To yearly tradition I was present at the Zonin sommelier themed lunch. This lunch is basically the Zonin wine estate bringing together Top sommeliers for a blind wine tasting to talk about the wines served during a lunch in a great restaurant. An event they do in lots of countries all over the world. I can hear you think that this seems like a way to promote Zonin wines, which in some way is correct, but in last editions they also served non-Zonin wines. What I maybe should have also mentioned is that all sommeliers write down their thoughts on every wine, give it a score and as it is a blind tasting guess which wine it is and its vintage. Afterwards they collect all the answers and see how they would be able to improve their wines. So you could see it as a Marketing strategy, but I rather see it as a case study to improve your products! That some wines getting served are being liked and turn up on the sommeliers wine list is a plus and a compliment to the winemakers or better a sign that they made very good end product.
This year’s sommelier themed lunch took place at Le Chalet de la forêt in the green part of Brussels. Last time I was here I enjoyed my meal, but wasn’t blown away, this time however I did get blow away. Not sure what the ‘problem’ was last time, but I became a big fan after this lunch!! This year the lunch theme was to distinguish the Italian from the American Zonin wines. They would serve wines from both countries, made from the same grape, and it was up to us to say which one was from one of their Italian estates and which one from their Virginia estate. I must admit we got surprised in a positive way a couple of times. To support what I said earlier, they don’t even sell their Virginia wines outside the US and UK :-). Anyhow it was a fun afternoon amongst friends as I know most of the sommeliers present and of course Lorenzo Zonin, whose daughter has 10 days difference with mine 🙂 (10 day older if I’m right)
I do know that I’m not a top sommelier or a sommelier like the other people at the table, but I like good food, good wine and I love talking about it 🙂 AND I have learned a lot over the last few years from the others at the table.
All of this said, after some great finger food it was time to start our lunch with a Gamberoni tartar with cold consommé and Oscietra caviar. A pleasure for the taste buds because of the little spiciness from the tartar and freshness from fish and citrus. I started my lunches in worse ways 🙂 . FYI I did take pictures of my own, but I chose to use some from the photographer Pascal Hermans as nothing beats pictures of a real photographer!! I’m sure you’ll which ones are mine and which ones aren’t 🙂
As for the wines being served with this dish I was 98% sure when tasting which one it was, Vermentino, as I thought remembering it from visiting some of the Zonin estates last year. Funny enough I was right about the wines, but the one I thought was Italian was from Virginia and vice versa. I was confused by the typical ‘vementino’ scent and thought this could only come from Italy, as the other one was more floral, fresh/fruity. I personally enjoyed or better I wouldn’t mind having a few bottles from the Vermentino from the Rocca di Montemasi estate for this summer.
If only the blind tasting would continue this way, I would definitely recognize more easily 🙂 But they made it harder 🙂 instead of 2 we got 4 glasses of wines from 2 different blends… oooooh boy 😦 These 4 wines that were the pairing with a signature Chalet dish: Noirmoutier sole “forêt” with parsnip, champagne butter and truffle. A piece of art in a plate that you don’t want to destroy 🙂 but glad I did it as it was njammy.
As for the wines, like mentioned they made it harder by putting 4 glasses instead of 2. Admitted that they helped us a bit letting us know that there was Viognier and Chardonnay. Up to us to decide which ones and also from which country and their vintage 🙂
I didn’t found out which wines were viognier and which chardonnay, but that’s where it stopped for me 🙂
Up to the reds, here again 4 glasses 🙂 Tips here were that there were 2 ‘Bordeaux’ like blends, 1 Sangiovese and 1 Nebbiolo. The Nebbiolo I distinguished pretty fast due to it specific more orange color.. The same for the Sangiovese due to its specific nose (don’t know how to explain it), but also because it is one of my favorite red wines from the Zonin estates aka the Il Solatio . This gave me a little push in the back to find out which ones were the ‘Bordeaux’ like blends. When they revealed the wines, I must say I was surpised to find out the Nebbiolo was a ‘Barolo’ from Virginia!! I would have sworn it was a blend from Italy. I’m also sure I wasn’t the only one!!
I almost forgot, these wines were served with the half wild duck (not sure which half 🙂 🙂 ) with fruited fennel and gravy (no, not your average meat gravy). I remember once a famous Michelin Star chef telling me what the perfect dish was: ‘when somebody finishes its plate and wants an other one exactly like it, that’s the perfect this’. This duck, was one of those dishes that if I could have, I would have 🙂 The meat melted like butter and the gravy had a some of that American BBQ taste in it that we all love (I think it’s called calories ;-)). No seriously, mind blowing dish!!
The cherry or frosting on the cake was the dessert that was specially given as they found out Lorenzo was a chocoholic 🙂 and it was of the same level as the previous dish with the big difference being that a second dish of this would kill you 🙂 🙂 and you’d be condemned on having a nap in the restaurant 😉
And as if the chocolate wasn’t yet a step close enough to heaven, they paired with it what is for me that best vin santo I have ever tasted, the vin santo from Castello d’albolla!! They served just like the other wines that we didn’t know what it was, but you could guess that one out of a thousand.
It was again, like previous times a wonderful lunch!! I’ve learned and enjoyed at the same time. Special thanks to Lorenzo Zonin and the Chalet de la Forêt team (with their to Sommelier Cesar Roman) for making this all happen.
In case you would have more question about Zonin wines, please contact Hasselt Millesime as they can tell you everything about it!!