Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Il Palazzone: The Quintessential Montalcino (Tuscany) boutique winery

I made my first trip to Montalcino in April 2011 as part of a Bordeaux Index team visit to Tuscany. Laura Gray, Estate Manager at Il Palazzone, a producer located on the hills of Montalcino, and I were Twitter compatriots at the time and she reached out to me to offer a visit to her property. I was, unfortunately, on my way back to Florence when I got her message and, so, missed out on the opportunity.

Through the years Laura and I have stayed in touch via social media and email and we truly had a moment during the time that the Consorzio was voting on allowing up to 15% Merlot in Rosso di Montalcino wines. We were both on the "no" side and shared many a thought on the subject. I remember waiting anxiously on the day of the vote for her to make me aware of the results and what a relief it was when I got her email that the resolution had failed.

While prepping for my trip to Contrada dell'Etna this year, I was able to arrange a visit to the Vini Franchetti Tenuta del Trinoro estate in Val d'Orcia and thought to combine this with a visit to Il Palazzone. Laura was in agreement and so we were on. I would finally get to meet her in person.

The best laid plans ... I got an email from Laura on the Wednesday prior to my Friday visit: her son had had an accident and she would not be able to host me personally as planned. Instead, she had arranged for a colleague -- Esther Mercedes Juergens -- to conduct the tour in her stead. I totally understood.

My upcoming post, then, will be based on my conversations with Esther, subsequent email communications with Laura, and secondary research of public sources.

Il Palazzone, according to Laura, translates to the Big Palace and is often used to describe any big house. In the picture below, the structure to the far right is the Il Palazzone of relevance to us. "This is the oldest building on the property and gave its name to the estate." Though overlooking the property, the house is not owned by the estate.

As it relates to wine, Il Palazzone is a boutique Brunello di Montalcino producer located high-up on Montalcino hill and sourcing fruit from the vineyards surrounding the property (Due Porte), as well as two additional vineyards in the Castelnuovo dell'Abate sub-region of Montalcino.

I arrived at Il Palazzone at the appointed time and was warmly greeted by Esther. She apologized again on behalf of Laura and provided some context for her being here today. As owner of the wine tourism company www.vino-vistas.com, she had led many a tour to the Il Palazzone and was intimately familiar with the estate an its history.

Esther Mercedes Juergens

Il Palazzone, she said, had originally been an olive grove. It was bought by one Mario Bollag in the 1980s. The olive trees suffered dramatically in the freeze of 1984 (In a contemporary LA Times article, a grower named Franco Cencioni said "of the 1300 olive trees in his nearby grove in Montalcino, 80% show no sign of life."), so Bollag took them down and began planting vines instead. Bollag was not alone:
In response to the rapid expansion of vineyards in Montalcino, in 1995 the Consorzio stopped authorizing land for Brunello production. The decision has definitely had a series of welcome repercussions for winemaking (forcing producers to have plots in multiple subzones), for prestige of product due to the enforced limited production and for land value given that producers wishing to expand or start new property are forced to buy or rent existing vineyards (Laura Gray).
Bollag sold Il Palazzone to Richard Parsons, former CEO of Time Warner, in 2000. At that time the estate owned the 1.5 ha La Due Porte vineyard. In 2004 the estate added another 2.5 ha of vineyards with the purchase of two plots in the Castelnuovo dell' Abate subzone. The difference in terroir between the upper and lower elevation vineyards are demonstrated annually by a two-week-earlier blossoming and veraison of the latter over the former. The characteristics of the various Montalcino sub-regions and the Il Palazzone vineyards are shown in the figures below.

Esther sees Montalcino as an excellent environment for grape-growing: (i) there is a cooling seabreeze in the afternoon and (ii) the diurnal temperature variation aids in acid retention and flavor development.

Looking out over the Due Porte Vineyard

The estate is, by and large, organic but is not certified as such. Farming practices are guided by a set of principles that the estate refers to as Responsible Agriculture. The elements and characteristics of the system are shown in the table below.

