Monday, June 9, 2008

Romance in Tuscany

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, Joe and I did not go to Italy for a holiday for a much needed recuperating romance…..believe me it is a necessity at this time of our life. But the Hyatt Park Resort created just the right atmosphere at the Winemaker’s dinner to launch four of the Castello di Monastero wines, grown under the Tuscan sun.

Lionello Marchesi: The philosophee entrepreneur. If Joe was not seated by my side, this sucessful industrialist who began to devote himself to his great passion; wine growing would be the only focus of the night. Moreover he has purchased and restored a historic monastery dating 1000 years back at Castelnuovs Berardenga around which the grape vineyards….the Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot flourish. Not to forget the Chardonnay, Malvasia and Trebbiano white grapes. Talking about romance…this affable smiling individual with a humourous twist to his narration together with the staff of the Hyatt set the mood for romance.

It all started at the Praia de Luz, the Bar. The Vodka Martini served was one with a difference…it could be the basil leaves that added to the twist… but that certainly put Joe in a positive frame of mind. I am sure that the tit-bits-the Canape’s – Prosecco circulating also added to the conversation rising a few octaves higher. The seared foie gras and organic puple figs cooked with aged fig balsamic or the white and green asparagus on crusty pine nuts bread with wild rocket pesto…they were circulating around had people begging for more….but we have to come to the crux of the activity…the wine tasting.

The meal was a formal sit down one, delicately balanced by the Executive Chef Asif Mehrudeen….with a wine(the ones that had to be sampled) served with each course. Although there was no formality at the table. Seated with the ‘founder’ of the Castello di Monastero enterprise and the Executive Assistant Manager Mr Trilok Narain, the efferverscent Shruti, the other guests Mr Jaywant Chougule, Roopali and Jitender Khanna, Anna and Chetan Timblo, Marion and Jehangir Talyerkhan and others added to the bohemenie of the evening. The waiters served the first wine-the Chardonnay Toscano, chilled to a crisp 10 degrees C. This wine is made of the Chardonnay grape and is an excellent complement for fish and white meat dishes or can be served as an aperitif. Good thinking….as my salivary glands stood ready for the dish promised on the menu-the safron tortellini filled with crayfish, king boletus mushrooms and porcini cappuccino. Served in deep blue bowls…the cavity of my mouth expanded to savor the delicate crayfish in the mushroom cappucino ably complemented with a sip of that wine.

We were not allowed to salivate on that experience, because the waiters were now fillling the wine glasses with rich ruby red liquid-the Sangiovese Toscana. Did I hear singing in the background? Could the voices of the Monastery be singing Hallelluia? Definitely a figment of my imagination, cause the monastery was actually a nunnery and runs as a resort. The singing was in my head. This wine although made of the same grapes as the Chianti has 100% Sangiovese grapes and is an excellent complement for meat, fish, pasta and rice dishes. The exquisititely designed plate placed in front of me…no, no the plate was plain white…it was the food..that shaved pink San Danielle proscuitto on beetroot…deep, deep red granules marinated in Lambrusco vinaigrette and the cannellini bean panna cotta. Heavenly…and so was the wine…perhaps the angels were singing. ‘You cannot get drunk with a few sips of wine,’ Joe growls. He is absolutely right. The alchoholic content is just around 13%.

Shruti got talking about Indian food...the different cuisines of India. It was a perfect exchange of East and West. ‘This wine is also excellent for Indian food,’ Lionello states. Perhaps it’s the acidity that complements the food.

By now the wine glasses were cleared and the next wine was served. The Chianti Classico. Well everyone has heard of the Chianti. But the Chianti Classico Riserva made from these vineyards was awesome. Comments like subtle, rolls on the tongue as the taste lingers on, were heard around the table. And coupled with the Baked rotolo of potato and spinach in a red wine spicy sauce….although Chef Asif had created the dish to resemble a swiss roll, the combo of rolling wine on the palate and the tatse of the dish could have us rolling around in esctasy if Joe had not given me a warning look. How did he manage to be so prim and proper I wondered…today he was on his best behavior. It could be the ladies on the table.

And finally the last wine to be sampled-the Brunello di Montalcino. They always say that the best things are kept for the last. This was no exception. This wine is an excellent compliment to roast and braised beef and game. The braised baby lamb filled with chestnuts and roman artichokes….I choke back the thought as I write this article…..will I ever get to experience that lamb slowly melting in my mouth and the wine-those murmurs of approval generating around as the clink of cutlery on the crockery played a stattaco beat of appreciation.

Well the meal continued…the Amareno cherry zabaglione. Chef Birendra also known as Papa had the sabayon done to perfection…. talking about perfection Lionello Marchesi believes in it too. There was a time in 2002 which was a bad vintage year. Rather than produce a sub standard wine, he sold the produce off as his philosophy sates that the wines must highlight the best aspects through attentive management of the vineyards, harvest, vinification and ageing. His wines are aged for 3-4 years before sale.

The romance of the evening came to an end to soon. But the memories like the excellent wine will always remain. So Arrivedecci Toscano……till we meet again.

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