Thursday, February 22, 2007

Italian wines in Santa Barbara

Traveling through the Santa Barbara region last week, we were delighted to find two wineries that are featuring wines from Italian varietals. If you want to try the risotto al Barolo of the previous post, here are two places to get those Piedmont grapes in the U.S.

One of the wineries is Palmina: Chrystal and Steve Clifton craft some very special and highly regarded wines from their Italian grapes. They do a Savoia -- a combination of Nebbiola, Barbera and Syrah, plus a Nebbiola and a Barbera by themselves. And lovely Dolcetto.

Mandolino, the other winery, is in Solvang, "Sideways" country, and they actually do a pinot nero, using the Italian name. Their wines can be found at www.LLwinecom. They do a beautiful set of varietals: Barbera, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, and a fine Nebbiola. Plus a lovely pinot grigio. We used their Dolcetto in the risotto recipe, and it was truly mouth-watering.

Perhaps Santa Barbara county is where Italian varietals might finally make their mark in this country.

The evening before the wine excursion, we had a lovely pasta dinner in Santa Barbara, at a small, charming trattoria, Bucatini. Located on lower Ocean in Santa Barbara, it is within a block or two of the ocean, and is well known, deservedly, for its fresh mussels. We had mussels and spaghetti in a tomato sauce: simple, perhaps, but the perfection and quality of all the ingredients made it memorable.

The mussels, as fresh as could be, were arranged in a circle, pointing toward the center, around the outer edge of the serving plate. The spaghetti and sauce, steaming, were in the center of the plate. The wonderful treat was that the tomato sauce was a sweet, buttery one, not a sharper marinara. It was the kind of sauce we call Marcella #3, and can be found at, under sauces. The buttery/sweetness seemed a perfect choice with the fresh, fresh mussels.

Give the sauce a try. And if you are in Santa Barbara you know where to find your pasta dish. And Italian wines.

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