Monday, September 24, 2018

Rant: Should You Drink Port Wine Before, During Or After Dinner?

Portugal Giving Up Port Making
OPORTO, Portugal (UPI) Portugal’s port wine industry turned sadly today to the task of developing a wine that tastes good served with soda, ice and salted peanuts. After centuries of turning out casks of port wine, the industry's leaders have decided that the jet age prefers almost anything to port, even sherry. "This idea of turning port into a sort of lemonade might seem like a crime of the greatest magnitude,” said Jose Correia de Oliveira, Portugal’s secretary of commerce. One of the biggest headaches the industry has is that port is an after-dinner drink. "It is very difficult for us to persuade the consumer to hold off drinking until after dinner,” Oliveira said."
--Madera Tribune (CA), March 9, 1960

The demise of Port? It was apparently a low time for the Port industry, though it raises an intriguing point concerning how wine may be viewed by the general public. If a wine is perceived only as an after-dinner drink, its consumption will be more limited than other wines that might also be drank as an aperitif or during dinner. In addition, not everyone may want to continue drinking after dinner if they consumed a significant amount of wine before dessert. After dinner wines, including dessert wines, generally remain as niche wines, and may struggle to maintain popularity.

When you think of Port Wine, do you think of it more as an after-dinner drink? Do you think of it as an aperitif too? Do you think of it when considering wine pairings for food (and I'm not referring to dessert courses)? I suspect that most consumers still think of Port as something you drink after dinner, maybe with chocolate, blue cheese or a cigar. Hopefully, that can change and consumers can be more open to drinking Port at other times as well.

Historically, it appears that such a change of view took place in certain spheres, helping to save the Port wine industry from its troubles. Seven years after the above newspaper article, there was an apparent turnaround and people began drinking Port wine as an aperitif, with France in the lead.

"Portugal Wine Usage Grows
NEW YORK (UPl)—More than 9 million gallons of port wine from Portugal were consumed throughout the world in 1966. and port, once considered solely as a dessert wine, is gaining popularity as an aperitif, reports a producer of port wines from Oporto. France is leading Europe in making port wine a fashionable aperitif, according to Sandemann Brothers. The firm estimates three-fifths of its world port sales now are for consumption as a before-dinner drink."
--Desert Sun (CA), September 26, 1967

In the U.S., Port wine seems to still be more of an after-dinner drink. And that is probably a significant reason why it is such a niche beverage, despite its recent slight increase in consumption. We need to educate people that Port is appropriate throughout the course of a dinner, from aperitif to after dinner. We need to show people that Port can be paired with a variety of dishes throughout the course of a mult-course dinner. That is more difficult as few restaurants host wine dinners that pair Port throughout the courses of a meal. Back in 2012, Legal Sea Foods hosted such a dinner and it was an enlightening experience. We need more restaurants to take this step, to help make it seem more normal to pair Port with dinner.

These issues plague other wine as well, from Sherry to Champagne, though you'll find more wine dinners featuring those two wines paired throughout the meal. Too many people think all Sherry is sweet, so it too is often seen as an after-dinner drink. However, local Spanish restaurants, and especially Taberna de Haro, have been educating consumers about Sherry, showing them that most Sherry is actually dry and pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Champagne is more often seen as a celebratory wine, and not something you pair with dinner, yet that too is slowly changing. The key to all of these niche wines is that they do not possess a single specific taste profile, but rather possess much diversity, and that diversity makes them more food friendly.

When I travel to Porto and the Douro region in two weeks, I'll be especially interested in gaining more information on Port and food pairings, which I'll share with my readers. However, I will call on my readers to be more open minded about these niche wines, and to experiment with food pairings. Don't see these wines as single-occasion wines, but rather see their versatility.

Port wine for breakfast, anyone?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Pizza For Lunch: Osteria Posto & Spiga Ristorante

Pizza is pure comfort food. 

I probably eat more pizza than any other type of food, and I never grow tired of it. I can easily have pizza for lunch and then have pizza again for dinner.  And then do it again the next day. Greek, Neapolitan, White Pizza, Thin Crust, Thick Crust, or even a cheap frozen pizza. Give me a slice or a whole pie. Bring on Prince Pizzeria and their all-you-can-eat pizza lunch, which only costs about $8. Just give me pizza.

I certainly have my favorite spots for pizza, including the two restaurants I'm highlighting below. Both are excellent spots for lunch or dinner, with delicious menus of Italian specialties, though their pizza is usually only available during lunch. Both receive my highest recommendation.

