Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: Five Seasons Brewery and Tasting Notes: Italian Wines at JavaMonkey

I somehow ended up being double-booked last Thursday with an office happy hour at 5 Seasons Brewery at the Prado in Sandy Springs and the wine tasting at JavaMonkey. I was the only one at the office with a potential conflict when we decided on the date, and since getting my colleagues together after hours is almost as difficult as scheduling a dissertation committee meeting, I couldn't object too hard. Even so, I arrived on time, but about 10-15 minutes before anyone else from the office.

The restaurant has a lovely covered patio with a fountain, but as we found when we were seated, the noise level is too high to easily carry on conversation without shouting. So we moved inside, ordered drinks, and started the negotiations for appetizers. Since Five Seasons is a brewery, I decided to try the Kartoon Brune, a complex, Belgian-style ale. I love the St. Bernardus Abt 12 and found this to be similar in flavor profile. I'm not sure what the alcohol content is.

You may be familiar with the "Difficulty Principle of Appetizer Sharing:" for each additional person in the group beyond two, the difficulty of agreeing on an appetizer increases exponentially. I'll add that it gets more difficult the more years of education the individuals in the group have, which for our five, added up to multiple decades. We just ended up each getting a salad and one appetizer, which were then passed around. I got the Organic Farm Greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette as well as a special appetizer, Lamb Meatballs, which were served with "garlicky spinach" and some sort of tomato sauce. They were good, but definitely not lean meat. Other appetizers I tried included the Seared Jumbo Scallops, served with an orange glaze and farm micro greens, and the Wild Mushroom pizza. The scallops were cooked to the point that they came apart easily but were still tender in the middle, had a mildly spicy crust on them that balanced well with the orange glaze, and the greens gave it a nice texture. The pizza was good, too.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Casual and open; noise level outside is high, inside is medium
Food: Very good
Wine list: Limited; I'd go for the beer
Wait staff: Very Good, but the kitchen seemed slow
Desserts: Looked good (didn't try)
Vegetarian friendly? Somewhat with four "Little Plates," three pizzas, and one entree
Kid friendly? Hmmmm... Doubt it
Would I go back? Yes

I arrived at JavaMonkey just shy of the 9:00 p.m. cutoff for starting wine tastings. I felt the need to catch up, so my notes were limited, and I'll be using Hubby's as well. The theme was Italian wines.

Carpene Malvolti Prosecco, Veneto:
This family created the Method Charmant. I found it to be well-balanced and drinkable with just a hint of vanilla sweetness.
Rating: Very Good

2008 MontAsolo Pinot Grigio, Veneto:
An oddly buttery Pinot Grigio, the wine rep said it would work well with spicy and saline foods. I could see that, especially with scallops. Hubby described it as "H20" and "Better than NASCAR," which he doesn't like. Right, we'll just go with my rating: Meh

2006 MontAsolo Merlot, Veneto:
Strike two for the MontAsolo winery. This one was pretty unexciting as well, just Merlot spice with a little fruit. Hubby noted that it wanted a good Italian-style pizza.
Rating: Meh

2007 Pietra Majella Montepulciano d'Abruzzo:
Rating: Good, but still not exciting.

2006 Castello Monaci "Liante": 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera
Dark fruit with a little chocolate, and some butter as well. Yep, this one's a "pie wine."
Rating: Very Good

Ca'Bianca Ante Barbera d'Asti, Piedmont:
Nice, smooth berry flavors.
Rating: Very Good

Yeah, I know, those were pretty sparse notes. I'll do better next time. The thing to remember about a lot of Italian wines is that they tend to be better with food because of their acidity. There are exceptions, of course. One trend that intrigues me is that West Coast wineries are now making forays into Italian varietals. On our most recent trip, we tasted some that were great, and some that were not so good, but all were interesting.

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