Four Colorado chefs went head-to-head in a competition requiring them to pair Italy’s famous Allegrini Palazzo della Torre wine with a signature dish.

The chefs competed in front of an audience and a panel of judges at the Mise En Place Cooking School in Denver’s historical LoDo District. Four teams of chefs came prepared with ‘mise en place’ (meaning everything in its place) and were armed and ready for the cook-off.

The judges, made up of food and wine media (that included me–love this job), members of the trade and winery executives, tasted and dissected the flavor profiles of each dish while sipping and sloshing wine. Each team of chefs took their turn to introduce his or her dish and charity. What was a particular pleasure to watch was the four teams working together to ‘plate up’ the competition’s course.

It was an interesting experiment to taste the unique flavors of each chef’s dish and how those flavors either enhanced the wine or detracted from it. My personal favorite dish (the brisket with cream cheese risotto and jardiniere by Chef Parker) did not actually pair the best with the della Torre, which was disappointing for me. Perhaps it was the acidity of the pickled vegetables that fought with the wine. There were sommeliers at my table who seemed to know why. They made my taste buds feel quite inferior when it came to analyzing wine as none of my votes seemed to coincide with the majority’s. C’est la vie.

Allegrini is donating money to each chef’s charity, based on their ranking. The results are as follows:

1st place: Chef Elise Wiggins from Panzano (Confit Rabbit with Gnocchi), $5000 donated to Human Rights Campaign, which is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

2nd place: Brunella Gualerzi from il Bistro Italiano (Radicchio and Gorgonzola Capellettoni), $2,500 to Cooking Matters, which empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills to make healthy, affordable meals. (RECIPE HERE)

3rd place: Scott Parker from Table 6, $1,00 to Hope for Haiti, which has been working for more than 20 years to improve the quality of life for Haitian people.

4th place: Tyler Wiard from Elway’s Cherry Creek, $500 to ProStart and Project Angel Heart. Project Angel Heart works to ensure those with life-threatening illness receive proper nutrition and ProStart is an educational fund for those in the foodservice industry.

Marilisa Allegrini, sixth generation owner of the Allegrini Winery and owner of a cooking school in Italy, which I am now hoping to visit, served as one of the judges.

“It was delightful meeting Denver’s most talented chefs. The creative ways they paired food with our Palazzo della Torre truly was inspiring,” said Allegrini.

Left to right: Elise Wiggins, Marilisa Allegrini, Brunella Gualerzi, Tyler Wiard, Scott Parker

About Allegrini Palazzo della Torre
Allegrini  is a historic producer of wines from the northern Italian region of Veneto that has garnered international acclaim. Marilisa and Franco Allegrini, owners and active in winery management, are benchmark producers of some of the region’s most famous wines including Amarone, Valpolicella and Soave.

Listening to Marilisa was like listening to music. Her Italian accent was captivating as she discussed the unique process for the making of Allegrini Palazzo della Torre.  The grapes are grown on an estate in Fumane di Valpolicella, just north of Verona in northeastern Italy. The wine is made using an innovative RIPASSO method. Seventy (70) percent of the grapes are vinified immediately after harvest. What makes this wine so special is that the remaining thirty (30) percent are dried for several months, then added to the fermenting wine. Allegrini Palazzo della Torre is deep ruby red in color, has a wild berry perfume and a flavor of raisins. She definitely got my attention when she began talking about their week-long cooking course. For more information on the Allegrini Winery, please visit

Patricia Bainter is a blogger and writer for 303magazine. She trained at Le Cordon Bleu London and shares her culinary musings and recipes at her own website