by Catherine Fallis
Thursday, August 23, 2001
Piero and his winemaker, Renzo Cotarella, jetted in to host the event, and were dazzled themselves at the impressive lineup of vintages going back to 1983 and including ultra-rare magnums of Secentenario, (a classic Tignanello blend of 80 percent sangiovese, 15 percent cabernet sauvignon, and 5 percent cabernet franc) bottled in honor of Antinori's 600-year anniversary (1385-1985). Earlier this year, M. Aubert de Villaine hosted a dinner at Club XIX, showcasing the wines of Domaine de la Romanee Conti (DRC).
Peppoli Chef Stephen Blackwell's menu paired seamlessly with the wines. His mastery of--and passion for--Tuscan wine and food pairing was obvious. At the last minute he added foie gras butter to the langoustines, based on a dream he had the night before, "to help the dish stand up to the young wines." Servers displayed pleasingly high levels of professionalism and teamwork under the watchful eyes of Peppoli Manager Manoel Errico and Food & Beverage Director Pascal Rifflart. One server wiped up a last minute fingerprint on a glass door as another noted that the olive oil fills were not all uniform. Now that is a job well done.
As guest sommelier I partnered with Nase to open, decant, pre-taste, and pour each flight of wines, so I didn't have the opportunity to enjoy the meal and wines sitting down, but later that night in the back of the house I munched on a quail salad dressed with a truffle oil so incredible I can still taste it. Chef Blackwell's secret? He adds truffle jus to the neutral grapeseed oil.
PRIVATE CANDLELIGHT DINNER... If you are thinking about where to pop the question, this might be the place. Chateau Julien, a replica of a French chateau complete with a Great Hall, Conservatory, Chai (wine cellar), and private upstairs dining room with a welcoming hearth, is just five miles east on Carmel Valley Road from Highway 1. Owners Bob and Patty Brower have been making wine here since 1982 and have used 100 percent Monterey County grapes from day one, and their recent releases including a sexy little sangiovese, the Chateau Julien Estate Vineyard Sangiovese Monterey County 1999 ($9.99), are worth checking out. The sangiovese is open and inviting with sour cherry fruit, a soft, sandalwood character, and that beautiful little kick of palate-refreshing acidity that is so often lacking in many of today's fashionable "supersize me" wines. The merlot is seamless, billowy, and softly fruited; the cabernet sauvignon is very balanced and towards the lighter side in body, not flavor; the syrah is opulently fruity, ripe, and round and amongst the whites, the sauvignon blanc was of more interest to me than the pinot grigio and chardonnay. You can take home the sangiovese, syrah, sauvignon blanc, and pinot grigio for under $10; the others are $22. For more information visit www.chateaujulien.com or call the winery at (831) 624-2600.
POCO PANE, POCO VINO: A LITTLE BREAD, A LITTLE WINE... On Wednesday, Aug. 29, Terranova Fine Wine shop honors Alpine authors Gina and Ruggero Gigli at a book signing and wine tasting from 5pm to 8pm at the Monterey Marriott, 350 Calle Principal. If your personal idea of paradise is hand-made pasta and a glass of good red wine, check out Poco Pane, Poco Vino: A Little Bread, A Little Wine. Ruggero Gigli, chef/owner of the smallest trattoria in the Eastern Sierra in the smallest county seat of California, shares his unique recipes and pasta secrets in this first-ever compilation of the restaurant's most-beloved dishes. Collecting the 65 recipes was the two-year project of Gigli's wife and collaborator, artist Gina Gigli, whose wine-theme and high-country intaglio etchings grace the walls of the restaurant, spill over into the minuscule gallery, and now illustrate this 200-page, softcover cookbook.
The book is a testament to the couple's interest in and affection for all things relating to wine and viticulture, food and agriculture, and those fertile areas, Tuscany and Monterey/Napa/ Sonoma. Chef Gigli was born in Borgo San Lorenzo, where his mother, "Mamma," schooled him in life and culinary art at the busy family stove. Artist Gina Gigli was raised in California, the daughter of well-known architect Frank Green, who taught her to look for beauty in vast spaces and natural, gracious proportion. For information about the book signing, call Terranova at 333-1313 or send an email: email@example.com