Osteria Posto, an Italian steakhouse in Waltham, has been a favorite of mine since it opened in later 2015. Their homemade pasta dishes are killer. During the week, Monday to Friday, they are open for lunch from 11:30am-2pm. Their Lunch menu has plenty of choices, including Appetizers (from Arancini to Calamari), Salads (Caesar to Beets), Pasta (Mezze Rigatoni to Tagliatelle), and Pizza (Red--Margherita to Sausage & White--Mushroom to Soppresata).

On my last visit, I began my lunch with the Burrata ($18), Maple Brook Farms Burrata, oven roasted peaches, and Prosciutto di Parma. This was an ample dish, large enough for two people to share, and the blend of the creamy mozzarella, the sweet, juicy & slightly smoky peaches, and the silky & salty prosciutto was pure bliss. There is beauty in the simplicity of this dish, the quality ingredients standing well on their own, but playing so well with others too.

Your Pizza choices, all Neapolitan wood-fired, include 6 Red and 6 White options, prices ranging from $13-$21. I opted for the Meatball Pizza ($18), which has chunks of meatballs that were made from beef, pork, and veal, and is accompanied by mozzarella, asiago, parmesan, oregano, and garlic. The crisp, light crust has just the right amount of chewiness and char, and the savory meatballs possess so much flavor. The cheese and garlic enhance the totality of the pizza as well. Each slice satisfies and you have to reach for another.

The next time you have a pizza yearning, stop by Osteria Posto.

Spiga Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in Needham, has undergone some recent changes with the return of Chef Marisa Iocco. You can get more information about the changes and the restaurant in my prior review. They are open for lunch, Monday to Friday, from 11:30am to 3pm, and pizza features on their lunch menu. You'll find plenty of other choices on their Lunch menu too, from Guazzetti (Italian stews) to home-made pasta dishes like the superb Timballo. There are usually lunch specials as well that aren't on the menu.

On a recent visit, I began with one of their cicchetti, the Caprese Sbagliata ($15), which included a basil bread pudding, local tomatoes, mozzarella and greens. Chef Iocco is famous for her dessert Bread Pudding and this savory version was superb, light, moist and flavorful. I bet she could open a restaurant that just served variations of bread pudding and it would be a success. This dish was an excellent variation on a caprese salad, and the freshness of the ingredients was clear.

There are five Pizza options on their menu, all priced at $14, and ranging from Margherita to Italian Tuna. Chef Iocco states that her pizza is a cross between Roman and Neopolitan, with Abruzzo accents. I chose the Bianca Pizza, with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and arugula. The delightful crust, not too thick and slightly chewy, had plenty of tender, salty prosciutto and it is large enough to feed two people. You can also see it is more oval-shaped, not like a traditional round pizza.

Spiga Ristorante is located close to the Needham location of Bin Ends, so there is double reason to journey there. Have lunch or dinner at Spiga and then shop for some wine at Bin Ends. And make sure to try some pizza as well as Chef Iocco's bread pudding.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
1) October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and Osteria Nino is raising awareness and funds with Think Pink: a fun night of floral arranging with Alice's Table. On Wednesday, October 10th at 6:30 p.m., sip on seasonal cocktails while you learn the tips and tricks of flower arranging. At the end of the night bring home your arrangement in a stylish new vase.

$10 from every ticket purchased will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Tickets cost $65 and can be purchased at:

2) Join Executive Chef Stefano Zimei and Sommelier Bruno Marini of CHOPPS American Bar and Grill for a Global Wine Dinner, where wines from around the world are expertly paired to offer guests a cultural experience unlike any other. On Friday September 21st, from 6:45pm-9:45pm, sommelier Bruno Marini and the team at CHOPPS will transport guests from Burlington to international grounds with a global tasting of wines from around the world. Guests will nosh on an four-course prix fixe meal paired with international wines.

The full menu is as follows:
Chef’s Selection of Passed Hors d’oeuvre
NV Louis Roederer ‘Brut Premeir’, Reims, France
First Course
PRIME BEEF CARPACCIO (Olive Relish, Truffle Aioli, Shaved Parmesian, Ciabatta)
Alborino Martin Codax ‘Burgans’, Val do Salnes, Spain
PEPPERCORN CRUSTED NEW YORK STRIP (River Rock Farms, Potato Pave, Shallot Brandy)
Cabernet Sauvignon Kelleher ‘Brix Vineyard’, Napa, California
Super Tuscan Ca’Marcanda ‘Promise’ by Gaja, Tuscany, Italy
NV Moscato Di Asti Michele Chiarlo ‘Nivole’ Piedmont, Italy

Price is $85 per person (inclusive of tax and gratuity). Space is limited, reservations are required, and tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.

