Don’t you just love those delicious, hole-in-the-wall places in your own neighborhood, where you can feel comfortable bringing your own bottle of wine?

Emil and I discovered a new one the other night thanks to our friends Derek and Elisa Early, called The Wild Artichoke in Yorba Linda.  Guess what?  They make a mean braised artichoke.  And delicious Artichoke Beignets.  And a Chef’s tasting menu based on… wait for it… Artichoke!

Yes, I know.  The old saying that nothing’s harder to pair with wine than artichokes.  Not always as true as you might think…

Since Derek and Elisa made the dinner reservations, it was our job to bring the vino.  I received these exact text messages from Derek earlier in the day:

“Something from Mt. Etna?”

…and then…

 “A white with noticeable acid would be good, or whatever you think would pair well with artichoke beignets”

And this, in summary, is why we have been friends since 8th grade.

I am also a huge fan of the wines from Etna, particularly those made by a man named Salvo Foti.  I had been saving a bottle of his I Vigneri label Etna Bianco “Vinujancu” 2008, which indeed, was a perfect match for the artichoke beignets.  Good call, Derek.  The Vinujancu is a shining star- luminous, with arrogant, forward aromas of minerals, sea salt, lime peel and tea leaves.  This wine is why so many sommeliers liken Etna wines to Burgundy.  Bring it on!

We followed the Vinujancu with another Etna benchmark- the Benanti “Serra della Contessa” Etna Rosso, 2001.  Initially the wine was pretty tight and shut down in the glass- but the journey of evolution afterwards was so beautiful!  Eventually there were trademark hints of minerals, wet earth and briny seaside breezes, but with an undercurrent of flowers, herbs and dusty graphite soil.  There was plenty of fruit and a pretty acidity, but it was the wine’s magically evolving nose that just

The Wild Artichoke

enchanted me.  This is one reason I sometimes hesitate to decant a wine.  I love the experience of watching a wine unfurl itself.

Overall, a lovely meal and some amazing company.  Who would have thought wines from the slopes of a volcano in Etna would pair so well with the food from one of our own local eateries?

Oh that’s right… Derek Early did.  Nice job, buddy.