Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Brunellos

Last night a few friends of mine and I went out to Salute, a new Italian restaurant in town known for its brick oven, great food, bad acoustics and uneven service.  Like most restaurants in my town, Salute is a BYO. 

Well made Italian food calls for some well made wine and I decided it was time to pull out some of the good, old stuff that has been sitting in the back of my wine fridge.  I loaded up my wine carrier with four bottles - two 12 year old Brunello di Montalcino, one 11 year old Barolo and a much younger, but delightful Pinot Gris, for my friend who only drinks white. 

This may seem excessive for a dinner with five people and two blocks into my walk to the restaurant, I would have agreed with you.  However, it's not a bad idea to bring an extra bottle or two to a BYO.  I always do - especially when dealing with larger groups and older wine I've had for awhile.  You never know if one of your bottles is bad and it's not like you can send it back and get it replaced!

Though I packed a mobile wine store (including a device that decants the wine as you pour), my focus was really on the Brunellos.  With two Brunellos from the same year and different vineyards, I thought it'd be interesting to have a "taste off."

First up:  Lambardi Brunello di Montalcino, 1999
This was a little lighter, more rustic and less refined than I expected, but it was smooth, full of fruit, dry but not overwhleming and just downright tasty.  Plus, it paired perfectly with our appetizers - bufala mozzarella and basil pizza and an egg crostini.  According to the Lambardi description, this wine is supposed to have plum and cherry flavors, but Meg and Jeff, my fellow wine connoisseurs and I, got a lot more black fruit on the palate.  The dark fruit intensifed the tomato soaked crostini and the slightly sweet, flaky thin crust of the pizza. As expected from an older wine, it had a nice long, smooth finish.

Eager to get on to the next bottle, we did not linger over the Lambardi as we should and we moved on to....

Batting Second:  Banfi Brunello di Montaliucono, 1999
This had more body, more oak and more tannins than the Lambardi so it worked out well that this was the #2 wine.  Usually I'm not a big fan of tannin and oak, but on an older wine, these tend to be much less pronounced and add structure, balance and body to the wine rather than aggressive flavors.  I loved everything about this wine.  The rich, spicy, somewhat earthy, berry flavors that enticed my nose were even better on the palate.  And with a risotto that was half cheese, it was the best wine I've had in a long time.  I was drinking the wine long after I was far too full to eat another forkfull of risotto or steal another perfect gnocchi from Meg's plate.

Suffice it to say, these wines aren't priced for the average "wineocrat."  Even when young, Brunellos run well into the $40 and $50 range.  But this was a place I'd been looking forward to trying for a long time and I knew it was the perfect place to break out the wines I'd be longing taste.

How about we just pretend I was breaking them out in honor of mothers everywhere and as we all know, most mothers deserve a lot more than the niest bottle of wine you own!  At least the mothers I know do (if this were a blog about my pre-teen, teenage and college years, you'd know why).

Cheers to an excellent dinner with terrific wine and even better company.  And cheers to moms on this beautiful Mother's Day.

Until the next sniff, sip, quaff,


Alli M.


elliej said...

Can't wait to try Brunellos on your recommendation --

Pamela said...

oh how i love the way you dive into drinking and enjoying with reckless abandon. and you know how i feel about brunellos - sounds like a great evening hosted by the best wino i know.
see you soon. back from europe and food / wine stories to share.

Alli M. said...

Ellie: Moore Bros. carries at least a few Brunellos. Definitely something for an Anniversary dinner or something special (though if you happen to be grilling out for Father's day and if you do steaks or lamb, Brunello would be a nice accompaniment - hot dogs and burgers, not as much). I think you'd prefer Banfi's style. Will set you back around $50 - $70, depending on selection and age. And I wouldn't drink a Brunello that's less than about 6-7 years old.

Pam: Glad to hear you're back! I look forward to many dinners over the next few months. I still have a Barolo to share and several old Chateauneuf du Pape....

elliej said...

We'll probably do the usual barbecued chicken on Father's Day. Would Brunello pair well with that?

Alli M. said...

not really. how spicy will the sauce or rub be? said...

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