3) As part of Legal Sea Foods’ 10th annual Oyster Festival, they will once again host an event on the all-weather rooftop at Legal Harborside. “Mollusk Mania" is an “everything oyster” celebration featuring a raw bar of six varieties. Amidst panoramic harbor views, guests will be treated to bushels including freshly shucked seasonal standouts from Wellfleet, Cotuit, Katama Bay, Cranberry Cove, Standish Shore and Washburn Island. Legal Sea Foods’ shuckers will be on-hand giving interactive "How to Shuck an Oyster" tutorials.

VIP ticket holders will be granted early admission at 1pm and receive a VIP plate of shell-shockingly good prepared appetizers: baked oysters, grilled oysters, an oyster slider and a fried oyster sushi hand roll.

Restaurant specialties will be available for the duration of the Oyster Festival through October 10 and include Fried Oysters (three for $10) in four preparations (buffalo, BBQ, sriracha lime and BLT); Baked Oysters (three for $12) available in a quartet of options (lobster spinach, crab & cheese, scampi and roasted); and the Legal Sea Foods teams will shuck seasonal standouts at their raw bars daily for those who opt to go au natural. Legals also suggests washing it down with the official drink of the 2018 Oyster Festival, the Deadrise, with Tito’s Handmade Vodka, muddled cucumber, lime and grapefruit bitters ($11).

Date: Sunday, September 23
VIP admission: 1:00pm-3:00pm
General admission: 1:30pm-3:00pm

COST: VIP admission: $65 per person (includes tax)
General admission: $55 per person (includes tax)
But your Tickets online here.

4) Gather, the Briar Group eatery at District Hall in the Seaport, invites Boston’s brunchers to get a taste of some friendly competition between some of the area’s best restaurants at the 4thAnnual Brunch Battle, held on Saturday, October 6, from 12pm-2pm, to benefit Community Servings.

Guests will cast their vote for their brunch favorites as Boston's best brunch spots duke it out to see who will be voted this year's Brunch Battle Champ! Competitors include Gather, LuLu’s, Brownstone, Row 34, Southern Proper, Metropolis, Branch Line, Towne Stove & Spirits, The Broadway, and more.

Sponsors: Lunetta, Barrington Coffee and Tito's Handmade Vodka, who will generously match the donation to Community Servings up to $1,500.

Tickets are available for $25 and include admittance and brunch samples from all restaurants. This event is 21+. For tickets and information, visit this link:

5) Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer and the Post 390 team invite guests to rejoice in cooler weather with a special Farm to Post dinner on Wednesday, October 3, from 6pm-9pm, featuring the freshest local apples and cider from Kimball Fruit Farm, a third-generation family run farm owned and operated by Carl and Marie Hills in Pepperell.

Post 390's Farm to Post tasting series features a monthly spotlight on some of New England’s finest farmers, producers, vineyards, brewers, and fishermen and focuses on ingredients that are sourced locally and produced sustainably. Every month or so Executive Chef Nick Deutmeyer and his team create a special “Farm to Post” menu highlighting products from these farms and producers.

The Apples & Cider Kimball Fruit Farm Dinner menu is as follows:
Cocktail Hour
--Apple & Cheddar Cheese Tasting
--Pork & Apple Sausage Tartelettes (blue cheese, dried fig, frisee, apple cider vinaigrette)
--Brandied Apple Flambé (duck liver mousse, parsley)
First Course
Chilled Crab & Apples (tart apple & herb gelée, peekytoe crab celery root salad, hackleback caviar, marcona almond, Florentine, chive crème fraiche)
Second Course
Sing a Song of Sixpence (roasted young pigeon, moutarde violette, rye & honey crumble, apple tarte tatin, blackberry-rosemary jus)
Entrée Course
Hand-Carved Heritage Porchettea (apple & sage bread stuffing, wild mushroom velouté, pumpkin mousse, cider reduction)
Dessert Course
Warm Apple Spice Cake (vanilla ice cream, maple glaze)

Tickets to the Farm to Post Dinner on October 3 are available on Eventbrite for $55 per person, and include a special cocktail hour, three course dinner and beverage pairings. Following the kick-off dinner the menu will be available in the restaurant for six weeks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2013 Bedrock Griffin's Lair Syrah: Bold Like Fred Flintsone

"Yabba dabba doo!"
--Fred Flintsone

Though I doubt the name of Bedrock Wine Co. was inspired by The Flintstones cartoon show, which took place in the fictional town of Bedrock, Fred Flintstone's catch phrase above, which signaled his excitement and happiness, echoes my own thoughts about Bedrock's Griffin's Lair Syrah.

