It was a gorgeous Monday evening around 6 bells. Eight of our close friends got together anticipating some serious explosions of flavor and laughter. What better way to enjoy this evening than at Bottega. My wife, Sara, and I have gone multiple times before with our friends and by also on our own. I think it is safe to say that we have eaten through a half of the menu and I was needing to review the restaurant, this time with friends. First things first…
The atmosphere upon walking up to this place is in one word…’BUZZ’. This place seems to always be jammin with people both enjoying cocktails and antipasti dishes both inside and out. Speaking of outside, there are are cozy cushioned nooks surrounding small tables for you to either just enjoy something there or wait for a table inside or on the otherside of the veranda. On the veranda, a fireplace bids you to relax, watch the sunset crest over the vines and rolling hills to the West, sit back under the rustic burnt orange canopy overhead and sip on a gimlet.
When we walked into the Restaurant that evening we were immediately blasted by a wave of intoxicating aromas of spices coming from the kitchen! Through the door we were met with warm yet smartly lit hues against colors of mocha, brilliant brick tones and distressed leather. The ‘concierge-like’ reservationists were also warm and charming promptly whisking us in on through the main room past tables full of on looking patrons. It appears to be a parade of impressions. Seems as though the guests made the connection as to where we were being seated and drew their gaze in the direction we were headed. If we were not of celebrity status, we could have been taken for it that night. We were then escorted into a private cellar where wine bottles lined the walls with a library style ladder to reach the bottles. Great lighting, great acoustics conducive for intimate conversation with a large clear window for the envious guest patrons to peer in as we wave to them. This evening was destined to be epic.
Our server was stellar. Full of life and over the top. Perfect for our group. He introduced us to the wine list and spoke to us about the specials - all of which sounded incredible. He gave us ample time to peruse the menus and answered all of our questions (many as they were) with grace and poise. He was into it - and so were we.
There were alot of great options food wise for our group. I waited until everyone landed on their choices before I raised the wine barometer as to what my peeps were feeling.
Before we had ordered the food, I called over the Sommelier, which I know fairly well. I offered my thoughts on perhaps a Nebbiolo to draw out some of the succulent earthy juis made common in some of the dishes. He steered me right, in my opinion, although I could pay for a bottle of earthy delight and have half the table love it - OR - we could rock out to a bottle of Tempranillo / Cabernet Sauvignon…. Now you have my attention. So be it … to start…a bottle of 2004 Parador Tempranillo / Cabernet Sauvignon blend 56 bones.
I asked to keep the wine list for a later look…naturally.
We all shared the Monterey calamari, crisped with Arborio rice flour, aioli nero (not overly life changing) …however the Organic Prosciutto “house cured”, pasta fritta, with a Lambrusco sauce literally resurrected this ole corpse. The table stopped talking and inhaled the lot. Everything else was a blur that eve except this moment….it was all in slow motion. The planet must try this…I vow they will. (I even think my friend Tim ordered more to go - dirty Tim…always making his wife take big purses to fancy places! Tisk -Tisk) The other side of the table had the famous Ancient Grain Polenta Under Glass, caramelized wild mushrooms,with a balsamic game sauce. Now I refuse to tell you our thoughts. One word to those that are thinking of going, get this, then ask your server about the history of this dish…enjoy the romance.
Sara ordered the Veal & Ricotta Tortelli in reduced broth, with quickly sautéed pea shoots. Said it changed her life…must have cuz I never got a bite. UGH…
I had to have the Confit of Half Duck mostarda di frutta, wild arugula, pomegranate salad, red wine duck jus. Had to… the little guy was calling my name and am glad it did - because I seriously fell in love with the marriage of all the flavors on the plate - perfect. One complaint …I would like a tiny carafe of the red wine duck jus to shoot later…just saying.
All of our dishes paired marvelously with the 04 Parador Blend - check it out…all Napa fruit, only 20 odd barrels made. Mid-palate mouthfeel - not too thin - but not over the top, alcohol not bad, acid was appropriately balanced. Presence of oak subtle yet toned in well. Fruit was sweet rhubarb meets juneberry. But knowing me - I got a ton of truffle and flint stone which sends me to the moon. Thanks for the reco. (by the way I swear this had some Sangiovese in it - my palate detected it…it has to be in there…if anyone knows ..email me)
The Wine List
This wine list is an overall simple and healthy mouth watering selection! If you like to dine out alot and walk thru menus when ordering, I recommend trying a new bottle (or 3) from this list every time you order…seriously, the pairing combinations are endless.
