Ai suma

Part I.

One of my favorite things to do is cook for my friends.  My friends are troopers; they allow me to be this way.  My husband also puts up with it.  So about once a year, I go crazy and make a multi-course meal with wine pairings and all the accoutrements.  The theme these days most certainly is Italian, and to be specific, Piemontese.  I welcome any excuse to open a good bottle of Barolo, or four… and sharing this experience with friends can’t be beat.

One night this past February, I invited some of my closest wine-loving friends over to give me the opportunity to let enotecaMarcella “come alive” like a Barolo Osteria.

I prepared a five course meal around wines both graciously supplied by my friends, and a Barbaresco and two Baroli that I had picked out.  We had more wine than I describe below but consciously tasting everything and successfully preparing such a meal for ten people is where my talent stops.  So I give you below, the Piemontese highlights.  (The names of the dishes are underlined.)

Brovia Roero Arneis 2008. Roero Arneis DOCG.  This one came along after four bottles of Prosecco had been opened, so admittedly I must tell you, I do not remember this wine, nor did I take notes.  I do vividly remember really liking it, however, and it paired fabulously with this salad based on raw fennel and fried pancetta.  ★ ★

Guaine Farcite di Pancetta e Rafano

I’m including the link to the recipe because it is awesome and totally worth trying.


Rocche Costamagna Murrae 2007. Dolcetto d’Alba DOC.  Hallelujah!  Lovely Dolcetto, I am so happy when you turn up like this.  Aromas of chocolate and cherry syrup, smoke and pine oil, full and fruity but not at all cloying in the middle.  Topped off with a lots of spice and a dash of fruitcake and blueberry.  ★ ★ ☆

Rocche Costamagna Annunziata 2007. Barbera d’Alba DOC.  Coffee and raspberry pie with a lovely rose aroma, full in center with sweet vanilla, blackberries and leather in the end.  ★ ☆

With the above two wines, I paired a polenta-style dish called Puccia. I never have seen it in Piemonte but it must be authentic because I translated the recipe out of a Piemontese cookbook.  It turned out to be spectacular.

Produttori del Barbaresco Rio Sordo Barbaresco 2004. Barbaresco DOCG.  This night I was little guilty of infanticide.  While this wine needs some years to fully figure itself out, I attempted a little psychoanalyzation anyway.  Aromas of not-quite-ripe stone fruits, sugared cherries, and minerals.  Many intense stony minerals give their way to a twist of cranberry, pomegranate, cherry, whipped with a little leather and at the end, leaving your mouth a little puckered.  Highly enjoyable however, when all was said and done.  ★ ★

Mauro Veglio Gattera Barolo 2004. Barolo DOCG.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I love these people.  And their wine. (   While not particularly fruity, concentrated, hot, nor intense, this can be a drink-young Barolo.  There is just something about this vineyard that makes for an appealing now-Nebbiolo.  The color is a like a Pinot noir: cranberry, translucent, but not entirely clear. The aromas are those of vanilla, straw, oregano, cocoa, and banana peel. The mid-palate is full of dark fruit, suggestive of mellow blueberries, and it wraps itself up with dusty coffee-like tannins and a hint of fresh cherries.  My favorite part of their own tasting notes, which I translated, and am hoping to have captured their intent, is this, “Warm peaches and nectarine aromas, with time the closed tannins become more decisive.”  I agree.  Who would have ever thought of peaches as a good aroma to smell in a Barolo?  I wouldn’t have, but it works.  ★ ★

Paolo Scavino Barolo 2001. Barolo DOCG.  Transparent with a brick red color, this one gives you what you’d hope for: roses, clove, pomegranate, minerals, and fresh rain on clover… spicy cranberries explode into lush ones, finishing out with sweet tannins.  This wine delivered and hit all the marks.  But it didn’t leave you pondering your life.  I guess Enrico Scavino saves those adventures for his vineyard-specific Baroli.  Regardless, I’d never turn a glass down.  ★ ☆

I paired the Barbaresco and Baroli with a dish called Pollo alla Cacciatore (Hunter’s chicken).  The recipe comes from Conterno Fantino’s website and is a pairing they suggest for their Barolo Vigna del Gris, from their youngest Nebbiolo vines.  You can find the recipe at their website.  Just go to “Vini,” and then “Vigna del Gris” and it will be under the link for their “suggestion.”  There is an English version too.  (

One of the best things about this dish, besides that it tastes great, is that it is PERFECT for a dinner party because it simmers for an hour so you can just leave it sitting and do other things!  Like drink wine with your friends!

I didn’t pay much attention to the dessert wines but I will say that the Rose Gallica imported by Bonny Doon Vineyard from Luca Ferraris is tasting spectacular right now.  It’s a dessert wine from the Monferrato region, made from Ruché.  Delish.

Part II.

A couple weeks after that dinner a friend of mine, Nick, told me he was really curious about one of the wines we had had that night.  He didn’t remember which one it was but knew he had never had anything like it and really enjoyed it.  By process of elimination, I figured out it was the Paolo Scavino Barolo 2001.  He said it had the spice of Zinfandel but wasn’t really like a Zinfandel.  Whatever it was, he was hooked and curious.

Meanwhile, my friend Rachel, who is the vineyard manager at perhaps the most beautiful Pinot noir vineyard in Santa Cruz County, Vine Hill Winery, admitted to me she had never tried a Nebbiolo, …ever!

