By Jenny Peters
What’s the best thing to happen in Southern California in May? If you’re a lover of Italian wine and food, then there is nothing better than Vino California, the annual celebration of Italy’s finest. In 2013, it happened from May 13-17, at venues all over town.
The third annual event started off with a bang at the Skirball Cultural Center, where the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West (IACCW) and Blue Lifestyle, along with The Tasting Panel magazine, organized the huge Vino California Grand Tasting. More than 100 Italian wine varietals from 18 regions were poured, including the luscious Statti Greco Calabria IGT 2012, and tasty bites were served, from sponsors ranging from Italian Magic Olives, PreGel, Bindi, Ferrarelle, Pasta Mia, Academia Barilla and Il Fornaio.
Plenty of fun was had by all, but that was just the beginning. Then Vino California took to the neighborhoods, doing a series of tasting dinners (a total bargain at $60, including four- or five-course food and wine pairings at some of L.A.’s top Italian eateries.
The crowd formed at Avantine Hollywood, Valentino, Ca’ del Sole, Osteria Mamma, Laconda del Lago and Enoteca Drago in Beverly Hills. That’s the spot where we enjoyed a convivial evening that began with a perfectly fried crispy zucchini blossom stuffed with ricotta truffles paired with a 2010 Le due Querce Luis Franciacorta DOCG and ended with a to-die-for white chocolate panna cotta with strawberries and basil. There were melt-in-your-mouth scallops crudo paired with a crisp Sardus Pater Terre Fenicle 2012 Vermentino from Sardinia and Osso Bucco stuffed Agnolotti with a truffle glace that was so good it was almost criminal. The 2011 Cantina Braschi Sangiovese DOC washed it down in style, too.
In between courses, Letizia Miccoli, the executive director of IACCW, explained the impetus behind Vino California. “Italian wines are extremely popular in California and we are thrilled to expand the knowledge of such experienced wine consumers.”
By the end of the Enoteca Drago meal, we staggered out of the restaurant dreaming of next year’s Vino California – and ready to shop for some Italian wines, too, despite living in the heart of the California wine world.