Monday, May 21, 2007

“Concentration of Elegance”

Those were Angelo Gaja’s words when I asked him to describe his 1990 Spress Barbaresco. Gaja is the legendary winemaker who produces the finest examples of Barbaresco and Barolo in the Piedmont region of Italy. I met him more than 10 years ago, and each time I see him I am blown away by his passion for food and wine.

Jay and I are on our annual wine trip; at the moment, we are visiting winemakers in Piedmont. The other night Angelo took us to Guido da Costigliole, a restaurant located in Relais San Maurizio, a Relais and Chateau Property, formerly a monastery. It is surrounded by the most beautiful vineyards planted primarily with Moscato, the grape used in the delicious Moscato D’asti, a crisp refreshing dessert wine which is low in alcohol, 5% to be exact. The restaurant occupies the old cavernous wine cellar and is lit beautifully by its huge windows.

Angelo arranged the menu which made me happy because no one knows food and wine combinations better than he does. We began with a glass of 1992 Gosset Champagne and a starter of shrimp tempura served on a gorgeous puree of broccoli.

Then we had Vitello Tonnato, poached veal with a tuna sauce. This version was an update of the old classic; the veal slices were very thin, the sauce was served in the center of the plate over a bed of amazing micro greens, and a caper sauce was drizzled around the plate. Angelo poured his 2000 Alteri Di Brassica, a Sauvignon Blanc. He only makes 600 cases and I think the US market gets about 120 of them. It is one of the most elegant sauvignon blancs I’ve ever tasted--creamy, buttery and grassy all in perfect balance.

Next we had the course that sent me into the stratosphere, agnolotti in a meat sauce. Agnolotti is a traditional pasta from this region, an exceptionally thin ravioli filled with pork, rabbit and veal. The thing that knocked me out was that after we had finished the pasta they brought me a plate with something wrapped in a napkin. The waiter said Angelo wanted me to try Agnoletti the classic way: boiled in water and served without sauce; you just eat them with your fingers. For this course Angelo introduced us to his 1990 Spress. The nose had a slight hint of truffles and the classic hint of tar. The wine was simply, as Angelo said, a “concentration of elegance.” It could be put no other way.

Finally, we ended our meal with a variety of goat and cows milk cheeses from the region. The sauvignon blanc went brilliantly with them. They also brought us some cookies and lovely looking sweets. I particularly loved a meringue cookie filled with whipped cream which I had already had at a restaurant nearby called Guido. Angelo said that the chef of Guido has two sons and one of them is the chef here, hence the name of the restaurant guido da costigliole. That was the perfect ending to the perfect evening.

Il Ristorante Di Guido Da Costigliole
12058 Santo Stefano Belbo CN
Localita San Maurizio 39
39 0141 844455


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