Last night our Friday Night Wine & Dine group ate at Verona18 restaurant at The Golf Club Copper Valley. This is still their “soft opening” but with a more extensive menu mimicking their Modesto restaurant, Verona Cucina Italiana.
The meal started off with a Caprese Salad. Fresh tomatoes (Beefsteak?), fresh mozzarella, basil, Kalamata olives, olive oil and with a balsamic glaze. Perhaps one of the best I have ever tasted! Paired with a Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Riserva to cut through tomatoes and olive oil. Perfectly paired. The wine is especially tasty but I want to clear up a common misconception. Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo and Montepulicano are two entire different wines. Montepulicano d’ Abruzzo is a totally unique and wonderful wine from the Abruzzo region in east-central Italy and not to be confused with the Montepulicano which is mainly Sangiovese grapes from Tuscany. Colline Teramane became a DOCG region (denomianazione di Origine Contraollata Garantita) in 2003. Essential by being a DOCG vs DOC, they must follow stricter guidelines in producing their wine. Only four provinces can produce this wine. The wine must be 90% Montepulicano with only 10% being Sangiovese grapes.
This wine is deeply colored inky red/purple with pepper spices notes. Often it is called “rustic”. In general, it is “aromatic, tannic and with low acidity”. It is aged in oak for twenty-four months. Key flavors of earthiness, blackberries and prevalent. Often it is also beholds sweeter tannins and is appropriately paired with hot & spicy peppers and pork dishes. Its ability to age in the cellar is up to 20 years and the price point can range from $8 to $200+. A delightful treat which is often overlooked and confused with the lighter Montepulicano from Tuscany. As the winemaker Antonio Lamona states “I want to make wines that are pleasing to the body and the spirit”. For the typical California wine drinker you will pleased if you get a nice bottle of Montepulicano d’ Abruzzo.
Looking at the menu in advance, I had decided on the Grilled Salmone. It was an Ora King salmon, with fresh herbs, olive oil served over saffron risotto. Ora King salmon is not commonly found so here is a quick background. First it is the only saltwater farmed salmon given best choice ranking. I am generally opposed to any “farmed fish” but this is very different. There are a variety of reasons that Ora King Salmon should be your #1 choice in farm raised salmon: healthy feed and fish growth, location and farming techniques, as well as a unique skin that is uncommon to anywhere else in the world. Critics believe the best of the best salmon in the world actually is farm raised in New Zealand. This special king salmon has been described as the “Wagyu of the Sea” because the taste of this fish compares to no other. From the crystal clear waters flowing from Te Waikoropupū Springs in Takaka, to the pure and isolated sea waters of the Marlborough Sounds. Several 3 Star Michelin restaurants have served this fish including The French Laundry in Yountville, California (Napa Valley). After tasting it last night I have to agree this was outstanding.
This was paired with a 2020 Hindsight Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley. Previously I have written about the Hindsight Winery in Calistoga and their excellent red wines, especially their Cabernet Sauvignon’s. About 10 months ago their long time winemaker, Jac Cole retired. Now some excellent news—they hired Michael Weis, who was the head winemaker at Groth. He is well known for making spectacular wines and I believe he received 100 points from Wine Spectator for one of his Sauvignon Blanc vintages. Additional reading on the winery and ownership can be found at:
Their inaugural Sauvignon Blanc release under Michael Weis was handcrafted with an artisan touch. First on the eyes it is a golden straw color and medium viscosity. On the nose, floral aromas waft into the senses, along with green apple which is most prominent. On the palate, citrus accents of lime and lemon come into play and are kept in check with flavor but not overpowering. The finish provides a mouthful feeling of a much heavier wine rather than a “light Sauvignon Blanc”. This is most likely due to the addition of nine percent Viognier. This also helps lower the acidity. This wine goes for only $25.99! I literally felt while eating the salmon with this wine, I had achieved a state of Nirvana!
The group also had several other wines to go mainly with Italian pasta dishes and all were absolutely solid.