Um, did I mention I’m always looking for a good excuse to open a bottle of Barolo?

So I decided to do a Part II dinner, in which the focus was on wines made from Nebbiolo, and not necessarily the food.  So I went simple.

Given my recent eye-opening experience with the combination of Buccatini all’Amatriciana and Barolo (,  I decided to make that the main dish.

We started with a couple of antipasti plates including pesto crostini, goat cheese and red pepper crostini, salumi, cheeses, fresh bread, and fruit.  With them I paired my new favorite Freisa from Monferrato, called Bugianen, and we also opened the Monferrato white that my friend, Will, brought over.

La Montagnetta Bugianen 2007. Freisa d’Asti DOC.  Dried black plums, black pepper, smells of Dr. Pepper, dried herbs, tobacco smoke, a full mid-palate with a prevalence of tart cherry jam and peppery, food-friendly tannins.  I reviewed the ’08 in my Day 2 Vinitaly article (May).  This is also the winery for which I’ll be working in Fall 2010.  ★ ★ ☆

La Ghersa Sivoy Chardonnay & Cortese 2007. Monferrato DOC.  This is a pleasant rendition of Italian Chardonnay.  It smelled nutty, was round with a slight bitter kick and gave me a little of those “Arneis” hay and pear flavors.

I didn’t want to go too crazy building up to the Nebbiolo so had planned to open one Barbera and move on.  But of course, leave it to Will to throw in a bottle blind.  (He brought the Preston and thank God I guessed “new world Barbera!”)  At least we were on the same wavelength…

Preston Barbera 2008. Dry Creek Valley.  Tons of peppery smoke with jammy blackberry and blue berry aromas.  Very smoky, carrying the dark fruit flavors all the way through, with great acidity, finishing pleasantly earthy.  ★ ★ ☆

Braida Bricco dell’Uccelone 2005. Barbera d’Asti DOCG.  Unfortunately the cork on this one had soaked all the way through.  I think it must have recently happened because the wine, while a little too earthy and slightly rubbery smelling, did not taste too bad, or very much like the vinegar I would expect.  I had been storing it for two years in my climate-controlled wine refrigerator so I’m going to have to blame the cork here.  Showing a pretty magenta color with a nose of beef jerkey, smoke, quite a bit of rubber, and a little bit of blueberries.  It wanted to be full and lush in the middle, did have a notable acidity, but left you with no choice but to just think “smoking meat.”

I made a Ceasar salad for this course.  I will admit it now.  I rely on a tried and true recipe from good ‘ol Martha Stewart.  (

Before we wasted too many hepatic resources, I decided to bust out the Nebbioli.

Adelaida Glenrose Vineyard Nebbiolo 2005. Paso Robles.  My friend, Jimmie, told me that this was the best Nebbiolo he’d ever had so I was curious and got a couple bottles.  This wine smells yummy like rose potpourri and ripe cherry pie.  There is a definite Paso-terroir in there, making itself known in the form of coconut and loads of other sweet things like nearly overripe red berries. The wine was not killed by the California sun, however, and finished with discernible acidity and invigorating touches of smoke and cranberry.  ★

Castello di Verduno Massara Barolo 2001. Barolo DOCG.  This is such a fabulous winery and I am so happy to be seeing their wines around in California shops.  I learned of it back in 2006 from the recommendation of a friend I met in Piemonte.  (They have a wonderful restaurant as well, called Ca’ del Re!)  I would highly recommend trying anything from them; all the wines are quite elegant and made in the traditional style.  This one showed off with a delicate bouquet of wet stones, strawberries, violets, and mixed potpourri.  It’s a consistent wine where the aromas match the flavors and finish – a refreshingly lifted middle, finishing off with more violets, roses, and tart red fruits.  ★ ★ ☆

Renato Ratti Rocche Marcenasco Barolo 2003. Barolo DOCG.  I’m not going to say it was a bad decision to open this wine, but I will say it was a decision reached by six people who had already nearly consumed six bottles of wine.  Fortunately for me, we did not finish this hefty Barolo and I got to find out that it was better the next day!  Pleasantly aromatic with a decisively ripe fruit profile, but totally gregarious tannins.  (So!  A well-made 2003!)  I feel confident in saving my second bottle for another five years or more.  ★

Since I had had such a good experience with Buccatini all’Amatriciana, a dish actually originating from Abruzzo, I decided to make a big batch for this party.  My intent was to make a simple and tasty dish upon which the wines could show themselves.  I like this recipe except it turns out a little too spicy for Nebbi.  So if you try it, cut back on the red pepper.  (I have a high tolerance for spice and I still believe it is too much for the wine.)  (

You just can’t beat nights that come together like these with good friends, food, and lots of fabulous Piemontese wine.  I don’t have a way to justifiably express the gratitude and general appreciation I have of my friends, the invention of wine, and how lovely they go together.

Luckily those pesky Piemontese people thought of an expression for me!  (Of course they did!)

Ai Suma!

It means “Here we are together.  Everything is at the right level.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

3 thoughts on “Ai suma

  1. I wonder if a more traditional Sugo all’amatriciana wouldn’t overpower Nebbiolo, one with real pork cheek, pecorino, and oil. Even with some red pepper flakes thrown in, it might be considerably more mellow than tomato sauce.

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