The 2012 Wine Dinner Series at The Westin Casuarina Resort concluded on 22 June, but not before offering a finale that deserved three cheers to with its Tre Bicchieri wines.
The Westin wine dinners, a popular event series on Grand Cayman’s culinary calendar going back to 2003, always seems to end the season with a flair. This year, the resort might have outdone itself.
With Ferdinand’s Restaurant at full capacity, the Westin chefs teamed up with Palm Bay International Fine Wines & Spirits to deliver an Italian-themed meal that was both authentic and delicious.
The theme of the wines was also Italian, but these were not ordinary Italian wines. Gambero Rosso, the food, wine, cooking and publishing conglomerate, annually announces its Tre Bicchieri - three glasses - awards for the best quality Italian wines. In 2012, Gambero Rosso reviewed approximately 20,000 different Italian wines and awarded Tre Bicchieri to only 375 of those wines. For the Westin Wine Dinner, Palm Bay International provided wines that had been awarded Tre Bicchieri, meaning they were rated among Italy’s top two per cent of wines in terms of quality.
For the welcome reception held by the beach outside of Ferdinand’s Restaurant, guests were served an Aperol Spritz, a cocktail made with Cavit Lunetta Prosecco, Aperol and a splash of soda over ice and then garnished with a half slice of orange. Aperol is a Campari-like aperitif, but with much less alcohol content.
Palm Bay International’s Director of Sales - Western Hemisphere Aaron Jay said the Aperol Spritz is popular year round.
“It’s the No. 1 cocktail in Europe right now,” he said. After mingling over their cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres, guests took their seats inside a sold-out Ferdinand’s, which included a large hen party.
The first Tre Bicchieri wine was then served - Altemasi Riserva Graal 2001 from Cavit, a sparkling white wine with vintage Champagne-like characteristics.
Jay said that the Graal spent three years on its lees - aging
in the bottle in the presence of yeast - and that the evidence of that aging can be seen in the final product.
“It has very small bubbles,” he said. “That’s a sign of aging and the quality of the yeast. The better the yeast, the smaller the bubbles.”
Although it is a sparkling white wine, Jay thinks Graal, with its flavours of brioche and nuts,is as good a vintage Champagne.
“I’d like to put this in a blind tasting against Dom Pérignon ,” he said. “I’ll bet it would win.”
With the Graal, the Westin served a foursome of seafood small-bites which included crisp-skin brazino - a European sea bass - calamari, lobster and insalata di vongole - a small salad with clams. Following this was an quartet of antipasto - mixed cold meats, cheeses, peppers and salad - served with Col d’Orcia Nearco, a ‘super Tuscan’ Bordeaux-style blend of 50 per cent Merlot, 30 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 per cent Syrah. Although a little overpowering for the antipasto, this was a fantastic wine with bold flavours and a long finish.
“You taste chocolate with a little leather,” said Jay. “It is so elegant.”
The menu turned more hearty after this, with Chianti-braised pork cheeks over Tuscan beans with garlic, topped with a fried sage leaf. This delicious course was served with Sella & Mosca Marchese di Villamarina, a rich red wine made on the island of Sardinia from 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Aging for 18 months in French oak softened the tannins nicely, but it still had the structure to stand up to the juiciness of the pork cheeks.
To cleanse the palate after pork cheeks, a refreshing cucumber and Grappa granita with candied lemon zest was served.
Finishing off the savory courses was veal involtini, thin slices of veal rolled around a baby spinach, pimento and prosciutto stuffing and served with roasted pumpkin risotto with fresh rosemary.
This dish was served with what Jay called the biggest wine of the night, 2007 Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico, a wine made from 100 per cent Aglianico grapes grown in the volcanic ash soil in Campania, Italy. With an intense bouquet of cherries, this delicious wine paired excellently with the veal.
It’s almost compulsory for Italian meals to end with coffee and sweets, and the Westin finished things off with a trio of desserts including pistachio biscotti, Frangelico zabaione and tiramisu. In addition to coffee, served with the desserts was Col d’Orcia Pascena Moscadello late harvest wine from Tuscany.
Made with 100 per cent White Muscat grapes, this wine was sweet, but with good acidity, providing a satisfying end to a wonderful meal.
When the kitchen staff came out for a bow, Jay and Westin Food & Beverage Manager Carl Goldner spoke a little about the wine series. Although the 2012 Wine Dinner series involved monthly dinners from January through June, Goldner said that there seemed to be some demand for the next season to start earlier - perhaps a soon as October or November of this year.