Nostalgia in the form of Da Vinci Chianti

DaVinci is a name based on the world-famous Italian Renaissance artist, Leonardo daVinci, and is now utilized for all things Italian and cultural. I’ve encountered daVinci in the form of a restaurant: DaVinci’s Ristorante in Boston, and I’ve been to see the Leonardo daVinci statue and Leonardo daVinci Museum in Italy, commemorating the great artist. But it is the wine brand I’m going to focus on at the moment. More specifically, a 2011 Da Vinci Chianti DOCG ($15) and a 2012 Da Vinci delle Venezie IGT pinot grigio ($15) that brought back memories as one of the first wines I drank during my wine club days, when I ordered a case at a time to experiment with various vintages from around the world. DaVinci Chianti was one of the wines I most remember, and this marked the time I fell in love with Chianti, the blend of Tuscan grapes, which I would drink time and time again before the stage was set for actually visiting Chianti.

But first, the tease, or more aptly put, the stage was set last fall when I enjoyed my first night’s dinner in Florence, Italy, at Il Cibreo with a glass of DaVinci pinot grigio and an announcement of the evening’s menu by an Italian-matriarch: “Swiss chard, polenta, fish soup, tomato soup, porcini …” as options in the first course. I chose polenta, which was the most soft, light and creamy texture, served on a plate that had a hollowed middle, sort of a well, where olive oil was poured on top to complement the polenta’s richness, and was topped with an excessive amount of Parmesan cheese shavings, which added a welcoming smoky flavor.

The next time I’d encounter a daVinci experience, it would be in Chianti, at Cantine Leonardo DaVinci, for a cooking lesson and lunch of pan-fried sliced, egg-soaked Tuscan bread in sunflower oil. As the slices were browned to perfection, they were removed and topped with local pecorino cheese and in-season porcini mushrooms already soaked in extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) before tossed in a fry pan and seasoned with fresh chopped parsley.

More mushrooms were placed in a pan, along with grated lemon zest, courtesy of Chef Augusto, who worked fast to sauté them with garlic, EVOO, DaVinci white wine and an indigenous form of mint called “nipitella.” He then sautéed slices of pork with red wine (vino rosso), rosemary, garlic, EVOO and butter, sage, fennel seed and salt. Once the pork was cooked, he poured almost an entire bottle of wine in the pan and let it sit to make a reduction sauce. And then we witnessed his secret: his assistant softened and molded a ball of butter before rolling it in pasta flour. Chef Augusto took the final ball and dropped it in the middle of the pan, where it melted throughout and thickened the reduction sauce.

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Pictured above: Sangiovese grapes on display in the DaVinci tasting room — used to make Da Vinci wines. Photo by Charlene Peters

Lunch in the DaVinci tasting room offered an open door view of rolling hills to showcase endless rows of vines. The battered bread topped with mushrooms is served first, with a 2011 DaVinci pinot grigio that smelled of lemon and wet stone, a sign of its Trentino origin. And then the pork, with the wine reduction sauce that works so well with the acidity of the 2011 DaVinci Chianti, a clean, classic, fruit forward wine with cherry flavors and a juicy finish. Next, we tasted a DaVinci Chianti Riserva 2009, my favorite of the day, influenced by aromas of wood, subtle leather, tobacco and citrus peel. It is a complex wine, which equals great character.

A year later, at home with my Da Vinci 2012 delle Venezie IGT pinot grigio in hand, I decided to cook cook scallops in sesame oil to pair with this most refreshing wine that begins with a floral bouquet so pleasant I wanted to keep sticking my nose in my glass. The taste was clean and fresh with a crisp finish and hint of green apple flavor. I was brought back to my time spent in northeastern Italy, so drinking this wine was nostalgic.

I have to admit that my bottle of Da Vinci 2011 Chianti DOCG, a blend of sangiovese, merlot and other red grapes in Chianti, was kept to myself. I couldn’t help it, I didn’t want to — and didn’t have to — share. I savored every sip of this Tuscan beauty, admiring its ruby red color and plum and cherry flavors. I allowed my mind to drift back to those days spent in Chianti, specifically at Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, where the root of winemaking tradition began among the rolling hills of Tuscany. I rationed this bottle over the course of three days, and enjoyed every sip, remembering time spent learning about the area and its winemaking with Cantine Leonardo da Vinci Vice President & General Manager — a dashing Italian man named Giovanni Nencini.

Visit www.DaVinciwine.com for more information.

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