Monday, December 24, 2007

Puglia 3: Food & Wine

In the old-town section of Bisceglie you'll be lucky if you find a phenomenal restaurant or "grigleria" named Enosteria. There is no way we ever would have found this place if it had not been highly recommended to us. The first time we walked by -during siesta- large wooden doors covered up the entrance and all signage making it nearly impossible to discern as a restaurant. But after 8 or 9 in the evening the little establishment and Giovanni, its hip, young entrepreneurial owner, came alive. With no more than eight tables, a small kitchen, and a fireplace used for grilling meats, this place redefined intimate. Amazingly enough, Giovanni was not only the owner, maitre'd, server, and sommelier, but he also grilled all of the meats over the fire in the back of the dining room. We proceeded to have one of the longest, most intricate, and most wonderful meals of our lives. Many of Puglia's regional food and wine specialties were interwoven through this 4 hour and 11 course gastronomical adventure.

1- Olives (Puglian olives are incredible!)
2- Crostini w/ ricotta crema
3- Cannellini beans w/ ripini (broccoli rabe)
4- Agrodolce (sweet & sour) peppers
5- Zucchini Ripieni(stuffed) w/ potatoe souffle & balsamico
6- Fava mash w/ chicory greens
7- Artichokes w/ oven-dried tomatoes
8- Carne Misti: Vitello (veal) Filetto, Pork Involtini (rolled w/ Prosciutto), Manza (beef) Kebabs, and Horse Sausage
9- Carroti Crudi w/ olive oil
10- Mixed Nuts
11- Dolci: Molten chocolate cake & Panna Cotta

While the wines accompanying our meal at Enosteria were phenomenal ( a Primitivo named Violante, a Nero di Troia from Rivera, a Moscato di Trani, and a mint-green Amaro), the best wine we had in Puglia was probably Santa Lucia's 1996 Riserva Le More. Worth noting, the other wines deserving the most accolade were the 2000 and 2001 vintages of the same wine. But I was ultimately most interested in the 1996 because of its character and story.

These were my notes taken at the winery on the Santa Lucia Riserva Le More 1996: 85% Uva di Troia and 15% Malbec. All Slavonian, no barrique. Well aged, feminine, and elegant. Perhaps past its prime a little. "No longer a boxer, but a gentleman" -Roberto Perone Capone (owner). Still quite beautiful and natural - just the fruit before the fancy technology and before barrique. 50 bottles remaining.

I found this wine most interesting because I had the immediate pleasure of tasting a half dozen subsequent vintages from the bottle as well as several barrel tastings. In 2000 Santa Lucia began to age their riserva wine in barrique and in 2001 the Le More became 100% Uva di Troia with a half year longer in barrique. The opportunity to compare and contrast so closely and to do so with the owner/winemaker was the highlight to my trip as well as my career. While the heralded, drink-now 2000 vintage and the well-structured, ageworthy 2001 vintage were exceptional, I found the 1996 more nuanced, feminine, well-balanced and stylistically traditional. I had never experienced Uva di Troia like this, certainly not blended with Malbec. As we were leaving Santa Lucia, eight hours after our scheduled appointment, Roberto surprised me with one of his last fifty bottles. I was blown away. And I hope to be blown away again soon - I may drink it with Christmas dinner.

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