Last week I had the pleasure to have dinner with Andrea Sartori of Sartori di Verona, and his winemaker, Franco Bernabei at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Chicago, Spiaggia. The marriage of a Tuscan winemaker with Veneto wines and this amazing Tony Mantuano restaurant was too big to miss!
The Sartori family has been making wine for over 110 years, and started very small with just 37 acres as of 2002. This quickly grew when they secured over 5000 acres from a partnership with Cantina Colognona di Colli of Soave and Valpolicella. Later, the family secured the services of Franco Bernabei, a well known winemaker known all over "the boot" as a master, Needless to say, I was anxious to try the food and wine.
We started with the Ferdi Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir (under $15), both of which were light, acidic and dry, exactly how I enjoy my typical Pinots from the region. This went well with our Foie Gras, a salty, fatty goose liver, typically served with a sweet fruity sauce (or wine) to counter the saltiness and fat content. Excellent.
Next we moved onto the Valpolicella reds, starting with a Valpolicella, a light drinking wine blend normally comprised of Corvina and Rondinella varietals. Quite good, light and fruity with a touch of minerality. This was followed by Sartori Veronese "Regolo" ($20) 100% Corvina varietal. This wine goes through an interesting process as it is cold soaked with the grape skins for 15-18 days. This allows the juice to soak in color, flavor and tannins before fermentation begins. Later in the year, the wine goes through the Veneto "ripasso" process of passing through the "lees" (fallen yeast) and grape skins of Amarone wine, which still contains much sugar, resulting in a secondary fermentation. This adds body and complexity. The wine is named for Regolo, the Patriarch of the Sartori famiglia. The wine melded well with our mushroom risotto, as the earthiness and minerality mixed with the shrooms, creamy rice and pancetta.
We then leapt to the Amarone ($43), which is one of Italy's largest wines. This one is made up Corvina, Rondinella and Oselta varietals which have been laid out on straw mats after harvest to raisinate. This leaves behind concentrated fruit and sugar, more for the yeast to feast on and create more complexity, body and alcohol. Always a great treat and fabulous with food, like the lamb chops we had. Gamey flavors mixed with minerality, herbs, bitterness and fruity body. A delicious combo.
Franco wanted us to try his Garganega, a white wine he described as having body and complexity, so much so that we could drink after any hearty red, such as an Amarone. While I do not agree I want to end my night with this (or any) white, I do agree the complexity was there to fully enjoy. The juice went through an interesting process, as the grapes were hand-picked and dried for over 30 days to reduce water and concentrate sugar and color, then they're cold soaked and macerated on the white skins. Some of the wine is aged in used barrels and aged "sur lie", then aged 3 months in bottle for great stabilizing.
A great way to end an amazing evening with amazing people like Franco, Andrea and the rest of the Sartori, Banfi and Spiaggia crew. Thanks again!