Pay attention, wine geeks — Anfora Wine Merchants, 128 S. Marion St., has partnered with Chef Brad Knaub of Carnivore to curate a one-night-only, Sicilian-inspired meal driven by the high-quality wines crafted by visionary winemaker, Frank Cornelissen. The June 4 event boasts a four-course dinner and a tasting of seven wines from the superior cluster of Cornelissen vineyards nestled in the northern valley of Mount Etna.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Etna is an active volcano. Mineral rich volcanic soil is at the heart of Frank Cornelissen wine. The Belgian wine producer established his estate in 2001 when little was known about “Etna wines,” but now the region is among the most exciting in the wine world today. Many of Frank Cornelissen grapes are grown on original root stalk. The century old vines are naturally resistant to grape plylloxora, the insect that nearly destroyed wine production across Europe, but more importantly Cornelissen was attracted to the rich volcanic soils that nurture Etna’s Nerello Mascalese grapes.
“There is added minerality in the soil at Mount Etna; smoke and ash from the volcano even impact the rains in the area,” said Adrian Weisell, owner of Anfora Wine Merchants. “This complex macro climate contributes to the uniqueness of the wines produced in the region.”
Weisell considers Cornelissen to be a “leading light” in the natural wine movement. Harkening back to pre-industrial wine making methods, natural wine producers embrace organic viticulture and use ambient yeast to ferment their wines. Cornelissen’s estate is divided into different parcels and each vineyard within the estate highlights unique elevation, exposure and soil components. The Anfora-Carnivore dinner will focus primarily on the elegant and nuanced red wines made from grapes grown on the coveted northern slope of Mount Etna.
“I don’t know much about wine except that I like it,” said Chef Knaub of Carnivore, 1042 Pleasant St. “But I am digging that Frank Cornelissen wines have an almost cultlike following.”
Partnership between Anfora and Carnivore is not a new concept, but this is the first-time wines have driven the menu. Typically, Chef Knaub determines the menu and Weisell selects an array of wines to complement the planned meal. The forthcoming Frank Cornelissen Wine Dinner, however, represents the first time the businesses have reversed their approach.
“Finding wines to match food is typically easier, but this dinner is different because of the quality of the wines,” said Knaub. “I am taking inspiration from Sicilian classics and elbowing them out to make the pairings work.”
Diners can expect a trio of savory castelles to kick off the meal. An interpretation of a traditional Sicilian street food, Chef Knaub anticipates filling the pastry packages with fava beans, greens and fennel. Other menu highlights include pasta tossed with Capuliato, a traditional Sicilian condiment based on dried tomatoes, garnished with uni roe and pistachio and lake trout served over couscous with golden raisins, herbs and ramp butter. A cheese course and cookies from neighboring Blackout Baking Company will round out the meal. Each course is designed not to overpower the wines chosen to highlight the “enviable terroir” of the Mount Etna region generally and the Frank Cornelissen Estate specifically.
Andy Pates, owner of Cream Wine Company and Illinois distributor of Frank Cornelissen wines will be on-site for the dinner to introduce and discuss the featured wines. Less than 20 tickets remain for this locally curated evening of Sicilian fare and old vine volcanic wines. Find tickets on Tock or anforawinemerchants.com.