Let’s face it: while big cities in the U.S. like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago have been experiencing an “Italian wine renaissance” for nearly two decades now, there are still many smaller cities where Americans’ unbridled passion for Italian wine and its mosaic of grape varieties has yet to arrive.
That’s just one of the reasons we were so impressed with the truly superb wine list curated by Riccardo Tarabelsi (above), a native of Florence, Italy who grew up in Boston and ultimately settled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (population 156,592 according to Google, 2011).
Riccardo is the general manager and wine director at the immensely popular Italian restaurant Spezia (pronounced speh-TZEE-ah), one of the town’s top fine dining destinations.
“I have to be honest,” said Riccardo when we spoke to him yesterday by phone. “Many of our guests say to me, ‘don’t bring me the wine list. Just give me a Chardonnay.’”
“So I ask them, ‘would you like a Chardonnay from California or a Chardonnay from Italy?”
And that’s when Riccardo does his magic.
“They’ll ask me: ‘You mean, they make Chardonnay in Italy?’ And I like that because it lets me share my passion for Italian wine with them.”
Riccardo’s list has something for everyone, from the casual Pinot Grigio drinker to the heavy-hitting Brunello lover. And its aggressive pricing extends from the by-the-glass program to his top-priced Amarone, Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco.
Click here for the list.
But the thing we loved the most about his list is that he includes food pairings in the list itself.
“When you go to a region of Italy,” he explained, “you drink the wine that was meant to go with the food of the region. That’s the only wine they serve. But in America, the guest needs some guidance in how to pair the wine,” especially at a restaurant like Spezia, where the chef features regional foods from all over Italy.
Currently, Riccardo is featuring a “wine flight” of Mazzoni Pinot Grigio, Mazzoni Barbera, and Mazzoni Toscana Rosso.
“I love them all but my favorite,” said Riccardo, “is the Toscana Rosso, a classic Super Tuscan, with great acidity and a dry finish… the things that I look for” in great red wine.
Beyond being the wine director and GM at one of the hottest tables in town, Riccardo also authors a column for a local lifestyle magazine, etc. (click the link to read his most current article, a profile of Italy’s Cinque Terre).
We don’t have any plans to visit Sioux Falls in the near future but it might be worthwhile just to taste with Riccardo!