Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa 2012 Rosato

This post is part II of Calistoga’s Tuscan medieval castle lures Napa visitors (VIDEO).

After an hour touring the castle and winery of Castello di Amorosa, I was fortunate to settle into the Il Passito Room to relax and wine taste. For the next hour, my wife and I tried 10 different wines and will offer our observations on half of them.

After tasting the Vermentino (see previous post), John, our host, suggested we begin with two more whites before moving on to their Rosato and six reds. While the 2011 Pinot Bianco and the 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay were refreshing, I was most interested in the Castello di Amorosa reds this time round.

I will say though, the Pinot Bianco was dry and crisp with aromas and flavors of apple and grapefruit. It should age well over the next couple of years but is a light wine and probably overpriced at $25. (1561 cases) However, folks at the 2013 San Francisco International Wine Competition, June 2013, named it Best in Class. As of the date of publication, discounts are available. The 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay earned a Silver Medal at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. This is a food-friendly wine with apple, pear and light buttery overtones. ($28, 1,344 cases)

The 2012 Gioia Rosato, a 100% Sangiovese, touts bright strawberry and cranberry flavors with plum and red delicious apple aromas, perfect for picnics.
The 2012 Gioia Rosato, a 100% Sangiovese, touts bright strawberry and cranberry flavors with plum and red delicious apple aromas, perfect for picnics.

With the heat in California at near record levels, I began the “red” tasting with the 2012 Gioia Rosato di Sangiovese. This Italian-style Rosè is 100% Sangiovese and reflects its darker rosy-red hue. The bright strawberry and cranberry flavors become creamy in the finish while the plum and red delicious apple aromas fill the glass and perfect for picnics, charcuterie or sipping by the pool.

This hot weather wine could be served with salmon salad, but was a little too bright for my tastes. Yet I must say, while created in the new world, this Rosato has substance to it like old world wines with lingering minerality, finishing with hints of citrus and spice. A good mix and worth the risk. Priced a little high at $24, it could use another year in the bottle to mature. (2056 cases)

For more on my Castello di Amorosa wine tasting experience, return to TalesoftheCork.com for my upcoming post: Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir. Castello di Amorosa wines are only available at the castle or by mail order. They are not available in restaurants. To order Castello wine, visit their web site at CastellodiAmorosa.com or call 1.707.942.8200.

Location:
Castello di Amorosa is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m.- 6 p.m., March-October and 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m., November-February. The castle/winery is located 5 1/2 miles north of St. Helena and 2 miles south of Calistoga at 4045 N. St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA 94515. Phone numbers: Office (707) 967-6278; Reservations: (707) 967-6272.

If you missed it, check out Tuscany trip takes Calistoga detour: First stop Fanny’s B&B.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Calistoga’s Tuscan medieval castle lures Napa visitors (VIDEOS)

Since the completion of the winery in 2007, a trip to the northern end of Napa Valley is not complete without a tour of the Tuscan medieval-inspired Castello di Amorosa castle.

With three trips to Napa already behind me, it was time to tour some of the winery and castle’s 107 rooms, caves, ramparts, battlements, apartments, prison and dungeon. Besides, I heard owner Dario Sattui’s small lot wines and winemakers have scored well in competitions and U.S. News & Travel writes that visiting Castello is the “No. 4 out of 9 Best Things To Do” while in the Napa Valley.

Determined to make the medieval Tuscan castle authentic, owner Dario Sattui only used old, handmade materials or employing old world techniqus to build Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, Calif.
Determined to make the medieval Tuscan castle authentic, owner Dario Sattui only used old, handmade materials or employing old world techniqus to build Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, Calif.

After a lunch visit with owner Mark Young of Calistoga’s Brannan’s Grill (an upcoming post), Geena and I hooked up with long-time local resident, Peter Stetson, and made our way to Castello di Amorosa down Highway 29 to visit the time-warped 13th century castle.

While I was unable to meet owner Dario Sattui, the fourth-generation winemaker’s imprint is everywhere. After nearly a 30-year labor of love, including 15 years of research and 14 years of building his old world castle (VIDEO by ThumbsUpWine), the guided tour of the winery, castle and wines still amaze me two weeks later.

The inspiration behind the 121,000 square foot castle and three acres of rooms resulted from Dario’s fascination with Italian medieval architecture. It began with a passion for Italian ancient properties and grew to an obsession.

