Having attended one of the kick-off events for the new Andreucci WineRoom in January, I was excited about another opportunity to enjoy a delicious Italian pairing, this time with food prepared by Flavio Andreucci’s Nonna (grandmother). Flavio was proud that his Nonna had made her first trip out of Tuscany and first flight on an airplane, all the way to Texas, to support his efforts at the Andreucci Wine Room here in Fredericksburg.
For this evening I was joined by Laurie and Shelly Ware, and we selected seats at the end of the table from which Flavio Andreucci would be addressing the attendees. Flavio asked that everyone be seated and began to introduce the evening’s activities. He first introduced his partners and staff. Betsy and Jack Sallman, partners in this venture, had greeted guests at the front door and directed everyone to the bar where the effervescent and enthusiastic Elia Guazzini poured each arrival a welcome glass of wine punch. Also, at the bar were Flavio’s wife, Lara Andreucci, and Roxanna Pichineru, a friend of the Andreucci’s and member of the tasting room staff. Anthony Conti, another partner, was not on hand this evening, having returned to Italy in February.
Flavio also introduced Vino Andreucci, his family’s winery in Tuscany that has been in continuous operation for 10 generations since 1794. Although the winery is located in Tuscany and produces primarily red wines, grapes, especially white grapes, are sourced from other parts of Italy to fill out a more balanced portfolio.
There were 28 guests this evening seated at the long center table located between the tasting bar and outside picture windows facing Washington Street (US-87). The first pairing for the evening was a glass of sparkling Prosecco served with a small plate of fried veggies. The veggies included sage leaves, pepperoni (peppers), asparagus, along with several others I was never able to identify. They all tasted great and soon disappeared from my plate. The Prosecco Treviso N.V. Extra Dry from the Alto Adige region was produced from equal parts Glera (the traditional Prosecco grape), Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir (direct pressed to minimize color). Flavio discussed this blend as his special project to create a softer mouthfeel and richer flavor profile than the often too-acidic wines produced from only Glera.
The next pairing included Donna Alma, a Pinot Grigio blend, served with two small savory custard cups, one topped with cherry tomato and balsamic vinegar, and the other with caramelized onions. Donna Alma is blended from 90% Pinot Grigio and 10% Müller-Thurgau from the northern Alto Adige region, just south of the Austrian border. Flavio described this wine, named to honor the memory of his mom, with an extra measure of pride. This was a richer version of Pinot Grigio than one normally encounters, and it matched beautifully with the small bites.
Grillo from Sicily was a third white wine poured. This rich, full-bodied white offered elegant honeyed peach aromas and flavors, similar to many Texas Marsanne and Roussanne wines. This was paired with Nonna’s special gnocchi covered with an amazing creamy sauce prepared from asparagus and pistachios. The gnocchi were delicate and soft in texture, while the sauce was amazing – light and delicious. Flavio discussed the Grillo and his efforts to produce wines, especially whites, outside of his home region of Tuscany which is primarily red wine country. This wine was produced from Grillo grapes grown in the rich volcanic soil of Mount Etna located on the northeastern coast of Sicily. The pairing was fantastic, and a good way to highlight the fact that really good white wines can be produced in the hot, arid climate of Sicily. It sounded sort of like a sales pitch we often make in Texas – LOL.
As we enjoyed the foods and wines, it was very noticeable out the large windows that for almost every traffic light cycle at the busy Washington St. (US-87) and Main St. (US-290) intersection, there was at least one semi-truck making the turn to go south towards San Antonio or west towards San Angelo or Junction/Ft. Stockton. This has become quite an issue as literally all major truck traffic has to navigate Main St. through downtown to pass through Fredericksburg. Efforts have been underway for several years to find and reach agreement on a bypass route, but one can certainly appreciate the political and emotional issues that will make this a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming project.
At this point, the focus switched to red wines with the Regale Black Label, a Super Tuscan blend of 80% Sangiovese (Brunello clone rather than the typical R-24 Chianti clone) and 20% Cabernet Franc. The aromas and flavors were certainly filled with black cherry fruit, along with rich notes of vanilla and cream developed in large oak tanks. Flavio often prefers these large oak vessels over smaller barriques (traditional 59 gal. oak barrels) to impart a subtler level of oak flavoring into his wines, thus highlighting fruit aromas and flavors. He also pointed out that the oak came from the famous Allier forest area located in central France. The food pairing was an absolutely delicious pasta al forno, a baked pasta dish prepared with lasagna noodles rather traditional rigatoni. The dish was lightly textured and so very creamy. The richly-flavored meat sauce was more orange in color than red. I honestly have never tasted lasagna this delicious. It was a perfect food and wine pairing.
