With blue skies abounding, last Tuesday was a perfect spring evening for our Rocca delle Macie tasting. Visiting us was Vito Candela, Vice-President of the Tuscan winery which is located in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone. I especially enjoyed this tasting, since I had just returned from Tuscany and stayed on the Rocca property, witnessing first-hand their impressive estate & facilities.
Rocca della Macie began with one man’s lifelong dream, of purchasing land and turning it into a world-class vineyard. Italo Zingarelli did just that over 35 years ago by purchasing “Le Macie” estate. His youngest son, Sergio now runs Rocca della Macie, and has begun his own legacy by bringing Rocca to a new level as one of the best quality Chianti’s in Tuscany.
Our charming Italian host, Vito entertained the group with interesting stories – everything from the history of Chianti wines to Italian culture (they’re lack of fondness for garlic). The wines themselves lived up to their reputation. Here is what we tasted:
ROCCA DELLE MACIE 2006 VERMENTINO – $16.50 Fresh and slightly fruity with floral notes and earthy minerality. A small percentage is barrel fermented which produces an elegant and balanced white. ROCCA DELLE MACIE 2006 CHIANTI CLASSICO– $17 A blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Canaiolo aged 10mths in both Slavonian and French oak. A classic Chianti with juicy cherry flavors, medium spiciness and a soft finish. ROCCA DELLE MACIE 2004 CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA– $28.50 One of the highlights of the evening was this riserva blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. Barrel-aged all in French oak for 2 years, then minimum 3mths in the bottle, this is a dark, rich and intense wine. Smoky tannins and dark cherry notes make for a complex Chianti to enjoy for years. ROCCA DELLE MACIE 2005 MORELLINO DI SCANSANO– $17 A soft and fruit forward blend of Sangiovese 90% Cabernet 5% Merlot 5%. Expressive notes of violets, raspberry flavors and subtle tannins make this a wonderful choice for spicy dishes. ROCCA DELLE MACIE 2001 FIZZANO RISERVA – $41 Produced exclusively from the Fizzano Estate and mostly from Sangiovese grapes. This Supertuscan is aged in both French oak barrels and large barrique, then one year in the bottle. Dark red fruit and with prominent tannins, this has great aging potential. SOLD OUT ROCCA DELLE MACIE 2004 SANT’ALFONZO – $23 This 100% Sangiovese Chianti is one of the most prestigious crus from Rocca delle Macie. It is aged nearly a year in French oak barrels. Its smooth texture, rich red fruit and balanced acidity makes this one of the favorite wines at the winery.
Lamb tagine is a lovely, aromatic dish originally from Morocco, but regularly seen incorporated into Spanish cuisine. With the cold, blustery weather we’ve been having, Chef Tracey felt like this yummy, warming, somewhat rich meal would still have appeal … and it has. The sweetness (though not too sweet) comes from the dates and honey. The richness comes from the lamb, a rich meat made richer by the cut (neck). And then there’s the sultry spiciness from the cinnamon, ginger, saffron & tumeric. It really is a delicious combination and it pairs beautifully with the Celler Tomas Cusine 2006 Vilosell, a blend of Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Garnacha/Syrah from the Costers del Segre region of northeast Spain. Other red wines that would work well with spicier lamb dishes would be wines from the Southern Rhône, as well as a hearty Pinot Noir, like what you find from Oregon’s Willamette Valley: Bishop Creek Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir Barrel Selection $21 or for a splurge, try Domaine Serene 2005 Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve $64. If you prefer a white for the above style dish, try a Riesling such a Weingut Seebrich 2006 Niersteiner Oelberg Riseling Spaetlese $19. Come check it out. It will be on the menu through the first week or so of April.
Mike stopped by with cheese importer, Olivier Boye, on Friday to introduce himself and I knew he’d be a hit. His cheeses were excellent and on top of that he was personable, had a good sense of humor and the little traditioinal cap with the Swiss flag on it wouldn’t hurt. Plus, it’s fun when I get to speak German … and if you’re German, you’ve got to love Swiss German.
The Glauser’s are third generation artisan cheese makers located in Bern, Switzerland. Together with other small, local, cheesemakers (Fromagerie Glauser, Fromagerie Jakob, Fromagerie Steinen & Fromagerie Belp), they created the association “Jumi Export” with the goal of showing real traditional Swiss cheeses to the outside world. For the American market, these cheeses should create a new association with what people think of as “Swiss cheese”.
Here is some information on the cheeses we tasted last Sunday:
EMMENTALER – raw cow’s milk; semi-hard to hard; aged 6-10 months (young) & 18-24 (aged) ~ both were available at the tasting so you could experience the difference. As the Swiss say, Emmentaler is a tradition and a way of life. I can concur that the German’s have the same opinion, with this cheese being a staple for my family growing up and for Julie and me when we lived there. Notes from the cheesemaker:
Texture: elastic, non-sticky with fine to semi-fine crystals
Taste: delicate and mild (hay)
Flavors: slightly salty and milky, fresh butter and jelly
Odor: slightly spicy, pungent persistence (body)
Culinary note: the ultimate fondue cheese
Produced by: Master Cheese Maker Glauser, Bergkäserei; Oberhünigen, Switzerland Wine/beer pairings: fruity beer (such as Belgian ales: Regenboog Wostynj Spicy Ale or La Chouffe Golden Ale) or rounder, fuller-bodied white wines such as Côte du Rhône Blanc or (not too oaky) Chardonnay such as Domaine de Vic 2005 Chardonnay (Vin de Pays d’Oc, France) $15
APPENBERGER – raw cow’s milk; semi-hard; aged 4-5 months (young) & 8-9 months (aged). This famous cheese hails from the Appenberger region. Its aroma is dominated by flowery notes from wild mountain flowers. The flavor of the cheese intensifies as it ages. Notes from the cheesemaker:
Texture: smooth paste, supple and slightly sticky with little holes
Flavors: slightly salty, buttery and creamy. The palate will be stimulated by fresh butter and slightly acidic (sour/lactic) notes.
