About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pepe & Valentini: The Icons of Abbruzo

Our monthly wine group met recently at Lorena’s in Maplewood.  Emil, who’s family hails from Abruzzo, Italy selected wines from the top wine producers in the region, Emidio Pepe and Edoardo Valentini.  Both estates are traditional in their winemaking, resulting in wines of depth, complexity and distinction.

Abruzzo is located about 2 ½ hours northeast of Rome. Its immediate neighbors are Marche to the north, Lazio to the west and southwest and Molise to the southeast. Winemaking traditions in Abruzzo date back to the sixth century B.C.  Abruzzo provides a perfect haven for grape growing. Vines flourish thanks to the terroir, the abundance of sunshine, the generous rainfall and a variable climate: warm and dry on the coast and more continental (hot in summer and cold in winter) inland. Furthermore, the high altitudes see dramatic diurnal temperature variations. When combined with cool mountain air currents, they moderate the temperatures in the vineyards situated on the slopes, providing a perfect mesoclimate for the vines. The most favorable growing conditions are found in the low hills of Teramo, the Colline Teramane.

The region produces two white wines; Trebbiano (one of the most widely planted grapes in the world); Pecorino, a white grape that has seen a renaissance in the past 25 years or so; Cersasulo, a full-bodied Rosé of incredible depth; and the flagship red wine, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo made from from 100% Montepulciano grapes.  This full-bodied, earthy red should not be confused with the Tuscan wine Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, which is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes.

Emidio Pepe. Emidio Pepe is known for crafting amazingly complex age worthy reds and whites year after year.  With a great belief that Mother Nature is the best care-giver for the vines, grapes are grown organically, hand-harvested, hand destemmed, naturally fermented and aged 18-24 months in glass-lined tanks. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, without added SO2, and aged in their cellar, in bottle, for continued development.  Only after 10 years does he release his wines. Before release, the wines are decanted by hand into new bottles, and then labeled. An extensive stock of older vintages is kept at the cellar. For his Trebbiano, the grapes are crushed by foot in a wood vat.  Pepe makes Pecorino, Trebbiano, Cerasuolo and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

Valentini. Edward passed away in 2006 and the estate today is in the very capable hands of his son Francesco, who follows in the traditional methods of his father.  Only the very best grapes go into the wines with his name on it.  Based on the regional laws and standards of this wine zone, the Valentini estate could deliver 800,000 bottles annually. However, artisanal craftsmanship relies on selecting the ripest fruit thus limiting their production to approximately 50,000 bottles annually.  The rest is sold off. The estate keeps the details of their traditional winemaking methods a closely guarded secret, and rarely allows anyone to visit their cellars. The estate produces Trebbiano, Cerasuolo and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  Edoardo claimed that his Trebbiano was the best wine he made.  I can tell you from experience, all three are sensational.

The Wines

2010 Emidio Pepe Pecorino.  The Pecorino grape has seen a Renaissance over the past 25 years.  The wine had terrific acidity and reminded me of a Northern Rhone white with a lovely viscous and chewy palate, that finished with considerable length.  $82.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Azienda Agricola Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo.  The Trebbiano grape accounts for about 1/3 of all white wine in Italy.   Tonight's bottle was just spectacular juice.  It possessed a gorgeous golden yellow hue with a rich and elegant bouquet.  The palate was perfectly balanced and endowed with great focus, finesse and complexity.  Monster finish.  A wine with soul that is drinking at its peak at the moment.  This vintage is no longer available.  Recent vintages are however and priced at about $85.

Pepe (left) and Valentini (right)
2006 Azienda Agricola Valentini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  The pedigree of this wine was eminently apparent, however the fruit is still asleep. I have had the wine twice in the past year and on both occasions it was very tight.  I suggest keeping this in the cellar for a few more years and decanting it for 4 to 5 hours when you do open it. This is not an easy wine to find and when you do expect to pay about $300 for it.

