Wednesdays are "Butcher Days" at A16, so SFoodie sat down with Wine Director/Owner Shelley Lindgren as cleavers smashed, saws swished, and the butchers worked through one-and-a-half pigs. We, meanwhile, worked through a dozen wines -- and our list of questions for sommeliers -- to help you find A16's best finds.
What's the best price anomaly -- the "better deal than it should be" -- wine on your list?
Terredora di Paolo's Taurasi, the Barolo of the South. It's $15 a glass, and it should be double the price. People that know are really excited to get a Taurasi for $15 a glass.
There's also Elena Fucci's Aglianico. She won all kinds of awards. She lost her importer, so we worked directly with her to bring it in. It's usually a very expensive wine. We sell a glass for $17; it should be $30.
What's are your favorite "on a budget" CA Italian varietal wines?
Unti Montepulciano is great right now, and the Palmina Traminer is always so delicious.
And from Italy?
Damiano Ciolli's Cesanese is one of the most versatile pairing wines. It doesn't overpower the food. Also the Pietradolce's Etna Rosso. Both are $11 glass/$24 bottle.
What's your favorite pizza wine?
Principe di Butera's Nero d' Avola. It's another great value wine. We wanted to pour it as a premier Nero d'Avola, so we worked with them on pricing it into a by-the-glass program at $15. Otherwise it would be in the mid-twenties. Very well made and regarded.
Okay, let's play the wine game. Since you're an expert on Italy, give me your Italian alternatives to everyday favorites? Sauvignon Blanc ?
Greco de Tufo, or Arneis.
Ribolla Gialla or Fiano.
Montepulciano d' Abruzzo or Nero d'Avola.
Nerello Mascalese or Nebbiolo
Several of the Italian native wines were new to us, so we tasted through them and found them a well balanced assortment of flavor profiles well suited for the classic Italian cuisines A16 offers. The Principe di Butera's Nero d' Avola with a simple Margherita pizza was an excellent pairing, bringing out earthy notes, almost to chocolate, in the combination that were distinct from sip or bite on their own.
Palmina was the first California producer to turn us on to Italian varietals in California and has been a favorite since, and a almost-kept secret. Unti has more recognition and a consistent history of delivering quality products.
We also share a favorite dessert wine: The Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria. This luscious wine, made from dried grapes on a tiny island off of Sicily, is redolent in fresh and dry stone fruits and is a one of the great dessert wines that too few know about. It's also a very good pairing with A16's Honey Panna Cotta with honeyed apricots. At $17 a glass, it's also a perfect stand-alone contemplative dessert on its own.