a community of wine lovers


November 2006

Ride for Life (in aid of Force) Festa di San Martino Friday November 17 at
Michael Caines at ABode Exeter

Thank you to all who have booked and sent payment for this evening of wine, food and friendship. Mario Fontana will arrive on the day from his home in the Barolo wine hills to present his wines, and he is also bringing with him some rare early season tartufi bianchi di Alba - white Alba truffles! Michael Caines and new executive chef Ross Melling and their teams will be serving us a brilliant menu to accompany the wines.

For those attending the Festa, the evening will commence at 7.30 in the Cathedral Room of ABode Exeter (formerly the Royal Clarence) for Prosecco Bisol 'Jeio' (courtesy of Gianluca Bisol) and canapes. We'll aim to sit down in the Clarence Room by 8pm. It's going to be a full evening with some great food and an amazing selection of wines, so it's unlikely to finish much before 11.30.

Remember, ABode Exeter is offering anyone attending the Festa a special room rate of £85 b & b. To take advantage of this rate, please contact Helen by EventsCo-ordinatorExeter@michaelcaines.com or telephone 01392 223648.

Here's the Festa di San Martino menu and wines

All proceeds will go to the Ride for Life fund in aid of FORCE, our dynamic local cancer organisation. It's hard to believe that Ride for Life has now been going for ten years. Michael has been a big supporter over the years (one of our earliest events was a very special dinner cooked by Michael and Nello in Nello's Ristorante). Over this period, and with the help of so many who have supported events such as this, Ride for Life has now raised nearly £100,000 for FORCE. So thank you all very much for your support.

If anyone would still like to join us at this late stage, please contact me as soon as possible as there may be some late cancellations. My telephone number is 01392 873778 or email marc@vino.co.uk


Spotlight on Mario Fontana and and the wines of Cascina Fontana

In honour of Mario's visit for the Festa, over the next weeks, we'll have the opportunity to taste the full range of his exquisite Cascina Fontana wines: the classy and elegant white Gavi; young punchy red Dolcetto d'Alba; iconic Barbera d'Alba (my favourite wine in the world); Nebbiolo delle Langhe from the single Castello di Sinio vineyard; different vintages of the magnificent Barolo; and the lightly sweet, low-in-alcohol Moscato del Piemonte, the perfect wine to end a meal.

Many Club Vino members already know Mario from his frequent visits here (a number of us also visited Cascina Fontana last year for the Club Vino trip). For those who are unable to join us for the Festa, Mario will be with me and Geoff in The Wine Cellar on the morning of Saturday November 18, so this is a great opportunity to meet with Mario to talk to him about his wines as well as to taste them. We will have some great Barolo open for tasting on the 18th!

Then on the evening of Saturday the 18th, we will be having an informal 'meet the winemaker' evening with some simple typical foods in our home Quay Cottage, Ferry Road (opposite the Wine Cellar). Numbers will be limited, so if you'd like to join us, please let me know as soon as possible - all we ask is that you bring along a bottle of your favourite Cascina Fontana wine to share with everyone else.

I have known Mario Fontana for more than fifteen years, and I have enjoyed sampling his wines regularly, dating back to vintages of Barolo from the early 1980s. Over this period, Mario, who is still a young man, has developed and grown in stature as a winemaker, a fact recognised when his outstanding Barolo 2001 was one of only a very select few wines from Barolo to receive a Bronze Medal in this year's International Wine and Spirits Competition in London (a one of the most highly respected international wine competitions). Mario's wines simply get better and better every year.

Mario undertakes every phase of the production of wine himself: from the tending of the vines, the growing and harvesting of the grapes, to the winemaking and the lengthy maturation of his wines (a process that takes years for Barolo). He sells his production direct to faithful customers who return year after year to taste and purchase at the source, as well as to a select number of international customers in Belgium, the United States, Japan and elsewhere. We are proud to be sole outlet for Cascina Fontana wines in the UK.

Many will recall that Mario's iconic Barbera was the house red at Nello's Ristorante. When Nello and I cycled to Venice in 1997, we came down, down, down from the dizzying heights of the Alps above Turin and were met in Alba by Mario and the Mayor of the town. (I remember well that after our efforts of climbing the mountains, the meal that evening, brasato al Barolo prepared by Mario's mother Elda, was one of the best I've ever had in my life!). On many other visits to Le Langhe, Mario and his wife Luisa have been the most generous and hospitable of hosts, teaching us about the foods and culture of the region, as well as about their stunning wines.

Please put a date in your diary to come along and meet Mario, learn about Le Langhe and taste his wines next Saturday in The Wine Cellar or at our home in the evening.


Coming next: the taste of Le Langhe
Recipe for agnolotti or ravioli al plin

Agnolotti al plin are tiny, handmade ravioli that are the speciality of Mario and Luisa's region, Le Langhe. They are stuffed with a mixture of pork, veal and chicken, and with greens such as spinach and cabbage, then hand pinched together with the fingers ('al plin') to form tiny little pockets of stuffed pasta no bigger than a 20 pence piece. Most usually they are served bathed in copious amounts of melted butter and fresh salvia - sage - topped with shavings of parmiggiano reggiano cheese. Absolutely sensational with a glass of Mario's Barbera!

Luisa and Mario's mother Elda have now given me the definitive recipe for preparing agnolotti al plin, together with a foolproof step-by-step series of photographs that demonstrates the process - it is not difficult but it is laborious, time consuming and rather fiddly.

I will post the recipe soon and and also instructional pictures. To make something like this, many hands definitely make the task easier (a fact proven by Geoff's communal grape harvest!). Anybody interested in a Vino agnolotti al plin party? If so, drop me an email.

Best to all,

Marc and Kim


Copyright Marc Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved
Images copyright Kim Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved

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