TIberio Wine Dinner at Vetri Cucina

photos by Sk Delph

May I share with you a wine-tale? It's the history of a vineyard nestled in a mountainous region of Italy and the discovery of 60-year-old vines. Here, I could describe 'a young princess' except Cristiana Tiberio, the winemaker of Tiberio Winery is much more extraordinary than that. She's a chemistry graduate who uses this knowledge to create some of the finest wines to have ever graced our table. 

On July 22 I had an opportunity to dine with Cristiana Tiberio at Vetri Cucina restaurant at the top of the Palms Casino Resort. The food, the wine, the view and the company were all top notch and the experience thoroughly enlightening. 

"Many people believe that chemistry relates to only inorganic compounds and chemicals," said Cristiana. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Chemistry is all about the organic compounds of the earth and the minerals that make up the soil ..."  Cristiana's background in chemistry lends itself beautifully to the process of winemaking. Cristiana's attention to detail is staggering as she continues to talk about the differences in everything from terroir to the grapes themselves.  

Trebbiano Abruzzese vines are rare and are often confused with Trebbiano Toscano and other similar-looking vines. They are, however, very different varietals. "When we were finally able to assess the vines," she said, "we did it by taking DNA tests, because we understood that these vines were very special. They were not the usual Trebbiano vines that are very common throughout Italy, many of which are lumped together under one label as Trebbiano." Cristiana said this with great passion. "These, in fact, are a very rare variety."

What Cristiana meant was that there are so many Trebbiano varieties commonly grown in Italy, they are often mistakenly referred to as Trebbiano Abruzzese when they are not even close. Without laying fault on anyone in the industry, it's just something that has been overlooked for many years. "For this reason, at Tiberio Winery, we never buy from nurseries and only propagate from our own fields to start new vines." Now we can understand how this was life changing for the Tiberio family, to have almost exclusive access to these very special grapes from vines that are at least 60 years old, maybe older, with the DNA signatures to prove it. From this, they produce wines that are delectable. It's truly a labor of love. 

Speaking of which, the most fitting mascots to this wine-tale are two magnificent pure white Great Pyrenees dogs weighing in at about 175 pounds each. They are her constant companions as she roams the vineyards. A fairy's tail (pun intended) indeed! 

Let's have some food and wine.

I'll start with my favorite wine and food pairing, which was the third course: sea bream and salsa verde served with Cerasuolo D'abruzzo 2017. The flavor was lovely with an acid to fruit balance that was crisp and clean. This bright pinkish-red wine held the aromas of red cherry, small red berries and pomegranate. The finish was decidedly floral. I will find this wine and stock my wine rack.

Back to our first course, which was panelle with favetta and grilled leeks served with two white wines for comparison: Trebbiano D'abruzzo 2016 and Trebbiano D'abruzzo Fonte Canale 2016. The differences in these two wines is remarkable and can be accounted for not only by variety but also by terroir. Both were wonderful selections.

The second course was corn agnolotti with pickled blueberries and basil served with Pecorino Colline Pescaresi 2017. A beautiful white wine with peach on the nose and yellow apple, honey and a satiny texture. What's not to love? 

I will end on my second favorite, the fourth course: smoked lamb leg with baby vegetables and jus served with two reds, Montepulciano D'abruzzo 2016 and Montepulciano D'abruzzo Colle Vota 2014. May I say this bright red wine was intriguing? The nose was lush with red cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg and citrus. The finish was long and satisfying with spicy red fruit and a touch of floral. 

We toasted Cristiana Tiberio, Tiberio Winery and Vetri Cucina and tapped into a nectarine and strawberry crostata topped with strawberry gelato served with a Vetri Cucina house-made Meyer Limoncello. 

Thank you, Cristiana Tiberio, and Vetri Cucina for a beautiful experience!