Table 1. Il Palazzone Responsible Agriculture System (Source: Il Palazzone)
Element Characteristics
  • No chemicals
   - Treatments made utilize base metals allowed by EEC 2092/91 governing organic farming
  • Manual labor rather than anti-fungal treatments
   - Strip away vine leaves by hand in order to give bunches as much air as possible
Cultivate biodiversity
  • Avoid chemicals as much as possible
  • Try to replenish the sol and environment
Fertilization Organic fertilizers in the vineyard
  • Cover crops — nitrogen-rich leguminous plants such as lupins and fava beans in alternate rows
  • Cover crops plowed into earth, enriching and fertilizing the soil
Support posts Locally grown chestnut for support posts
- Do not need to be treated with preservatives

The vine training system employed is cordone speronato, along with some experiments with Guyot. Vine density ranges between 5000 and 6000 vines/ha. The vineyards are dry-farmed. Yield and fruit quality are managed via (i) a green harvest and (ii) leaf pulling two to three weeks prior to harvest. Yields are less than 5000 kg/ha.

In response to my query regarding the Il Palazzone winemaking philosophy, Laura stated thusly:
We hope to have wines that show an authentic expression of vintage; that incredibly complex set of moving natural variables intersecting with luck and human decisions. My expectation is that each wine should embody weather in the glass. I also consider the quality of our wines entirely dependent on our work during the year in the vineyard ... That said, of course our wines will have a common thread -- as easily identified as siblings to their parents.
Optimal harvest time is determined by a combination of factors to include weather, sugar and acid levels, taste, and color. Viticultural and enological decisions are within the purview of Maurizio Castelli, the estate's consultant winemaker.

Following a manual harvest, the grapes are brought into the reception area where they are sorted and destemmed. They are then fermented/macerated in large Slavonian oak vats for 18 to 20 days with frequent pumpovers and delestage. Each plot is vinified separately using indigenous yeasts.

Malolactic fermentation and aging are also conducted in Slavonian oak. The wines are racked depending on the vintage and development. "There are no hard and fast rules since we try to interpret each vintage as it presents itself." The wines are never fined but are filtered in the years where the vintage dictates such.

The estate ages its regular Brunello for 4 years, twice the Consorzio obligation. A Riserva is produced in the years when there is a perception that "the vintage will be considerably improved by a further wood aging." To date Riservas have been declared in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2010. The Brunello spends 4 months in bottle as a Consorzio requirement but the estate is always happy with more time.

The Brunello is a blend of the three terroirs. Blending is effected just prior to bottling and is generally done in one of the vats if the volume is below 50 HL (the size of their largest vat). The contribution of each vineyards to the blend is vintage-dependent but, in general: Capa contributes fruit, sugars, and puissance; Vecchia gives minerality; and Due Porte gives aromatic complexity and elegance.

Cellar Master Stefano Sassetti

The wine remaining after this blending goes into a label called Rosso del Palazzo NV. The most recent version of this wine is designated 1/16 and is a blend of the 2011 and 2014 vintages, years in which the estate opted to not produce Brunellos. According to Esther, 2014 was wet and cold during the summer and was a very difficult vintage for Montalcino. This wine showed bright, dark fruit along with nutty and herb characteristics. Bright, fresh, and with high acidity. Slightly unfocused and shortish finish.

We opened a fresh bottle of 2012 Brunello di Montalcino for the tasting and it had a core of dark fruit surrounded by herbs, leather, spices, and a minerality.  Young, hard tannins point to the need for lengthy cellar-residence.  We switched to a '12 that had been opened previously -- but which we had passed up due to being unsure as to exactly how long it had been open -- and it exhibited a bit more oxygen-assisted brightness. Great finish on both wines.

