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swirl & savor

Selecting the Wines: Dinner at Maximo's

Beth Ribblett

Selecting wines for our dinners with local restaurants is one of my favorite things to do.  And believe it or not, there's a lot more to it than just opening up a bunch of bottles we like and designing a menu around them.  It is a process that involves the input and collaboration of quite a few individuals who all have a vested interest in you having a great wine and food experience.

I've been to dinners where it was obvious that there was not much communication between the wine people and the food people.  The latest experience, believe it or not, was in Tuscany. And as bad as the event was, it was actually very good for me to see what happens when proper planning is obviously not involved. Food comes out without wine or wrong wines in your glass when the food comes out and little or no thought going in to the actual food and wine pairings which means neither the wine nor the food really gets to shine.

Anne Zakin
Now onto our upcoming dinner at Maximo's...We are working on an event in late September when Anne Zakin, President of Marc De Grazia Imports USA, will be in town to host the dinner and present the wines. I met with sommelier Michelle Gueydan, who has been working with the staff at Maximo's, Chef Thomas Woods, General Manager Eric Solis, and Nick Selby from Uncorked, at his office to put our heads together to make the selections.   And I am really excited by the line up!

Chef Thomas Woods
We wanted a wide range to show case the depths of the portfolio and Chef Thomas' diversity in cooking styles.  We needed interesting wines but with good acidity and structure to pair with foods and even turned down a wine that we all fell head over heels for because we felt another would better fit our purpose (more on that wine later...). And although we tend to want to taste higher end wines at these dinners, it is important to present selections at various price points to show that not all wine needs to be expensive to be good.

So we decided to take you on a tour of Italy, presenting wine and food from the Veneto, Campagnia, Sicily, Tuscany and Alto Adige with a mix of obscure and well known grape varieties. The list is now in Chef Thomas' hands and it is up to him to create some culinary magic in the kitchen to pair with the wines.  The dinner is Wednesday September 21 and menu and pricing will be coming soon, but here's a little information on a few of the wines we selected:

2009 Kofererhof Kerner - Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 pts:  The 2009 Kerner bursts from the glass with an exciting array of mint, flowers, passion fruit and crushed rocks. This is a beautiful, vivid white that takes shape in the glass, continuing to show off its remarkable class. A textured, creamy finish rounds things out in style. The estate’s Kerner is one of the great, great wines of Alto Adige, and the 2009 is nothing short of breathtaking. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2015.

2007 Az Agr Dei Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - Robert Parker's Wine Advocat, 90 pts:  Dei’s 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is wonderfully soft and expressive in this vintage. Bright red cherries lead to subtle notes of earthiness and pipe tobacco as this sexy, radiant Vino Nobile opens up in the glass. Fine, silky tannins frame the long, beautifully articulated finish. This understated, delicate Vino Nobile is a gem from Dei. 

2008 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, 92 pts., (RP 93 pts) - Good deep red. Delicately smoky, penetrating aromas of redcurrant and crushed rock, with a liqueur-like nuance; seems a bit less intense than the Guardiola. Supple, creamy and sweet, which is typical for this vineyard bottling, but with very good acidity and a recurring rocky quality nicely complementing the berry and smoke flavors. Finishes with sweet but mounting tannins and notes of aromatic herbs. This has the structure to age but also offers considerable up-front appeal, though the tannins are such that I'd suggest laying this away for another couple of years.