Culinary note: Appenberger lends itself to imaginative combinations. For example, with sliced fresh tomatoes or with prune or fig preserves. It is also very well suited for fondue.
Produced by: Master Cheese Maker Fromagerie Glauser; Oberhünigen, Switzerland Wine pairings: a big Côte du Rhône such as Ogier 2005 Côte du Rhône Caves des Papes or a nice red from neighboring Vacqueyras, all spicy, earthy reds from the Southern Rhône Valley in France.
KNOSCHI – raw cow’s milk, chives, onions; semi-hard; aged 4 months
In the Vacherin Fribourgeois region, semi-hard cheeses are an old tradition. Knoschi is an original and very sought after semi-hard cheese embedded with onions and chives. The raw milk, artisan process and aging impart a dominant, beefy aroma which is in full harmony with onion and chive flavors. Notes from the cheesemaker:
Texture: elastic paste, smooth and crisp
Flavors: taste of broth highlighted with chive/caramelized onion flavors
Culinary note: after 4 months of aging, this cheese is ready for fondue and shows enhanced characteristics with heating and melting
Produced by: Master Cheese Maker Fromagerie Glauser; Giffers (Freiburg), Switzerland Wine pairings: this cheese has a lot of chivy, garlic flavors, so stick with a white such as Chenin Blanc or a nice Viognier/Roussanne blend such as Jean-Luc Colombo 2006 La Redonne $17.50, which is what we served at the tasting and is also available at the wine bar if you’d like to try a glass first.
BELPER KNOLLE – cow’s milk, garlic, pepper powder, Himalajasalt; semi-soft; aged 1 week or more. Around 17 years ago, the first “Belper Knolle” was made by hand and it is handmade to this day. The milk and garlic are also from Belp (where the name originates). The pepper is from the “Oberland” and the salt from the Himalayas. Notes from the cheesemaker:
Texture: easy to spread, a light delicate consistency
Taste: slightly spicy with refreshing herbal background notes
Good to know: the intensity of this cheese is reduced when the pepper/salt is brushed off. At the tasting, Mike told customers to grate this cheese over pasta or risotto.
Produced by: Käserei Belp; Bern, Switzerland Wine pairings: this is an acidic, herbal cheese, so it’s white all the way. Try a white from the Loire Valley such as Benedicte de Rycke 2005 Jasnières $28
The Belper Knolle sold out at the tasting. People loved it! I purchased some of Appenberger, which we melted and served over boiled red potatoes with a side salad. We paired it with a Jean-Luc Colombo declassified Cornas from the cellar. It was a delicious meal, especially since it’s still chilly weather here in Seattle. If you are interested in purchasing these cheeses, they are available or can be ordered at the following cheese counters: Big John’s PFI (ask for Donna), Village Market Thriftway, Magnolia Thriftway, The Cheese Cellar (near the Space Needle), DeLaurenti (Pike Place Market), some Whole Foods Markets.
Profiteroles are beautiful, festive pastries that make a delicious, fun, easy and versatile dessert. Here at the wine bar, we made the pastries in-house and then filled each little pastry with a scoop of homemade pine nut honey ice cream & served them with a chocolate espresso dipping sauce.
How to make Profiteroles at home:
• It’s quick: Buy cream puff pastry shells in the frozen food section of your local grocery. It’s not homemade, but it cuts prep down to nothing.
• It’s versatile: Fill the pastries with any ice cream that appeals or do an assortment so each pastry is a surprise. You can also change the dipping sauce to anything that appeals: chocolate espresso, caramel, raspberry or different flavored whipped creams, for example amaretto or frangelica, to add a nice fluffy accent to the festive finish. As well you can add salted nuts in with the ice cream … and so on. Use your imagination. If decide to use Chef Tracey’s Chocolate Espresso Dipping Sauce, you’ll need: 8oz finest bittersweet chocolate (chips or roughly chopped) • 1C heavy cream • ¼ C sugar • 1t instant espresso powder dissolved in 1t hot water. Heat cream and sugar to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Pour over chocolate chips/chunks. Add espresso and whisk until smooth. Hold warm in a water bath until serving time. To serve the profiteroles, heat the pastry shells per the directions. Let cool to handle. Then cut in half and use a melon scoop to fill with ice cream. Serve with a little ramekin of warm dipping sauce.
• It’s fun: The dessert has a broad range in terms of appeal. You can throw a birthday party bash for your kids or you can serve this to seduce your partner, feeding one another of course. If you go this route, don’t forget the dessert wine, with both ruby & tawnyports pair beautifully.