1983 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This was spectacular.  I have had many vintages of this wine from Pepe, and this ranks amongst the very best.  It possessed a gorgeous translucent red hue that showed no bricking.  It displayed that earthy bouquet that one expects from his wines, especially when they have age on them.  What surprised me was that this was ready to drink immediately upon opening and kept evolving in the glass as we drank it.  A completely round and delicious wine with soul!  $200.  Wine-Searcher.

The Food

Lorena’s is a popular French restaurant offering seasonally fresh cuisine.  With the exception of my steak, which while perfectly cooked, I found very bland, the food and service were very good indeed.

Squid Ink Risotto, Sautéed Florida Sun Shrimp, Leeks, Peas, Saffron Emulsion

Warm Crepe of Lump Crabmeat, Field Mushrooms, Fresh Herbs, White Truffle Oil Beurre Blanc

Barnegat Sea Scallops, Savoy Cabbage, Corn, Peas, Tomato Concasee, Potato Puree,
Mushroom-Truffle Emulsion

Lamb Sirloin, Almond and Dijon Mustard Crust, Organic Red Quinoa, 
Haricot Vert, Bell Pepper Marmalde, Za'atar Yogurt

Pasture Raised Angus Beef N.Y. Strip,Glazed Baby Vegetables, Potato Puree, 
Scallion-Herb Buerre Fondue

Wonderful selection of wines Emil.  Thanks for sharing these with the group.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Our Wine Group Returns to Southern France

A couple of weeks back our monthly wine group met for our August wine dinner at A Toute Heure ("anytime" is the English translation) in Cranford, NJ.  Jim who selected the wines for the evening also picked the venue, which was new to us.  It turned out to be a great tasting with incredible food. You can be sure we will be back.

This farm-to-table restaurant run by Andrea & Jim Carbine turns out some of the best food in NJ or anywhere for that matter. Jack's Run Garden sits on the side and back of the Carbine's Cranford home and provides a bevy of Jersey fresh ingredients that are skillfully used in every dish. Service is courteous, friendly, professional and a compliment to the food that is prepared by executive Chef Robyn Reiss, who is simply a magician in the kitchen.

Our Menu began with a platter of spectacular homemade dinner rolls hot out of the oven.  Give me a half dozen of these and a crock of butter and I could be in heaven.  The appetizers arrived shortly after and brought huge smiles to our faces with each bite we took.

braised bacon, stone fruit mustard, marinated Jack’s Run Garden pole beans & radish, with toasted pepitas.  Sublime decadence on on wood board.  This was over-the-top and is a must order if you go here.

corn spoonbread, grilled Sycamore Farm’s corn, roast poblano peppers, sheep’smilk feta, scallion, and a lime-honey vinaigrette.  A melange of flavors and textures, but simply could not follow the bacon.

pan-roast pizza, house-made dough, chef’s choice of local meats, cheeses + vegetables, and a sunny-side up egg.  While I don't recall the chef's choices tonight, I do recall that it was delicious and amazing.

We expected nothing less spectacular with the main courses and we were not disappointed.

Four in the group ordered the grilled, pounded bone-in pork chop, with a ginger lime glaze, and a Phillips Farm’s corn, peach & garden pepper salad.  While I was not one of them, I did get to taste a bite and had to agree with the comments of those who ordered it..."best damn pork chop I have ever eaten".  Juicy and flavorful.

Mussels are served four different ways here.  I opted for their signature dish, ATH mussel pot: spicy chorizo sausage, saffron cream sauce w frites.  This preparation takes the French classic Moules et Frites to a new level.  Perfectly cooked crustaceans in a spicy broth with incredible hand-cut French Fries.  Superb!.  My only lament is that my dinner mates devoured most of my fries.

seared local scallops, fresh Sycamore Farm’s corn polenta, buttery summer squash, (sorry no photo) received raves from Howard.

