Thursday, September 12, 2019

Zonin 1821 Wine Pairing Dinner at The Old Jailhouse (Sanford, FL)

In its heyday, Journeys (the Longwood location) was one of the top-rated restaurants in the Greater Orlando area. At the recent Zonin 1821 Wine Pairing Dinner, Chef Bram Fowler emphatically demonstrated why that was so, plating course after extraordinary course for appreciative diners.

I am a fan of Zonin 1821 as a result of my interactions with Luca Paschina (GM) and the wines of Barboursville Vineyards. I am a fan of The Old Jailhouse due to a longstanding friendship with Chef Bram and his family. It was a no-brainer that I would attend the Zonin 1821 Italian Dinner at the Old Jailhouse when it was announced. I attended in the company of Parlo and our good friend Saru Walsh.

Parlo, Chef Bram Fowler, and the author
shortly after the opening of The Old Jailhouse

Zonin 1821 is an Italy-based wine producer with nine estates around the world and over 2000 ha under vine. The Zonin 1821 holdings are shown in the map below. I have previously written about Barboursville Vineyards and its wines.

The Old Jailhouse was closed to the public for this event. Upon arrival, we were shown to our seats and presented a glass of Ca Bolani Prosecco Riserva. This wine was not impressive on a stand-alone basis. Sweet cantaloupe and a slight yeastiness on the nose. Weighty on the palate with a little too much residual sugar for my liking. It was a different story when this wine was eventually paired with a meal.

Chef Bram opened the proceedings by welcoming attendees and laying out how things would progress over the course of the evening. He then turned the floor over to the Breakthru Rep who, after a short speech, turned things over to Erin DeMara, Florida District Manager for Zonin's 1821 Fine Wine and Spirits.

As Chef Bram described it, for the first course he had placed a 2 oz Burrata on a bed of Arugula bolstered with a White Balsamic Reduction. The Burrata was topped with Basil Salt and the entire assemblage framed with Heirloom Tomato quarters.

This dish brought the Prosecco to life, revealing a lemongrass character and extending its finish. The dish itself was complex with the interplay of the salt and relative blandness of the Burrata, the crunchiness of the tomatoes versus the smoothness of the arugula. The presentation was not unattractive.

Arugula, Burrata, Hierloom Tomatoes, Basil Salt,
White Balsamic Reduction

The second course was built around Wild Mushrooms -- toned with olive oil -- and Shaved Summer Truffles on a bed of Mascarpone Polenta. This dish was paired with a 2017 Masseria Altemura Fiano.

The mushrooms were little gems with saltiness, acidity, and earthiness contrasting nicely with the creamy, grainy blandness of the polenta and the roughness of the truffles. The wine elevated the mouthfeel before totally cleansing the palate.

Wild Mushrooms, Mascarpone Polenta, Shaved
Summer Truffles

For the third course, Chef Bram poached and chopped lobster and shrimp and encased the product in a House Ravioli. The Ravilio was garnished with Toasted Pine Nuts and Wilted Spinach, all lightly doused with a Chianti Beurre Rouge.

There were two large Ravioli pillows; one might have done quite nicely, thank you. The texture of the pillows was somewhat reminiscent of the polenta that had gone before. I would have preferred a little less chew in my pillow. The filling was amazing; rich, creamy, tasty.

This dish was paired with a 2015 Castello di Albola Chianti Classico. The wine showed blue fruit, mint, and licorice on the nose and was elegant, layered, and complex on the palate, with a lengthy finish. While the beurre rouge struggled manfully to provide context, another wine might have provided a better fit.

Lobster and Shrimp House Ravioli, Toasted
Pine Nuts, Wilted Spinach, Chianti Beurre Rouge

The fourth course had a Pan-Seared Duck Breast sitting atop a Cipollini Onion braised in Agrodolce with Roasted Brussel Sprouts providing sentinel service at the north end of the plate, all within a Basil-Oil reduction ring. This dish was paired with a 2017 Rocca di Montemassi Sassbruna, a Supertuscan that is 80% Sangiovese with the remainder split equally between Merlot and Syrah.

The onion popped -- and took the duck with it. The wine showed dark fruit, tobacco and tea.

Pan-Seared Duck Breast, Cipollini Onion
Agrodolce, Roasted Brussel Sprouts

The final meat course was an Ossobuco (cooked in white wine) on a bed of Risotto Milanese and topped with a Gremolata. This was decadent and rich with the meat literally falling off the bone. My portion size was perfect, especially given the food that had gone before. This dish was paired with another Supertuscan, the 2014 Castello di Albola Acciaiolo.

Ossobuco, Risotto Milanese, Gremolata

The dessert course was a Gorgonzola Dulce on a Chocolate Brownie, paired with a 2016 Masseria Altemura Sasseo. I found the Gorgonzola Dulce too salty for my liking but loved the Brownie. The Sasseo, from the Primitivo variety, was an eye-opener for a Zinfandel-averse person.

Gorgonzola Dulce, Chocolate Brownie

This was the first wine-pairing dinner that had been held at The Old Jailhouse since its opening and I think that they did a fantastic job. Chef Bram took us outside of the constraints of his day-to-day menu and showed his wide-ranging capabilities and the tastiness of his creations.

The staff was excellent in this their first rodeo. Table space was managed effectively in that the wines were poured centrally and then brought to the table. Used glasses, dishes, and silverware were cleared in a timely fashion and water glasses were continuously topped up.

One of the attractive features of the Old Jailhouse as a restaurant is the nook-and-cranny dining spaces. This structural advantage becomes a bit of a challenge, however, in conducting a restaurant-wide wine tasting. Chef Bram's voice has a stentorian quality and, as such, is unyielding in its search for auditory receptors. The Zonin representative addressed this issue by constantly circulating among the tables after his presentation of each wine.

It would have been nice to have had some Barboursville Vineyards wines included in the tasting given it is Zonin's only US property and given that the winery does produce some Italian varietal wines.

I will be on the lookout for future tasting dinners The Old Jailhouse.

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