The View from Grand Cru

Written by Gabi Slaninova

In October, we helped coordinate an event for the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival. The concept for Grand Cru is a fantastic one: to unite esteemed chefs with sought-after wine producers, philanthropists, business leaders and scientists for an unforgettable evening of fine wines and glorious cuisine… all to raise money for the University Health Network. This year, there were 27 separate dinner parties going on on the same night around Toronto, all held and hosted in private homes. We were lucky enough to be a part of the party that showcased the talent of Chef Michael White (of Marea in New York City fame) and the wines from the 600-year old Antinori family vineyards. This particular post is about those amazing wines that night…As we were setting up for the event, the bartender brought me a crate of wine and asked if I had a crowbar to open it. He wasn’t kidding! There were 7 separate wines that night and each one came with its own challenging packaging. Check out the layers of protection on this bottle of Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2004:

First, the outer cardboard packaging, with layers of branded Antinori tape. Once you cut through that, you got to 2 wooden boxes, each with a lovely gold latch.

Once you got that open, you were finally presented with the wine. However, we weren’t home free yet, as there was a collar- like device that slid into the grooves of the box to prevent any movement whatsoever.

Once we got through all the bottles of Brunello, we got to the pièce-de résistance — the 2004 Tignanello. We looked around for the handy golden latch, but no luck. Each box was fully nailed down and this time, we really did need that crowbar!

At a loss, I went to the kitchen to ask to borrow a sharp knife, but Chef White’s right-hand-man, Chef PJ Calapa, showed me a whole new trick: he came out and slowly pried the box open with a kitchen spoon! Who knew??? But, thanks to PJ, the guests were able to enjoy the Tignanello that was expertly paired later that night with Chef White’s scrumptious bolognese. And I’ll know to add a kitchen spoon to my Emergency Kit for all future Grand Cru parties!

Thank you to Kelly Fischstein for the first and last photos. What an amazing evening to have met and worked with you for the first time!