A wonderful dinner was interrupted by the sound of a blaring horn. Not what I was expecting at the famed Italian restaurant Valentino, and I was afraid someone had set off a fire alarm. I heard laughter from another other room, the horn went off again, and lo and behold it seemed that Bacchus himself burst into the main dining room and then everything…would never be the same. More on this in a couple of minutes.
Piero Selvaggio, the owner of Valentino Santa Monica, Chef Luciano Pellegrini and the Consortium of the Brunello of Montalcino Wine recently presented a wine-pairing diner that included a tasting of the internationally acclaimed 2010 Brunello vintage.
Only Dinner on the West Coast
The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino awards the Leccio Gold each year to a restaurant that has a wine list with a wide presence of Brunello di Montalcino and other wines of Montalcino. Valentino was ONE of only 26 restaurants to toast the Brunello 2010 as only 26 were awarded the Leccio d’Oro prize; the restaurant was also one of the first to receive this prestigious award in 1995 – and the first outside of Italy.
We learned that our “Leccio d’Oro” Gala Dinner was also the ONLY one held on the west coast. Chef Luciano Pellegrini, the long-time chef of Valentino Santa Monica and Las Vegas, presented the meal. The dinner was paired with a few Brunello wines – including the greatest recent vintage, 2010 BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO.
The owner of the horn, and the mischievous Bacchus (God of Wine) personality was none other than famous Italian butcher Dario Cecchini all the way from Panzano, Chianti. He had some nice things to say about Piero, via his wife that translated: “Piero is a legend, he is the heart of Italy. We sent him to you many years ago and are very proud of him. There’s an ocean between us but our hearts are together. And I’m pleased to be here with Piero and Brunello.” To which Piero responded, “I didn’t stage this meeting tonight – he is a great friend of mine and the king of Tuscany!”
Company, Menu and Wines
Seated in the main dining room, we were told that 42 years ago this room held the entire restaurant. Tonight it was filled, and continued to fill with chairs being added in, with Brunello lovers.
My table was for press and winery representatives. I was seated next to Luciano Castiello, the National Ambassador for Cru Artisan Wines. Castiello kept me both entertained and informed during the evening. The first thing I was to learn was that the 2010s were “number one”, as there was “no more perfect harvest.”
We began with a 2010 La Velona Brunello di Montalcino that had bright red fruit flavors and a nice dry finish. Castiello said that his 76 year-old father called the wine “a young beautiful vibrant lady – when she’s 35” in a nod to the aging that most Brunellos see before drinking.
Castiello said that the grapes are “touched, and if they stick to the fingers they are ready” to be harvested. The wine is “intriguing and elegant” and not the type of wine that would “hit you” over the head. These Brunellos were subtle, yet expanding, on the palate.
Fried Quail Eggs in Brioche, Mixed Seafood Cakes with Spicy Aioli
Bruschetta with Asparagus and Black Truffle
A Variety of Grilled Flat Bread Pizze
Tuscan Style Roasted Porchetta with Lattughina, Pecorino and Aged Balsamico (The La Velona was nice with this course, and also served well as the perfect palate cleanser.)
DUET OF PASTA
Pappardelle with Rabbit Meatballs and Homemade Pigeon Ravioli in their own Sauce (Castiello ordered one of his Banfi labels from the wine list for this, a 2010 Toscana Cum Laude blend that I noted had dark juicy fruit, pepper, menthol and was ready to drink. Castiello explained that the wine was about $40 retail, unfiltered, aged in French oak barrels…and I’ll be looking for this one.)
Colorado Rack of Lamb and Wild Boar Tagliata Scented with Fresh Thyme
Served over Black Kale Ratatouille, Cardoons and Squash with Peppered Garlic Sauce
Pecorino Cheese “Sformato” with Wild Arugula (Here one of the guests purchased a 2009 Brunello di Montalcino, Torre Guelfa. It was decanted, though still needed some aging time in my opinion, with lovely notes of leather, plum and some tart red fruit.)
(Due to the length of this story, we will run Learning About The Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino Wine Part 2 on March 6, 2015)
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com