by Rick Riozza
For anyone who wished to practice their Italian, their appreciation for classic Italian wines, and the delicious cuisine at the Escena Grill & Lounge—well perhaps we met while dining at the excellent wine pairing dinner featuring Beni di Batasiolo Winery & Vineyards.
The Escena Lounge & Grill is in the midst of their 2nd annual wine pairing dinner series where the event pricing includes a 3 or 4 course dinner plus pairing wines for each course for only $50 per seating! All dinners are hosted by the winery’s representatives or the winemakers themselves. Food & Beverage director Elise Arouh continually provides us vino lovers with her and Executive Chef Oscar Ayala’s culinary charms of matching delicious meals to the world class wines of the most notable of wineries. At that price, there’s no better deal in town!
And do we have to be reminded that one of the best panoramic views of the mountains surrounding our valley serves as a backdrop while we enjoy Escena’s cuisine. Inside the dining room or outside on the patio, I’m always amazed at the majestic view of the mountains that puts you in the mood to enjoy a nice slice of life.
The evening of last month’s Italian dinner immediately started off fun for me. When pulling up to the restaurant I spyed an individual carrying in a couple of cases of wine. It doesn’t take too much reasoning to realize that he’s probably the wine representative for the evening. Anyway—heading out to the restroom upon my arrival, I chanced to meet this same individual who was indeed the winery’s representative, Stefano Poggio. I thought I’d have fun getting into a little Italian banter, so in my best Godfather Italian voice I greeted him, “Stefano—Che cosa fai?” (what’s going on?). He responded in the Italian vernacular, “Salute!” and went on from there speaking only Italian.
The funny thing is that he continued in Italian while greeting all of the dinner guests personally at their tables and for a few moments longer as he introduced himself as the host of the wine dinner festivities. Some of the diners thought they were in the midst of a foreign movie before Stefano casually broke into perfect English. The crowd laughed and were all relieved that they were saved from having to go to their translation apps throughout the meal.
Another treat of the evening was the soulful and jazzy vocal performance of CV Weekly’s own Lola Rossi along with Reggie Vision, blowing some tasty chops on the sax.
The Dogliani Family has owned the Batasiolo vineyards—nestled near the Alps, for over 100 years and are located nearby Torino where the 2006 Winter Olympics were held. The area is known as the Piemonte region, meaning at the foot of the mountain, and we were treated to their five classic premium wines with our courses.
The four course meal began with a Caprese salad made up of fresh Burrata Mozzarella, fried basil, vine-ripened tomatoes in a Balsamic reduction. This is a very popular salad being served throughout the desert these days. But in place of the Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio that the salad is usually complemented with, we were served a delicious light and dry Gavi. This is wine produced from the Cortese grape. It’s a world class white wine with white flower aromas and medium acidity. The wine is elegant and dare we say fashionable—it’s the white wine of Milano!
For the second course, we enjoyed the Pan-Seared Jumbo Sea Scallop. Perfectly executed with Savoy Cabbage in a Bacon Vinaigrette—not a white, but one of my favorite red wines was offered: Dolcetto d’Alba. Dolcetto in Italian means “little bit sweet”. Here the Dolcetto grapes indeed are a little bit sweet but the juicy wine it produces is not. The wine is soft but with a marvelous balance between fleshy, dusty-dense, and dry with a touch of bitter. A perfect match to the sweet-like scallop and bolder flavors of the seared char and bacon.
By the way, I know many vino lovers have their go-to wine for pizza. For me, the Dolcetto d’Alba is the bomb! I bought a quarter case of the stuff right after dinner.
The diners had their choice of entrées between Braised Boneless Short Ribs or the Scottish Wild Salmon. Both were on point—I’ve had no better short ribs this year—and the meals melded wonderfully with the Barbera D’Alba “Sovrana” (meaning sovereign). To me, Barbera wine is the one possible rival to Dolcetto when it comes to a juicy medium-bodied Italian red. Naturally high in acidity but is rather plummy to match so many dishes.
Where I’m partial to Dolcetto with pizza, Barbera is the wine to go with spaghetti marinara and meat balls. Molto Bene!
Dessert that evening capped off with a Strawberry Crème Brulée Tart that was paired with the sweet-but-not-too-sweet Moscato Rosé. Speaking of which, Elise was not only sweet but rather considerate to provide the dinner crowd with a handsome taste of Batasiolo’s “King of Italian Reds”, none other but the fantastic Barolo.
Sadly, as summer wanes, there are only two summer wine-pairing dinners remaining: Napa Valley’s Franciscan Winery on September 20th and Shannon Ridge Winery of Lake County on October 18th. Franciscan Estate wines have always been at the top; and, Lake County’s Shannon Ridge is on the cutting edge of producing some of the best wines in California. I’m scheduled to be at their winery around harvest to see for myself! But I’ll be back in town to enjoy these up-coming dinners at Escena Lounge & Grill, 1100 Clubhouse View Dr. Palm Springs, Ca. 760.778.2737, so make your reservations now as seating is limited.
Arriverderci! A la salute!
Rick continues to host business and private wine tastings & events. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
by Rick Riozza