September 2012 Wine Guy: Roberto’s features an evening of southern Italian wines

Roberto Faraglia and John Naples of Roberto’s Restaurant in downtown Youngstown. Electronic image by John Webster.

Roberto Faraglia and John Naples of Roberto’s Restaurant in downtown Youngstown. Electronic image by John Webster.

By JOHN WEBSTER | METRO MONTHLY WINE COLUMNIST

The end of summer and arrival of Labor Day ushered in a number of enjoyable wine events for local wine lovers. The Springfield Grille and Wine and Dine Ohio held several f fine dinner tastes, and local wine shops featured a number of delightful tastings for their customers.

Wine and Dine Ohio added two new locations to their array of fine restaurants, Stonebridge Grille and Tavern of Boardman and Roberto’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Youngstown. At Stonebridge Grille and Tavern, a  capacity crowd was treated to an evening of fine Italian wines with accompanying food pairings from Stonebridge’s talented kitchen.

Our first wine was the 2011 Vincola del Sannio Falanghina IGT from Marc de Grazia Imports. Bright apricot and lemon flavors teamed with a sunny crisp finish made this a super match for the Stonebridge sampler of stuffed peppers, breaded fried provolone, hot peppers, and greens with house-made Pomodoro (fresh tomato) sauce.

Our next white was the 2011 Gavi Vigneto Masera DOCG from Stefano Massone. Made from 100 percent indigenous Cortese grapes, it exudes juicy apple fruit flavors leading to a crisp finish. The classic chicken Romano from Stonebridge’s kitchen with crimini mushrooms, scallions and sundried tomatoes was mouthwateringly good with this Italian white wine.

A Silvio Grasso 2010 Dolcetto d”Alba DOC from the Piedmont region of Italy was our first red wine of the evening. Ruby red in color with ripe plum and berry flavors, it was just the answer for the people who ordered the chicken marsala topped with crimini mushrooms. Slightly chilled, this Dolcetto is a fine red for outdoor summertime meals.

Piedmont’s Fratelli Revello was the maker of our next wine. His 2010 Barbera d’Alba DOC presented dense black fruit flavors leading to a smooth sweet finish marked with spice and cocoa. The silky impressions from this finish worked gloriously with Stonebridge’s tasty baby back ribs.

We returned to Italy’s Piedmont region for the Silvio Grasso 2008 Nebbiolo Langhe. This 100 percent Nebbiolo-based red ($19.99) produces a bold lush wine with a silky smooth finish, rivaling its more expensive Barolo cousins costing $50 and up. The recommended charcoal-seasoned Angus ribeye was a fantastic match for the full-bodied Langhe Nebbiolo. Our group had a wonderful time at the Stonebridge Grille, and we would like to thank Ron Zenko and his attentive staff for a great event. Wine and Dine Ohio is looking for a return visit to this restaurant in 2013.

Wines from the Pacific coast were featured in the recent Springfield Grille wine dinner. On hand to describe the wines was Wesley Cowie of Wine Trends distributors. He started us off with a 2009 Parker Station Pinot Noir from California. Vivid strawberry and red fruit flavors progressed to a clean spice-tinged crisp finish that was outstanding with the Grille’s Coho salmon from Washington state’s Columbia River. Seared with pink Himalayan sea salt, the Coho salmon was just outstanding.

The Grille’s kitchen wowed me with their next entrée. Jumbo lump crab and Chilean sea bass baked in a rich Brie cream sauce surrounded with roasted artichokes and fennel was presented with a glass of 2010 Avalon Sauvignon Blanc from California. Bright mineral-laden citrus fruit flavors balanced nicely with the rich crab cake drizzled in Brie cream sauce.

This was a hard act to follow, but the salad course of whole hearts of Romaine topped with candied apples from Oregon, hazelnuts from Washington and lavender champagne dressing was a refreshing treat. A glass of Four Vines 2010 Naked Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County was a fine partner for this refreshing salad. With no oak to get in the way of its bright Chardonnay fruit flavors, the Naked Chardonnay complemented and didn’t overpower the salad’s crisp summery-tasting flavors.

Our main course consisted of skirt steak with wild mushrooms and skewered Gulf shrimp drizzled in a cherry port broth. A Belle Vallee Cellars 2008 Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Ore. was a perfect choice for this fork-tender entrée. Belle Terre Pinot Noirs are known for their Burgundian style, and their 2008 is right on point, with its spicy berry flavors and textured clean finish tinged with cinnamon.

For our dessert course of semi-sweet chocolate cheesecake dipped in crushed macadamia nuts, we were offered a glass of Kiona Vineyard 2005 Red Blend from Washington state. A delicious cuvee (blend) of Cabernet Sauvignon (75 percent), Merlot (15 percent), Syrah (5 percent), Cabernet Franc (3 percent) and Sangiovese (2 percent). It delivers ripe red fruit and berry flavors leading to a fine clean finish. The Kiona red blend with its textured fruit-filled cool-climate style was just perfect for the rich chocolate cheesecake.

