Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Franciacorta with seafood and gossip at the Old Port Lobster Shack

On the heels of a great Champagne tasting this weekend at Santana Row's Vintage Wine Merchants, I was itching for more sparkles. Kudos to Vintage for putting together an excellent line-up of Champagnes for a meager $40 ($25 for members) - they certainly packed the shop, and the punters were not disappointed.

This was the first time I had the 1999 Dom Perignon, and it was probably my fave Dom P, showing the classical well-developed nuttiness. Compared to it, the just released 2002 was too young and simple at this stage. Other notables were the always reliable and incredibly inexpensive Hiedsieck & Co "Blue Top" ($25-30), the elegant Delamotte ($35, Salon's little sibling), and the well-regarded higher-end Champagnes by Pol Roger (Reserve), Egly-Ouriet (Brut Tradition Grand Cru), and Gosset (Brut Grand Reserve).

That was Sunday. On Monday, my faith in Champagne re-affirmed, it was now Italy's turn to impress.

I am a big fan of Franciacorta. Italy's answer to Champagne, it can be every bit as profound. Made in the traditional method (aka Champagne method) where the second fermentation and ageing on the lees take place in bottle, Franciacorta can evolve beautifully over many years, especially vintage examples, and can also be enjoyed young. Last night my wine/tennis group had a re-union (after I tore my achilles tendon earlier this year) at our local de-facto standard seafood hole-in-the-wall - the legendary Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City. To grease the wheels, we brought two of the most highly regarded Franciacorta producers - Bellavista and Ca'del Bosco. And the good news - Franciacorta, although being unknown in the non-wine circles, is readily available in this country. I got mine from (Bellavista and Ca'del Bosco). Seafood, fries and sparkling wine - how can you go wrong with that combo?!

We didn't. The Lobster Shack's naked lobster roll is fabulous, and their beer-battered fish and chips are out of this world. But the dish that both Franciacortas really shone with was steamed mussels - petite, tender, flavorful in a great broth begging for dipped bread. Eric suggested that the wine really brought out the minerally tones in the mussels. I thought it went well even with the creamy New England clam chowder - another not-to-be-missed beauty from the Shack.

I gotta say - on a relatively quiet Monday night, we spent three hours chilling at this characterful joint. The folks there, especially the hostess Shay, are so friendly, she reminded me of my mom. Everyone had a great time, and with tongues un-tied, we reminisced of the old tennis follies and the crazy things that happen in the wine circles, such as the saga that followed my Sojourn post.

Bellavista is an old classic Franciacorta producer, and their non-vintage cuvee was a more serious expression than Ca'del Bosco's floral and lemony entry level cuvee "Presige" - an all-time dependable friend, that I always keep stocked in my cellar. Just for the heck of it, we followed with beers, and agreed that Franciacorta was a better, lighter, more elegant match. Enjoy!


Robert Giorgione said...

Nice article. I think Franciacorta can be a wonderful alternative to Champagne. Each year I always taste and judge Italian wines at the Decanter World Wine Awards and recently was impressed how this category had developed and increased in quality and expression.
In addition, next year, Franciacorta will be the location for the EWBC. So it's a good excuse to go there too.

Do Bianchi said...

There are some fantastic wines produced in Franciacorta. Bellavista and Ca' del Bosco both make some great ones. But I'd be reluctant to compare it to Champagne, only inasmuch as the wines — when made as an expression of the territory — offer a widely different set of aromatic and flavor characteristics. Erbusco is an amazing place and when you go there and experience the maritime influence of the system of lakes there (and pair the wines with the fresh water fishes they like to eat there), you see that wines are defined more by their freshness and herbal and fruit flavors rather than their minerality and structure. Either way, they're PERFECT for the Lobster Shack!

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