We were finally able to connect with The Caller and his charming wife. They are retired and almost impossible to get a date with, as they are always on the go. We finally did connect and then it was where and when. During the week, worked best for both of us and then to find someplace half way between, and they suggested Arta’s Italian Restaurant in Brighton, they had never been there, and we had never heard of it. It turns out that it was right off the main road, but not downtown, in fact it was in a medical plaza of offices and the restaurant looked more like a place for breakfast or lunch from the exterior, but we were there.
We got there early, after the long drive, you understand, but we found out that the bar opens, before the restaurant, so we were fine, in fact, we even got out table selected, as we were the only ones there. I got busy right away looking at the menu and the wine list, which had some fine wines on it, and not the type to keep stored above a radiator. Then The Caller and his wife came in, and we selected some appetizers to start with; by this time a couple of other tables were also occupied. We ordered a plate of Calamari Fritti Misto with Squid rings, Zucchini Squash, Semolina dusted and fried with Lemon Aioli and Sriracha Mayo. We also had a plate of Carpaccio di Filetto, thinly sliced Tenderloin, with Pommery Mustard, Arugula and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. We are used to sharing. We also started with a bottle of Domaine (Sylvaine &) Alain Normand Macon La Roche-Vineuse 2018. The Domaine is a partnership that was created in 2010 and encompasses thirty-five hectares of vineyards in five communes in Burgundy and the Maconnais and using sustainable farming techniques. Macon La Roche-Vineuse is an appellation in the Maconnais with sloping vineyards on soils that vary from fossil-rich limestone to heavy marls and is exclusively Chardonnay. Originally known as Saint-Sorlin with documented records of wines from the late 1600’s, the name was changed to the secular La Roche-Vineuse by the French Revolution and only formally adopted in 1908. The wine had a “long fermentation with natural yeasts; works on the lees in tank.” The wine was a pale gold and offered notes of white and yellow fruits and exotic florals. On the palate soft fruit from a big wine, totally balanced and a nice medium count finish of fruit and terroir.
By the time the entrées appeared the restaurant was more than half full, on a Tuesday night, and that was very impressive. The Caller had “Bocce” a special that was house made sausage crumbled and in pasta purses cooked in a Sage Sauce; while his wife had Frutti di Mare Misto with Grilled Salmon, Scallops and Shrimp with Lemon Butter and a Mushroom Rice Pilaf. My Bride had the Bronzini, which was also a special for the evening, as she enjoys her Mediterranean Sea Bass which was cooked to perfection and somehow that big piece of fish disappeared; while I had the Ravioli all-Aragosta a dish of Zebra-striped Lobster stuffed Ravioli with a Seafood Saffron Cream. This was followed by a bottle of Domaine Gueneau Sancerre Les Griottes 2018. The Domaine has sixteen hectares planted on the steep slopes of Sury-en-Vaux, Chavignol and Sancerre. The Cuvee Les Griottes is a one-hectare plot in Chavignol and the name means cherries, as the vineyard used to be an old Morello Cherry orchard. The Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted about twenty-five years ago on a pebbly-stony soil. The wine is mechanically harvested and pneumatically pressed at low pressure to get the clearest juice and allowed to settle for two days, then fermentation on the lees and estate bottled. The pale-yellow wine offered a soft perfume of florals. On the palate a rich texture of stone fruit with a finish of terroir. In hindsight, I should have ordered the Sancerre first, followed by the Maconnais, but they were still great.
We then shared a Crème Brulee, coffee and a glass of Henriques & Henriques Rainwater Madeira NV. Henriques & Henriques have been producing wines in Madeira since 1850. Rainwater Madeira is a lighter, drier style compared to other Madeira wines, though it has a long life and one still hears of 19th Century bottles coming to the market. The slopes are so steep, that it is said that the only water the vines get is from the rains. The production laws are rather lax about Rainwater and the two most common varietals are Tinta Negra Mole and Verdelho. Because the slopes are so steep, grapes are manually picked and earlier compared to table wines, as they are chosen for high acidity. After pressing, and maceration, during the fermentation process Brandy is added to the must to stop the fermentation, the later the Brandy is added the drier the wine will be. The most unique aspect is that the wine is exposed to both heat and oxygen and this is called “Maderization” and there are basically two ways to do it. The Rainwater is aged for about three years. A beautiful deep golden color with a delightful nose with notes of Crème Brulee, almonds and orange zest. On the palate the wine is a mix of the notes with a freshness and lightness that is hard for me to verbalize, but whenever I get a chance, I will have a glass.