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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Night in the Northern Rhone

Our wine group met earlier this week at Café Matisse in Rutherford, NJ. Café Matisse is a small intimate space with a décor inspired by Henri Matisse. Maitre’d Larry and his staff provide courteous and professional service from start to finish. The restaurant is BYOB and the wine service is what one would expect in a pricey NYC restaurant with an expensive wine list. The combination of fresh ingredients and remarkable creativity of Chef/owner Peter Loria never fails to provide a unique dining experience.

My experience last night included


Hamachi Crudo and Cajun Seared Tuna.  This was one of the best versions of crudo I have ever encountered.  Pristinely fresh raw fish was served atop Grilled Chili Pineapple, Crushed Pineapple, Red Chili Peppers, topped with Tempura Fried Green Beans, Soy Vinaigrette, Wasabi Jus.  The textures and flavors threw a party in my mouth.


Sirloin Taco with Asian BBQ Sauce.  Tender strips of perfectly cooked sirloin strips were topped with a Kimchi‎ Slaw, Thai Chili Vinaigrette, Spicy Orange Glazed Sesame Ginger Shrimp Paste and dusted with White Sesame Seeds.  Simply amazing, it takes the Taco experience to new heights.


"Unbaked" Lobster Mac N Cheese.  Bits of lobster were tossed in a cheese sauce,  over homemade Pappardelle pasta and topped with a jumbo shrimp and cooked apple slices.  This dish did not work for me, too much going on.


Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cheese Cake.  A perfect ending to a wonderful meal.

I was in the wine queue and I settled on Northern Rhone wines for the evening.

1996 Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc Cuvée de L’Orée.  Michel Chapoutier is one of the most highly regarded winemakers in France. He combines the modern and the traditional: crusading for biodynamic winemaking, while expanding operations around the globe and experimenting with cutting edge winemaking techniques. Chapoutier is the only producer to own vineyards in all of the major Rhône appellations.  I am a big fan of the white grapes, Marsanne, Roussane and Viogner of the region.  Tonight's wine was crafted from 100% Marsanne.  The wines should be drunk within the first 3 to 5 years and then put away for 10 years.  I prefer them in their early years, as they are crisp, with beautiful acidity and complexity.  When they emerge from their 10 year hibernation they morph into a more viscous, oxidative styled wine, which can be very nice to drink. Unfortunately the oxidation in tonight’s wine was over the top and even with a couple of hours of breathing in the glass, was not very enjoyable.  $200.  Wine-Searcher.

2004 Robert Michel Cornas La Geynale.  Michel makes very traditional wines from his tiny 5 hectares of vineyards.  Made from 100% Syrah the wine is still on the young side, but shows great promise for the future when the fruit begins to emerge.  It is a nicely balanced, full-bodied wine. $80.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Guigal Hermitage Ex Voto Rouge.  Produced only in exceptional vintages, the Ermitage Ex-Voto is the estates expression of a sincere desire to produce an exceptional wine which reflects the soul of this prestigious appellation of the Rhône Valley.  Made from 100% Syrah, the wine spends 42 months in new oak.  While it had a terrific nose, and the oak was well integrated, I found it to be a bit short on both the palate and finish.  $200.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Guigal Cote Rotie la Mouline.  One of the famous single vineyard La La wines Guigal makes from the Cote Rotie appelation (La Landonne and La Turque are the others).   The wine is crafted from 89% Syrah and 11% Viogner and, like the Ex Voto spends 42 months in new oak. Average vine age is 75 years.  The wine tonight was superb displaying a gorgeous fruity bouquet with an expressive and impressive palate, and nary a hint of oak  Full of depth, complexity and finesse, it was round and delicious and finished with length and elegance.  A wine with soul and the WOTN.  $300.  Wine-Searcher.

2005 J. L. Chave Hermitage Rouge.  Many wine drinkers, myself included, of Northern Rhone wines consider the estate of Jean Louis Chave to be the benchmark producer in the region.  It is certainly one of the most sought after Hermitage wines in the Region.  The estate began buying land on the Hill of Hermitage in 1865.  The Hermitage rouge is made from 100% Syrah.  The grapes come from Bessards, L’Hermite, Peleat, Meal, Beaume, Diognieres and Vercandiered vineyards. The 2 hectares of vines on Bessards is considered by many people to be the heart and soul of the JL Chave wine.  The Bessards has a terroir that is mostly, steep granite hillside soils. They have old vines. On Bessards, the average vine age is 50 years. However, the oldest vines on Bessards are more than 80 years of age. and the parcels on Les Rocoules and Peleat have vines that are even older at over 80 years of age.  Grapes from each vineyard are vinified separately, the wine then run off into 228-litre Burgundian oak pièces for ageing. Blending is an art at which the Chaves excel, and is a major reason for the complexity and depth in their wines.

