Prima Materia aims to train wine drinkers at its tasting room events. Photo: Prima Materia
482 #B 49th St. (at Telegraph), Oakland
This summer, 32 people gathered for an unusual dinner at the winery. Instead of overlooking the vines and rolling hills of Napa or Sonoma, the meal took place in an Oakland alley. And the theme for the night was far from local – the food and wines were inspired by Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.
Dinner was a collaboration between the Ancient Wine Guys, Dana DePietro and Jeff Pearson, two academics who specialize in classics and archeology. Ti Ngo, a wine professional; and Pietro Buttitta, a chef and winemaker who opened the Prima Materia tasting room on Temescal Alley earlier this year. The event was a fundraiser for DePietro and Pearson’s Society for Archaeological Research and Exploration (SHARE), which runs archaeological projects and dialogue projects in the Middle East for Israeli and Palestinian youth.
Buttitta prepared dishes from the historical regions of the Odyssey: a Turkish vegetable salad called Turlu Turlu, Sicilian fennel caponata with tuna, Calabrian pork sugo with chickpeas and cake made from dates and apples. The dishes were paired with wines from Anatolia, Turkey. Thrace, Greece and the Amalfi Coast of Italy. While the guests ate and drank, the Ancient Wine Guys gave a presentation on the Odyssey through the lens of food and wine.
“Being able to make a history lesson fun and a little political is very important to what we want to do,” Buttitta said, noting that he met his staff when they were all working together in a wine store.
Subscribe to Nosh Weekly
Our newsletter with delicious East Bay food news
Sicilian fennel caponata with tuna at dinner “The Wines of Homer’s Odyssey” by Prima Materia. Photo: Alix Wall
Prima Materia is just a tasting room, not a real winery. The name, said Buttitta, “is an indication of how in alchemy the first substance is the primordial material from which everything develops.” His winery is small; He sells about 1,500 cases a year.
Buttitta grows its grapes in Lake County and produces all of its wine there. But this year he decided to bring his wines to Oakland as he lives here.
While his name betrays its roots, it was Buttitta’s grandfather who immigrated from Italy, although he said his father “retained that Sicilian sensibility” that had both positive and negative effects.
Buttitta grew up in Sonoma County, but “Napa vineyards wasn’t a romantic thing,” he said. His family had orchards, but he said, “We were bad at what we did.” They were on grocery stamps for part of his childhood. Even so, Buttitta picked up where his family left off and was able to get it to work.
“I clicked with the agricultural cycle,” said Buttitta. “I loved being out in the field in the sun, carrying things around, and harvest time was pretty exciting.”
As a teenager, he became interested in cooking shows and reading cookbooks, although no one else in his family shared this passion or even cooked.
In college, Buttitta realized he liked to study, but structured education wasn’t for him.
Pietro Buttitta prepares dishes for the event “The Wines of Homer’s Odyssey” in the Prima Materia tasting room.
“I was not suitable for a long school life. Sitting in class and writing papers wasn’t for me, ”he said. He rode a bicycle for much of his 20s and didn’t get his first kitchen job until his late 20s.
Buttitta’s experience ranged from cooking in fine dining to working as a banquet chef, and his interest in wine grew, so helping out at a Lake County winery during The Crush said it was “a big change” for me. He was living in Portland at the time and started pacing as his interest in wine grew.
“As soon as I got my hands on the farm side, I started putting the side of the winery together,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in history and philosophy. If I want to grow Cabernet, I want to know all about it. “
Although he wants to get his winemaking closer to Oakland, he doesn’t foresee that anytime soon.
“I’m a one-person operation and this part is great, but it’s a long way three or four days a week, six days a week during harvest,” he said.
While the tasting room is new, the grapes he grew go back 11 years and he planted most of the himself. He currently grows 14 different grape varieties, 11 of which are Italian, as he is very fond of Italian wine. While some are recognizable to non-wine freaks like Sangiovese, Chianti, and Barbera, he also grows some lesser-known grapes, like Aglianico and Refosco.
The Ancient Wine Guys introduced guests to wines inspired by Homer’s epic poem, paired with dishes prepared by Chef Pietro Buttitta. Prima Materia plans to hold more educational wine events of this kind in the future. Photo: Alix Wall
The Prima Materia tasting room is only open at certain times and only from Friday to Sunday during the harvest. Buttitta said it would open on Thursdays as soon as the harvest ends in the coming days.
Buttitta will host more historical wine evenings with the Ancient Wine Guys, as well as courses; everything from a general beginners course to wine tasting to pairings with cheese and other offerings. The next event, “Wines of the Appian Way,” taking place on November 22nd, is a class that will highlight grapes and wines found along the Appian Way in Italy. The wines also come from Prima Materia and Italian producers. Buttitta will combine the toppings with small bites based on historical recipes from the region.
“I like helping people ask questions about wine,” he said. “How can you describe what broccoli really tastes like? It’s incredibly hard to do. The same goes for wine. It’s a shame we really don’t have this language, but we can definitely learn it. “
“Wines of the Appian Way” will take place on November 22nd at 7pm in the Prima Materia tasting room. Tickets are $ 55. Classes are limited to 12 people.