No fermented beverage excites me more than sparkling rosé, so it didn’t take much arm twisting to accept an invitation from Vinum Importing to a lunch featuring the Italian wines of Scarpetta and the food from Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, CO. How does an Italian winery and a Colorado restaurant come to host a lunch at The Coterie Room in Seattle? (Yeah, was wondering the same thing myself.)
Well Scarpetta is a partnership between the sommelier and chef of Frasca, Bobby Stuckey, MS* and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, respectively. This duo (who are also co-owners of the restaurant) have such a love for the wines (and the food, region, and people) of the Friuli region of Northeastern Italy that they decided to start their own wine label.
Naturally I was bursting at the seams to try the first wine, which was the sparkling rosé. It is an unusual blend of two grapes: Franconia and Pinot Nero. Franconia is another name for Blaufrankisch, which is another name for Lemberger, which you might know from Washington wineries like Kiona Vineyards and Whidbey Island Winery. And Pinot Nero is better known as Pinot Noir. All you need to know is what Bobby says about it: “Total wine geek sparkling wine.” (Agreed.)
So this rosé brings me to the photo of the living, green plant wall at The Coterie Room. (Bear with me. Please) The sparkling wine actually has some green, fresh herb notes. Like thyme. As Bobby says, “It’s tender and savory.” And these flavors were perfect with a fantastic cured meat from Salume Beddu in St. Louis. There was definitely a fennel note in that meat that really played well with the sparkling rosé. And a bit of heat and spice in the cured meat that was tamed by a nice refreshing sparkler.
The second wine was a white made from the Friulano grape with lots of (as Bobby explained) “bitter almond/marzipan” elements. These flavor notes can sometimes be a bit daunting on their own and, for me, it requires a bit of a recalibration to what you expect from a dry white wine.
But (and this is a big BUT) it was an absolutely sensational pairing with next course, a frico made from Montasio cheese with smoked ricotta, polenta, and a little ham along for the ride. I’d drink the Friuliano with this dish any day of the week. Maybe even for breakfast. As Chef Lachlan extolled, we were eating the “food emblem of Friuli.”
The seafood risotto probably changed the way I look at risotto forever. And, for Chef Lachlan, it starts with the stock. Instead of the classic fish broth where color is the enemy, and only clean bones and light aromatic vegetables are used, this is an everbody-in-the-pool broth made with all the parts of the fish and plenty of strong-flavored vegetables and herbs. I’ll admit my first questions looking at this dish was, “Where’s the fish?” I think I’ve been programmed by so many risotto dishes with large pieces of fish placed on top, where the rice is just a canvas for the cooked seafood. Not here. All the seafood is finely chopped so every single bite is bursting with the flavor of the ocean.
And the much-maligned Italian Pinot Grigio was served with this splendid dish. For Scarpetta, Bobby wanted a Pinot Grigio that would be “noble”; not in price but in style. So if you think most Pinot Grigio is a watery, inoffensive wine, try the Scarpetta. It’s got some texture, complexity, and, well, some sizzle. Even if you can’t find a Pinot Grigio for this dish, Bobby advised you grab a high-quality unoaked white wine. As Bobby described his thoughts on experiencing delicate seafood and heavily-oaked white wine together: “This tastes like a chum bucket in my mouth.”
We finished up with a pork dish with pork sausage and a fantastic Barbera. Juicy and fresh, it is a wine that you will not be able to have just one glass. Totally in my wheelhouse with it’s style. “Barbera,” as Bobby explains, “is the gateway drug to Italian red wine drinking.”
One final note: I also have a bit of Label Lust for Scarpetta as well:
Big thanks to everybody listed in the picture below for a memorable afternoon of food, wine, and conversation.
*MS stands for Master Sommelier. It’s like being a wine Jedi, and takes as much dedication, discipline, and practice. And probably a bit of The Force, too.