2005 was an outstanding vintage in the region, producing highly structured, deeply concentrated and energetic wines.  Tonight's wine however appeared to be have a slight taint to it (Jeff thought it was slightly corked).  As the wine sat in the glass the taint vanished and it began to evolve nicely showing underlying depth and complexity.  It, however, fell short to the La Mouline.   In my opinion another 5+ years of cellar time will reveal a spectacular wine.  $360.  Wine-Searcher.

1985 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon.  I decided to bring a dessert wine to complete the evening and since I had none from the Northern Rhone, I selected this wine from the Loire Valley. Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, this bottle was superb, exhibiting great depth, balance and complexity with a monster finish.  I particularly like the fact that the cloying palate typical of Sauternes is absent here.  In its place is a wonderful full-bodied and honey-like nectar.  Unlike Sauternes the wine is made without Botrytis (noble rot) and is aged for a minimum of 10 years before being released.  The wine making process is quite unique in that 20% of the grapes are picked around 80 days after flowering while the fruit is still underripe and loaded with acidity, the other 80% is harvested late (one hundred & twenty days after flowering)  yielding fruit with high sugar levels and concentrated flavors.  The wines have an amazing track record for longevity, and can last 50-100 years in the great vintages.  In fact, Moulin Touchais is the only winery in the world that gives a Century Long Guarantee on the longevity of their wines.  At $70 a bottle, it also represents fantastic value.  Wine-Searcher.  The wine was runner-up to WOTN.


Saluté


Monday, January 2, 2017

9th Annual Gentlemen's Holiday Luncheon

L to R: George U., Jack, Jeff, Tony, George L., Paul, Mark, Gino
kneeling: Joe, Nick
Two days before Christmas fellow wine lover Tony P. once again organized our annual holiday luncheon, our ninth per Jack G.  The usual ten subjects were on hand, each with a bottle or two in hand to aid in celebrating the holidays and our friendship.  As is our custom the event was held at Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany, NJ. The Grande family not only prepares outstanding regional Italian cuisine, but they are very gracious to allow us to bring our own wine cork-fee free. Another family member, Sal LaRose, oversees the food and wine service to perfection, making sure that the stemware is changed as necessary and deftly pacing each course.

Food
Antipasti of Artichokes, Mozzarella de Bufala & Prosciutto
Grilled Jumbo Shrimp With Shiitake Mushrooms
Seafood Salad
Meatballs

Three Pastas
  Spaghetti alla Carbonara
  Spaghetti con Vongole Bianco
  Spaghetti con sugo di Coniglio (rabbit)

After all of the above I went with a simple, but delicious, Chicken Francaise. I did not pay much attention to the other entrées, which were enjoyed by all.

Wines
Tony suggested that the theme be wines from Piedmont, the Veneto or Tuscany with the additional criteria be they come from vintages from 1978 to 2001. Although it did not meet the criteria, Jack brought along a magnum of 1990 Billecart-Salmon Grande Cuvée to accompany the large tin of Osetra caviar he recently received from Russia to share with the group.  As I am not a fan of caviar, I did not echo the oohs and ahs of the group over the fish roe.  I did however ooh and ah over the Champagne.  There is something magical about good, aged Champagne, especially when it is aged in large format.  The wine had an intoxicating yeasty bouquet with a nutty palate and elegant finish.

I decided to bring along a couple of bottles of white wine to begin the lunch with and while they did conform to the vintage criteria they did not meet the regional criteria.  The wines have quite a history.  They came from the Fiorano estate of Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, the Prince of Venosa. The wines are the product of a dedicated and passionate prince whose avant-garde approach was way ahead of its time. His whites took on a phenomenon for their ability to age, but became a true rarity as the prince was elusive and did not care to put the wines in the wrong hands. Luigi Veronelli, the famed Italian wine writer called his white wines the finest ever made. While I do not agree with his comment, I do find the wines unique and a pleasure to drink.

1989 Fiorano Semillon Botte 48.  Made from 100% Semillon, this had a gorgeous yellow-orange hue that exhibited a complex palate marked by depth an focus.

