Guardia 33 Wines Come To The United States And Make A Big Impression On An Executive Chef
As a journalist it is always “fun” to experience a birth of a restaurant, resort, winery or a wine that is new to the region or even the country. Recently a new line of wines arrived in Las Vegas and all we can say is BRAVO! If we had our way, every new wine that gets released should be included in the cheap cases of wine that you can get online, so everyone has the opportunity to enjoy them without having to spend a lot of money, as well as getting them delivered straight to your front door. I know, it should definitely be a thing, right?
Italy, of course is no newcomer to wine as their winemakeing skills and talents have been perfected from antiquity. Guardia 33 is a wonderful line of wines that has arrived in Las Vegas and making a big splash in this land of All-Star Chefs and Master Sommeliers.
The roots of Guardia 33 start in the quaint Village of Guardia Sanframondi in the region of Campania. Campania is located in southern Italy on the Peninsula with the Tyrrhenian Sea just to the west. It is also home to La Guardiense farming cooperative, formed by 33 associates in 1960, with a plan to help the local economy through combined efforts of research, development, production, shipping and marketing.
It is now over 50 years old and has grown to over 1000 members. The Cooperative’s focus is all indigenous grapes. They have exported these new wines to the United States with great fanfare and have impressed many.
All are DOC and labeled under the brand “Guardia 33”, meaning “guard 33”, named after the 33 original founders of the cooperative. The four white wines really stand out on a wine list as they are very interesting to say the least. All are members of the Greco family of grapes and now, with DNA testing, oenologists believe them to have been the parent of most of the white varietals in Italy.
We started with the lovely Guardia 33 white wines first with great anticipation. The Sannio DOC is aged in stainless steel. It has gently aromatic notes with balanced minerality and straw-colored in the glass. On the Palate hints of melon and citrus notes are prominent. Fiano, Sannio DOC is much more intense. On the nose there are light aromas of all -spice, green herbs, almonds and pine nuts. The palate confirms the nose with a creamy mouth feel and nice balanced acidity on the finish. Fiano Apiano On the noise shows aromas of Almond, Pine nuts and citrus as well. All of these are confirmed on the palate with a nice long bright finish. Falanghina, Guardiolo DOC, Is a nice refreshing wine. Just like the other wines previous to this one there are notes of herbs , green pepper and a slight nuttiness on the palate with very light citrus notes on the finish. The final white wine was a real treat and is one that only a few Americans have tried. Coda di Volpe, Sannio DOC, “fox’s tail”. In the glass this very special wine was straw colored and the nose and palate exploded with white fruit and citrus notes and finished with light well balanced acidity.
Having enjoyed the white wines immensely it was time to “bump” it up, and that we surely did as we tried the first of the red wines. First off, we have to say that both were amazing and caught our attention right away. Aglianico, Guardiolo DOC is aged stainless steel. Its name is thought to come from the Roman term “ellenico” (Hellenic) used for the Greeks, who brought it to Campania. For a red wine that was aged in stainless steel it was rather complex and reminded us of a Barolo in many ways. Old world signature earth notes come through on the nose and on the palate with lingering notes of smoke , cherry , raspberry and other red fruits that all combine with a long finish and smooth tannins. Aglianico, Rosso Riserva, Guardiolo DOC was our final wine and well worth the wait. As a Riserva , the grapes are chosen from the best vineyards and aged for two years in small oak casks. The lovely blend of 80% Sangiovese/20 % Aglianico makes this wine unique and classic all in the same glass. The blend is not a common blend and using the Sangiovese gives this wine a lot of complexity.
To really experience a wine properly you need to pair it with food. Being that these wines come from a coastal region, what a better place to take these wines a out and put them to the test than with a restaurant who’s Chef knows how to prepare a variety of dishes using these unusual but tasty wines.
Executive Chef Tim Horrock now at the very famous KOI in the Planet Hollywood Resort was up to the challenge. The menu at Koi Las Vegas is inspired by traditional Japanese dishes enhanced with modern California accents and influences throughout Asia and around the globe. The culinary experience at Koi in Los Angeles, New York and Bangkok has been lauded in several national food and wine publications. There could not be a better Chef and restaurant than Koi to sample these wines with creative dishes.
Chef Tim was excited to get started. He explained that his philosophy has always been “to do as little as possible to the dish to bring out the best in the dish and the wine. These light bodied Red wines allow me to create a variety of choices”. With nice wines and anticipation of great creations we put ourselves in the very capable hands of Melody Pender and her staff.
The Fiano was paired first as Chef Tim joined us at table. The Hamachi fusion, soy yuzu, truffle essence paired nicely as we expected with flavors from the sea and land lending to a perfect marriage of food and wine.
The second dish of a Hot Hamachi roll, inside yellowtail tartare, top sliced yellow tail, jalapeno put the wine to its first test with some “heat”. It passed with Flying colors with the acidity in the wine balancing perfectly with the spice in the dish.
Seared Tuna, jalapeno and crisp garlic chips provided a chance to see these wines from the coast paired with a fish and did a perfect job bringing out the best in both. The biggest test for these lovely wine wines was the Steamed Chilean sea bass, ginger, ichimi, shitake mushrooms. Once again,The Sea bass paired with shitake mushrooms allowed the wine take on its more mineral qualities for a delicious pairing.
It was now time to bring on a bigger wine and bigger dishes and the challenge to Chef Tim was not to overpower the dish or the wine.
He succeeded with the Aglianico in three perfect pairings. Salmon carpaccio with black truffle, citrus sauce, Seared tuna with truffle, and foie gras and Australian Wagyu filet served toban yaki style with asparagus and Japanese mushrooms. All three dishes were food and wine pairing works of art and we experienced how the wine changed from dish to dish like a perfect symphony in tune.
The Guardia 33 is a wonderful line of wines that are unique and should easily find a home on many of the finest wine lists in the country. Chef Tim Horrock put the wines to the test and did a wonderful job showing off their versatility. We will seek out these wines on the list when we dine as we have been fortunate to experience them first hand, enjoying their versatility and their ability to pair well with a variety of dishes.