Several weeks ago, I mentioned OTBN, or “Open That Bottle Night”; on Saturday, Feb. 27, I had a small dinner at my cabin to celebrate it.
Many of us have a special bottle that we have bought, or been given, and saved for a special occasion; so the intent of the evening was to gather with friends, and try several special wines.
I had two bottles waiting for the occasion: one was given to me by my friends Craig Hougen and Mary-Jane Warshawski when I left Coast Mountain Sports … a very promising-looking 2006 Italian Capannino red wine that Craig had bought through the Opimian Society. I had promised that I wouldn’t open it until he and Mary-Jane could join me to taste it.
The second was a 2003Travaglini Gattinara wine from Piedmont (Northwestern Italy) that I had tasted and bought at the Rotary Club wine show last October, available locally for $40.45. This is at the high end of my price range, but I had loved tasting it, and thought it would be fun to share.
With thoughts of these Italian treats, I invited Craig and Mary-Jane, and an artist friend of mine to dinner, and began to plan the menu.
For me, drinking good wine is all about finding complementary foods to serve them with and sharing them with good friends. I wanted to make sure that the meal I served would honour the wines that we would taste.
Some years ago, I was introduced to Bistecca alla Fiorentina, and thought this famous Tuscan steak dish would perfectly accompany these exciting wines.
The evening, and my guests, arrived and I had picked up two two-inch thick T-boners at Stacey’s in Porter Creek, and let them rest at room temperature for about four hours.
I launched into the preparation, smearing a paste of coarse sea salt, crushed sage and anchovy paste on the beautiful slabs of beef, and bringing the barbecue up to a scorching 6000F.
Craig brought a third bottle, an intriguing 2005 Verona red, La Grola Allegrini (sadly, not available in the Yukon). Like the Capannino, it too was an IGT or Indicazione geografica tipica. The term classifies wines made of the juice of traditional Italian grapes blended with French grape juices, usually Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot.
IGTs are exciting and robust wines, and well worth trying any time you find them.
The steaks grilled at high heat for five minutes a side, and we let them “rest” on a plate covered with tin foil, continuing to slowly cook in their own residual heat, while we set the table, and cooked shredded Yukon potato hash browns mixed with sage, and fried in olive oil and butter.
Steamed fresh spinach, topped with butter, lemon juice and fresh ground pepper rounded out the meal.
We cut the meat into inch thick slices, and squeezed fresh lemon juice over the top, and brought it to the table on a platter.
Having sampled all three wines with a little parmesan cheese, we arranged them from lightest tasting to most robust. So we started with the Travaglini Gattinara, made from the 100 per cent nebiolo grapes of Piedmont.
This lovely, bright red wine seemed to have a floral bouquet, or smell, and a robust crisp tannic taste, and reminded me of red fruit, like currents.
The finish (the taste left in your mouth after swallowing) lasted a good 20 or 30 seconds, which always delights me. It was a truly luxurious accompaniment to the Bistecca.
Travaglini Gattinara has been included in the Wine Spectator Top 100 list in the past, and comes in a specially shaped bottle designed in 1959 to capture the natural sediment of aged wines, and aid in the “decanting” or pouring process.
Next, the Capannino, which, too, proved to be a delicious wine. The label copy suggested that it was a pure Sangiovese wine, (the primary grape of Chiantis), but both Craig and I thought it far too robust and complex to be just that. Then we noted the IGT designation, so it had to include some non-Italian grape as well.
After some research, our suspicions were confirmed. This wine comes from the low-lying Tuscan seacoast region of Maremma, and is comprised of Sangiovese grapes, mixed with both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fermented in stainless steel, and aged in French oak barrels, this was a well-balanced and classic “Super Tuscan” IGT blend, with a wonderful bouquet, great depth and a perfect tart and tannic red berry flavour to wash the tongue after every bite of that wonderful steak, and ready our palates for the next mouthful.
Finally, the dark, ruby red La Grola Allegrini, with its deep bouquet of coffee and tobacco. It seemed fuller-bodied than the Travaglini Gattinara, almost like a Valpolicella. In fact, the Valpolicella grapes, Corvina Veronese and Rondinella, comprise 85 per cent of the grapes, with Sangiovese and French-origin Syrah grapes comprising the last 15 per cent.
Aged in French oak barrels for 16 months, it tastes spicy, “minerally” and tannic. Apparently, Wine Advocate magazine rated it 90 Points, an excellent rating.
All three wines were splendid and characteristic of the best of what Italy has to offer, and worked so well with the Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Finishing with a delightful lemon tart and espresso, this evening, with its wonderful company, conversation and foods, made a memorable reason to “Open That (those) Bottle(s) Night!
I hope you had a similarly wonderful evening.