The Castello di Amorosa is not just the Disneyland of wineries.

While I foolishly avoided the castle on previous trips, too many outstanding reviews piqued my interest on Castello di Amorosa’s accomplishments since opening. While the $40 million castle on 171 acres, 30 of which are grapes, is all Dario’s vision, the V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena was his first responsibility as he has rebuilt its reputation after his great-grandfather, Vittorio Sattui, one of California’s first vintners, let it fall into disrepair during Prohibition.

Dario Suttui collected and built in all the elements a medieval castle would have possessed, including a moat, drawbridge, high towers and ramparts, torture equipment and ancient armor.
Sattui collected and built all the elements a medieval castle would have possessed, including a moat, drawbridge, high towers and ramparts, torture equipment and ancient armor.

However, as a child, Dario would play among the barrels and tanks in the underground cellars while dreaming of reviving V. Sattui Winery when he grew up. Following college graduation, Dario traveled around Europe for two years in an old VW van. It was during this period his fascination for medieval architecture began to take shape.

Living out of his van, he would visit medieval castles, monasteries, palaces, farmhouses and wineries studying their designs, taking photographs and completing detailed sketches and renderings. And after he rebuilt the V. Sattui Winery, its very success became the impetus for Dario to further expand his dream to create a medieval castle and winery.

After driving up the cyprus-lined drive, Peter escorted us up the grand stone-chiseled stairwell into the castle. The inside main Courtyard was just as impressive, maybe even more, than the outside. The estate has a wooded forest behind the castle and vineyards in the front.

I marveled, smiled and had to think back on my many trips to European castles. I loved how Dario placed his Tuscan-inspired vision on a hill overlooking the Napa Valley. The castle’s “ruined” tower (5 defensive towers in all), high ramparts, courtyards, well, functioning church, stables, vaulted and arched wine cellars ushered me back in time.

After numerous trips to Italy and specifically Tuscany, Dario knew his Napa Valley dream needed skilled old world men and women to create an authentic context for his wine. He hired Italian artisans who crafted all the leaded glass windows by hand and hand-carved all the ceiling beams. In fact, Italian artists made all lamps, iron gates and decorative iron pieces by hand over an open forge. He hired craftsman from Denmark, Austria and France as well. Each room was hand built and original. No room is the same, including the gorgeous antique brick cellars.

My wife Geena and I stopped for a moment to admire The Courtyard, complete with a well, before we moved upstairs to the Il Passito Room to relax and wine taste.
My wife, Geena, and I stopped for a moment to admire The Courtyard, complete with a well, before we moved upstairs to the Il Passito Room to relax and wine taste.

The drawbridge spanning the moat and the gargoyles perched atop the entrance column earn the respect of the visitor. The hand-painted Italian-style frescos and maze of underground rooms, including the 12,000-square-foot Grand Barrel Room, create a sense of awe and appreciation for the varied building styles of a castle created to emulate centuries of building techniques.

As we toured, I saw an authentic stone fireplace from the 14th century, ancient wine press, a wrought iron dragon from the times of Napoleon and an Iron Maiden from the late Renaissance, which dominates the torture chamber. The dry moat, chicken, ducks and sheep and goats farm all add to a wonderful experience.

As the tour guide walked us though the eight levels of rooms, my wife kept telling me to hurry up; I kept getting left behind. At one point I was annoyed. I wanted to wander amongst the 107 rooms at my leisure taking in each niche and nuance. I was definitely transported back to the Italian castles I visited a few years earlier. I didn’t want to reenter the 21st century.

Dario either brought over the building materials from Europe or instructed the craftsmen to create the building out of local materials as old world counterparts did centuries ago. I loved the Great Hall’s 500 year-old fireplace. It is flanked by hand-painted Italian frescoes which took two artists nearly a year and a half to complete.

The 22-foot high coffered ceiling rivals many of the great ceilings in Tuscany. Celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani Jon Bon Jovi, Joe Montana, Clint Black, Gordon Getty, Jr., Robert Redford, and others have been hosted in the Great Hall.

The Grand Barrel Room uses 40 ribbed Roman cross-vaults all constructed from ancient brick shipped from Europe and includes a 40-foot, hand crafted travertine tasting bar.
The Grand Barrel Room uses 40 ribbed Roman cross-vaults all constructed from ancient brick shipped from Europe and includes a 40-foot, hand crafted travertine tasting bar.

