Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Merry Christmas - Frozen and gala family wine dinner

Merry Christmas - Frozen and gala family wine dinner Italian Village Chicago

For our Christmas present to the kids and grandkids we got them tickets to the Broadway theatrical presentation of Frozen at the Cadillac Palace theatre in Chicago, followed by a gala family dinner at a classic historical Chicago landmark restaurant, Italian Village, Chicago. We love the city and endeavor to take advantage of all the culture, arts, history and culinary scene often. My office is in the city and I admit I get a rush feeding off the energy of the city from the moment I step off the train.

I worked a partial day in the office, attended a Board meeting and then went downstairs in the belly of my office building to meet the kids and grandkids arriving by train from the western suburbs. We went up the escalator and elevator to my office where they had lunch in the board room overlooking the cityscape. 

The grandkids had fun looking across at the heights of the Willis Tower, watching the raising of the new Salesforce tower, and looking down on the arriving Metra trains, the "L" trains traversing the river, and the people on the upper decks of the architectural boat tours passing our building on the river below. 

From there the kids and grandkids went to the theatre presentation of Frozen, the Tony®-nominated Best Musical, on the Chicago stop of their North American tour. 

Readers of this column have seen numerous blogposts  of  my leadership team business dinners at historic Italian Village Restaurant. Tonight, we took over the wine room in the Italian Village Cantina for a festive private holiday dinner.

Sons Ryan and Alec, daughter Erin and Vivianna joined me in selecting some special wines from the extensive, extraordinary wine cellar list and then we enjoyed touring the spectacular wine cellar to fetch our selections. 

 Our wine flight consisted of my favorite Italian Super Tuscan from a dozen or so dinners and visits over the last couple months. Ryan selected from the winelist a legendary Californian, and Alec found a vintage of one of our Vintner's Series collectables from Columbia Valley. We finished the entree course with America's best Sangiovese, and I finished off the evening with a vintage premium Italian dessert wine. 

Erin & Johnny Fort & Jared Gelband

Our good friend, Italian Village Wine Director Jared Gelband had already staged for us two Italian wines to start off our dinner appetizer course.

Ezio Poggio Caespes Timorasso Colli Tortonesi Terre di Libarna 2018

Interesting pleasant white wine from the Colli Tortonesi DOC Appellation in Piedmont region in the northwestern most corner of Italy. It is comprised of 100% Timorasso, a modern varietal grape indigenous to the region.

Straw colored, fully round medium bodied with vibrant green apple and pear fruits with notes of melon and stone with soft minerality, moderate acid and medium dryness. Very nice accompaniment to the salad course and shrimp and calimari starters. 

RM 88 points.


Dell'Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove 2017

We discovered and enjoyed this Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove Bolgheri 2017 in a recent visit to Italian Village, I wrote about it in this blogpost of that tasting.

We then selected from the winelist several wines to accompany our dinner entrees, and dessert.


Ridge Monte Bello California Proprietary Red 2002

Ryan selected from the winelist this iconic flagship label of this prolific producer. They are known for their wide portfolio of single vineyard designated labels from Napa, Sonoma and their estate site situated high at the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains that separate Silicon Valley from Santa Cruz and the coast. 

This site is special to us as it sits above our home village of Saratoga down in the southwestern corner of Silicon Valley, where we lived out there back in the early eighties.

The Ridge estate and Monte Bello vineyard is officially in Cupertino, albeit high above the valley up at the summit.

This release was awarded 98 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 97 points by Vinous, 96 points by Wine Spectator, 94 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, and 18/20 from Jancis Robinson.   

The 2002 Monte Bello Proprietary Red is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot.

Going into its twentieth year, this is very likely at the apex of its tasting window, its hard to believe that it will improve much more with further aging. Robert Parker wrote in 2012 when it was ten years,  "It tastes as if it hasn’t changed since I first sampled it in late 2003 and then again in bottle two years later. ... Extremely young and full-bodied, with some wood char still present, it is unevolved and tastes like it could be a barrel sample, except that it has been in bottle for nearly ten years! This is a blockbuster Ridge Monte Bello that still needs a minimum of another 10 years of bottle-age and should keep for 50+ years."

Vinous wrote in 2016, "The 2002 Monte Bello is just starting to enter the early plateau of its maturity."

Wine Spectator wrote in 2019: "Fully in its secondary phase now..."

Such highly acclaimed and rated wines are almost harder to describe because they are conspicuous in their lack of obvious or obtuse high notes, seemingly subdued, but not so, rather, they harmoniously polished and balanced, a symphony of complex flavors, and notably without flaws. Like a well orchestrated symphony the sum of the parts is greater than their individual totality, but no instrument or note stands out from the rest. Garnet colored, medium-full-bodied, expansive, deep and penetrating yet elegant, polished and superbly balanced and harmonious, Vinous wrote, 'it is all about understatement', layered, perfume, expressive flavors of raspberry, blackcurrants, notes of crème de cassis, bitter dark chocolate, spices and tobacco, framed by ripe, plush tannins, concluding with a lingering finish.

RM 95 points.

Sequel Columbia Valley Shiraz 2004 

Alec caught this in the Italian Village wine book list. We couldn't believe they have this aged vintage release of this label. This special collection feature was crafted by notable winemaker John Duvall who was winemaker for fifteen years for Penfold's Grange, one of Australia's most iconic celebrated wines.

