Delectable Italian wines paired with tantalizing foods. Does it get any better than that?
Last night, I was invited to a food and wine pairing event called the Italian Culinary Experience, which was hosted by Italian wine producer Casa Vinicola Zonin in collaboration with restaurateur Mauro Maccioni of the Le Cirque Restaurant Group. The event took place at the International Culinary Center in New York City, where Chef Alfio Longo from Circo presented remarkable foods to pair with the wines and to highlight the authentic flavors of Italy.
Zonin is the largest privately-held winemaking company in Italy and we had the pleasure of tasting five of their wines.
We were welcomed to the event with a glass of chilled Prosecco 1821 Cuvee to open up our palates. The apertivo paired nicely with the smoked salmon canapes, mozzarella and tomato skewers, and proscuitto-wrapped figs we had. The wine was refreshing and aromatic, with hints of apple, and I definitely didn’t mind sipping on it throughout the meal, but of course, we had more wines to try.
For the appetizer, we had vitello tonnato, paired with 2011 Vermentino Calasole from the Rocca di Montemassi estate in Tuscany. Chef Alfio explained that the veal tenderloin was cooked for one hour until tender, sliced thinly, and rolled up with a creamy tuna filling. This cold dish was both rustic and elegant – the salsa verde (made with parsley, mint, and avocado) served alongside gave a punch of brightness and unique twist to this classic Italian dish. James is allergic to fish so he couldn’t eat the vitello tonnato, but he tried the salsa verde and agreed that the bright and minty flavors make the sauce very refreshing. I also enjoyed the wine it was served with; the Vermentino is dry, crisp, with floral and citrusy aromas. It’s excellent with seafood and salted fish like anchovies.
Next came my favorite pairing of the night: pasta with braised duck, pumpkin, and mushrooms, paired with 2008 Berengario Zonin delle Venezie IGT. The wine is made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, with hints of vanilla. I love how it’s not too sweet and not too harsh, and pairs really well with rich, gamey meat dishes like this one.
The pasta was perfectly cooked until al dente, and as the Delverde Pasta Sommelier informed us, the resulting texture of the pasta depends largely on the quality of the ingredients and the drying method.
For the next meat course, were served tomato-braised tripe with gratinated artichoke bruschetta, paired with the 2009 Chianti Classico Le Ellere from the Castello d’Albola estate. This wine is perfect with rich and hearty stews, like braised tripe. I’ve never had artichoke prepared this way, and I liked the crunchy texture it gave to the dish.
The wine is soft and smooth, with floral and fruity notes of violets and cherries. As Francesco from the Zonin family explained, because the wine is aged in small barrels, more oak flavors are imparted into the wine.
Finally, we finished the meal with a traditional tiramisu paired with Rosato from the Castello del Poggio estate in Piedmont, which was my favorite wine of the evening. I gravitate towards the light and crisp wines, and the bubbly nature of this rose made it so pleasant to drink on its own. And the color…just gorgeous!
Thanks to the team at Zonin USA, Circo, and Delverde Pasta for a wonderful culinary experience – it was an entertaining and informative evening full of amazing foods and wines!
To learn more about them, you can follow them on Twitter @Zonin_USA @CircoRestaurant @ChefAlfioLongo, like their facebook pages for news about upcoming events, or for more information about this Italian Culinary Experience, you can search for the hashtags #ZoninICE #PastaSommelier on Twitter and Instagram.