Took a time out from work Thursday to join a few others in the industry for a killer lunch at Cho-Lon on Blake and 15th, featuring 3 wines from the incredibly respected Master Sommelier and Restaurateur Bobby Stuckey and his partner (and Frasca’s Lead Chef), Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, who together own Scarpetta wines. On my drive in, I thought, “Huh, Asian ‘fusion’ and Italian vino…Interesting…” But then I decided if any Euro wine could compete beyond the predictable Alsatian and German whites, Italy’s acid-driven selections were a pretty safe bet.
I have decided that Italian wine IS the ultimate foodie.
Cho-Lon rolled out just about the entirety of their menu. It was quite the showcase, and it left me more than impressed. I have been there twice before. And although it was good, I hardly had a chance to really experience the expansive talent of Chef Lon Symensma. We began with Bobby’s ‘Scarpetta Timido Spumante’–as it sounds, a bashful, blushing rose sparkling made in the Charmat method (just as Prosecco often is), retaining bright raspberry and strawberry fruit. It is a blend of Pinot Nero (Noir for the un-Italian) and Blaufrankish (an Austrian grape that isn’t too far from Pinot Noir in character). This marriage produces a peculiar bouquet for a rose that goes beyond the predictable fruit and floral by providing an almost earthy, savory, herbal note to boot. This gives the bubbly more than a aperitif purpose in life and can carry the sipper well into the first course, as it did for us.
We enjoyed this high acid, lean pink with pork stuffed pot stickers, Kaya Toast with an Egg Cloud (think the most amazing french toast you have ever had… and multiply it by 10), Lobster Shu Mai and Crispy Calamari. This fatty, salty spread made for a mighty match with the sparkling.
The next course was met with the 2009 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio. A grape that can often be perceived as ‘simple’, thanks to such quality jug producers as Bolla and Cavit, Pinot Grigio is overlooked and severely underestimated. Bobby explained that they thought so much more of this varietal, that they planted it in uniquely complex Ponca soils that consist of marine deposits and fossils: a broken down sea bed within the marl. This isn’t far from the profile of such famous regions as Chablis, Champagne and the Loire. Low yields in superb soil can only usually mean one thing for wine: high quality. This Pinot Grigio will astound you for the dollar! It has a broader palate than you may associate with PG, as it is evidently more complex, structured and sees time on its lees, allowing for a creamier texture. The PG was stunning with the Lemongrass Beet Salad, the Wok Brussels Sprouts and Cashew Snap Peas.
Finally, Scarpetta’s newest addition from the other side of Italy, the Piemontese-born 2008 Barbera del Monferatto. Only in neutral oak for a year, Bobby is striving here to retain the essence of Piedmont, not wood, to showcase this grape’s natural knack for incomparable fruit. Barbera is a high acid, low tannin, low alcohol, medium body youthfully expressed red. In short, this means its flexibility with food is hard to match. It is simply exactly what you want in a red for the widest range of foods. Hence, it fit in perfectly for an Asian-inspired lunch. The Barbera was a perfect match for the Steak Tartare log as well as the mini shredded pork sliders. The zesty flavors of the heavily sauteed brussels actually found a good tune to sing with this red as well.
So check’m out: the new exciting wines from Scarpetta and the mouthwatering scene at Cho-Lon, yet another restaurant that is making Denver’s culinary culture proud.