Ca Momi

A Bi-Cultural Wine Experience in the Napa Valley

Ca’ Momi

Dario de Conti and his partners Valentina Guolo-Migotto and Stefano Migotto are the owners of the Ca’Momi winery, restaurant, and enoteca in the Napa Valley, and all three were born in the Veneto in northeastern Italy. Dario de Conti says that the three of them have a rigorous work ethic, inspired by the culture of the Veneto, one of the wealthiest areas in all of Europe. The region’s prosperity has evolved from a prolific agriculture, diverse industries, energy production, and tourism, which brings people from throughout the world to the glories of Verona, Venice, Lake Garda, and the Dolomites.

Since 2006, the three Italians, as they call themselves, have established a 40 thousand case winery and a full service restaurant and enoteca in downtown Napa at the Oxbow Public Market, where they showcase their wines. They also own two vineyards on the Napa side of the Carneros appellation, which stretches across the border into Sonoma. One of the vineyards is devoted to Chardonnay and the other to Pinot Noir, altogether a total of 20 acres. Their current project at the vineyards is to build a tasting room and hopefully a winery after they obtain necessary permits from the finicky city fathers of Napa County. In the meantime, they make their wine in a warehouse in the Town of Napa.

Stefano Migotto is the winemaker, having grown up in his family’s winery in Abano Terme. He later obtained a degree in enology from the University of Padova. Valentina Guolo-Migotto grew up surrounded by a culture of art and a high regard for wine and handcrafted foods. She runs the restaurant and enoteca. She and Stefano have lived in the U.S. for 17 years. Dario also has a degree in enology and joined them in Napa 10 years ago. He is in charge of sales although he says he floats between the winery and the restaurant, as well.

Dario says he feels right at home with the work load, which reminds him very much of home as does the landscape of Napa. “I love Napa,” he says. It’s a beautiful place and reminds me a lot of Tuscany, the hills, the colors, the smells. It’s very Mediterranean.”

While the terrain may remind Dario of home, he, Valentina, and Stefano are not interested in making wine from Italian winegrape varieties, as a few others in Napa are doing. Sangiovese and Vermentino are not on their agenda, although they do make a little Pinot Grigio. As far as they are concerned, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are a true reflection of the Napa Valley, while Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reflect the Carneros appellation, the cooler western part of Napa, where the estate vineyards are located.

Ca’Momi makes wines in four categories, the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, whose grapes they purchase, and the Reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, made from the estate Carneros vineyards. The Passion Wines, the House Wines, and the Frizzante or sparkling wines are also made from grapes that the partners purchase from Napa Valley growers. “If you want to create a line that connects all the wines that we make,” Dario says, “they are wines that you can enjoy by themselves or with food. For us as Italians, food and wine is a marriage, and we cannot distinguish between the two things. In Italy, when you sit down to dinner, you have a glass of wine with it. Making food friendly wine is the rule, a lifestyle, a tradition that is a thousand years old. You can enjoy our House red blend with any food because it’s so flexible, so food-friendly and enjoyable with any dish from spicy to sweet to acidic, whether you like pizza, pasta, or any carbohydrate sauce.”

This very instinct that pairs wine with food prompted them to open the Ca’Momi restaurant. The partners had intended to open just a tasting room for their wines. But one thing clearly let to the other. “After a few months, we started bringing in a few bites for the wines. Being Italians, it was a must. Then we made some pizza. I learned how to make pizza in Italy when I was going to college to pay my tuition. Every night for about ten years, I made pizza in local pizzerias. So when we started the tasting room, it was natural to do that. At the same time, my partner Valentina was really into the kitchen, and she started to make some Italian pastries. We did a little of that, and it turned into a full restaurant. We are making pastas, pizzas, and pastries.” Ca’Momi is just one of four San Francisco Bay Area restaurants to earn the VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) certification. Recognized by the Italian government in 1984, the association is an international non-profit that gives its designation to pizzerias that meet strict requirements for the traditional art of Neapolitan pizza making.

