The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Revelations in the Vintage Tasting Room

Posted on | December 21, 2009 | Written by Tom Powers | 1 Comment

Events is the Studio del Gusto & the Vintage Tasting Room

A few nights ago, Sergio asked me to lead a dinner he was hosting with two of his partners for some very special guests. I was eager to return to my service roots and excited to lend a helping hand. On this evening the store glowed with soft lighting and twinkling red votive candles.  Andrea Bocelli’s Christmas album played in the background, and the smell of Chef Kevin’s cuisine lingered in the air. I greeted our guests with a glass of Salon 1997, an unrivaled Blanc de Blancs with a pale gold hue, subtle apple fruit, racy minerality and an elegant finish. It complemented the beautiful antipasti: a selection of regional Italian cheeses, an assortment of marinated vegetables, cured salumi and our fresh crudo.  I could see our guests beginning to unwind as the Salon began to take effect.

The conversation became more spirited, postures more relaxed and smiles surrounded the table. Lobster was served next, paired with Gravner Breg Anfora 2002 and Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 2004. The organic nature of the brilliantly crafted Gravner was a classic complement to the dish. Its silky tannins mirroring the delicate texture of the lobster, the Torte showed how a soft red can provide a perfect match to seafood. After the lobster, we delighted our new friends by presenting pappardelle pasta with braised duck paired with Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino 2004 and Talenti Brunello Riserva Vigna Paretaio 1999. I had decanted the Talenti two hours before the dinner to allow the wine to open, and it was delicious. I could see our guests were reveling in their experience. They had been seduced by the lobster pairing, and the pasta course established trust between us.  The anxiety from the frenzied New York pace was dissipating.

The meal’s crescendo arrived accompanied by dramatic flair—Gianfranco Soldera’s Case Basse di Soldera Brunello di Montalcino 1993 and Case Basse di Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1983. The wines were simply majestic. If ever there was a wine that was like a cathedral song, it would be Soldera’s remarkable Brunellos. A festival of grilled meats was served family style to accompany these gorgeous wines. The 1993 was still showing concentrated dark red fruits and firm tannins, while the 1983 had evolved into perfect balance. The guests were delighted; we had exceeded their expectations. They were ready to ease into dessert.

We did not end our meal with a gentle expression; rather, we finished the culinary experience with a kaleidoscope of flavor. We turned to the Master of the Veneto, Giuseppe Quintarelli and his 1986 Recioto della Valpollicella, a wine whose sweet, black fruit nectar is framed by violets and tar, and whose finish is elegant and long. The wine was matched by Dolce Gorgonzola a sweet, creamy, dense blue cheese. It served as the canvas to the wine’s purple fruit. The meal’s finishing touch came from Jacques Selosse Exquise.  Crafted for Alain Ducasse as a dessert Champagne, the wine shows a bit of sweetness in the front of the palate but finishes with Selosse’s signature expression of elegant minerality.

The guests were impressed. As they put their coats on they hugged Sergio and thanked him for another supreme effort. Sergio profusely and sincerely thanked them for the opportunity to share his passion. I watched, and witnessed more than the natural end of a perfect meal. I saw that Italian Wine Merchants is not merely a business that Sergio created; it’s the embodiment of all he holds sacred.


One Response to “Revelations in the Vintage Tasting Room”

  1. jorge
    December 22nd, 2009 @ 8:43 am

    What a great night. Thanks Tom to help me relive it. Everything clicked that night…Kev and the team outdid themselves on the food, the wines were perfectly paired, and your explanation of what we were drinking was clear and fun…

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