I am always surprised to come across restaurants in unlikely places with excellent wines. For example, last night I took some friends to dinner at La Cucina di Danielle in Mykonos, and we drank some extraordinary wines from the restaurant’s wine list, including 2002 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape White Vieilles Vignes, 2000 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra, and 1997 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto.
You might think that this isn’t any big deal. But think about it for a moment. This is on a small desert island where most people are more interested in cocktails and raving than fine wine. And getting serious bottles over here is next to impossible, although a new wine shop called Cellier has a good selection of some top wines, including 2003 Bordeaux. But what Danielle Chiantini does is really a labor of love. Many of the bottles on his small, well-chosen wine list are hand-carried from trips to Italy and other parts of the world. And he can talk with anyone about the latest top wine from Tuscany, Piedmont or anywhere else in Italy.
The wine of the evening was the Clerico Barolo, which was wonderfully perfumed with loads of crushed berries and hints of spices. It was full-bodied yet balanced, silky and refined. I would give it even more points than the 95 I originally gave it in a blind tasting – 97 points last night. The Beaucastel white was a bit closed and funky at first, but with air, it showed some of the ripe pineapple, vanilla and tropical fruit that I expected. Still, it was a slightly disappointing – 89 points. The 1997 Casanova Cerretalto was also less exciting than I expected, but I had this the other day at home and it was a knock-out. It was a little earthy and subdued last night, but it still showed outstanding fruit and structure. Leave that one for another year. 94 points. I think many of the top 1997s Brunellos will be drinking wonderfully next year, but they are still a bit tight now.
Be warned if you go to La Cucina di Danielle, however. The food is bad. I would rather not get into it, but who needs to eat fois gras on Mykonos? Some grilled local fish or delicate pasta would have complemented the wines perfectly…