Italian wines. I can’t say I’m a fountain of knowledge on the subject, having taken my only trip to Italy with my family when I was 17 years old. I supposed I could reference my rough Italian wine education from my brief employment at The Olive Garden, but wait, I was a waitress there when I was 19-20, so I never actually had the opportunity to try the wine myself. Yeah, I guess you could say I’m kind of an expert when it comes Italian wines. Not. However, I’ve tried a lot of Italian varietals used from grapes grown here in California over the years; Oreana Winery makes an excellent Tuscan-style blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, known as “The Tilly”. But in terms of wines straight from Italy, I usually pass that section in the wine store in favor of the California wines, an area I’m more familiar with. So it wasn’t until this past weekend when my parents were visiting from New York, that the subject of Italian wines came up. Over drinks and tapas at Milk and Honey, with my friend Erica and my boyfriend Brian, my dad declared, “I’m not really a fan of Italian wines”. Brian, who had just spent some time in Italy a few months prior, disagreed, insisting that my dad try one of the bottles he had shipped back from Italy. Enter the Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino, a powerful, rich red Italian wine with notes of dark fruit and exotic spices.
Brian brought this wine to dinner at Trattoria Vittoria the next night, a restaurant I chose because of its simply prepared, delicious Italian fare. Everything I’ve ever ordered at Trattoria Vittoria has been fresh and unassuming, not overdone with massive amounts of garlic and cream sauce, which I suppose I am still a little bit fearful of after working at The Olive Garden for as long as I did. With that said, I had a feeling a meal here would be the perfect complement for tasting a new Italian wine. I have to say, I never fail to have the best time at Trattoria Vittoria, it’s just so cozy and cute inside! With a lively atmosphere and warm hostesses and servers, you can’t help but feel like you’re dining in some “off the beaten path” hidden gem in Italy. This restaurant is quickly becoming one of my favorites in Santa Barbara.
After opening the bottle and having our first taste, my mom announced that she could just drink this wine on its own! It would be easy to do, since after a few sips I kept finding something different about this wine. It’s very complex; you won’t be bored by this bottle, it’s truly not your average Italian wine you find at the shelf at Ralph’s. But, I do think that almost any wine can be enhanced by the right food pairing. We started off with the Speck e Formaggi Misti, which is wood-smoked prosciutto served with imported Italian cheeses. So amazing with this wine! There was something about the saltiness of the prosciutto that really brought out the flavors of the wine, oh I could have it every night! My family is really big into creating “cheese plates” as hors d’ourves with wine before dinner, and if I could ship a bottle of this back from Italy for every family occasion I’d be a happy girl. Moving on, for our entrée I took my friend Erica’s suggestion of the Ravioli di Came con Salsa Aurora, which translates to ravioli stuffed with prime rib meat in a pink cream and tomato sauce. In other words, prime rib ravioli. Ridiculous, in the best way. I’m not a huge red meat-eater, but I’m telling you I would order this dish every day of the week, except for the fact that there are so many other amazing menu items to try.
At the end of the meal, Brian asked my dad if he had changed his mind on Italian wines, although I think it was pretty obvious that he had. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough wine for our leftovers the next day! Who knew that my parents had to fly from New York to California for a truly Italian experience? I highly recommend shipping this bottle from Italy, taking it to Trattoria Vittoria, and ordering the prime rib ravioli. You won’t be disappointed!