Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friends and a Grand Italian Event

How blessed we were to spend an evening with a few close friends and new found ones as we were invited to join in a Dinner party with Wines from Tuscany. Our dear friends, Ray and Donna, had purchased this 10-person event at an auction with proceeds going to assist a local community charity. A grand affair, but with 16 people, to include the fine couple who donated it, their daughter, our personal sommelier, and the three very talented musicians who entertained us.

Before I tell you about the evening, it is important to note that local people are the ones who understand the needs of a community and always rise to the occasion of supporting those organizations that do good work; it speaks to their compassion and generosity and as the American people who are always willing to give of their time, effort, and hard earned money, guiding and helping others build a better life. It is not government that is to be praised. Having said that, I can now continue.

A romantic and memorable evening from the beginning: as we entered the quaint setting of the local inn and restaurant, the elegant tones of the chamber music beckoned us to join in the old world charm of our private dining rooms. The cellist, violinist and pianist graced this room with intimacy. Other guests had already arrived and were enjoying their first glass of the chardonnay Libaio, a delicate and non-oak wine from La Solatia estate, a nice balance to the beautiful array of appetizers. To add to the enjoyment, we later discovered the wine to be a good value in addition to its quality rating. . . our kind of wine.

Antipasti: Calamari Fritti with an aoili; large Prosciutto Prawns; assortment of salami, cheese, and olives, artichoke hearts; Bruschetta Con Funghi. . . beautifully prepared and displayed, delicious, but my inner voice said to only take a little.

The sommelier suggested we descend the several stairs into the dining area and take our seats at the long dark wooden table, heavily laded with sparkling crystal stemware, and positioned in the center of the room surrounded by wine-filled racks which lined the walls. She offered a brief background about herself and some history of brothers Luigi and Adolfo Folonari who still own controlling interest in Ruffino, a leading Chianti wine maker in Tuscany. And with each food course the new wine was presented along with some characteristics.

We discussed cork versus the new bottle caps, how cork allows red wines to age better, French oak compared to American oak, that American oak has a tendency to evoke harsh tannins and that the better French oak is dependent upon the forest from which it comes. . . Did you know that Italy cannot irrigate the grapes, but grow naturally on their own? And were you aware the growers cannot increase the number of vines, but can only replace them - dig one out and plant one in its place?

Insalata: Butterleaf lettuce dressed with sliced pears, gorgonzola crumbles, toasted hazelnuts and a raspberry honey vinaigrette, and a second Chardonnay, an '06 La Solatia. . .in oak for just 3 weeks, just a little malolactic fermentation for that smooth and buttery flavor, and a splash of Voignier, she explained. A very nice wine to suit the palate.

An '05 Santedame Chianti, a fairly young wine and made from the Sangiovese grape (it has to be 85% of that grape), was served with our third course.

Primi: Ravioli Calabrese, a traditional ravioli with beef, pork, and chicken tossed in olive oil, butter, rosemary and a parmigiano cheese topping. Umm. . . note to self: find a recipe for this one!

Secondi: a local and organic Ribeye steak, grilled and served with a bourbon demi glaze, roasted potatoes and vegetables, and complemented with an '03 Lodola Nuova, another made from the Sangiovese grape. . . with 10% merlot and aged for 24 months in French oak and one year in the bottle. Delicious! but I must confess to eating only a small amount and requesting a doggie bag.

Dessert: Typically we do not eat dessert, but I did indulge a bit on this dense and decadent flourless Chocolate torte, and served with a Rustino Reserva Ducale, which means reserved for the Duke and would indicate a much higher price tag, made for that fine combination of a dark chocolate and a nice soft lingering finish in this wine.

Spettacolare! and a night to write about and remember. I do believe a six-month stay in a villa in Tuscany would be in order sometime in our future. Thank you my friends for allowing us to be a part of this memorable evening.

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