Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Potluck Piemontese

It was a great night of mainly Piemontese inspired food and wine last night at my friend Mark's house over in the east bay. Tasty food, interesting wines and an internationally diverse crowd - Spain, Italy, France, Russia, Iowa, Berkeley and of course Baltimore were all represented.

To start there were antipasti, including Mark's specialty, acciughe al verde (anchovies in garlicky parsley sauce). I was really enjoying a bottle of Slovenian rizling with this (that's not ebonics, its slovenian!) as well as an interesting Pinot Gris from Alsace.

2004 Dveri-Pax Renski Rizling 'E'

A local importer brought this wine. A bit petrolly on the nose, and somehwere in between an Alsatian and New Zealand style of dry Riesling. The wine had the flavor authority, minerality and balance of Alsace Riesling, but with a lighter touch and lower alcohol. As far the as the NZ comparison, it's just that the fruit was so juicy and new world-ish. Not overdone or artificial tasting in anyway, though. This wine tastes natural. I'll have to seek out more wines from these guys. Slovenia, it's not just about Movia....

2005 Domaine Loew Pinot Gris Bruderback Clos Marienberg

Interesting wine! There was all of the yellow stone fruit and lightly honeyed goodness of Alsace Pinot Gris, but with a distinctive minerality running through the wine. I could taste fossilized marine organisms in this wine, not because fossilized marine organisms are a regular part of my diet, but, you know, that's what this wine brings to mind. Pinot Blanc and Klevner from Alsace sometimes conveys this funky, chewy minerality. This was delicious with the secondo of fennel braised pork.

2005 Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo d'Alba

Really austere and closed at first, the wine opened up to reveal some powerful, but still reserved, mixed berry fruit, with an increasingly iron mineral vein after some breathing in the glass. Very young nebbiolo, but definitely pure class, and worthy of putting away for at least 7 years. Served with my 'Risotto al Barolo' recipe (a good one from Lydia B) this wine worked nicely. Though the wine below might have been the better pairing.

2004 Piero Busso Barbaresco Santa Stefanetto

Tre bicchieri and it's easy to see why. This wine is clearly done in a modern style, powerful, red fruited, soft, meaty. Aromatics definitely take a back seat to a very enticing, surprisingly approachable palate. Modern nebbiolo based wines from the Piedmont are not nearly as interesting, subtle, or haunting as the best of their traditional counterparts, but they certainly are fun to drink. Of all the wine regions in the world with the Traditionalist vs Modernist dynamic, Piedmont's modern wines, I think, are the most balanced, least oaky, and most drinkable. Somehow this worked fairly well with the fennel braised pork, but not as well as the pinot gris, which I find to be good pork wine in general. For this dish, with the subtle, slowly caramelized fennel and hint of coriander, white wine seemed to be in order. Very impressive meat braising by importer (and chef?) Gary.

Lest we forget, there was a terrific salad - gotta have my greens. Not very authentically Piedmont, as it's usually meat, meat, and more meat, but here in the Bay area we party hard, drink well, eat well and do not neglect our local, organic veges, alright? Olga made a delicious mixed green salad with one of the tastiest vinaigrettes I have had. It tasted as though there was somehow artichoke flavor infused in the vinaigrette (?) Very lightly dressed and topped with Israeli feta, this was my favorite type of salad, fresh, light, plentiful and flavorful.

Some delicious, simple 2006 Saracco Moscato was tasty with a variety of Gorgonzola, and even better with the lemon polenta nut cake. Crumbly and precarious to handle, but eminently tasty.

Thanks Mark, Chloe, Raquel, Olga and Gary for making it a great evening.

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