About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Via Emilia

This past Wednesday I had lunch with my good friend Gabrio.  Gabrio is the former owner of De-Vino Wine in NYC and is one of the most knowledgeable wine guys I know.  He also knows many, if not all, the great little Italian restaurants in the city.  As a result I usually leave it up to him to pick the spot when we get together for lunch.  This week he suggested we visit the city of Modena (Ferrari & Lamborghini fame) in the Italian region of Emilia-Romangna by way of Via Emilia Ristorante Modenese on East 21st in NYC. Owner/chef William Matiello has been preparing and serving the traditional dishes of his hometown for the past 15 years.  Oh what I have been missing all these years.  I cannot wait to get back here (probably next week) and make up for lost time.

2011 Rambela from Randi Vini
As I waited for Gabrio to arrive I settled in at the bar and ordered a glass of 2011 Randi Vini Rambela as I approvingly took in the restaurant's modern and trendy décor.  Rambela is a clean, crisp white wine that is made from the Famoso grape in the province of Ravenna in Emilia-Romangna.  Famoso, also called “Uva Rambela”, is a grape first documented in Romagna around 1800 and that, after being abandoned for a while, was reconsidered over the last decade by growers such as Azienda Randi. Vines are strong, adapting easily to rough soils and bearing cold weather. In spite of its strength, yield is quite low. This was my first encounter with the Famoso grape and it was lovely.  A very easy wine to drink, especially by the pool on a hot day.  About $15 a bottle.

Gabrio arrived and I put myself in his hands with both the wine and the food.  While I am familiar with the Lambrusco grape that is indigenous to the region, the cuisine is new to me.  Gabrio ordered a bottle of 2010 Vittorio Graziano, Emilia Lambrusco "Fontana dei Boschi" that he said would compliment the food magically.  He ordered two specialties of Modena to begin with.  The first was called Gnocco Fritto.  Kind of like a Zeppole, it was a fried puffy fritter that was accompanied by Mortadella, Prosciutto and Salumi.  The Idea is to take a piece of the salumi and place it atop the Gnocco, fold it sandwich style and enjoy.  I must tell you this was off the chart.  This is an Italian sandwich or Panini taken to another level.  See for yourself.  Gnocco Fritto with Salumi below.
The second is called Tigelle, which is Modena’s little tile-baked mountain bread, served with soft cheese, cold cuts and pancetta spread.  Kind of like and Italian English muffin, these were also magnificent.  It is impossible to explain how good these two Salumi/Bread plates were. They need to be tasted to be appreciated.

Gabrio was again right on with the Vittorio Graziano Lambrusco.   I am told he is widely known as one of the true artisans in the region who makes his Lambrusco the old fashioned way without additives, and with the fermentation finishing in bottle. The wine possessed an earthy bouquet, a chewy and earthy palate with layers of complexity and finesse. It was a wine with lots and lots of soul.  I have never had a Lambrusco quite like it.  It was the perfect compliment to the appetizers and the entrées that followed.   I liked it so much that I ordered 4 bottles from Chambers Street Wines as soon as I got home.  $27.  This wine should be served chilled and in the same type of glass you would drink scotch on the rocks in.

Continuing to follow Gabrio’s recommendation, I ordered Tortellini in Brodo.  He explained that this was a signature dish of Modena (I learn something new every day) and that in spite of the fact that it is a soup I have had many times, he promised this one would be an epiphany.  Oh my God!  It was an epiphany. I don’t think I can ever have the ersatz versions served in most other restaurants any more.   The homemade Tortellini dumplings are filled with pork, prosciutto di parma and parmigiano reggiano and served in an ethereal broth made from Guinea Hen.  Each spoonful was sublime.  I think a tear came to my eye when I finished the last Tortellini and the last sip of broth.
Tortellini in Brodo
Gabrio had a pasta dish, Caramelle di Castelvetro a specialty of the house and of Modena. Kind of like ravioli, these were candy shaped pasta dumplings stuffed w/ pork, spinach, ricotta in olive oil/butter sauce with arugula and prosciutto.  He shared one with me and it threw a party for my mouth.  The homemade pasta was light; the stuffing moist and delicious and the sauce complimented rather than overpowered the dish.  When I next visit Via Emilia you can be sure I will order a full portion and savor each bite.
Caramelle di Castelvetro
What a superb restaurant with great food at very reasonable prices.  This is a place to check out! Thanks Gabrio.  


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