Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wine. Italians. Amore.

Chef Sandra Stefani of Casa Toscana, and Ysee Gaudel,
formerly of Les Halles in Coral Gables, now a wine importer

Chefs Speak

Designer Holly Brennan (River Oyster Bar),
and Power Studios' Ross Power (his real name)

Graziano Sbroglio, Lincoln Road Major Domo

The Killers...

There are so many immigrants in Miami, that sometimes we forget that many of them don't come here from way down south, but from over there, across the big ocean, Europe. There are lots of French people from France, Spanish people from Spain, and, Italian people, oddly enough, not just from Argentina, but from Italy. Sunday I met some Italians, speaking Italian, in of all places, Homestead.

And tonight I had the pleasure of accompanying some Italian friends to Vinitaly's wine event at the Art Center/South Florida on Lincoln Road, in Miami Beach. The highlight of the evening, other than meeting the gracious Ross Power, of the Design District's Power Studios (coming soon...), and designer Holly Brennan, who created the River Oyster Bar, had to be the amazing Italian hospitality, which is inherent in those crazy Italian genes. The wines were magnificent. From the 'Aries', a white 'Pecorino', which is a grape that grows in Northern Abruzzo, as well as the Southern Marches, which would be beautiful with some Stone Crab claws; to an astounding 2004 Amarone presented by Signore Roland Marcandino, of Sartori Wines, which is in the Veronese style, a “wine to dine with”, as he so eloquently put it, where the grapes are air-dried, “withered”, if you will, for three months or more, to a very grape-y 14.5 % alcohol. 50% Corvina, 40% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara. Not too 'big', as they say, but still pretty damn large, in my opinion.

There was young winemaker Vincenzo Protti, just 33 years old, whose enthusiasm was contagious; and who has been working with esteemed winemaker Franco Bernabei, making Paladin Chianti. This 80% Sangiovese, blended with other grapes including Merlot, is a thyme-scented, herbaceous exemplar of the future of Chianti, a great food wine, now rediscovering its roots. The boysenberry and cherry notes made me understand why this wine has been garnering so many awards in Italy.

And then there were the Liqiores. Squisitezze d'Antore ( gotta love the name), presented a liqueur made from Artichokes. This killer tasted like tobacco, licorice, bitter artichoke leaves, bark, celery tops, and at 17% alcohol, felt almost light on the tongue. The special carciofi are grown in fields that once produced tobacco; apparently giving them a sense memory of the sot-weed that gives one the sensation of smoking a fat cigar without ever lighting up. It seemed to be the hit of the evening.

With the likes of the lanky, bearded, ginger-haired Graziano Sbroglio, owner of Spris, Tiamisu, Le Bon, Van Dyke Cafe, etc., as well the brilliantly orange-topped Ysee Gaudel, formerly of Les Halles, now with Market Wine Importers; and chefs from Quattro and Casa Toscana (both nominated by Bar/Restaurant magazine for Best Regional Italian Cooking, along with Escopazzo, Tiramisu, and others), in attendance, the expectations were high, and the Italians did not disappoint.

Stay tuned for info on Friday's FREE WINE TASTING, to be held at a soon-to-be-disclosed location. That's right. All of the great Italian bottles that have not been drained at this week's trade and press tastings, will be left here in Miami for your drinking and thinking pleasure. Stay tuned...

...and if you're good, Tinkerbell, and these lovely ladies, will come to you when you sleep, and turn all your frightful nightmares into sweet dreams...