This was my first visit to Ai Fiori, but not my first experience with restaurants owned by noted chef Michael White. The food, like my experiences at Marea, Osteria Morini and Ristorante Morini was terrific. We were given a private room and given two choices for each course. I selected:
Polipo - octpus allapiastra, sepia, tomato ragu toasted bread, basil. Fork tender Octopus in a harmonious sauce of tomato and sepia.
Tortelli – ricotta & mascarpone ravioli, sottocenere cheese, red wine glaze. These handmade and perfectly cooked pasta pillows threw a party in my mouth. Another dish in perfect balance.
Before getting to the Barolo & Barbaresco, we started the evening with a bottle of 2010 Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Grand Cru Les Chemins d’Avize. Chemins d'Avize is a blend of fruit from the Chemin de Plivot and Chemin de Flavigny lieux-dits. Disgorged in June 2016. The wine was vinified and aged in oak barrels of various sizes and bottled with 2 grams of dosage (some form of sweetness (sugar, or wine and sugar) added to a Champagne to balance it out). Winemaker Pierre Larmandier uses only indigenous yeasts for alcoholic fermentations, producing the most natural and terroir-specific wine possible. Each cru is vinified separately. This was terrific beginning to the evening. I loved the yeasty bouquet and full, round and yeasty palate.
Barbaresco & Nieve. The 4 wines that made up this flight were simply awesome. It was without question the best flight of wines I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.
1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili. Gorgeous Piedmont bouquet filled my nose in anticipation of what I was about to taste. I was not let down. This is classic Giacosa. Round and delicious with an elegant and lengthy finish.
1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà. A bit bigger and earthier than the Asili, but round and delicious as well. Like the Asili it kept evolving in the glass and had finished with great length.
Ken, who knows more about Giacosa and Nebbiolo than anyone I know, provided some interesting information on these two wines. He explained that while Giacosa labeled one Asili and the other Rabaja, when the vineyard boundaries were made official, both parcels were classified as Asili. Thus we tasted two wines from different plots in the same vineyard, made by the same great winemaker, in the same way. Check out Ken’s blog The Fine Wine Geek for an in depth look at Giacosa and his wines.
Barolo & La Morra. This was an interesting flight of 3 wines with varying degrees of modern wine making.
1998 Vietti Barolo Brunate. This drank beautifully. The wine had a soft, elegant palate with a lengthy finish. I was surprised to learn (from Eric’s notes) that wine maker Luca Curado did a bit of experimentation with the vintage and that the wine is considered to be modern-styled. You could have fooled me.
1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis. Sandrone is considered a more modern styled wine maker, but it would be unfair to characterize him as a modernist. His wines are always gorgeous, exhibiting depth, balance, complexity and finesse. Unfortunately these characteristics fell short in tonight's wine. It drank ok, but was outdistanced by the Vietti.
Monforte. I did not like this flight at all.
1998 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia. While I have enjoyed this wine on many occasions, tonight was not one of them. The bottle was off. I was particularly disappointed in that I sold the bottle from my cellar to Michael Z and it was pretty much a disaster.
1998 Domenico Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra. Much too modern for me. Oak was dominant.
Serralunga. Another good flight, with the Falletto starring.
1998 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. Terrific bottle of wine. Silky palate and elegant finish.
1998 Vieti Barolo Lazzarito. Like the Granbussia, this was an off bottle.
1998 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto. Classic Giacosa. Simply gorgeous, and one of the top wines of the evening. Great mouth feel and lengthy and elegant finish.
1998 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva. Fantastic potential here. It drank very well, but is still very much a baby and needs more cellar time, in my opinion.
The bottom line is that 1998 is an excellent vintage and will drink well for quite some time. The only downside is that the price of these wines has escalated in the past decade, so finding them at a reasonable price will be a challenge. I only wish I had bought more of them years back.
We finished the evening with a cheese course of Caprotto - Chiriboga Blue – housemade crackers, quince paste. I brought along a bottle of 1998 Quintarelli Amarone to drink pair with the cheese. Unfortunately the magic of Quintarelli was not to be found in this bottle. The palate was dull and the finish nonexistent.
Please check out Eric Guido's blog on the evening at The Cellar Table.
All in all it was a magical evening.
|Photo courtesy of Eric Guido|