1988 Fiorano Bianco Botte 26.  Made from 100% Malvasia di Candia, this bottle was unfortunately corked.

1982 Nervi Gattinara.  Nervi is the oldest winery in the Gattinara DOCG area of Northern Piedmont.  Like the Barolo and Barbaresco wines of Piedmont, the wine is made from 100% Nebbiolo.  The wine possessed an earthy bouquet and palate with good fruit.  The finish however was a bit short.

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Le Coste Barolo.  The wine was very one dimensional on opening with only a hint of the underlying fruit.  I thought it would emerge after a few hours in the glass, but alas it never did.  We had a bottle of this wine at last year’s luncheon according to my notes and I noted then that the wine “seemed to be a bit off”.  Two off bottles would seem to indicate that perhaps there was a storage or shipping issue, or the wine needs more time.

1993 Giuseppe Mascarello Ca d’Morissio Riserva Barolo.  This bottling is only made in exceptional vintages and the 1993 was the inaugural debut of the wine. It is made from a tiny parcel of Nebbiolo Michét in Monprivato planted in the mid-‘80s after being specially selected from the original 1921 plantings. It is named for Mauro Mascarello’s grandfather, Maurizio (Morissio in Piemontese dialect) who was the first generation to purchase a plot in Monprivato.  A very good wine to be sure that drank nicely, but it lacked the depth and finesse of other 1993 Ca d’Morissios that I have had.  I find a fair amount of inconsistency in the estates wines, both vintage-to-vintage and bottle-to-bottle.

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno.  The wine had a bit of funk on the nose when first opened which blew off after about 30 minutes.  As with many Baroli from the 2001 vintage, I don’t think the wine is fully awake yet.

1990 Aldo Conterno Barolo.  From the exceptional 1990 Piedmont vintage this was a fantastic example of old world Barolo.  This is the estate’s entry level Barolo and comes from different vineyards in Bussia.  The wine was firing on all cylinders with beautiful depth, complexity, finesse and a long elegant finish.  It was my wine of the day.

2000 Aldo Conterno Riserva Granbussia Barolo.  Granbussia, is a blend of three vineyards; 70% Romirasco, 15% Colonello, 15% Cicala, and is only made in top vintages that present perfect growing conditions in all three sites.  It too was fantastic with vibrant fruit, balance and elegance.  A very close runner-up to the ’90 Conterno Barolo for the wine of the day.

2001 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo Langhe.  Gaja is no longer able to call this single vineyard wine Barbaresco because of the addition of Barbera to the wine.  It really makes no difference to me what he calls the wine, as I simply do not like the wine.  I find it to be one dimensional and lacking finesse. I remain perplexed why anyone would spend more than $400 on this bottle of wine.

1997 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Ornellaia.  There were two bottles of this wine brought by two different attendees.  Readers of WWN know that I am not a fan of the Super Tuscan modern style of wine making, and neither of these did anything to change my opinion.  Both were identically massive fruit bombs with too much oak (50% new).  I also felt that the wines are in decline and would drink up now if you own any.

2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano.   This was another massive, modern-styled wine.  It has a cult following and commands a very high price.  Like most wines of this style it was not to my liking.

2001 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.  A great wine that unfortunately was holding back some today.  It gave a glimpse of the underlying fruit and complexity and did improve as it sat in the glass.  I believe the wine would have benefited from a few hours in a decanter.  The pedigree of the wine was imminently apparent and is destined to be a classic in four or five years.

2010 Campi di Fonterenza Brunello di Montalcino.  The Padovani sisters were mentored by Soldera and they learned well.  Like the Soldera however, the wine is holding back at the moment, but has a bright future ahead.  Of the three Brunelli we drank, in my humble opinion it was the most open and drank best.

2008 Monte Dall'Ora Stropa Amarone Della Valpolicella.  I did not taste this wine today.  Those that did however did not like it.

1999 Guseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico magnum.  This was a classic Quintarelli possessing a spectacular earthy bouquet with lush, ripe and balanced fruit on the palate.

Jack tallied the WOTD preferences of the group with the outcome; ’90 Conterno 5 votes; ’01 Soldera 3 votes; ’93 Ca d’Morissio and ’99 Quintarelli 1 vote each.

Paul summed it up perfectly: “No matter how good the food and wine are, it is always the company of good people that make the day.” We all echoed his sentiments.  Thanks Tony for organizing the event, the Grandes and Sal for the great food and service and all the attendees for sharing their wines.  Looking forward to next year gentlemen.


