Where to go for the Holidays? Italy – but locally

Those little hidden ristorantes in Italy beckon, but they are not so very far away. Walk into Pianeta Ristorante in Truckee’s old Commercial Row area downtown, and you are there! Owners Robyn Sills and Ed Coleman have painstakingly created a fresco-laden, welcoming and wine-loving place right here in Tahoe.

With more than 50 years of experience in fine dining between them, Robyn and Ed have worked to coordinate wine and food in Pianeta to create an evening that’s unrushed and fun. Their extensive wine list, which has been cited as one of the area’s best, features (of course) many Italian wines.

One of those good Italian wines on their list is La Vis Pinot Grigio, from the Trentino region of Italy. This wine is delicious, with bright fruit flavor, a soft floral aroma augmented by a bit of spice, and as it opens up in your glass, you can taste tangerine, almond, apricot and citrus on the finish. $7/glass. There are several good food pairings on the Pianeta menu, and all of them went well with this Pinot Grigio – bruschetta, olive tapenade with goat cheese on toast triangles, and a caprese served on a pool of fresh basil and olive oil.

If those pairings intrigue you, try an Italian red wine with them too. The Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, an Italian Chianti, is aromatic with tones of cherry, and features soft tannins on the finish. Not so earthy as many Tuscan wines, and medium acidity made it a great food wine.
$8.50 per glass

“There are so many Italian varietals available now,” noted Robyn. “A problem is that prices for Italian wines have been rising due to the Euro-dollar exchange rate. But we have sought out the hidden gems because we are dedicated to making wine accessible and offering many price points for every budget. We’ve also built the wine list to support our Italian cuisine.”

The Tormaresca “Neprica” is a blend of Cabernet (30%), Primitivo (30%) and Negromaro (40%) and it is a hidden gem indeed! At $7 the glass, it paired fantastically well with the carpaccio, and the house-made Salcica served on poleta with roasted pepper. Often called a Super Tuscan, this wine is rich and complex, is well balanced with lots of fruit, and a nice structure with medium tannin. 13.5% alcohol.

The house made pasta dishes at Pianeta are many, and all of them are fabulous. There is a daily special ravioli that is always excellent, Good wine pairings from the Pianeta wine list are many, but two good ones are the 2005 Leonetti Sangiovese and the 2007AntinoriBianco.

The Leonetti hails from Walla Walla, WA, and is a blend of 76% Sangiovese, 13% Syrah, 11% Cabernet. It is a bright ruby red, and the aroma is redolent of red currant, berry, spice. Taste carries the spice through with some floral tones. On the finish, a hint of sweetness, chocolate. A nice acidity.

The 2007 AntinoriBianco is in Pianeta’s “More Adventurous Whites” section on the wine list, and it is a lovely Tuscan white. It is crisp, a blend of four grapes, dry and yet the tropical fruit overtones lead to a very enjoyable wine with medium finish and a citrusy aftertaste.

The favorite wine/food pairing of the owner? Ed would sit down anytime to their ribeye steak, topped with gorgonzola cheese & balsamic grilled onions. His wine choice is the 2005 Avignonese, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which Wine Spectator awarded 92 points. A beautiful garnet red in color; it’s intense in flavor, a teasing scent of violet, and dry taste of black cherry and licorice, with a hint of tannin. It’s perfect for serving now, and Ed likes its understated style and good balance.

Pianeta Ristorante is located at 10096 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee, CA 96161. (530) 587-4694. Try their daily special pasta!

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