I had the pleasure of participating in a wine dinner arranged at Haikko Manor on Friday. Haikko Manor is the first manor hotel in Finland opened in 1966. Haikko’s wine dinners are today a tradition and the evenings comprise of a four course meal combined with excellent wines. A different winery is presented and present each time, and their representative tells about their wine. This time the topic was modern Italian wines of Tenuta Ulisse winery in Chieti, Abruzzo. Their representative, Marco, told about the wines grown in 600 meters above the sea level and higher. They have their grapes growing on the slopes of Maiella mountain, between the mountain and the Adriatic coast.
The wine dinners offer an excellent opportunity to learn about wineries and their selection as there is always a representative present telling about the wines tasted. The Manor offers a splendid setting for the dinners, and for any other type of events. We gathered in the historical Romanov dining room named after the Romanov family. Members of the family were frequent quests at Haikko in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The chefs and restaurant staff plan the dinners around the wines. Yes, rather unusual to start with the wines not the meals. The objective is to offer something unique for the palate – both in wines, foods and combinations of the two.
The menu was traditional and modern, a mixture of Finnish and Italian. The antipasti plate comprised of a delicious, fresh terrine of tomato and basil topped with buffalo mozzarella, a cake of pork cheek, marinated artichokes and smoked roach.
The fragrant Unico Pecorino surprised me and was an excellent match with the smoked fish and the pork. The lighter wine, Chardonnay-Malvasia, suited better with the terrine in my opinion.
What was even better with the dinner was that the wine expert talked about wines and different tastes stating several times that one cannot argue about taste. This encouraged us to talk about the food and wine at the tables. We were about one hundred there, seated in long tables of ten. Surprisingly soon there was a happy ripple of conversation in the large dining room. Later on it would be spiced with applause and laughter.
The primo was Vitello Tonnato – veal, pureed sauce of tuna fish and roasted capers. Delicious and different, not exactly same as the dish prepared by Italians.
The chef was there to tell about the meal, the planning and tasting, the preparation and also mingled in the room telling more and answering questions. Likewise Marco would tell about the wines and discuss in the different tables.
The main course was fillet of lamb with vegetable and sauce of red wine. Tender tasty lamb matching the Unico Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and also the Sogno di Ulisse Rosso.
The dessert was definitely the highlight, both the wine Amaranta Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012. A balanced body with tannins, long and fruity mouth. Yes, this was the dessert wine! The dessert was also rather unusual, Gorgonzola ice cream! Many of us had never tasted anything like that – the slightly salty Gorgonzola united with creamy Mascarpone accompanied by apricot, fig and pecans.
This is certainly an evening I treasure. Excellent food and wine, good company and lively conversation. Some of the guests were local some from Helsinki, our capital. I learnt not only about the wine and food but also of Italian traditions – weddings and wedding dinners for example.