A summer cobbler, Phillips Farm’s stone fruit & summer berries, sugar cookie crumble top, and a scoop of sweet cream ice cream (no photo) completed a spectacular meal.

The Wines

I posted about wines from the Southern Rhone Region of France last year, Red Wines of Southern France.  Jim took us back there again tonight.

Chateau Rayas, under the direction and wine making of Emmanuel Reynaud, is considered by many, myself included, as the premier wine estate in the Southern Rhone. In the heart of the southern Rhône Valley appellation vineyards, he offers up his Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée wines featuring Châteauneuf du Pape, Côtes du Rhône, Vacqueyras and Côtes du Rhône Village.  Both red and white, these wines are the fruit of the vineyards of a number of different domains: Château Rayas, Château Fonsalette and Château des Tours.  The family has been producing legendary wines since 1880.  Today these wines are matured in the cellars of two estates Château Rayas and Château des Tours. The wines are highly allocated and thus not easy to come by.  The signature wine, the Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve is perhaps the ultimate expression of a 100% Grenache based wine.  While it is delicious, it is very expensive.

Chateau des Tours wines on the other hand is much more affordable and a bit easier to locate. A 40-hectare property of vines that include Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Merlot and Counoise for red wine and Grenache and Clairette for white wine. Three wines are made here, Vacqueyras Red; Cotes du Rhone Red and Cotes du Rhone White.  Jim selected two Vacqueyas for the evening.

1998 Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras. Like all Reynaud vineyards, these are tended with the same organic methods, manually plowed, harvested much later than other producers and centered around a reverence for old-vine Grenache.  Tonight’s wine, a blend of Grenache (80%), Syrah (20%) was delightful.  The bouquet was earthy with a mature and nicely balanced palate. The finish was a bit short however, suggesting that the wine has seen its best years.  The wine sells for around $50, but a search of Wine-Searcher lists wines only as far back as 2004.

2001 Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras.  For me this was clearly the wine of the night.   I was not alone in my opinion.  The terroir-laden bouquet soared from the glass creating great anticipation of what was in store.  The palate did not let us down.  It possessed amazing depth, focus, balance and elegance.  Like all great bottles of wine, it evolved with each sip and finished with considerable length.  Truly a wine with soul!

2000 Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape Boisrenard Cuvée Boisrenard.  CdP laws allow for all 13 grape varieties from the region to be blended into the wine. Domaine de Beaurenard is one of the few who uses them all, with Grenache (70%) making up the majority.  I found the wine to be very modern with a rather harsh mid-palate and a bit too much alcohol. $80.  Wine-Searcher.

2000 Pierre Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Cuvée Mon Aieul.  Made from 100% Grenache this was very enjoyable.  The wine had an enticing bouquet of ripe fruit, was nicely balanced on a complex and peppery palate.  The mid-palate exhibited soft tannins and it finished with good length.  $95.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Domaine Gerard Charvin Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  I have always liked this producer as I find the wines to be very traditional and made in a style quite similar to Rayas.  The estate uses whole cluster fermentation from a blend of 82% Grenache and the rest Mourvedre, Syrah, and Vaccarese from their vines averaging about 50 years of age.  The wine possessed a deep red hue, pure fruit and a nicely balanced full-bodied, peppery and silky palate.  Alcohol a tad high, but finish was quite nice.  $93.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  The estate is another that uses all 13 grapes, with Mourvedre and Grenache leading the way, in its red wines.  Times have changed here at the estate in my opinion.  There appears to be a movement to a more modern style of wine making.  My experience with the wines over the past few years has been disappointing and tonight’s wine did nothing to change that.  I found the wine to lack depth and focus.  It just sat in the glass and never really made a statement.  $116.  Wine-Searcher.