Duvall is a participating winemaker in the Longshadows Vintners Collection of world famous winemakers, each recruited to produce their specialty varietal based labels. We visited and wrote about the Long Shadows tasting room in Woodinville during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour back in 2017.

This was the second vintage release of this label.

We collect this label as part of our club allocation but this vintage release predates the current Long Shadows branding and packaging, sporting a painted bottle rather than a customary paper label. As we collect this label, had to try this vintage release from the earliest days of this offering. 

Winemaker's Tasting Notes: Darkly-hued with cherry and cassis aromas to match, this is a focused Syrah loaded with black fruit, spice and a hint of vanilla across a supple frame. Give it time in the glass to fully reveal the wine’s layers of fruit and concentration.

This was rated 93 points by Wine Advocate and Stephen Tanzer, and 92 points by Wine Spectator. 

This was sourced from numerous Columbia Valley Vineyards. Working with a broad varied selection of top Syrah vineyards gives Sequel complexity and layers: Yakima Valley’s Boushey Vineyard (35%) gives the wine its elegance and balance; Alder Ridge (24%) and Wallula Vineyard (7%) in the Horse Heaven Hills combines with Red Mountain vineyards (32%) to add black fruit and richness. A small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon from Sagemoor’s Dionysus Vineyard on a southwest facing slope in Pasco adds complexity and more layers.

This was dark deep purple colored, full bodied with complex plum and blackberry fruits with notes of game, dark chocolate, spices and herbs, pepper and hints of cedar with a moderate tannin and acidic lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.

Leonetti Walla Walla Valley Sangiovese 2003 

Gary Figgins' Leonetti Cellar winery sits just on the outskirts of the town of Walla Walla, the wine producing center of south eastern Washington. We visited the area with our Walla Walla AVA Wine Experience in 2018.

Leonetti Cellar was founded by Gary's parents, Gary and Nancy Figgins, in 1977 as Walla Walla’s first commercial winery. The history of Leonetti dates back a century to Francesco and Rosa Leonetti, who immigrated from Italy in 1901 and 1902 and settled in the area and established the Leonetti farm in 1906. Virginia Leonetti married Berle Figgins (Gary’s father) in 1943 and Gary Figgins was born five years later. Gary toured the California wine country while serving in the Army and begins winemaking.
Gary along with his two uncles, George and Bill Leonetti planted the first commercial vineyard in the area in 1974. 
Gary and wife Nancy established the current winery property and winery in 1975, bonded at Leonetti Cellar winery, Walla Walla’s first winery in 1977. Leonetti Cellar’s first commercial vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon & Riesling produced from estate grapes the next year. The first Leonetti Sangiovese was produced in 1995. Chris Figgins, Gary and Nancy’s son, graduated from Washington State University with a degree in horticulture and joined the family business in 1996. He took over the reins as head winemaker in 2001. 

Robert Parker and other critics have said Leonetti produce the finest Sangiovese outside of Tuscany. Leonetti say that while it is most challenging grape to farm, it ais also their favorite.

This 2003 Leonetti Sangiovese is produced from fruit sourced from the Figgins’s Mill Creek Upland Vineyard as well as the Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge Vineyards. It is 78% Sangiovese blended with 22% Syrah. 

This release was awarded 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

Winemaker's Tasting Notes: This is our darkest Sangiovese to date – gorgeous, saturated magenta to the rim. The razor-precise fruit nose is loaded with bright, dense red fruits and high-tone floral notes. The wine is refreshing on the pallet with bright acidity, while providing rich crème cassis and other red fruit flavors and excellent length.

Bright garnet colored, medium full bodied, vibrant intense concentrated but nicely balanced spicy blackberry, black cherry and plum fruits are accented by anise, tar notes of cedar with bright tangy acidity on a tongue puckering long polished tannin finish. 

RM 92 points.

Livio Felluga Picolit Rosazzo del Friuli Riserva 2001

With the Italian Village chocoloate mousse and biscotti I selected from the winelist this premium Italian dessert wine.  

Livio Felluga's family have been producing wine for six generations. He moved to Friuli in the late 1930s and made his home on the foothills of Rosazzo in the region of Fruili. Friuli Venezia Giulia is Italy's north-easternmost region. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. To the south it faces the Adriatic Sea and to the west the Veneto region.

The artistic wine labels feature a signature historic Geographical Map of Friuli’s hillsides, a symbol of the connection between the land and its history, which has appeared on the wine labels since 1956. 

Livio Felluga is now operated by the next generation children. The family estate spans over 550 acres of which 159 planted to vineyards in a complex ecosystem with the Alps in the background and a view that reaches to the sea. 

Livio Felluga is one of the largest wine estates in the Friuli hills. The vineyards are interspersed with woodlands, grassy hillsides, olive groves, paths, streams and groves of mulberry and fruit trees. The vineyards are planted with 14 grape varieties in 320 individual plots that extend across over 550 kilometres of rows of vines. 

The portfolio of Livio Felluga wines now spans eighteen different labels of red, white and rose wines, and this dessert wine.

Livio Felluga Picolit is Friuli’s noblest wine, a unique distinctive dessert wine of historic noble Friuli Venezia Giulia fruit with origins that date back to 1750.

This was awarded 94 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

At twenty years, this has darkened from the color of straw to butter to weak tea to honey color. Medium full bodied, concentrated rich complex sweet unctuous fruit flavors of peach and dried apricot are accented by notes of raisiny fig, nutmeg, honey and smokey roasted nuts with a long tongue coating finish. 

RM 93 points.


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