Surrounded on three sides by the Alps in the northwestern corner of Italy, Piedmont doesn’t feature a climate that readily conforms to the American, tomato-soaked stereotype of Italian food and drink. Rather, this is beef territory, where cardoons, garlic, and truffles are among the prized produce, and where the biggest, age-worthy reds of the area – Barolo and Barbaresco – have earned a large following around the world.
While those two famous expressions of southern Piedmont’s Nebbiolo grape are justifiably coveted, the area’s rich food and drink culture offers plentiful variety for the thirsty and curious. Last year, when we opened, we featured the Canavese Rosso from Luigi Ferrando, and as we head into this fall and winter, we’re leaning even more heavily on Piedmont across the menu.
2013 San Fereolo Valdiba
Dolcetto is a grape that seems poised for a resurgence with American wine drinkers. It’s affordable, easy to get, and when done well, a perfectly gulpable and food-friendly table wine. In the southern reaches of Piedmont, the area called Dogliani prides itself not on the prestigious Nebbiolo but on Dolcetto. That pride often manifests itself in the form of over-concentrated wines designed to compete for broader attention, but not so with the wines of San Fereolo. Winemaker Nicoletta Bocca makes a range of expressions of Dolcetto, and while her affordable entry-level wine is perfect to accompany a range of foods – like one might eat at a shared plate restaurant.
The farming and winemaking are everything we generally look for as clues to quality: biodynamic farming (albeit uncertified) of limestone-dominated vineyards, hand harvesting of grapes, relatively low yields, and fermentation with indigenous yeasts. The resulting wine is full of fresh mixed berry fruit balanced nicely with modest tannin and fresh acidity that are hallmarks of Valdiba, a notable sub-region of Dogliani. We fell in love with this last spring and brought it into Michigan for the first time to serve by the glass throughout the fall and into the winter.
2011 Aldo Conterno Langhe
Known for Barolo sourced from his vineyards near the famous town of Bussia, Aldo Conterno also makes an entry-level wine that we actually prefer and which we recently added to our reserve list.
Italian wine authorities give a lot of latitude to winemakers in this part of Piedmont via the Langhe DOC, a named region where the rules surrounding what grapes go into the wine are looser than most, leaving a great deal to the winemaker’s discretion.
In Conterno’s case, his Langhe Rosso is 80% Freisa and 10% each Cab and Merlot. Freisa has a long history in the region, arguably the most significant and prestigious grape in Piedmont prior to the post-WWII rush toward Nebbiolo. And indeed, Freisa is a genetic parent of Nebbiolo, so they share some characteristics. Surprisingly, Freisa can be even more tannic and acidic than its offspring, but that isn’t the case here, perhaps owing in part to the age of the wine. Rather, it features nuanced aromatics, darker fruits, and nice acid with just a bit of tannin on the finish.
2000 Conti Boca
Traveling north-by-northeast from Barolo, there’s a cluster of wine regions – Ghemme, Gattinara, Boca, and others – leading up toward the massive peak of Monte Rosa. Even the robust Nebbiolo here thins out and becomes lighter in color, lower in tannin, and higher in overall acid.
Boca, established as a DOC in the late 60s, requires that the wines must be 70-90% Nebbiolo and 10-30% Vespolino and Uva Rara, grapes that add a spiciness and color respectively. Wines are barrel aged for a minimum of 18 months, and a total aging time of 34 months. Riserva wines must be aged for 46 months, 24 months in barrel, and almost 4 years total.
Among the two dozen or so producers still working in Boca, Conti is the oldest. Begun in 1963, the winery has been passed to the three daughters of original winemaker Ermanno Conti. Their wines spend three years in barrel, and they have a very extensive library of older vintages. We were fortunate enough to be able to get a case of their 2000 vintage, which is drinking really well. Fresh and spicy with plenty of floral, cherry, and mineral notes, the herbal, moderately tannic finish makes this a bigger wine than one might assume at first glance.
2011 Ferrando Carema “White Label”
We’ve been serving the Boca mentioned above for a few months and are down to our last several bottles. As the wine gets drained off the reserve list, the replacement coming in behind it is a cult classic. North of Canavese and west of Boca, Luigi Ferrando makes some spectacular wines. While these were imported directly into Michigan back in the 70s and 80s, it’s been a long while since it’s been available regularly. Some of the better restaurants and wine shops in Michigan have periodically gotten their hands on some – notably, Trattoria Stella in Traverse City and Elie Wine Company in Birmingham – but sadly, it has otherwise been largely absent from the state. So we leapt at a chance to buy some this year.
