Daniele Cernilli aka “Doctor Wine” recently came to Los Angeles for a stellar wine tasting and pairing with the food of Drago Centro, in downtown Los Angeles, as part of his California Tour 2018. The occasion was the launch of his 4th Edition to The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine. There are 25 contributors to the book, which is not an Italian wine encyclopedia, but rather a curated list of wines from the best producers including winery information, tasting notes, etc.
Some have called Daniele the “Robert Parker of Italy”. Depending on your thoughts of Parker, that comparison can be a compliment or not! Suffice it to say that Daniele Cernilli is an important voice in the Italian wine space. Case in point, he was one of the founders of Gambero Rosso some 24 years ago and remains an important wine critic and educator.
Below is a recap of this amazing lunch, including the wines! Note that two to three wines were paired with each course.
Cecaluccoli Lobster Carbonara, Egg Yolk
I don’t have many tasting notes for the food except for “OMG”. This lunch was to die for. Each course better than the next. And now I am craving carbonara:)
Pairing #1 (my fav)
Contadi Castaldi Lombardy Brut Rose NV Franciacorta DOCG
According to Daniele, this wine is the color of a Vidalia onion. It is younger and approachable with a beautiful, clean primary nose and a lovely crisp palate. This wine has a slight yeastiness and medium +/high acid, which really cuts through the fat of the carbonara. Lees aging of 24-30 months, which is not too detectable on the nose, but is detectable on the palate. 10g/L of liqueur de disgorgement. Contadi Castaldi also owns Bellavista, a famous Franciacorta producer.
Vigne Surrau Branu Vermentino di Gallura DOCG 2017 Sardinia
One the nose, this wine brings citrus, green fruit, and a hint of stone fruit. Also, almond skin, and a floral (honeysuckle) note. On the palate, I get citrus (lime peel), stone fruit (apricot, peach), tropical fruit (pineapple), and a floral note. This wine is chewy with great texture. A bold wine with medium + body. This wine is all stainless steel and sees no oak.
Tortellini, Ricotta Pecorino, Parmesan, Basil, Pine Nuts
I have never had a dish like this before. Soft, pillowy tortellini stuffed with cheese, basil, and pine nuts. When the tortellini broke in your mouth, an unexpected rush of warm soup came out. Delish!
Pairing #1 (my fav)
Colosi Piero Nero d’Avola DOC Sicilia 2017
These vineyards are on a tiny island (of 300 people!) just off of Sicily. This wine is a purple/violet color and smells a bit more sophisticated than most Southern Italian wines, which tend to be more rustic. The nose has the perfect combination of red fruit (plum and cherry), floral (violet), and earth (cedar) notes. There is also a slight graphite note. Daniele also got a caper/vegetal note. On the palate this wine had a strong acid backbone and was very rustic. Very Italian.
Vinchio Vaglio Serra I Tre Vescovi Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOCG 2015
This is their flagship wine. Very versatile. The nose smells like a pile of dirt and that makes me happy. Dirt is exactly what I want to smell in an Italian wine. The fruit is delicate and I also get a hint of violet petals. Refreshing acidity on the palate, plus some oak tannins that I think will mellow with time.
Casa Vinicola Luigi Cecchi e Figli Srl Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia 2014
This wine is a medium garnet color (possibly due to age?). On the nose, I get sour red cherry (which is a Sangiovese marker) plus floral notes. Very rustic. The palate also brings me sour cherry, good acid, and demands food.
Colorado Wagyu NY Steak, Celery Root Puree, Au Jus
The marbling on this steak…..oh boyyyy!!!! So good.
Statti Arvino IGP Calabria 2015
This producer also grows olives on their property and is the largest producer of olives in all of Calabria, with over 55,000 trees! This wine has a lovely rusticity on the nose with lots of red fruit. It spends 12 months in French oak (which is not super evident on the palate; perhaps neutral oak was used?). On the palate I get medium + tannins and medium + acid (enough to make you salivate). This wine is balanced and great alone. It does not need food.
Velenosi Vini Roggio del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore 2013
This wine gives me black fruit, dried cherries, spice (black pepper), leather, and black licorice. It reminds me of an Old Vine Zinfandel.. Powerful, structured, and layered. You almost want to chew it. Juicy. This wine is like a beautiful Italian woman. You can’t stop looking at her. She appears effortless.
Pairing #3 (my fav)
Tenuta Bocca di Lupo Castel del Monte DOC 2011
This is the most iconic wine of the tasting. It really held up to the food. Major structure. A step up from everything we have tasted toda thus far. The nose was spectacular: fruit and tons of herbaceous notes such as dried sage and tarragon). #thatnosethough. Only 200 cases produced.