Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow are food and wine writers and bloggers. It is always a pleasure to be invited to their home for lunch or dinner. Diane does the cooking assisted by Tom and Tom chooses the wine assisted by Diane. On a recent occasion, they prepared a 5 course meal paired with a excellent array of wines.
Bollinger “La Grande Anee” Brut 2004 blend of 70 % Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from 13 crus: mainly Ay and Verzenay for the Pinot Noir and Chouilly and Mesnil-sur-Oger for the Chardonnay-95% grand crus and 5% premier crus. There is a moderate dosage of 6 grams per liter. It remains in the cellar for twice the time required by the appellation. This is mature complex Champagne with hints of dried fruit, hazelnuts and pastry. It has a creamy effervescence, subtle acidity and a long finish. Produced only when the harvest reaches a perfect balance.
Fiano di Avellino 2012 DOCG Ciro Piariello made from 100% Fiano. The vineyards are in Sunnonte and Monteferdane in the province of Avellino at 500 to 600 meters. The exposure is south-southwest, soil is clay-loam sandstone and the average age of the vineyards is 18 years. Hand harvest in the second or third week of October and the grapes are carefully sorted. Grapes are pressed slowly with only the first press fraction going into this wine. Fermentation for 60 days in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts. The wine spends time on the lees. 12 months in stainless steel and 3 to 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of citrus and peaches and plums with a touch of smoke.
Barbera d’Alba Pre–Phylloxera DOC 2011 Elvio Cogno Made from 100% Barbera. When I visited this winery Valter Fissore the wine maker said that this unique wine comes from a vineyard that is over 120 years old. He rents the vineyard, which is situated in Berri close to La Morra. The vineyard is only 3,400 square meters. The vines are vertically trellised and Guyot pruned and the vineyard is at 520 meters. The grapes are harvested in the beginning of October. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumpover. Aging takes place for 12 months in large Slavonia oak casks and another 6 months of bottle age before release. Only 1,800 bottles are produced. This is an elegant well-balanced wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry and cherry and a touch of spice. It is a Barbera that will age. I have had this wine a few times before and I am always impressed by it.
Valter explained that the vines come from pre-grafted plants propagated by cuttings that have been maintained over many years and therefore they have the original Barbera characteristics. The terrain is sandy-chalk, which is a natural protection for the vines from phylloxera. Valter said that this wine was something he always wanted to make and it is also a tribute to his father-in-law, Elvio Cogno, who made a pre-phylloxera Dolcetto d’Alba “Boschi di Berri” when he was at the Marcarini Winery.
Taurasi Riserva 2006 Guastaferro 100% Aglianico. This wine will be imported for the first time into this country starting this month. The wine is aged in large barrels (botti) for more then 4 years. It is a classic Taurasi that will age for many years.
Balthazar’s Braised Short Ribs, Duchess Potatoes, Spinach. The succulent ribs were fall off the bone tender and the potatoes were a perfect foil for the brown sauce. Fresh spinach was a nice counterpoint.
Barolo Granbussia Riserva 2006 100% Nebbiolo Aldo Conterno made from Michet and Lampia varieties of Nebbiolo. Harvest is manual with grape selection in the vineyard and it takes place in mid-October. Vinification is in wood with maceration of the skins in large Slavonia oak casks. The must remains in contact with the skin for 60 days, during which alcohol fermentation is fully completed. The wine is then placed in large Slavonia oak casks for 32 months. The grapes for the Granbussia Riserva are from the oldest vineyards: Romirasco 70%, Cicala 15% and Colonello 15% depending on the vintage. The wine remains in the cellar for 8 years before release and is only produced in the best vintages.
Michele’s Polenta Cake with Peaches from her book “The Italian Vegetable Cookbook” was the dessert, though Diane put her own spin on it by using corn flour instead of corn meal and peaches instead of the original berries. It was a great cake.
After dinner Tom always serves grappa, Cognac, brandy and assorted spirits. Tom brought back from Campania a brandy made from 100% Fiano, Don Vittorio Brandy from Di Meo aged for 25 years. Classic brandy distillation, discontinuous method in a brain-marie. Smooth with hints of spice, vanilla, coffee and a touch of honey. It was the perfect way to end a lovely meal.