Saluté

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Magic of Bruno Giacosa

Our NY Vinous group met earlier this month at DeGrezia Ristorante in NYC for an epic tasting of Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco and Barolo.  We welcomed Vinous founder Antonio Galloni who joined us for the evening.  As is our custom we each bring a bottle (sometimes two) of wine to the dinner. A list of the wines and who is to bring them is agreed upon ahead of time to prevent duplication.

I have always been a fan of the amazing wines that come from the Giacosa estate.  However after having the chance to taste some of the older vintages I could only lament that it took me far too long to discover the wines when I started collecting some 35 years ago.  They are pure expressions of how good wine and the Nebbiolo grape can be when in the hands of a master.  The estate did suffer what us Giacosa lovers hope is only a hiccup when Bruno had a stroke in 2006.  A couple of subsequent vintages were not very good after oenologist, Dante Scaglione left the winery and the direction fell solely into the lap of Bruno’s daughter, Bruna.  Fortunately Bruno is back on his feet and Scaglione has returned, thus I am very optimistic of a return to greatness at the estate.  I suggest you check out Eric Guido’s excellent blog about the evening and the Giacosa estate at  The Cellar Table at Morrell Wine.

Before getting into the wines a few words about the food.  It was fantastic and enjoyed by all. Since we ordered ala carte I can not recall all the plates.  I do recall mine however quite fondly.

Sweetbreads with Mushrooms (Animelle ai Funghi) 

Spaghetti Carbonara

Fegato (Liver)ala Venezia 

The Wines

2008 Bruno Giacosa Spumante Rosé.   Made from purchased fruit this Pinot Noir sparkler had a nice yeasty nose and palate.  

2008 Bruno Giacosa Barolo La Rocche Riserva .  While the palate was soft, there was very little going on here.  One of the hiccup wines for sure, it was my least favorite of the evening.

2007 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.   Gorgeous nose, beautiful palate and a lengthy and elegant finish sums up this beautifully made wine.

2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.  A stunning example of why ’04 vintage in Piedmont was so extraordinary.  Round and delicious wine with a lengthy and elegant palate. Giacosa fans if you don't own any, loosen the purse strings and pick some up.

2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva.  This was simply fantastic, displaying impeccable balance and a long elegant finish.

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Riserva.  This started out with a monstrous enticing bouquet on the nose.  I detected a bit of oxidation on the palate but the overall depth, balance and complexity and elegant finish made for one terrific wine.

1996  Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba.  While this is still a young wine it is oh so round and delicious.  A bouquet of dark berries fills the nose in anticipation of the first sip which does not let you down.  Many years ahead for this Giacosa classic.

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.  As good as the white label was, the riserva is on another plateau.  Another contender for WOTN, the bouquet kick starts the senses and delivers in spades on the palate a gorgeous feminine elegance that is echoed in the monster finish.  Truly a wine with soul!

1989 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero.  My first Giacosa Villero and it was quite special.  The wine began with an earthy bouquet and a soft beautifully textured palate.  The wine finished with a long, feminine elegance.  A wine with soul!

1989  Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto Riserva.  This definitely took a back seat to the Villero.  The wine exhibited an old and earthy bouquet and aged palate marked by hints of chocolate.  

1986 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Castiglione.  Lush, fruity and vibrant palate made for a delicious glass of wine.

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Castiglione.  A round and delicious wine that was firing on all cylinders.   Enticing bouquet with a superbly balanced palate and long elegant finish.

1985 Bruno Giacosa Falletto.  Corked

1980 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Castiglione.  The wine possessed a very old nose and an earthy palate.  For me the wine is on a downturn.  

1979 Bruno Giacosa Barolo.  Gorgeous bouquet, however a one-dimensional palate and short finish.

1978 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano.  Simply an awesome bottle of wine that showed beautifully in the presence of so many red label reserves.  An elegant and beautifully balanced wine with a long and elegant finish.  Round and delicious with lots of soul!  I wish I had some of this in my cellar. 

1967 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.  Deep earthy bouquet and a nice balanced palate.  While it had an earthy finish, it was shorter than the previous two wines.

1964 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva.  This was simply awesome and a contender for WOTN.  I sipped it slowly and reveled as each sip evolved with more fruit than the previous.  Truly a wine with soul! 

1961 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Speciale.  Sourced from the Gallina and Santo Stefano vineyards, this was excellent. One sip of this wine and you are given an insight into why 1961 was one of Piedmonts greatest vintages.  The fruit was amazingly vibrant and the finish was long and elegant.

Very hard to choose a wine of the night but I thought the '64, both the '96s, '04 and '61 were all in contention.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
It was truly a magical evening of wines with a very special group of guys.

