A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday with several good friends at Otto, a very good family style Italian "pizzeria" with an even better wine list. It's actually one of Mario Batali's places and though I've been disappointed by many of the celebrity chefs' restaurants I've visited, Otto has yet to disappoint.
There were eight of us, but since it was a "school night," we only made it through 3 bottles of wine:
Almondo Arneis Vigne Sperse 2009: Arneis is a white wine that most people don't know anything about (but should). To me, it's the wine you introduce to your friends who always force you to order a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Almondo Arneis is fresh and crisp with a nose and palate full of citrus. Despite the lightness, it has some nice structure and slight body which allows it to hold up to lighter dishes like salads, vegetables and other light appetizers. Moreover, it's one of the least acidic Italian whites out there so it tends to be less "puckering" when drinking by itself (which it also does nicely). None of the white wine drinkers at the table had ever heard of Arneis and all were asking me about it over the course of the meal.
La Spinetta Barbera D'Asti Ca' di Pian 2007: To me, Barbera D'Asti is always a good bet because it can be light to medium bodied and it is very versatile. Unless you're going for a super light salad or appetizer or a super heavy pasta, beef or venison, Barbera will likely go well with your meal. The La Spinetta has lovely cherry and cassis notes. It went particularly well with the thin crust mushroom pizza we ordered and seemed to go down very easy around the entire table!
And the 3rd bottle - Moscato D'Asti of course! I didn't catch the label, but it was crisp, sweet, bubbly and just as enjoyable as I expected it to be. Plus, it went incredibly well with the "Black & White" (I don't even want to try to explain it - just look it up on Otto's web site and know that it was even better than described).
I really enjoyed the Arneis, the Barbera D'Asti and the Moscato D'Asti, but the best blend of the evening was the gathering of friends from various parts of Manhattan and New Jersey. Nothing complements wine better than good company (and it sure beats Lardo pizza - the one culinary misstep).
Until the next, sniff, sip and quaff (which I promise to write up before I turn.....well, let's just say I'm old enough to be characterized as "Old Vines" but much, much younger than the oldest vines in California),