Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Team Dinner at Italian Village Chicago

Team Dinner at Italian Village Chicago features Galatrona Toscana, Caprili Brunello di Montalcino and a Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

My leadership team (engineering, development, operations and strategy) gathered in Chicago again as we continue to build out our strategic plan. Once again, we dined at Italian Village, Chicago, our regular dinesite due to its broad menu, extraordinary wine cellar list, proximity to the office and our hotels, and our long standing friendships with staff there. 

Being what is becoming a regular outing, as somewhat regulars there, tonight we had fun presenting to Gina Capitanini, third generation owner of the historic restaurant, a 'team picture' of this part of our group with wine director Jared Gelband and Garardo, one of the floor managers. Look for it/us on the walls of pictures of celebrities, notables, and some of us regulars.

Wine Director Jared Gelband, recently returned from his wine tour to Italy, pulled from the cellar a couple wines for our dinner, a Sangiovese and a extraordinary Tuscan Chianti Classico Merlot Bordeaux varietal, and a blend of the two. 

Prior to dinner we met to plan a special event dinner for an upcoming global team gathering and we had a glass of this classic unique premium label.

Vignamaggio Monna Lisa Gran Selezione Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

This producer estate, Vignamaggio, has been in operation since 1404. The estate sprawls over more than 400 hectares, with vineyards, vegetable and ornamental gardens and a historic winery. The state-of-the-art working farm has Chianti Classico vineyards, olive groves, thriving vegetable gardens and fruit trees, forests, and also raises animals.

This label is named in tribute to the daughter of the original owners of the estate, who became eternally famous after Leonardo da Vinci painted her portrait.

It carries the distinctive "Gran Selezione" designation and is only made in the best years. It is produced from select grapes from Vignamaggio top three, most prized vineyards – Prato, Solatio and Querceto. It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged partially in French oak barriques for 18–20 months and partially in larger barrels. The entire ageing process takes a minimum of 30 months, of which at least six are in the bottle.

The Gran Selezione designation, established less than a decade ago, was created to allow Chianti producers to compete with Brunello Riservas and the best of Montalcino, with longer aging requirements and a high quality standard, showcasing and representing the best of Chianti.

The 2016 vintage release was one of the best ever  with both Vinous and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate scoring it as their favorite vintage ever, such that this is considered the best version of Monna Lisa yet.

Only five pallets of this superlative Gran Selezione made their way to the US, a tiny amount for a wine  with such a reputation as a can’t-miss for Tuscan lovers and collectors. Its not surprising that Italian Village with their extensive deep and broad cellar offer this on their winelist.  

This was awarded 94 points by Vinous.

Dark, bright ruby purple colored, somewhat translucent yet full-bodied, this is complex and concentrated, combining Sangiovese’s savory, red-fruit richness with the velvety softness of Merlot and powerful structure from a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, concentrated yet elegant with black and red cherry fruits, wine, allspice, notes of tobacco and leather turning to gripping but polished tannins on the long long finish. 

RM 92 points.



Amazingly, after dozens of meals at Italian Village Chicago over as many years, tonight's meal was one of the best ever. I write often about the importance of pairing the right wine with food, or vice versa, which can have a multiplicative effect when done perfectly. 

Reading the Italian Village menu, I was drawn to the "House Specialty" designation of the Lasagna, with meat sauce, white cream sauce, Parmesan cheese, baked in Mozzarella cheese (shown right). Selecting this for my dinner this was the best Lasagna I have ever tasted, and was perfectly matched with the exceptional Galatrona Toscana. 

While opening, decanting and serving the Galatrona, Jared described the wine, the producer, and the profile and character of this aged vintage release. Listening to this, colleague Kevin changed his entree selection to the filet of beef steak with sauteed shrimp (shown left), topped with a sauteed garlic and olive oil sauce served over spinach, which proved to be another extraordinary pairing. 

A couple of the fellas had what is becoming another regular favorite, the Pheasant Agnolottini - pillow shaped pheasant-filled pasta in a butter sage sauce, sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

Of course, our dinners there are all about the pairing of the food with extraordinary, spectacular wines - taking advantage of the extraordinary Italian Village cellar and winelist selection!

