Founded in 1996
IN THIS ISSUE
LAS VEGAS EATS, Part Two
By John A. Curtas
NEW YORK CORNER
10 CORSO COMO
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
FAVORITE WINES OF THE YEAR
By John Mariani
LAS VEGAS EATS
By John A. Curtas
Jerry Colonna circa 1957
Mountain Road— what the locals call
Chinatown—has been a hotbed of Asian eats since
1995, continuing to draw fans
of everything from Korean barbecue to sushi to pho parlors. But in the past year,
two decidedly non-Asian places
have taken the neighborhood by storm, and, like
Commodore Perry sailing into
Tokyo Bay, the westerners have arrived and
they're not going away.
Brian Howard's Sparrow + Wolf began
the transformation last year when he opened his
woodsy-scented, cozy gastropub
to great acclaim in the vacated space of an old
Vietnamese restaurant. His
menu, like the community in which he is located,
is all over the map, with more
than a nod to his pan-Pacific surroundings. It
begins with a house-made
charcuterie platter with seasonal pickles and from
there directs you to oysters
topped three ways—with pineapple mignonette, a
cucumber granité and a gelatinized
pearl. These accents change
seasonally but never fail to hit the spot.
mile down the road lies Partage, a haute bistro
unlike any Chinatown
(or Las Vegas)
has ever seen. When chefs Yuri Szarzewski, Vincent
Pellerin and manager Nicolas
came to the United States in 2015, they had a
dream. They wanted
to bring healthy French food to Las Vegas. And
they did, first with their
casual EATT Gourmet Bistro a few miles away, and
now with a more upscale (but
still very laid back) place in a shopping center
more at home with nail salons
and noodle shops than croque
Road may be having a
cross-cultural awakening, but downtown Las Vegas
has been undergoing a
renaissance of its own for half a decade. Ground
zero these days is the Arts
District—several square blocks studded with bars,
antique stores and suddenly
an infusion of really good food. Leading the pack
is Esther's Kitchen—open less
than a year and now so popular an empty seat is
harder to find than a Mario
Batali fan. What began with Carson Kitchen four
years ago, took a giant leap
forward in early 2018 when chef/owner James Trees opened this
just off Main Street. Instead of joining the
overdone American gastropub craze,
Trees goes full Italian, bombarding you with
pizzas straight from a Roman’s playbook. He even
throws in a fish of the day
(always worth it), brick chicken (a crowd
favorite), and slabs of porchetta.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
10 CORSO COMO
restoration of the area once known as the
Fulton Fish Market and the upgrading of the
South Street Seaport has brought
encouraging vitality to a neighborhood that
can now depend on a local clientele
living in the Financial District. So the
implantation of a high-concept Italian
design boutique and restaurant makes good
sense. Opened only two months
now, the restaurant buzzes after six
p.m. with a
bar crowd while the
dining room is building a reputation as a
place to eat fine Italian food.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR❖❖❖
FAVORITE WINES OF THE YEAR
By John Mariani
Rachael Taylor in "Bottle Shock" (2008)
Among my favorite wines of 2018 I
that gave me the most pleasure and
satisfaction or enlightened me about regions
or varietals I either thought I knew or
didn’t know much about at all. Some of
these included wines that were remarkably
well priced for such high
Indeed, there doesn’t
seem to be any reason to gloat about old
vintages of rare wines, many no longer
available, costing hundreds of dollars.
(All the following should be able to be found at any of the various Internet wine sites like wines-searcher.com.)
CHARLES HEIDSIECK ROSÉ RÉSERVE ($70)—My
affection for rosé Champagnes grows whenever I
drink a new favorite, in this
case one in which 80% of the wines of the
harvest are blended with
one-third of each varietal used—Chardonnay,
Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier—while
20% of reserve wines from other years—seven or
eight years old—are blended in
equal proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot
Noir. Then, they add 5% red wine to
give more tannin to the blend. It is then
matured for three years. The result
is a very complex rosé with just the right
body, effervescence and fruit to
distinguish it from simple rosé blends.
CHÂTEAU D’YQUEM 2005 ($250)—At a gala dinner in Bordeaux, this was the best wine of an evening mostly devoted to reds from the Médoc. A dessert of mascarpone with a confit of apricots and scented with verveine was accompanied by a Château d’Yquem 2005 Sauternes, as perfect as any wine I’ve ever had. The distinguishing mark of Yquem has always been the backbone of botrytis and oak behind the intensity of sweetness from a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. It proved again why it is considered one of the greatest wines in the world.
JOEL GOTT PINOT NOIR 2016 ($18)—
Joel Gott has a catholic approach to making
wines through blending of grapes
from California, Oregon and Washington, though
largely from Santa Barbara,
which enjoys cooling breezes from the Gabilan
Range and Santa Lucia
means you’re not getting one of those hot,
high alcohol western Pinot Noirs;
instead the acidity keeps it of light to
medium body with nice cherry flavors,
at a fine 13.9% alcohol. Being aged mostly in
stainless steel helps maintain
its freshness before going into new and 2- to
3-year-old French oak barrels to
tamp down the tannins.
