Food, Wine & Friends Page 256
Luca Currado was "On Tour" in March of 2014 (as
usual) and one of the stops was San Francisco.
They were flying in from the Pacific Northwest on a mid-week evening and so I
met Alfredo Falvo (of Li Veli), David Redondi (of Poliziano) and Enrico
Valleferro (of Adami) at SFO as they came off the plane.
We loaded the luggage into the wagon and made tracks for San
Francisco where would hoped to meet other members of the Dalla Terra Tour.
One of the challenges in arranging for a table at a popular
San Francisco restaurant was determining precisely how many people would be
dining. What seemed like a simple "table for five" then became a
more challenging "Table for Nine." Later in the afternoon it was
"six, maybe seven."
Yes, the term "herding cats" comes into play here.
We arrived at San Francisco's NOPA restaurant at Divisadero and Hayes Streets
and found several other Dalla Terra tour members there.
The place, as usual, was packed.
And there were 8 of us and we'd need to wait a while until a couple of tables
could be assembled, so we made our way to the bar area and ordered a bunch of
Trumer is an Austrian brewery with a local facility, so the crew could taste
something made in the Bay Area but with European roots.
As I was snapping these photos, I heard someone barking "Hey Man!
Hey!! That ain't cool, man! Hey...stop it. Don't be taking pictures
I didn't realize he was yapping at me, until I heard a familiar name:
I explained we were hosting a group of dignitaries from Italy and they are not
privileged to visit San Francisco very often, let alone find a table at NOPA.
He was not impressed, as he enjoyed a hamburger and a local newspaper while
sitting at the bar.
I thanked him for his suggestion, however.
Everyone clinked glasses and "cin cins" were exchanged.
After the first beers were finished, a table still had not been vacated, so we
ordered another round and this time didn't bother with glassware.
We discussed the state of the wine business, Italian soccer and the world of
And then the NOPA crew gave us the high sign...a couple of tables were now
Everyone sat down, whipped out their phones and checked the state of their
Our server made her way around the table taking everyone's
She was an "old pro," despite her youth and
beautifully orchestrated our gastronomical adventure.
I ordered a number of starters for everyone to share and we selected a bottle of
Ponzi's Arneis from Oregon to begin our enological tour.
Jokes were told and there was much merriment as we started dinner.
There's a connection between Luca's Vietti winery and the Ponzi Vineyards in
Oregon: The Currados and Ponzi have long been friends and winemaker Luisa
Ponzi visited Piemonte on several occasions while being an intern at a domaine
in France's Burgundy some years ago.
The Currados also encouraged the Ponzi's to cultivate Arneis in Oregon and
cuttings from Vietti's vineyards were made available.
So, in some fashion, the Currados have had an impact on the world of Oregon
wine, as well as being major players in Piemonte.
Glasses were hoisted and we had another round of "cin cins."
Things got a bit more interesting when I put this bottle on
Everyone gladly thrust forth their empty wine glass to taste, evaluate and
attempt to identify the Mystery Wine.
Some of the vittles started to arrive..."Little Fried Fish"...
Luca Currado immediately identified the Mystery Red as a Dolcetto.
This was a very good guess, since the wine we call Charbono had been, at one
point in time, thought to be Dolcetto. Some said it was the "Douce
Noir" of the Savoie region and that this was simply a French version of
what the Italians (Piemonte was part of the Savoie) call "Dolcetto."
More recent DNA testing shows Charbono is probably what the Italians and
Argentineans call "Bonarda."
There are some old vineyards of Charbono in northern Napa Valley and Summers is
our favorite practitioner of the art of Charbono.
It's a dark-colored wine with beautiful blackberryish fruit and notes of
At this stage, we brought out another Mystery Red.
"What could this be?"
"I don't know...it's certainly a mystery!"
This wine baffled the crowd...and soon it was unmasked.
"Porca Miseria! Un vino Canadese!!"
Yes, a Canadian wine made of a curious grape called Foch or Marechal Foch...Its
precise parentage is unknown, but it's a hybrid or crossing which originated in
France's Alsace from the 1920s.
Nobody came close to identifying this wine and it was fairly intense on the nose
with mildly earthy, woodsy, forest-floor sorts of notes along the lines of some
Pinot Noir wines.
A Charcuterie plate then arrived...really nice!
It's called a "Piggy Platter."
Luca is dabbling in making Syrah in Tuscany. A prominent Rhone Valley
vintner is also involved in that project.
So I brought a bottle of one of California's top Syrahs, Neyers' Cuvee d'Honneur.
This was showing beautifully...it's a tiny production of (typically) two
barrels. Sonoma. Spicy, a bit earthy and it was much appreciated by
These days you'll see on the menu "Flat Bread."
And at NOPA, they make one theme of "Flat Bread" each day.
Some of us might call this "pizza."
And these Italians KNOW PIZZA.
An indication of the quality of NOPA's Flat Bread is that everyone had seconds
of this and I could have ordered more!
There's another piece on its way to disappearing.
And as you know, Italians speak with their hands.
Here's a snapshot of the articulate Luca Currado:
We enjoyed a bottle of 2012 Ojai Pinot Noir...Bien Nacido Vineyard...very
It turned out that EVERYONE ordered the same thing!
A Burger and Fries.
We had another Syrah in the cellar bag, so we opened it...
A 2010 Clape Cornas.
This was another impressive bottle...
Luca immediately took his I-Phone and snapped a photo of the burger and
And shortly thereafter, the world was to know of our evening in San Francisco!
The bill arrived at the table and a bunch of credit cards were
A few of the fellows hailed a taxi, while the guys I'd met at
SFO piled into the wagon for a little Late Night Tour to their hotel.
We drove down Lombard Street...they called it the "Strada della Serpentina."
And from there, we continued up Lombard Street to Telegraph Hill to see Coit
From there we drove down the hill to the Embarcadero and
motored along the bay front...
And then a short cruise to their hotel at a wee hour in the
It was great to see everyone...next day we met again at a tasting venue where
all of the Italians poured their lovely wines!
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