by Dwight Casimere
NEW YORK-- Kobrand Tour d'Italia 2015 presented Italy's top wines and winemakers in a whirlwind national tour that began in Boston, and wound its way though New York, West Orange, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Tampa and Miami. This showcase of the Icons of Italian wines celebrated the best that Italy has to offer. All of the great names in Italian wine were there, with their owners and winemakers personally on hand to pour their liquid gems.
Sassicaia, Tenuta Sette Ponti, Folonari, Masi, Michele Chiarlo, among others, presented a dazzling array of their latest vintages, all served against the backdrop of a luxurious venue, accompanied by some terrific Italian food.
Among the favorites was Tenute Silvio Nardi's Brunello di Montalcino 2010, A deep, intense Ruby-red wine aged for 12 in French oak barrels. Its a real powerhouse of a wine, best paired with a Prime Aged Steak or a rich fish, such as Sturgeon, Monkfish or Grouper. If you have a butcher or close friend who can get you some game meat, such as Venison, Pheasant or Grouse, you'll thank me for the suggestion.
Another outstanding wine was Roberto Pighin's Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave. A bright, crisp wine with flavors of candied fruit, ripe banana and star fruit. This one will go great with Pasta Fruiti di Mare (a mixture of littleneck clams, mussels, shrimp, langostino-spiny lobster) and a light tomato puree sauce splashed with a bit of the wine poured over Angel Hair pasta. Abbondanza!
Another favorite was the Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2010. This is a powerful, complex wine with flavors of dried plums, anise, a hint of fennel and the slight aroma of baked cherries and mint. Grapes are aged on a rack 'in passito', which gives the wine a richness and character. The back note of chocolate and cinnamon flavors makes it perfect with game meat, a Prime Aged Steak, or a rich cheese like an aged Parmesan or even a creamy Gorgonzola. It is also is great by itself or with a cigar while listening to your favorite music. I'm listening to 'Trane and Johnny Hartman, myself.
Fine Italian wines, generally, get a real workout in the aging barrels, with some winemakers making elaborate use of combinations of barrel sizes, types of wood and age of barrels. Masi, for example, uses a combination of giant Slavonian oak casks and fine French Allier oak casks from the Auvergne region in Moulin, then ages the wine for 6 months to a year in the bottle. The results are exquisite.
I found myself hovering around the table with Oreno Toscana IGT 2008, a rare treat. Perhaps it also was the magnetic personality and warm smile of the owner, Giovanna Moretti, that also attracted my attention. She's a terrific ambassador for the brand. The wine not only tasted great on its own, but it went perfectly with the assortment of Italian specialties on the groaning sideboard; assorted crudo and salumi and, of course, pasta. Salute'!