MATANZAS CREEK WINERY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 ($15)—Matanzas Creek in Santa Rosa has been making wine on what was once a dairy farm since 1997 (now under the Jackson Family group), and since 2010 winemaker Marcia Torres Forno has transformed the estate’s production of Sauvignon Blanc through new plantings and harvesting techniques. They now make five different bottlings from the varietal—highly unusual for a California winery—and the result is wines that are creamier and more refreshing without the cloying punch-like flavors of so many others. I love this with grilled chicken or seafood during the summer, and it’s excellent paired with cheeses.
SummuS 2014 ($80)—Made
from grapes in the southern part of
Montalcino, where stony, calcium-rich soil
gives the wine its abundant mineral qualities,
this is a mix of Cabernet
Sauvignon (35%), Syrah (25%) and Sangiovese
(40%)—the blend differs in
percentage each year—which are first vinified
separately, then transferred to
French oak barriques, also separately, for
12-14 months. Only then are they
blended and stored away for another 10-12
months and, finally, six months of
bottle age. The result is a wine that
explains its name—“the greatest”—within
the Banfi constellation, for it is indeed a
very complex wine. This
one I really do want to keep in my cellar for
another two or three years before
it reveals all of its finesse, its tannins
soften and the fruit and acid come into
ÉMILE BEYER PINOT GRIS
TRADITION 2016 ($18)—As
one of Alsace’s premier estates, dating back
to the 16th century in Eguisheim,
Émile Beyer has 42 acres of vineyards,
one-third classified as Grand Cru. This
is a Pinot Gris with good body, a pleasing
13.5% alcohol, and a decided
sweetness of style with none of the acrid
notes of so many Italian Pinot
Grigios. It’s made to chill well and be served
with melon and ham or with
cheeses and fruit.
SALUTA SALLIER DE LA TOUR LA MONACA 2015 ($40)—Sallier’s La Monaca, a 100% Syrah from the 2015 vintage, is their flagship wine with a production of only 9,000 bottles. It has a huge nose, as one expects from Syrah, and a fleshy body with a bracing edge and a long, herbal finish. The name comes from the historical winery where it was first planted in 1993, so now, 25 years later, the vines have achieved a maturity that results in complexity. At 14.5% alcohol, it is a mouthful, but there is great elegance about it that will age well in the next five years.
FÓRRA MANZONE ALOIS LAGEDER BIANCO ($30)—Alois Lageder is one of the very best winemakers in Europe, his estate founded in 1823 and still in the family, with biodynamic grapes from their own well-tended Dolomites vineyards as well as long contracted cooperatives. Though located in northern Italy, they speak German at the estate and the wine’s back label is in that language. The “IGT” means it is a wine made according to the Lageder blend, not in accordance with the DOC regulations, and you won’t find the grapes listed. "Fórra" means “narrow valley" and refers to a canyon in Adige. Made from a cross between Riesling and Pinot Bianco, the Manzoni Bianco grape was created in 1937 and is not widely planted. It has a good deal of weight at only 13% alcohol and a delectable aroma.
BARON DE BRANE 2010 ($27)—Very
rich, very supple, very layered, showing its
Margaux appellation beautifully.
The blend is 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47%
Merlot, with no Cabernet Franc. The
vintage was a dry year with cool summer nights
that helped build up the aroma
and phenolics. This is the second wine of
Château Brane-Cantenac, a renowned
second growth, overseen by Henri Lurton, and a
very good price for a Bordeaux
of this quality. It’s ready to drink right
MARQUÉS DE RISCAL
RESERVA 2012 ($13)--An amazing
bargain for a rich Spanish wine from one of
its most highly regarded producers. A blend of
Tempranillo whose grapes date by to 1970s
vineyards, Graciano and Mazuelo, the reserva
spend about two years in American oak, which
makes this one of the benchmarks for a Rioja
style followed throughout the region.
THE DINNER FOR KING LOUIS XVI
PLENTY OF GOOD REASONS
TO WANT TO RUSH RIGHT OVER
“Bonus tip: Virtually all seats, whether reserved or for walk-ins, are backless stools. Also consider calling ahead if you plan on dining as a walk-in to gauge the wait, though be warned that phone calls are not always answered.”— Ryan Sutton, “Saint Julivert,"Eater.com (11/28/18)
Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
Wine is a joy year-round but
in cooler weather one
grape varietal has really taken center stage in
my daily activities – that most Italian of
grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression
– Brunello di Montalcino.
Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese
BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites.
Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage.
Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish.
Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation. Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.
Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape. Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name. The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky. Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red. The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut. It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note. It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside in southern Montalcino.
SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet. An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine.
Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.
Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table.
Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti. An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes. This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.
Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining.
Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.
Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice. It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.
Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.
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❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences."
Eating Las Vegas
JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is
the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50
Essential Restaurants (as well as
the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas.
He can also be seen every Friday morning as
the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the
Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3 in
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani,
Robert Mariani, Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish,
and Brian Freedman. Contributing
Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical
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