But as the wine moves up the quality scale, Dario points out that wine and food pairing poses a challenge. “The Reserve wines, the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet are different.” Dario explains that they are richer, which is the flavor profile that has made Napa famous, and they need to be paired with richer foods. “The Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir from our estate in Carneros are rich wines, but they are very elegant. Although we let the expression of the vineyard totally come out, the wines are still very friendly with food, very earthy but elegant, not in your face like a lot of Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay is the same thing. We don’t use a lot of oak, so we let the freshness of the fruit come out and evolve through aging. But we keep the alcohol rather high. So when you drink them with food, you have to have rich food that sustains that type of personality.

“Cabernet is the variety that I think fully expresses this beautiful valley. There is nothing better than Cabernet made in Napa Valley because the expression of the juiciness, the elegance, and the tannins is like fireworks. The wine has a lot of layers, aromas, flavors, and everything. People can enjoy it in different ways in the sense that they can sip it. They can drink it. They can enjoy it with friends. But obviously when you get to this higher quality level, the food-friendliness slows down a little bit. You have to be more careful how you pair the wine if you drink it with food. You have to prepare very rich food, like meat, even fatty meat, otherwise the wine kills the food. There would be no synergy in the two things. But the bottom line is that we want the wine to always be enjoyable with food.

Dario points out that “big” can appear in many guises. “A wine can be big and rich but not elegant. It can be big in quantity but not quality.” A high alcohol and highly extracted wine needs to be properly balanced with acid and tannin “like a ten year old Barolo. Those are very powerful wines, but after 10 years of aging, they become so elegant. They are enjoyable with food as well. So the challenge is to use the personality of these Reserve wines but create something that is enjoyable with food.”

Every decision that the partners make draws on their deep bi-cultural experience of wine, which informs their taste, their wines, and their sense of the role that wine should take at the table and away from it. And that sensibility reveals itself in the glass. Interestingly enough, they grew up in the Veneto, where Bardolino, Valpolicella, and Amarone are the principal wines and some of the most fruit-driven in all of Italy. On the other hand, Tuscany’s Sangiovese, Piedmont’s Nebbiolo, or Campania’s Aglianico can have austere expressions. So the wines of Napa are a natural fit for the partners, since the prevalent style in the Napa Valley emphasizes ripe fruit flavors with gentle acid and tannins, not unlike many of the wines in the Veneto.

California Wines of the Month


Artisan Series

Ca’ Momi – 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Stefano Migotto’s Notes

This dark ruby red Cabernet Sauvignon is deep in color and bright in clarity and flavor. It is made in a food friendly, approachable style with intense aromas of cedar, red currants, and berries with hints of black pepper and tobacco. Notes of plum, cherry, and ripe fig also appear in this complex and tasty wine. The texture in the mouth is smooth and silky with ripe well-integrated tannins and a full-bodied impression. The whole rich profile is balanced with bright acidity on the prolonged finish that lingers in the mouth (alcohol 13.9%, total acidity 0.47g per 100ml, pH 3.98).

Anna Maria’s Notes

Despite its being 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a pretty wine and versatile in terms of food pairing. It features typical Cabernet aromas and flavors without pronounced tannins that can require richer food. Consider serving it at cool room temperature with tomato sauces, roasted meats, and winter stews, such as organic beef and potato stew, which the Ca’Momi restaurant is currently preparing from its wood fired oven.

Ca’ Momi – 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay

Winemaker Stefano Migotto’s Notes

This rich and golden Chardonnay has full-bodied aromas and flavors that match its opulent color. It has complex flavors of yellow apple, pear, and vanilla. It has smoky notes from oak barrel aging along with ripe apricot and baking spices on the long finish. The first impression on the palate is of a ripe, smooth, rich white wine, but it develops into a fruit-filled, full-bodied impression that obtains elegance from the balanced acidity on the finish (alcohol 13.9%, total acidity 0.52g per 100ml, pH 3.67).

Anna Maria’s Notes

This is a fine Chardonnay, fruity and aromatic with a crisp finish but without any of the excesses that we often associate with Chardonnay, especially too much oak barrel influence that obscures delicate fruit flavors. Serve lightly chilled with appetizers, light first courses, and with Bellwether jersey ricotta and organic spinach gnocchi with butter, sage, and Parmigiano Reggiano, which is now on the menu at the Ca’Momi restaurant.