Lorenzo & Isabelle is a Supertuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. It has been bottled only twice: 2005 (released in 2007) and 2013 (released in 2017). I tasted the 2013 edition. Darkest color of the wines tasted today. Herbaceous. Perfumed. High-toned. Silky smooth on the palate along with a spiciness. Late-arriving tannins. Moderate acidity but lengthy, mineral finish.

In one of my very informative exchanges with Laura, she noted that "one of the special aspects of smaller wineries is that there are no fixed recipes or kneejerk logistical decisions but that we can behave in a very intuitive way both in the vineyard and in the cellar ..." And that is the beauty of this estate. That, and the incisive, insightful, socratic management and communication skills and practices of one Laura Gray.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Earls Kitchen and Bar: Excellent casual dining at Orlando's Mall of Millenia

I had suggested Urbain 40 or DoveCote for our regular Wednesday lunch. Ron came back with Urbain 40 or Earls. I had never been to the latter (as a matter of fact was unaware of its existence) so I thought it would be interesting to explore. We plugged the name into Waze and let the car take us where it would.

It took us to the Mall of Millenia (Conroy Road in Orlando). More specifically, it took us to the site of the old Blue Martini Lounge, a night club where, in my younger days, I had some of my finest moments. It was now adorned with the name Earls.

I went through the entrance and into a rather cramped foyer. I peeked around the corner and, boy, it was a large space. After a short wait, we were taken to our seats. As we walked along, i noted that it was primarily a business clientele, drawn from non-retail businesses in the area, along with a smattering of mall shoppers.

The menu was extensive and seemed to have an offering from every major ethnic-food type. That was concerning in that it seemed a lot to pull off with excellence. Ron and Bev had eaten here before so they suggested that we start out with the chicken wings (one of the reasons I love these guys). The wings came. They looked good. They tasted even better. And they did not bow down in shame in the presence of the Jacques Selosse Rosé.

We next ordered a Dragon Roll from the Sushi and Raw Bar section of the menu. Scintillating. Paired well with the Ygrec. As did the Jamaican Jerk Chicken with a 2007 Clos Vougeot. For my main course I had a bunless burger washed down with a 1989 Lynch Bages.

Dragon Roll

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

At the end of the meal, Chef Simon came over to get feedback on the food. A bright, smiling young man from Vancouver (British Columbia), he had opened this restaurant and would soon be moving on to open another restaurant. It was during the course of this conversation that I first became aware that Earls was a Canadian chain with restaurants located around the world.We expressed our satisfaction with the days offerings and wished him all the best on his next assignment.

Chef Simon

Parlo and I were so impressed with the restaurant that we went back for brunch on Sunday. It was very busy and was much louder than on Wednesday. Mall shoppers and brunchers were out in full force.

The General Manager, Stefan Oostveen came over to help with my wine and this gave me the opportunity to query him about the restaurant and its business model. Like the Chef, he is also from Vancouver. Earls, he said, operates 60 - 70 restaurants worldwide. They started out as a beer and burger joint. The Chefs they have hired over the years, have added new products and management has kept the popular items. They also have a test kitchen which develops new concepts. The Sushi and Raw Bar, for example, is only a few months old. The overall focus is on using fresh ingredients and making things in-house.

Stefan, Oostveen, General Manager
I started out with a sashimi. I have seen more enticing presentations of this dish but this one more than held its own in terms of taste.


I nest tried the curry -- an unexpected dish in this environment -- and was very happy with my choice; great flavor; an appropriate level os spiciness; included chicken that was cooked to the perfect temperature; and a green-mango-like acidity.

Chicken Curry with Nan Bread

For my final course I had a marinated skirt steak. This is not a standalone item on the menu; it is normally paired with coconut prawns or sushi. At my request the additional elements of the dish were held off and the steak provided. Mint, rosemary, herb and an excellent marinade.