In the hills leading up to Mont Blanc, Ferrando holds about 15-16% of all the vineyards in Carema where he grows Nebbiolo with full southern exposure. Here, acidity is not a problem – rather, it’s getting full sunshine and ripeness. So in addition to his choice vineyards, he trains the vines onto a pergola to maximize said sun exposure. The wines are eventually aged in barrel for about three years, give or take a few months, depending on the vintage and then aged in bottle for another year (Carema must be aged four years before release).
This is a very elegant, often floral and spicy expression of Nebbiolo with hints of cinnamon, mineral, smoke, and just enough tannin. The acidity is lively and fresh. We have access to a couple of bottles from the 60s and 70s, which we hear should still be youthful and nuanced, but we have yet to crack them open to see for ourselves. Despite the reported durability of these wines, we know from first-hand experience that this 2011 bottling is drinking quite well right now. We’ll look forward to adding this to the wine list after we sell out of the Conti Boca.
The following map, which we found floating around the internet without any attribution we could see, outlines a number of the regions discussed above:
Fresh, handmade pastas are always going to be a big part of our menu. We love eating pasta ourselves, and so far, our guests seem to be enjoying them as well.
A number of customers have asked how our various pastas are made and why particular noodles are paired with particular dishes. We make the pasta from scratch every day, so it was easy enough to put some photos together so as to illustrate how each is made and to explain why each is used in a particular dish.
Thicker, squat noodles tend to allow chunky sauces and pieces of meat to cling to the inside or outside of the pasta. The size of the noodle generally matches the size of the chunks in the sauce. So the meat in the rabbit ragu gets trapped in the fine grooves of our house cavatelli, whereas the larger bits of lamb ragu go with the chewier, bigger, tube-shaped rigatoni.
And of course, within those styles of pasta, there are so many variations. Rigatoni is an extruded pasta, meaning that the dough is fed through a small opening by force, then trimmed to size. It’s also an egg-less dough, which means it also allows us the freedom to make vegan pasta dishes for guests who can’t enjoy the typical menu offerings.
Thinner, angel hair-style noodles are better for thin sauces, like that found on our squid ink chittara. Oils and looser sauces coat the noodle and help avoid them sticking together. No one wants a gnarly bird’s nest of sticky noodles.
Finally, gnocchi is almost more of a dumpling. It can be made in several ways, all of which are among the easier forms of pasta to make. Ricotta-based gnocchi like we currently serve at Selden Standard tend to be lighter and more pillowy than its potato or root veggie derived cousins.
We’re fortunate enough to have a few people on the team who know how make our pasta, and we can make quite a bit in a day. But for those interested in trying out some freshly made pasta at home, Andy’s put together a simple gnocchi recipe that we’re happy to share below.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or alternatively, in a bowl using a spatula or wooden spoon), beat the ricotta, egg and yolk, salt, zest, and herbs for about a minute, until smooth.
On a cutting board or other work surface, spread half of the flour in a thin layer. Spread the cheese mixture over the flour, sprinkling the rest of the flour over the cheese. Using a pastry/bench scraper, chop the mix into small chunks. Incorporate the mix back together by gently folding from underneath without actually kneading the mix. Repeat the process until most of the flour is incorporated. Then bring the mixture into a ball and gently knead 2 or 3 times until smooth. Do not overwork the mixture. Cover with a towel until you’re ready to form the gnocchi.
Cut the dough into six equal pieces. Lightly dust the work area with flour, and using your hands, gently roll each piece into a half- to three quarter-inch thick log. Repeat with the other five chunks of dough. Then cut each log into small gnocchi, placing the finished gnocchi on a floured sheet tray.
At this point, you may freeze them for storage or you may cook them. To prepare them to eat, gently drop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes until the gnocchi float. At this point, you may toss them with your favorite sauce: We suggest some butter and herbs, a pesto, or a simple tomato sauce.
Or, when in doubt, just fall back on the wisdom of Clemenza from The Godfather:
Come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.
One of our favorite importers is Neal Rosenthal. He’s been in the wine business a long time and still manages to find interesting, classically made, beautiful wines. Unfortunately, many of them rarely make it to Michigan. So we’ll occasionally do some research on wines from his portfolio and make special orders for wines we find intriguing.
