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Republic National Distributing's Emily Moody, left, and Maddie Bloom with Victor Magalhaes, center, owner of Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Republic National Distributing's Emily Moody, left, and Maddie Bloom with Victor Magalhaes, center, owner of Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria. Photo by Rico Cassoni
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Vittorio’s ‘A Night in Italy’; Napa’s Fiftyrow Vineyards

It was fitting for Victor Magalhaes, proprietor of Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria, to host a wine dinner titled “A Night in Italy” featuring wine and food pairings from the Sardinia, Campania, Puglia, and Tuscany regions of Italy.

Republic National Distributing account manager Emily Moody and sales rep Maddie Bloom were on hand to narrate the pairings over the evening and hold several raffles for wines served throughout dinner and other extras.

The dinner started with tuna carpaccio in a garlic aioli paired with Agricola Punica Samas Isola Dei Nuraghi IGT vermentino (80%)-chardonnay(20%) blend from the island of Sardinia. This bright, white blend ages three months in concrete versus oak, resulting in crisp minerality that lets the tuna shine.

The second course was veal osso bucco served with creamy polenta, complemented by the 2016 Villa Matilde Aglianico from the Campania region. Aglianico is indigenous to this area, which has rich volcanic soil due to Mt. Vesuvius — the only volcano in Europe that has erupted in the last 100 years.

The persistent Aglianico grape must dig its way through volcanic rock and sand to find water creating an intense palate with spice, blackberry, and ripe redberry fruit. The flavorful Aglianico was perfect with the rich osso bucco sauce.

Chef spoiled guests in the third course with freshly made tortellaci (jumbo tortellini) filled with short rib, prosciutto, mushrooms, and peas topped with a white sauce. This was paired with the 2019 Masseria Surani Heracles Primitivo. (A fun fact is that the rest of the world calls “primitivo” grapes zinfandel.)

In Greek, Masseria means strong and bold, and Heracles is a god in Greek mythology. Based on the name (you guessed it), this bold zinfandel fused nicely with the tortellaci dish.

The main course featured Tuscan-style prime rib with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus served with a 2017 Verbena Brunello Montalcino Sangiovese. A Brunello must be aged for at least five years. The extended aging makes the tannins supple and approachable. The Brunello and prime rib were the stars of the dinner.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Napa Valley’s Fiftyrow Vineyards

Paul Johnson, one of Fiftyrow’s founders, reached out to Taste of Wine to share some of his delicious wines. Johnson started the vineyard in 2002 with legendary 100-point winemaker Gary Galleron, whose pedigree includes Vineyard 29, Grace Family, Whitehall Lane, Chateau Montelena, Hartwell, Del Dotto and Seavey. Paul desired to have Gary transfer his winemaking skills to him.

After nine years of on-the-job training and mentoring, Paul officially took over the winemaking reins, with Gary shifting to a semi-retirement/consulting role. Wanting some assistance, Paul sought another Galleron protégé, young star Jake Stuessy, to help him with winemaking duties.

With many vineyards and wineries in Napa Valley sporting some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the world with price tags ranging from $100 to over $1000, what differentiates Fiftyrow?

From inception, the winery’s goal was to make great wines from Napa for a price that would be available to a broad audience. After tasting its petite sirah, Charbono, and Rutherford cabernet, I would say, “Mission accomplished!”

The 2020 Petite Sirah comes from Napa’s Silver Dollar Vineyard. The wine was inky-black and had intense flavors with blackberry, dark cherry, and hints of cocoa and spice on the palate. The nose also had blackberry, and the finish was smooth and long-lasting.

Charbono-based wines are one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path varietals. I was excited to try Fiftyrow’s 2020 sourced from Suisan Valley’s Wheelhouse Ranch vineyard.

What I love about Charbono fruit is that you get full flavors, like those of cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel, with less intense tannins, resembling pinot noir and sangiovese. It was a balanced wine perfect for pairing with a wide range of dishes from fish and poultry to pork to beef.

The nose and palate had aromas and flavors of dark fruit with hints of chocolate and a touch of leather. To me, Charbono is like that perfect pair of jeans that can be dressed up or down.

The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from Rutherford, specifically Alice Block, was outstanding and my favorite. It had the predicted cocoa, chocolate “Rutherford Dust” with black currant and spice on the finish with black fruit on the front palate. It was more floral on the nose than one would expect.

I liked the website description, “It does have the typical expression of Rutherford, but more in a Rutherford meets Bordeaux way.”

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your wines with us. For our readers, if you are in Napa, it’s worth making an appointment to visit Fiftyrow to experience Napa Valley elegance at affordable prices. Or, shop Fiftyrow’s wines directly at Nicely done, Paul and Jake!

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria concludes its 2022 Wine Dinner series with a Champagne dinner at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29. Guests will enjoy a four-course Champagne dinner, including Schramsberg North Coast Blanc de Noirs paired with Chicken Roulade and Piper-Heidsieck 1785 Champagne Brut paired with pan-seared scallops. The cost is $75 per person plus tax/gratuity. RSVP at 858.538.5884.

— Ring in 2023 with a Disco Ball Drop from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Dec. 31 at Carlsbad’s Witch Creek Winery. Barel & Lana will delight the audience with their “One-Man+Woman-Band,” featuring multi-layered guitars, bass, synth sounds, percussion, and tight vocal harmonies with a fresh take on classic rock and pop favorites from the 1960s thru 90s, plus excellent originals. RSVP for tickets at (760) 720-7499. Tickets can be purchased at the door but may be limited.

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