Great job Jim on your selection of wines and the venue.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Beppe Rinaldi

A couple of weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure to once again participate in a Vinous Members wine tasting.  This group was more or less created by Tony a while back.   I was honored and delighted to be invited when the group was formed.  Tony, along with Eric Guido once again orchestrated the venue, I Trulli Ristorante, and the wine theme, Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo.

In my opinion two of the finest wine makers in Italy (perhaps the world for that matter) are often referred to as “Beppe”; Giuseppe Quintarelli (Veneto) and Giuseppe Rinaldi (Piedmont). Both of these producers are at the very top of my “favorites” list.  Their wines are the ultimate expression of traditionally made wines that provide for memorable drinking experiences.

Beppe Rinaldi took over the winery after the death of his father Battista in 1992 and runs it today with his daughter Marta.  The only change he made was regarding the blending of the vineyards in the two Barolo his father made.  Eric Guido’s write up of this dinner includes an in depth history of the estate and I would encourage you to read it.  The Cellar Table at Morrell Bar & Café.

Since 2010 the Barolo Consortium’s ever changing wine label laws preclude producers from using more than one vineyard name on the label. The wines we drank tonight Brunate Le Coste and Cannubi San Lorenzo, have been replaced since 2010 with Brunate and Tre Tine. Eric’s write up explains this in detail.

Before settling down to the 5 Rinaldi flights Tony brought along a bottle of NV Jacques Selosse Initial Champagne that we all thoroughly enjoyed.  We drank this from large glasses to enjoy the yeasty bouquet and evolution this remarkable wine goes through as it sits in the glass.  In my opinion, Selosse is king when it comes to bubbly.  The only downside is the wines are highly allocated, thus hard to find and expensive.

Flight 1

1956 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo.  What a pleasant surprise this was.  If I had to guess the age of the wine by the color, I would have added at least 40 years to it as it possessed a surprisingly translucent red hue.  The bottle was brought along by Jamie Wolfe of Chamber Street Wines. Jamie, who is extremely knowledgeable about Nebbiolo, especially older vintages, informed us that up to 20% Barbera was added to the wine in 1956.  While the wine lacked the vibrancy of the younger vintages, it drank very well for its age.

1985 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Riserva.  Made by Giuseppe’s father the color of this wine was a bit cloudier than the 1985 and lacked the body and depth of the 1956.  While the wine was no slouch, I found it to be a few large steps behind the 1956.

1985 (left) - 1956 (right)
Flight 2

1993 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera.  I had hoped for more from this, but alas that was not the case.  Not a bad wine, but compared to many of the others I felt it lacked depth and focus.

1997 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  In my opinion the 1997 Barolo vintage, once thought to be the vintage of the century, has long faded into the horizon.  This bottle did nothing to change that.  I had it at the bottom of the list.

1998 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  A vintage that seems to be overlooked by many, I have yet to be disappointed by any Barolo from the vintage.  The bouquet and palate were very youthful, the fruit was pure and balanced and it finished with considerable elegance. It was easily the best wine of the flight.

Flight 3

1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Easily the wine of the night for me.  This was a completely round and delicious wine that is a beautiful example of how good Nebbiolo can be when made by a master. The wine is in perfect harmony with the terroir of Piedmont and just keeps evolving with each sip.  This will last for decades.  Decant for at least 3 hours to give it time to open up.  My only regret is that I have none of this in my cellar.

2000 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Another vintage that is often overlooked by many and one that I have enjoyed on a number of occasions. Tonight’s bottle was not up to previous bottles I have had, nor is it in the class of the other two in the flight, but I enjoyed every sip.

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  The pedigree of this wine is incredible. At the moment it offers up hints of the great wine lurking inside the bottle.  This is destined to be a blockbuster in another 5 years.

Flight 4

2003 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  2003 was a scorching hot year that produced wines of varying quality throughout the region.  Not so for Beppe.  This was an absolutely gorgeous surprise to all of us. It was incredibly alive with fresh fruit, focus, complexity and depth and a lengthy finish.  It is easily one of the best 2003 Barolos I have had…and I believe it will only get better with bottle age.

