En route to a tasting of Trentodoc wines at Spiaggia Restaurant on Michigan Avenue, I gave myself a pep talk. To be honest, even after decades of writing about food and wine, I still get nervous when I’m hanging out with the pros.
Wine is complex, and the terminology can be intimidating. But-and it’s an important”but”- if someone just wants to enjoy wine and know enough to tell a pinot noir from a chardonnay, learning a few basics can make a big difference.
All of the wines sampled at the tasting bore the Trentodoc trademark, a collective identity for 53 producers of sparking wines located in the Trentino territory of northern Italy, a region surrounded by the Dolomite mountains.
The “doc” in Trentodoc means the appellation is recognized by the Italian “Denominazione di Origine Controllata,” which equates with the French “Appellation d’Origine Controlee.” In both cases, the designations are about geographical limitations, grape varietals, and the methodology used to create the wine.
For example, a capital “C” Champagne has to be produced-from start to finish-in the French province of Champagne. Similar wines produced elsewhere are termed “sparkling” wines, a designation that has everything to do with geography and nothing to do with quality.
All of the Trentodoc wines are made with four grape varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Meunier. The eleven wines sampled at the tasting were either 100 % Chardonnay or Chardonny mixed with varying amounts of Pinot Nero.
“Terroir” is a French term that refers to the “entire natural environment of the vine-the topography, climate, soil, and site of the vineyard where it grows.” (“Wine Encyclopedia,” Portable Press). The term is especially important when you’re discussing a particular DOC, since the environment is a crucial element in the production of wine.
Even a slight difference in altitude can affect the taste of the grape and-as a result- the taste of the wine. So can differences in the soil or the amount of sunshine or various other variables.
The Cantina D’Isera 1907 Brut NV and the Moser 51,151 Brut NV are both Trentodoc wines. The first is grown at an altitude of 500-600 meters in soil composed of volcanic, fluvial and glacier deposit, the second at an altitude of 300-600 meters in soil that’s mainly limestone. Factor in a few other details, and the result is two very different sparkling wines, both made entirely with Chardonnay grapes.
Tasting notes, the string of adjectives used to describe a wine (berry, licorice, chewy, peppery aftertaste…) can be intimidating, until you learn they’re a matter of opinion. One person’s “hibiscus” can be another’s “rose.” That doesn’t mean tasting notes are useless. Far from it. Just consider them guidelines, as opposed to gospel.
Pairing wine with food is always a concern, even for a wine buff. There are lots of ins and outs, and asking a few questions when you buy wine is always a good idea. The old adage about drinking whites with chicken and fish and reds with beef and lamb aren’t absolutes, but if you’re serving prime rib, you probably shouldn’t pair it with a light white.
Sparkling wines, as it turns out, are like universal blood donors: they typically pair well with almost everything. My favorite dish of the lunch was the campenelle pasta tossed with a roasted mushroom sauce seasoned with thyme. The pairings were flawless, and the same wines paired equally well with the other option, a wild boar ragu partnered with gnocchi.
Made Kitchen & Cocktails
A trip to visit a friend's offspring in Georgia included a lot of very good food. Heading the list was the the tapas we had at Made Kitchen & Cocktails in Alpharetta, the Atlanta suburb where they live. We had a lot of very good food, and I took a lot of photos.
potato gnocchi with spinach, mushroom, corn and sage butter
Prices for the tapas ranged $6 for the Patas Bravas to $18 for the Crabcake. Large plates started at $19 for the Brine Roasted Chicken and topped out a $48 for the Paella Mix, which serves 2-4 and takes 30 minutes to prepare. If you're in the area, check it out.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails, 45 Roswell Street, Alpharetta, Georgia 1.770.452.6233
Coarse Italian in Glenview
Coarse Italian, a restaurant focused on rustic Italian cuisine, is scheduled to open in mid-June. Located at the Glenview Park Golf Club, the restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner and - during the golf season- breakfast. Owners Franco and Vito Francese also own Mattone Restaurant and Bar in La Grange Park, but executive chef Luis Osorio will be serving a menu unique to Coarse.
Expect an Italian version of PB&J done with goat cheese and fig preserves, prosciutto wrapped dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese and glazed with a mix of honey and a reduction of balsamic vinegar, and Spaghetti Carbonara done with house made spaghetti , pancetta, peas, a quail egg, and pecorino romana cheese.
Coarse Italian, 800 Shermer Road, Glenview 847. 657.3200
The Wines of South Africa
A tasting of wines produced by six South African wineries is scheduled for Wednesday, June 5 from 7-9 pm at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph Street. Snacks will be served with the wines, much as they would be in Capetown. Tickets, which are $45, can be ordered at https://citywinery.com/chicago/meet-the-winemakers-south-african-wine-tasting-6-5-19 html.
Check out the Mussels in a Marinara Sauce (Cozze Alla Marinara ) at Bruna's Ristorante 2424 S, Oakley Avenue 773.254.5550
I love mussels and I love marinara sauce, and this dish was right on target. It's listed as an appetizer, but I ordered it as an entree.