One of the most anticipated winemaker dinners of the season, the Westin Casuarina’s Piedmont dinner, featuring the unmistakably elegant wines from Marchesi di Barolo wowed diners at the end of last year. Business Editor, Lindsey Turnbull reports.
Marchesi di Barolo is one of the great names in Piedmontese winemaking, with a history that dates back as far as the 12th century, when the land-owning Falletti family of Piedmont’s Barolo district, under the Marchesi Falletti, created the type of wine known as Barolo in the early 19th century. Today the estate owns about 100 acres of vineyard in the Langhe, including some of the finest vineyards in the district. The Marchesi di Barolo cellars have been owned since 1929 by the Abbona family, who make their home in the large, yellow-fronted villa overlooking the terracotta rooftops of the picturesque village of Barolo. As with their Falletti predecessors, the Abbonas are committed to conserving the estate’s time-honoured reputation.
The Marchesi di Barolo estate has built up an international reputation for the quality of its wines, but especially its fine Barolo DOCG and two superb single-vineyard crus, Barolo Cannubi DOCG and Barolo Sarmassa DOCG, all made from 100 per cent estate-grown Nebbiolo grapes, the former enjoyed by diners at this Westin’s winemaker dinner.
The Westin’s Executive Chef, Jason Koppinger and his team like to pull out all the stops from the get go, and the Piedmont dinner was no exception, with an amuse bouche of bressaola, roasted tomato and caramalised fennel which delighted the eyes as well as the palate with its clever construction and deep flavours.
Diners took their first step into Piedmont with a glass or two of Gavi “Le Lune” from 2007, a singularly aromatic and popular white wine of the region made from 100 per cent Cortese grapes. This Gavi is unusual in that it undergoes a secondary fermentation which produces a structure and depth to the light straw coloured wine.
Wine educator Aaron Jay from Palm Bay Imports, a constant supporter of the Westin’s winemaker dinner series, effuses over the Gavi: “Delicate and fruity, with hints of apples, pears and almond, this is a dry and elegant wine that is fresh and crisp with a velvety finish. It makes the perfect opener into the Piedmont dinner.”
Taking his pointers from the ingredients commonly found in the area, Chef Jason delighted diners with a soft poached egg ravioli with truffles, shiitake and pecorino cheese, a delicate homage to the ubiquitous pasta course.To accompany this course diners were served a glass of Dolcetto from 2007. This popular red wine is enjoyed on a daily basis in the region where locals joke that the purple-hued wine runs through their veins.
Aaron Jay says, “This is a highly distinctive wine because the 100 per cent Dolcetta grapes lend such a unique colour to the wine. Produced from grapes grown in a ten acre single vineyard in the Langhe district of Piedmont, the Dolcetto offers a fresh and youthful bouquet and fruit filled flavours on the palate.”
On to the zuppa course, and Chef Jason appeared to have fun here creating an intense bowlful of delicious flavours, with a salt roasted rainbow trout sitting atop a densely tomatoey brodo brodetto (fish broth) with an explosion of flavours combined in a horseradish basil and citrus gremolata.
Chef Jason says, “I enjoy taking traditional ideas such as a gremolata, which usually combines a citrus flavour with garlic to lend a flavouful hit to soups. I included horseradish and basil to give the dish an interesting twist and I think it worked really well.”
A course of smoked breast of duck with cugna (quince and apple preserve) and robiola (Italian soft-ripened cheese) rolled grapes with pistachio continued to push out the culinary boat, especially as it worked so well with a glass of Barbera d’Alba Ruvei from 2006. Made from 100 per cent Barbera grapes from select vineyards in the heart of Piedmont’s Langhe district, the wine is aged in oak (70 per cent for about one year in Slavonian oak barrels, 30 per cent in American oak) to enhance suppleness, balance and the wine’s bouquet of pronounced finesse. The result is a deep ruby red wine with a bouquet of woodland berries and appealing vanilla overtones and a lively, full-bodied and well-rounded flavour.
It was hard to imagine any further courses at this stage, but a prosecco, mint and berry intermezzo cleverly cleansed the palate for the main course of braised short ribs with roasted grape and pearl onion jus, chestnut gnocchi, arugula pesto and wilted spinach – a magnificent dish which cleverly combined robust flavours in a seamless display of ingredients true to the region.
There was only one wine that could possibly enhance this dish – the Barolo Cannubi. Most wine experts hail the single-vineyard Barolo Cannubi as the ultimate definition of a world-class Barolo. Hailing from Marchesi di Barolo’s extensive holding, representing almost two thirds of the Cannubi single-vineyard, the Barolo is made from 100 per cent mighty Nebbiolo. The grapes are handpicked and are soft-pressed, followed by destemming and fermentation in small tanks at a controlled temperature of 82°-86°F. The wine is racked only when all sugar content has been transformed into alcohol and then aged for two years in Slavonian oak casks followed by a year in bottle prior to release.
Aaron jay says, “Properly stored, the Cannubi can keep for 20 to 25 years or longer in the better vintages.”
The wine is garnet red with fleeting orange reflections and has an ethereal bouquet, flowing from floral to fruity to cinnamon, vanilla, licorice and spice, with a touch of truffle. Magnificently full-bodied, complex and balanced, the Cannubi was a real and perhaps rare treat for wine lovers.
Not stopping there, Chef Jason and his pastry chefs created a memorable, Piedmont-infused dessert – with a delightful selection of apricot, candied orange peel and walnut cookies, chocolate, chestnut and cherry tartufo and frangelico zabaione. A glass of traditional Moscato d’Asti was a singingly sweet and slightly fizzy perfect finale to this superb meal.