I consider myself fortunate to have welcomed to my home Pio Boffa—a fourth-generation winemaker of Italian descent whose family’s wine heritage dates back to the 1800s.
The winery, Pio Cesare, was borne out of his maternal great grandfather Cesare Pio’s passion for traditions, the food and wine of the Piemonte region.
From hobby to business
An entrepreneur in different fields, Boffa initially produced quality wines for his friends and clients. The operation evolved from a hobby to a business, and became his life’s mission and vision.
The family has been producing some of the finest Barolos, Barbarescos (the king and queen of Italian wines, respectively), alongside Barbera and other traditional wines of the Piemonte region in their ancient cellars with walls that date back to the Roman Empire, in the town of Alba.
But Boffa said they have recently invested in modernizing the winery and its facilities.
“For over a century,” Boffa recounted, “Pio Cesare has produced artisanal wines made with passion. Our winemaking style is the land, the terroir and the firm desire of continuing to reproduce, year after year, the same wine which has been the style of the house for the past 132 years. And this remains to be our commitment to the wine lovers and friends of Pio Cesare.
“We want people to recognize us, to feel comfortable. We like them to remember the style of our wine and the last time they enjoyed a bottle of it. Even the labels have remained unchanged.
“The biggest challenge is to reproduce it, year after year. To do so requires a lot of dedication and commitment. There are so many factors involved. We produce our wines in limited quantities to maintain quality and labor endlessly to keep the highest standards.”
Wine and food
Boffa explained the relationship of wine and food. “I believe it is all about freedom. There is a science, as everybody knows—the stronger the wines are, the stronger the food should be, so one does not overpower the other,” he said. “We eat because we want to have the pleasure of tasting different recipes and we want to add pleasure by enjoying different wines, the company of those around the table, so on and so forth… Which is why I say pleasure, to me, is very personal. What gives me pleasure to pair today, may not give me the same pleasure to pair tomorrow. This is what I mean by freedom, it is always changing.”
When Boffa came to lunch, I decided to keep it strictly Italian and asked Nino Quartana (an artist whose works you will find at the Fiumara d Arte in Sicily and a very good cook who describes his food as having “originated from tradition, authentic Sicilian and Italian, mixed with a bit of my creativity”) to prepare four different pastas for us to pair with Pio Cesare wines.
Regarding pasta, Boffa said: “To create any sauce over it is an expression of one’s freedom; paired with bread and a glass of wine (that is, of your choice)… a masterpiece!”
Pasta Aglio et Olio
Quartana prepared Pasta Aglio et Olio, while Boffa paired it with Pio Cesare Chardonnay Piodilei 2010, Langhe DOC—which the winemaker described as having “a very clean nose, with
white pepper spice, racy acids, medium bodied, citrusy and flinty on a long finish.”
I took note of how Quartana prepared Penne Norma: He sautéed 2 cloves garlic in 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil; removed the garlic and added 500 ml tomato sauce, ½ glass water, a little basil, salt.
He simmered the mixture for 40 minutes; sliced 4 eggplants ¼-inch thick and fried them till golden in olive oil. He pureed half the fried eggplant with a clove of garlic and half the sauce. He cooked 320 g penne, al dente, tossed it with the sauce, added 1-2 tbsp of cream and garnished the pasta with fried aubergines, parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Only 5,000 bottles
Boffa paired the Penne Norma with Pio Cesare Il Bricco Barbaresco 2008 DOCG. “This is a single vineyard wine from Il Bricco vineyard, with only 5,000 bottles produced for their 2008 vintage; exuberant nose, cinnamon bark, vanilla, prune, acid backbone still prominent in the palate, full bodied, and a long, racy finish.”
Quartana’s preparation of Fettuccine with Cream, Nuts and Taleggio consisted of putting 10 g butter in a pan with a clove of garlic and 8 fresh sage leaves over very low flame for 4 minutes.
He added ½ cup milk, 200 ml cream, 150 g Taleggio cheese, a handful of nuts and a sprig of fresh thyme.
He cooked 320 g pasta and added it to the pan with the sauce and seasoned it to taste.
Boffa paired it with Pio Cesare Barolo 2008 DOCG—“very complex nose, saddle, leather, herbaceous, black currant, full bodied, with tannins still noticeable on the palate, and a long, lingering blackberry finish.”
Linguine with Pesto
Quartana’s Linguine with Pesto was made by blending 40 g washed and dried basil leaves with 50 ml of extra virgin olive oil, 2 pinches of salt, 2 cloves of garlic, 8 g pistachios, 8 g cashew nuts.
One small potato diced, and 10 tender green beans cut into ¼-inch lengths, were cooked in 3 quarts of boiling salted water. On the same pot as beans and potatoes, 320 g pasta was cooked and drained. Six tablespoons of water was added to the pesto.
He tossed the linguine with pesto, added parmigiano and black pepper to taste.
Boffa paired it with Pio Cesare Barbera d’ Alba 2010 DOC—“powerful fruit forward qualities, luscious nose of persimmon, cherries, warm crusty pie, peppercorn, with very soft tannins and very ripe fruit finish.”
I have Herbie Tan and Sherwin Lao to thank for a wonderful time with Pio Boffa.
Pio Cesare Wines are distributed by Golden Wines. Call Jenny at 6385025/27.
Nino Quartana’s works are on display at Casa Roces, 1153 JP Laurel cor. Aguado Streets, San Miguel, Manila. He also teaches Italian cooking to small groups. E-mail [email protected]
PHOTOS BY AUGUST DELA CRUZ