Saluté

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Another Evening of Aged Red Burgundy

Since December is a busy month for our local wine group, we decided to meet just one week after our last dinner.  Howard was in the wine queue, and selected 5 aged Burgundies for the evening. Since Emil was a bit under the weather and unable to attend we showed some restraint and drank only 4 of the 5.  Howard selected Scalini Fideli, Chatham, NJ as the venue for the tasting. Scalini Fideli is an upscale Italian restaurant with an inclination towards modern Italian cuisine. While the food is deftly prepared, for my palate I find the preparations to be on the rich side. Highlights of the evening included:

Chicken liver and pancetta ravioli in a boscaiola sauce with marsala wine

Butternut Agnolotti with a sage brown butter, amaretti and buffalo mozzarella

Pappardelle in a braised veal shank and marrow sauce with minced cherry pepper and a hint of Italian mascarpone

Veal chop with a porcini-dijon sauce served with braised vegetables

Jeff brought along a bottle of white, 2011 Francois Carillon Bourgogne, to kick off the evening. The Domaine has been located in Puligny-Montrachet since the sixteenth century and produces white wines racy, elegant, fruity while embodying perfectly the terroir of soil their Chardonnays come from.  Bourgogne is the entry-level wine in Burgundy.  The wines are made from the grapes that don’t qualify for Permier Cru or Grand Cru wines.  From producers like Carillon they represent great value and can be enjoyed in their youth as well as with age.  Tonight’s wine was crisp, round and delicious with a wonderful finish.  $25.  Wine-Searcher.

1996 Robert Arnoux/Arnoux-Lachaux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots.   One of the flagship wines of the estate, the wine is aged in 40 – 60% new oak for 16 months.  The wine drank very well, like a good aged Burgundy usually does.  The oak was seamlessly integrated.  A nicely balanced wine that was a bit too cold to appreciate the underlying fruit and pedigree of the wine.  I would love to drink this after about 3 hours of aeration.  $249.  Wine-Searcher.

1999 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux.  This famous Clos, a magnificent parcel of five hectares, is one of the 10 largest premier or grand cru monopolies of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits.  The wine is made from 100% de-stemmed fruit, keeping most of the berries whole, not crushed.  Depending on the appellation and age of the vines, the wines age18 to 24 months in barrels, with a percentage of new oak ranging from 0% for the Village appellations to 30% for the old vines of Clos des Epeneaux.  I really liked this wine.  The purity and complexity of the wine was apparent with the first sip.  The wine had a beautifully elegant feminine palate and finished with considerable length.  It was my favorite of the evening.  $183.  Wine-Searcher.

1989 Domaine Maume Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru.  Maume is a relatively tiny estate in Gevrey-Chambertin.  The vines average 50 years of age.   A nice bottle of wine, that was a bit more tired than a bottle I had 3 years back.  It lacked the purity and vibrancy of the Armand.  More recent vintages will cost in the neighborhood of $150 to $200.

1985 Louis Jadot Chambertin Clos De Beze Grand Cru.  Louis Jadot has been making superb red and white Burgundy wines since 1859.  The estate produces wines that are rich and sumptuous with terrific balance of power, elegance and finesse.  The wine sees 18 to 20 months in oak barrels before bottling.  I found this to be much better than the Maume with more vibrant fruit and balance on the palate, yet with much less complexity, finesse and depth than the Armand.  A wine that should be drunk sooner than later in my opinion.  This vintage is also no longer available. More recent vintages will set you back around $400.


Nicely done Howard.

Saluté




Friday, December 2, 2016

Super Tuscans

Our local wine group met once again at Sette Cucina Italiana, Bernardsville, NJ this past Monday evening.  Owner/chef Allan Russo was absent attending a wedding, however his sous-chef did not miss a beat in as he prepared yet another fantastic meal for us. New to the table for this dinner the chef prepared:

Perfectly roasted Jumbo Shrimp atop a bed of sautéd cabbage offered a balanced melange of flavors and textures that was applauded by all.



The shrimp were followed by Risotto Alla Crema Di Funghi.  The dish is made with Piemonte Vialone Nano Rice which produces the most creamy textured risottos of any grain.  A Béchamel Di Crimini, Parmigiano Reggiano, Black Truffle Carpaccio added an ethereal flavor to the dish. Like a fine wine, each bite seemed to evolve to a new level.


For our main course we were served a Stuffed Roast Porchetta with mushroom gravy.  All plates were cleaned down to the last morsel.



