Photo Credit: Kelly E. CarterMarchese Piero Antinori, whose famed family winery dates back to 1385, will be the guest of honor tonight, June 10, at an exclusive dinner to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Pèppoli at Pebble Beach. A seat at this four-course feast, where scrumptious dishes prepared by chef de cuisine Angela Tamura and paired perfectly with a special selection of acclaimed Antinori wines will be enjoyed, quickly became the hautest ticket in town once word about it got out. On June 9, Haute Living had the pleasure of attending an intimate dinner with Antinori at Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, located inside The Inn at Spanish Bay. The restaurant, named after Antinori’s Pèppoli Vineyard in Tuscany, is a partnership between Antinori, considered Italy’s most famous winemaker, the Pebble Beach Company and restaurateur Rich Pèpe, who was also on hand for last night’s lovely event.
This month marks Antinori’s 630th year in wine production. During that time, 26 generations have managed the business. Piero Antinori took over in 1966 and the following year marked his first vintage. “We opened a bottle [of 1967 Chianti Classico] the other day, and I must say, it was still in very good condition,” said Antinori, whose three daughters, Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia, help him run the company. The family also has Antica Napa Valley, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2016.
After dinner, we chatted with Antinori about Napa, the Chinese market and, of course, Pèppoli at Pebble Beach.
What’s your secret for keeping Pèppoli at Pebble Beach so strong for 15 years?
I must say they have been 15 years of success. It’s the authenticity, which I like. I feel at home in this restaurant. Angela is doing a wonderful job. She has been to see us in Tuscany several times and she has experienced what we are doing. We have sent here many of our chefs from Italy in order to coordinate and to exchange experiences.
Photo Credit: Pebble Beach CompanyWhat’s your take on the Chinese market and wine?
The Chinese market is going one day to be a very important market for fine wine. Nobody knows exactly it will happen, but I’m sure it will happen. So everybody is very, very interested in seeing what’s going to happen. All of the producers have their eyes wide open to watch the evolution of that market and we are doing the same thing. At the moment, it’s not a very big market. But for the wine producers it’s important to build a very sound foundation with the brand and the reputation and one day maybe these investments will pay dividends.
What’s next for you?
The next best thing is to concentrate now on our Estate in Napa Valley, Antica Napa Valley. We think there is a great potential there. We are very excited about what we can build there. We are a bit at the beginning so we are not in a hurry. It is a very exciting project for us.
Do you have a tasting room at Antica Napa Valley?
In Napa we have a tasting room only by appointment. We cannot be open to the public. We are in an area [the Atlas Peak appellation] that is not on Silverado Trail. We are very, very glad to have visitors and friends by appointment. We let them see one of the most beautiful vineyards that exists in the world and also beautiful caves which are really very authentic. They are all dug in the rock. They are not lined with concrete. They’re really true and authentic with all of the humidity and really beautiful. In Tuscany, in Chianti Classico, we have in our original area of production some beautiful caves [that are] dug in the rocks.
Why was it so important for you to be in Napa, considering your legacy in Italy?
Napa has proven to be one of the great regions for producing high quality wines in the world. It was a challenge and it was really very exciting also to have an experience in Napa Valley. I have many friends here. I have been in Napa Valley for a long time watching what was going on with all of the progress. I was always impressed and even influenced by the pioneering approach of the California producers. They wanted to prove that their wines were as good as the best wines in the world. They always wanted to find a way to produce better and better wines. It was a very stimulating approach in winemaking. My friend Robert Mondavi has been really the example to have this type of approach, which has been a great influence for me personally.
Photo Credit: AntinoriBecause of the drought and traffic, there’s now a moratorium on winery permits in Napa. Is that good?
I think it’s a good thing to control that type of development because it could be a very negative thing if it would be totally free. There must be a balance to protect and preserve the environment and to preserve the landscape and the beauty of the area. It’s important to keep it like it is.
What are your favorite restaurants in Napa?
There are so many good restaurants in Napa Valley now. It’s incredible. What I can say is not what is the best restaurant in my opinion but maybe the restaurant where I feel at home—and that is Bistro Don Giovanni. They’re good friends and when I’m there, I always feel at home.
(Images from the June 9, 2015 dinner at Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, Photo credit: Kelly E. Carter)