The A-list always comes out when Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and his business partner, celebrity chef Lachlan Patterson, come to town to cook and taste wine.
Last night found the two of them at Reef, where Patterson prepared a meal inspired by the cuisine of Friuli (northeastern Italy) and Stuckey poured current releases from their line of Italian wines.
It's not entirely correct to say the meal was "inspired by Friuli." In fact, the meal was Friulian, although prepared in Houston. Chef Patterson and Stuckey own and run one of the most celebrated Italian restaurants in the United States, Frasca in Boulder, Colorado, named and modeled after the famous frasche or country taverns of Friuli (frasca means branch in Italian and the term is used in that part of Italy because innkeepers used to hang a branch outside their restaurants to let travelers know they were open for business).
When Patterson and Stuckey come to town to hawk their Scarpetta line of wines, they always bring with them classic Friulian cheese (last night, cow's-milk Montasio was the star), Friulian sausage (Musetto, made from pork and boiled before being served, was part of last night's main course) and chef Patterson always serves a risotto (or riso, which means simply rice in Italian) alla marinara, a seaside or sailor's rice.
Master Sommelier Stuckey has deep ties to the Houston wine community because he's played a fundamental role in mentoring many of the city's Master Sommelier candidates. Houston -- and Texas in general, in part thanks to the annual sommelier conference held here, Texsom -- has one of the country's highest concentrations of Master Sommelier candidates in the nation. Many of those wine professionals, including those who attended last night's gathering, often point to the über cool Stuckey as their inspiration to enter the fierce competition to achieve the coveted Master Sommelier pin (according to the Court of Master Sommeliers website, only 219 wine professionals have been admitted to the court since its founding in 1977).
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The thing that always impresses me about Bobby, who comes to Texas each year, is how he never "lectures" the crowd from afar. He jumps right in with the waitstaff, helps to serve the food and bus the tables, and he makes everyone feel at ease -- regardless of their wine knowledge or experience.
Some of Houston's top wine professionals were in attendance last night, as were some of our city's top collectors and gourmets. But there were also regular folks who happen to love great food and wine. Bobby visited with each and every table, sharing an anecdote or trading a tasting note about the wines. In the rarefied world of wine connoisseurship, his affability -- I'm sorry to report -- is often the exception to the rule.
At last night's event, he poured the Scarpetta current releases of Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio, all from Friuli, and his Barbera di Monferrato from Piedmont (northwestern Italy).