December 4, 2022


Qualified food specialists

Stanley Tucci’s Italian travel show inspires a ‘Big Night’ of food and wine

4 min read

Have you been watching “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” on CNN? No? One warning before you start: don’t watch on an empty stomach.

My wife and I learned the hard way when we recorded the first episode and watched it at 2 p.m. in the afternoon the next day. Twenty minutes later, we were whipping up a batch of pasta as if compelled by an unseen force. The unseen force also required wine.

Since then, we’ve learned to watch Tucci’s exploits only after Friday’s family meal is finished. It works out well because our long-standing Friday night tradition, inspired by Tucci’s movie “Big Night,” is centered on Italian food. Whether it is mushroom risotto or home-made pizza, our Friday nights include a little wine for cooking, a little wine for eating and now, a little wine for Tucci.

Here are six wines from Oregon and Italy to jumpstart your own “Big Night” tradition.

2019 Cora Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

I do not know who Cora is, but I love the wine she inspires. This humble red tastes and smells like tart red cherries with touches of almonds, leather and spice. This is a fresh and easy wine that will match up nicely with tomato-based sauces covering everything from pasta to pizza. Best of all, it’s modestly priced and screw-capped for instant gratification.

I found my first bottle of Cora at P’s & Q’s Market for $13. It will not be my last. or 503-894-8979.

2019 Flat Brim Wines ‘Not Cringey’ Primitivo-Zinfandel

Flat Brim owners Ian and Becky Atkins are on to something good with this blend of primitivo and zinfandel grapes from southern Oregon. Big and rich flavors of raspberries and Himalayan blackberries swirl about with wee bits of fresh-cracked black pepper and aged balsamic vinegar. This is a lot of wine for $18.

Grill a Florentine steak and whip up a batch of the Les Halles fries made famous by Anthony Bourdain. Then pour the “Not Cringey” to achieve “legend” status among friends and family. or

Fausse Piste ‘Pizza Sauce’

Here’s another $18 bottle of wine that over-delivers on quality. Winemaker Jesse Skiles is a blending wizard, as witnessed by this eclectic mix of malbec, grenache, syrah, pinot noir and viognier grapes from all over Oregon. The fruit is sourced from the 2016-2019 harvests, hence the lack of a vintage year attached to the wine.

Scents like blueberry, bittersweet dark chocolate and violets give way to flavors of raspberry, white pepper and a touch of something savory. I highly recommend Skiles’ sauce with the fennel sausage, kale, Parmigiano-Reggiano and rosemary pie that Sarah Minnick spins at Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty on North Mississippi Avenue. or

Spaghetti Western Wine Co. Sparkling Wines

After a year filled with raging wildfires, ravenous gophers and a global pandemic, Shelby Perkins and Peter Harter decided a little levity was called for. The duo known for their serious Perkins Harter wines created a second label, Spaghetti Western Wine Co., for a pair of $23 sparkling wines called “A Fistful of Bubbles” and “The Good, The Bad & The Bubbly.”

These Spaghetti Western bubbles would have made even Lee Van Cleef crack a smile. They are frothy, frivolous, fun captured beneath an unpretentious soda pop cap. “A Fistful of Bubbles” is a sparkling white pinot noir. “The Good, The Bad & The Bubbly” is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay.

“A Fistful of Bubbles” is loaded with scents and flavors like crisp yellow apples, tropical fruit, lemon peel and buttered toast. It is a perfect accompaniment to an appetizer plate filled with assorted pickled vegetables, cheeses and cured meats. Saddle up and go find some. or 707-540-1847.

2018 Occhipinti Il Frapatto Sicilia

When I read that Arianna Occhipinti was scheduled for Tucci’s Sicily episode, I was ready with a bottle of her superb frapatto.

Frapatto is a Sicilian grape that makes beautiful, positively ethereal red wines. Occhipinti’s version is the bar by which I measure all others. It is a ballerina with bright red cherry slippers leaving dried rose petals in her wake. The small traces of orange peel, pine needles, chalk and dried marjoram are equally compelling.

If you enjoy lighter-bodied, acid-driven Willamette Valley pinot noirs, you should definitely check out frapatto. Occhipinti’s wine is available for $41.90 at Vinopolis Wine Shop.

After your Occhipinti wine is secured, watch the sixth episode of “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” If you look closely, you may just see your bottle being dipped in red wax. or 503-223-6002.

— Michael Alberty writes about wine for The Oregonian/OregonLive. He can be reached at To read more of his coverage, go to

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