Near the end of the hour tour, we ended up in the 12,000 square foot Grand Barrel Room with its 40 ribbed, Roman cross-vaults containing hundreds of wine barrels and a 40-foot, hand crafted travertine tasting bar. We also viewed other small lot cellars containing wine bottles and large formats from the original V. Salluti collection.

I chose not to spend time in the gift shop or La Fattoria (Italian Farm Store) for olive oil, teas, flour, etc., so we headed up to the Il Passito Club Room to continue our Wine Aficionado Tour.

Just outside of the Il Passito Room is the hidden gem of the Castle. The Il Passito patio secluded terrace has views of our hilltop watchtower as well as our crushpad below. It is also only a few steps from Castello’s Lake Mario. Open to the hillside, but unknown to most patrons of the castle, it boasts some of the best sunset views in the Diamond Mountain region.

Enjoy a guided tour through the castle and winery followed by a private tasting of six of Castello di Amorosa wines, including low production, high end reserve wines. Reservations are highly suggested.
Enjoy a guided tour through the castle and winery followed by a private tasting of six of Castello di Amorosa wines, including low production, high end reserve wines. Reservations are highly suggested.

The three of us finally settled into the Il Passito Room to relax and wine taste perched high above the Courtyard. We were a world away not only from Napa but from the crowds and bustle of Castello’s daily grind. The Il Passito Room normally functions as the Wine Club Member’s room.

However, the millions of dollars spent on the castle and grounds has not prevented Dario from establishing a world class array of wines.

While his vision created Castello di Amorosa, Dario has a team of winemakers and staff to ensure his mostly Tuscan-influenced Italian-style and growing Bordeaux red wine programs continues to produce world-class results. Sebastiano Rosa of Bolgheri, Italy, winemaker at Tenuta San Guido – producer of Sassicaia- one of Italy’s leading Bordeaux-style red wines joined the San Francisco International Wine Competition’s 2012 Winemaker of the Year, Brooks Painter, Peter Velleno and Laura Orozco in March 2012 to form a strong group under the Castello label.

Our host, John, was superb in his knowledge of Castello di Amorosa’s wines and was willing to chat about background, vineyards, soils and technique. I began the tasting with a 2012 California Vermentino. It was so refreshing on a warm Napa afternoon. The traditional Mediterranean white grape is grown in Northern Italy and Southern France. It was very aromatic with plenty of citrus (I’m a grapefruit fan) and a subtle minerality to finish. I loved it! At home I paired a bottle of Vermentino with grilled, chilled salmon salad (dill, capers, celery, onions, raspberry vinegar, red onion).

While not on the wine list, the 2012 California Vermentino is excellent; the dry crisp citrus aroma and flavor is wonderful.
While not on the wine list, the 2012 California Vermentino is excellent; the dry crisp citrus aroma and flavor is wonderful.

For more on my Castello di Amorosa wine tasting experience, return to TalesoftheCork for my July 4 post: Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa 2012 Rosato. Castello di Amorosa wines are only available at the castle or by mail order. They are not available in restaurants. To order Castello wine, visit their web site at CastellodiAmorosa.com or call 1.707.942.8200.

Castle and wine tasting tours
General admission ranges from $18-$43 per person depending on the level of wine and/or castle interest. No reservations necessary for groups under 12 for general admission. However a guided tour through the castle and winery followed by a tasting of five premium wines in one of the castle’s private tasting bars requires reservations.

For more videos on Castello di Amorosa, visit their Video Gallery.

Location:
Castello di Amorosa is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m.- 6 p.m., March-October and 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m., November-February. The castle/winery is located 5 1/2 miles north of St. Helena and 2 miles south of Calistoga at 4045 N. St. Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA 94515. Phone numbers: Office (707) 967-6278; Reservations: (707) 967-6272.

For another view on Dario Sattui and Castello di Amorosa, read the Sacramento Bee’s article, Sattui’s castle awaits Napa Valley visitors .

If you missed my first post on my Calistoga visit, read Tuscany trip takes Calistoga detour: First stop Fanny’s B&B.

Tuscany trip takes Calistoga detour: First stop Fanny’s B&B

The first of a number of posts on my recent long weekend in Calistoga, California.

Pioneer Samuel Brannan touted Calistoga as a health and wellness destination, including the healing powers of the natural spring and mud baths by the mid 1860s.
Pioneer Samuel Brannan touted Calistoga as a health and wellness destination, including the healing powers of the natural spring and mud baths by the mid 1860s.