So what wines did we drink with these wonderful dishes...Super Tuscans.  Quite a departure for our group, but Emil, who was in the wine queue, decided to mix it up a bit.  He brought along a selection of some of Italy's biggest wine names.  Before getting into them we began with a bottle of 2015 Ronco del Gnemiz Friulano San Juan from the Friuli-Venezia region of Italy.  The estates vineyards are located on Friuli's prized sandstone soil ‘Ponca’ which comprises many layers of soil built up over millions of years making it rich in minerals and microelements which give the wine a highly distinctive character.  The wine showed bright acidity and a touch of viscosity to give in an added dimension of depth and character.

What does Super Tuscan wine refer?  The designation emerged in 1970 for a wine made outside the formal Italian DOC or DOCG regulations. Traditionally, the term has most often been used to describe wines made partly or wholly from international French grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc.  Many of the wines, Sassicaia, Tiganello, Solaia and Ornellaia became “cult” wines, and as such command high price tags. In the reformation of the Italian classification system many of the original Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines (such as the new Bolgheri label) but some producers still prefer the declassified rankings or to use the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification of Toscana.  While each of the wines we had tonight was its own unique blend of grapes, to my palate they were for the most part one-dimensional.   I attribute this to the more modern wine making techniques and the high amount of new oak (Barrique) used in making the wines.  I, for one, can not justify the high tariff one has to spend to acquire them.

2007 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Ornellaia DOC.   This wine is a blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot.  Fermentation took place primarily in oak barriques, 70% new and 30% once-used.  After fermentation the wine then remained in barriques for about 18 months. After the first 12 months of maturation, the wine was assembled and then returned to the barriques for an additional six months. After bottling, the wine aged a further twelve months prior to release. While the oak was present it was not as overpowering as I would have expected.  The one-dimensional palate was soft and velvety yet lacked complexity.  $230.  Wine-Searcher.

1997 Antinori Solaia IGT.   80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese blend (the current blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc). The wine is aged in barriques, mostly new I believe, for about 12 months and for a further 12 months in the bottles.  The oak was very well integrated here and unlike the others displayed a bit of complexity and depth.  While it was my favorite of the evening, I'd be hard pressed to justify the very high price tag.  $350.  Wine-Searcher.

1971 Antinori Tignanello IGT.  This was the debut Super Tuscan wine and was a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  It was the first modern wine of Chianti to contain a nontraditional grape—Cabernet Sauvignon—while omitting white grapes, and the first wine to be aged in small new Barrique barrels.  Like the Solaia the wine is aged in barriques for about 12 months and for a further 12 months in the bottles.   I thought the wine had a nice bouquet for a 45 year old wine.  The palate was similar to the Ornellaia.  This vintage is no longer available, while current vintages will run you about $100.

1989 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia VDT. A blend of 85 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 % Cabernet Franc.  Sassicaia is a cuvée of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes from the vineyards of Castiglioncello, Doccino, Quercione, San Martino, Mandrioli, Sassicaia, and Aianova, all of which are situated on hilly slopes in a sub- zone of Bolgheri.  The wine sees 20 months in 40% new Barrique.  This lacked fruit, complexity and depth.  Far behind the others in my opinion.  $299.  Wine-Searcher.

1995 Gaja Sori Tildin Barbaresco.   While not a Super Tuscan wine, the modern wine making style of Gaja fits in with the Super Tuscan style.  Angelo Gaja is a major player in the high priced Italian "cult" wine scene.  Italian wine laws governing Barbaresco mandate that the wine must be made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes to include "Barbaresco" on the label.  Since Gaja blends 5% to 10% Barbera grapes into the wine he must forgo the "Barbaresco" name.  I found tonight's wine to be quite drinkable, and placed it just below the Solaia.  The wine was well balanced with nice complexity and well integrated oak.  $318.  Wine-Searcher.

1990 Quintarelli Amabile del Cere.  Emil brought along a half bottle of this remarkable dessert wine so that we could toast group member Jim on his birthday.  What can I say other than, awesome. A magical blend of Trebbiano, Garganega, Saoarin, Chardonnay and  Sauvignon Blanc that have been attacked by noble rot, it produces a sumptuous, rich and profound dessert wine.  $230 (375ml); $473 (750ml).  Wine-Searcher.



A great job by Emil and Sette made for yet another wonderful evening.