Winemaker Series

Ca’ Momi – 2010 Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir

Winemaker Stefano Migotto’s Notes

This wine is a truly special example of the subtle elegance of Pinot Noir. Rich, deep, cherry and strawberry flavors pervade this beautifully composed wine. Oak adds gentle complexity, body, and depth. The finish offers clove, sandalwood, and vanilla. The wine is delicate enough to dance with grilled salmon and robust enough to compliment pork and lighter game (alcohol 14.3%, total acidity 0.53g per 100ml, pH 3.71).

Anna Maria’s Notes

For Pinot Noir, a beautiful luminous color is an indication of pure Pinot fruit. And this wine has it. This is a gentle expression of the grape and could be paired with linguine with organic basil pesto, potatoes, and green beans. You guessed it. It’s on the menu at Ca’Momi.

Ca’ Momi – 2009 Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Stefano Migotto’s Notes

This glorious Napa Valley Cabernet is deep and powerful in color and presence. Initial flavors of lavish oak marry with dried currants and blackberries picked straight from the vine. Bright herbal notes linger on the finish for exquisite complexity. Truly deserving of the Reserve designation, this rich Napa red is a powerful wine that delivers on its many promises (alcohol 14.8%, total acidity 0.47g per 100ml, pH 4.00).

Anna Maria’s Notes

At 14.8% alcohol, Dario would ask us to pair this wine carefully with food, preparing a dish that could stand up to the wine’s power. But despite its heft, this Napa Valley Cabernet shows considerable elegance. Its ripe fruit is balanced with gentle tannins and subtle acidity and would pair beautifully with classic Osso Bucco or roasted red meats.

Ca’ Momi – 2012 Reserve Napa Valley Chardonnay

Winemaker Stefano Migotto’s Notes

This elegant and opulent Chardonnay features aromas of pineapple, butterscotch, and toasted vanilla with subtle smoke from its time in oak barrels. The palate shines with rich, ripe apple and hazelnut flavors. Balanced with acidity, the wine lingers through a long and complex finish (alcohol 14.5%, total acidity 0.48g per 100ml, pH 3.70).

Anna Maria’s Notes

This deliciously balanced Chardonnay is a pleasure for the table and everyone sitting around it. Serve it lightly chilled and pair it with spaghetti with speck, organic cream, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Spaghetti with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and cured mullet caviar is another pasta dish on the menu at Ca’Momi. Enjoy!

Menu of the Month


 

Happy Holidays!

First Course

Sautéed chanterelle mushrooms with thyme, garlic,
and sea salt, served with fresh baguettes

Main Course

Osso Bucco with gremolata, served with potatoes
dressed with olive oil and a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley

Salad

Organic heirloom lettuces with lemon-olive oil dressing

Dessert

Chocolate chestnut tort, served with sparkling Moscato d’Asti

Recipe of the Month


Osso Bucco with gremolata

This deliciously classic winter dish is a fine and ultimately easy one to serve because you can time it to be ready a half hour before guests will sit at the table. And it will require little to no attention after they arrive. We’ve adapted this particular recipe from Canal House Cooking, Volume Number 7. Happy Holidays!

Ingredients

8 veal shanks, 2-inches thick & tied with kitchen string

Salt & Pepper

Olive oil

3 medium carrots, diced

3 celery ribs, diced

2 medium onions, diced

3 cups dry white wine

One 28-ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes in juice, pureed

2 bay leaves

1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Grated zest of 1 large lemon

2 small cloves garlic, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the shanks with salt and pepper. Cover the bottom of a heavy large pot with a lid with olive oil and heat over medium flame. Working in batches, brown the shanks without burning. Transfer them to a large plate as they brown.

Add more olive oil to the pot and then cook carrots, celery, and onions until they soften. Stir in the wine. Return the shanks and any juices to the pot, nesting them in layers. Add the tomatoes and, if necessary, water to cover the shanks. Season with salt and pepper and tuck in the bay leaves.

Cover the pot and braise the shanks in the oven, basting them halfway through until very tender, about 2 hours. The meat should almost fall off the bone, although the string will hold it in place. Discard the bay leaves.

For the gremolata, combine the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic in a small bowl. Serve the osso bucco with a small spoonful of gemmolata to the top of each marrow bone.