2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Like the 2001, the pedigree here is eminently evident.  It possessed a silky and harmonious palate with a gorgeous bouquet of fresh fruit and earth.  The finish is elegant and will lengthen with bottle aging.

2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi - San Lorenzo – Ravera.  Like Eric and Ken, I felt this bottle was really off.  Perhaps storage during shipping affected the wine.  I will know soon enough as I have 6 of these in my cellar.  I hope they fare better than this bottle did.

Flight 5

2007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi - San Lorenzo – Ravera.  Very nice wine, but overshadowed by the BLC.

2007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Simply gorgeous.  What I like to call a round and delicious wine (it has it all).  The wine was very much alive and soaring in the glass with each sip.  The long and elegant finish made me want another sip immediately.

2008 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  A great year for Barolo, and this offering is one of the reasons why.  Oh, what a wine.  It should be allowed at least 5 years in the cellar, but it is so delicious it is hard to keep your hands off it.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido

The opportunity to share and discuss wines of this caliber with friends of equal caliber is something I cherish more than all the wine in my cellar.  Of course nights like this have a tendency to entice one to add more wine to the cellar.  Thanks again to Anthony and Eric for making happen.  I look forward to our next dinner.

I did not take any pictures of food and attendees, but fret not I'm sure they will soon be available when Ken Vastola posts his notes at http://www.finewinegeek.com.  Be on the lookout for it.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oh What a Night!

My previous post was about some incredible bottles of aged Nebbiolo wines.  This one moves to Pinot Noir and some incredible red Burgundies with lots of age on them.

Monday our wine group met at Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville for our monthly dinner. Jeff was in the queue to provide the wine and so our collective anticipation was very high.  Jeff has been collecting wine longer than anyone in our group.  His cellar and knowledge, especially of Burgundy, is very deep.  His selections are always exciting as they were tonight.  He decided on wines from Burgundy with considerable age on them.  It was a multiple WOW evening.

Sette Cucina has become a regular stop for us.  We tell chef/owner Allan Philip Russo what wines we will be drinking and leave the menu in his hands.  He never fails to knock the ball out of the park.  Tonight’s menu:

Caponata Bruschetta

Buffula Mozzerella, Figs, Speck

Batter Fried Zucchini,  Bagna Cauda Piedmont fondue garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter

Nano Vallano Risotto, saffron, crumbled sausage, hint of truffle oil

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Grilled Australian Lamb


We began the evening with 1985 Jacquesson & Fils Signature Brut Champagne.  I have very little experienced with aged Champagne, but after this bottle I may have to change that.  This was a superb bubbly blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a yeasty and slight bacony (is there such a word) bouquet.  On the palate it displayed vibrant fruit and finished with length and elegance.  The wines are vinified in old oak casks.  We drank this in white wine glasses instead of Champagne Flutes which don’t allow the wine to evolve and show its stuff.

1996 Jacques Prieur Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru.  This prestigious domaine is alone in owning vines in each of the five most prestigious vineyards in Burgundy; Chambertin, Musigny, Clos Vouget, Corton Charlemagne and Montrachet.

Tonight the wine drank magnificently.  Not a hint of premature oxidation.  It possessed a wonderful and what I would call mature bouquet that heightened expectations that were fulfilled with the first sip.  The palate was deep, rich, and complex with harmonious acidity and minerality.  The finish was long and elegant.   One of the best Montrachet’s I have ever tasted.  

For the reds, Jeff brought along three Volnays, two from the same vineyard with a gap of 42 years between youngest and oldest. The commune of Volnay is in Côte de Beaune of Burgundy. There are no Grand Cru vineyards within Volnay, but several highly regarded Premier Cru vineyards such as the three we drank.  As Jeff explained, "all the wines were tasting correct for the Volnay terroir and very similar.  This is why in Burgundy people always talk first about the terroir and second the winemaker."

