Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Team Dinner and Go-to CasalFerro Wines at Italian Village Chicago

Team Dinner and Go-to CasalFerro Wines at Italian Village Chicago

With my tech leadership team in town for a week closing out the year, and final planning for the year ahead and the next chapter in our strategic plan, we dined at our usual go-to eatery and enjoyed some of our favored go-to wines with dinner. 

Tonight was a repeat of several earlier such team dinners we've had at Italian Village.  I last wrote about this wine in a blogpost, Team dinner at Italian Village Chicago in November last year.

Team working dinner at Italian Village Chicago features Super Tuscan and Bolgheri Chianti Classico

I've written in previous blogposts about our wine and dinners, about Italian Village, Chicago's oldest, longest running continuously family operated Italian restaurant in Chicago. 
As is our custom, tonight, we dined in one of the private tables/rooms in the Village, one of the three restaurants on the premises, a perfect setting for an intimate or business dinner.
Part of this ritual is hooking up with friend and wine-buddy IV Wine Director and buddy Jared Gelband and Gerry Castillo, IV Vivere restaurant 'floor manager', who has become our 'designated' server when we come in, all shown together below. 

From producer dinner, wine buddy Dr Dan,
Gerry, me and Jared.

With dinner, tonight I selected these two wines from the winelist, from the same producer, Baron Ricasoli, composed of the same varietal and vineyard sources.
This is a label I know well and have collected over the years, one of the small selection of Italians in my cellar collection, which tends to be French and American.

When I picked these two wines from the extensive, vast Italian Village winelist, I didn't realize we've enjoyed each of them before, but never together in a mini-vertical comparison tasting. I don't think I had realized the 'vertical' aspects of the two labels, being the varietal from the common  estate sources.

Jared shared with us how he visited the
Baron Ricasoli estate and staying in the magnificent Brolio Castle located within the town of Gaiole during his last wine country producer tour, He talked about meeting the proprietors who represented the 32nd generation of the family to manage the estate, and and explained how the similarity between the two labels and how they used to blend Merlot in this earlier release. 

The 2000 vintage release was classic Chianti Classico native Sangiovese accented with a bit of Merlot, which has since been dropped in later releases to focus on and showcase the estate Merlot, as in the other label below.

Barone Ricasoli Casalferro (Sangiovese) Toscana IGT 2000

We also had this label back in the early 2020 which I featured in a blogpost Ricasoli CasalFerro & Livio Fellugo Saso, at the time.  
This 2000 vintage release is a blend of 75% Sangiovese and 25% Merlot. It was aged in small french oak barrels for 18 months which along with the Merlot in the blend, softens the tannins. 
The grapes were sourced from estate vineyards set 350 – 400 meters above sea level, mainly from the vineyard of the same name with southwest exposure, with a predominance of calcareous sandstone and Alberese stone.

Today production of this label is 135,000 bottles in a prodigious vintage year.

Wine Spectator awarded this vintage release 90 points.

At twenty-one years, this was starting to show its age and is reaching the end of its drinking window. The fill level, foil and cork (shown left) were ideal for the age. 

While past its prime, this wine was an ideal pairing with our entree selections, my Butternut Squash with Fig puree and mushrooms, the Filet of Beef, and the Lamb Chops, a new Italian Village Chef Jose Specialty.

While this was initially a bit funky with some barnyard earthiness which burned off after decanting and aerating back and forth three times, it was better than our previous tasting, due likely to bottle variation over two decades of aging. 

This was dark garnet colored with a bit of browning on the rim, medium full bodied, powerful full and forward black fruits are starting to give way to notes of cedar, black tea, olive tapenade, leather and hints of creosote on the deep, full, lingering tannic finish.

RM 89 points. 


We lasted tasted this other wine during a similar team dinner back in the fall of last year when I wrote about Italian Village Wine & Dine Chicago.

Tonight, members of our group selected for our entrees the beefsteak, the lamb chops, and I chose the butternut squash with fig puree and mushrooms - all perfectly complemented by the combination of these two wines.  

Baron Ricasoli Cassalferro Castello di Brolio 2015

Ricasoli is the most representative wine producer in the Chianti Classico area Italian wine region. The estate covers the 1,200 hectares of property include almost 240 hectares of vineyards and 26 of olive groves covering rolling hills and picturesque valleys with thick woodlands of oaks and chestnuts.

Since taking over in 1993, Baron Francesco Ricasoli has been guiding this central Tuscan company according to the principles of his renowned ancestors, producing wines that showcase the distinctive terroir of the soil types, the climate and clonal selections of the Brolio Sangiovese. He has also totally renovated and completely mapped the vineyards.

This label, Casalferro,  was  first  produced  in  1993  when  Francesco  Ricasoli  became  president  of  the company. This is 100% Merlot produced only during the best years. Casalferro is sourced from the vineyard  of  the  same  name  located  at  400  meters  above  sea  level  and  facing  south.  
The  brown  clay  loam  soil  with  little  organic  content  contributes  to  the  exclusive  personality  of  this  great Chianti Merlot.

This release was awarded 95 points by James Suckling, 93 points by Wine Spectator, and 92 points by Robert Parker Wine Advocate.  

Bright Ruby colored, medium bodied, expressive black berry and black cherry fruits with tones of leather, anise licorice and dark cocoa and herbs, medium plus acidity and medium plus tannins on a long finish. I agree with one review that wrote that this tastes more like a Sangiovese than a Merlot from the New World, or the Right Bank.

RM 90 points.