If you have been reading napaman for several years, you likely have a sense of the passions, which fuel stories posted on this site.
Therefore, it is time for a quiz to see if you have been paying attention:
To which of these countries would napaman move if Napa Valley became too crowded, or turned into a paved parking lot?
If you answered (a), then I suggest you unsubscribe from napaman.com… and subscribe, instead, to postings at www.kazakhstanguy.com.
Correct Answer: One of the countries to which I fantasize about moving for the food, the wine and lifestyle is … TA DA!... Italy.
It is a favorite destination and in recent years, I make two pilgrimages a year, in spring and fall, to check out different regions.
Last night, however, three of Italy’s best wine-producing regions came to us, courtesy of one of my favorite wine store/restaurants in the Bay-area, PRIMA, in Walnut Creek.
Proprietors John Rittmaster and Peter Chastain, who is the chef, host regular grape gropes, inviting winemakers from various wine regions to come and pour; elaborate dinners are created to complement their wines.
Last night, PRIMA threw what may be the year’s best tasting wine dinner/event – and it’s only February!
To honor Italian wines, which scored “tre bicchieri,” or “three glasses,” the top rank for wines featured in the Italian wine revue, Gambero Rosso, PRIMA invited one winemaker from each of Piedmont, Tuscany, and Campania, who had scored “three glasses” with at least one of their wines.
Mariacristina Oddero, the talented winemaker/owner of Fratelli Oddero, in La Morra, Piedmont
(As Mariacristina postponed her visit to Napa Valley and the north Bay until May (can’t wait to see you then, Mariacristina!), she sent her envoy to last night’s dinner, Enrico Nicoletta, Italian Wine Director of Wine Warehouse.)
Caterina Mazzocolin, winemaker of her family’s winery, Fattoria Felsina, in Castelnuovo, Berardenga, Tuscany
Sabino Loffredo, winemaker of Pietracupa, situated in Avellino, Campania
The event at PRIMA was split into halves, each equally rewarding. First there was a tasting/reception, followed by a sumptuous, four-course dinner.
No question about it, this was THE wine of the night. At both the reception and again, at dinner. At the winery, I scored this wine 95 points, last night, I scored a recently traveled bottle 93 points, but in the context of all the superb wines poured last night, THIS was el-numero uno. You want it? PRIMA has some to sell.
The name of the wine is not easy to read on this label, but the wine is very easy to love. Greco is the name of a grape planted in southern Italy, around a small town called Tufo, in Campania. The grapes are thought to have originated in Greek times, according to winemaker Sabino Loffredo, who crafts this delicious white wine to have wonderful length and richness. I was impressed by the sensual, honeyed taste AND the honeyed texture of the wine. Greco is $24 a bottle and PRIMA is the only place I am aware, which has it.
I summarized my visit to Mariacristina’s winery in La Morra, Piedmont, last fall is this fashion: “Cristina produces liquid poetry. Her stunning, ambrosial Barolos are filled with truffle scents and ripe red fruit.” This wasn’t the case last night, I thought, for the several Barolos poured; they were tight and appeared fatigued from travel.
And then there was dinner….
Some 28 guests, including the visiting winemakers, sat down to a four-course dinner, prepared by chef Peter Chastain.
First up… a delicious carpaccio of halibut, served with shaved fennel. The dish showed great execution and the quality of the olive oil was outstanding, I don’t often sop up olive oil on my plate, but this oil compelled me to do so – highly complex, and lovely aromatics.
Served with the 2008 Pietracupa Greco di Tufo – a perfect pairing.
Low lighting in the restaurant prohibited getting Food & Wine quality photos, but this was a delicious primo piatto, a cannelloni stuffed with wild mushrooms and fresh ricotta, baked in a pomarola (or marinara-type) tomato sauce.
Served with two wines:
2006 Fattoria Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Cru Rancia (my favorite wine of the night by a long margin).
2006 Fattoria Felsina Fontalloro.
Served with two wines:
2004 Fratelli Oddero Barolo Bussia Soprana Mondoca
1996 Fratelli Oddero Barolo Vigna Rionda
For dessert, guests were served a nut cake, studded with pine nuts, scented with rosemary, sweetened with honey. It was a sensational complement to the chosen dessert wine, the 2000 Fattoria Felsina Vin Santo. A perfect ending to a perfect dinner.
To learn more about the many dinners, events, and cooking classes sponsored by PRIMA, on the restaurant side, go to http://www.primaristorante.com.
To learn more about the selections at PRIMA, the wine shop, go to http://www.primawine.com/vini/index.php
PRIMA restaurant and wine shop are at 1522 North Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA, 94596.