Molto Bene – Smallman Galley Goes All-Italian at Wine Tasting

by Dave Zuchowski, ‘Burgh Vivant.

Prosecco from the Veneto, Pecorino cheese from Calabria, and Amedei Chocolate from Tuscany.  Mama Mia! You can’t get much more Italian than that!

Smallman Galley co-owner, Ben Mantica, likes to change the focus of the wines featured in his monthly wine tasting. Italy got the spotlight in his latest tasting on Tuesday, August 29. This month, the wines of New York’s Finger Lakes District and Long Island ( yes, they’re making some great wines on Long Island) will be the headline offerings during the September 12 tasting.

Looking in on Wine Tasting Group at Smallman Galley. Photo: Bill Rockwell.

For the Italian tasting, Michel Mincin, owner and wine monger of the Allora Wine Group, brought along five Italian wines from boutique winery producers he discovered on visits to Italy. To compliment the wines, four Italian cheeses purchased from Pennsylvania Macaroni in the Strip District and three sweets from Mon Aimee Chocolat in the Strip completed the menu.

“Each patron gets 2.5 to 3 ounces of each wine,” Mincin said as he poured the first offering, a bubbly, pleasantly sweet Prosecco with citrus-y notes from the Veneto. I mentioned to the wine distributor that the bubbles seemed to last long in the glass, and he admitted that he tried the same bottle of Prosecco over a five day period to test its bubble longevity. Obviously it passed the test.

Amy Rosenfield of Mon Aimee Chocolat Preparing Sweets Plates. Photo: Bill Rockwell.

During the tasting close to 40, mostly young, wine enthusiasts sat around tables in the restaurant’s main dining room, a narrow room with brick walls painted white and a high ceiling. The tasters seemed to have a broad range of wine experience.

Lauren Fehl of Mt. Lebanon and Lauren Benny of Avonworth learned about the event on Facebook, and the tasting at the Smallman Galley was a first for both wine lovers. “I’d been to the Galley several times for lunch, but never for a tasting,” said Fell, who’d previously visited wineries in Italy and the Napa Valley.

Before the Crowd Arrives. Photo: Bill Rockwell.

In addition to a place mat that identified each of the five featured wines, each taster got two plates – one for the cheeses, one for the chocolates. The food pairings were a collaboration between Mincin, bar manager, Tim Garso and Amy Rosenfield of Mon Aimee Chocolat. The latter has an astounding inventory of chocolates from as many as 50 different countries around the globe.

Taylor Horkut of Baldwin and his partner for the evening, Keely Tague of Greenfield, admitted they were wine novices who also discovered the event on Facebook.

“When we saw that an Orange Blossom Moscato was one of the wines on the list, we were hooked and decided to come,” Tague said.

Eiana Shank of McCandless discovered the tasting on “While wine is my beverage of choice, the only other tasting I did was at the Rivers Casino as well as several whiskey tastings at the Wigle Distillery,” Shank said.

Events Manager Heather Granader. Photo: Bill Rockwell.

Besides being an importer and distributor, Mincin also offers wine list consultation, corporate tastings and wine education events. After each pouring at the tasting, he explained the characteristics of the wine, the grape varietal, its place of origin, made food pairing suggestions and took questions from the tasters. Rosenfield did the same for the treats on the sweet plate.

Since the Smallman Galley opened 20 months ago, it has organized a series of between 12 to 15 public events each year. Considered a chef incubation restaurant, the Smallman Galley offers diners a unique experience with four fully outfitted kitchens. They’re manned  by undiscovered chefs who use the restaurant as a forum to showcase their talents, hone their craft, develop business acumen and build a cult following behind their culinary concepts.

Before the tasting begins. Photo: Bill Rockwell.

Smallman Galley provides the infrastructure for the chefs over an 18 month period to bring their concepts to market at low risk and at low cost. Every 18 months, the Galley brings in four new chefs and the process begins all over again in the Galley’s four restaurants. Iron Born features hand-forged pizzas, Colonia is a culinary tribute to the countries of Latin America, Banhmiicious offers modern Vietnamese dishes and Brunoise features progressive American cuisine. Patrons can order from one or all of the four restaurants.

For Eva Tumiel Kozak of Point Breeze, the wine tasting was her first visit to the Smallman Galley. “I thought the tasting had a nice selection of wines and was well paired with high quality cheeses,” she said. “My only suggestion is that they use a microphone at future tasting because I was unable to hear some of the comments about the wines, cheeses and chocolates.”

Smallman Galley Co-Owner, Ben Mantica. Photo: Bill Rockwell.

To learn about upcoming wine tastings, go to the Smallman Galley Facebook page.

The Featured Italian Wines and Food Pairings:

1) Prosecco Revino DOC NV – Sparkling

2) Passenina Tenuta Spinelli “Eden” 2016 – White Cru di Capra Aged Goat Cheese (Piedmont)

3) Refosco Rodaro “Flower”  2014 – Red Piave 6 month aged cow’s milk cheese (Veneto) Sabadi Nella chocolate 60% with cinnamon flavors (Modica, Sicily) 

 4) Cabernet Sauvignon Conte Emo Capodilista Pecorino Calabreso Reserve, aged 12 months sheep’s milk (Calabria) Amadei Toscano Red Chocolate 70% with raspberries, strawberries and cherries. Amadei was once named the world’s best chocolate according to Rosenfield (Pisa, Tuscany)

5) Orange Blossom Moscato Conte Emo Capodolista ‘Fior d’Arancio’ – dessert

Gorgonzola Piccante (Lombardy) Scaldaferro Pistachio Almond with Citrus Terrone (Dolo – near Venice)

Michael Mincin, Owner, Allora Wine Group. Photo: Bill Rockwell.

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