My daughter’s wedding almost two years ago derailed this year’s European travel schedule. Geena and I hoped our 50-something years would earn us trips across the pond but post high school education for three daughters has challenged our pocketbooks. So a trip to Tuscany will have to wait for another year.

Instead the north end of the Napa Valley seemed a good alternative. Calistoga, California, a town of world-class wines, artisan shops and fine restaurants proved to be a perfect surrogate vacation spot.

Calistoga is precisely what two overworked professionals needed. So we decided to put a dream of Tuscany on hold and spend a long weekend pampered by small-town hospitality.

We checked into Fanny’s Bed and Breakfast instead of a local hotel. While this end of Napa Valley has fabulous inns, we wanted, no needed, some personal attention and innkeeper Deanna Higgins provided the human touch that helped make our stay memorable. Situated in a peaceful neighborhood only two blocks from Lincoln Avenue, the two-story is a short walk to a creek, park and old town.

Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, Fanny's B&B is a wonderful alternative to the inns of Calistoga, California.
Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, Fanny’s B&B is a wonderful alternative to the inns of Calistoga, California.

Fanny’s, named after novelist Robert Louis Stevenson’s bride, is a quiet 1915 Craftsman-style cottage featuring a great front porch, rockers, and an old-fashioned swing–a true wine country retreat. Each upstairs bedroom is cozy and inviting, featuring plank floors, feather comforters, and window seats that will take you back to memories of Grandma’s attic. All rooms include a queen-size bed, private bath, and a sumptuous country breakfast.

After asking for a short history, Deanna explained how Samuel Brannan helped establish Calistoga as a Spa town destination during the early 1860s. He hoped it would become reminiscent of New York’s Saratoga Springs. By 1868, Brannan’s Napa Valley Railroad Company’s track was completed to Calistoga, making the journey from San Francisco easier. Later the gold rush dominated the 1880s and the town flourished as a destination for health and wellness. Today day spas, including the Lincoln Avenue Spa, provide healing powers of local mud and mineral waters. The spas, coupled with outdoor recreational activities and wine tasting, create an outstanding health/wellness and vacation setting.

Fanny’s Bed and Breakfast is well appointed and has been completely renovated. The charm is enhanced by Deanna’s attention to comfort. She offered us complimentary cold drinks, coffee and/or a bottle of wine after we settled into our room.

In the 25 years since owning Fanny’s, Deanna seems to have perfected the art of hosting. She chats briefly with guest upon arrival and during her breakfast service. I appreciate how she allows guests free reign of the home without intrusion. I felt comfortable to relax in overstuffed chairs in the front room, enjoy the porch overlooking the large shaded yard and neighborhood> But when prompted, Deanna is quick to offer suggestions on area itineraries, including wine tastings, lunch and dinner spots and entertainment or recreational options.

Guests at Fanny's first enter into a marvelous, comfortable front room complete with fireplace, overstuffed chairs and bookshelves.
Guests at Fanny’s first enter into a marvelous, comfortable front room complete with fireplace, overstuffed chairs, window seats and bookshelves.

Inside are interesting antique furnishings with homey window seats for reading. The collection of books, magazines and games in the eclectic library is complete with an array of nooks and crannies. The home has appropriate old-fashioned decorations which tell the story of someone who was well-traveled and connected to the house and Calistoga. I loved the attention to detail, including professionally clean, tidy rooms. The home is air-conditioned in summer and the fireplace and atmosphere warms the home year-round.

I absentmindedly left a pair of shoes in the room and Deanna was kind enough to mail them back without any hesitation. She was a wealth of information, wonderful hostess and fabulous cook who created varied, memorable breakfasts that were different each morning.

While I do not often stay a bed and breakfasts, I heartily recommend Fanny’s Bed and Breakfast. Deanna can be reached via 1206 Spring Street, Calistoga, CA 94515.

Phone: 707.942.9491
Fax: 707.942.4810
Email: info@FannysNapaValley.com

For more information on Napa and Sonoma Valleys, check out The Preiser Key.

If you missed it, check out my June 26 post and wine review: Piccini Villa Cortile Riserva 2006 Brunello di Montalcino.

Piccini Villa Cortile Riserva 2006 Brunello di Montalcino

This is my first installment of TalesoftheCork Wine Reviews.