Galatrona Petrolo Toscana 2001

Petrolo produces estate bottled terroir driven wines from vines of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, focusing on careful selection of grapes from low yields and artful winemaking.

Back in 1716 Cosimo III de Medici, the Great Duke of Tuscany, stated with an edict which areas had the most valuable production of fine wine and quality olive oil, recognizing 4 areas, Chianti center (between Panzano and Greve), Carmignano (west of Florence), Pomino (east of Florence) and the Val d’Arno di Sopra (the western and eastern hills along the Arno river between Florence and Arezzo, where Petrolo is located) .

A century later, in 1834, agronomist Giorgio Perrin, owner of Petrolo and member of the Accademia dei Gergofili of Florence, noted Sangiovese from this area, especially that spot called Campo Asciutto (now Bòggina), was commonly planted and blended with “French grapes” in Chianti to combine with Sangiovese. 

The Estate was acquired in the 40’s by the family Bazzocchi that followed up the tradition of carefully producing high quality wines. Petrolo’s vineyards extend across 75 acres in the DOC Val d’ Arno di Sopra appellation, bordering the south eastern area of Chianti Classico. The vineyards are found at an altitude between 250 and 450 meters elevation consisting of loose-packed soil with different mixture of rocks like marl, sandstone and shale typical of the Chianti area.

The Galatrona vineyard consists of 7 1/2 acres, planted in 1990, the first Merlot vineyard that Petrolo planted. This label, Galatrona has been produced from this vineyard since it’s very first bottling in 1994, composed of 100% Merlot.

The Feriale vineyard, added another 12 acres to the Galatrona vineyard, when it was planted in the 90’s, almost entirely of Merlot plants, with a few vines planted to Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, intended for the production of Galatrona. The peculiar soil, rich in clay in combination with schist, marl and sandstones, allows the concentration of all the noble components of the grapes, fundamental for the great structure, elegance, balance and persistence wanted for this wine.

Petrolo’s wines are crafted to achieve the greatest quality that also best represent the terroir of the historic Estate. Galatrona wines were ranked among the ten best merlot in the world according to Wine-Searcher.com in November 2018. 

Galatrona is the “Gran-Cru” of Merlot of Petrolo, only made with the finest select grapes from the vineyard of the same name.  

This label was awarded 96 points and a Collectible by Wine Spectator,  and 92 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate who said: "The 2001 Galatrona confirms its status as one of Tuscany’s better Merlot bottlings." Production has grown from 850 cases in the early years to 2500 cases in recent year. 

At twenty years, this is likely at the apex of its drinking window, showing no signs of diminution whatsoever, with perfect cork, but not likely to improve any further from aging. Look at the difference in the color of the residue on the corks between the two bottles of our flight - the Sangiovese (ruby) and the Merlot (dark garnet).

Opened and decanted for an hour, dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, a symphony of elegant flavors, soft, silky, polished, dense blackberry and notes of black cherry and plum fruits with tones of mineral, spice, tobacco and leather with smooth polished fine grained tannins on a long seductive finish. 

RM 94 points. 



 Caprili Brunello di Montalcina 2016

The estate was founded by Alfo Bartolommei in 1965. The Bartolommei family settled in the Municipality of Montalcino at the beginning of the last century.  The family originated from Podere Marzolo in the Municipality of Cinigiano (Province of Grosseto).

In 1911, the family moved to Podere Poggi, moving several times from one country home to another on the Villa Santa Restituta estate until they finally arrived at the Caprili farm home in 1952 which they took over and continued to work the land by sharecropping.  

In 1965, the Bartolommei family decided to buy the property from the Castelli-Martinozzi family, owners of Villa Santa Restituta estate.  In the same year, 1965, they planted the first vineyard, still called “Madre” to this day, where the clones for the new vineyards planted on the estate are selected.

The first bottle of Brunello di Montalcino was the 1978 harvest and was put on the market in 1983.

A great representation of Sangiovese at its best from a spectacular vintage, this 2016 release was awarded 96 points by Wine Enthusiast, 95 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Spectato, and 94 points by James Suckling and Vinous.  45,000 bottles were produced. 
Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant tangy slightly tart cherry and ripe plum fruits with floral, dusty rose, cedar and hints of mint and camphor with tones of leather, and smoky creosote on a zesty acidic found tannin laced finish. 
RM 91 points.