On Sept. 18, Wine and Dine Ohio held an intimate dinner taste at Roberto’s Restaurant in downtown Youngstown. Roberto’s specializes in southern Italian cuisine, and to complement it, Wine and Dine Ohio brought several exciting wines from Sicily and southern Italy. Our first wine was a 2011 Centonze Grillo from Sicily. This wine is unique, as most Grillo grapes go into the making of Marsala dessert wine. Special lots of Grillo were selected for this tangy fruit-driven wine. Citrusy fuit flavors and a finish tinged with honey and crushed almonds made it a great choice for the classic linguine and clam sauce.

Our second wine was the 2008 Masserie Pisari Negromaro from the Puglia region of Italy. Puglia has grown grapes for wine since the beginning of recorded history, and the indigenous Negromaro has a rich history here. Spicy cherry and red fruit flavors lead to a smooth clean finish. Roberto’s mouth-watering four-cheese ravioli with meatball was a fine choice for this red wine.

Our next wine, also from Masserie Pisari, was their 2010 Primitivo. The indigenous Primitivo is also found grown in California where it is called Zinfandel. This Puglian version is just plain delicious. Juicy red fruit and berry flavors and a long textured finish will have you wishing you bought two bottles instead of one. This red needs a rich entrée to match its bold flavors, and Roberto’s classic borse poco pasta (“little purses”) filled with gorgonzola cheese drizzled in olive oil and chopped garden tomatoes worked like magic for the Primitivo.

Our fourth wine hails from the Marche region of Italy. The 2008 Le Terraze Rosso Conero is made from organically grown Montepulciano grapes. Dark ruby in color, this tasty red offers lightly oaked dark fruit flavors with a clean subtle finish tinged with earthy notes. One of my favorite Roberto’s entrees is their classic polenta and sausage in tangy tomato sauce. The Rosso Conero was just the wine for this hearty dish.

Our final wine of the evening originates on the slopes of volcanic Mt. Etna in Sicily. The 2010 Tenuta Terre Nere Etna Rosso DOC is made from indigenous Nerello Mascalese grapes. It produces a bold red wine with aging capabilities, yet is just fabulous when young. Bright purple in color, its structure is reminiscent of classic Cote de Nuits Grand Cru Burgundy. Bold ripe red fruit flavors give way to an elegant structured finish. At $19.99 a bottle, this is a real bargain. Those who ordered the veal or eggplant Parmesan raved about this food and wine combination. I want to thank Roberto Faraglia, John Naples and the Roberto’s staff for a wonderful evening of fine wine and food.

Local store tastings offered a number of well-priced wines for upcoming holiday imbibing. Let’s start with the 2011 Bonacci “Borgo Antico” Chianti from Tuscany ($11.99, Wine Styles of Howland). Supple plum and berry flavors lead to an ultra-clean finish that will work nicely with upcoming holiday entertaining.

When you’re appealing to a large range of wine palates during holiday entertaining, it’s hard to find off-dry wines outside of Spatelese-level German Riesling. The 2011 Cosecha Tardia Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina ($9.99, Vintage Estate) is just the answer for an off-dry wine that will work well in a number of situations. Bright citrus and floral flavors follow through to a crisp peach-tinged finish.

If you’re looking for an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon this season, give the 2010 Trinchero Main Street a try ($19.99, Charlie’s Premier Wines of Howland). With rich Cabernet fruit flavors and a finish tinged with spice and cocoa, this red delivers flavors and finishing aromas that will have you thinking you’re sampling a wine twice its cost.

Wine and Dine Ohio’s upcoming tastings will be Tuesday, Oct. 30 at Up a Creek in Howland; Thursday, Nov. 15 at Station Square in Liberty; and Thursday, Dec. 13 at Café Cimmento in downtown Youngstown. To make a reservation or get on the email list for Wine and Dine Ohio event information, call 330-651-8676 and leave a message, or contact us through the Wine and Dine Ohio website (www.wineanddineohio.com).

Second Harvest Food Bank will have abenefittasting 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7 at Stambaugh Auditorium. Vintage Estate Wine and Beer will hold a hard cider tasting on Sunday, Oct. 21. I also look forward to visiting Vintage Estate’s Phill and Sandy Reda at their new location at the Magic Tree in Boardman, which will have its grand opening Oct. 8.

Other upcoming tastings include the Springfield Grille monthly wine dinner (call restaurant for date); Charlie’s Premier Wines of Howland, every Saturday; Wine Styles, every other week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday; Vintage Estate, third Saturday tasting; and Michael Charles Premier Wines on Elm Road, second Saturday tasting.

If your restaurant, shop or charity event is having an upcoming wine tasting, please email me a month in advance at jmwineguy@gmail.com.  I look forward to seeing you at events around the Valley.

© 2012 The Metro Monthly. All rights reserved.

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