1979 Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos des Chenes 1er Cru.  The wine exhibited a translucent red hue with very little bricking. An amazing color for a wine of this age. The palate was medium-bodied with excellent fruit, purity and focus.  I can only imagine what this wine was like 10 or 15 years ago.  After 36 years it continues to drink with lots of soul.

1952 Potinet-Ampeau Volnay Clos des Chenes 1er Cru. I was initially blown away by the gorgeous translucent red hue. There was virtually no bricking. The fruit was very much in tact on a harmonious and focused palate. Quite and enjoyable experience.

1937 Camile Giroud Hospices de Beaune Volnay Cuvée Blondeau 1er Cru.  Like the previous two bottles, the hue here was gorgeous with no bricking.  The wine had quite a bit of life to it and probably will for another ten years or so I would think.  The bouquet was earthy and fresh.  On the palate it was full-bodied with amazing complexity and balance for its age.  The oldest red Burgundy I have ever had and it was a joy to experience.

Jeff, thanks again for your generosity in sharing amazing wine experiences with the group.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Aged Nebbiolo Lunch at I Trulli

For the past 20 years I have been on an incredible wine journey.  Not only have I learned a great deal about wine, but I have also experienced first hand the passion and generosity of producers and fellow wine enthusiasts alike.  Recently I had the pleasure of participating in an old Nebbiolo lunch at I Trulli Ristorante, NYC.  The lunch was organized by Ken Vastola, who’s passion and knowledge of Nebbiolo may well have no peer. (If you want to learn about Nebbiolo you must visit his blog The Fine Wine Geek).  I met Ken through Antonio Galloni’s website, Vinous Media.  Ken invited me along with fellow Vinous members, Iggy, Ben and Carl to join him and Jeremy Parzen for this incredible tasting.  Each of us brought along a bottle or two of Nebbiolo based wine.  Jeremy is a food and wine historian, Italian translator and former rock musician who created a blog, Do Bianchi (Two White Wines) a number of years ago.  As he says on his website, “Do Bianchi’s mission is to offer non-Italian speakers otherwise inaccessible insights into Italian gastronomic culture. For Italophiles and Italians, Do Bianchi provides cogent historical perspective into wines and foods whose cultural value is often taken for granted”.  

As a daily reader, I find it to be incredibly insightful and a fantastic source for many amazing Italian wines.  Jeremy was in town representing the Franciacorta Wine Consortium. Franciacorta is a small wine-producing area in Lombardy, northern Italy. It is famous for its high-quality sparkling wines, which are made very much in the image of Champagne. I have enjoyed many wines, especially Bellavista, from the region.

I always find the food at I Trulli to be really good, as it was today.

Beef Meatballs in tomato sauce

Grilled baby octopus with potatoes, pickled beans and black olives

Buffalo mozzarella, roasted peppers, arugula

Malloreddus, saffron dumplings of Sardinia with pork sausage and tomato

Homemade Lasagna

Malloreddus                                     Homemade Lasagna

We began with 2012 SoloUva Franciacorta.  From Franciacorta, this was a lively sparkler made with 100% Chardonnay that displayed nice balance and acidity.  What is different here is that SoloUva (which I believe translates to only grape) does not add sugar to the secondary fermentation of the wine. Instead they freeze the grape must after the pressing.  The frozen must is added to the wine prior to the second fermentation.  I believe it will sell for around $25 a bottle when it reaches the U.S. market.

Pic courtesy of Jeremy Parzen
2010 Borgo Del Tiglio Studio Di Bianco.  This was the only non Nebbiolo wine.  I brought it along. I first learned of the wine in one of Jeremy's blogs.  It has become one of my favorite white wines and I thought Jeremy would enjoy having it again. The wine is a blend of 50% Friulano, 25% Sauvignon and 25% Riesling.  It is a stunning.  Upon pouring into the glass the gorgeous crystalline yellow hue and stony bouquet set high expectations, which are fulfilled with each sip. On the palate it showed great complexity with lush, pure fruit and soft minerality. The wine evolved with each sip. This has the acidity to last at least another decade. It finished with great length.  A wine with soul!

