Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winemaker Sabrino Loffredo’s Pietracupa Wines and Chef Roberto Donna’s Food at a Winemaker Dinner at Alba Osteria in Washington DC, Italy/USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Winemaker Sabrino Loffredo Alba Osteria in Washington DC

Winemaker Sabrino Loffredo’s Pietracupa Wines presented his wines at Alba Osteria in Washington DC. Excecutvie Chef Roberto Donna and Chef de Cuisine Amy Brandwein prepared an excellent 5-course dinner.

Winemaker Sabrino Loffredo and his Pietracupa Wines

Maurizio Farro, from Cantiniere Imports and Distributing Company, introduced us to Sabino Loffredo and his wines: Sabino Loffredo is a young winemaker from the south of Italy. He has taken over the family winery and turned his talents as gifted wine taster and dedicated wanderer, not to mention his technical skills, to making it one of the most extraordinary Italian wine businesses of recent years. Pietracupa wines represent his style and his idea of the wine world. He is one of the most successful examples of how a small producer can produce great wines.

Pictures: Winemaker Sabrino Loffredo Alba Osteria in Washington DC

Pietracupa is situated near Avellino, in the hinterland of the Campania region. It is a mountainous terrain that has little to do with the usual idea of southern Italy, but at the same time it reflects its sunny, open nature. The limited production focuses on the grape varieties typical of the area: Fiano and Greco for the whites, and Aglianico for the red wines. The company’s wines are like its owner. They tend towards the original but are able to speak faithfully of their land. Elegant, deep, and highly mineral, they are immediately good, and make a striking impression at first taste. However, they also have wonderful ageing potential and become magnificently complex in the bottle.

The winery was established in 1993. The 3 hectares of vineyards are planted to Fiano, Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. The soil in the vineyard contains a thin layer of clay and sand over a compact core of tufaceous rock, the legacy of the ancient volcanoes that made up the majority of inland Campania. The volcanic rock is responsible for the mineral and chalk elements that make up these incredibly pure, crystal clear wines.

Pictures: Chef Roberto Donna

The Gambero Rosso guide recognized the winery as the „up and coming‟ winery of the year in 2006, the first time it had been awarded to Campania. In 2007 Cupo was awarded best white of the year: the first time a Fiano had been recognized. The 2008 guide awarded „tre bicchiere‟ to the Greco di Tufo, the first time a standard non oaked Greco had taken the prize.

Alba Osteria

This is a brand-new restaurant. Executive Chef: Roberto Donna. Chef de Cuisine: Amy Brandwein.

Pictures: Christian G. E. Schiller with Executive Chef Roberto Donna and Chef de Cuisine Amy Brandwein

The restaurant will focus on the cuisine of Roberto Donna's heritage, the Piedmont region of Italy, with an emphasis on wine, cheeses, wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas and salumi. Eventually, Roberto Donna will roll out a separate prix-fixe menu for a chef's table, as well as weekend brunch.

Picture: Alba Osteria

Charlene Giannetti from Woman Around Town

I was seated with Charlene Gianetti from "Woman Around Town", who already published a posting about the event: Campania Wine Dinner at Alba Osteria. I am copying her comments on the food that was served and a little paragraph about me (with a picture) that she included in her posting.

Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of five awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington, covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines including the New York Times. She is the author of 11 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller (Photo by Charlene Giannetti)

Charlene Giannetti (Woman Around Town): A bonus (for me) was sharing my table with an extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of diners who generously shared their opinions as well as made recommendations for other area restaurants whose wine dinners they enjoyed. Most well versed on the subject of wine was Dr. Christian G.E. Schiller (above), who divides his time between Washington and Frankfurt, but truly travels the world to taste and write about wine. His blog, schiller-wine, is must reading for oenophiles.

The Dinner and the Wines

Roasted Head-On Shrimp - Oven Roasted Tomato Bufala Mozzarella - Basil Dressing

Charlene Giannetti (Woman Around Town): Our first course was roasted head-on shrimp served with oven roasted tomato, Bufala mozzarella, and a basil dressing. The roasted tomatoes proved to be the key ingredient here, turning what is a popular summer dish into something warmer and more satisfying in cold weather.

2012 Fiano di Avellino, Pietracupa ($34.99) I put the regular retail prices, as communicated by Maurizio Farro, in parenthesis.

