Move over Napa Cab: an extraordinary Italian wine dinner in Austin, Texas

piero alberto do bianchi

Above, from left: Alberto Chiarlo of Michele Chiarlo and Piero Incisa della Rocchetta of Tenuta San Guido.

Something remarkable happened in Austin, Texas last night.

Not just one but two of Italy’s marquee-name wineries presented their wines at a dinner held in their honor.

It may not seem so extraordinary to some.

But when I first came to Austin more than five years ago, the thought of jet-set winemakers like Piero Incisa della Rocchetta and Chiarlo scion Alberto working the market here and presenting a high-end wine dinner was not even on the horizon.

I’ve written recently about the new Texas wine scene and how more and more groovy European wines are becoming available here.

The sight of Piero and Alberto under the same roof, speaking to a glitzy crowd of roughly sixty guests, struck me as a new milestone for Italian wine in city once considered a faraway outpost in “flyover” territory.

sassicaia do bianchi

Piero and Alberto were here with the Kobrand (importer) tour, an EU-subsidized marketing campaign.

My friend Suzie, who works for Kobrand in their marketing department and who attended last night’s dinner, sent me the following list of producers who were in the city last night (and they all spoke at dinners in Austin).

Alberto Chiarlo – Michele Chiarlo
Piero Incisa della Rocchetta – Tenuta San Guido
Roberto Pighin – Pighin
Giovanni Folonari – Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari (Nozzole)
Emilia Nardi – Tenute Silvio Nardi
Giovanna Moretti – Tenuta Sette Ponti
Sandro Boscaini – Masi Agricola

That’s no b-list of Italian wine!

cerequio do bianchi

It was really great to watch Piero, whom I’ve met before, talk to the “Napa Cab” crowd about low alcohol content and elegance (as opposed to power) in his family’s historic wines.

And I was thrilled to hear Alberto, whom I’d never met before, speak about large-cask aging and traditional style Nebbiolo driven by acidity and earthiness.

Privately, he and I talked about how importers in the 1980s and 1990s exerted considerable pressure on producers to make their wines more “American friendly.” Restaurateurs also played a role in this trend, he said.

“It’s not just the writers’ fault, after all!” I said. And we shared a laugh.

I thought the 2009 Barolo Cerequio showed beautifully. It had brilliant fruit and that “nervy” acidity that many Nebbiolphiles look to as a hallmark of great Langa wines.

And I have to note here that I fully enjoyed my glass of 2010 Sassicaia with Chef Harvey’s roast Angus beef ribs. The wine had zinging acidity and its signature minerality and goudron.

It’s a great time to be an Italian wine lover in Texas these days.

Move over, Napa Cab. This town ain’t may not be big enough for the both of us…

I’ll be speaking at an Italian wine dinner in San Diego tonight at Jaynes. There are a few spots left if you happen to find yourself in America’s Finest City.

3 thoughts on “Move over Napa Cab: an extraordinary Italian wine dinner in Austin, Texas

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