Evening of Terroni DTLA’s “Soft Opening”
I have been so lucky to be working with the people at Terroni as they prepare for their first day of service in the new Downtown LA location. These people know how to open restaurants, and if I have learned anything in the past few months, it’s that consistency is everything, as are good people. There is a palpable excitement as the seconds tick by towards the grand opening. The food has been amazing out of this shiny new kitchen, and the staff is excited and happy to be working in such a glamorous, fun new place. The wine program? Don’t even get me started. Amazing.
I thought I’d share a few pictures of the beautiful chaos that defines this special moment in a restaurant’s life. Continue reading
Yep. I am finally experiencing how the other half lives.
After years on the “supply side” of the wine business, I have dipped my toes into the wonderful, gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking world of the Sommelier. It’s been a few weeks now, standing in for a few of the sommeliers at Terroni in Los Angeles, and I have to say- this is much harder than I thought it would be!
Working with a list of over 700 wine labels, mostly obscure Italian varietals, in a restaurant run by a guy who would sooner lose a customer than have his kitchen cut their pizza, is no simple task. I am shocked, SHOCKED by how many people come in and ask me for a glass of Cabernet. Or a buttery Chardonnay, you say? oh. no.
My favorite Sardo @Terroni.
Have a become so out of touch with the every-day consumer that I don’t know how very little I know? Have I spent so much time around the 2% of the population who drink Grignolino and Erbaluce and Nerello Mascalese like water that I am blind to the real-world-situation for Italian wine? These are the trenches. We are fighting for our lives out here!
We have some work to do- and trust me, it’s not all self-serving. The People Need Vino Italiano. You think you like your Napa Cabernet… but you don’t even know how much you’re going to fall in love with this Aglianico from Basilicata.
I’m coming for you!
Timorasso by Walter Massa, Photobomb by Michael Newsome.
If you are an adventurous wine-drinker who finds him or herself at Terroni in Los Angeles, do not attempt to navigate this wine list alone. Ask for Max Stefanelli, or his wife Francesca. They will guide you through this maze of eclectic and wonderful Italian wines. There are no limits to the breadth and oceanic depths of this wine list. For example, recently Max suggested an odd bottling of Timorasso from Vigneti Massa, which I had never seen before- the 2008 “Sterpi”.
Golden-orange in the glass and redolent of bruised red apples, apricots and acacia, this wine is singular both for its heavy fruit aromatics, and equally unparalleled minerality. The Sterpi Timorasso is another classic example of a White Wine That Can Age.
The vineyard name “Sterpi” comes from the word “sterpaglia” or “undergrowth”. Apparently when Walter Massa was looking for a single vineyard to plant in the 1980’s while he single-handedly saved the varietal Timorasso from extinction, he chose this spot, where before only grew scrubby brush plants and undergrowth.
Walter Massa: a visionary, and a master of Timorasso. Thanks Max, for making sure we tasted this little jewel!
I am fascinated by Piemonte for several reasons, many of them beginning with “B”. Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, and most recently, Boca. This tiny region is located in the province of Novara in the northern part of Piemonte. The Boca DOC was estabilished in 1969, and even now there are only about a half a dozen wineries making wines under the Boca DOC. The DOC rules prescribe a minimum of 45% and a maximum of 70% of Nebbiolo grapes, while the remaining blend is Vespolina, a grape known for its spiciness, and tiny portions of Uva Rara also known as Bonarda Novarese. Continue reading
Thank goodness for Italian wine geeks like Brittany Carlisi. She found an awesome older bottle of Fattoria San Lorenzo’s eponymous “Il San Lorenzo” from 1997 in her company’s inventory, and decided it was time to dust that bottle off and start selling it. The world needs more aged Verdicchio, right?
This is my favorite kind of wine: weird, old, and totally unique.
I found this bottle of Bressan’s 1998 Pignolo on Max Stefanelli’s wine list at Terroni in Los Angeles. The wine list is a tribute to Italy and its adjacent neighbors- it’s such a wonderful and comprehensive selection of wines I almost didn’t see this little hidden gem.
Pignolo is a rare indigenous grape, exclusive to Friuli. It has a particularly savage, brambly aroma- it’s vinous and unhinged in a way that would make most fanatics of real Italian wines swoon. This wine is a beast, a regal, king, a warrior.
Even after 14 years the Pignolo was initially tight and closed. It took about an hour in the glass to beging to unfurl itself- revealing secret layers of blackberry and cedar that morphed gently into fresh sweet hay and red, irony earth- almost like the scent of wet terracotta. This wine is seriously complex.
On the palate a beautiful burst of acidity followed by layers of long-lasting black fruits, ripe plum and a tingling bite of tannin. Untamed, and yet still perfectly balanced. This is a wine with wisdom- an old soul. If you ever have the chance, do yourself a favor and experience it for yourself.
I stopped by Terroni last night to meet some of the Oslavia producers in town for the Viva Vino show today. I expected to taste a lot of Ribolla Gialla, the province’s most famous indigenous grape, but I did not expect to be quite as impressed by these wines- or perhaps “romanced” is the word. I think I’m in love.
Most people who encounter Ribolla Gialla don’t know what to make of it, especially since there is a trend towards long macerations of this white grape must with its skins. This gives the wines a yellow to orange hue, and imparts some very interesting aromatics, as well as textural components to the wine.
In other words, not your mama’s glass of white wine. Continue reading
I am now officially fascinated with a little Piemontese region called Boca. Thanks to the fine wine importers at Vinity Wine Company, I had the opportunity to meet Christoph Künzli at a trade tasting in LA’s Terroni. Christoph bought his winery, Le Piane, from a legendary Boca winemaker named Antonio Cerri, back in 1998. He had been visiting Boca for years, and had fallen in love with the wines and the place. Today he keeps the tradition alive, of growing Nebbiolo and other native grapes for a traditional “field blend” of sorts. These are stunning, delightful wines- and oh, how they can age! Continue reading
Terroni. Home to some of the world’s rarest and most autochthonous Italian wines. This restaurant is a beacon of light in a storm of predictable, dreary, and boring wine lists. Max Stefanelli is a curator of all things truly, authentically Italian- especially tireless in his promotion of the quirky and unknown enological gems of Italy.