Saluté

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wining and Dining with Franco Massolino and Franco Conterno

I had the opportunity to once again break bread and sip wine with two icons of Barolo, Franco Massolino and Franco Conterno.  My friend Tony has been a friend with both since he visited their estates a few years ago, so when they are in the United States he likes to host them and a few of his wine geek friends at his home.  Such was the case this past Saturday. Tony’s mom and wife are both exceptional cooks and prepared a fantastic lunch to go with the wines we all brought. Since they drink lots of Barolo, it was taboo at the luncheon.  Each of us brought along a bottle or two of wines we thought they would enjoy.

Unfortunately I did not take photos of the food, but suffice it so say that it was excellent.  Since my wife and I would be attending a wine dinner featuring the wines of Franco Massolino's later in the evening, I paced myself accordingly and made an early exit but not before enjoying a bit of:

Assorted Cheeses 
Homemade (Tony’s mom) dry sausage & sopresatta
Mozzarella di Bufala 
Roasted Baby Peppers 
Sautéed Mushrooms 
Homemade pasta (Tony’s mom again) with sausage and meatballs (Tony’s wife) 
Roasted Prime Ribs of Beef 
Italian Salad

Wines

Unfortunately a few of the wines were undrinkable.

1975 Chateau Musar: Corked
1985 Chateau Soldera Brunello di Montalcino: Oxidized and flawed.
1953 Chateau Lafite: I did not taste this wine, but was told later in the evening that the wine suffered from the same fate as the Soldera.

1996 Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Perignon. This bubbly is drinking beautifully and should do so for some time.  Great depth and focus.

2010 Dominique Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Les Poruzots. Superb wine that showed fantastic depth with bracing acidity, stony minerality and a lengthy, almost bubblegum like finish.  I preferred it to the Dom.

1993 Domain Maillard Pere et Fils Alex Corton 1er Cru.   Big barnyard bouquet and brownish hue upon opening.  Many felt the wine was bad, but I liked the smokey bacon bouquet and thought that given time the palate would evolve.  I turned out to be right (happens once in a while) as the wine really blossomed after about an hour in the glass.  The brownish hue became more ruby red and transparent and the barnyard funk blew off completely, leaving a delicious Burgundy.

2005 Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune Greves L’Enfant Jesus.  The first bottle opened was corked, but the second was awesome.  I find that the 2005 Burgundies from top producers like Bouchard to be  classic Burgundy style wines that are drinking beautifully now.  One of the best wines of the luncheon.

1999 Soldera Brunello di Montacino.   Easily the wine of the luncheon.  This was classic Soldera, a wine with great balance, depth, focus and elegance.

2005 Opus One and 2005 Masseto.   Two very young wines that have never been my cup of tea. I find them over extracted and ridiculously overpriced.

2004 Quintarelli Alzero.   A magnificent wine that had it been given a few hours in a decanter probably would have nudged the Soldera as wine of the day.  Everything was here, just a bit asleep upon opening.


At 7PM Carol and I attended the aforementioned Massolino dinner hosted by Mahesh Lekkela, owner of the Wine Legend stores.  This event was held in his West Orange location, which has a bar and dining area to accommodate such events.  Chef Bryan Gregg of Think Local Foods is on hand Thursday, Friday, & Saturday evenings to prepare the food.  Chef Bryan is a proponent of farm-to-table cuisine and is very adept in his preparations.  Tonight’s plates were outstanding.

Foccacia with Fall Flavors.  Kale, mushrooms and grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese was paired with 2014 Massolino Langhe DOC Chardonnay.  This turned out to be a terrific pairing. This was my first experience with a Massolino Chardonnay.  Crisp fruit and a Burgundian palate made for a very nice glass of wine.


Lomo and Plum Aguadolce was was paired with 2014 Massolino Dolcetto d’Alba DOC.  Lomo is the Spanish word for tenderloin.  This plate was composed of a couple of slices of thinly sliced ham topped with Arugula in a sweet/sour sauce.  It was delicious, pure and simple.  Like the ham, the Dolcetto was delicious with lively pure fruit on a medium-bodied round palate.  This was one of the best Dolcetto’s I have ever had.  Franco explained that on day two of the fermentation process, 75% of the seeds are removed which leads to the roundness of the wine.


Lobster Risotto with Black Truffles was paired with 2012 Massolino Barolo Seralunga DOCG. Perfectly cooked risotto is al dente and creamy and this was just that…perfect.  All the elements of the dish were in perfect harmony with each other…and with the Barolo.  This bottling, the estate’s entry level, had fantastic freshness and ripe fruit that danced with elegance on the palate before finishing with very nice length.


