Tag Archives: luxury wines

Siepi Chianti Classico wines shine

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Sieti Chianti Classico 2012 (photo: Mazzei Winery)

Luxury wines are in a category outside the experience of the average person in America, and perhaps in most countries. Chicago did get a chance back in 2021 to taste a few of these elegant wines, thanks to Palm Bay importers. Winemaker Francesco Mazzei brought some of his Siepi winery’s Chianti Classico treasures here to Chicago. The vertical tasting, with vintages from 2005 through 2012, was a remarkable experience..And I started this blog post a long time ago and never finished. So even though Acadia (see below) is closed, these wonderful wines are still worth writing about.

All the Siepi vintages were made with Merlot and Sangiovese grapes, yet all were different. He said Merlot is bigger than Sangiovese and produces less acid, but growing in the Chianti region of Tuscany it acquires the character of Chianti. He talked about the season and the harvest for each of the Siepi vintages – fascinating stories of battling frost, drought, storms and global warming rising temperatures.

Francesco said Mazzei’s farming is 99% organic because conditions naturally permit that, and their bigger concern is using sustainable growing practices. “It is about trust,” he said, “and respecting nature. Wines are moody.” Time and oxygen change wines as they age and, in Siepi’s case, makes for wonderful results. He said in a way, it’s unfair to compare vintages to each other since that is not the way people traditionally enjoy wine.

He also pointed out the difference between an intellectual versus a physiological appreciation of wine. Perhaps saying, in effect, people are moody, too. How and where and under what circumstances you taste a wine can have a powerful effect on how you perceive it.

The venue for the tasting was the former two-Michelin-starred Acadia Restaurant, 1629 S. Wabash, now closed, in an out-of-the-way area of South Loop.  I remember how remarkable the setting was: Flower boxes on stands marked the site of the restaurant (dinner-only service Tuesday through Sunday) on the otherwise-semi-empty street. Not promising, but once inside, you basked in the rich but sleek-and-simple decor. The cuisine, paired with three additional non-Siepi wines from Mazzei, was a delightful surprise. Sad to know this restaurant gem is no longer with us.

The green garlic/ramp soup was delicately flavorful, rich and creamy and served with flowers and flourish. Tasting the perfectly cooked farm egg yolk as it spilled over the truffled crispy potato basket was a distinct pleasure.  The wines paired beautifully with the dishes, and the service was unobtrusively excellent.

Read more about all the Siepi vintages here. Read about the many other Mazzei wines here, some as affordable as $15 (e.g., Belguardo Rose 2015 – light and easy to drink).

A couple of the standout Siepi vintages include:

Siepi 2007 – an outstanding vintage that produced excellent quality grapes, well-balanced with soft tannins and concentrated antioxidants and anothcyanins (which contribute to color and stability in a wine – good for aging).

Siepi 2011 – a difficult year with good rainfall but extreme heat and sun. Even the oak leaves were turning from green to brown in the summer.  The fight they put up ended up producing a lovely wine.

Siepi 2012 –  a challenging year with late frost and snow and a dry summer. Production overall was down by nearly 30%, but the quality is high with just a touch of sweetness. This is a good one to age if you have a cellar.

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Eat serious beef steaks this holiday

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Snake River Farms Wagyu beef steaks - outstanding
Snake River Farms Wagyu beef steaks – outstanding. Photo used with permission of Snake River Farms

If you haven’t yet experienced the beauty of Wagyu beef, here’s a suggestion. Get some soon! Snake River Farms makes fabulous steaks out of this wonderfully marbled meat, and you don’t have to be a genius to cook them perfectly. It’s a somewhat pricey treat, but well worth it if your budget is up for it.

Try some SRF Wagyu steak with one of the fabulous wines we’ve been writing about lately here and here and here. We actually chose to try the review samples with a champagne tasting we put together at home and were thrilled with the rich flavor of the meat. We served them grilled on a charcoal fire – some plain and some with the tasty rub that came with the meat – both excellent.

