Vittorio Moretti , President of Terra Morettia holding company and Marco Sabellico, Senior Editor of Gambero Rosso Vini D'Italia hosted a memorable dinner for Italian wine distributors and wine writers in San Francisco. The dinner was held at the Ristobar in the Marina district, on the eve of the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri grand tasting at the Fort Mason Center.
Vittorio Moretti serves as the President of the Consorzio Franciacorta and is the owner of Contadi Castaldi and Bellavista (beautiful view) properties in the province of Brescia, in northern Italy, situated about an hours drive east of the fashion capital of Italy, Milan. Signore Moretti also own Petra winery in Maremma, along the Tuscan coastline near the Tyrrhenian sea. Since the 1970's wines from Maremma have been made from grape varieties not typically used in Tuscan wines and were initially glossed 'Super Tuscan' by members of the Antinori clan. Although the term Super Tuscan has no legally codified meaning, it has stuck, its use denotes wines of small production, sporting whimsical names, with high quality and lofty prices.
After being introduced to Mr. Moretti by Sara Pedrali - Brand Ambassador for Terra Moretti, I quickly learned that my 50% Duolingo rating for the Italian language holds little weight in the real world. I spoke just well enough to momentarily convince Signore Moretti I could carry on a conversation, but we both soon realized that any conversation of depth was not possible for us.
Fortunately for us Marco acted as the interpreter for the evening and served that role splendidly. We also had the good fortune of sitting next to Eleonora Guerini, another Senior Editor of the Vini D'Italia. She was gracious and kind as Bill and I peppered her with questions throughout the evening.
Before seating, we were offered Contadi Castaldi Saten 2010 Franciacorta, paired with grilled crostone with Swiss chard and burrata cheese. You could walk in a hand full of specialty wine retailers in the San Francisco area and you would be lucky to find three different labels of Franciacorta wines. Even rarer would be a Saten. Saten is a sparkling wine from Franciacorta that is made using only white grapes, typically Chardonnay, but Pinot Bianco can be used also. Franciacorta Saten is bottled with less pressure so the wines have a softer mouth feel. The bitterness of the chard and the sweetness of the burrata were good foils for the Saten. Contadi Castaldi's Saten is 100% Chardonnay and after fermentation is aged for seven months in stainless steel and barrique. It's aged for about three years on the lees. Light straw colored it offers up a floral nose with hints of yellow apples, citrus and yeast, with soft persistent bubbles.
The next course featured Star Route Farm of Bolinas grown puntarelle with Oregon Dungeness Crab meat. Paired with Bellavista Teatro Alla Scala 2010 Franciacorta Brut, this was another bitter vs sweet combination prepared by Chef Massimo Covello that worked beautifully. Putarelle is an Italian green that belongs to the chicory family. Composed of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Nero, 30% of the wine is fermented and matured in small white oak casks for at least seven months. Once it's blended with the other wines it spends five years on the lees. A pale yellow color with a tinge of green, the nose showed lovely apple, pear and toasted brioche notes. Vibrant acidity and showing its power, the finish is extremely long. Unfortunately for us this wine is not exported, as all the bottles are reserved for the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan.
The next pairing was my favorite, house made cavatelli with Full Belly Farm black eye beans, sausage and dill. Cavatelli are inch long rolled pasta shells that look like miniature hot dog buns. The savory earthiness of the dish pared perfectly with the 2012 Petra Quercegobbe, 100% Merlot. A loose translation for Quercegobbe would be hunchback oak. I have a soft spot for Tuscan Merlot and the Petra Quercegobbe did not disappoint. Quercegobbe is fermented in 620 hectoliter oak barrels and is aged in new French barriques for eighteen months. Once bottled it's stored at the winery for another eighteen months before release. Deep ruby red in color, the nose showed red fruit, herbs, tobacco and anise. Full bodied at 14.5% abv, the wine displays modest power, excellent structure and supple tannins. The oldest vines next to the winery are less than twenty years old, so Quercegobbi will be one to watch. It's just down the road from Masseto and can be had for a fraction of the price. $53 - $60
There were two offerings for the main course, Stemple Creek Ranch "Prime" New York served with Bolinas broccolini and Rossetti Ranch lamb chops with Green Gulch Farm spinach. The wine paired with these dishes was the tre bicchieri awarded 2012 Petra IGT Toscana. The presentation of the lamb was superb and the execution for the steak was bang on. The Petra is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. The wine spends eighteen months in French oak, 30% new and is aged for eighteen months in bottle. Black berries and currants dominate the nose, supported by bold tannins and fresh acids. On the palate a herbaceous, red fruit profile with a delicious medium length finish. It was a wonderful match for the New York steak, but the $100 plus dollar price tag for the Petra would have me looking elsewhere.
Next up was a cheese plate featuring items from Andante Dairy in Petaluma, Ca. Cavatini, Melange and Contralto cheeses were paired with Bellavista Vittorio Moretti 2008 Franciacorta. Cavatini is made from pasteurized goat's milk, is white and has a grey-white colored rind. Melange is a blend of goat's and cow's milk and resembles Brie in flavor and texture. For our group the Contralto cheese was substituted for a cow's milk triple cream cheese. The 2008 Franciacorta rests for a minimum of seven years on the lees and is composed of 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir. Citrus and yellow apples on the nose are complemented by yeast, baked apples and caramel on the palate, ending with a long creamy finish. $120 - $130
Dessert was a delicious panettone paired with a magnums of Bellavista Vittorio Moretti Meraviglioso. The Panettone, a yeast leavened sweet bread assembled with eggs and butter for extra richness was sublime. If your'e ever in the Marina District of San Francisco and you're looking for a good place for dessert put the Ristobar, 2300 Chestnut Street at the top of your list. Meraviglioso (wonderful) is a blend of six vintages 1984, 1988, 1991, 1995,2001 and 2002, and is only bottled in magnums. Priced at $1,100 dollars and up a bottle, Meraviglioso is ultra- premium and very rare Franciacorta, with only 5000 bottles produced. We were honored to be offered the opportunity to taste it. Initial notes of apple and pear on the nose are complimented by secondary notes of yeast and brioche. Complex and muscular, Meraviglioso finishes long, it's built for the long haul.
A special thanks to Vittorio Moretti, Ristobar owner Gary Rulli, Chef Massimo Covello and their staff for hosting a wonderful food and wine event. While we tasted the upper tier of Terra Moretti Wines, the group offers a wide range of high quality sparkling and still wines at modest prices. Franciacorta wines are currently being aggressively promoted in the United State, so we should be seeing more examples of these wonderful wines on retailer shelves in the future.