A nice feature is the 1 and a half glass option or ‘Quartino’ glass menu option is a genius way to play. From a 2005 Schramsberg Sparkling for $15 per quartino to 2007 Chiarello Family Vineyards Cabernet Napa Valley ‘Bambino’ $20 (which I have had and feel it may a be a bit early to showcase, however, understand the desires/pressures of releasing wines early for maximum exposure - will change over time and with food)
By limiting the accessibility to regular glass options and offering a more lucrative option to guests not only increases optimal pairing experiences with multiple dishes, it brings added value for the generous pricing that is offered (in other words…skip the regular glasses and do the quartino - you get more plus you will have more to work with when your entrees arrive)…Do it.
Now I have to stop and mention this… that if you look further through the menu you will find that it has its own Italian Section…yes even divided between North, Central, and South. You may ask why? Well from my personal experience in serving wine to various cultures and people groups, it is apparent that there still seems to be some sort of ancient rift between North and South Italy. Over the last few hundred years there have been some milestones in trying to work out whatever frustrated political minutia has taken place….and I say what better way to work it out then to share a menu at Mr. Chiarello’s own beloved restaurant over a glass of Gaja Barbaresco from Piemonte vs. Feudi di San Gregorio Primitivo from Puglia. Let’s toast to a peaceful Italy!
Now, you got your whites like chard and bla bla bla but what really should grasp your attention is the ‘Alternative Whites’ section (COME ON! that is what I am talking about!)
Often forgotten wines such as Marsanne, Ribolla Gialla, and straight up Semillon (no not spelled like Million for those that have been having a tough time spelling Semillon…it’s okay …I understand). From producers such as Pride, Storybook Mountain, and the unforgettable Rubicon Estate (with their gorgeous Blancaneaux - New World Rhone Style blend of Viognier, Marsanne, & Rousanne - just get it…)
When it comes to the reds - the map changes.
I personally look for an eclectic broad stroke of the brush with price points in the low, mid, & high priced premium wines (low being 39-45 bones). I also look for a solid representation of the local growing regions within 60 miles (at least). For you that know me, you’ll know that my personal agenda is not scores driven but exclusivity driven. If I cannot get this wine everywhere, I am in. Also if my wallet will not feel as though it has to go on a diet after then….yes I am in (isn’t everyone - okay not you Centurion Card holder).
Pinot Noir: Looks good here. Serious Pinot heaven. I love that Flowers ‘Andreen-Gale’ Sonoma Coast made the grade and one of Goldeneye’s many Pinots decided to show up. The 06 Etude ‘Heirloom’ Carneros is where I would personally go.
Zinfandel : I tend to skip thru the zins which is a terrible thing I know…but it takes a lot to impress my snooty zin palate. I am working out my convictions still…sorry zin-o-philes. Something to note here though is this. That if you ARE a zin lover, this would be the place to bring like 8-10 peeps and buy 4-5 bottles from the menu and enjoy the diverse flavor profiles with the food - It has to be an exceptional experience with Zin alone - Great pairing opportunities here. My eyes caught the 06 Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zin for $44 which is a smoother way to go when speaking Napa Valley Zin. If you want to brave yourself on something very different for Zin (not from Sonoma - no offence - just quiet down and be different), go for the 06 Outpost Howell Mountain Zin for only $62 (I know…Howell Mountain - do it and say you tried it and will find that you will love it)
Cabernet Sauvignon: Here is where I boot my rebel boots on and get a wee bit lippy. First off I should not be seeing 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon on there for at least 6 more months…and sure enough….(beside the Chiraello brands for obvious reasons) I see one. I refuse to mention who and am sure it is dynamite (as I have had earlier vintages of this little guy and they were fine. Plenty of 2005 vintages to play with here as well so that should be pleasing to you collectors. Other than that the list looks fun. Yes I said it…the F word…. Fun! I won’t go into too many details that will give away the discovery process, but leave that part up to you to go and discover some truely amazing Cabs.
Here is my 2 cents (as the whole earth sits on the edge of their seat - aw yes with much snickering in the background). There was some great finds like the 06 Chappellet Mt Cuvee $42 and the 06 Von Strasser Diamond Mt $75.
The ones that call my name personally from the Cab menu are…. 05 Revana, 06 Casa Piena, 05 Rubicon, and the 05 Hundred Acre ‘Kayli Morgan’…All priced comparable for the experience.
There are also alternative reds available where I chose our bottle for the evening.
Well I have to say it…I completely melted my face off that evening (in a good way). Everything was Epic. Service was impeccable. The food and wine were stupid. Hey, even Tim and his wife were able to get out of there scott free without an ounce of any suspicion that the silverware and the food went missing into a bag on the way out! Now that is a thrill.
Thank you Mr. Chiarello for an amazing experience!