I was fortunate to receive a bottle of the 2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Griffin's Lair Syrah, Sonoma Coast ($50-$60) as a birthday gift from my good friend, Andrew Witter. Bedrock Wine Co. was founded in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson in a converted chicken coop and six years later, he was joined by his friend, Chris Cottrell, and they have since expanded their facilities. They have multiple passions, including the preservation of old vineyards, especially those over one hundred years old. They also want to showcase and promote Syrah, a grape which has been frequently under-appreciated, an even maligned, in the U.S. In addition, they like to showcase different wine styles, from all across California, to show the myriad possibilities. They tend to prefer making wines simply, with little manipulation although understanding that all wine-making is a form of manipulation.

The Griffin's Lair vineyard, owned by Joan and Jim Griffin, has provided fruit for the famed Pax Mahle Winery, and eventually, Bedrock was able to purchase some of their grapes for their own wines. The 2013 Bedrock Griffin's Lair Syrah is a blend of 88% Syrah and 12% Viognier, which are co-fermented, with about 50% whole clusters for "perfume, finesse, and general awesomeness." From  the Bedrock website, it states, "I adore the 2013 in all of its exotically feral, Syrah wonderfulness—I think it might be the most complete wine we have made from the vineyard."

The dark, almost purplish colored wine, emitted an alluring nose of black fruits and spice, with subtle, almost fleeting aromas of other elements, such as herbal and floral notes. You can detect the complexity of this wine from the start, and that complexity is further elaborated on the palate. Full bodied and intense, it is lush and seductive, possessed of an intricate melange of flavors, including plum, black cherry, vanilla, dark spice, and an underlying earthiness. Such a long and lingering finish, each sip providing pleasure for minutes at the least. The tannins are well integrated, the silky feel of the wine caressing your palate. A hedonistic and complex wine that will please almost any wine lover.

This is a wine for hearty dishes, a thick steak, a rich stew, a Bolognese, wild boar and more. It could also be slowly sipped on its own, especially during the cold months, maybe in front of a fireplace. It is a wine too that would bring people together, savoring the mutual pleasures of sharing this wine. I owe much gratitude for Andrew for gifting me this wine, introducing me to its wonders. It is well worth a splurge and receives my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

il Casale, Olio Taibi & Olive Oil

"The olive tree is first of all the trees."
--Columella, Roman agronomist

There have been olive trees on Sicily for over two thousand years, at least as far back as the ancient Greeks, and currently Sicily produces about 10% of Italy's olive oil production. Worldwide, there are about 700 different olive cultivars and some of the most common olives varieties on Sicily include Biancolilla, Castiglione, Carolea and Nocellara. Sicily also has 6 Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) olive oil regions, more than any other Italian region.

Like wine grapes, olive cultivars have different flavor profiles and may be presented in an olive oil as a single variety or a blend. Because of these different flavor profiles, pairing olive oil with various foods can be similar in some respects to pairing wine and food. However, how many consumers actually consider the flavor profile of their olive oil when using it in their recipes? Probably few people do so and they could benefit from some pairing suggestions. Last week, I attended a dinner, as a media guest, where such pairing suggestions were front and center.

il Casale, in Lexington, hosted a five course dinner, showcasing the two olive oils of Olio Taibi owned by Giuseppe Taibi, who has lived in Lexington since 2009. As the olive oils are from the Taibi estate in Sicily, the wine pairings were also from Sicily. The demand for this dinner was so high that the restaurant shut down regular service for the evening, hosting only this special dinner. This was a repeat situation of the last wine dinner I attended at il Casale, though at the Belmont location. It is clear that il Casale has a very solid and loyal customer base. I've attended numerous wine dinners and they rarely take over the entire restaurants, and sometimes only occupy a table or two. il Casale seems to possess the formula for success for these special events.

