Best Piedirosso I’ve tasted this year and the world’s craziest sandwich

It’s been more than a month since I returned from Apulia where I sat as a judge in the Radici Wines festival, celebrating the indigenous grapes of Southern Italy and I still haven’t caught up on all the great wines I tasted during the event. Here’s another one…

The wines of Paola Mustilli first came to my attention back in 1998 when I was writing about wine for La Cucina Italian in New York. I cannot conceal that I’ve been a devoted fan ever since and I was thrilled that I finally got to meet her in early June at the festival, where the first two days included “speed-dating” with producers (although some of those têtes-à-têtes proved to be a little awkward when the wines were less than satisfying or the enologist decided to lecture on “how wine is made”).

I guess I’m thinking about her Piedirosso because when I landed in sunny San Diego this morning and saw the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, I got a craving for this wonderful wine — grapey and slightly chewy, with clean berry and red fruit flavors, sturdy acidity and judicious alcohol. The day I tasted with her she served it slightly chilled and it was perfect. And when I wrote home about it, Tracie P responded with a note of enviable nostalgia, reminded of how she used to enjoy this relatively inexpensive wine during her years on the Amalfi coast. Piedirosso is such a fantastic, user-friendly grape, so versatile and flexible, and when it’s done right, its downright delicious.

The wine was definitely a highlight of the festival for me, as was Paola’s Falaghina, which really stood out for its faithfulness to the variety. Overall, the flights of Falanghina were disappointing (and I got into some hot water after Jancis suggested that I mention my impression in my address to the conference). There were a few solid entries for Falaghina but even those tasted yeasted and spoofed to me. Paola’s really stood apart and I cannot recommend it highly enough to you: it was bright and clean with the white fruit aromas and flavors that I look for in real Falaghina (not honeydew and bubblegum that you find in the tricked out bottlings).

One of the other highlights that day was what I have dubbed the world’s craziest sandwich.

The food at Alessia Perucci’s Masseria Le Fabriche was exceptional and the meals rigorously traditional yet equally and wonderfully creative. But, standing nearly 2 feet in height, no one could quite figure out how to consume this brioche stuffed with prosciutto and cheese. It was a sight, nonetheless, to behold!

In other news…

Vai Sotto! Taste with me “down under” tomorrow and Thursday nights at Sotto in Los Angeles where I’ll be pouring wine on the floor and chatting with guests both nights.

Onion porn from Apulia

If ever there were a food photo worthy of being called “porn” on my blog, it would surely be this one: this fava bean purée and toasted bread round pie topped with a delicately battered and fried red onion round and accompanied by a lightly roasted shishito pepper (for lunch at the Masseria Le Fabriche yesterday on the western coast of Apulia). Sexy and delicious…