By Walter Sanders
Sharon and I recently attended “An Evening in Tuscany” dinner hosted by our financial advisor’s firm. The venue was a local country club, and the main attraction was Chris Cree, a certified Master of Wine and proprietor of the 56° Wine shop in Bernardsville, NJ.
Cree has created an admirable niche by focusing on small producers who hand-craft their wines. He and these producers share common philosophical interests: a commitment to sustainable agriculture, preserving terroir, and producing wines that rely not upon mass mechanization but a dedication to touching every aspect of the creation of better tasting wine.
The evening’s list whetted my appetite. The reception portion featured a 2008 Corzano e Paterno “Il Corzanello” Bianco, an inviting blend primarily of Trebbiano and Chardonnay.
The antipasto (beef carpaccio, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) was accompanied by a 2008 La Parrina Bianco, a blend of Trebbiano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Answering a question of ‘white wine with beef?’ Cree explained that the preparation method—shaved raw beef in a light dressing—dictated the pairing.
The primo of wild mushroom risotto and secondo of braised beef short rib, sided by greens and vegetables were complemented by a 2007 Imbottigliato Da Racine Chianti Classico and a 2006 Isole e Olena Cepparello IGT Super Tuscan, respectively.
The dessert of Moscato poached pears was accompanied by a 2001 Isole e Olena Vin Santo.
So what happened when one of the five meticulously selected pairings came up corked?
No trauma, no embarrassment, but rather, Cree used the misfortune as a candid lesson about oxidization. He poured a glass from the single tainted bottle and passed it around the table so all could familiarize ourselves with the unfortunate aroma of corked wine.
That led to a discussion about what causes oxidization, anecdotes about having the courage to send back corked wine, an analysis of the range of what percentage of wines are problematic, and the industry solutions for dealing with the challenges of oxidization.
I raise a toast to Chris Cree, a true Master of Wine, who transformed the classic wine nightmare into a learning experience.