian grape varieties, Nero d’Avola and Frappo.
The thin skinned Frappo grapes give the wine it’s beautiful iconic cherry flavors, aromatics and acidity but are notoriously low in tannins and structure. So, as a contrast, winemaker Alessandro Cellai adds a slightly larger percentage of Nero d’Avola, the famed black grape, to provide Cerasuolo with the body and structure needed to transform this blend into a cellar worthy powerhouse of a wine. He ferments the juice in stainless steel using natural yeasts for ten days then ages it in used French barriques for 12 months before bottling.
I don’t want to appear like all I know how to cook is Italian dishes. But when you serve such a beautiful wine that captures the very soul of Sicily it seems almost a crime not to eat the food it was born to marry with. Owner Paolo suggested beef as a perfect complement. I ran with that and even perhaps got a bit carried away in the excitement. I started with beautifully cured bresaola (air dried beef) rolled around a peppery salad of arugula and fresh shaved 24-month old parmesan dressed in a hint of fruity Italian olive oil and thick aged balsamic vinegar.
When I first tasted the wine alone I wondered if it might be too acidic and young to drink now. Any questions of its youth disappeared with every bite. The ruby red wine danced with the cured bresaola and arugula in my mouth. This is an elegant wine that will age gracefully for years, if not decades. We nibbled on a fresh pizzetta of shaved mortadella, taleggio cheese and caramelized sweet onions as the wine continued to soar and come into its own.
For the main course I prepared an earthy grilled bistecca I felt would complement the wine beautifully. I accompanied it with a melting pot of French and Italian rustic flavors. Rapini quickly stir fried with olive oil, hot peppers and shaved garlic. Ricotta gnocchi tossed with the season’s first green garlic and cherry tomato confite and a plateful of chickpea Socca, a flatbread/crepe hybrid typical of Southern France. Meat is the foundation upon which greatness is built. It never loses its meatiness but acts as a base that supports a multitude of other flavors. I left the traditional world by dusting my ribeye with powdered chaga mushrooms instead of porcinis. Chagas, foraged off of birch trees in Northern Alaska, are known as the ‘gift of God’ or ‘mushroom of immortality’ by Siberians because of their healthful benefits. They have been used as a powerful herbal remedy for well over 5,300 years. Better known for their anti-oxidant qualities rather than their edibility they score an astonishing 1104 orac units per gram compared to 165 for acai and the paltry 24 units for blueberries. Their flavor is best described as earthy with vanilla overtones.
In a crazy way the Giambattista Valli reminded me of a heartier pinot noir with its bright cherry flavors. It cozied up perfectly to the grilled beef and Mediterranean fare. This is a rustic dish will become an integral part of your grilling repertoire.
Chef François de Mélogue, author of ‘Cuisine of the Sun’
Bistecca with Chaga Mushrooms
‘Founded by Russ Raney in 1986, Evesham Wood is based on the idea that small is beautiful. To maintain a high level of quality, we rely on two basic principles: obtaining optimally ripe low-yield fruit from the best possible sites in the Willamette Valley, and using minimal intervention in the winemaking process. That approach is alive and well today, and is evident in every bottle we produce.’
– Winemaker and owner, Erin Nuccio
The Evesham Wood 2014 ‘Blanc de Puits Sec’ was a wine I had a preconceived notion about. When I looked at the label I fixated on it being a Gewurztraminer rather than the beautiful, dry Pinot Gris it is, or at least mostly is. In addition to the 85% Pinot Gris, there is about 15% Gewürztraminer and a smattering of Kerner, Rieslaner, Traminer and Pinot Blanc blended in. One deep smell of bright jasmine tea, roses and honeysuckle and I knew I was holding a winner.
Blanc du Puits Sec, named after the dry well (Puits Sec) that sits in Erin and Jordan Nuccio’s 12.5 acre parcel, comes from the original vineyard planting in 1986 by original owner Russ Raney. The grapes are grown tightly-spaced and nestled on a low terrace on the eastern side of the Eola-Amity Hills ridge. It’s a beautiful non-irrigated organic wine pressed from whole clusters and fermented in stainless steel with an alluring nose of rose, spice, lychee and pear.
Because I erroneously thought of Alsace and Gewurztraminer, my first thoughts on pairing ran more in that direction. One very important factor in food and wine pairing is to pay attention to the wine style in addition to the varietal. Pinot Gris’ are prime examples. Italian Pinot Grigio tend to have brighter acid and more of a Sauvignon Blanc style (without the grass), lending themselves to pair flawlessly with caprese salads and rich preparations of chicken and shellfish. New world styles tend to be spicier and more viscous and pair even better with rich dishes. The Blanc du Puits Sec falls somewhere between the Italian style and what is traditionally considered as the Oregon style. Because of that, it is a very versatile wine that will accompany a range of dishes from simple oysters or a simple tuna carpaccio to richer pasta dishes and even some less aggressively spiced Asian preparations. It is the perfect summer wine able to adapt to whatever you are cooking.
I settled on an enriched Pasta alle Vongole as the perfect match. I used succulent Manila clams freshly dug by friends in Washington state tossed with rich butter, fragrant olive oil and pasta. This is a fantastic pairing. The cleaner style of the wine brought out the sweetness of Manila clams and complemented the hints of citrus found in the lemon zest. The wine got more of an intense pear flavor and a bigger mouth feel. Which proves my belief that food needs wine and wine needs food.
Chef François de Mélogue, author of ‘Cuisine of the Sun’
Bucatini alle Vongole
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