The latest such bottle is from Swiss producer Cave Caloz from a region in the Alps, near the northernmost end of the Rhone river, called Valais. The wine is made from a charming, difficult-to-grow, unheralded grape called Cornalin (also known as Rouge de Pays) that is almost exclusively grown in Valais.
Vineyards here are often 750 to 1100 meters in elevation – one might think too cool for making wine. But they generally face south giving them full exposure to the sun and to warm Mediterranean winds that come north from the sea. The rocky environment allows for good drainage which the winemaker maintains gives their wines both extra concentration of fruit and a decided mineral character. The specific vineyard from which this wine is made, “Les Bernunes,” is one of their highest elevation and sits in a microclimate that Caloz again maintains helps the grapes express great concentration of flavor and added tannic structure.
Graceful and fruity, this is a deeply colored, almost purple-tinted shade of red. Very lively, it’s just fun with ample floral and fruit notes. But it’s simultaneously serious wine with nice, refreshing mineral qualities and just a bit of a tannic edge to the finish. With a slight chill, it’s a perfect summer red.
Like most Americans, we haven’t had much exposure to sake in the past, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to taste through a dozen or so sakes available in the local market so we could learn a bit more about it. Pretty much the only thing we enjoy more than learning about drinking is drinking while learning, and by the end, we were totally on board. So once we had done the tasting, we decided on two bottles for the list, both of which are now available.
Clean but surprisingly oily and savory, this remarkable value sake struck us immediately as perfect for drinking with food. In general, sake is widely considered a food-friendly beverage, which is something we look for across our beverage program. But the texture and weight of Drunken Whale in particular makes it ideal for pairing with richer dishes like the fried perch or the grilled trout with fennel, but the clean finish and lack of bitterness lets it accompany plenty of other items from our current menu.
Suigei, the brewery, labels this a Junmai, which typically carries a minimum seimaibuai (portion of the grain of rice remaining after polishing) of 70%. But they also label it tokubetsu, a term that denotes a remarkable quality beyond the legal designation. In this case, Drunken Whale is made from a single rice variety (Akitsuho) and also polished well beyond the requirements of junmai with only 55% of the original grain of rice remaining, discarding most of the fats and proteins that make up the outer shell of the rice. The result is a viscous, savory, flavorful drink that is simultaneously lean and dry. We prefer to serve it cold, but it would be worth experimenting with at different temperatures.
The term “Otter Fest” is a reference to the name of the brewery itself: Dassai. Dassai means “otter festival,” a reference to an ancient name for the prefecture in which this sake is brewed, which was formerly home to a species of otter that would roam about the river beds and display the fish they caught, almost as at a market, bazaar, or festival, hence otter festival. Later, a regional poet took the name Dassai as he would spread his inspiration and reading material about his room much like an otter would its fish.
Dassai proclaims it took the name from not just the otters but from the poet because it wanted to pay homage to both the regional history and artistic nuance.
And from tasting the sake, it’s hard to disagree.
We’re proud to serve the Otter Fest 50, made entirely from Yamada Nishiki rice, widely prized by sake brewers for its prime brewing characteristics (e.g., water absorption). Before entering the brewing process, the rice is polished down to 50% of the rice remaining. This extra polishing is, of course, a more labor intensive process and involves wasting a great deal of potential product in order to achieve a higher quality result. Dassai also makes a “39” and “23,” numbers again referring to the percentage of rice remaining after polishing.
These sakes with such a high degree of polish, both literally and figuratively, are termed Daiginjo – a premium sake with more elegance and nuance. With no protein and fat left after polishing, only the starchy center remains. In this case, the result is honeydew, ginger, and peach on the nose and a less viscous, cleaner, more elegant mouthfeel when compared to the Drunken Whale. And it makes us crave some raw fish, a clean salad like our veggie carpaccio, or even some beef tartare.
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We’re only starting to explore sake, so it’s hard to claim any expertise. We’ve learned a bit, and more than anything, we’ve learned that we love to drink sake. And we’re thrilled to share these two with our guests. Cheers!
Last week, we started switching up our red wine offerings in preparation for the nicer weather and lighter fare of spring. There will be more changes coming this month, and there are some interesting new reds already on the bottle list – but for now, the spotlight turns to two aromatically stunning reds that we recently started pouring by the glass.