Marinated Skirt Steak

Excellent experiences. Great service, exceptional dishes, and a wonderful atmosphere (depending on time of visit). I would be remiss in not mentioning the $25 corkage fee. This is where I will be doing brunch from here on in.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Monday, August 7, 2017

Top-rated Barolo crus -- tranche #3: Cannubi, Gabutti, Parafada, Lazzarito, Marenca, and Rivette

Three of the foremost Barolo vineyard experts -- Renato Ratti, Alessandro Masnaghetti, and Antonio Galloni -- have each taken a shot at classifying the crus in the Barolo zone (I have shared the frameworks of the individual schemes in a prior post.). In this series I am providing an account of the top-rated crus as identified by these experts. In the first post, I presented the crus where there was full agreement among these experts. At least two of the experts had to have identified the cru as top-level for it to be covered in the second post. In this post I cover the top-level crus identified as such solely by Renato Ratti.

The crus rated as top-level by Ratti only are Cannubi (rated as Noteworthy by Galloni and Three Stars by Masnaghetti), Gabutti (rated as Outstanding by Galloni and Three Stars by Masnaghetti), Parafada (rated as Outstanding by Galloni and Four Stars by Masnaghetti), Lazzarito (rated similarly to Parafada by Galloni and Masnaghetti), Marenca (Outstanding by Galloni, Three Stars by Masnaghetti), and Rivette (same as for Marenca). It should be noted that, in his classification, Ratti treated Gabutti and Parafada as a hyphenated vineyard and similarly treated Marenca and Rivette. In today's nomenclature, these vineyards are separate MGAs. The characteristics of these crus are shown below.

Cannubi is a long, gradually sloping hill which extends northeast from the village of Barolo and is contained in its entirety within the namesake commune. According to the Marchesi di Barolo website, Cannubi hill is protected from storms and extreme weather by higher neighboring hills. Both Damilano and Marchesi di Barolo point to the uniqueness of the hill in that it sits at the convergence of the aforementioned Helvetian and Tortonian soil zones resulting in "grey-blue marls rich in magnesium and manganese carbonate that, on the surface, thanks to the air and the weathering, turn into grey-white marls" (Marchesi di Barolo).

Chiara Boschis' Pira e Figli was the first Cannubi estate to convert to organic farming, gaining its certification in 2014 (Labor of Love). But she was not content with practicing this only in her vineyard. She became an evangelist on Cannubi such that today fully 99% of the producers on the hill are organic.

I tasted the 2012 Barolo Cannubi on a visit with Chiara earlier this year. Cherry, plum, tar, and herbs were the hallmarks of this wine along with a waxiness and massive tannin structure. This wine will last for a while.

I tasted the 2013 Barolo Cannubi on a visit with Silvia Altare of Elio Altare. The wine was floral on the nose along with red fruit, spice, and blackpepper. Beautiful weight on the palate and excellent finish.

"We are not exaggerating when we say that Gabutti is the starting point of a long ribbon of vineyards along the side of the most prestigious hill in the municipality of Serralunga, and one of the most outstanding in the entire Barolo DOCG zone." (Petrini, A Wine Atlas of the Langhe). But this strong endorsement did not result in the elevation of this MGA to the uppermost ranks of the Masnaghetti and Galloni schemas. According to Petrini, in making the decision to designate Gabutti to the highest levels of his schema, Ratti was guided by "the widespread beliefs of growers in the area and by a long-established hierarchy that had taken root in the popular consciousness and was reflected in prices in the market."

The south-facing aspect, steep slope, and protection from the wind combine to render this MGA a prime location for the growth of Nebbiolo grapes. Soils are of the Lequio Formation with loose calcareous clay marls from the Langhian stage of the Miocene epoch.

Masnaghetti sees the beating heart of the MGA as the area between Parafada and Cascina Marianot where the southern exposure compensates for the relative lack of luminosity. The style of wines from that area range from "the rugged and rather classical tannic impact of of the Cappellano wines to the rougher Barolo of Franco Boasso, whereas the eastern side of the cru offers the flowing and floral style of Giovanni Sordo's Gabutti."

