In 1981, Swiss couple Brigitte and Bruno Widmer fell in love with Tuscany and what was the dilapidated Brancaia estate and its vineyards, located in picturesque Castellina.  It’s hard to imagine such fine vineyard land being abandoned, but the estate was there for the taking and the Widmers acted. Since 1998, their daughter Barbara is the winemaker and noted consultant Carlo Ferrini casts his eye on the overall production.   
Today, Brancaia creates four wines from it’s estate in Castellina; an entry level rosso, a Chianti Classico, and two Super Tuscans.  Today’s article is about their Tuscan flagship: Il Blu.
Il Blu, “The Blue” is a marriage of  Sangiovese (50%) , Merlot (45%) , and Cabernet (5%) and 2003 was the inaugural release.   I’ve tasted a few vintages of Il Blu and never been greatly impressed despite my love for the marriage of Sangiovese and Merlot. Most recently, the 2008 was a major disappointment.  Today’s wine was my last bottle of the 2003 and I was hoping to see some encouraging development.
In the glass, the wine is a deep, dark rub with a violet rim.  There’s no great signs of aging here. We decanted it an hour before dinner to separate a large, crust like sediment that had formed in the bottle.   Il Blu spends almost 2 full years in new French barrique and even at 11 years of age, this wine still shows that treatment.  
The nose reveals pleasant amounts of dark cherry and spice, but there’s noticeable oak in the form of mocha, wet lumber and green spice.  On the palate, the rich warmth of the vintage comes through and the core of cherry fruit is medium bodied with additional notes of cocoa, mocha, and wood.   If I had to imagine how the 2008 would behave at 11 years of age, this would be my guess.  The backbone to this wine is there,  I just wish they’d dial down the oak treatment because as I’ve said before, Sangiovese and Merlot are an amazing marriage.  89 points, about $38 upon release. Recent vintages sell for $70-$75. 
~ Brancaia Il Blu – 2003 ~

We paired this wine with an amazing play on Beef Wellington.  This dish is delicious, looks very elegant and the best part is, you can prepare it easily in under an hour.
Lamb Wellington in Croute
2 Lamb Racks, bones removed
1 package puff pastry sheets
1 package crimini mushrooms
1 shallot
Handful seasoned Panko Breadcrumbs
Dice the mushrooms finely along with the shallot and saute in as little olive oil as possible until softened.  When they mushrooms are finished, stir in the Panko breadcrumbs so that the mixture forms almost a dry paste.  Go lightly on the olive oil when you cook the mushrooms because the drier this is, the better the end product will be.  Set aside.
Season the lamb with salt and pepper and sear on both sides for two-three minutes.  Remove from the heat.  On a cutting board, open the puff pastry sheets.  In the middle, spoon some of the mushroom, then place one of the lamb loins on top of the mushrooms.  Spoon more mushrooms on top of the lamb and close up the pastry.  Repeat for the other lamb loin. 
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.  Let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing. 

~ These are the Wellingtons right out of the oven.  They look bigger than they are. In reality, each one was about 8-10 inches in length ~

~ The Sliced Wellingtons.  Note the mushroom coating between the pastry and the meat. ~



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