Chinon is arguably one of the better known regions of France’s Loire River valley, famous for its red wines made from cabernet franc. Many of the highly regarded, long-lasting wines from the region are produced from grapes on steep, stony slopes that lend themselves toward more structured, robust wines full of dark fruit, tannic structure, and even meaty complexity. This is not one of those wines. Instead, Messanges pours a bright and translucent shade of red, shows elegant floral notes on the nose, and demonstrates lighter red fruits on the palate. With herbal and spice notes, it’s certainly cab franc. But grown in sandy soils and aged without any oak, it’s one quaffable glass of grape juice. As with each of the wines we choose for our list, it’s selected for its versatility, able to accompany any number of our shared plates. Try it with the duck sausage. Or the rabbit ragu. Or the gnocchi. Or… you get the idea. Have fun with it.
Elisabetta Foradori is well known for her eponymous wine produced in northern Italy under rigid adherence to biodynamic farming practices – but she and two friends also own and operate Ampeleia, an outfit based out of Tuscany. Home to Chianti, Tuscany is practically synonymous with the grape sangiovese, but Ampeleia, located in the coastal sub-region of Maremma, is focused on a more diverse Mediterranean mix of grapes. Kepos, their mid-level offering, is a blend of Grenache, Mouvedre, Carignan, Marselan, and the red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet. The resulting wine, grown along the sea in some of the sandier soils of Tuscany, possesses a beautiful nose of flowers and berries and shows a complex mix of fruits – dark cherry, black raspberry, and every other damn fruit we could possibly relay in our moderately pompous wine tasting notes – on the palate. Finishing bright and lively, this is just fun wine that, despite its medium/full body, drinks great on the patio.
Photos in this post are courtesy of our delightful host Sarah Berger.
Poor sherry. For the latter half of the 20th century, this historically beloved fortified wine had been largely shoved aside, often relegated to the dustiest corner of the liquor cabinet behind an old bottle of Canadian whisky and stale vermouth of indeterminate age.
Thankfully, as is true with so many traditional forms food and drink that once seemed all but forgotten to popular culture, dry sherry increasingly has been finding a home at dinner tables once again.
And we couldn’t be happier about it.
If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to [sherry].
– Falstaff, Henry IV Pt 2
Dry sherry is tremendously versatile and food friendly. It’s been called an acquired taste, but so are a lot of the world’s great pleasures. And this one really demands food to be at its best, so what better place to feature it than a restaurant?
For the foreseeable future, we’re going to be using sherry in a few different ways, offering our guests a several opportunities to get re-acquainted with this remarkably versatile drink. We’re serving some delicious options by the glass, naturally. But if you order our new rhubarb tart, you’ll see that it’s plated with an amontillado sherry whipped cream. And we’ll be using amontillado in a cocktail (recipe below) to highlight its distinctive flavors in a completely different fashion as well.
Sherry is an Anglicization of the term Jerez, the name for a region at the southern tip of Spain where sherry wines are produced. While various inexpensive blended sherries became the most common in the US during the 20th century, there are a wide array of styles being produced by bodegas, ranging from light and crisp fino to syrupy dessert sherries.
Drier styles include fino, amontillado, and oloroso. Each is produced from the palomino grape, grown in soils so chalky that they’re practically white. The wines are fermented as any other but then graded by a winemaker who determines if the wine is more elegant and headed for a fino barrel or more robust and headed for a future as oloroso. For fino, the wine is fortified with a wine/brandy mix to raise the alcohol up to around 15% and left to develop a cap of active yeast called flor. As the wine ages, protected by the flor from oxygen, it acquires saline, savory qualities all while losing weight and viscosity as the flor eats up the nutrients in the wine. If the fino ages so long that the flor beings to die, oxygen enters the wine and turns the fino into amontillado. And finally, a wine that was never suitable for flor to begin with is fortified to a higher alcohol percentage and left to age, oxidizing to produce the less-dry oloroso.
PX and moscatel are grapes grown in less chalky soils, often harvested and dried on mats to concentrate the sugars before fermentation. Once fermented, some are fortified and others are not, but all are quite sweet and more suitable for a small apertif or dessert.
Also known for its use in some high end rums, the solera system of aging is perhaps most famous for its implementation in Jerez. When wine is removed from a barrel for bottling, the wine is replaced by wine from a younger barrel. That empty space is in turn filled from an even younger barrel. And so on. When a bottle is labelled with an age statement (e.g., 12 years), that number refers to the average age of the resulting wine in bottle.
We’re currently featuring an amontillado and an oloroso on the menu, though we have a second amontillado and a PX for those who really want to dive in and try several. As spring wears on, we’ll add a fino as well.
