Ah, the United States. Culinary-wise, the country calls to mind… Hotdogs. Hamburgers. Turkey for Thanksgiving, preferably with beer and the NFL.
For the record, I do not in any way, shape, or form regard this food disparagingly. On the contrary, I fully acknowledge the wonders of gorging on an In-N-Out Double-Double – preferably with even more beer… Or a Malbec, but that’s just me being a bit highbrow about this.
I, however, digress.
The thing is, no matter how glorious American burgers could be, two months of indulging in them isn’t feasible (nor advisable because, health)… and at a certain point, one could get tired of eating them.
Enter something I love about California: The many different restaurants available, serving different cuisine from all over the world.
We especially appreciated this when we decided to drive from SoCal to San Jose to meet up with even more family (at the height of California being ground-zero for COVID, we decided driving would be safer versus taking a plane). After catching up with everyone, in a moment of exhaustion and starvation, we decided to go get some takeout from a nearby Il Fornaio, eat the order in our hotel room, and happily embrace the food coma that we were sure is going to happen… and me being me, I decided to order wine as well.
Luckily, they had half-bottles available (again, I’m not as heavy a drinker as one may think), and the maître d’ was nice enough to give me a free wine opener (because I left mine in SoCal and I knew the hotel we were staying at did not have one).
Anyway, here we go…
Label: Santa Margherita Chianti Classico Riserva 2016
There are two important things to consider from the label: The words Riserva and Classico.
Riserva from an Italian wine perspective (and I’m oversimplifying the concept right now because depending on the Italian region, it could only be used after strict winemaking regulations… Not the case with Chianti) generally means a wine that has been aged longer (usually at least a year), and suggests a higher quality than a similar wine without the label… In our case, a “Chianti Classico.”
Classico means that the wine has been produced in the historic zone… For this bottle, it means that the wine was made in the original location where Chianti used to be (over years, geographic limits change for a myriad of reasons). It suggests that the area has the ideal conditions to produce said wine.
Why I Drank It
Ehrm… Availability? Size? Plus, for a Chianti Classico Riserva, it was a pretty good deal… I’m a cheaper wine date than people could imagine a wino could be. Also, I really believe in certain culinary experiences being made better with a glass of wine… but I’ll save that for the food pairing section.
Ripe fruit-forward (off the top of my head were ripe red cherries), plums, smoke, and spice. I know it sounds a bit boring, but it was a pretty straight-up Sangiovese, with its high acidity and rich tannins making it the perfect Italian food wine.
4.25 wine glasses out of 5. It was pretty decent and textbook. I think it could have used a couple of years more in the bottle to add a bit more complexity to the wine (but I didn’t have the luxury of time, the pizza needed it stat!). I’d use it in a class to illustrate what a Chianti Classico is supposed to be like, and it was quite pleasant.
Italian food, most definitely. It went well with the Pizza Margherita and Filleto di Bue we had. I’d also pair it with tomato and/or meat-based pasta to play around with the wine’s acidity and tannins. I know I’m probably going old-school, but even if theoretically it would go with, say, a nice rib eye steak, I’d still go with the “if they grow together, they go together” philosophy… After all, there’s a myriad of Italian food options available anyway. I’d also have it with parmesan cheese.