The V. Sattui Salumeria is a welcome addition to the winery, deli and marketplace, contributing house-made sausages and artisanal Italian meats to our already-vast repertoire of quality products.
So how did the Salumeria come about? Well, from the very beginning, Dario and Tom had wanted V. Sattui to be more than just a winery. Dario’s visits to Italy’s specialty cheese & meat shops long ago inspired him to start a winery with a marketplace back in 1976; his and Tom’s numerous trips to Italy sparked visions of V. Sattui trying their hand at artisanal Italian deli meats & charcuterie. At one point, Dario even tried making his own cheese. How did that turn out? “Not so well,” Tom says, chuckling at the memory, “the cheese maker was homesick and went back to Holland after only a month.” The idea for cured Italian meats had always been there, it was just a matter of finding the right people. Enter Stefano Masanti, Michelin-starred chef of Il Cantinone in Northern Italy, featured chef at our upcoming 30th annual Harvest Ball, and winner of the award for “Best Bresaola” in all of Italy! ALL. OF. ITALY. A country of 60 million people (20 million more than the state of California), known for its cuisine, with more Michelin-starred restaurants than the entire United States combined. So you could say that’s quite an award. Most of the recipes Stefano uses have been handed down from generation to generation by the old men in his village. And now he is handing them to us.
When I sat down to talk salumi with Gianfranco Ghiringhelli - known more commonly as Franco - he reached in his pocket to show me his business card: English on one side, Italian on the other, a mirror of the man himself. Among the usual fluff and knick-knacks found in one’s pockets, out came wadded up euros and Swiss francs; he and Tom are fresh back from their Italy trip where they were doing recon for our newly opened Salumeria, of which Franco is the Director. “We were on a fact-finding mission. We know for a fact: in Ascona, Switzerland there is no lakeside service for beer,” he jokes.
But it wasn’t all fun and games – he and Tom spent a week traveling Northern Italy, going from Salumeria to Salumeria, investigating how the masters make their salumi. In Parma, famed the world over for its melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto, they were able to tour a prosciutto factory under one condition – no cameras and no notes. And of course, they tasted again Stefano’s award-winning Bresaola. In fact, they brought over some of our own Salami and Bresaola and went head-to-head in a blind tasting with several of Stefano’s friends – all master butchers and salumi makers. Where did we rank? Number two – not bad for our initial attempts; the Salumeria has only been open for a few months. They were all very impressed with our selections.
Coming back from Italy with bellies full of artisan salumi and heads full of secret spice blends and other hush-hush recipe tips, Franco got down to business. He gets his pigs from Winkler Wooly Pigs in Windsor, a sustainably raised breed called Mangalitsa, known for its curly coat. Mangalitsa pigs are also known for having a high amount of lard - an uncommonly high amount of lard – which is great for our Crema di Lardo, a product that has caught the attention of celebrity chef and Michelin-star recipient Michael Mina, who is interested in purchasing some for his restaurants in San Francisco.
Franco breaks down the pig with great attention to detail and the sure strokes of a master butcher. First are the cheeks, which become guanciale, the back fat which becomes Crema di Lardo, the neck (coppa), and loin (lonzo). They save the leaf lard – it is highly coveted for making the best & flakiest pastry crust and is very hard to find - for some interested local bakers. Lastly, the hind leg is taken off in its entirety to become the prized prosciutto. Long, smooth cuts – no sawing is the secret he imparts to his protégé, Greg Quirici, as he directs him how to round off the guanciale. These meats then go through a process: fermentation, curing, aging, holding and then (my favorite) – eating.
The fermentation cabinet is a state-of-the-art Italian model that all the Italian Salumerias have and is the first of its kind here in the United States. It enables Franco to mimic the temperature and conditions of the regions in Italy, specific to the charcuterie produced there, at any time during the year. This means artisanal, cured Italian meats all year round. The curing cabinet is hung with our Vittorio Rosso & Classico Salamis, guanciale, pancetta (flat and rolled), lonzo, and of course, the one that started it all – Bresaola.
So what’s Franco’s favorite part of the whole thing? When people enjoy the finished product – and enjoy they will, with our house-made sausages coming hot off the grill at our weekend BBQ and our Salami and Bresaola sold slice by mouthwatering slice in our deli. We’re hoping to feature the other cuts – guanciale, lonzo, coppa – soon, though the prosciutto will be longer due to its minimum one year aging time.
So what’s next on the Salumeria docket? Goat leg prosciutto, called violino di capra - which literally translates to goat violin - a specialty of the Valchiavenna region in Italy, so called because the carver is to hold the leg against his shoulder and carve it toward himself, much like a violin. The only hiccup – finding the goats. Franco was in talks with a woman who has some out in Bodega Bay. She told him she was “down there trying to wrangle them when they bounded off down into a ravine” where she couldn’t follow. His response? “Smart goats.”
Stay tuned for the next chapter in goat wrangling and all things salumi!