One of the best spots to try Italian wines in Omaha is Dante, where Nick Strawhecker and his sommeliers bring in unique Italian wine producers for decadent pairing dinners. Last October, Executive Chef Drew Statz paired luscious Raineri wines with regional duck from Au Bon Canard in Minnesota.
Luciano Racca of Raineri, now located in St. Louis, grew up in the bucolic Piedmont region, but his appreciation for his home has intensified over time. According to Racca, “In 1997, the Piedmont area became a UNESCO World Heritage site, which brought attention to the area and it just popped.”
In the early years, the winemakers of Raineri planted Dolcetto, a heritage grape harvested early and drunk young. Though it does age beautifully, it’s often not around long enough. Racca said, “It’s what locals enjoy while waiting for Nebbiolo to age into Barolo.” A bit surprisingly, one of the biggest markets for Dolcetto is the Midwest.
Nebbiolo, named for the fog that descends over the Piedmont vineyards at harvest time, is the grape responsible for some of the most sought after Italian red wines. Big, beautiful Barolos, 100 percent Nebbiolo, are a delight to behold, brought to perfection by aging in French Oak. According to Racca, the Monserra 2014 Barolo featured at the dinner was nearly ruined due to bad weather, but Raineri hedged their bets and let the fruit hang during the following sunny Indian summer, which resulted in wine with a very fruity character and perfect body.
The 2018 Raineri Langhe Snart proved lovely with traditional tajarin, prepared simply with cultured butter and a shower of truffles. Snart means steep slope in the Piedmontese dialect, an apt moniker for these grapes grown in a tiny vineyard on the single road to Mumforte, inaccessible by any motor vehicle due to steep pitch.
Though married beautifully with assertive proteins, diners do not often find Barolo paired with dessert, but it goes remarkably well with gelato. Statz and his crew reached into the coffers of genius with the final pairing of the dinner: a mascarpone cheesecake quenelle with a duck fat gelato.