Piccini Villa Cortile Riserva 2006 Brunello di Montalcino

With James Suckling and other wine critics calling the 2006 Brunello di Montalcino the best ever, I thought I’d begin my tasting review section with the darling of Italian red wine. As production increased over the last decade, it has become possible to purchase a wonderful bottle of Brunello without emptying the pocket book.

My first wine review will be the 2006 Piccini Villa Cortile Riserva DOCG Brunello di Montalcino. It is a dry red wine from Tuscany, Italy.

The romance of Italy is at your fingertips with this light Tuscan example of Brunello. Whether you travel to Tuscany this summer/fall or not, the 2006 Brunellos are showing their Tuscan flair. After five years in the bottle and now three on the shelf, this dark, reddish-brown, deep-garnet color has notes of black cherry and pretty roses aromas that fill the wine bowl as you swirl it.

The 2006 Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva can be purchased via WineChateau.com or other Internet outlets.
The 2006 Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva can be purchased via WineChateau.com or other Internet outlets.

This will be a great first Brunello for someone who’s experimenting with Italy’s most prized varietal. I opened the bottle three hours before dinner to give it time to breath and I wasn’t disappointed.

Brunello winemakers keep the wine in oak barrels for three years. The Piccini Sangiovese fruit is now showing a rich black cherry, mesquite with hints of coffee and chocolate aromas combined with a plum and brown sugar medium finish. The tannins have softened and dried fruits, spices including sage, cardamonm and clove, appear during a lasting finish at 14% alcohol.

While 2006 has wide fan fair, this is not a huge version but rather a lighter Brunello that even has some coffee overtones. I think it is perfect for roasts, game and mature cheese. On a rating scale of 100, I give the Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello 90 points.

Wine Enthusiast gave the Piccini Brunello 93 points.

The Piccini Brunello should continue to improve some but this light bodied Brunello is worth a try now. Originally marketed at $60 a bottle, this is the right time to purchase the 2006 Picciini Villa Cortile Riserva DOCG Brunello.

Currently this wine can be bought online through various outlets, including WineChateau.com for $34.97. If you are willing to buy a case of this or mix and match wine, the shipping is free! Another excellent source to find a good price for wine is at Wine-Searcher.com.

The average price for this wine currently is $37 (excluding tax) and available for as low as $34.97. Sample received courtesy Wine Chateau for review purposes.

According to their web flyer, the Piccini winery has been making wines since 1882. Winemaker Santo Gozzo grows his Sangiovese Grosso grapes on a seven hectare estate vineyards with a limestone based soil balancing clay and schist.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork.gmail.com.

If you missed it, check out my latest blog post: Talesofthecork to add grass roots wine reviews.

Matties Wood-Fired Pizza set to grow business

With a plethora of eating options at local farmer's markets, I decided to try Matties Wood-Fired Pizza. With fresh ingredients, including dough made fresh each day, the thin-crusted pizza's aroma lured me to join the food trailer's queue.
With a plethora of eating options at local farmer’s markets, I decided to try Matties Wood-Fired Pizza. With most ingredients grown locally, including dough made fresh each day, the thin-crusted pizza’s aroma lured me to join the food trailer’s queue.

With farmer’s markets springing up all over Fresno County in recent weeks, I joined the crowds in Old Town Clovis for the weekly summer street market.

While I initially wasn’t planning to eat dinner, my family and I stopped in front of Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven. The smell of freshly baked dough and local ingredients wood-fired in an Italian-made oven stopped me behind a queue of five patrons.

I have often joined the community bandwagon and eaten at local CartHop Fresno events, so pausing to watch my personal-sized, 14-inch, wood-fired pizza bake was a no-brainer. Cost? $6-8.

Owner Matthew (Mattie) Wolcott was kneading dough into thin crusted personal pies. The menu included up to 12 varieties of Neapolitan-inspired pizzas (VIDEO). My first taste of Matties Wood-Fired Pizza was split with my twenty-something daughter, Brittany. We decided to share two pizzas: 1) Pizza Vera: caramelized onions, fresh thyme with Maytag blue cheese and Enzo olive oil; 2) Mattie’s pistachio pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, San Marizano tomatoes, and bacon.

Owner Matthew (Mattie) Wolcott left the education field to pursue Italian cooking, dreaming to cook and entertain with an authentic Italian oven.
Owner/operator Matthew (Mattie) Wolcott left the education field to pursue Italian cooking, dreaming to cook and entertain with an authentic Italian oven.