Additionally, we’re featuring a cocktail that puts amontillado’s nutty, savory flavors to the fore. If you enjoy it, consider making it at home using the recipe below.
Shake the liquid ingredients with ice and double strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Dust the top of the drink with the espellette pepper and serve with a smile. (* – There are plenty of good ways to make ginger syrup, including simply juicing ginger and combining with sugar to form a 1:1 ginger simple syrup.)
And remember: Whether you drink it with us or elsewhere, drink more sherry!
When we look for wines to carry at Selden Standard, we generally ask ourselves a few questions: Does this go well with a wide variety of foods on the menu? Are the aromatics beautiful and the flavors interesting? Is it a good value?
Delicious but nuanced, elegant and affordable, the Santenay “Cuvee S” from David Moreau was an easy bottle to add to our selection.
Ignoring, for a moment, the excellent work of Moreau himself, Santenay is worth a quick examination. A (relatively) unheralded sub-region of Burgundy, it produces mainly reds, all pinot noir. These are widely regarded to be a bit more rustic than the wines produced not far too the north, nearer to the city of Beaune. But it might be more accurate to say that the wines are simply a touch earthier than some of its leaner regional counterparts. The less celebrated pedigree makes for some outstanding values.
Moreau himself is a young winemaker, his first vintage coming in 2009, but he learned his craft from his grandparents, and the vines have been in his family for years. The “Cuvee S,” named for his grandmother Simone, comes from 50 year old vines in a vineyard called Les Cornieres.
While a lot of young burgundy can be austere and difficult to drink in its youth, this is a rather expressive bottle with ample fruit. Before even tasting the wine, there are plenty of clues that this is a concentrated bottle: The vines are reasonably old. There is a high percentage of millerandes, a term referring to smaller, more concentrated grapes. Depending on the vintage, he uses up to 15% whole clusters of grapes (versus individual, de-stemmed grapes), creating an oxygen-free fermentation inside the berries, ultimately yielding a concentrated, ripe fruit flavor.
Despite the concentrated fruit, there’s plenty of balance, typical earthiness, and acidity. The Cuvee S is a beautiful purple-ish red hue, and this is the sort of wine where even an empty glass will present beautiful aromatics for hours.
At the moment, the only other place we’re aware you can get this wine in metro Detroit is one of the area’s finest retail shops – Elie Wine Company in Birmingham. Join us for a bottle with your next meal, or stop in and see Elie and Todd to pick some up. It’s delicious.
One of the great challenges of putting together a wine list for a shared plate restaurant with a varied menu is that the wines have to be versatile enough to match a wide array of foods. A house favorite at the moment is the Ferrando Canavese Rosso, imported by Neal Rosenthal (New York).
This isn’t a bottle typically found in Michigan, but we fell in love with its charms and had a bunch shipped out just for us. In fact, we just found out that we committed to 7.6% of Ferrando’s entire annual production of this wine. And why the hell not? One of the real joys of owning a restaurant is that we can do cool stuff like bring in amazing wine to talk about with our amazing customers.
A few geographical facts: Canavese is a small region in the northern reaches of Piedmont, the Italian area known mostly for expressions of the nebbiolo grape from Barolo and Barbaresco. North of Turin, the region is quite close to the French and Swiss borders and is marked by steep, heavily terraced vineyards. Their wines are marked by a fresh, balanced acidity. The best wines will last, but even those seem to be approachable in their youth.
The Canavese Rosso, though, is their “entry level” wine, a moderately priced treasure that absolutely kills with a wide variety of foods. It’s loaded with honest, tart berry flavors – cranberry, raspberry, strawberry – but there’s enough of a rustic, earthy, mineral quality to give it pretty surprising complexity for the price. This particular wine is a blend of about 70% nebbiolo, 30% barbera, and a modest touch of a local grape called Neretta, which is light-bodied and is generally used in refreshing table wines. (It is also apparently known as Hibou Noir and has been used in French and Swiss regions like the Savoie, reinforcing our impression that the flavors of this Canavese have almost as much in common with these areas as it does with Piedmont.)
Like many of the wines we carry, the Canavese Rosso is made by a small producer anchored in traditional methods, aiming to preserve local grape varieties and characteristics. Luigi Ferrando’s family has been making wine in the region since 1900, and they are also known for working with the local indigenous grape Erbaluce.
We highly recommend this wine: It’s great with meats and anything grilled, but it has enough acidity and lightness to avoid clashing with lighter dishes. Also, it’s really damn delicious.
