Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Santo Ciello Naperville - unique wine dine experience

 Santo Ciello Restaurant in Naperville - a unique imaginative wine dine experience

We dined at Santo Ciello in Naperville (IL), atop the Indigo Hotel overlooking downtown Naperville and the DuPage River. Several friends and all our kids have been there and gave it a thumbs up. 

The menu and cuisine is a bit eclectic and funky, and the ambiance and atmosphere has a jive to it.

As their website proclaims: "The inspiration for our food lies within the idea of a “globally inspired kitchen.” This means staying true to our midwest roots while extending our vision to other countries & cultures. We source our ingredients responsibly by seeking out local purveyors, aiming to be sustainable and seasonal whenever mother nature allows. We also strive to provide the highest quality of freshness in all aspects of our creations."

The highlight of Santo Ciello may be its setting with riverfront window seating offering views overlooking the river and downtown Naperville and its RiverWalk that are spectacular. 

Santo Ciello interior dining room

I have to say, the experience exceeded my expectations with a delicious dinner and wonderful wine and food pairing. 

Once again, as earlier in the week, we took advantage of Restaurant Week Chicago and their special menu dinner offering. The special feature provided one of two starters, to share, one each of three entree choices, and one of two desserts to share. 

We chose for our selections the Roasted curried cauliflower with cucumber-cilantro raita, spiced honey and mint, and the Chicken Bao, teriyaki chicken, kimchi aioli, pickled carrot, fresno chili, sesame and cilantro.

For entree selections amongst us we chose all three of the entree selections on offer:

  • Gnocchi & Short Rib,  chicken stock beurre monté, pickled fennel & fresno chili

  • Atlantic Corvina, carrot ginger puree, bok choy, edamame, seasonal pickles, togarashi vinaigrette, rice chicharron

  • Roasted 1/2 Chicken, free-range chicken, creamed collard green, charred okra, chimichurri, sweet potatoes

For dessert both couples ordered the Seasonal Sorbet which was an imaginative Guava and Blackberry.

On first view, the wine-list is limited, sparse and eclectic, with a couple offerings in each wine category delineated by wine style. In each category there is from one to nearly a dozen offerings. 

The wine categories are, such as for the whites: 

  • Light + Crisp/ Mineral-Driven
  • Aromatic + Expressive
  • Round + Textured
And for the reds: 
  • Elegant + Floral for a selection of Pinot Noirs
  • Structured + Earthy for a broad diverse selection of varietals including Tempranillo, Malbec, GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre), Gamay, Grenache, Garnacha, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Sangiovese and Red Blends, and,
  • Bold + Spicy for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blends, a Syrah, a Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc-Merlot, and assorted Red Blends.
There are also awine category selections
  • Bubbles + Skin Contact + Pink Matter for Sparkling wines, and,
  • Before + After Dinner for after or before dinner wine selections.
While initially perhaps confusing, once you get the approach its imaginative, helpful and useful. In the end, its challenging in that if you're offering but one or a few selections for a category, picking the right labels need be done with care. For example, I was initially put off when as is so often the case, my first wine choice was not available, from a selection of but two Bordeaux labels. But in the end we had a delightful wine that paired perfectly with our food that was a great selection for the category.

For our wine selections I was wanting from the winelist Chateau Lassegue '12, Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc-Merlot, especially since it was available by the glass or by the bottle, which allowed us to try multiple wines. Unfortunately, it was not available. This seems to happen to me very often, where from a broad selection of choices, I will pick the one, or the two or even three choices that are not available. 

Beyond that label, I was interested in these interesting, imaginative labels:
  • Mocali '15 / Brunello di Montalcino / Sangiovese
  • Chateau La Peyre '15 / Bordeaux / Cabernet Blend, and the
  • Domaine Corbis '19 / Cornas / Syrah 

I was also very intrigued with and hoping to try the Matthiasson, “Linda Vista Vineyard”, '21 / Napa Valley / Chardonnay. Our group opted for a Red, but I'll look forward to coming back and trying this label sometime in the future! 

 In the end, we selected the 2019 Domaine Courbis "Champelrose" Cornas Syrah which proved to be delightful. 

Domaine Courbis "Champelrose" Cornas Northern Rhone Syrah 2019

This is 100% Syrah from the Cornas appellation in the Northern Rhone river valley. Established in 1938, Cornas designated wines are only reds made solely from the Syrah grape. A contributing factor to their style is the distinctive terroir with its granitic soil and that the Syrah based wines are made traditionally and often spend two years in oak. The result is strong and powerful wines, a style we like a lot. Other Northern Rhone wine appellations that feature Syrah are St Joseph, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie, with Cornas being a cross between them, but typically with slightly less finesse.

The Cornas appellation is small comprising a mere 370 acres. It is located south of St Joseph on the west side of the Rhone river. The name “Cornas” comes from an old Celtic dialect term, meaning “burnt land”, reflecting the fact that the steep terraces there, facing south, have temperatures that are significantly higher than those in Hermitage, which is just five miles away.

The soils of Cornas are a combination of limestone and granite, which are ideally suited to the Syrah grape, producing reds that result in a style somewhere between those of Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie which are strong and powerful wines, with forward acidity and a robust, rustic style with prominent tannins. 

Domaine Courbis has been in existence in the Courbis family with the estate dating back to the 16th century. Recently, the brothers Dominique and Laurent Courbis succeeded their father, Maurice, in the early 1990s. Since then they have established themselves as leaders of the modern school of winemaking in St Joseph and Cornas. The Courbis brothers produce some of the most compelling examples of St. Joseph and Cornas being made today. The Courbis style might be summarized as offering wines filled with intense aromas and concentrated fruit with great purity and length.

The Domaine Courbis estate covers 80 acres divided as follows: 20 in Cornas; twelve in St Joseph Blanc; 45 acres are of St Joseph Red, and 2 1/2 acres are Syrah Vin de Pays de l’Ardèche. The vineyards all face south and east on the slopes in the communes of Châteaubourg, Glun and Cornas. 

The wines are aged in barriques, some new and the rest up to three years old and they are bottled between 18 months and two years after harvest. 

This Cornas Champelrose cuvée label is 100% Syrah sourced from various vineyard parcels across the Courbis domaine, mostly from vines near the base of Cornas slope. They are blended to produce a wine ready for near term drinking upon release. It is subjected to 3 weeks of vatting to extract as much color and flavor as possible, then aged entirely in casks that are a mix of 25% new; 20% one year; and 55% 2-3 years of age for a barrel-aging for a period is 12 months. The wine is assembled in tank and aged for four more months before bottling, 

Dark purple garnet colored, medium-full bodied, with vibrant expressive intense concentrated sweet dark blackberry and black raspberry fruits accented by spice, black pepper, notes of violet floral, smoky minerals with bold acidity on a big long moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 92 points.

This was awarded 93-95 points by Josh Raynolds, Vinous.com