It's a new day over at Culatello HQ...I just finished three months consulting for a new wine bar/restaurant in Oakland's Rockridge District, Enoteca Molinari. My role was to help Enoteca Molinari build a 100% Italian wine list and offer wine service recommendations for staff. I'm incredibly proud of the wines...all are delicious and have something to say, and at a great value, whether by the bottle or by the glass. Here is the wine list PDF:
I've been selling Italian wine for 3.5 years, when I was an assistant wine buyer at Bar Stuzzichini in New York City, a shop slave at Biondivino in San Francisco, a couple of waiter jobs, and my first big break as Assistant Sommelier at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. Being a stubborn Aries, even in the worst of times between jobs I kept focus on what I wanted to do...sell Italian wine and build a great wine list and share my wine service expertise. One area where I helped Enoteca Molinari was wine education and staff tasting. I recommended opening a random bottle of wine before each service, in order to keep taste memory firmly implanted and to detect a potentially flawed wine before it reaches a customer.
The concept of the wine program at Enoteca Molinari is to showcase wines that emphasize traditional over international 'big' Parker-ized modern wines, and above all, typicity and terroir. There is a good selection of wines by the glass and as a special on a particular night, a wine from the bottle list will be offered by the glass. The idea is to make the best wines on the list accessible and not have the customer spring for an entire bottle in order to try. The wine program at Enoteca Molinari is about serving great wines at a good value, realizing this is Oakland and not Manhattan, and despite the relative wealth of the nabe, the economy is still down. Price points on bottles and wines by the glass will be posted soon at enoteca-molinari.com.
The list is 100% Italian at the moment but will eventually include some wines from Slovenia and perhaps France.
Not every region is represented...nothing from Puglia or Sardegna at the moment, but a whole lot of goodies from throughout the Peninsula.
The list, almost by accident, celebrates certain producers, especially Mastroberardino from Campania and COS from Sicilia. They are traditional, elegant and delicious, which is all you need from wine. Eventually, as some of you know well, I'm a major Lambrusco hound and I'd like to pilot a Lambrusco program that rivals Via Emilia and Osteria Morini in NYC. You can take the boy out of Modena...
One area of pride are the bollicine (bubbles, y'all)...for now it's one Lambrusco, the Barbolini 'Lancilotto', from the Grasparossa clone. It's a personal favorite and my go to wine with any meal. There's also a very unusual red frizzante from Le Marche, a Vernaccia di Serrapetrona secco. Where Lambrusco has the bright cherry fruit, smokiness, lovely acidity, the Vernaccia di Serrapetrona has darker fruit, tobacco leaf and volcanic ash on the nose...very unusual flavor profile for a fizzy red. There's a single vineyard Prosecco di Valdobbiadene-Conegliano from Sorelle Bronca, the 'Particella 68'; a yummy Champagne-y Franciacorta Brut from Quadra.
I'm excited most of all about the vini bianchi...COS 'Rami' organically farmed Inzolia/Grecanico from Sicily; Ermes Pavese Blanc de Morgex...a beautiful saline/citrus alpine fresh white from Val d'Aosta; a classic Roero Arneis from Vietti; a single vineyard Vernaccia di San Gimignano that literally smells like the Tuscan countryside...aromas of "macchia" or what the French call "garrigue", that wild meditteranean coastal aroma; a minerally, angular and malo free Falanghina from La Sibilla in the Campi Flegrei, an appellation slightly northwest of Napoli.
Love, love, love the two vini rosati...the 'Lacrimarosa' from Mastroberardino, which is 100% Aglianico, and the 'Maioli' from Tenuta Sella, a Nebbiolo. The latter blew my mind...it reminded me of sunshine and tropical fruit...totally not the usual Nebbiolo profile and definitely not a classic Piemontese wine.
For vini rossi, some of my faves are an elegant and complex 100% Nero d'Avola from COS; a terra cotta amphora aged Cerasuolo di Vittoria blend of Nero d'Avola/Frappato from COS that is beguilingly earthy and complex; a Bardolino from Le Fraghe which is a lighter, elegant Valpolicella style blend of Corvina/Rondinella, from the Veneto; Marzemino, a variety indigenous to Trentino that makes a light bodied red that is very floral and beautiful w/a bright raspberry light jam nose; an Aglianico from the Falerno del Massico appellation in northeastern Campania, that is dark fruity and tarry and unbelievably delicious; a single varietal Canaiolo from Toscana that is pure forest and meat; a Lagrein from Thurnhof in Alto Adige that is out of this world...piney, spicy and a nice weight on the palate.
For dessert wines, there's a Port style passito of Lacrima Morro d'Alba, from Luciano Landi in Le Marche; a Malvasia delle Lipari from Barone Villagrande...honey, sesame, richness, Sicilian island vacations; and natch, a Moscato d'Asti from Giacomo Bologna (Jim Baloney) that is yeasty and dry on the nose and quite balanced, not cloying at all.
The food is seasonal, local and sustainable meat and produce within the framework of traditional recipes from Liguria, Piemonte, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Sardinia...you get the point! Steve Jaramillo is the chef and he makes delicious food, is a veteran, well respected and well known, a consummate professional, a hard worker, and a great guy. His Tagliatelle al Ragù transports me to an osteria or a nonna's kitchen in the back streets of Bologna...it is that good.
I'm incredibly excited about the three months I spent helping Enoteca Molinari build a 100% Italian list, and sharing with them my knowledge, passion and love of Italian wine and traditional regional Italian cuisine.
The Culatello Team
December 2nd, 2010