Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Food And Wine Discovery At Spanish Bay

Taste of the Valley
Register Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Noted Italian vintner Piero Antinori purchased a 14th century monastery and vineyard not far from Florence a little more than two decades ago to celebrate his family’s 600th anniversary as Chianti wine producers, spanning 26 generations.

Inspired by the spirit and traditions of this estate, as well as his belief that the primary role of wine is to accompany and enhance food and the dining experience, Antinori partnered with the owners of Pebble Beach resorts to open a fine dining establishment called Pèppoli. The restaurant is located inside the 270-room Inn at Spanish Bay and captures the look and feel of dining in a Tuscan villa — one with a very special landscape overlooking the famous golf links and the Pacific Ocean.

Only last month did this writer learn about this special dining room and its incredible wine list, allowing California consumers an opportunity to taste the incredible wines produced by the Antinori family on a number of estates in northern Italy.

(For those who don’t already know, Antinori owns considerable acreage in the Atlas Peak AVA, where he partnered with locals in the wine industry in the 1980s to produce the Atlas Peak Vineyards brand. With grape contracts and leases expiring, Antinori will be free to use as much of the fruit (planted in Foss Valley at the end of Soda Canyon Road) as he wants. He will announce this summer his newest New World venture, a brand called Antica Napa Valley.)
A recent visit to the Antinori-financed Pèppoli restaurant at Spanish Bay proved to be a real treat. It’s a gorgeous dining room, with a decided Tuscan feel, with one of the best views I know.

And it not only has an incredible wine list and lipsmacking menu but service staff that know what they’re about. They know the wines, they can talk at length about chef Arturo Moscoso’s cuisine and keep diners current on what’s shakin’ on the Monterey Peninsula.

Although he was born in Lima, Peru, Moscoso knows his way around a Tuscan kitchen. While our recent dinner there consisted of three simple selections, it was one of the best meals we’d had anywhere this year.

The Affettato Misto consisted of salumi and cheeses paired with orange, garlic and oil-cured olives of every stripe, followed by a shared order of Rigatoni di Arogosta, the grooved pasta tubes tossed with chunks of Australian lobster and thin slices of zucchini in a lobster coral-enhanced cream sauce. An Antinori Greco di Tufa paired beautifully with this dish.

Outside of Tuscany, I’ve rarely encountered such a perfect Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a Tuscan T-bone for two. Carved tableside, this juicy steak imported from Tuscany — while not cheap at $82 — was nevertheless just what a couple of carnivores needed on a Wednesday night. Perfectly prepared and full of fresh-from-the-grill flavor, this is a dish worth seeking out when you’re next in the Carmel/Monterey area. As expected, Antinori’s Pèppoli was the ideal wine pairing.

In fact, I for one would build a visit to Monterey at some future date around my reservations at Pèppoli. It’s that good. If the other menu choices are as tasty as the ones Moscoso’s team sent to our table recently, I may find myself headed to Pebble Beach more than I ever dreamed I would. You see, I’m not a golfer

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