Around the time that we were in the early planning stages for the restaurant, we were meandering about Eastern Market one Tuesday and noticed a vendor selling black teas. We struck up a conversation, tasted his wares, and decided on the spot that we wanted to carry his stuff.
Joseph Wesley Teas imports and sells some exquisite, single-origin black Chinese tea. In discussing how Selden Standard would serve tea, Joe offered to select some seasonal teas outside his typical offerings for us to feature. He’s planning to help us acquire green teas in the spring and summer when they’re in season and more appropriate oolongs for fall and winter.
Among these hand-picked teas is a Da Hong Pao that is on our opening menu. Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe), the first oolong tea produced, is a type famous for its very complex taste and aroma. These teas come from the WuYi mountains of northern Fujian, arguably the most famous tea-growing region in all of China. The geography and soil of the region are characterized by a red clay in which the prized Qi Dan cultivar grows. It’s this specific variety of tea bush growing in these particular soils that give the tea its distinctive flavor.
Oolong teas are distinguished by the method of production: Leaves are hand-plucked and sun-withered then bruised by a tumbling machine or by hand. This leeches moisture from the leaves and begins an oxidation process that produces melanin, a black-red pigment. After a partial oxidation, oolong teas are heated in a pan to “set” the leaves then roasted over hardwood coals. This roasting is unique to oolongs and separates them from black teas.
Da Hong Pao are heavily roasted teas, with the process taking up to 20 hours. A very popular type among tea lovers, Da Hong Pao engenders knock-offs: Some say that 99% of Da Hong Pao in the U.S. is not actually made from the true cultivar or is blended with less prestigious teas.
Joe personally selected our Da Hong Pao and brought it to the United States just for our restaurant. We think it’s delicious, and we’re pretty stoked to be doing business with him.
Selden Standard is also carrying Joseph Wesley Teas’ Dian Hong Congfu, a contemporary black tea from the Yunnan province in Southwest China. This tea is unusual in that it is not made from the subspecies cameilla sinensis sinensis like almost all Chinese tea. Instead, it’s made from cameilla sinensis assamica, the same variety used for Indian Assam and Ceylon teas.
Yunnan has soils rich in organic material that produces rich, sweet tea. These characteristics are definitely found in Joe’s Dian Hong, which you can order at the restaurant or buy for yourself.
In the quarterly journal The Art of Eating, there’s a regular article called “Why This Bottle?” It’s a short column, written by a rotating assortment of somms, winemakers, and journalists – each telling the story of a particular wine that’s gotten them excited.
Clos Cibonne rosé is a bottle that we’ve been obsessing over lately, and both in the spirit of that article and in keeping with our effort to get people to drink as much awesome wine as possible, we thought we’d share why we’re so into it.
Actually, we just served this at a collaboration dinner featuring Andy and Chef Luciano DelSignore at Bacco Ristorante last weekend. Andy had made some halibut and put it over carrot purée with a fava bean salad and some ramp butter. Almost any decent rosé could work with such a springy, fresh dish. But this, in particular, is serious stuff that rewards food as much as it does a session on the back deck.
For a rosé, there’s a remarkable amount of depth. This isn’t some mediocre bottle of red wine runoff juice. Quite the opposite. Aromatically, there’s a lot of orange and lighter fruits; and on the palate, it’s very fleshy with a silky texture. There’s also a mild earthy characteristic and slight salinity to it.
This extra level of flavor is derived in part from the grape, Tibouren, which is not commonly used on its own, but the family behind this bottle has been growing it extensively since the 1930s. Moreover, it’s a finicky, difficult-to-grow grape, and it’s widely reported by people way smarter than us to have umami characteristics.
But the winemaking plays a role here too. The juice spends a year aging in large oak foudres (French for “huge freaking barrels”), but the 1000L vessels are never capped. Instead, a fleurette develops, covering the wine in a protective layer of yeast similar to a fino sherry.
It’s spring, which is pink wine season here, but we were still surprised by the reaction to this wine when we served it at Bacco. People don’t exactly line up around the corner at their wine shop to fill their trunks with dry rosé. So it was exciting to see everyone asking questions and, even better, asking for more.
The best part for everyone is that Clos Cibonne pretty affordable for bad ass wine. We’d love to serve it when the restaurant finally opens, but in the meantime, we’ve seen it at Great Lakes Coffee in Detroit and at Plum Market at 15 and Lahser, but it’s probably to be found elsewhere too.
Grab a bottle and pour heavily to instantly improve your evening.