On Sunday morning I woke up early and went to the market. Overnight, we had what I hope will be the last snow of the winter and it seemed like perfect weather for meatballs. I got home from the market and went to work. I like to make my meatballs and sauce in the morning so it has the day for the flavors to marry. After I had completed my work in the kitchen, I headed downstairs to continue work on my cellartracker project and kept an eye out for a good pairing.
I have always loved a good meatball, probably because my mom’s are so good. I remember her meatballs from when I was a little and she still often makes them when we go home. Her spaghetti and meatballs are one of my favorites meals as they deliver a lot of comfort, love and flavor. In developing my take on meatballs, I have tried to measure up to my mom’s while also doing a few things to make them my own.
One of my takes on meatballs has to do with how I handle the breadcrumbs. I incorporate breadcrumbs three ways — sautéed with the garlic, shallot and onion; soaked in milk; and added to the ground meat. I use ground beef, veal and pork (about 2 parts beef to 1 part veal and 1 part pork). I sauté some garlic, shallot and onion with garlic salt, celery salt, salt and pepper, poultry seasoning and the breadcrumbs. While that is on the stove, I soak some breadcrumbs in milk and when done I combine everything in a bowl and combine the sautéed ingredients with the meat, add the breadcrumbs soaked in milk and then add more bread crumbs, dried parsley, parmesan and pecorino cheese, a couple of eggs and some chopped pine nuts. I cook the meatballs in a pan at a gentle heat and pull them when I think they are about 75 percent cooked. By this time, I have made a basic tomato sauce and add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
For a wine pairing, I actually considered pouring a red wine from Jura. I really like the wines from Jacques Puffeney and Jean-François Ganevat — they are bright and acidic and seem like they would pair well with Italian fare. I also considered something from Arianna Occhipinti, but inventory is starting to dwindle and all of her wines had been entered in cellartracker and I wasn’t inclined to undo any of my work quite yet. In the end, I found the perfect candidate — a Dolcetto d’Alba from Cappellano.
Teobaldo Cappellano is considered a legend and one of the last great traditionalist winemakers in Barolo. In 1983, he banished all journalists from his cellar unless they agreed to review his wines without scores. As a result, he is not very well-known in the United States — but is held in very high esteem in the wine world. He was once quoted as saying, “If there is one thing that makes me crazy, it’s spitters of wine…the ones who taste a wine by rolling it around in their mouths and then they spit it out. I worked my butt off to make wine to drink, not to spit!”
He has been described as a “wine artist,” and a “poet, philosopher and winemaker in his spare time.” He was also president of the influential Vini Veri group and a longtime leader of Italy’s sustainable agriculture movement. He was best known in Italy for his Barolo Chinato, a tonic of wine, spirit and herbs, chiefly quinine, invented by his uncle Giuseppe at the end of the nineteenth century. Endorsed by the House of Savoy, the former Kings of Italy, Cappellano’s Barolo Chinato became the standard by which all others were measured.
The estate produces 2 Barolos, 2 Barberas and a Dolcetto. Annual production is around 15,000 to 20,000 bottles. The wines are fermented along traditional lines for 2-3 weeks, without added yeasts, in stainless steel (designed by Cappellano himself) and glass-lines cement vats. Then they go into barrels for a minimum of 3 years, sometimes longer. They are bottled without filtration. His wines are imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.
Teobaldo Cappellano died February 20th, 2009 after a serous illness. He slipped into a coma while undergoing surgical treatment and never recovered. He was 65 years old. His son Augusto carries on his legacy.
His Barolos will put you back at least $90 a bottle, but his Barbera and Dolcetto are good values, the Dolcetto is available for about $25 a bottle. Aromatics of red fruit and some Old World funk on the nose. Red fruit with sour cherry and cranberry, some vegetal notes — good acidity and soft, dusty tannins. This bring a bit more structure than some of the more fruit driven Dolcettos, certainly a more soulful and thought-provoking example of the varietal. The wine is very food friendly and comforting — a very good wine and a solid pairing with the spaghetti and meatballs.