Pssst. I have a tip for you. There's a little known event that takes place in New York City every other Saturday. It's not advertised and you'd be hard pressed to find any information on it. It feels like a secret society, but it's open to all, and very welcoming at that. DId I mention it's at one of the most renowned restaurants in the city? It's called 5 for $5, it's at Del Posto and it's one of the best ways to spend an hour or so of your weekend.
To elaborate, for $5 you get to taste 5 different wines, each time a different theme based on the somm's whim - dealer's choice. For my initiation, we went through new additions to Del Posto's wine offerings. A newbie tasting Del Posto's newest acquisitions - how fitting.
We started with the Baron Dauvergne Cuvee Privilege Brut, Bouzy, Montagne de Reims, Champagne, NV. From one of the warmest Grand Crus in Champagne, this sparkling greeter is comprised of 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay. Aged in 100% stainless steel, its bubbles burst with tart green apple and slight hints of dairy, giving the body a sense of richness.
We next tried the Pietracupa Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy, 2012. This southern Italian site is a bit more inland, rather than coastal, so the warm climate is tempered by cooler weather at night. It spent a little time on the lees (sediment comprised of dead yeast, grape skins and other matter that forms during the fermentation process), resulting in a rather full-bodied white and like most Italian wines, it's rife with acid. Citrus fruits dominated the profile but there was a lot of volcanic ash and minerality as well.
We next journeyed further south to Sicily, with a Palari Rosso del Soprano, 2010. A blend of indigineous Sicilian grapes, this was my first introduction to non-Mt. Etna Sicilian wines. Instead of a high-elevation site, this wine was grown close to the coast. The warm climate and cooling ocean breezes gave the nose strong aromas of overripe fruit along with black pepper, rosemary and cumin. Drinking it, though, was a differet story; peppery and vegetal, it was rather lean and light-bodied. Not totally in my wheelhouse but I see how it lives on a well-rounded wine list.
Moving into Tuscany, we next tried Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Riserva 2007. Traditional to Tuscany, it was Sangiovese-dominant, with some Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix. Breaking from code, though, was the manner in which it was aged. Small French oak barriques were used instead of large oak barrels. The result? Chocolate n' spice and everything nice, especially in relation to the ripe plum and blackberry fruits. Again, it was rather high in acid with good tannins for balance. Not a textbook Chianti by any means but it's fun to see results when a winemaker goes rogue.
Finally, it was dessert (wine) time. The Antinori Castello della Sala Muffato, Umbria, 2007, was an unusual blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grachetto, Riesling and Traminer. Even more interesting? It was produced by one of the oldest and most renowned Chianti producers; the somm went so far as to dub him "The Godfather" of Chianti wines. There are several ways a wine can become dessert wine; this one was affected by Botrytis, one of the only "nice" fungal diseases out there (yes, fungus can be nice) There was a sweet nuttiness on the nose of almonds and hazelnuts as well as candied apricot and overripe peaches. Sipping on it, I was reminded of baklava, with the nuts coated in a honeyed, syrupy sweetness.
Did I say 5 wines? Did I forget to mention that the somm kicks ass and opened up a 6th wine for us to try? Trying to contrast the unusual Chianti we tasted earlier, he opened a more classic style Chianti, a Felsina, Rancia, Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, 2008. Tart and tight berry fruits were a marked difference from the ripe plumminess on the other. This was definitely leaner and spicier and I could envision it being served with a cioppino or other heavy seafood dish.
I probably should mention there is a secret handshake you'll have to learn...