Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 19th
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2005 La Rusticana d’Orsa Red Table Wine

wine_bottleWhen Ralph DiTullio of Nonno’s Italian Cafe called to invite me to lunch at La Rusticana d’Orsa, I accepted immediately. La Rusticana is hardly ever open to the public, and this was my golden opportunity to visit the winery and try some of their gorgeous wines.

A group of about 20 people meet up at Nonno’s—an Aladdin’s cave of wine. DiTullio’s passion for this beverage shows in his collection of wines from all over the world, plus an outstanding array from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. Cafe, deli and wine bar rolled into one, Nonno’s is truly a charming place. Wine tastings are held most Saturdays—and there’s a bocce ball court to add to the fun.

The owners of La Rusticana, Frank and Marilyn Dorsa, bought the estate in Los Gatos years ago and have dedicated their time to getting their 40-acre property exactly as they want it. It’s an exquisite place—full of bronze statues, beautiful fountains, lily ponds and breathtaking gardens. One could be in Italy on the most magnificent property, but here we are in Los Gatos, hidden away in the rolling hills.

DiTullio, an ebullient fellow who loves wine and food, immediately pours some La Rusticana wine for our group—a glass to carry with us as we go on a tour of the property. I had been here some years ago, but the estate is even more stunning now.

We take our time meandering through the gardens—checking out the endless rows of grapevines growing on the estate, all meticulously cultivated. The Dorsas have planted five varietals at La Rusticana d’Orsa— Merlot, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. At this elevation of about 1,000 feet, the weather is perfect for growing grapes – with an abundance of sun to ripen them before harvest time.

When we all return from our tour, lunch is ready and DiTullio has put out an impressive spread – fresh figs, crusty bread, prosciutto, olives, fruit, a wonderful assortment of cheeses and his famous pizza. Meantime, he’s busy at the grill cooking our main course – barbecued meat and skewers of shrimp. We sit at a long table under the shade of huge trees on this warm autumn day and enjoy a delicious lunch.

I buy of bottle of La Rusticana’s Table Wine 2005 ($55) made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot—and all by hand. This limited production is aged for two years in Bordeaux oak barrels—and it’s absolutely gorgeous. The Malbec infuses a deep ruby color into the wine—rich with dark fruit and crimson berries, and with pronounced floral aromas from the Petit Verdot.

As we end up back at Nonno’s after a wonderful afternoon, I get a good strong latte for the drive home—reflecting on two of life’s pleasures—a good cup of coffee and a great glass of wine.

La Rusticana D’Orsa, (408) 884-1538.  Nonno’s Italian Café & Wine Bar, 21433 Broadway, Redwood Estates, (408) 353-5633

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