Monday, December 17, 2012



 Antonio Fattori proudly displays his terrific wines
Story and photos by Dwight Casimere 
VERONA, ITALY—The history of winemaking in the Venoto, outside Verona goes back centuries. Just a short visit to the wineries outside this historic walled city gives a glimpse of the rich traditions and glorious vineyard history that dates to antiquity.  The vineyards of Antonio Fattori are a case in point. The history of Fattori wines was first documented at the beginning of the last century when family patriarch Antonio Fattori first began to plant vines in the hills outside the village of Terrossa.  Phyloxera destroyed the vineyards and the sight of the depleted land greeted him when he returned from the First World War . True to his personality, he did not become dispirited, but vowed to retrench his efforts and forge ahead with his dream of making quality wines. He began by making sweet wines, which he filtered using old Dutch filters, then selling them by transporting them in barrels on horse-drawn carts to the trattorias, osterias and wine bars of old Verona and Vincenza. It was a humbling experience, but it did nothing to reduce the noble spirit of a man who had a vision for the future. In the words of his grandson, also named Antonio, who now runs the winery, “he was a generous and charitable man, as was my father. He was often too timid to take compliments, but he certainly was a noble man who left behind so many riches. He left more than the nucleus of the actual building which now houses our winery, but a rich legacy that includes a huge humanity.”
Antonio Fattori has been running the winery since 1970. Another in a long series of ‘Antionio’s,” he dedicated himself to the goal of making quality wines, first embarking on a program of winemaking study, then beginning a program of experimentation to bring modern, scientific winemaking techniques and methods that were combined with authentic and original traditions. New vineyards were added. Older ones were saved and restored. Combinations of cement, wood and stainless steel vats were employed in winemaking. Fermentation was achieved at lower temperatures to ensure quality and search the limits of productivity. Non-invasive techniques were employed to ensure both quality and environmental responsibility.
Everything at the winery is accomplished within the harmony of nature, according to Fattori. “The world of wine is formed by seasons, situations and conditions that are never the same,” he says. “No amount of experience is ever enough. The important thing is to search. To attempt with determination, humility and a little patience.”

Here is an overview of some of Antonio Fattori’s current wine releases:

Valparadiso-Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT. ($17)  The wine is made from handpicked grapes that are processed the same day that they are harvested. Made fropm 100% Pinot Grigio grapes, the wine is marked by an overwhelming perfume of ripe pear, a hint of raspberry, banana, apricot and green apples, with the blush of tropical pineapple and a background note of dried camomile flowers and green tea. This is a fruity, yet soft wine that is rich in refreshing taste. It goes great with shrimp and other seafood dishes. It is equally at home with fruit, cheese or salads. Consider this as a first course wine or one that will pair great with turkey at the holiday table.   It’s a terrific wine for under $20!

Roncha-Bianco del Veneto IGT- ($18) A blend of 50% Garganega (5% is dried for 5 to 6 months), 20% Pinot Grigio, 20% Trebbiano di Soave and 10% Durelia, a local grape varietal. The vineyards are located in the volcanic hills of Ronca, from which the name is derived. The grapes are also handpicked and processed the same day in both stainless steel vats and barrels.  The wine has a beautiful straw yellow color with flecks of green. The nose is pleasant with the smell of jasmine flowers, white peaches and orange blossoms. Complex, with a fresh, mineral taste and a persistent palate of ripe fruits and sweet Mediterranean spices. Again, this is a great accompaniment to turkey, sweet potatoes at the main course and fruits, nuts and cheeses at the start of the meal.  It’s my choice to have with Holiday Mac ‘n Cheese, a traditional treat at many Holiday tables!

Danieli-DOC Soave—100% Garganega, some of which is late harvest. This is a highly floral wine with hints of jasmine and wisteria. It has a sensational taste of ripe peaches, pear, apricot and citrus fruit. A touch of sage on the nose and a hint of nuts on the finish makes this a terrific wine with food, including fresh whole fish, prepared with crab and shrimp stuffing, a Holiday favorites with Caribbean and African cultures and parts of southern Italy. It even goes well with “white” meats such as pork loin or veal, even a leg or rack of lamb and beef Carpaccio. Think “outside the box” on this wine and dare to venture into lighter roasted meats and, of course, the Holiday turkey or fresh Long Island Duck or game meats such as fresh rabbit. This is a wine that can last throughout the meal, even into a savory dessert such as Panatone, Crème Brulee (the late harvest grapes give it a slightly sweet aftertaste) or a cake or cookies flavored with lemon or almond.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just in time for the Holidays, the wines of Marche and Abruzzo, Italy

Italian wines of the Marche and Abruzzo: terrific wines, terrific values 

Story by Dwight Casimere

New York--It's not much of a stretch to say that Italy is one big vineyard. Flying into Milan recently on the eve of a Wine Education tour of the Piemonte, led by Paul Valke, author of the Piemonte Wine and Travel Atlas (available at Eataly, New York), I was struck by the vast expanse of well-manicured vineyards that covered the landscape as my place made the approach to Malepensa airport.

Italy produces some of the best wines in the world today, but little is known of the true depth and breadth of terrific Italian wines that are available outside of their country of origin. Everyone knows of the great wines of Tuscany and Umbria, but how many have explored undisocovered beauty of the wines of the Marche and Abruzzo,

Coined the "New Tuscany", the Marche Wine Region is one of Italy's last untouched wine regions. Le Marche, as it is lovingly called, is a beautiful wine region, with miles of untamed coastline, romantic fishing villages and Renaissance gems tucked away in its medieval hamlets and mountain villages. Le Marche is right next door to Tuscany and Umbria, but for some unknown region, has languished in the shadow of its more famous neighbors. 

Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno Piediprato ($14.99)-Located in the picturesque town of Spinetoli in Le Marche, this is a beautiful, medium-bodied red wine that best exemplifies the winemaking style of the Pilastri family. With a history that dates back to the year 1000, the Count Saladini Pilastri is a noble family from Ascoli Piceno. Agricultural activities at the Count's farm began three centuries ago. Located on a gently rolling hill that slopes down to the Adriactic Sea, the farm has always produced wines of exquisite character. The Rosso Piceno Piediprato is no exception.

Saladini Pilastri Falerio ($8.99)- This wine is one of the most significant values in terms of a white wine, that is currently on the market. With exceptional fruit-forward aroma and flavors of citrus and a hint of tropical fruit, it is a perfect accompaniment to seafood, Asian and Mediterranean-influenced dishes. A versatile wine as an aperitif or with first courses of salads, seafood and cheeses,this is a wine that carries easily through today's lighter cuisines. Perfect for the Holiday meal, particularly with poultry, this is an exceptional value worth getting by the case.

Fratelli BarbaColle Morino Montepulciano ($11.99)-The winery is located in 
the northern part of the central Italian region of Abruzzo, along the valley of the Vomano River and on the surrounding hills, in the towns of Cellino Attanasio, Atri, Pineto and Roseto. The Barba family has 68 hectares of the best vineyards in the area: Colle Morino, Casal Thaulero and Vignafranca, all of which fall within the areas designated Montepulciano DOC. This is one of the great red wine values out there! It lists for $11.99, but I've found it for $10 flat at Binny's in Chicago and other discount wine houses in Miami, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its a really well-balanced red wine that goes with just about anything; turkey, roast beef, ham, pizza, hamburgers. Its got a medium dry, fruity taste with just a hint of the complex red and black fruit that make it interesting. If you see it at a good price, buy a case. You won't regret it. You'll get a lot of mileage out of it, especially if you entertain a lot over the holidays. The label design is nice and imaginative too, so it looks great on the table. How can you lose! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Dining elevated to new heights at Chicago's Benny's Chop House and Bistro Voltaire

 The elegant wine bar and entry area to Benny's Chop House
 A feast that pleases both the eye and the palate at Benny's Chop House
 Director of Operations Mitchell Schmieding of Benny's Chop House
Downtown Chicago Holiday Dining Extravaganzas!

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

CHICAGO--Holidays present a myriad of opportunities for festive dinners and parties show appreciation to family and friends alike. Attempting to full-fill the hospitality obligations on your own, however, can be challenging, especially in today's time-strapped environment. That's when Benny's Chop House, near Chicago's elegant Trump Tower, and Bistro Voltaire in River North come to the rescue with imaginative and mouth-watering menus for Christmas and New Year's Eve dining and, in the case of Benny's Chop House, unending entertainment options!
With special hours of operations and dining options, Chicagoans have easy access to Holiday Feasting at its best.

Benny's Chop House 
444 N. Wabash

Benny's Christmas Hours
Benny's Chop House Christmas Eve - Open 12-9 pm
Full dinner menu, plus Chef's Feast of the Seven Fishes menu items, AND holiday

Closed Christmas Day

Benny's New Year's Eve Hours
Open 4pm - 1am
Closed New Years Day

Live Entertainment / Non-stop Music from 5pm-1am Full Dinner Menu, plus Chef's
Specials, AND holiday beverages! Guests who dine with us later in the evening
enjoy a champagne toast at midnight.
Benny's Chop House
Full Dinner Menu and Chef's New Year's Eve Specials:

Chestnut & Brandy Bisque with Candied Porcini Mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts and Crispy Kale "Caesar Salad" with Crab Fritters and Osetra Caviar
Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Ricotta Gnocchi 
and California Fig-Port Wine Reduction
Black Truffle Studded USDA Prime Beef Tenderloin 
with Celery Root-Turnip Pave, Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms and Perigold Truffle Jus

Bistro Voltaire
226 W. Chicago Ave.

Bistro Voltaire 
Christmas Eve Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., three course menu special ($69) and regular
Closed  Christmas Day

Bistro Voltaire New Year's Eve Hours: Two seatings - 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Closed New Year's Day

Bistro Voltaire is having a special New Year's Eve Menu available at a prix fixe
price of $69 per person plus tax and tip. The regular full menu will not be
available. Guests also will receive a complimentary glass of champagne.
Bistro Voltaire New Year's Eve Menu:
Hors D' Oeuvres (Chef's Choice)
First Course (Choice Of)
Salade De Canard Confit
Duck Confit Salad, Toasted Pistachios, Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Vols Au Vent Au Champignons
Baked Puff Pastry, Wild Mushrooms Ragout
Mouclade De Moules
Steamed Mussels in a Creamy Saffron Sauce, Leeks, Garlic, Crouton and Fresh Herbs
Second Course (Choice Of)
Filet Mignon
Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Gratin Dauphinois, Baby Vegetables, Bordelaise Sauce
Coquilles St Jacques Nantua
Seared Sea Scallops, Crawfish Foam, Pearl Vegetables
Magret De Canard
Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Truffle Parsnip Puree, Glazed Brussel Sprouts Port Reduction
Desserts (Choice Of)
Fondant Au Chocolat
Warm Chocolate Cake, Fresh Berries
Tarte Aux Poires
Pear Tart with Hazelnut Frangipane, Crème Anglaise