Upon our arrival, the famously hospitable service staff offered an aperitif, Kellerei St. Pauls Plötzner Weissbergunder 2019, from Südtirol DOC in the Alto Adige region of Italy. Wine Spokesman Alex Fisken declared this Pinot Bianco to be “elegantly understated – like a lot of the people around this table”. He also noted that it was highly rated by experts, refreshingly fruity with hints of pear, apple, and herbs. It went very well with the fine selection of amuse-bouches we enjoyed: Rice ‘Arancino’ with Tomato Gel, Citrus-Fruit Cured Hamachi Carpaccio, Steamed Prawn with Cocktail Sauce, and Tapioca Waffles Topped with Burrata & Anchovies.
Once seated at a long table in the beautiful terrace room, surrounded by glass and mirrors, we were served an Italian classic, Vitello Tonnato – thinly sliced roast veal and tuna sauce, garnished with capers and pickled peppers. Food Spokesman Andrew McDowell enjoyed the delicate flavors of this dish, but was most impressed with how it paired with the wine: Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2016, a widely acclaimed name among Tuscan red blends. Robert Parker gave it 93 points, noting “the Promis has always seen Merlot in a leading role...” and the 2016 (55% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese) “is a full and complete wine with nice roundness and bright freshness on the close”. Alex especially appreciated its “fresh and spicy” character.
Our main course was Oven-Roasted Lamb Foreshank with Saffron Scented Risotto. Andrew liked both the lamb and risotto, but would have liked a bit more jus. For him, the portion was also a bit too large. A big lamb dish needs an equally big red, so it was paired with Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Syrah 2016. This was the star wine of the day, coming from the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The 2016 that we enjoyed received ratings of 96 by Robert Parker and James Suckling, and 98 by Antonio Galloni’s Vinous. Alex declared it to be “well-constructed”, and suitable to purpose.
We continued to enjoy the Big Syrah with our cheese course, Gorgonzola Dolce “Millefeuille”. Andrew said was “unusual, but very pleasant”, and the perfect size to complement such a large meal.
Dessert featured a Traditional Cantucci, an almond biscotti from Tuscany that just begged to be dipped into the sweet Fontodi Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2008. Alex said the combination delectable, but noted that some others felt the wine would go equally well with a nice cigar. Also on offer was a lovely selection of Petit Fours, along with coffee and teas.
Birthday boys Mark Guthrie and Nigel Henry also sponsored two bottles of Tamnavulin Double Cask, Speyside Single Malt Whisky to top off the day. In their absence (both sick) it fell to Club President Tom Whitcraft to present our thanks to Gianni and his superbly competent kitchen and service staff for a truly special day. And there is no mystery now, as we will be definitely back long before another 20 years pass!