Wine and food pairings most often start in the kitchen. The Chef will present the Wine team with a new project, maybe simply a flavor profile. The Sommelier can then consider the concept and reach into memory, past notes, or bottles from the cellar to match the focus of the dish. As with most dining traditions, Moto Restaurant, 945 W Fulton Market, flips perception and notions of normal. For one dish on the new 2012 Spring/Summer menu, the food pairing began in reverse, with the wine.
The course is called: “Red Wine Salad.” As the name implies, the elements of the course come directly from flavors and aromas of this specific wine: 2007 Napolini Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. Dark fruit flavors like figs, dates, and black cherries, with earthy richness, mixed with aromas of wood and herbs are all presented on the dish in an edible (or smellable) form.
The complexity of these deep flavors come from this rare wine made with an ancient grape. Sagrantino is only grown in Italy’s Montefalco region in Umbria. Its viticulture dates back to the Roman Empire. Few producers can and will attempt to wrangle the tannic and wild character of Sagrantino. In the hands of the best farmers and the right ageing conditions, Sagrantino can achieve velvety, rich fruit with balance and power. Etymology of the name derives from the Latin for “holy” as it was used for Papal celebrations.
The Napolini family has been making Sagrantino in Umbria for centuries; they are farmers with generations of experience. As Mama Clara Napolini, the matriarch of the family, explains “a young Sagrantino will bite you in the throat with its tannins so round and powerful… they use all these machines now… rotary fermenters, tangential filters, that are able to change the wine structure… I don’t know… they seem to me all scientists trying to bend Mother Nature… I tell you what… I don’t think that the wines made with scientific machines will be any good 20 years from now! Mine will be!”
Clara’s wine inspired Moto Sommelier Miranda Elliot. Here Miranda explains the presentation of the course: “First, we pour the wine. Then, we bring out a silver platter with aromatic components (herbs like rosemary and thyme, pine branches, applewood wood chips). Then we drop the dish itself, which is a beet puree, with figs, dates, blackberries, black cherries soaked in the Napolini, bacon croutons, black Perigord truffle shaved on top, and red wine vinaigrette made from the Napolini. While we describe the dish, we take a mini torch to the aromatic components and ‘smoke’ them at the table.” Below is a video of Moto Chef de Cuisine Richie Farina and Pastrie Chef Ben Roche explaing the Spring/Summer menu. Look for the Napolini and the Red Wine Salad about 4 minutes in:
Now picture Clara Napolini huddled around a computer with her kids and grand kids watching as these groundbreaking Chefs build a dish from the flavors of their wine. It is a continuation and recognition of the Napolini’s vision and tradition. Its a special moment in the wine and food industry that brings together ancient and modern, traditional and avant garde.
The “Red Wine Salad” and the 07 Naopolini Sagrantino are available now at Moto.