Editor Frank and I were delighted to attend the recent Antica Wine dinner at Flora Bar & Kitchen under the direction of owner Sal Ercolano. As a reminder, Ercolano was Taste of Wine and Food Restaurateur of the Year 2020.
When many were closing restaurants, Ercolano bought Amici and converted him into Flora knowing his potential once the pandemic was abated. The fact that this was the first wine dinner held in Flora due to COVID-19 restrictions was very special.
The energy of the place was electrifying for this inaugural dinner. The guests were ready for an incredible dinner accompanied by a beautiful wine. Chef Hilario was in top form for this five-course dinner with estate manager Glenn Salva of Napa Valley Antica, recounting the evening with Ercolano.
While many of us are familiar with Antinori wines, some may not know that Antica is actually Napa Valley’s California (Anti) nori (Ca) run by Marchesi Piero Antinori. Piero represents the 26e generation of Antinoris overseeing Antinori winemaking which dates back over 630 years!
I asked Salva how the Antinori and Antica vineyards got through the last year of the pandemic. He said, “Rico, it all depends on Piero’s leadership and his 4 Ps – passion, patience, persistence and perseverance. The 4 Ps of Piero guided us through the difficult times.
Chef Hilario, confirmed by several guests I spoke to, took him out of the park during dinner. Dinner started with a trio of appetizers with ahi poke on cucumber, a stick of fried mozzarella and coconut shrimp with dip accompanied by 2019 Antinori Vermentino – Tenuta Guado al Tasso. Vermentino grown along the Mediterranean Sea fermented in steel without malolactic treatment had great minerality and crispness. It was a good start with the Hilario trio.
Then there was the carpaccio di bresaola, thinly sliced beef tenderloin topped with arugula, mustard vinaigrette, crostini and grapefruit wedges. This was served with Antinori Chardonnay Mountain Select 2019, which had a creamy mouthfeel and oak aging that complemented the acidity of the dressing and grapefruit.
The third course was Lasagna Bandiera de Flora, one of the best lasagna in San Diego. The noodles were topped with spinach infused ricotta, bolognese and mozzarella alongside 2018 Antinori Il Bruciato – Tenuta Guado al Tasso.
The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah Il Bruciato blend from the vineyards of Guado al Tasso represents the unique terroir of Bolgheri, giving the wine perfect structure and complexity with bolognese.
The main course (fourth) featured short cabernet-braised short ribs topped with microgreens served with polenta and asparagus. This was paired with the 2017 Antica Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Select. The 2017 vintage benefited from early rains, but also saw spikes in heat in September. The high altitude of Atlas Peak protected the fruit, but required an early harvest at the end of September for maximum maturity with a perfect balance of concentrated red and purple fruit characteristics along with soft, firm tannins.
Dinner ended with a cannoli served with Antica Estate Moscato from his G&G Soracco vineyard. Details on anticanapavalley.com.
Ercolano has two wine dinners coming up. The first is at the West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar with Catena Zapata wines from Mendoza, Argentina, considered the pioneer of Malbec wine, Thursday through Friday, May 20-21, at 6 p.m. The cost is $ 75 per person plus tax and tip. RSVP to 858-259-5878 or visit WestEndDelMar.com.
Also save the date for the A Night in Valle Guadalupe Winegrowers’ Dinner, where Ercolano invites Valle Guadalupe winemakers from the Vinos Lechuza, Cava Maciel and Paoloni wineries to share their wines, Wednesday June 23-24 at 6 p.m. at Flora Bar & Cuisine in Carmel Valley. The cost is $ 70 per person plus tax and tip. RSVP at 858-461-0622 or visit florabarandkitchen.com.
–Story of Technical Director / Screenwriter Rico Cassoni
- Cork & Knife Urban Winery in Escondido presents its next Meet the Vintner, Steve Clifton, on Wednesday, May 12, 5-7: 30 p.m. This free wine tasting will feature Palmina rosé, pinot grigio, sangiovese and nebbiolo. Cork & Knife also sells small seasonal plates to purchase during the wine tasting. Details by calling 858-703-8399.
- Explore Paso Robles at its annual wine festival, Thursday through Sunday, May 20-23. Enjoy four days of wine tastings, winemaker dinners, and outdoor wine events. This year, it will be limited to individual activities at over 150 wineries throughout the weekend. Plan your weekend and book your stay at pasowine.com.
- Flora Bar & Kitchen and West End Bar & Kitchen host Mother’s Day brunch and dinners. Both sites will have $ 7 mimosas. Flora will also have music from The Dirty Martini duo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Brunch is served in both restaurants from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. RSVP at 858-259-5878 /WestEndDelMar.com or 858-461-0622 /florabarandkitchen.com.
Frank Mangio is a renowned certified wine connoisseur by Wine Spectator. Reach it at [email protected]