Callmewine: The Pietracupa project starts from the primary goal to provide an authentic and genuine expression of the great white wines that have always characterized the winemaking scene in Campania, among which the Fiano d'Avellino stands out. Several years have passed since Peppino Loffredo chose to return to country life, buying a property on the hill of Montefredano in the early 70s with the sole purpose of making wine for himself and his friends. Very soon his son Sabino succeeded to his father in the farm management, giving substance to a project that very soon would have measured with the scene of great wines linked to the territory. Today, the starting points have received a proper consolidation, paving the way towards the production of white wines with unmistakable aromas and impressively characterized, whose most striking example is Fiano d'Avellino. Planted around the house-cellar on an extension of just one hectare and a half, the rows of Fiano di Pietracupa lay on a clay and limestone soil that gives minerality to the great wines produced here. The vinification techniques used are inspired by a fundamental respect for the purity of the raw material, able to assist in its natural development towards a fresh and immediate result, played on a comparison between acidity and flavor. For this reason, Fiano Pietracupa is a perfect summary of the expressiveness of the Avellino area, with a highly distinctive imprint able to gain the most important national and international awards.

Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina - Eggplant

Charlene Giannetti (Woman Around Town): There were two pasta dishes included in this meal, and while they were different, they were enough alike that perhaps one would have been enough. The first was gnocchi alla Sorrentina with eggplant, the pasta light and the eggplant hearty. (I couldn’t help thinking, though, that an eggplant dish without the pasta would have been a better choice.)

2012 Greco di Tufo, Pietracupa ($34.99)

Paul Caputo: Greco di Tufo is one of the great white wines of Southern Italy. Best consumed a year or two from the vintage, Greco di Tufo is a wine capable of showing complex layers of tropical fruit and a fresh, mineral body rarely found this far south. Many wine makers emphasise Greco di Tufo’s peculiar nature by describing it as a red wine dressed as a white. The warm yellow colours, high acidity and sometimes oxidative flavour characteristics that come out of the villages of Santa Paolina, Tufo, Prata di Principato Ultra and Montefusco, are so intense that tasting them blindfolded can be very misleading.

On the whole 2012 seems to have produced a lighter style of wine, crisper and more refreshing than the typical, full bodied Greco. Acidity and mineral character seem to be more evident than the traditional floral and almond notes for which Greco has built its reputation.

Straw yellow with a green tint, the nose is lightly floral with white peach and lemongrass. In the mouth it is crisp and refreshing, slightly saline and well endowed with stone fruit.

Paccheri - Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Charlene Giannetti (Woman Around Town): The second pasta dish was paccheri with roasted pepper sauce. Paccheri are large pasta tubes. Even though I’m a big gnocchi fan, the paccheri won hands down. This was not a wimpy dish; the pasta was big and thick, the peppers meaty and sweet. A real winner and one I hope Chef Donna has on his regular menu since it’s one I would order again (and again).

2010 Aglianico “Quirico”, Pietracupa ($29.99)

Chain Bridge Cellars: Campagna's top red grape shows off a fun and easy-going side in this juicy bistro quafffer. The flavors and aromas are classic - black and sour red cherry with hints of roses and fruit blossoms. But, unlike most Aglianico, the texture is fresh, open, and juicy with loads of ripe fruit supported by bright acids and light tannins. Sort of a Pinot Noir take on Aglianico, but full of flavor and ready to sing with olives, peppers, or even lamb.

Slow Roasted Lamb - Roasted Portobello Mushroom - Broccoli Rabe

Charlene Giannetti (Woman Around Town): Our main course was slow roasted lamb with a roasted portobello mushroom and broccoli rabe. A few at my table complained that the meat was overcooked. Since I like my lamb true to its medium rare billing, mine was perfect. The meat was tender, the sauce tangy, and the accompanying vegetables a nice addition.

2007 Taurasi, Pietracupa ($68.99)

ViniItaliani: Warm & inviting complex aromas. Cooked berries, fruit cake, cloves and sweet spice. The palate is initially soft, warm & rounded; ripe berries, cassis, sweet spice with an almost creamy texture. Firm fine grain silky tannins with powerful length. Food Pairing: it goes well with meals of pasta flavoured with oil and red pepper, followed by roasts of beef, lamb and goat.

Sfogliatelle - Traditional Italian Layered Pastry

Charlene Giannetti (Woman Around Town): We enjoyed a traditional Italian dessert, sfogliatelle, a layered pastry.

2011 Moscato d’Asti “Ciombo”, Il Falchetto

Grape Occasions: 2011 Tenuata Il Falchetto Moscato d’Asti “Ciombo,” Piedmont, Italy, $17.99: As an Italian wine it is considered Frizzante, their main term for sparkling wines. This wine is made of 100% Moscato grapes and tank fermented. The grapes are grown in the Ciombo region on 25 year old vines. The results is a very intense, floral, honey wine with low alcohol. It’s a perfect after dinner offering.

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