Rewind: Summer of 2008 – A fascinating morning spent touring the ancient hill town of Assisi in the Umbrian region of Italy with our tour guide, Anne Robichaud. Following the tour – a private wine tasting arranged by Anne at Enoteca Properzio south of Assisi in a beautiful Italian hill town called Spello. The afternoon was inspiring, charming, and overflowing with yummy flavors and memories that our family will never forget.
Fast Forward: February 2012 – Inspired by that day in Umbria, my food blog reaches its 2nd anniversary and to help celebrate the occasion, the Angelini’s, the 8th generation family running that Enoteca in Spello, arrive at my home in San Jose at 2:30 PM to prepare for an evening of wine, olive oil, and food tasting. It is a happy reunion with lots of kisses on the cheek, hugs, translating, hand gestures, laughter, and preparation to share their premium wine and food products with our guests.
As I recounted in my very first blog post, we ordered wine and olive oil during the summer of 2008, and reordered the olive oil in the spring of 2010. Roberto Angelini and I have stayed in touch by email and when he wrote to me about their winter tour of California hosting private tastings, he asked if I would like to attend one. With hope, I asked if he could add another tasting at our home instead. To my surprise they were able to schedule one more and so the story progresses. Both of us taking a leap of faith, confirm the date and time and I proceed to invite a wonderfully eclectic group of wine-loving friends to attend.
Roberto assured me in many emails that my guests would not be disappointed. When the boxes of wine and food arrived, it was clear he spoke the truth. After opening them to view the contents for storage purposes, it took all my self-control to close them back up, store them in a cool dry spot, and pretend they weren’t there until the tasting day arrived.
We recognized some of the wines as ones we still have laying down from our 2008 visit – huge wines with long staying power from premium winemakers producing only very small quantities. Two olive oils – the one we already have and another that the great chef Alain Ducasse uses. And there was the 25-year-old balsamic from Modena – a tiny bottle of liquid gold. And the black truffle spread and six glorious types of cheese including a black truffle-studded pecorino and a grana padano riserva.
These products alone would make anyone’s taste buds dance with delight. But to have them served to you by Luca, the charming son, explained to you in Italian by Roberto with translation by his bright and beautiful daughter Irene, and prepared for you by Roberto’s lovely wife Danielle, was really just more than one can hope for, especially on a Thursday night in February in San Jose.
As Roberto opened the wines to breathe, he offered me a taste, toasting Cin Cin! I tried to resist, saving myself for the long night ahead but his spirited encouragement and the wine was infectious. Even @dormantchef came home early and Cin Cin’ed his way through the late afternoon.
With 22 table settings on the table, and over 30 bottles of wine ready to pour, the evening was underway. We started with two unique white wines – a Tili Etrusco blend of pinot noir and chardonnay whose flavor is as unique as its bottle – providing all the refreshment of a crisp starter white with none of the ugly oaky chardonnay flavors I have grown to resist. And it can age – what a convenient characteristic for a white! The second white, a Sette Note 2009, had overtones of peaches and apricot and lulled us into finishing each drop, despite rumblings in our head about how many robust reds were yet to come.
I wish I could give you a full-blown flavor review for each wine – but my attempt to take notes on my iPhone (as @dormantchef said “this is not just a party honey, you’re supposed to be working aren’t you?”), was overshadowed by my enjoyment of my guests, the food, and my attempt to keep up with each successive pour. But here’s the net-net of it all, the wines are all truly outstanding and not like anything available in this country. Several have been listed in a book by Joseph Bastianich called Grandi Vini: An Opinionated Tour of Italy’s 89 Finest Wines. The Sagrantino stood out as tougue-twisitingly tannic, but that will only turn the wine into something big and wonderful many years down the road. And the Kurni – a wine we still have from our 2008 purchase – had flavors of bananas/plantains. While that might sound like a bizarre tasting note for a wine, it was as lovely as it was unusual.
The food was simple – starting out with fresh prosciutto and genoa salami that I purchased at my new grocery store that morning, then proceeded on to several bruschettas, highlighting the two olive oils, the syrupy balsamic, and each of four jars of pesto – white truffle, black truffle, arugula, and sundried tomato. We then had a chance to try each of six Pecorino cheeses including a spicy one and a truffled one, followed by a strangozzi pasta simply prepared with black pepper, olive oil, and gran riserva pecorino. To highlight the last couple of big reds, we were served beef tenderloin with roasted vegetables.
Dessert was a crunchy tozzetti – a chocolate biscotti paired with an eye-popping grappa that very few of us were able to finish at that late stage of the evening.
It was a spectacular night – worthy of marking my two years of food blogging and proving that the memories of Italy from 2008 are not exaggerated by time. It was a life-changing summer for our family, for me, and continues to enrich our lives in our minds and in reality!
Thanks to @gregorytlee, @dormantchef, and @yumivore for contributing their photography skills and taste buds to the evening. Thanks to all of our friends who found their way to San Jose on a work night to share this special event, and a huge thank you to the Angelini’s for making our home part of their 2012 tour of the United States and Canada. We hope we showed them as much hospitality and warmth as they shared with us in their ancient and beautiful storefront in Spello. Cin Cin!