Like the Belmont wine dinner, there were probably over 100 people at the Lexington olive oil dinner. As I mentioned previously, when you have so many people enjoying the same dishes, at the same time, there is always a worry that it will overwhelm the kitchen, and that your dishes will be less than hot when they reach your table. However, once again, that was not the case at all, as each dish we enjoyed in Lexington was at an optimal temperature. Their professional kitchen is obviously well experienced in dealing with such crowds and know exactly how to handle the situation. Overall, il Casale once again provided a superb dining experience, with excellent food, wines, and service. If you've never dined at il Casale before, I highly recommend you do so.

Chef Daniele Baliani took the lead on presenting the cuisine for this wine dinner. Daniele has worked with Chef Dante de Magistris and the entire team on and off for 24 years at both il Casale Belmont and Lexington. If you spend a little time speaking with Chef Baliani about the food, you'll quickly notice his passion. And during the course of the evening, he stopped by many tables to speak with the various guests about the cuisine, as well as Italy in general.

The special guest of the evening was Giuseppe Taibi, a 4th-generation olive oil producer, and also a  tech entrepreneur with a PhD in artificial intelligence from Boston University. Giuseppe grew up in Agrigento, on the southeast coast of Sicily, near the famed Valley of the Temples, an archaeological site containing the ruins of seven ancient temples. Back in 1867, his ancestor, Cav. Gerlando Taibi purchased an estate and grew olives, starting a family business that continues to the present, though that almost didn't happen.

In 2006, Giuseppe's father felt that their olive oil business was no longer sustainable so he believed it needed to be sold. Giuseppe didn't want that to happen and began examining the business to see what could be done to save it. He quickly realized that the family business had been closer to a hobby, never generating significant income, though the olive oil was well loved. To save the business, Giuseppe knew it would require a significant restructuring, and he chose to undertake that great endeavor.

Giuseppe opted to institute organic and sustainable agriculture, and to harvest for quality over quantity. Part of this quest for quality included harvesting earlier than other farmers. All these changes weren't easy, and were costly, but Giuseppe was driven to transform the estate. The estate currently consists of about 30 acres of olive trees, primarily the Nocellera and Biancolilla cultivars, though they have a small amount of a third olive cultivar. Giuseppe also chose to treat his olives like wine varieties, and this paradigm shift is both logical and should make it more accessible to consumers.

Olio Taibi produces two organic, monocultivar, EVOO from the Biancolilla and Nocellara olives (each $49.95/500ml). At each table, there were two small bottles of this olive oils with tiny plastic tasting cups. Prior to the dinner, after our Processo aperitif, Giuseppe led us through a tasting so that we could taste, experience and understand the differences between the two. I think Giuseppe did an excellent job of differentiating the two olive oils, and making it easier for people to know which they should use for different dishes.

The Biancolilla olive cultivar, one of the oldest olives in Western Sicily, is said by Giuseppe to produce an olive oil with "green fruitiness, delicate bitterness, medium pungency, & well balanced." It can be lightly spicy (especially pepper notes), slightly fruity, and may have notes of tomato, artichoke, almond and fresh grass. It is a more delicate and subtle olive oil. Giuseppe states that this an olive oil that pairs well with dishes and ingredients that are typically paired with white wines, such as seafood, vegetables, and fresh cheeses. That advice makes it much easier to pair this olive oil at home.

The Nocellara olive cultivar, grown primarily in Sicily, is from the Valle del Belice area of south-western Sicily and can be used for both olive oil and table olives. It derives its name from the Italian word for "hazelnut" as the olive's shape resembles a hazelnut. Giuseppe says that it produces an olive oil with "green fruitiness, medium bitterness, intense pungency, and well balanced." It has a more intense fruitiness with a peppery finish. It will pair well with dishes and ingredients that are typically paired with red wines, such as red meats, legume soups, and red sauces. This was my personal favorite of the two olive oils as I enjoyed its intensity, both its fruitiness and spiciness.

Our dinner began with Insalata di Finocchio all'Olio Taibi "Biancolilla", a salad of fennel, arugula, orange slices, and sliced Castelvetrano olives dressed with the Biancolilla olive oil. The delicate olive oil went well with the salad, just the right touch of dressing, enhancing the spicy arugula, acidic oranges, and briny olives. A fine way to open up your palate for the rest of the courses to come.

The salad was paired with the 2017 Stemmari Chardonnay, from Sicily, which possesses excellent acidity, some tropical fruit notes, a subtle floral aspect and mineral notes. Fresh, dry and delicious.

