Location: 400 N.Canon Drive. Bevery Hills, CA 90210. Phone: 310.205.5444
Date: January 24, 2019
Liz Lee of Sage Society always puts on fabulous winemaker dinners. She focuses on making every element perfect from the location, food, wines and has some of the best winemakers in the world.
For Isole e Olena — one of Tuscany’s greatest producers — she selected il Pastaio, one of the many Drago restaurants. Normally, Giacomino Drago (one of the several chef brothers) helms il Pastaio — a Beverly Hills mainstay — but tonight Celestino was supervising this special dinner. Celestino and I have been friends for nearly twenty years since we met when he catered the dinner the night before our wedding!
Il Pastaio has a nice private room — or maybe it was a section of the restaurant that can be closed off for special events.
But it was decorated with illuminated trees and ceramics from Caltagirone Sicily (the Drago’s are Sicilian).
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru. 92 points.
Crispy Shrimps, Fennel Marmalade. Like a little spring spring roll, but the combination with the fennel jelly was fabulous. Sweet and interesting.
Foie Gras Crostino, Caramelized Onions, Aged Balsamic. Great combination of rich foie, sweet onions, and savory crostino.
Scrambled Eggs and Truffles. Simple but perfect.
Close up of the table.
And my spot.
Liz Lee introduces our winemaking guests.
In the center is Paolo De Marchi, legendary owner and winemaker of Isole e Olena. His family originally hails from Northern Italy but in the 1950s they bought the Isole e Olena and through lots of hard work and innovation brought it to the peak of Tuscan wineries.
The lady in red is the highly selective importer.
Our special menu.
Drago bakery bread.
2016 Isole e Olena Chardonnay Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. 90 points. Very well made Chardonnay in a modern style, ripe fruit, rich but fresh, lovely complexity, lots of savoury oak, especially on the slightly resinous finish, very good length.
2012 Isole e Olena Chardonnay Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. VM 93. Another super-impressive wine, the 2012 Chardonnay Collezione Privata races across the palate with gorgeous nuance and pure texture. Apricot, white flowers, spices, butter and French oak all meld together in a Chardonnay that stands out for its texture and balance. Today, the French oak is quite evident, but that should be less of an issue over time. I have seen Isole’s Chardonnay age well in the past, and expect to see the same here. The textured, impeccable finish makes it impossible to resist a second taste. I am typically not a fan of Italian Chardonnay. This is about as good as it gets.
2011 Isole e Olena Chardonnay Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. VM 89. Almonds, butter, pastry and juicy yellow stone fruits emerge from Isole e Olena’s 2011 Chardonnay. Paolo De Marchi has done a remarkable job with this wine considering how difficult the vintage was for whites. The 2011 shows the ripeness and breadth of the year in its volume, yet all the elements are beautifully balanced. This is about as good as it gets in 2011.
Sea Food, Sea Urchin Panna Cotta. This is the second sea urchin custard I’ve had recently! There was a lot of it too, and it had that interesting sweet/rich/briny quality. The seafood was impeccable as well. Lovely dish, and actually a great pairing with the more mature Chardonnays.
2015 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico. VM 87-89. Tasted from tank just prior to bottling, the 2015 Chianti Classico is very pretty. Surprisingly medium in body, especially for the year, it is a model of total sophistication. It will be interesting to see if the 2015 gains a bit more flesh. Today, it is on the lighter side, even by the estate’s historical standards.
agavin: this is IEO’s basic Chianti. It’s a pretty blend, very much a great Italian table wine.
Scallops Saltimbocca, Cream of Forbidden Black Rice. I’ve never had the forbidden cream before! Great scallop nicely offset with the pancetta.
2016 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. no reviews at all.
agavin: Cepparello is IEO’s “Super Tuscan” being basically a pure Sangiovese.
2015 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. 93 points. dark red, dark ripe cherries, masculine, lovely style of Sangiovese, rich & round
2014 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. VM 97. The 2014 Cepparello is one of the truly great wines of the vintage. Vivid and intense in all of its dimensions, it exudes purity from start to finish. Silky tannins, expressive aromatics and beautifully delineated, bright, layered Sangiovese fruit are some of the signatures. In 2014, Paolo De Marchi produced an epic Cepparello for the ages. Don’t miss it.
2013 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. VM 96. The 2013 Cepparello is superb. Polished, silky nuanced and exceptionally beautiful, the 2013 exudes freshness and energy from start to finish. Succulent red cherry, plum, lavender and rose petal are some of the signatures. Aging in French oak shapes the wine nicely without marking it excessively. The purity of the flavors is striking. This is an especially cool, savory Cepparello built on finesse and persistence rather than power. Rain during harvest robbed the wine of some of its breadth. Otherwise, this is a striking Cepparello. I can’t wait to see how it ages.
Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Pickle Mushrooms, Truffle Pecorino, Truffles. Fabulous Carpaccio. In fact, probably one of the best I’ve ever had. Great beefiness, olive oil, and truffle notes.
2013 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. 95-96+ points. Tasted after the outstanding 2015 Cepparello, this also is an absolutely stunning wine. A little more restrained on the nose maybe showing dark fruit, spices, tobacco, floral notes. Lots of fruit, powerful tannins, wonderful acidity in near perfect balance on the palate. Big, dense and concentrated, but not heavy. Like Cepparello, quite elegant in fact with lots of finesse. Super persistence to the finish. Keep. 95-96+.
agavin: Gran Selezione is even pricer (and rarer) than the Cepparello and is like the ultimate Chianti. Generally Paolo blends the Sangiovese with a bit of French wine like Syrah or Cabernet depending on the year. Selection is fierce and he uses only the best sections of the vineyards meticulously sorted.
