Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Le Piane Wine Dinner (or More Rabbit Ravioli Please!)

I am going to be savoring Rabbit Ravioli in my mind for weeks to come.

Last Friday evening, I had an excellent experience tasting the wines of Le Piane and meeting the wine maker, the very personable Christoph Künzli. I was thus excited to attend a wine dinner last evening, showcasing his wines, at Il Capriccio in Waltham. I have been to Il Capriccio before and knew that the food would likely be very good. Plus, I was intrigued to see how the Le Piane wines would pair with food. My hopes were high that the wines would excel even more paired with food.

Our first course of the evening was a Beef Carpaccio painted with Pear William and Gorgonzola and paired with the 2004 Le Piane La Maggiorina. This consisted of a large, very thin piece of tender beef with several chunks of Gorgonzola cheese and in a light Pear William sauce, a type of pear liquer. The slight sweetness of the pear offered a good constrast to the sharpness of the Gorgonzola. A fine dish which paired well with the easy drinking Maggiorina. The food seemed to make the Maggiorina even smoother, emphasizing its fruity taste.

We then moved on to the Baccala Mantecato with Moscato d'Asti paired with the 2000 Le Piane Boca. This dish consisted of a small ball of a whipped salt cod concoction, almost like a salt cod mashed potato, atop a thin cracker or piece of bread with a sweet and creamy Moscato sauce. This was quite delicious, the saltiness of the cod balanced by the slight sweet flavor of the sauce. This would make a great side dish. The 2000 Boca, one of my favorites from the prior tasting, was an interesting pairing. Though a red wine, it actually paired quite well with the salt cod. And it is probably because the 2000 Boca is a more delicate, subtle wine. It would be overpowered by stronger foods so it does require pairing with a more subtle dish. The silky smooth wine certainly impressed me again and I am glad I bought some of this wine at the tasting.

The next course was Snails with Peas and Leeks paired with the 2003 Le Piane. This dish had several meaty snails, peas, leeks and some bits of bread in an intriguing, almost nutty sauce. A more rustic dish to fit the more rustic 2003 Le Piane. I had not tasted this wine before, only its 2004 vintage. This was actually less tannic than the 2004, and was made with more Croatina. And with the food, the wine was even smoother and more enjoyable. The dark fruits rose to the surface and the earthiness only complemented the food. I very much liked this wine.

While we were dining on this course, Christoph stopped by our table to chat. He had been making the rounds, talking to the various tables about his wines. Once again, he was very personable and passionate. He had even read my review of the Friday night Le Piane tasting and felt that my tasting notes well described the wines.

I learned some more about Christoph and his wines. Prior to opening Le Piane, he had been involved in wine making for about thirty years all over Italy. He checked out many different regions of Italy and found a few that appealed to him. But the Boca region truly called to him. Plus, Boca was only a short trip from his home in Switzerland.

There are now other small producers in the Boca region, though none as large as Le Piane. And currently, Le Piane is the only producer that exports from the Boca region. Many of the producers have banded together to help each other, to learn from one another. The Le Piane wines are mostly organic, as much as Christoph can do. His primary goal is not to expand the vineyards but to work on enhancing the quality of his wines. He is certainly already doing an excellent job with the wines and I suspect his wines will only grow in popularity.

Then arrived the Rabbit Ravioli paired with the 2004 Le Piane. WOW! These ravioli were exceptional. Three, hand-made raviolis stuffed with rabbit meat in a light tomato sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese. Perfectly spiced and just a splendid taste. I could have eaten an entire bowl of these and been very happy. And the 2004 Le Piane was a fine companion, a bit more tannic than the 2003 but not overly so and easily tamed by the rabbit. This was easily my favorite course of the night.

Our main course was Braised Duck with Little Onions and Porcini paired with both the 2001 Boca and the 2003 Boca. I received three good-sized pieces of duck, the the onions, mushrooms and a few fresh veggies including yellow cauliflower and carrot. The duck was quite tender, easily sliding off the bone. It was not fatty at all, with plenty of delectable meat. It had a bit of a savory brown gravy that accented the duck. Another excellent dish. In the prior tasting, I preferred the 2003 to the 2001, and this time I felt the same way. The 2001 still had a bit of tarteness to it, though the food helped to mute much of it. But, the 2003 stood out, with more accented berry flavors and a bit more tannins that went well with the braised duck. I appreciated the 2001 more with food, but the 2003 also became even better.

Finally, dessert was Zabaglione and Berries paired with a 2007 La Caliera Moscato d'Asti. I received a bowl of fresh berries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and more. All covered by a little Zabaglione cream that added a touch of sweetness to the berries. I devoured my dessert as well as the wine. The La Caliera is not from Le Piane but was added as Le Piane does not make a dessert wine. The La Caliera was crisp, a bit fizzy and a touch sweet. It was not cloying in the least. It had a fragrant nose of lush fruit and was quite delicious. A very refreshing choice.

So, the meal finally ended and I was more than sated. The food was excellent and the wines were a treasure. I found the wines to be even better with food. Though I certainly enjoyed the wines alone at the tasting, they all seemed to be enhanced in some way by being paired with food. That should make you think about tasting wines in general, how we don't always see a wine's full potential unless it is in the propert context, such as paired with food.

Great thanks to Christoph for his fine wines and to Jeannie Rogers and the staff of Il Capriccio for another fine dinner.

Il Capriccio
888 Main St.
Waltham, MA
Phone: (781) 894-2234

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