Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Team dinner at Italian Village Chicago

Team dinner at Italian Village Chicago - new menu specials and new wine (s)

Holocene Memorialis Pinot Noir and Soffocone di Vincigliata Toscana Sangiovese

With key staffers in town for meetings and a workshop, we dined at our regular customary dinesite, Italian Village, Chicago

Collaborating with Wine Director, Jared Gelband, we selected a traditional Italian Tuscan Sangiovese, and for a change, a new release Oregon Pinot Noir from Pacific Northwest winemaker Todd Alexander

We hosted Todd Alexander and wife and partner Carrie at Italian Village during their release promotion tour visit to Chicago back in 2016, and introduced them to our friend and Wine Director, Jared Gelband

Jared was impressed with Todd's 'artwork' and selected several of his labels to feature on the extensive award winning winelist

Jared continues to carry Todd's labels on the extraordinary Italian Village winelist, which is primarily Italian, including this recent release of Todd and Carrie's new Holocene brand. 

Holocene Memorialis Pinot Noir (Yamhill-Carlton) 2018

This is the fourth vintage for this Pinot Noir project from Todd Alexander, winemaker at Force Majeure. The first vintage was 2015, released in early 2017. It's a single-vineyard cuvée (vineyard unidentified) from the MonksGate vineyard in the Yamhill Carlton AVA in the Willamette Valley Oregon. 

Todd moved to Washington from Napa Valley where he crafting wines for ultra-premium producer  Bryant Family Vineyards. Today he is winemaker for Force Majeure in Walla Walla and have recently released his own brands Paxsa and this Holocene. 

This is another project of Todd Alexander, who moved to Washington from California (he worked at Bryant Family Vineyards from 2010 to 2014 and was responsible for vinifying the 2012 and 2013 wines) to take over winemaking at Force Majeure and launched this project to make Pinot Noir from Oregon fruit.

Todd partners with a few very small, diverse and amazing vineyards in the Willamette Valley, sourcing fruit from these dry-farmed sites that emphasize low yields, sustainable practices and produce outstanding fruit. 

Says Todd, "Everyone knows that the Willamette Valley is an amazing place to grow Pinot Noir. When I relocated from Napa Valley to partner up with Force Majeure Vineyards, I knew I also wanted to start a project where I could focus attention on a varietal and growing region that I loved. Part of the excitement of being in the Pacific Northwest is the ability to have access to so many amazing vineyards and so much diversity, along with the opportunity to push boundaries and try new things."  

Todd has developed a reputation for crafting much heralded, highly regarded wines that reflect their "real sense of place" through minimal manipulation, 'utilizing very low-impact, non-industrial techniques, native yeasts, little extraction and little new oak, and never filtering or fining'. 

So, it was only fitting that when Jared received and offered from his allocation this small limited production release from Todd, we were compelled to try it with our dinner. 

Ravioli Di Costata Corta Brasata
This was a perfect complement to our ravioli stuffed with short rib dinner special, a new offering on the IV menu - Ravioli Di Costata Corta Brasata - pasta stuffed with short rib, parmesan and ricotta cheese, mirepox in a red wine demi glaze. 

Readers of this site know I am not a big Pinot drinker, opting more for Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. Never-the-less, the fun of wine is trying new labels, varietals, regions and producers. 

I loved this wine which exceeded my expectations and sets a new benchmark for me for Oregon Pinots going forward. I am a member of their club (s) and regularly take my allocation of their other labels, but immediately signed up to get on the list for this label release (which is naturally sold out) when it becomes available in the future. 

This label release was awarded 93-95 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 93 points by Wine Enthusiast and 90 points by Vinous.This is from the 2018 Oregon vintage that was a warmer than average year, sourced from a west-facing hillside of sedimentary soils located in the heart of the Willamette Valley (not far from Beaux Freres and Shea Vineyard). This is 100% Pinot Noir that was 20% destemmed and brought up in 20% French oak, 

Bright ruby colored, medium bodied, elegant and seductively textured and structured, perfectly balanced and integrated raspberry and strawberry fruits, with notes of floral, herbs, hints of sweet milk chocolate, white pepper and spice, with a silky smooth lingering finish. 

RM 93 points. 



Bibi Graetz Soffocone di Vincigliata Toscana IGT Sangiovese Blend 2016

For our second wine, we ordered from the winelist this Tuscan Sangiovese Blend

This is from well known producer Bibi Graetz, who, since his first release back in 2000, has developed a reputation as one of Italy's most ingenious winemakers. He produces a broad portfolio of wines including popular labels Testamatta and Colore which have earned him almost cult status to many Italian wine aficionados. 

Born and raised in Italy, Bibi makes his wine in his family home, Castello di Vincigliata, a medieval castle which stands on a rocky hill to the east of the village of Fiesole overlooking Florence in the Italian region of Tuscany.  

Bibi inherited the ancient historic castle acquired by his parents over 60 years ago. Surrounded by vines, he set out to teach himself winemaking from grapes initially from the small, 5-acre vineyard on this hillside in Fiesole, but expanded and grew to bringing in grapes contracted from other growers around the region. Through sourcing arrangements with growers from parcels of old vines around Tuscany, Bibi had full control of style and crafting of his wines. 

This label, Soffocone di Vincigliata, is the only wine named by a specific designated vineyard of production, punctuating the special link between this wine and the hill where Bibi Graetz started his project. The beautiful vineyard of Vincigliata in Fiesole overlooks Firenze with one of the most romantic view of the city, from which Bibi took inspiration for the name and the unique label.

In the vein of Super Tuscans, but a little on the more elegant side, this wine is structured, complex and sophisticated. Sourced from 40 year-old vines it is primarily Sangiovese, 90%, but also blended with grape varieties Canaiolo Nero, 7% and 3% Colorino. It is fermented in stainless steel followed by aging in French barrels for 15 months and finished in bottle for 6 months.

RM 89 points.