1967 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco.  Reddish brown, this wine was past its prime, but nevertheless it was fun to drink as a bit of fruit was still evident.  I can only imagine what this wine was like at its peak.

1978 Oddero Barolo.  Brownish-red hue and an enticing, earthy aroma.  This was very much alive and kept opening in the glass.  The palate displayed great depth, complexity and focus and finished with considerable length.  A great old bottle of wine.

1979 Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche di Castiglione Falletto.  This was simply stunning.  Slight bricking but for the most part a beautiful clear and transparent red hue that emitted the essence of the Piedmontese terroir on the nose.  A round and delicious wine that showed no signs of decline.

      '67 Bruno Giacosa                                      '78 Oddero                            '79 Bruno Giacosa

1990 Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Pora Barbaresco.  Another stunning wine that is drinking at or near its peak, with no signs of letting up any time soon.  Lots of earth and vibrant fruit on a balanced and focused palate.  I am always amazed at the incredibly high quality of wines that comes from this co-operative.

1998 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.   This was just as glorious as the bottle I had at a Vinous group tasting a short while ago.  As I said then and repeat now this is a round and delicious wine with fantastic purity, balance, finesse and focus.  The finish was lengthy and elegant.  A wine with soul!

1999 Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato.  I have found many Monprivato to be hit and miss lately.  My last bottle of this was in 2010 and it was pretty much shut down.  Today however was a different story.  The wine was back on track.  Earthy bouquet and nicely balanced palate with a long and elegant finish.

 '90 Produttori Poro                                      '98 Cascina Francia                      '99 Monprivato

It was a great pleasure for me to get to meet Jeremy and share these great wines with fellow Vinous members.   Jeremy's post on this remarkable lunch can be found here.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Back to Burgundy

Our wine group met this past week for dinner at The Pluckemin Inn, in Bedminster, NJ.   The Pluckemin Inn is a routine venue for us. The food is always excellent and the wine service, under the direction of Wine Director Brian Hider, is first class. A few of the plates we enjoyed tonight were Vitello Tonato; Ricotta Gnocchi, Risotto, Pork Chop and Scottish Salmon.

It was Marc’s turn to choose and bring the wine.  For the first time since I have been in the group, Marc did not bring Italian wines, instead he made his first venture into Burgundy.  His selections were excellent and made for good drinking and lively conversation.  Group member Jeff has an extensive Burgundy collection and is the most knowledgeable person I know regarding the wines from there.  The opportunity to learn about the vintage and producer specifics of the wines we drank is greatly appreciated by all of us.

2009 Patrick Piuze Chablis Montee de Tonnerre 1er Cru.  Unfortunately tonight’s bottle suffered from premature oxidation.  While the wine was drinkable, it was not very enjoyable.  It lacked the crisp, pure fruit and vibrant acidity of previous bottles I have had of this wine.  Patrick Piuze is one of the upcoming stars in Chablis. While he owns no vineyards, he has access to fruit from the very best plots in Chablis.  His wines are delicious and very reasonably priced. $50.  New York Wine Warehouse.

2009 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Gevrey Chambertin, Villages.  This estate is one of the largest in all of Burgundy.  In addition to making wine from their own fruit they also source fruit from other vineyard owners.  This Villages wine is made from sourced fruit.  This is a delightful entry level wine and a great way to experience the magic of classic Burgundy Pinot Noir at a very reasonable price.  The wine possessed a bright ruby red color with a fruity and delicate nose.  On the palate it was harmonious, balanced with considerable character and finesse.  The wine is vinified with indigenous yeasts under temperature control.  It is aged in oak barrels (20% new) for 14 to 18 months.  $50. Wine-Searcher.

