Nero d’Avola icon, best NYC pizza in ATX, & shoutout from @ItalianWineGuy 4 @SottoLA

best nero d'avola

Time is ever so precious these days as we juggle life at home with a newborn and a toddler.

Wine isn’t much of a focus at home right now and when it is, it’s poured from a bottle that’s been sitting in our literally overflowing sample bin.

On Saturday night, we opened this superb bottle of Feudo Montoni 2008 Nero d’Avola Vrucara (vineyard designation) that my friend and LA-based importer Ramin had sent me (this wine has been a great lot for us at Sotto in Los Angeles where I curate the wine program with my colleague Rory).

The wine was rich and unctuous in its mouthfeel and its acidity danced atop its woodsy, earthy flavors and ripe red fruit aromas.

Montoni’s wines are among the greatest expressions of Nero d’Avola, a grape variety much misunderstood in this country in my view.

With so much inexpensive, easy-drinking Nero d’Avola coming from Vittoria and from the northern coast of the island (a wonderful trend that I applaud), we forget that historically, inland-raised mountain Nero d’Avola, like this iconic wine from Cammarata, represents the variety’s aristocratic heritage.

We loved it and drank it over the course of two nights. At the second tasting, the fruit had really begun to emerge, more forcefully but without dominating the savory flavors of the wine, and the acidity was still popping.

Btw, you can read about Vrucara’s pedigree and Montoni’s vinification process in a Google books preview of Bill Nesto MW and Frances Di Savino’s excellent monograph The World of Sicilian Wine (UC Press 2013).

And I wrote about the ubiquitous however erroneous Bacci attribution here.

What did we pair it with?

best new york pizza austin

To my knowledge, there’s only one restaurant in greater Austin that makes real New York-style pizza.

It’s called Reale’s Café and it’s about thirty minutes north of where we live.

On Saturday, I took Georgia P up that way to visit a splash pad and so I stopped on our way back to pick up a pie.

The pairing was as decadent as it was delicious. And while Georgia P is a little young for NYC-style pizza (she had wholewheat pasta elbows tossed with chopped spinach, butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano), mommy and daddy treated themselves to an affordable indulgence on Saturday night with a great bottle of wine.

In other news…


Our wine list at Sotto got a shout-out yesterday from the Italian Wine Guy aka On the Wine Trail in Italy aka Alfonso Cevola in a post entitled “Italian Restaurants in America with Great Italian Wine Lists.”

We didn’t make his “top three” list but what a thrill be mentioned together with wine professionals who have inspired and informed me and my career! Friends Shelley Lindgren, Bobby Stuckey, and Roberto Paris, are each pioneers in their own right and taste-makers in our world of Italian wine.

Tracie P and I don’t see or hear much from Alfonso these days. Between winning international awards, traveling the “wine trail,” and his myriad speaking engagements, he doesn’t seem to make it to Austin as much as he used to.

That makes us sad but we know it can’t be easy to balance all the great stuff he’s got going on. We’re really happy for him and his much deserved success.

And I was thrilled that Sotto made his “short list” of Italian wine list in the U.S.

Thanks, Alfonso! And many wishes for your continued success!

Sub Camerata generosa vites optimis vinis: Feudo Montoni

Myriad wine bloggers erroneously report that sixteenth-century Italian philosopher, doctor, and naturalist Andrea Bacci mentions Feudo Montoni in his landmark De naturali vinorum historia (On the Natural History of Wines, 1595).

Many also wrongly call Bacci “the pope’s sommelier.”

In fact, Bacci lavishes praise not on Feudo Montoni but on the wines raised in (the modern township of) Cammarata, where Feudo Montoni grows its grapes today (though the winery did not exist in Bacci’s time).

In fact, Bacci was Pope Sixtus V’s archiater (i.e., his personal physician).

After I tasted Feudo Montoni’s superb 2008 Nero d’Avola Vrucara this week, I couldn’t resist the urge to look up the reference and report it here.

Bacci does laud the wines of Cammarata with high tones, noting that in the province of Cammarata “noble vines” deliver wines superior in quality. They are powerful, he observes, and rich in red color, two indices that seem insignificant to us today but remarkable in an era when it was difficult to obtain high alcohol content and deep color in wine. He also takes note of their excellent aromas and their ability to age.

Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed by the 2008 by Feudo Montoni. This, to me, is classic Nero d’Avola and it stands apart from the crowd of wines, often thin and without much backbone, shipped by younger wineries who want to exploit American’s blind love of anything labeled indigenous.

I loved the meatiness of this nuanced expression of Nero d’Avola and the way it played with the dark fruit and life-giving acidic vein in the wine. Truly gorgeous and such a great value.

It was a great excuse to revisit Bacci and the time I spent this morning with his wondrous book delivered an observation on the application of word natural.

In a time before Pasteur, grape growing and winemaking belonged to the realm of nature — not to science. By the end of the nineteenth century, European writers readily spoke of the “science” of winemaking. But in Bacci’s day, wine was described as a purely natural element. The title of his book is, after all, De naturali vinorum historia.

As we continue to grapple with epistemological and ontological implications of the term natural and how it applies to wine and winemaking, it’s important to keep in mind that there was a time — before the modern era — when all wine was natural. By natural I don’t mean the loosely codified aesthetic of the current Natural wine trend. I mean simply that wine belonged to the natural (as opposed to technical) world in the pre-industrial age.

Wine for thought…