The pizzas came out piping hot. The mozzarella bubbled and the bacon’s aroma melded with the smokiness that one only gets when the BBQ cooks with almond and/or fruit wood. The freshly ground pistachio pesto was brilliant on the slightly charred, crispy crust, adding texture to the pizza. The tomatoes? Well, they were fresh, ripe, red, halved and full of flavor.

“We are pushing the pizza envelope,” Wolcott said. “We are pushing the pizza tradition, creating gourmet pizzas on wheels. This is good, clean, simple food. I’m just a simple person, using great flavors. Living in Valley I have access to incredible ingredients and I believe I am making incredible wood-fired pizzas.”

Mattie said his favorite pizza is the Vera. I concur. I’m a caramelized onion fan as well. That may be due to my own extensive time in the kitchen. The pizzas did not last long as we chowed down on the sweet and savory flavors.

Matties is gourmet pizza at its best. I must admit I longed for a glass of Paso’s Tablas Creek Estate Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley’s 2009 Martian Vineyard Grenache Rosé, Villa Creek’s Pink, Caliza Winery’s Pink or other Rosé alternatives.

However, the wine or beer option is only available for those who attend one of Matties weekly private parties. A bottle of iced water filled in just fine this time as June in the Central Valley heats up.

I shared  two pizzas with my daughter 1) Pizza Vera: caramelized onions, fresh thyme with Maytag blue cheese and Enzo olive oil; 2) Mattie’s pistachio pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, San Marizano tomatoes, and bacon.
I shared two pizzas with my daughter 1) Pizza Vera: caramelized onions, fresh thyme with Maytag blue cheese and Enzo olive oil; 2) Mattie’s pistachio pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, San Marizano tomatoes, and bacon.

After working in the performing arts field for four years, Wolcott (43) taught elementary school for two years before becoming a consultant for a publishing company in the Bay Area. He served as a local rep. selling textbooks and later led a charter school for three years. However, by 2010, he grew dissatisfied with his role in education.

“I really didn’t believe in the way education is mapped out. It was hard to sell something I did not believe in,” Wolcott said. “My passion for education began to wane. I didn’t like the education philosophy.”

However, despite his career choices, he has always had a interest in cooking. In fact, Wolcott used to watch the 1980’s PBS show, Ciao Italia, with Mary Ann Esposito and still follows it when he can.

The wood stone floor is kept at 750 degrees. The beauty of a wood-fired oven at that the temperature ensures the crust will not be soggy and the radiated heat cooks the top ingredients quickly.
The wood-fired oven stone floor is kept at 750 degrees. The beauty of a wood-fired oven is that its high temperature ensures the crust will not be soggy and radiated heat cooks the top ingredients in about two minutes.

“I’ve stuck with Italian for most of my life and so I felt it was time to strike out on my own, sharing my passion: wood-fired pizzas. I just wanted to cook. So I worked with someone in the Bay Area and began catering for two summers while I still was in education. That became the impetus for me to get a food trailer and begin making pizzas on my own almost three years ago.

“I knew I wanted to use a wood-fired oven, but it is my dream to cook and entertain with an authentic Italian oven. I turned to the Mugnaini Inc. from Watsonville who have been importing wood-fired ovens from Italy for 20 years.”

Matties Wood-Fired Pizzas start with fresh pizza dough made from scratch using Giustos flour out of South SF because it was recommended by a cooking school in Healdsburg. And while fresh local ingredients most often make a tremendous difference in culinary presentation, Wolcott believes the wood-fired oven changes everything.

“There is an art to it,” he said. “No gas flame here. I wanted to bake pizzas in an old-world style in an oven that will dry the dough quickly and brown evenly. While the pizzas are baking in the oven, they must be rotated to evenly cook. We usually use almond but apple and peach wood is also being used this summer. I love the smell of the wood in each pizza.”

Matties Wood-Fired Pizza can create 12-15 different pizzas and can be found at the local CartHop events, farmer's markets and private parties.
Matties Wood-Fired Pizza can create 12-15 different pizzas and can be found at the local CartHop events, farmer’s markets and private parties.

