Thursday, August 13, 2009

Erbaluce: Che Vino Dinner

I am always excited to try a new wine, especially if it is made from a grape that is new to me, or it is made from an unusual blend. I actively seek out unusual and unique wines and recently had an opportunity to explore more such wines. As well as savor an excellent Italian dinner.

Erbaluce, the subject of a previous rave, recently held a five-course wine dinner ($70 per person), emphasizing unusual Italian wines. The restaurant was packed, many eager food and wine lovers seeking an exciting dinner.

Chef Draghi certainly did not disappoint. Both the food and wine were excellent, fine pairings that pleased and satisfied my palate. Plus, Chef Draghi was a personable host, talking about the food and wine, adding some interesting anecdotes.

Our first course was Scallop terrine with lovage and tarragon maionese, a light and flavorful terrine with large pieces of tender scallop. The wine paired with this dish was the N.V. Lini Lambrusco Bianco. Have you ever had a white lambrusco? It is made by ensuring there is no contact with the skins during fermentation. This sparkling wine is crisp, clean and refreshing with interesting fruit flavors of apple and peach. An excellent summer wine, as well as a different choice when you want a glass of sparkling wine.

The second courses was White cornmeal polenta with roasted sweet corn, fresh marjoram and robiola cheese. This was an excellent dish, with a delicious blend of flavors and a rich corn taste. I am not sure I have ever had robiola cheese before but I definitely will again. Robiola cheese is a soft-ripened cheese, a blend of milks from cow, sheep and goat. It added some tanginess to the dish.

The polenta was paired with the 2008 Pietra Nera La Novella Chiavennasca Bianco, a white nebbiolo. The wine is made from 80% Nebbiolo and 20% old vine Chardonnay. On the nose, I smelled bananas though that did not come out on my palate. Instead, it had more intriguing citrus flavors with mineral notes and a subtle exoticism. This was a very compelling wine with a long and satisfying finish. If you can find this wine, you definitely should buy it.

Up next, was Roasted monkfish with braised sunflowers, roasted pepper jus, and anise hysop. The large piece of monkfish was still attached to the bone and was topped with its silky liver. A tasty piece of fish with interesting flavors from the licorice-like hysop to the sunflower.

The wine was the 2007 Vigne del Parroco Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, made from the rare Ruché grape. Ruché actually has its own small DOC, Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, but you still may not have tasted this grape. This wine is 100% Ruché and sees no oak aging. It was extremely aromatic, herbal and violet notes. Just beautiful to sit, smell and savor the aroma. The taste was enticing, lightly spicy with red fruit flavors, herbal notes and very restrained tannins. A light, smooth wine that paired well with the seafood.

The fourth course of the evening was Organic Berkshire Pork Loin over herb branches with a cherry mostarda, local herb honey and bronze fennel flowers. A moist, tender and flavorful meat with fresh cherries and intriguing herbal flavors. Chef Draghi grows many of his own herbs and his dishes benefit from his inventive use of their herbs and flowers.

The pork was paired with the 2004 Bressan Schioppetino, from Friula. The grape Schioppetino is also known as Ribolla Nera. This reminded me almost of a wild wine, bringing to mind freshly picked berries with a touch of the forest. It is almost hard to describe its flavor: blackberries and raspberries with elements of earthiness and wood. An interesting wine which I enjoyed and would like to explore further.

Dessert was a Local White Peach baked with almond cream, mascarpone and amaretto crumbs. What a delicious concoction! The fresh, juicy peach was bursting with flavor and the creamy topping added tasty almond flavors. There was just enough sweetness to this dish. Plus, it was not heavy, making for a nice ending to the meal.

Rather than the usual dessert wines, Chef Draghi selection to pair the 2004 Aldo Rainoldi Vintage Brut Rose, which is made from Nebbiolo, the chef's favorite food wine grape. A dry and fruity sparkling wine with plenty of acidity.

Everyone that I spoke to really enjoyed this dinner and the wines. It was exciting to try the unusual wines, especially when they all were so good. And I continue to be very impressed with the culinary talents of Chef Draghi. He is certainly one of the most creative chefs out there, and you should check out Erbaluce for some innovative Italian cuisine and a killer wine list.

69 Church Street
Boston, MA
Phone: 617-426-6969

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