The second course was Bruschetta al Pesce Azzurro con Olio Taibi "Biancolilla, a smoked bluefish pate with grilled garlic bread bruschetta finished with the Biancolilla olive oil. There was the addition of a salad of diced zucchini, shaved radish, torn mint and parsley, dressed with the EVOO, lemon juice and finished with fresh cracked black pepper. The bluefish pate was brined in a solution with demerara sugar, and then citrus peels were added before it was all cold smoked. The pate was bursting with delicious flavors, earthy and briny, with a hint of smoke. It was also silky smooth, and excellent when slathered on the bread. A superb pate! The salad added some crunchiness to the dish, and that type of textural addition was included on the next two courses too.

Paired with the pate was the 2017 Planeta Rosé; a blend of 50% Nero d'Avola & 50% Syrah. I've long been a fan of this winery and you can read a couple of my prior articles for more background on Planeta: Planeta Wines: Indigenous Treasures of Sicily and Planeta Wines: More Indigenous Treasures of Sicily. This Rosé was excellent, crisp, light and full of tasty red fruit flavors, from strawberry to raspberry, with subtle hints of peach. Easy to drink, very food friendly, and perfect year round. This would make for a great Thanksgiving wine and at an average cost of $12, this is also a great value wine.

Next, we enjoyed the Maccheroni al Pesto Siciliano, homemade tube pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto, almonds, and pecorino pepato, finished with the Nocellara olive oil. You might be confused that there are no pine nuts in this pesto, but the Italian term "pesto" simply refers to something crushed by a mortar. The familiar version of pesto, with pine nuts, is a Genoese speciality. This is il Casale's own version of pesto. Pecorino pepato is a Sicilian sheep's milk cheese studded with black pepper. This was an interesting and tasty dish, with al dente pasta, crunchy almonds, and strong peppery notes. The intense olive oil also added an additional layer of flavor. A well crafted dish and a worthy pesto variant.

Paired with this pasta dish was the 2016 Feudo Maccari Noto Nero d'Avola, which is aged only in stainless steel. Silky smooth, with bright cherry, raspberry and plum flavors, enhanced by some pepper and spice notes. Nice acidity, well-restrained tannins, and a family long finish. An easy drinking wine, it could be enjoyed on its own though it would pair well with plenty of dishes, from pasta to pizza, burgers to hotdogs. Simply delicious.

M favorite dish of the night was the Agnello al Forno alla Saracena, Cous-cous al Pistacchio con Olio Taibi "Nocellara", an oven roasted lamb saracene style, atop pistachio cous-cous, with crispy artichokes and Nocellara olive oil. I love lamb and this was so tender you didn't need a knife, only the side of your fork, to cut it. The lamb was earthy and flavorful, with an added crunch from the pistachios and the nuttiness of the cous-cous. Each bite was sheer gustatory pleasure and I would definitely order that if I saw it on the menu another time.

The 2014 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, a blend of 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato, was aged for at least 18 months, with the Nero in oak botti and the Frappato in glazed cement tanks. With an intense, dark red color, this was a superb wine, with intense flavors of black cherry, plum, spice, chocolate, and a touch of earthiness. Moderate tannins, good acidity, and a lingering, pleasing finish. Perfect with the lamb, this wine showcases the quality of wines that can be found in Sicily.

Dessert was Torta della Nonna all'Olio Taibi "Biancolilla", Grandma’s olive oil tea cake, with whipped ricotta and candied orange peel. A light dessert, with plenty of flavor and not overly sweet.

The final wine of the evening was the 2015 Donnafugata Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria, which is produced from the Zibibbo grape, also known as Muscat of Alexandria. Intensely aromatic, this dessert wine was mildly sweet with balanced acidity, presenting flavors of apricot and dried fruits, with some herbal notes.

Overall, this was another winner of a dinner from il Casale, once again indicative of the quality of these two restaurants. The dishes evidenced creativity, with a nice balance of flavor and textures, and the wine pairings were spot on, showcasing some of the best of Sicily. It was a pleasure to meet Giuseppe and taste his high-quality olive oils, and it was great how he presented them so consumers could more easily choose which specific olive oil would work best with their own recipes and dishes. Kudos to Chef Dante de Magistris, Chef Daniele Baliani and the entire team at il Casale.

"The olive tree is surely the richest gift of heaven."
--Thomas Jefferson