I continued my snail's progress in oenology yesterday at a Vivace/Cucina Toscana lunch with Peter Mondavi, whose family owns Charles Krug Winery in Napa. Tracey Thompson of Vinelore organized the event, and it was an all-star gathering of Salt Lake foodies: chef Viet Pham from Forage, writer Virginia Rainey, Tamara Gibo, co-owner of Takashi, Jimmy Santangelo from Virtual Sommelier.
The French wine affair was a casual, eat-and-walk meal. The American affair was served in courses.
The French wines were paired with food from an American chef. The French wines were paired with food from a French chef.
Such is an eater's life in a multicultural world.
Jean Louis Montecot was our man in white in Vivace's kitchen; he served an assortment of carpaccios
to accompany the Krug sauvignon blanc and chardonnay: transparent slices of scallops with red grapefruit sections;beef with traditional arugula; salmon; escolar and tuna. All hit the palate pristinely, nicely light for a midweek midday meal, but the variety added an impression of richness.
Peter Mondavi started the lunch with a brief family history, at once explaining and setting aside the connection of his surname with his winery's name, then he went on to discuss the wines, each of which seemed to me an almost textbook example of the varietal, California style. The chardonnay had a tinge of French oak vanilla, a touch of roundness from brief malolactic and lots of fresh, crisp fruit–great with the raw fish and meat. The hearty merlot and the big ol' California cab were terrific with the lamb ragu–not overwhelming like the club-you-over-head cabernets we've come to associate with California winemaking, but comples enough to elide wtih the fragrant lamb.
For dessert–also paired with the reds–pastry chef had created a traditional and a contemporary version of that most mysterious Italian dessert, tiramisu. I've never had two that seemed to come from the same recipe, but at least these fluffs were supposed to be different.
The dining room at Cucina Toscana is comfortable and pretty, and everyone from owner Ken Millo to chef Jean Louis and staff are looking forward to a new era, post-Valter Nassi whose personality dominated this restaurant for so many years.
He's not quite gone yet, though–everyone's remarks included a reference to Valter, whose own new restaurant just opened down the street.