Monday, September 27, 2010

Palestra, 2008

Last summer we enjoyed a few bottles of the 2006 and the 2007 Palestra and found both quite delightful and very reasonably priced. Now we just enjoyed a bottle of the newly released 2008 vintage, and once again, we are impressed. The Encostas do Douro Palestra is a blend of Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. All these grapes are indigenous to the Douro Region of Portugal. This wine has a dark ruby color and a rich nose of black cherry, plum, cocoa and black pepper. This is a fruit forward, medium bodied wine with flavors of dark berry, black cherry, cranberry, flint and lingering black pepper. This wine has a gentle and rich mouth feel from abundant, but well integrated tannins. The finish is soft and elegant with no harsh edges. This 2008 vintage of the Palestra reminds me of the 2007 vintage and is another example of a great table wine, from Portugal, that can be found in the Seattle area for about $10. We enjoyed this nice wine with some Grilled Chicken Sausage with Fontina Stuffed Hatch Chili Peppers. This wine is worth seeking out and is now available at Pete‘s wine Shop, in Bellevue..

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ruffino Modus, 2001

Tonight we enjoyed this “Super-Tuscan” with a fantastic Italian dinner. We have cellared this 2001 Modus for the past 5 years and time has added beautiful depth and complexity to this wine. This Ruffino Modus is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. For over 130 years Ruffino has been one of the leading Chianti wineries. I have been a fan of the Modus wines since their 1999 vintage. This wine is deep ruby red, nearly opaque with garnet hues. The nose has aromas of black cherry, licorice, plum, chocolate, leather and baking spice. This is a full bodied wine with an impressive chewy texture that is robust, yet smooth. There is a solid core of juicy black fruit, stewed prunes and dark berry flavors complemented by cocoa, tobacco and some earth. There are good levels of mature tannins with rolling acidity that contribute to a long, satisfying finish. Presently, you can purchase the 2006 vintage for about $30 and it should have many of the same delicious characteristics of the 2001 . We purchased this wine at Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $25.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Volver, 2007

The 2007 Volver is a single vineyard wine made from 100% Tempranillo from the La Mancha area of central Spain. The wine is aged for 14 months in new French oak. This is another wine imported by Jorge Ordonez and is a good example of the great quality wines that can be made from the Tempranillo grape. The wine has a deep purple color with a lovely nose of black cherry, raspberry, smoke and vanilla. On the palate it is a full-bodied wine with of ripe black plum, blackberry, cherry jam, ground coffee and a touch of oak. This wine is very “New-World” with a rich mouth-feel, bold fruit, abundant creamy tannins and a long, balanced finish. The 2007 Volver is delicious now, but should continue to develop with a few years in the cellar. We purchased the wine from Pete’s Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $15.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cantinetta, Bellevue

  • rustico, elegante and delizioso: a great addition to downtown Bellevue

During the past decade there has been amazing growth in Bellevue with newly constructed high-rises, an ever increasing population and a slue of new restaurants. A welcomed trend is privately owned restaurants that offer a level of service, quality and atmosphere that is unmatched by the corporate “big-boys” like Maggiano's, P.F. Chang's and The Cheesecake Factory. The newly opened Bellevue Cantinetta is an off-shoot of the popular, quaint Seattle Cantinetta tucked away in a Wallingford neighborhood.
Located at street level on Old Main Street, Cantinetta is a small restaurant (by Bellevue standards) with a warm atmosphere of a Tuscan Trattoria. The dimly lit, high ceiling room has massive windows, Italian country chandeliers, re-claimed wood floors, warm brown tones and hefty rustic wood furniture. Dining options include small, medium and large rectangular tables, an outdoor sidewalk section and a curved rustic bar to enjoy a glass of wine or a complete meal.

The menu is small and precise showcasing fresh house-made pastas, Tuscan inspired antipasti and entrées created with local organic and seasonal ingredients. The young chef is the talented Tomer Shneor who is originally from Haifa, Israel and has spent time in some of New York’s finest restaurants. We had an opportunity to speak with Tomer as he walked us through the menu and highlighted the details of various preparations and the quality local ingredients. The chef is excited about sourcing fresh, local produce from the Bellevue Farmers Market.

The menu is organized in traditional Tuscan fashion with Antipasti, Contorni, Primi, Secondi and Dolci. Kate and I decided to order something from each section and share our picks. We brought a bottle of Giuseppe Campagnola Le Bine Valpolicella Classico Superiore, 2006 which we new would be a great compliment to our meal. We started with the antipasti of Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, mizuna. The presentation was simple and elegant with chunks of fresh orange and red tomato, a cut ball of creamy white Burrata cheese and a mound of well-dressed delicate greens. Our primo plati was fresh Tagliatelle with summer corn, house made pancetta and fresh Shitake. The perfectly cooked pasta was delicate and delicious and the sweet summer corn was deftly balanced by the smoky/salty pancetta and the earthy shitake mushrooms. Our secondi was fresh Halibut with caramelized Zucchini. The super-fresh Halibut was cooked very well with a crispy pan-seared crust and a moist flaky interior. The fish was plated over a puréed sweet yellow pepper sauce with caramelized yellow and green squash. For the contorni ( side dish) we ordered the Eggplant. The eggplant was fantastic and quite memorable with a preparation that includes marinating for at least 24 hours, then slow cooking with olive oil and tomato creating intensely flavorful morsels…yum. For dessert (dolci) we had the warm Chocolate Budino. This was a perfect dessert to savor as we finished off our lovely Valpolicella. The Budino (Italian for pudding) was rich, voluptuous, creamy chocolate heaven made with olive oil and perked up with a delightful sprinkling of sea salt. Kate told Chef Shneor that she would love to have the recipe!

Overall, Cantinetta is a great addition to the Bellevue dining scene. The restaurant is warm and inviting, the service is attentive and professional and the food is simple, elegant and delicious. We look forward to trying every item on the delightful, inspired menu. We will definitely return in the near future; this could be the start of a long and satisfying relationship. Cantinetta is located at 10038 Main Street in Bellevue, Washington.