As you can probably imagine I’ve been to wine tastings of all shapes and sizes, winemaker dinners and the like. Quite frankly I thought I’d experienced every type. That was until I heard about The Grape Festival that was held last week at Ca’Mea Restaurant in Hudson NY. This event was put on by Importer Quintessential Wines in association with the restaurant. Quintessential Wines is an importer of wines that I’ve been familiar with for a number of years. More so I’ve been impressed with their overall portfolio which focuses on family owned and operated wineries the world over. Each of these wineries features not only handcrafted wines, but a good story to boot. So when I heard that they were going to pour 17 of their wines at Ca’Mea in Hudson and pair them with Italian food I was in. Great food and wines with names like La Tunella, New Age, Valentin Bianchi, Simonsig, Two Angels, Koyle, Tinto Figuero, Fratelli, Quinta Do Vallado, and Dead Letter Office? Try to keep me away! This was to be my first trip to Hudson NY and I didn’t know exactly what to expect. What I found was a charming town with a downtown area that brings to mind old time Americana with a hip, modern flair. All located just off the Hudson River in Columbia County NY. Entering the restaurant I was taken by the homey vibe with Tuscan flourishes. Sure I was in NY, but the warmth of the staff, the ambiance, and the smells coming from the kitchen told me I could have just as easily been in a small town in Italy. Ca’Mea has been in operation for about 8 years. It was started by Roy Felcetto and his partner of late has been Max Cenci from Cortona Italy. His restaurant back in the homeland has been in operation for 18 years and is now run by his family. In addition to dining both indoors and in a courtyard garden Ca’Mea offers lodging. They offer two buildings with accommodations, one right next door and another a block away. Both are older buildings that have been lovingly restored and feature all the modern amenities one would expect from fine, country lodging. I stayed overnight myself and was really taken by the feel of the place as well as how it’s both right in the middle of town, but also serene.
So wine and food you ask, what made this tasting so unique. The host for the evening in addition to the owners of Ca’Mea was Al De Winter from Quintessential Wines. Al has been around wine for quite awhile and what he presented was a real eye opener for the eager group in attendance. The seventeen wines he poured and spoke about each represented a specific grape variety. From white through red and from Pinot Grigio through Petite Sirah, Shiraz and a Moscato D’Asti for dessert and a lot of other stops in between Al hit on 17 grapes, and eight different countries. Speaking about the grapes and their style as well as encouraging everyone to pair the wines with the food that was served seemed to open a lot of eyes. I spoke to some folks who weren’t necessarily wine drinkers but were regulars at Ca’Mea and they thought they’d check out the event. It’s fair to say that a number of people have a new appreciation and understanding of wine from the everyday manner in which Al presented good information about wine and why it works with a variety of foods. The bottom line don't be afraid to try slightly unusual sounding pairings. The results might please you a great deal.
And speaking of food; oh what food. The items that Max prepared for the tasting were nothing short of sensational. Some of it was quite traditional like Pasta in Bolognese sauce, other things like a roasted apple topped with Mascarpone cheese, truly palate awakening. Potato Croquettes were delicious and addictive. Roasted pork wrapped in Bacon with an applesauce accompaniment was delectable, seasonal and a killer pairing with at least half of the 17 wines. Bottom Line, I didn’t taste a single thing that didn’t make my mouth water. Later on in the evening I had Gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil. There are many places I simply won’t order them because of the industrial tasting, heavy as marbles things that some restaurants try to pass off as Gnocchi. I was confident this wouldn’t be the case at Ca’Mea and boy was I right. Max makes his pastas in house, by hand. The Gnocchi was airy, fluffy and just imbued with the right amount of potato flavors. The fresh sauce, basil and cheese on top the appropriate accompaniment. Having the opportunity to enjoy this dish with a glass of wine talking about food with Max, Roy and Al made the experience all the better. We sat in the courtyard where heat lamps were ready to keep us warm if there had been a chill, but there wasn’t. It was the perfect Indian Summer evening.
Did I mention how homey and terrific the ambiance and welcome at Ca’ Mea are? It’s as hard for me to overstate that as it is easy to see why this absolutely killer restaurant has a dedicated local clientele of regulars, who have become their friends really, eating there night after night. Let me put it another way, I live 100 miles away from Ca’Mea, making it hard for me to be a regular, but I can tell you I’ll definitely make the drive a couple of times a year, at least. If you’re local or travelling through the area I recommend Ca’Mea heartily. If you’re looking for a place to kick up your boots for a night or two, check into one of their rooms and enjoy their hospitality at the table and the Inn.