Vino 2010: Apulia Wine Dinner

by Chef Mark Tafoya

This past week the second annual Italian Wine Week, Vino 2010, took place in New York City. It’s the largest Italian wine event held outside of Italy, and I was lucky enough to attend last year. This year, because of travel for my birthday, I was not able to attend many of the events, which was a disappointment, since the celebration is filled with grand tastings, seminars, tastings, panel discussions, and did I mention tastings?

So while I couldn’t make the Grand Tasting, I did make it to the Thursday night regional wine dinner event at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. This was a unique event, with 4 separate winemaker’s dinners held simultaneously in different ballrooms of the hotel. Sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission, it was an opportunity for winemakers from the regions of Tuscany, Calabria, The Veneto and Apulia to show off their regional dishes and the wines made from native regional grapes.

I was invited to attend the Apulia regional dinner, while my partner in crime Jennifer Iannolo attended the dinner celebrating Calabria, since her father was born and raised there. She’ll have a report from that dinner.

The Apulia dinner was prepared by Chef Patti Jackson from I Trulli Restaurant in New York City, and hosted by wine writer Tom Maresca, who described each wine we had throughout the course of the evening. We snacked on focaccia and other nibbles before the first course, while sipping Alberto Longo Falanghine “Le Fossette” IGT 2008. Falanghine is an ancient native varietal of Apulia, not commonly found outside the Southern Italy. This particular wine had been aged in barrel for 18 months, which imparted quite a bit of oakiness which was not so appealing. Tom Maresca explained that this is not so typical for a Falanghine. I would have liked to taste a more typical interpretation of the grape, and not one that mimics a California style.

Our Antipasto course was a mixed salad of grilled “Cefalapodi”, squid and octopus, served over endive, baby brown chickpeas, and roasted baby tomatoes. I loved this dish, not only for the fresh and tender seafood, but also for the tiny chickpeas which had a nice bite on the outside, but tender on the inside. It was served with a Tomaresca Chardonnay Puglia IGT 2008. I found this a nice pairing, and the Chardonnay, unlike the previous wine, was not at all oaky.

The Pasta course was a Cavatelli with Broccoli Rabe & Toasted Almonds, which is typical of the simple, honest, rustic food of Apulia. The Broccoli Rabe was not at all bitter, and the cavatelli was perfectly al dente. It was served with Cantatore di Castelforte Primitivo de Manduria “Donna Maria” DOC 2007. Primitivo is one of the most typical varietals found in Southern Italy, and is predominant in the neighboring province of Basilicata. Primitivo is a precursor, and sort of “cousin” to Red Zinfandel.

Our main course was a roasted rack of lamb with potatoes and a puree of fava beans and dandelion, served with Sampietrana Salice Salentino Riserva “Vigne delle Monache” DOC 2004, made with the Negra Amaro grape.

We finished off the dinner with Sweet Baby “Calzones” filled with Hazelnut puree, Fried Dough Rosettes topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, and Stuffed Figs. These sweets were served with A Rivera Moscato di Trani “Piani di Tufara” 2007, an appropriately sweet Moscato typical of the sweet dessert wine style, with notes of honeysuckle an melon. It was a fitting ending to the evening.

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