This vineyard is more uniform in its exposure that Gabutti or Lazzarito and can be seen as a bridge between those two MGAs (Masnaghetti). The Delizia plot, primarily owned by Fontanafredda, produces very high-quality wines from its "fairly shallow white clay and limestone marl" soils (Petrini).

The wines from Parafada are "less voluminous than Lazzarito and more refined than Gabutti" and are endowed with the vigor and presence on palate and nose that is the hallmark of a first-order wine (Masnaghetti).

A large vineyard in Serralunga d'Alba whose name can probably be traced back to an ancient hospital for Black Plague victims on the property. According to Masnaghetti, the vineyard can be divided into two parts:
  • Eastern slope -- smaller in size and less well known
  • Western slope -- can be further divided into the La Delizia and Lazzarito amphitheaters
Masnaghetti also references a < 2 ha plot lower down on the slope called Lazzairasco, an area with favorable south to southeast exposure and with excellent quality potential. Santa Caterina, on the southern boundary, like Lazzairasco, was absorbed by Lazzarito in 1990 during the township-mapping process.

A significant portion of the vineyard is owned by Fontanafredda but Ettore Germano and Vietti also farm plots there. Sergio Germano (Ettore Germano) and Luca Currado (Vietti) were both interviewed about the vineyard on a Vinous video. Sergio sees the main characteristics of the vineyard as the elegance and finesse that it imparts to the wine. The wine is strong with lean-textured tannins and a lengthy finish. The soil has a high limestone concentration but also has some beach-like sand which gives a "slim texture" to the wine.

Luca found the vineyard challenging; he farms it more with his stomach than with his palate. It provides good minerality, spiciness, and complexity to the wine and its amphitheater-like shape provides great exposure for the grapes.

I had the opportunity to taste the 2012 Lazzarito at the Vietti estate.

The 1.7 ha Vietti plot is SW facing and the 39-year-old vines are planted 4500 vines/ha. The 2012 Lazzarito had a nose of beautiful, rich red fruit with baking spices, black pepper, and a savoriness. Powerful wine with sweet red fruits dominating the palate.

The pronounced amphitheater of the Marenca vineyard provides the vines with excellent exposure to sunlight. The soil is a calcareous clay.

There is only one labeled wine wine originating from the vineyard -- produced by Luigi Pira -- but it is of high quality "with a structure which is among the deepest and most complex of the entire township" (Masnaghetti).

The vineyard sits at the foot of the inhabited area of Serralunga d'Alba and is immediately recognizable by the vine rows running vertically up the hillside rather than horizontally across the hill, as is the case for neighboring  vineyards.

According to Petrini, Rivette has always been regarded as an excellent location for growing Nebbiolo. The soil is a loosely packed marl and limestone mix and the quality of the grape are "beyond dispute." Petrini's description of the MGA is a little at odds with that of Masnaghetti's who states that, with the exception of a few small plots owned by Pira and Massolino, the remainder of the vineyard -- owned by Gaja -- is used for white grape production.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vineyard and winery visit with the irrepressible Silvia Altare of Elio Altare (Piemonte, Italy)

We were scheduled to visit with Silvia Altare (of Elio Altare) on the Wednesday of our Piemonte week and, upon our arrival, we were greeted in the courtyard by a smiling Silvia (I swear that she did not drop that smile for the duration of our visit) and her brand new puppy. Once we were able to extricate ourselves from the peppy pooch, we walked into a bright, sunny tasting room/office/kitchen overlooking the vineyard and begun to attend to all the little nips that the pup had bestowed upon Ron.

