by Karel Anne Tieszen
The evening at the Italian Club Dallas was officially named, “Battle of the Bottles,” which had the patrons tasting four sets of wine, paired with food, and guessing which one was California and which one was Italy. What we all learned is that wine from anywhere can be really good.
The Italian Club Winery was Casale del Giglio, and the Export Manager, Elsa Ricchi, described each Italian wine for us as the mystery glasses were poured for each course. Likewise, the winery owner, JR Richardson of Oak Cliff Cellars, described the characteristics of each of his wines. The histories of the wine, as well as the noted flavors of each glass, were presented. Guests were encouraged to determine the origin of each glass, and add tasting notes to their score sheets.
The first course was a seafood salad, accompanied by the Italian Chardonnay Lazio, and Oak Cliff’s Chardonnay. The Italian wine had peach and flowers on the nose, while the California green apples and clean flavors showcased its Oak-free characteristics. The debate had begun and the pens started flying, making tasting notes.
Next to arrive was the pasta with Bolognese sauce. This was the comparison of Shiraz and Pinot Noir. The Italian Shiraz and the California Pinot Noir both had deep red fruit notes with Italy favoring black currant and cinnamon, while the California wine shone through with black cherry richness and a long finish. Both proved to be a good match for the sauce, and delicious in their own right.
Lamb chops with the truffle risotto created the most interesting match of all. The next two wines confused many palates as very similar, and were the tie breakers for the ones who thought the geographic guessing would be easy. The Italian Petit Verdot stood out with 100% Petit Verdot grapes that made a velvet tannic blend plus spicy pepper finish a delight to the palate. But wait, the California Zinfandel from Mendocino County had the same type of tannic smoothness with a spicy and dark fruit finish. Our group held the wine, smelled and tasted again. While most were fooled by which was which, the agreement of both being fabulous wines was agreed.
The chocolate mousse finale was accompanied by rich red wines in two very different styles. The Italian Madreselva takes its name from wild honeysuckle, the primary flavor, which is usually noted and reserved for white wines. The combination of the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot grapes create a mature, intense wine with a juniper nose. The standout finishing wine was the California Petit Syrah, with the dark purple color, as well as blueberry, blackberry and chocolate mocha finish that lifted the light chocolate mousse to a new flavor level.
While only 7 of the 35 participants had a perfect score in their geography of the glass, it’s safe to say that the tour was a toasting success. The wines of Casale del Giglio and Oak Cliff Cellars are available locally and through online sales.