By: Valerie Brockbank Wilsonville Ore. is a small city on the south-side of Portland. It’s a twenty minute drive to downtown Portland, about 30 minutes to the vineyards of Salem or the Willamette Valley, and is still surrounded by farms and orchards. The town was built around the ferry crossing, which was the way across the Willamette River until the I-5 freeway was built.
Wilsonville has a lot to offer, but as a resident, I know fine dining isn’t on the top of the activities list. An exception to that is Abella Italian Kitchen, a comfy, friendly meeting place in a mall next to the library, run by owners Mark and Sue Nelson, and their chef Luis Cruz. A little hard to find but once you do, the food and wine selections will keep you coming back. In fact, this is my weekly spot for Sunday Brunch; the Amaretto, hazelnut and seared pear french toast is my favorite.
But what draws the local culinary crowd to Abella is their monthly wine dinners. In April, the wine dinner featured the wines from Small Vineyards, a wine importer that represents “the best wine from small places.” They are involved with the wine from the time the cork goes into the bottle in Italy until you pull it out to drink several countries away; Small Vineyards calls this Tappo a Tappo: Cork to Cork.
The Abella menu reflected the same attention to detail. The antipasto course featured smoked mozzarella and a dry ricotta cheese with roasted peppers, roasted garlic and marinated vegetables, served with a Trevisiol Prosecco, a very mineral-tasting wine that paired very well with the cheeses. Jeff, from Small Vineyards, told us that the hill where these grapes are grown was once a sea bed—terroir matters!
The fresh, perfectly-dressed caprese salad was paired with a Perazzeta Sangiovese “Sara” 2007, a wine named for the winemaker’s daughter. The good acid and black pepper finish really boosted the basil flavors in the salad. My favorite wine of the night, a 100% Salento Negroamaro 2006, paired with the black olives, capers, basil and anchovies in the Pasta Puttanesca was exceptional. The deep black wine, with its trademark barnyard and freshly-dug earth nose and spicy dark chocolate, plum and cedar palate, is an amazing bottle of wine.
The Le Diacce 2004 Merlot was a crowd pleaser. This small-batch, older wine was a stylish and elegant match with the double-cut pork chops with dried bing cherry marmalade. The night ended with a rich Zabaione custard with fresh berries paired with a Tre Donne Moscato D’Asti—certainly not your super-fizzy, college-days Asti. The three-sister, fifth generation winemaking team created a 100% Moscato, slightly effervescent dessert wine with a rich honey nose, a cinnamon, caramelized-lemon palate and terrific acid—a stunning palate cleanser.
A perfect pairing of food, wine, and stories from new friends and small winemakers.
Abella Italian Kitchen’s next wine dinner, featuring Napa’s Trinchero Family Estates, is Thursday, May 7, at 6:30 pm. The regular 1st Thursday wine dinners average around $65 per person, and reservations are recommended.
otv rating (0 to 20)
Abella Italian Kitchen
8309 SW Main St. Wilsonville, Ore
Trevisiol Prosecco - 85
Perazzeta Sangiovese “Sara” 2007- 86
Salento Negroamaro 2006 - 95
Le Diacce 2004 Merlot - 92
Tre Donne Moscato D’Asti - 89