Silvia is unique among Piemontese winemakers based on her journey to this position. She worked summers as an au pair -- beginning when she was 14 years old -- for the Krankels of Sine Qua Non fame and this extensive American influence is demonstrated in her speech and attitude. She is lively, vivacious, exuberant, and voluble but does not take herself too seriously. Silvia studied economics at the University of Turin and, upon graduation in 2003, was gifted a membership in the farmers union by her father (Labor of Love). Silvia joined Elio at the estate upon graduation. She is now officially the proprietor of the estate, working down the terms of a contract that she has with her parents (terms that include her conduct with the Mauro Veglio family who share the cul-de-sac with the Altare family).

But the winery is not yet about her. It is still about her father Elio and his role in redirecting winemaking at the estate and in the region. Elio was one of the Barolo Boys and his efforts in pursuit of their goals led to permanent schism with his father.

Giuseppe, Elio's father, came to La Morra from Dogliani in 1948 and bought the 5-ha plot on which the winery stands. The estate was planted to the most popular regional vines but the profit centers were the peach, hazelnut, and apple trees which shared the land.

Elio traveled to Burgundy during the late 1970s and was impressed with the lifestyle and winemaking practices of the vignerons. So much so that he came back home determined to adopt some of the observed practices in the family winemaking environment. He began green harvesting in 1978, much to the consternation of his father, and also stopped using pesticides and fertilizers. He replaced the traditional casks with barriques in 1983 and, for his father, this was a bridge too far. He wrote his son out of his will. Elio was able to go out on his own and, over time, purchase the estate from his siblings.

Elio's success in the industry is attributable to his single-minded pursuit of elegance, finesse, and balance in his wines through "low-yield vineyard practices and application of new vinification and aging techniques.

After some time on the back deck overlooking the vineyards, Silvia invited us to take a walk through the vineyard. As we walked, she spoke.

Silvia discussing the Arborina vineyard

Ron and Silvia
Elio Altare is a small company, she said; basically her father and five employees. There are 5 ha of vineyard around the house and, in addition, they purchased almost 1 ha of the Cerretta vineyard in 2016. They also lease 4 hectares. The Elio Altare fruit sources are shown in the figure after the picture below.

Walking the Elio Altare Arborina vineyard 

In terms of terroir, the climate is inconsistent. It is not as stable -- and inherently more complicated -- than it used to be. The soil in the Arborina vineyard is primarily sand and clay.

All of the vineyard and winemaking practices employed on the estate have been formulated by Elio. The vineyard is farmed organically -- Silvia is currently pursuing certification -- but she reserves the flexibility to act in the best interests of the grapes in extreme situations. Copper and copper sulfate are used to combat mold and cow manure is used as fertilizer. The trellising system is guyot and planting density ranges between 4000 and 6000 vines per ha. Vine age is as much as 90 years, with yields of 20 - 60 hl/ha depending on variety. The estate practices fastidious pruning and thinning of the vines and does a green harvest in the summer. The distribution of vines on the estate is as follows:
  • Nebbiolo -- 40%
  • Dolcetto -- 25%
  • Barbera -- 26%
  • Cabernet Sauvignon -- 5%
  • Other red varieties -- 4%.

"This is not a monoculture"
We went back inside after the vineyard walk and descended into the cellar. One of the first things that you notice is that the Altare family are avid wine collectors as evidenced by the personal collection which includes hard-to-come-by bottles of Sine Qua Non. They also have an extensive library of their own wines -- 10,000 bottles covering 65 vintages -- and demonstrate their farm chops by storing and displaying meats sourced from farm animals.


Salami and panchetta from pig killed at Easter

Elio Altare library
Harvests at Elio Altare are manual ( 7 - 10 pickers) with selection conducted in the vineyard. After leaving the crusher-destemmer, the grapes are placed into temperature-controlled rotary fermenters where they macerate for between four to five days in the presence of indigenous yeasts. The rotary fermenters are thought to provide a more efficient extraction while allowing less of the bitter seed tannins to be included in the mix. The wine yielded by this process is racked into stainless steel tanks for blending and then onto barriques for spontaneous malolactic fermentation and aging.The wines are neither fined or filtered and are aged for 18 - 24 months  on 20% -  30% (Barolos) or 100% (Langhe Nebbiolos) new oak.