1997 Comte Armand Pommard Clos des Epeneaux 1er Cru.  A bit tight on the first sip, but it opened nicely over the next hour.  The fruit became more vibrant (typical of the vintage) and refined with each sip.  I found the finish to be a bit short.  Like the 1997 vintage in Barolo, I think the best years for this vintage are behind it and in my opinion should be consumed now.  $156. Wine-Searcher.

2003 Louis Jadot Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques 1er Cru.  The Jadot estate has been making classic red and white Burgundy wines since 1859.    The wine is fermented in vats for 3 to 4 weeks and then aged in 228 litre oak barrels (made by the estate) for 18 to 20 months before bottling.  Tonight's wine was full-bodied and complex on the palate.  Fruit was alive and focused and it finished with a lingering elegance.  A terrific wine from a hot vintage.  $127. Wine-Searcher.

2007 Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Nuits St. Georges Les Chaignots 1er Cru.  Marc purchased this from the Pluckemin wine list as the 1996 Domaine Jean Grivot Nuits St Georges les Boudots he intended to serve was corked.  The wine possessed a classic red Burgundian nose. The complex palate was marked by lively fruit, soft tannins and excellent balance while the finish was lengthy and elegant.  A terrific wine at the beginning of its drinking window that will provide pleasure for many years to come.  $102.  The US market appears to be out of this vintage.

Great job Marc.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

A "Retired" Lunch

The other day I had lunch with two members of our wine group who recently joined me in the ranks of retirement.  They came up with the idea that we should do a "retirees" luncheon from time to time.  Great ideas should always be pursued and we did.   We kicked it off with 3 fantastic white whites that drank beautifully.  Lunch was at the Pluckemin Inn, in Bedminster, NJ.   The food is always good here, especially the Onion Soup and Burgers.

2010 Borgo del Tiglio Studio di Bianco, 14% abv.  The estate produces mostly white wines.  In my opinion owner/winemaker Nicola Manferrari is at the very top of the list of great producers of Italian white wines. To highlight the influence of the terroir the grapes from each plot are kept separate in the winemaking process. All of the Borgo del Tiglio whites are fermented in barrel.

The wine we drank today, the estate's top wine was simply stunning.  A blend of Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, this is a compelling round and delicious wine.  It boasts fully developed fruit, complexity, balance and brilliant acidity.  Production is small making the wines a bit hard to find.  I have had success in finding them at New York Wine Warehouse.  While the Studio di Bianco is a bit pricey at $75, the entry-level wine, Borgo del Tiglio Collio Bianco (Friulano, Chardonnay, Malvasia, Riesling and Sauvignon blend) is about $35. While it lacks the complexity and depth of the Studio, it is a fantastic wine.

2006 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Clos De La Mouchere 1er Cru.  This estate has been producing red and white Burgundy since 1885.  The Clos De La Mouchere we drank today is from their Les Moucheres monopole. The grapes are whole-bunch pressed and vinified without any batonnage (stirring). After fermentation the wine goes to barrel, either new or one year old barrel, and is bottled after 18 months. No racking, fining or filtering. It was excellent with a rich bouquet of flowers and fruit. Oak is beautifully integrated on a balanced and slightly viscous palate. The wine evolved with each sip and finished with length and finesse  $136.  Wine-Searcher.

2010 Eric Morgat Savennières, L'Enclos. 14% abv.  I posted about this wine a couple of months back,  http://winewithoutnumbers.blogspot.com/2015/03/a-spectacular-loire-valley-wine-dinner.html.  Another stunning example of Chenin Blanc, the wine exhibited a rich, balanced, stony and complex palate with a long finish.  This is a remarkable effort and great value wine. Lots of soul here.  $40.  Manhattan Wine Company.

Needless to say we had a most relaxing and enjoyable lunch.  Life is good.