Monday, June 7, 2010

{ Worldly Wines + "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" Part 6 }

In Vino Veritas means “In wine there is truth”. During our six week journey, we explored wines from around the world and learned the “truth” about how food, wine and language blend together. Prior to taking this class, I did not venture too much out of California for my wine selections. Now my spirited adventurous side is in full gear. I find myself looking at the wine list at restaurants and searching for a wine that is from France, Italy, and Australia or beyond.

This was our last class of the series and Suzanne was gracious enough to open her lovely home in Berkeley. She has a charming one hundred year old bungalow style home that has many lovely touches. I arrived about thirty minutes early since I had to visit a client in Emeryville, and helped Suzanne prepare the fava beans for the Farro dish. Class was slated to begin at six o’clock and everyone arrived on time. Chad brought an array of wines from around the world along with some of my fellow students selected some special wines to share.

The evening began with “mix and mingle” time along with a glass of Drusian Prosecco di Valdobbiadene from the Veneto region of Italy. It was festive and delicious and would be wonderful as a cocktail served with St. Germaine. Notes of green apples, floral, apricot and toasty bread like quality was present along with a creamy texture on the palate. We enjoyed simple appetizers of radishes from the farmers market, garlic toast with olive oil and coppa. Sometimes, the simplest things in life are the best.

Before we sat down to eat, we enjoyed a Rocaberdi Vino Blanco from Catalunya Spain. It had a slight spritzy quality that reinforced the minerality undertones. It is 80% Macabeo and 20% Xarel-lo grapes that are used in the production of cava. It was bright with notes of white flowers, lemon, lime and apple. One wine I found to be quite tasty and interesting was Mengoba Blanca from Godello and Dona Blanca. It is from the Bierzo region of Spain and had soft delicate fruit, pear and melon tones yet it was finely tuned and gently expressive. It would pair wonderful with salty or spicy foods with its slight sweet character.

One of the more unique wines of the evening was a Spanish wine called Viña Tondonia Rosé Gran Reserva 1998 from the López de Heredia family. The grape varietals are Tempranillo (30%), Garnacho (60%) and Viura (10%). It was a bit “jarring” at first and rather off putting. It possessed a liquor, cassis and oxidized quality, almost like sherry or a rusty penny. Smooth and fresh with body and complexity due to barrel ageing. For the main course we enjoyed roasted duck breasts that were double tied and perfectly roasted. The side was Farro with purple asparagus, peas, fava beans, morel mushrooms, stock, and lemon and parmesan cheese. It was very tasty, hearty and satisfying.

More wine was the name of the game tonight. Since it was our last class, the experimentation and chatter was rampant. A French red called Savigny-les-Beaune from the Pimentiers vineyard was bright, with ripe red fruit along with balanced acidity and delicate tannins. Nice wine for drinking and enjoying with food. Joe and Meg brought different wines during the course and they have yet to disappoint. The wine they shared was no exception – it was Brunello di Montalcino from Italy. It is a bright wine with dark red fruit. The nose offers raspberry, red cherry, smokey undertones with firm tannins and floral flavors. Also enjoyed a Ridge Syrah Granache that was quite delicious.  As the Europeans customarily do, they enjoy salad at the end of the meal. We enjoyed an arugula salad with ricotta salata and a light vinaigrette dressing. Perfect as a palate cleanser and digestive for the meal.

Bouncing from country to country we are now in Austria with a wine called Berger Zweigelt which is a red table wine. It is a balance of ripe fruit, layers of plum, berry fruit and delightful forward acidity with plenty of spice. This wine is relatively unknown in the United States and if you can try it, I would recommend you give it a whirl. We now adventure to Italy with a special bottle that another student Lisa shared with all of us. It is Taurasi Radici with intense red cherry, charred volcanic tones, licorice, soft chewy tannins and a full bodied silky long finish. Suzanne shared a Domaine Tempier Bandol 1998, which was a very special wine and absolutely divine. Lastly for the review of wines is Castello Di Neive Dolcetto d’Alba from Italy. A sweet and jammy wine that reminds you of drinking Welch’s grace juice. Quite tasty from the piedmont region and perfect as an ending wine for the night.

As in life, all good things must come to an end. This class exceeded my expectations and literally changed how I think about wine, food and the conversation sitting at the table. Food and wine interchange and weave through our lives. Some of the simplest foods are magnified with the right wine and visa versa. My recommendation to everyone is to get outside your comfort zone with wine and try new things. Purchase wines from Italy, France, United States, and Australia and beyond. Wine doesn’t need to cost an “arm and a leg” to be good. Once you understand the regions and varietals, the possibilities are endless. Thank you Chad and Suzanne for a truly wonderful experience and sharing all of your knowledge and talents with all of us.

Check out the entire "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" series:

James Beard's Onion Sandwich + "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" Part 1
Italian Wine Bar/Crostini Recipe + "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" Part 2
Blending + Bordeaux + "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" Part 3
Burgundy Wines + "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" Part 4
Rhone Valley + "Thinking, Eating and Drinking" Part 5


  1. You may want to try educated guess. Nice and cheap.

  2. Suzanne DrexhageJune 7, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    Lovely post! Thanks so much, Lisa. You were a delight to have in the class, and I'll continue to keep up with your adventures in food and wine!

  3. What a great class. Love the Farro and all the wonderful ingredients in it. I have not seen purple asparagus yet. I would really love to try some.

  4. I enjoyed reading this series since I'm not very knowledgeable about wine. I just know what qualities I like and stick that. Having said this, I don't mind being adventurous. I agree that good wine needn't be expensive either. We've enjoyed some great, inexpensive Argentinian Malbec lately.

    Thanks for posting. Cheers!

  5. I've only had one wine tasting course, but it was a good one for a beginner like me. What I left with was the idea that I could like a wine for what it represented to me, and I've continued to experiment since that time. I enjoyed your write-up -- it truly sounded like a great evening with all my favorite things.

  6. Well done! I was hotly anticipating the last in this series and I was not at all disappointed. The idea about using the Drusian Prosecco with St. Germain as a cocktail is on my must do list. I am looking for ways to use unique liquors and St. Germain is one of them. Thanks for the idea. The range of wines was dizzying, how did you feel when the night was over??


  7. what a wonderful night of great wine and beautiful food, I would love to take a wine class, I need to try venturing out and taste different wines, great post



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