Recently I had dinner at Paola’s on the Upper East Side with my friends from Banfi Vintners. This restaurant is compiled of a wonderful staff, romantic ambiance, and of course, fantastic Italian cuisine with an impressive flare. Dining with us, was the winemaker of Tenuta Cerulli Spinozzi, Enrico R. Cerulli. Enrico is enchantingly charming and free flowing. He is the kind of man that makes friends with everyone, and you can’t help but smile while he talks about Italian wines, and his passion for them. He stresses the fact that he does not want people to be afraid of these wines, and to embrace them, even if they don’t understand the label, they will understand the wine once they taste it.

We started off with the 2012 Cortalto Pecorino. Pecorino is the grape varietal and it is so wonderful. This was my first time having this particular grape, and I was in love. This wine is bright and crisp with a full mouth of fruit and a wonderful finish. Paired with the delicately cooked artichoke we were served, this wine was the star of the first couple courses. The Mozzarella is made in house and fresh to order which is a wonderful surprise when it comes out slightly warm… yum! When paired with the Calamari and Ravioli, the wine was pure heaven. Alongside the Ravioli, was Veal Cheek over Large Ribbon Noodles, which paired well with the 2008 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Now, because we were dining with an Italian, we did not simply stop at pasta and call it a meal, we went on!

Medium Rare Lamb Chops, Duck Breast, and Steak were served to pair with the 2008 as well, and my goodness, it was incredible! The duck was so tender and meaty, full bodied and flavorful, and when alongside the wine, notes of cherry, and chocolate showed through to the palate.

Wine lovers, please have no fear of Italian wines. Enrico is a wonderful man and really gave me a deeper insight to the winemaking side. Once you know what you like as far as Italian wines, you will fall in love with them every time!