Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Savoring the Summer" with the Wines of Masi & Max's Harvest!

The Lineup of Venetian Beauties!
Last Wednesday we kicked off our "Savor the Summer" Wine Dinner Series - a delicious collaboration between Moi, The Glamorous Gourmet, and Max's Harvest, a fabulous local restaurant located in the Pineapple Grove neighborhood of Delray Beach, Florida.

The evening featured the Venetian wines of Masi paired with the delicious cuisine of Executive Chef Chris Miracolo. We were also very fortunate to have the charming Tony Apostolakos, US Director of Masi joining us for the evening. Tony was kind enough to share the very interesting history and tradition behind these wines which have been referred to as, "modern wines with an ancient heart." With its roots in Valpolicella, one of Italy's best known wine regions, Masi makes quality wines that are an expression of the values of their territory of origin. Today, Masi is recognized as a leader in the production of Amarone and is well-known for their use of the Appassimento technique in the production of their wines.

Brimming with flavor, structure and balance these wines beautifully showcased the variety and potential of the Venetian wine region. As is the case with the majority of Italian wines, these wines were also perfectly suited for pairing with fabulous cuisine and in the extremely capable hands of Chef Chris Miracolo - our guests were definitely in for a real treat! A few weeks before the dinner I had the pleasure of tasting through the wines with Chef Chris who subsequently built each dish around the nuances of each wine. I am very happy to share with you the delicious results!

As guests arrived they were greeted with flutes of Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvée Brut NV, a sparkling wine from the Lombardy region of Italy crafted from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero. Paired with this lovely sparkler were beautiful trays of George Blanc Potato Clouds with Lemon Creme Fraiche and Paddlefish Roe. The saltiness and citrus of the Potato Clouds were a fabulous match for the crisp acidity and refreshing effervescence of the Franciacorta. I could've eaten ten of them (actually, I might have!).

Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Mango & Micro Basil!
Once guests were seated, the festivities began with an amuse bouche of Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Backyard Mango & Micro Basil. This dish was paired with our only still white wine of the evening, the 2011 Masi Masianco, a blend of 75% Pinot Grigio and 25% Verduzzo. While the Pinot Grigio for this wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, the Verduzzo grapes were ripened on racks following harvest and then the resulting wine aged for a period of time in oak barriques to give it a lovely body and richness. The wine's mango and citrus notes nicely complemented the flavors of the dish while its food-friendly acidity easily balanced the richness of the lobster.

Ricotta Gnudi with Morels, Cacciato Tartufo & Pea Emulsion!
Next was a mouth-watering Ricotta Gnudi (yes, it means "naked") with Oregon Morels, Cacciato Tartufo and Pea Emulsion. Cacciato Tartufo is an Italian Sheep and/or Cow's milk cheese flecked with fragrant bits of black truffle. As the dish was placed in front of me, I watched with great delight as the freshly shaved cheese melted atop the warm gnudi releasing its intoxicating black truffle aroma. The truffle notes and creamy gnudi paired beautifully with the 2010 Bonacosta Valpolicella, a red blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. This wine was light and fruity with notes of bright red cherry and a hint of spice from some time spent in oak. I couldn't help but think this wine would also make an excellent Summer red especially when served with a slight chill.

A Study in Duck!
For our second red wine, Chef Chris created one of my favorite dishes of the evening (as if I could pick just one) entitled: A Study in Duck. This very creative dish involved three different incarnations of duck including: Duck Prosciutto with 24-hour Tomato; Crispy Duck Confit with Yam Hash & Quail Egg; and Duck Liver Agnolotti with Orange, Cherry & 25 year Balsamic and Mache. This three-part dish was paired with the 2008 Campofiorin, a blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Molinara and 5% Rondinella that employs Masi's signature double fermentation method. Campofiorin is the original “"Supervenetian"” introduced by Masi in 1964 which signified a new category of wines from the Veneto inspired by the technique of making Amarone. In this process the wine produced from fresh grapes is actually re-fermented using 25% of whole, semi-dried grapes of the same varieties.  The wine then spends a minimum of 18 months in oak, a mixture of Slavonian and French, before being bottled and aged for another three months. The result is a wine rife with ripe red cherries, vanilla and spice that harmonized deliciously with each incarnation of duck.

Seated Diver Scallop with Shortrib!
Next was the 2007 Brolo di Campofiorin, a blend of 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella. The term "brolo," the Italian equivalent of the French term "clos," refers to a vineyard surrounded by walls and represents a special selection of grapes used for its production. Compared to the Campofiorin this wine was slightly richer and more complex with notes of ripe red cherries, red berries, cinnamon and spice. It was the perfect accompaniment to the rich flavors and textures of the Seared Diver Scallop with Shortrib, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Sunchoke Puree and Vin Cotto.

Braised Lamb Shoulder & Tomato Risotto!
Next we moved on to the legendary Amarone! This wine is the product of the wine making method well known to the Romans as "appassimento" - the process by which grapes are dried in order to concentrate the wine's sugars and flavors. At the end of September or beginning of October, the best clusters of grapes from hillside vineyards are picked and laid out on bamboo racks in special lofts equipped with a “natural appassimento” control system. At the end of January the grapes weigh 35% less and have very concentrated sugars. The resulting wine as demonstrated by the 2007 Costasera Amarone is full-bodied, rich and complex and chock full of aromas and flavors of juicy black cherry, plum, smoke and spice. With it's food friendly acidity and supple tannins this delicious wine was the perfect accompaniment for the flavorful Braised Lamb Shoulder, Tomato Risotto, Cerignola Olive and Pickled Mirepoix. 

Chocolate Pot Au Creme, Morello Cherries & Chocolate Biscotti
Our second Amarone of the evening was the 2004 Serègo Alghieri 'Vaio Armaron' Amarone Classico hailing from an historic vineyard whose name has such a coincidental similarity to the name "Amarone" that some scholars believe it to be the original source. Since 1353 the noble Serègo Alighieri family, descendants of the poet Dante, has cultivated its estate in Valpolicella with great passion. The resulting wine is extraordinarily rich and complex and capable of long term aging. The 2004 was showing beautifully with mouth watering notes of Morello cherry, dark chocolate and spice. This full-bodied wine had beautifully integrated tannins and in addition to its lovely richness, was also very well-balanced. It created a memorable and delicious synergy paired with the heavenly Chocolate Pot au Creme, with Morello Cherries & Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti!

A big thank you to Tony Apostolakos for joining us for our first "Savor the Summer" dinner and sharing the fabulous wines of Masi. I think we all came away with a new found appreciation for these special wines from Italy's Venetian wine region. Another big thanks to Chef Chris Miracolo, General Manager J. Kevin Fegan and the amazing team at Max's Harvest for creating such a wonderfully delicious evening. I'm already looking forward to our next "Savor the Summer" dinner on Wednesday, July 11th featuring "Wines that Pair with the Fabulous Flavor of Summer" - hope to see you there! For more information or to make a reservation please call 561-381-9970 or click here.


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