Mugnaini Inc. Italian wood-fired pizza oven (VIDEO)

The wood-fired oven’s stone floor is kept at 750 degrees and takes about two hours to reach that temperature. The beauty of a wood-fired oven is that its high temperature ensures the crust will not be soggy and radiated heat quickly cooks the top ingredients. The average time for a pizza in the oven is about 2-2.5 minutes.

Matties factoid: Mattie Wolcott’s favorite pizza is caramelized onion and blue cheese with thyme. He says it is great with a salad. He also says pizza lovers might try a bubbly Lambrusco Le Grotte white wine on hot summer days.

However, when he was pressed, Wolcott said he was mostly a red wine drinker. His favorite is/was the Jordan Winery ’95 Cabernet. However, he went on to say that he is not a traditionalist to wine choices with food.

Wine pairing anyone?

Currently Wolcott is relying on referrals to build his pizza-loving clientele and has only used one postcard mailing. His team uses a trailer equipped with a Mugnaini Italian oven and an enclosed tent to create the pizzas. His goal is to add a second mobile oven on a 20-foot trailer with a full kitchen. He plans on joining the other food trucks at events, including weekends at Bella Frutta.

Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven is a wonderful food alternative for those stopping for lunch/dinner at local farmer’s markets, a family reunions/gatherings, graduation, weddings, corporate parties/events, bridal rehearsal parties, baby showers and graduation parties. It reminds me of homemade Italian pizza.

Mattie’s has set up for oven-fired pizzas in backyards for small parties to large events at wineries. All they need is about three-four hours of prep. time before each event and an approximate number of guests. Each event may have additional costs, but Wolcott said a flat $350 fee would cover about 25 guests with each additional pizza eater rate at $6-8 for a 2-4 hour event. Matties will serve up to five pizza varieties at an event.

Pizza The sausage pizza has tomatos, Tuscan pork sausage, mixed mushrooms on an alfredo base.
The Alfredo sausage pizza has tomatos, Tuscan pork sausage, mixed mushrooms on an alfredo base.

On a typical day, Matties will wood-fire 100-200 pizzas but will increase those numbers for larger events. They have 12-15 different varieties.

Matties Wood-Fired Pizza Menu:

Monday: Site views/visits to map out area for private parties. Food offerings include but are not limited to wood-fired pizza, salad, dessert (berry crisp) biscotti, pasta bars, dinner party appetizers, roasted egg plant, arugula goat cheese, butternut squash, etc.

Tuesday: River Park Farmer’s Market, 5:30 – 9 p.m.

Thursday: CartHop Fresno, Fulton Mall, 11 a.m. – 2 .pm.

Friday: CartHop Fresno, Eaton Plaza, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday: Downtown Clovis Farmer’s Market, 5:30 – 9 p.m.

Finally, in an effort to increase business, Matties needs a bigger trailer. He is hoping that through social media, referrals and a Kickstarter account , a new $40,000, 20-foot trailer can be built by the end of 2013. Wolcott said he has already contacted West Coast Trailers in Madera for the specs. on a new trailer.

“I couldn’t have built Matties Wood-Fired Pizzas without the help of an army of people,” Wolcott said. “So many people have come along side of me to encourage and put their time in by volunteering hours upon hours to help me build a viable business. The Valley and Fresno/Clovis have been very good to me; the community has been so supportive.”

So through the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media, referrals and repeat customers, Wolcott is hoping to grow his business just a little more with a Kickstarter account. He said he felt awkward to ask people for money–even weird. However, this is an avenue he felt his supporters might consider. So if you are inclined to foster a home-grown business, #BeABacker: Mattie needs a bigger home.

For more information on Matties Wood-Fired Mobile Pizza Oven, call Matthew Wolcott at 559.917.1969 or email him at mattiesmobileoven.com. He can also be reached through Twitter: @MattiesPizza.

For more information on the Fresno’s food truck growth, including Matties Wood-Fired Pizza, watch the video, CartHop: Moving Food Forward by CreativeFresno559.

Carthop: Moving Food Forward

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Also be sure to read my Feb. 11, 2013, post: Bella Frutta hosts food truck hub each weekend.

NOTE: After struggling through illness during the winter, I am refocused and determined to restart TalesoftheCork on a weekly basis. Thank you for returning and a hearty cheers to you.

READERS: Have you tried the meals on wheels trucks or been to Bella Frutta? Leave a comment at the bottom of the article.

For more TalesoftheCork stories, scroll to the top of the menu bar or read The Grape Tray reopens in Fresno’s Opus I Center .