Thursday, February 14, 2008

eat, drink, and be




The wintry mix hails outside the windows, the snow piles up next to the houses, and the roads remain passable, but slushy, icy, wet, by turns. This is a winter of old, they say, those who have been here for longer than ten years. And while this year we have more snow than in quite some time (and, really, we are glad for the snow. If we must have winter, then let us have snow!), we still must find ways to square off with cabin fever, winter doldrums, seasonally affected disorders; we look deep down for interior inspirations to amuse and entertain ourselves.

The other night we had a wine tasting at the restaurant. We have them periodically throughout the year, an opportunity to taste new wines, prepare special dishes, and learn something new. But instead of a sit-down dinner, which is what we usually do, we decided to hold a kind of open house, or cocktail party, only with wine. We moved the dining room around so that we had a long table for glasses, plates, and silverware. We brought in a rustic wood table top that we’d made this summer, reclaimed cedar from our old garage, to make a table for the platters of antipasti. Along the banquette, we positioned smaller tables with chairs for those who wanted to sit and taste. Our friends and colleagues Rafael(of Artisanal Cellars, a local distributor who specializes in organic and biodynamic wines), and Iacopo (of Vignaioli Selections, an importer that specializes in small production, organic, biodynamic wines) presented nine Italian wines, all glass winners of the Italian guide Gambero Rosso. They stood gallantly behind the bar with the bottles of wine, and poured, and discussed grape varieties, soil types, aromas, and flavors. We cooked for three hours, bringing out plate after plate of new tastes to accompany the wines. The guests chatted and made that happy noise of all good parties, the melodies of conversation against the music playing on the sound system. A decent way to shake up the week, change the routine.

And like any get together, a theme of sorts developed through the evening. Because all the wines were organic and biodynamic, a discussion ensued about the two basic ways of making wine: in the vineyard, and in the cellar. We drank all kinds of things: Franciacorta, Fiano d’Avellino, Tocai Friuliano, Nebbiola d’Alba, Barolo, Vino Nobile, Aglianico, and Amarone. But it was the Barolo that brought us to the crux of the evening.

I have been studying wine for eleven years. Over that time, I have developed my nose, and skills in tasting and pairing. I have made it a mission to study the lesser-known varietals in Italian viticulture. There are over 2,000 varietals in Italy, about 300 in production now, so there is much to taste and learn. But I realized as I tasted the lovely Scarzello Barolo ’01 with its notes of tar and roses, burnt toast, hints of anice and cinnamon, that in my time studying and drinking wine, the nature of so many classic noble wines of Italy have changed. The drinking of them has changed. Wines like Barolos and Barbarescos often get made to be drunk sooner; wines like Chianti Classico Riservas acquire more fruit to make them more accessible. Of course, there are wine makers making more traditional styles of wine, but somehow it seems that the nature of the traditional has gotten lost along the way. Tasting the other evening, I realized that I no longer know how to define a Barolo, its classic taste, its classic behaviour--I've tasted too many other expressions. I realize that in this time of waiting-- for sunshine, for that big thaw, that waiting for Spring--I have a way to entertain and distract myself over the next few months: I will dive into those waters known as Barolo, and see what rises to the surface. I know such an endeavor will last me much more than the few months we have left until the lilacs bloom.

--Deirdre

3 comments:

pam castelli said...

Did I miss something great or what?!!

I hope you're doing well. Looks like Valentine's Day treated you well:)

I'm almost through the cookbook and am dragging my feet to finish as I don't want it to go away...

Deirdre and Caleb said...

Hi Pam! It was a great event...a lot of fun. Do I have your e-mail? I'll put you on the list in case you want to drive down for one of the tastings..George will be here in May!

Thank you for the good thoughts on the book.....:) All's good here....Hope you are well and enjoying all this Vermont weather!

pam castelli said...

Yeah, I'm so glad you answered me!! I don't have your email and whenever I call the restaurant, I'm not lucky enough to get either of you....

My email is pkcastelli@yahoo.com and I would love to try and come down when George is there...

I've got someone else addicted to your blog now, it was the cornichons that did her in.... You're the best, you even suck us in writing about PICKLES for gods sake!!!

I'm getting more and more jealous as April approaches and I know you are leaving for heaven:) Have some extra fun for me....