Pago Summer Sommelier Series

santa giustina oneIf you were lucky enough to experience one of Pago’s ‘Summer Sommelier Series’ dinners last year, you’ll likely be at the front of the queue to repeat the experience in 2014. The cuisine of chef Phelix Gardner and his team, savvy of owner Scott Evans and the charming exuberance of sommelier Evan Lewandowski combined for some truly remarkable events in 2013.

The first dinner of the 2014 series will be held on Thursday, April 24th starting at 6pm. Inspired by the wines and cuisine of the Italian Emilia-Romagna region, wine maker Gaia Bucciarelli will also be in attendance. Pago Sommelier Evan Lewandowski (pictured below and right during one of the 2013 meals) has the full scoop:

evan lewandowski at pagoMany of us have had the absolute pleasure to experience first hand, with boots on the ground, a taste of what Italy has to offer. Most cannot help but fall in love, and in many instances it is our palates that have played cupid. The history, culture, and traditions are seamlessly, naturally intertwined with food an wine. Each region, sub-region, town or even village often lay claim to unique methods, singular blood-lines of swine, grape varieties, and styles. Mind-boggling at times, you’ll find patterns of dress, shapes of bread and even dialects to change from one alpine valley to the other.

Faced with a country so awash in lavishly complex and seemingly infinite options, we as travelers never seem to find enough time in our itineraries…often trekking to the meccas of Italy, the tried and true ‘big three’ of Rome, Florence and Venice. However, outside these big three, the savvy ones find another universe of eye-opening, lesser-known and understated stars.

One must not venture far from Florence in the direction due north to find Tuscany’s neighbor, Emilia-Romagna. Historically well-known for its agricultural wealth, this region has long laid claim as having the highest standard of living in Italy. Its absolutely no surprise this region has also given us such cultural richness. Perhaps you’ve heard of Giorgio Armani? Luciano Pavarrotti and Giuseppi Verdi? The empires of Enzo Ferrari and Ferruccio Lamborghini have been duking it out here for over half a century.

Who then could be surprised that Emilia-Romagna is also home to some of Italy’s most distinctive and individualistic wines. The wine traditions here, more than almost anywhere I’ve come across, represent an overwhelming lust for life. Characteristically bright and fresh, almost across the board, Emilia-Romagna’s wines are often “wines of thirst” or “vins de soifs” as the French would call it. Gulpable and ridiculously versatile, the wines more often than not possess a pleasant effervescence. Whether they’re paired with a langoustine risotto, cured meats, the perfect pizza, or simply shaved Parmeggiano over lemon-dressed arugula, the wines almost always taste like “more.”

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Azienda Agricola Santa Giustina is one of the region’s most idyllic estates, crafting a range of wines from pristinely farmed vines that very poignantly express the aforementioned “lust for life.” I don’t find it coincidental that the owner/winemaker’s name is Gaia, in that she bottles some of the liveliest wines around from the regional grapes Ortrugo, Croatina, Barbera and Malvasia. After the first few truly warm days of spring, I can’t think of a better kickoff to the 2014 Sommelier Series Dinners than to spend the evening with Gaia and her wines on our freshly reopened patio at 9th and 9th. While the evening away under the Pago patio lights among friends with perfectly paired dishes from Phelix, Drew and Stephen. Watch the sun play on the foothills to the east, and let yourself be charmed by the effervescent Gaia Bucciarelli and her downright vivace wines.

santa giustina wines

The meal is priced at $35 for food and $30 for the additional wine pairings. Tax and 20% gratuity is not included.

Santa Giustina Wine Dinner Menu

* Tuna Nicoise + stuffed peppers, tuna, olive
* Santa Giustina, Ortrugo Vivace 2012 + Ortrugo, Emilia-Romagna (3oz)

* Crudités + local spring vegetables, house buttermilk ricotta, nasturtium vinegar
* Santa Giustina, Malvasia 2012 + Malvasia, Emilia-Romagna (3oz)

* Utah Stealhead Trout + ajo blanco, grapes, snap peas
* Santa Giustina, Bonarda 2011 + Croatina, Emilia-Romagna (3oz)

* Morgan Valley Lamb Neck + herbs, red wine, natural sauce, mint pasta
* Santa Giustina, Il Superiore Gutturnio 2011 + Barbera/Croatina, Emilia-Romagna (4oz)

* Banana Cream Pie + graham, bananas, whipped cream
* Santa Giustina, Stellato Passito 2009 + Malvasia, Emilia-Romagna (3oz)

Reservations can be made through email via

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