After our cellar tour, we went back upstairs to taste some wine, beginning with the 2013 Barolo Arborina sourced from two parcels, one planted in 1948 and the other in 1989. This wine is massive and will need a lot of time. Baking spices and tar on the nose along with a lifted florality. Tamarind, salinity, earth, dark fruit, and power on the palate. Lengthy finish.

The 2013 Unoperuno is sourced from the 1948 parcel and is destemmed by hand, berry by berry. According to Silvia, this wine contains the "most premium ingredients." This vintage was a farmer's vintage. They lost 30 - 40% in 2013 and 2014 due to bad weather. Elegant and restrained. Salinity, tar and spice.

The 2011 Cerretta Vigna Bricco is sourced from a vineyard that is known for limestone and chalk, according to Silvia. This wine showed a florality but also notes of iron, petrol, liver, tamarind, and blackpepper. The 2013 Cannubi was floral on the nose along with red fruit, spice, and blackpepper. Beautiful weight on the palate and excellent finish.

The 2013 Barbera Larigi showed red fruit, earth, and baking spices on the nose. Red fruit, acidity, salinity on the palate. Harmonius. Approachable. The 2008 Arborina Langhe showed florality, red fruit, and tar on the nose. On the palate Sweet red fruit, blackpepper, and salinity. Lovely finish.

This was a wonderful experience for us. Silvia was so engaging. She offered to come drive us out in the evenings when we were going to dinner after she heard that we were calling in taxis from Alba. Of course we demurred. But she suggested that we should go to dinner that night at Vinoteva Centro Storico but warned us off ordering Jaques Selosse (This was going to be difficult for us as we are all passionate about that Champagne.) if we did not want to be labeled as tourists. Anyway, she promised that she would come meet us at the restaurant that night; and she did. We had a wonderful time. She introduced us to everyone and we made a bunch of new friends.

Thank you Silvia, on behalf of our entire group.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Uncorked, an international wine bar in the heart of Kingston (Jamaica)

After much debate on Friday night as to what we would do for lunch on the morrow, the decision was made to go to Uncorked, a relatively new wine bar on the Kingston (Jamaica) dining and drinking scene. I was pleased by what I saw when we drove up and moreso when we entered the establishment.

This was head and shoulders above any wine bar I had encountered in Jamaica and, in terms of ambience, layout, and decor, could easily be sited anywhere in the world. The display of the wine selection, a broad array of regional and international spirits, and a nice assortment of wine-related accoutrements, clearly spoke to the sophistication of the owners and/or their advisors.

We were welcomed by a uniformed staffer -- Shez -- who assigned us to the long central table based on our party size. A quick perusal of the wine list showed wines available by the glass as well as bottles arranged by old world countries and by varietal.

I ordered a Bouchard Pere & Fils 2014 Pouilly-Fuissé to begin and was pleased to see the appropriate stemware brought to the table. Shez was extremely professional in handling the wine service. I enquired as to where she had received her training and she said Select Brands, the distributor providing the wines on offer at the establishment. I followed up this bottle with a bottle of Pascal Jolivet Sancerre.

Between the two wines I ordered a salad. And that brings me to the food menu. It had a tight, excellent range of offereings which were highly suited to both the environment and the core products. I started out with the Greek Salad. It had more lettuce and less Feta than if I had bought it in Athens but, nonetheless, it was tasty.

For my main course I had a bunless burger. This meat was just a little more than medium but was tender and, thanks to the seasoning, full of flavor. We accompanied this course with a Cab and a Patz & Hall Pinot Noir. One of our local friends brought a bottle to the restaurant and they allowed us to pop it for a $10 corkage fee. Very reasonable to my mind.

Chef Lucian with David and Rachel
This is a great spot. One where you could while away many a Saturday afternoon. This will not be my last visit here.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme