Combine excellent cuisine with exceptional wines, add some old and new friends, and you have the ingredients for a superb wine dinner. On January 29, Bistro 5, in conjunction with Wine-Sense, hosted just such a wine dinner with special guest, Paolo De Marchi, a famed Tuscan wine maker who owns the winery Isole e Olena.
I previously met Paolo in April 2008 and got to taste many of his wines, and they were superb. He was also a very nice person, charming and down-to-earth. His Chianti Classico even made my list of Top Ten Wines over $15 of 2008. Plus, I am a big fan of Bistro 5 and you can find multiple reviews here and here. Bistro 5 was also my "Favorite Local Restaurant" of 2008. In addition, I awarded Wine-Sense the Favorite Existing Local Wine Store That Is New To Me.
The restaurant was quite busy that evening, nearly everyone there for the wine dinner. I was fortunate to sit at a large rectangular table with interesting people including Paolo, Samanta of WineSense and Jonathan of Martignetti Companies. It was fun to meet some new people and reconnect with those I already knew. Paolo was as charming and humble as ever, going from table to table to discuss his wines. Chef Vittorio also came out a few times to chat about the food, explaining how the dishes were prepared and his thoughts behind the pairings.
The first course of the evening was House Cured “Salumi” including duck prosciutto, boar prosciutto, brioche, poached pear, foie gras mousse and vincotto. A delightful dish with a tasty blend of flavors, from salty to sweet, and a combination of textures. The thin prosciutto slices were silky smooth with interesting game flavors but without being too gamy. The mousse was fantastic, so creamy with hints of sweetness and a bit of vanilla.
I would have expected a red wine to be paired with this dish, especially with the meat and balsamic on the plate. Yet the pairing was the 2007 Collezzione De Marchi Chardonnay. I had the previous vintage of this wine and loved it and the new vintage did not displease. Very little oak is used so the fruit stands out. A crisp wine with flavors of apple and melon and some mineral notes. And this wine worked well with the food, an unlikely pairing but which shows the possibilities of wine pairings when you think outside the box.
The second course was a Risotto al Chianti with truffled fondue and wild mushrooms. As I have mentioned before, Chef Vittorio makes an excellent risotto and this dish was as good as any of his previous risottos. The rice was cooked perfectly and the sauce was rich, flavorful and earthy, especially when combined with the fresh mushrooms. This dish paired well with the 2005 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico, one of my favorite Chiantis. This Chianti is a great food wine and something I highly recommend. Pair it with pasta or earthy dishes.
Our third course was a Braised Veal Breast with melted Gorgonzola, figs and veal jus. This was a surprising dish as I did not suspect the form it would take. It was also a new dish for the chef, an experiment in which we were the testers. It was a very successful test as this was a wonderful dish. The meaty breast was covered in panko and lightly fried on the outside, making a delicious crispy exterior. The interior was very juicy and the meat was tender and flavorful. The blend of flavors, including the Gorgonzola, made for a delectable entree that pleased everyone present. It was certainly a unique take on braised meat and one which I would order again if I saw it on the menu.
This entree was paired with the 2005 Isole e Olena Cepparello, which I had prevously tasted their 2004 vintage and was very impressed. The 2005 Cepparello was equally as impressive though in some different ways. It is a much more approachable wine, quite ready to drink now without any additional need for cellaring. It is more fruit forward, yet still complex, and silky smooth. The wine seduces your mouth and I could have enjoyed this wine easily even without food. An exceptional pairing for the veal and a fine example of the wine making genius of Paolo.
To end our meal, we had a selection of three cheeses, all different and delicious. The cheeses were paired with the 2005 Propieta Sperina Uvaggio, which I had prevously tasted their 2004 vintage and very much liked. The Uvaggio is a bend of Nebbiolo, Vespolina, and Croatina. It has delicious red fruit flavors, hints of spice, and very mild tannins which make this a smooth, easy drinking wine. I actually enjoyed this vintage even more than the 2004 and it was a excellent accompaniement to the cheeses.
As a final surprise, we received a small ice cream puff covered with chocolate, a delicious sweet to end our evening.
Overall, this was a thoroughly satisfying wine dinner, showcasing well both the food and wine. I did not hear a single complaint from anyone and I had no criticisms of my own. Chef Vittorio excelled and Paolo's wines pleased me even more than before. If you were not there, you truly missed out. Fortunately, you can visit Bistro 5 anytime and try Chef Vittorio's cuisine. Plus, he will host other wine dinners in the near future and I highly recommend that you check them out. I know I will return.