2010 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. VM 98-99. The 2010 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione is extraordinary. A wine of pedigree and class, the 2010 boasts magnificent intensity and depth yet never comes across as heavy. The flavors are layered, nuanced and beautifully delineated in the glass. Plum, black cherry, spice, menthol and sweet spices are laced into the exquisite finish. The 2010 is a stunner today, but also has plenty of upside for the future. A reduction of time in barrel vis-a-vis the 2006 has paid off handsomely. The 2010 is going to be expensive, but it is worth every penny. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot round out the blend.
Cavatelli Wild Boar Ragout. I couldn’t help think of how Paolo told us that he hates the cinghiale (the Tuscan white boar) because they mess with the vines — so he enjoys the revenge of eating them. This pasta was amazing, as Celestino’s hearty ragus always are. It was rich and porky. The cavatelli had that awesome thick chew.
2006 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. VM 93. Isole e Olena’s 2006 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, a wine that was originally produced for home consumption, turned out to be the drawing board for the Gran Selezione. Cherry jam, earthiness, spices, mocha, sweet herbs and French oak all meld together in the glass. The 2006 is marked by a slightly oxidative note in its aromatics it has always shown – the result of having spent three and a half years in oak. Otherwise, the 2006 is exceptional.
agavin: interesting that this was my favorite and the professional reviewers liked the younger wines.
2006 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. VM 96. The 2006 Cepparello is a super classic wine. It brings together the best elements of the house style in its breathtaking aromatics, delineated fruit and striking overall balance. All of the elements are in the right place for the 2006 to develop into a spectacular wine. The 2006 stands apart for its nuance, depth and overall detail. Juicy red cherries, raspberries, rose petals and licorice build to the huge, dramatic finish. The 2006 is one of the all-time great Cepparellos. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the stunning 1988. The 2006 has blossomed beautifully in bottle over the last few years, and it is now clear I underestimated its potential.
2005 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. VM 94. The 2005 Cepparello is glorious. A dark, mysterious wine, the 2005 has put on considerable weight in bottle, while the flavors have turned quite somber, with plenty of espresso, dried flowers, mocha, tar and licorice overtones woven throughout. The 2005 can be enjoyed today, but it also has more than enough stuffing to last for another 10-15 years. It is one of the real triumphs of the vintage. Specifically, the 2005 exudes a strong, assertive personality that simply can’t be denied. In 2005, proprietor Paolo De Marchi blended in a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure.
agavin: again I liked this less structured, less “big” wine.
2004 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. VM 95. The 2004 Cepparello has fleshed out beautifully since I last tasted it. Dark raspberries, flowers, licorice and spices blossom from the glass as the wine opens up over time. When it was young the 2004 was a much more linear wine, but since then it has put on a lot of weight. Today, the 2004 comes across as a modern day 1982 because of its balance of aromatics, fruit and structure.
Rabbit Cannellone, Squash Puree. This was a novel (and very Italian) dish. The rabbit was like a pink meat filling — not unlike dumpling filling. It was rolled into the pasta and than the unusual sweet squash sauce.
2014 Isole e Olena Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. 92 points. Paolo has some pure Cab and Syrah cuvees too.
2013 Isole e Olena Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. VM 96. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione Privata is superb. A delicate, nuanced wine in this vintage, the Cabernet Sauvignon speaks in hushed tones. Silky tannins and highly expressive aromatics add to an impression of total finesse. In many vintages, the Cabernet can be quite big, but not in 2013. This is a brilliant showing from Isole and proprietor Paolo De Marchi.
2015 Isole e Olena Syrah Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. 92 points.
2011 Isole e Olena Syrah Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. VM 94. The 2011 Syrah Collezione Privata is a big, powerful wine. Dark cherry, smoke, plum, pipe tobacco, cedar, leather and menthol notes make a strong opening statement. Plush and deep on the palate, the 2011 is super-inviting. A dollop of Viognier rounds out the blend. This is one of the most intriguing Syrahs being made in Italy today.
Pan Roasted Lamb Loin, Eggplant, Apple Fritters. Yum, lamb.
2000 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT. 91 points. Red berries and rose hip tea in the nose, all a bit high toned. Much personality, elegance, consistence right from the start but playing all cards only for so. with some patience: clearly best sip on day 3 from remaining small tasting glas. Good length, great robustness, sweet fruit expression. Great wine.
1998 Isole e Olena Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione Privata Toscana IGT.
1997 Isole e Olena Syrah Collezione Privata Toscana IGT. 90 points.
Wagyu New York Steak, Potato Gnocchi, Parmesan Cheese Cream, Pea Tendrils, Balsamic Sabayon. Boy was I getting full — and this was some great beef!
2008 Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico. Sticky!
Italian Cheeses. Liz normally doesn’t like sweets at the end of red wine meals as to not conflict with the wines but I twisted her arm and brought some of this:
Another new flavor — Orange Cinnamon Gelato — I steeped the milk with blood orange rind, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg! — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — oh my! — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #IceCream #NomNom #dessert #orange #cinnamon #vanilla #nutmeg
Have a few wines!
My cryptic notes.
And some glasses.
As always from Liz and Sage Society an impeccable dinner. Lovely setting, Drago food at its best (and a rare and excellent showing these days with Celistino helming the kitchen), individual labeled stems for every wine (and there were A LOT) and perfect wine service!
Plus Paolo talked and was available all night we really got an insight into the creativity and energy that has made him one of Tuscany’s best winemakers. He engaged in all sorts of experiments with various clones, sites, variants, and techniques in the vineyard, individually pressing and separating small batches of differing grapes. In this way he was able to isolate his best plots and some variations and techniques that really enabled him to push his winemaking forward.
Chef Celestino won the left and Paolo De Marchi in the middle.sharethis_button(); ?>