The final wine of the evening was 2009 Massolio Barolo DOCG Parafada and was paired with Roasted Veal Saddle, Charred Cauliflower and Alluims (onions).  How chef Bryan turns out dishes of this quality in what is basically a kitchen-less facility is amazing. The Parafada vineyard benefits from Southern expoure and consists of marly lime soil.  These conditions yield a complex Barolo built for aging.  The ’09 is drinking beautifully today and should do so for another 20+ years. The wine possessed a gorgeous translucent red hue, earthy nose and a focused and beautifully balanced palate.  The wine finished with length and elegance.  


It was great to see both Franco's again.  Thank you Tony and Mahesh for making it possible.


Saluté

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Italian Wine Tour

Our local wine group met last night at Fascino in Montclair.   Chef/owner Ryan DePersio describes his style of cooking as Italian Without Borders.  It takes talent to succeed when you push the culinary envelope.  And while there is no denying his talent, not all dishes succeed at the same level.  Highlights from our meal included Mascarpone Polenta Fries with a Gorgonzola Fonduta (no photo).  The Polenta was perfectly cooked, while the Gorgonzola fonduta was much too watery for my liking.

Foie Gras receives a different preparation on most nights.  Tonight it was pan-seared with sautéed apples and served atop crostini.  It was a perfectly prepared dish that really did not need the crostini.


The star pasta of the evening was Bucatini sauced with a little neck clam ragu and sprinkled with toasted breadcrumbs and chilies.  Pasta was cooked perfectly and sauce was balanced with a hint of the briny sea.


Jim was our wine guide for the evening and he escorted us on a terrific tour of Italy, beginning in the Veneto region of Northern Italy.  There are many estates in the area, but none, in the opinion of many, better than Giuseppe Quintarelli.  The essence of his wines is captured in his own words. “The fundamental problem in wine today is that too many producers ‘hurry’ to make their wines: they hurry the fruit in the vineyard and they hurry the vinification and rush to bottle. They rush to sell their product without allowing it the proper time to age. Patience – this is the most important attribute in winemaking. Patience in growing, patience in selection, and patience in vinification.”  One can taste the patience that is given to each wine with each sip taken.

Quintarelli wines, especially the Amarone and dessert wines do not come cheap.  However he makes two wines that allow wine lovers to enjoy his talents at a very reasonable price.  Jim began the evening with both of them.

2014 Quintarelli Secco Ca del Merlo Bianco Veronese. This stunning white wine is an artful blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Saorin (believed to be a clone of the Tokay grape and meaning "flavor" in Veronese dialect).  The wine showed a round and delicious palate accentuated by great balance and bracing acidity.  $43.  Wine-Searcher.

1999 Quintarelli Primofiore.  Primofiore (first flower) is the only red wine at Quintarelli that does not employ dried grapes or the ripasso technique. It is also the youngest red wine released by the estate every year.  The wine is a blend of 50% Corvina and Corvinone, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.   After harvest, the grapes are left in wooden boxes to continue ripening, then after pressing and fermentation, the wine is aged for several years in Slavonian oak barrels.  While tonight’s wine is getting on in age, it still showed wonderful fruit and complexity.  $60.  Wine-Searcher.

From the Veneto we traveled south to the Campania region and two wines from Feudi di San Gregorio.  The estate is located in Sorbo Serpico, a commune in the province of Avellino. Under the winemaking of renowned winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, the more stylistically modern wines have a tremendous following

2001 Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Irpina.  The wine is made from 100% Aglianico, the indigenous red grape of the area.  Fermentation and maceration take place in stainless steel tanks for about 3-4 weeks before spending a minimum 18 months in small barrique barrels.  The wines are then aged for a minimum 12 months in bottle before being released.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well the oak was integrated into the wine, which had a soft palate, nice fruit but little depth and a short finish.  $73.  Wine-Searcher.

1999 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi Piano di Montevergine.  Also 100% Aglianico. Fermentation is similar to the Irpina, while the aging in barrique and bottle is about 12 months longer.  Here too, the oak was very well integrated and the wine showed considerably more depth than the 2001.  $68.  Wine-Searcher.

We completed our journey in Abruzzo a region of Southern Italy about 50 miles east of Rome along the Adriatic Sea), with a bottle 2000 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  Made from 100% Monepulciano grapes it was the consensus wine of the night.  Full of terroir and a bit of funk that is the hallmark of Pepe’s attention to old world style wine making.  The wine kept evolving with each sip and finished with amazing length and focus.  This is a wine built to last for decades.  $145.  Wine-Searcher.


What a lovely way to spend an evening, touring Italy.

Saluté