The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2016

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Page 57 of 100

august 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  57 Fred Dame: Bottega, a touch of Italy in the middle of Napa Valley. I know that Chef Michael Chiarello created this restaurant after his departure from Tra Vigne. How did you come to be here? Massi: Believe it or not, I emigrated to New York from Montalcino, Italy, in 2010. I went to work for Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali as Head Sommelier at Del Posto. In January of 2013, Chef Chiarello came to dine there for lunch. I took care of him, but he didn't offer me a job. Instead he asked, "Have you ever been to Napa Valley?" The next thing I knew I was boarding a plane for the West Coast for the first time. I've been here ever since. This is a very busy town for restaurants. What percentage of your guests are locals? I would venture that ten to 15 percent of our customers are locals. This is, as you know, a very popular tourist destina- tion, and Yountville is a haven for fine dining. We see a lot more of them during the wintertime. What are your guests drinking? Must be a lot of Italian wines served here. Our list actually features the wines of Napa Valley. Seventy percent of our list is from here. We have a total of 400 wines on the list. Italy is well represented. And Brunello di Montalcino, of course. Absoutely! But I will tell you that Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is our best-selling wine. Do you have a corkage policy? Yes, it is $30 a bottle for the first two bottles and $50 dollars for the third bottle. We won't cork anything that is currently on the wine list. What percentage of diners bring in their own wine? It is only five to ten percent. You would think more with our location, but we have a great wine list. I think it's time for a glass of wine. How about this lovely magnum of Poggio alle Miura Brunello di Montalcino 2004? You have to love the Banfi family! This wine is magnificent. It has all the characteristics of the region with modern winemaking. I love the classic wines of the DOCG, but you have to love what is com- ing in the future. When I came to the USA, Fillippo di Belardino of Banfi let me live with him for three months while I found a place. What a great man who is sorely missed by all of us. Let's toast him with this superb example! Salute! Cent Anni! What other wines of the Napa Valley do you favor? I love the Sauvignon Blanc and have a great affinity for the Chardonnay produced here. How many of your customers drink wine at the table? I would say a minimum of 50 percent. During harvest, you can increase that percentage to 90 percent! The sum- mertime is much more family-oriented. I can tell you that the wine cellar represents 30 percent of our sales. Is there anything that has truly surprised you since you moved to Napa Valley? The older vintages of the wines produced here. Astounding! I had no idea the Napa Valley wines could age as beautifully as they do. Every time I see these wines come through the door, I get excited. How about Zinfandel? I find it to be a great wine for Italian cuisine. I love Zinfandel! We have them here for you to enjoy! Chef Chiarello calls it his "go to" wine for our menu. I have to agree with him, and it's such a value. Perfect with pasta. Agreed. I see the staff having a meal before service across the room. Nice touch. Are they locals? Yes, almost all of them. Except for the ones I brought with me from New York. You must be a really popular guy in the Meat Packing District of the Big Apple! I would suggest protection the next time you visit. (Laughing) No, Fred, it's all very good. I'm glad to hear it! So, my friend, what about the world of wine needs to be changed post haste? I really wish we would stop using corks in wines that are going to be consumed immediately or within a year. There is no reason to strip the few cork trees in the world when the wine is expected to be enjoyed upon release.

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