Flavio continued to up the level of wine as he next introduced and poured the terrific Brunello di Montalcino Silver Label 2013 DOCG produced from the Tuscan Brunello clone of Sangiovese (or Sangiovese grosso). Flavio explained some Italian wine regulations that govern not only Brunello, but many other wine regions. In this case, the wine required five years of aging before release – four years in oak and one year in bottle. Smaller barrels, or barriques, of the more familiar 59 gal. or 225-liter variety were used for aging. These smaller containers give the wine more exposure to flavoring from the toasted oak and because of the porosity of the wood, more exposure to oxygen from air that helps to mellow the wine over time. This was a spectacular offering, rich and full-flavored but not really tannic. The food pairing was basically the main course for the evening – pork loin roasted for six hours until very savory and tender, served with sformato, a molded custard-type dish, prepared from spinach and carrots topped with a creamy sauce, and a slice of focaccia bread. All of this paired ever so well with the Brunello. YUM!
As each wine was poured into a different, interesting, and beautifully shaped glass, it became apparent that once again Flavio was giving the attendees a lesson in matching wine with stem size and shape. Flavio delighted in sharing his thoughts on the proper glassware to maximize enjoyment of his wines. I certainly enjoyed the lesson but felt badly for the staff and all the effort that would be required to wash and polish the approximately 200 wine glasses that stood on the table at the end of the tasting. Just think, they have to do this all over again tomorrow night. In fact, these Nonna pairings started March 1 and continue through March 17. That means a LOT of wine glasses!
The final red wine of the night, Regale Gold Label Super Tuscan 2014 (Toscana Rosso designation), was produced from 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Brunello clone of Sangiovese. This was a spectacular wine filled with aromas and flavors of vanilla, mocha chocolate, caramel, and hints of finely aged tobacco. The package was most impressive – bright metallic gold label on a super heavy bottle. Flavio served this wine in a gigantic crystal stem that would probably hold at least two bottles of wine. The glass funneled the delightful aromas directly to the nose and delivered the wine to the place on the tongue where it could be most appreciated. Flavio further noted that only 2,000 bottles (166 cs) of this wine were produced from the exceptional 2014 vintage. Only a small chocolate truffle was served that really enhanced the rich flavors in the wine.
The final wine of the night was a bright sparkling Moscato d’Asti, served with a chocolate espresso-topped tiramisu accompanied by a rich almond paste cookie covered with powdered sugar. This was truly one of the best cookies I think I have ever eaten. The Moscato was just slightly sweet with soft lemon aromas and flavors, making it a very nice pairing with the dessert plate.
It was at this point Nonna made an appearance from the kitchen. She had a big smile on her face knowing that the food pairings had been stellar. A standing ovation by all attendees confirmed our appreciation of her efforts. It was a grand performance by a grand lady. Thank you, Nonna Andreucci.
As we finished and just visited around the table, the staff spent some time telling us about the tasting room operations and introducing their wine club. A regular wine tasting is priced at $20 and includes tastes of six wines chosen from the twelve Classic (tan and red label) and three Select (black label) wines listed. One of the three premium reds can be tasted for $10 more. There is no fee to be a wine club member, and one of the key benefits is a complimentary glass of wine for two people each visit. Folks joining the wine club can get two tastings refunded when purchasing three bottles of wine at sign-up. Discount on wines for club members is 15% by the bottle or glass.
We all thanked Flavio, his wife Lara, Elia Guazzini, Roxanna Pichineru, and Betsy & Jack Sallman for a wonderful evening. Many of us also said goodbye to tablemates with whom we had shared a delightful evening of wine, food, and fellowship. It had been especially fun for me to share with two wonderful friends so involved in the Texas wine industry, Laurie and Shelly Ware. All three of us certainly recommend a stop at Andreucci Wine Room during your next Fredericksburg visit to explore delicious Italian wines offered in an intimate and comfortable setting.