Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lambo-buco with Bertani at Beretta revives my faith in Amarone

San Fran is so big and happening, yet finding a place that hits the spot is not necessarily a slam dunk. As I examine my inner self, I tend to gravitate toward Italian food. It's funny because French and Chinese are my favorites. Yet, for comfort, I want gourmet yet relaxed sort of a place. Italian and Spanish are just right. Plus, any excuse to drink vino Italiano is worth consideration.

The other night, Rona and I found ourselves spending four hours at Beretta - in the Mission district. Just long enough to consume respectable amount of vino and still be good to drive! Terrific food, perhaps just a notch below Restaurant Delfina, but then the parking is a hell of a lot easier at Beretta. Get there early (5pm) and call in 45 min beforehand to get on the waiting list.

Since our friends were interested in learning about wine, I brought a couple of special selections: a 2008 Roero Arneis from Bruno Giacosa (top Arneis in the world, from Roero area in Piedmonte) and a 2001 Bertani Amarone, which I had remarked on at the 2009 Tre Bicchieri tasting, but this was my first serious date with it. Funny that scored it relatively low (not many reviews though) and Wine Advocate's Antonio Galloni gave it 92 points and called it something like "a joy to drink but limited complexity". He did also say "restrained style for Amarone", which is probably the best thing about it, considering that Wine Advocate seems to reward bombastic wines. Oh, and what a great wine it turned out to be - I am running out and buying more! (you can find it online at

Amarone comes from Valpolicella area in Veneto, Italy (the same region as Venice), and is made by drying grapes on matts for 3-4 months to evaporate moisture (reducing grape mass by ~40% or so) and concentrate sugars. When all the sugar is fermented out, the result is relatively high level of alcohol. Thus, Amarone has potential to be quite bad - hot, raisiny fruit, low acidity. Not this 2001 Bertani! Wow, this was a type of wine that resurrects your faith in Amarone. So complex - it's hard to describe, completely dry, loads of tar, earthy fruit, medium body, great acidity. I had decanted it for 5 hours, as this wine is built to age for a very long time, and it needed a little prodding. Even at 15% alcohol (rather high for a red, but not for Amarone), it did not taste hot, and was excellent with the delectable dishes at Beretta, even pizza, although certainly drinking a $100 bottle of wine with pizza is a splurge, but what the heck! Culminating at a super-tasty lamb osso buco (or lambo-buco?).

Lambo-buco at Beretta with 2001 Bertani Amarone. Mangio bene!

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