The Il Borro is a 700-acre estate in the heart of sunny Tuscany. Owned by the Ferragamo family, the sprawling estate is nestled into a floodplain along the Arno River, along the Appenine Mountains and Chianti Hills. While the area has a rustic medieval feel, the popular tourist area is teeming with hotels, spas, restaurants, and wineries. The area rich with wine but also the food, history, art, culture, and glorious weather. Tourists fall in love with experience and bring it home in a bottle, a bottle of wine, in this case, the beautiful wines of Il Borro, distributed in MA by Ruby Wines. The experience was further enhanced by the complimentary cuisine which expertly prepared by Executive Chef Mark Hawley and Executive Sous Chef Bill Brulé at a recent wine dinner at Via Italian Table.
Dinners like this one tend to have a laid back vibe but, please, don’t be late. These events almost never start early and rarely on time. An event like this is tough to manage when you have a sold-out crowd of 50 people booked for parties as small as two and as large as 8 or 10. Plan to arrive promptly at these events because sometimes establishments will delay service if your party is late and you WILL get “the look” from the hungry, on-time folks! I am happy to report that the evening began promptly at 6:30 pm. We arrived at 6:30 and were immediately seated at our assigned table.
Our table was set for eight, but there were only 6 of us. Another point of wine dinner etiquette, please call to cancel if you can’t make it. We have all been there, late appointment, traffic, sick kid, “I just can’t make it.” These wine dinners are like family dinners. You would call your Mom if you weren’t going to make it. In both cases, you will PAY! At least, in the case of the Worcester Restaurant Group, if you give them twenty-four hours notice, you will get a credit to the restaurant. Your mother may never forgive you. PLUS, these events sell out way in advance! I have been on the wait list. If you don’t call, I could have had your spot. See, now I am mad at YOU!
On to happier matters, this was a delightful dinner that was all about the food. The menu had a leisurely Sunday dinner feel to it. The Chef delivered opening remarks for our evening with a proclamation that we wouldn’t need a knife for the entire meal, and he was correct. We began with a generous pour of “Lamelle” Chardonnay IGT Toscana, from the Il Borro Estate. Chardonnay is not a typical wine for Tuscany, but it was the perfect buttery compliment for the Asiago Pate a Choux (think, tiny apple pie with cheese, prosciutto, and honey).
The sales people from Ruby Wines gave equally brief opening remarks about the wines but then sat quietly for most of the evening. I like this. The dishes were self-explanatory with the help of a pre-printed menu and wine list. I have attended dinners where the chef or wine “person” feels the need to explain each and every pairing expertly, and I think it detracts from the overall experience. The Chef and a head representative from Ruby made a point of stopping at every table after the main course. They answered questions and got to know each diner personally. We were allowed to explore each wine and dish on a personal level to derive what was most pleasing to us as a table. Presentations are necessary for large format but in an intimate setting like this, they can be an interruption for what can often be a very personal experience shared among diners.
The food seemed to be very well received by all. There was a noticeable hush in the somewhat lively room as each course was presented. None more so than the meat course. As the staff opened the doors to the veranda room to pour the 2012 Il Borro Toscana IGT, diners caught a whiff of what was to come. The aroma made the crowd go silent. The Braised Berkshire Pork was the highlight of the night. Served over a creamy potato risotto with slow roasted grape tomatoes. This dish was every bit as lush, fragrant, and complex as the wine, a concentrated blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. At a tasting either could stand out on its own but together, a rock star couple.
However, I have to mention my personal favorite of the night, a dish I could not leave unfinished. Whole Wheat Pasta with butternut squash puree, parmesan cheese, and freshly grated black and white truffle. The portion was thankfully small, but the flavor was intense and concentrated. The pasta was extremely well textured and substantial, particularly when tossed with the mouth-coating, somewhat sweet but savory butternut puree. I tried this dish with each of the wines that were served, and it paired equally well with the chardonnay as it did with the “Pain di Nova” 2002 Syrah and Sangiovese IGT. Each wine had the concentration, acid, and plushy tannins to complement this rich but elegant dish.
Via put on an amazing night featuring excellent food, wine, and winelover/foodie company. Not bad for a Tuesday night! I highly recommend you check out the Tuscan Wine Dinner series at Via Italian Table.