By Chris Gill
When chef Michael Chiarello was eliminated from Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs I was both dejected and relieved. I was dejected because I know that Chiarello is an incredibly talented chef who deserves success and acclaim, but at the same time I was relieved as I didn’t want to see him take on yet another responsibility in addition to his Napa restaurant Bottega, his Chiarello Family Vineyards winery, and the new restaurant he plans on opening in San Francisco. Having enjoyed several phenomenal meals at Bottega, I’ve always appreciated the attention to detail and passion that goes into each dish, which is largely due to his frequent presence in the kitchen.
Another reason why I’ve enjoyed my meals at Bottega so much is because the chef’s own Chiarello Family Vineyards wines pair incredibly well with his food. In fact, I suspect that his having to use another type of wine in the Iron Chef elimination round may have cost him victory, as his Cabernet caviar with goat cheese dish was criticized for lacking flavor. If Chiarello could have used his Eileen Cabernet Sauvignon he’d probably still be in the competition, as his wine is intensely rich and bursting with bold Cabernet personality that certainly would have exploded on the judges’ palates and impressed them.
Named after Chiarello’s wife, Eileen Cabernet Sauvignon is just one of many stunning wines produced by Chiarello Family Vineyards, which also offers the excellent Roux Old Vine Petite Sirah, Gianna and Felicia Old Vine Zinfandels, and Bambino Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown on 20 acres surrounding Chiarello’s home in the Napa Valley. His Petite Sirah and Zinfandel vines are nearly a century old, which, combined with the skills of his winemaker Thomas Brown (formerly of Turley, which is renowned for its Zinfandel and Petite Sirah wines), results in wines with alluring depth, character, and finesse.
The 2007 Eileen Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Chiarello’s best wines to date, delivering vibrant fruit and just a hint of oak, making it very approachable in its youth and enticing to drink with food. With its concentrated (but not heavy) currant, black berry, and red cherry flavors and hints of spice and dried Mediterranean herbs that add complexity, the wine is also compelling on its own. There’s enough tannic backbone to support aging a bottle 10 years, but impatient drinkers shouldn’t worry about popping the cork now. Unfortunately, the 2007 vintage sold out quickly, but the similar 2008 vintage was just released in October and is still available.
For more information visit Chiarello Vineyards