Some of the country’s most renowned chefs like Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina and lots of popular restaurants around the county use SRF Wagyu steaks. And now they’ve decided to offer their selection of meats  online. This season’s new offerings include a Curated Steak Box from James Beard Award winning Atlanta chef Hugh Acheson.

The Snake River Farms gift collection includes:

  • Hugh Acheson’s Curated Steak Box with 2-8oz American Wagyu filet mignon, 2-6oz American Wagyu ribeye filet, 1 Lodge skillet, 1 Mercer saucing spoon, 1 Bragard kitchen towel, Jacobsen’s Flake Finishing Salt and Hugh Acheson’s Steak Cooking Guide. $199
  • American Wagyu Steak Flight includes 2-6oz American Wagyu filet mignon, 2-6oz American Wagyu ribeye filets, 2-6oz American Wagyu sirloin filets, Espresso Brava Salt, Snake River Farms hat and a Cooking Guide. $169
  • American Wagyu Bone-In Steak Collection includes 2-12oz American Wagyu bone-in filet mignon, 2-20oz American Wagyu bone-in New York strips, 2-28oz American Wagyu New T-bones, Espresso Brava Sea Salt and a Cooking Guide.  $350

You won’t be sorry, people.

 

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How France promotes sustainable growth in vineyards

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Like most people today, you probably care deeply about how your food is grown. If you can afford it, you may buy organically grown fruits and vegetables, but do you know what’s involved in keeping plants organic? If you’ve ever known a farmer—of even a small plot—who tried to grow organically, you know how hard it is to keep soil healthy and what a raging, frustrating, ongoing battle it is to keep the bugs, the subterranean creatures and the above-ground animals from ravaging your crops before it’s time to harvest them.

In vineyards around the world, winemakers fight the same battles on a daily basis. Jean-Claude Mas, winemaker and owner of Domaines Paul Mas wineries, who brought samples of many of his luxury-for-value French wines to Chicago recently, subscribes to a sustainable-growth program called Terra Vitis that was created in 1998 and is certified by the French Ministry of Agriculture. “It is the stamp,” he said, “of French vinegrower-winemakers who respect nature and apply sustainable agriculture.” Below is a simplified description of the program and a few ways his wineries practice it.

Domaines Paul Mas agri1
Winemaker and vine growers consult on sustainable practices
From vine to table - sustainably grown luxury French wines
From vine to table – sustainably grown luxury French wines

Objectives:

  • Respect the environment.
  • Preserve our terroirs.
  • Safeguard our soils and respect their ecosystems by:
    • Promoting biodiversity throughout the vineyard, and
    • Preventing soil compaction and making use of available mineral and organic resources from our vineyards.
  • Reduce the use of chemicals (herbicides) in the vineyards.
  • Meet consumer expectations.

Steps:

  1. Inoculate the soils with selected endomycorrhizal fungi (to help vine roots absorb nutrients more effectively).
  2. Bring biological enrichments to increase the microbial biomass of soils. For example, in our Les Tannes vineyard we are introducing certain selected bacteria that act as biological activators. That is, they make possible the mineralization of organic fertilizers and increase the bio-availability of critical plant nutrients.
  3. Practice deep plows to decompact the soils and encourage roots to grow and other life to develop and be active in the soil.
  4. Use lighter machinery to avoid excessive compaction of the soils. As an example, we bought a Kubota tractor—1000 kg lighter than its equivalent from Fendt or New Holland.
  5. Use phytosanitary products that are more respectful of the environment, usually consisting of plant decoctions like these:
    1. Anti-mildew: We use horsetail decoction as an elicitor—that is, it significantly increases the width of the cell walls, which makes the plant more resistant to plagues.
    2. Herbicides: We use a decoction of fern that works well as a repellent.
  6. Use existing phytosanitary products and use them in a reasoned way. The timing of the application and the dosage are very important. We have been able to reduce the dosage to one third while maintaining total efficiency.

Really makes you think about what goes on behind the scenes to produce that luscious glass of wine you’re drinking with dinner, doesn’t it?

Domaines Paul Mas everyday luxury wines
Domaines Paul Mas everyday luxury wines
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