February 3, 2009

Dinner with an Antinori

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Tonight I had the pleasure of dining with Marchese Lodovico Antinori, the founder of Tenuta dell'Ornellaia. The dinner was organized by my regular wine merchant and held at Nicholini's at the Conrad.

The food was pretty decent and interesting. We started with aragosta e fegato d'oca in albanella affumicata. Lobster and pan-fried foie fras is indeed an interesting combination, made even more interesting by being smoked in a jar. Seems like lots of restaurants in town are "smoking" their dishes these days... Later on the chef came to show us the contraption that he made to inject the smoke into the jars, and he is apparently selling these things!

Capesante ai tre modicon tartufo, caviale e fegato d'oca was an interesting presentation of three scallops, each prepared differently. The first one with saffron sauce with caviar seemed to be alright, but the one with foie gras was much better, as the creamy sweetness of the foie blended well with the taste of the scallop. The truffle flavor dominated the last scallop, and the pancetta was pretty nice.

I really liked the risotto ai porcini, bigolo con puttanesca all agnello because I have never had pasta presented this way before. The risotto with porcini and truffle was OK - al dente but a little dry for my liking. It was the bigolo that really caught my interest. Not only was the textur of the pasta interesting, the strong flavors of the lamb were also amazing. I looove lamb, and this was so tasty that I wish I could just eat this all night!

The main course of cosatata brasata e guancia di wagyu su polenta al tartufo in salsa ai vini was pretty rich, as both pieces came from wagyu. The beef cheek was as expected - soft enough to melt in your mouth - and topped with some foam. The short ribs were also very tender, served on top of some truffled polenta that was just fragrantly delicious.

5 different types of cheese comprise the formaggi selezionati, each paired with its own different housemade jam. The ubriaco was interesting in that it was covered with grape must so that the flavors of the wine soaked into the cheese. The pecorino was nice, and the 36-month parmigiano was very good.

We are able to sample a number of wines currently made by Lodovico. He agreed to sell Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, his baby, in 2002. Since then he has been spending time working with his brother Piero on various projects around the world, one of which is Tenuta di Biserno in Tuscany and another being Mount Nelson in New Zealand.

2007 Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc - rather oaky nose, with muscat grape, some minerals and a bit chalky towards the end. Good acidity balance with the ripeness on the palate. A Sauvignon Blanc that screams New Zealand...

2007 Insoglio - first impression was stewed prunes, minerals on the nose, with lots of concentration and a bit hot on the palate. Later on smoked meats and coffee notes emerged. The wine is very young and there were still some heavy tannins. This wine is a twist on the traditional Bordeaux blend, as Cabernet Sauvignon has been replaced entirely by 35% of Syrah.

2006 Insoglio - very strong nose of minerals, iron with lots of sweet fruits. Good concentration here, a bit hot but in general pretty smooth on the palate. My favorite of the three vintages.

2005 Insoglio - a different blend than the 2006/7 with the presence of 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet fruit and a bit minty on the nose which is less sharp than the newer vintages. Smooth and nice on the palate. An easy wine to drink, but I found it less interesting than the 2006/7.

2006 Il Pino di Biserno - huge concentration here, with heavy mineral notes and very sweet. A Bordeaux blend with no Syrah, but it sure smells like a lot of Cali Syrahs that I love so much, especially with the minerals.

2005 Il Pino di Biserno - sweet on the nose but also a bit chalky. Smooth on the palate with a tad more acidity. Beautiful wine. Later on a bit of brett emerged, along with caramel, vanilla and a hint of smoke. My wine of the evening.

It was really interesting to sit with one of the Antinori brothers, as Lodovico tells us the story of the origin of the name Insoglio del cinghiale. He is clearly a man who is passionate about wine, and the passion is translated into the products. I eagerly await the release of the flagship wine Biserno, and I'll surely be begging my wine merchant for an allocation (out of a production of 6,000 bottles...)

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