In March, Randy’s Steakhouse hosted an Italian wine dinner featuring wines from Veneto, Toscano and Tuscany. It’s a bit confusing because there are two Ruffino’s – Ruffino (here) and Ruffino Dal (here). It doesn’t help that the family split the holdings among themselves and some were purchased outright by Constellation Brands in 2011. (Constellation previously owned 49.9%). But who cares about the intricacies of ownership – let’s talk wine.
RANDY’S HORS D’OEVRES
Wine Pairing: Ruffino La Marica, Prosecco, Veneto, Italy
This Prosecco is described as more than 85% Glera and other organic Prosecco grapes. (more) Although, the rep says its 100% Glera.
This one started out tasting like just white grape juice and very flat – which lead to the question of – does 5 minutes make a difference in a pour?
My dining companion switched with me – their glass tasted more like a bubbly and less like a kindergarten graduation party drink. It’s a book club Prosecco sweet enough for those that like it sweet, but dry enough for those that like it dry. [And yes, I know the term dry should not be used to describe wine – but let’s face it – it’s easier to understand than brut.]
The Prosecco did not go with the 1950s Betty Crocker Chicken salad concoction that was chopped chicken, a bag frozen mixed vegetables and mayonnaise – with jalapeños on top in a crunch red chip shell. Ok – I know it was really better than that – but it reminded me of the recipes from the 1950s cookbooks for “easy” meals. On the other hand, the Prosecco went really well with the potato, cheese and beef with a touch of curry. It really brought out the flavors of both.
TOMATO & MOZZARELLA SALAD WITH VINAIGRETTE DRESSING
Wine Pairing: Ruffino Aqua di Venus, Pinot Grigio, Toscana, Italy
This wine has an interesting story as to how it got its name and the shape of the bottle. (more) Spoiler – think the shell from Botticelli’s birth of Venus…. The rep described it as “a easily quaffable Pinot Grigio.”
I got stone fruit on the scent – maybe some green apple and acid (lemon). It’s slightly sparkly on the tongue despite not being a sparkling wine. It’s very mineral forward. The acidity of the salad evened out the wine a bit. I’d agree with the rep on his description – but at the same time, I prefer my Pinot Grigios with a little less mineral and a bit more fruit.
Now – while the description says “Toscana” the bottle that came home with me says “Friuli” – which is a completely different region in Italy. Fruili borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. To the south it faces the Adriatic Sea and to the west the Veneto region. Tuscany has borders on the west by the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea, which for the geographically challenged – let’s just say Mediterranean. Why is this important? Toscana is on the West side of Italy. Fruili is on the East side of Italy. Two completely different climates – two very different wines. The Fruili is describe as “green and flinty” while the Toscana is described as “tropical.” Pretty sure I drank the Fruili with the salad. But sadly, it’s not listed on Ruffino’s website.
BEEF STUFFED MANICOTTI WITH BOLOGNESE SAUCE
Wine Pairing: Ruffino Modus, Red Wine, Toscana, Italy
Technically a “super Tuscan” this is a blend of equal parts of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot (more). The rep says it’s 60% Sangiovese and then the others.
This is a deep garnet color with black fruit and sugar on the nose. Maybe some sandalwood or musk. I described it as a frat party where there is every scent possible of Axe body spray. Not a bad thing, just a bit overwhelming on the nose at first. My dining companion was much more elegant with “an outdoor Mediterranean market.” He got flavors of pepper and blood (iron). I got a sweet assault with an umami finish on the tongue. It’s very highly tannic with a lighter body than the color implies.
I really loved this wine and will have to find some as it gets better as it sits out – so one that should probably be aerated and decanted. However, my New Jersey Italian family isn’t going to do that – since Nana’s been drinking while cooking because it was amazing with the ground steak manicotti. It says Bolognese sauce – but it’s more of a marinara (no meat in sauce). It was excellent with the manicotti, so it will be amazing with my best friend’s lasagna. So, this is a Wednesday wine for me, and not just because we always have dinner on Wednesdays – but because it’s that good, I want to start drinking it early in the week.
VEAL OSSOBUCO WITH MARINERA SAUCE AND ANGEL HAIR PASTA
Wine Pairing: Ruffino Reserva Ducale Tan, Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
This Chianti Classico is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon. (more) This is a ruby colored wine whose scent was overpowered by the scent of the veal ossobuco coming out. It was also VERY tannic. Unfortunately, veal does not agree with me, so I had only a small piece of my companion’s meal to taste with the wine – which paired well (he agreed). I had it with an exceptionally spicy steak, which really brought out the sweet in the wine.
Pairing: Disaronno Originale Amaretto
All in all, the whites weren’t bad but I probably wouldn’t buy them for myself. Too many others I prefer, but I won’t turn my nose up at them at dinner. The Chianti wasn’t bad, and it was a true chianti you imagine getting in the tacky bottles. So, a good Tuesday night or Sunday with the huge family. However, I’ll be buying the red blend, even with the more than $20/bottle price point for everyday. It was really good and went well with the steak. Well worth having a bottle or two for when friends show up.