Pay attention, wine connoisseurs – Anfora Wine Merchants, 128 S. Marion St., has teamed up with Chef Brad Knaub of Carnivore to host a one-night-only Sicilian-inspired meal brought to life by the high-quality wines crafted by a visionary winemaker, Franck Cornelissen. The June 4 event includes a four-course dinner and a tasting of seven wines from Cornelissen’s Superior Group of vineyards nestled in the northern Etna Valley.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Etna is an active volcano. Mineral-rich volcanic soil is at the heart of Frank Cornelissen’s wine. The Belgian wine producer established his estate in 2001 when little was known about ‘Etna wines’, but the region is now one of the most exciting in the wine world. Many Frank Cornelissen grapes are grown on the original root stalk. The centuries-old vines are naturally resistant to grape plylloxora, the insect that nearly destroyed wine production across Europe, but more importantly, Cornelissen was drawn to the rich volcanic soils that nurture the Nerello Mascalese grapes of the region. Etna.
“There is an additional minerality in Etna’s soil; the smoke and ash from the volcano is even impacting the rains in the area,” said Adrian Weisell, owner of Anfora Wine Merchants. “This complex macro climate contributes to the unique character of the wines produced in the region.”
Weisell considers Cornelissen a “lighthouse” in the natural wine movement. Reminiscent of pre-industrial winemaking methods, natural wine producers embrace organic viticulture and use ambient yeast to ferment their wines. The Cornelissen estate is divided into different parcels and each vineyard in the estate highlights unique elements of elevation, exposure and soil. The Anfora-Carnivore dinner will mainly focus on elegant and nuanced red wines made from grapes grown on the coveted northern slope of Etna.
“I don’t know much about wine except that I like it,” said Chef Knaub of Carnivore, 1042 Pleasant St. “But I dig that Frank Cornelissen’s wines have an almost cult following.”
The partnership between Anfora and Carnivore is not a new concept, but it is the first time that wines have featured on the menu. Typically, Chef Knaub determines the menu and Weisell selects a range of wines to complement the planned meal. The upcoming Frank Cornelissen Wine Dinner, however, represents the first time the companies have reversed their approach.
“It’s usually easier to find wines to match the food, but this dinner is different because of the quality of the wines,” Knaub said. “I take inspiration from the Sicilian classics and spread them out so that the chords work.”
Diners can expect a trio of savory castelles to kick off the meal. A take on traditional Sicilian street food, Chef Knaub plans to garnish pastry wrappers with fava beans, greens and fennel. Other menu highlights include pasta drizzled with Capuliato, a traditional Sicilian condiment made from sun-dried tomatoes, topped with egg uni and pistachio and lake trout served over couscous with golden raisins, herbs and ramp butter. A plate of cheese and cookies from nearby Blackout Baking Company will complete the meal. Each course is designed not to overpower the wines chosen to showcase the “enviable terroir” of the Etna region in general and the Frank Cornelissen estate in particular.
Andy Pates, owner of Cream Wine Company and distributor of Frank Cornelissen wines in Illinois, will be on hand for dinner to present and discuss the featured wines. Fewer than 20 tickets remain for this locally curated evening of Sicilian dishes and volcanic wines from old vines. Find tickets on Tock or anforawinemerchants.com.