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, May 22, 2015

A Memorable Barolo Tasting

Our Vinous group met recently at Morrell Wine Bar and Café for a fantastic Barolo tasting.  I don’t recall exactly who’s idea it was (brilliant as it was) but it was decided we would taste the wines of Giacomo Conterno and Luciano Sandrone.  Eric Guido, who organized the flights for the evening, entitled the tasting “The Icon vs. The Iconoclast: An Epic Barolo Tasting”. What a perfect title for it captures the essence of the differences and approaches of these two different, but incredible wine makers.  Giacomo Conterno is at or near the top of just about everyone’s list of traditional wine makers.  Sandrone on the other hand respects tradition but incorporates aspects of modern technology and technique in his winemaking.  To characterize him as a modernist would be a mistake.  To characterize him, as Eric does, as an Iconoclast who makes fantastic wine would be much more appropriate.  Eric’s write up, complete with photos can be found here at The Cellar Table.

There were 10 of us who participated and brought along the wine (14 bottles) for the evening. Most of the bottles were opened and given some aeration prior to the event.  The tasting was both blind and non-blind.  For those of us, like myself, who preferred non-blind we knew the wines we were drinking in each flight.  Those in the blind group knew the wines in the flight, but not the order.  My preference for non-blind revolves around the fact that since I usually have had previous experience with the wine maker, I am able to obtain a much better assessment and appreciation of the wine compared to other bottles or vintages I have had.  In lieu of guessing (blind) I’d rather assess (non-blind) the wine. It came as no surprise to me that while each participant is an experienced Barolo drinker, opinions varied on many of the wines.  Since our palates are different, our experience with each wine is different.  IMO that is the beauty of wine and events like this, sharing wine and opinions.  At the end of the day no one is more right than anyone else.  Everyone wins.

Executive Chef Juan Carlos Mendoza prepared a wonderful meal to compliment the tasting.

Spiced Walnuts, Olives, Artisanal Cheese Selection, Domestic and Imported Charcuterie.  

Gnocchi, Wine Reduction, Herbs, Tomato Sauce with Melted Pecorino & Crispy Potato Straws.

Herb Marinated Beef Tenderloin, Oven Roasted Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts with Barolo Sauce.

Chocolate Truffles.

Eric organized the wines into 5 flights, with each flight containing at least one wine from each producer.

Before diving into the flights we prepped our palates with a bottle of 1990 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Vintage Cave Privée, that Tony brought along.  A wonderful yeasty bubbly to begin the evening with.  Wonderful balance on the palate and a lengthy elegant finish.

Flight 1

1997 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. The 1997 Barolo vintage was originally acclaimed to be one of the best ever.  Alas that did not turn out to be true.  With a few exceptions, I found that the wines began to fall apart a few years ago.  Tonight’s wine was no exception.  The wine had a dark brown hue and a musty bouquet.  It had a palate of old dried raisins and nothing more.  IMO, this wine has passed on.  Some felt differently.  Hey that’s why there is chocolate and vanilla.

2000 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis. This was the only wine opened at the tasting.  While not a knock-out, I liked it a lot.  While it took some time to open, I felt it was a round and delicious wine, with an enticing bouquet, vibrant fruit and a wonderful finish. I Wish I had some in my cellar.

Flight 2

While I have not had many Baroli from the 1998 vintage, what I have had I liked.  All three wines in this flight all drank beautifully.  

1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne.  This bottling is made from a blend of fruit from four vineyards, Vignane (Barolo), Merli (Novello), Conterni & Ceretta  (Monforte d’Alba).  The wine exhibited a nice expression of the terroir of Piedmont, with and earthy bouquet, round fruit, complexity, focus and finesse on the palate and a soft finish.  

1998 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.   This was stunning, and my favorite of the flight.  A round and delicious wine with fantastic purity, balance, finesse and focus.  The finish was lengthy and elegant.  A wine with soul!  

1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis.  A nice wine, however it lacked the depth of the other two and finished rather short.  

Flight 3

1999 was a fantastic vintage in Barolo.  It produced some of the most vibrant and energetic wines I have tasted from Piedomont.  These are wines that for the most part are drinking gloriously now and will for many years to come.  IMO, the flight of the evening.

1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. A stunning wine with an intense, fruity bouquet that seduced the palate for what lied ahead.  Full-bodied, balanced and complex with impeccable purity and a very lengthy, elegant finish.  One of the best Monfortinos I have ever tasted.  This has the stuff to last for decades.  Truly a wine with soul!

1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  Surprisingly this was tighter than the Monfortino. The wine had a lovely earthy bouquet like the Monfortino, but the fruit was not as prominent at this stage of its life.  While it did drink well I think its best years are still ahead.  I will definitely decant my next bottle for at least 4 hours prior to drinking.  

1999 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne.  Another stunning wine that was a few short steps behind the Monfortino.  The wine danced on the palate with the fruit and tannins in wonderful harmony before finishing with a velvety elegance.  Lots of soul here also. 

Flight 4

The 1996 Barolo vintage is one of my favorite vintages.  The wines show great promise and pedigree.  While I have enjoyed a number of bottles over the past few years, the wines are still very much in their infancy and really should be given another 3 to 5 years in the cellar.

1996 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis.  More approachable than the Conternos in this flight at this stage.  I like the purity of fruit, but it sort of sat rather than danced on the palate. Finish was a bit short.

1996 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  Aside from a gorgeous fruity bouquet , like the Monfortino the wine is still quite tight and will require patience to unmask the pedigree locked within. 

1996 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva.  Gorgeous red hue, but still very tight on the palate.  There is great pedigree here, but it is going to take a few years for it to emerge.

Flight 5

This flight rivaled the ’99 flight.  All three of the wines were in impeccable condition and displayed how good aged Nebbiolo can be when crafted by a master, or in this case a couple of them.

1985 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  Wow!  The seductive earthy bouquet is the drum roll prior to the flawless performance this beautiful wine performs on the palate.  Soft, refined, elegant, inviting…oh hell this was simply a round a delicious wine.

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  I was amazed at how youthful this wine was.  It had a tantalizing aroma and seemed to simply soar from the glass with each sip.  This wine underscores how great mature Nebbiolo can be.  I wish I had some in my cellar.

1990 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis.  I think most of us were in agreement that this was the best Sandrone of the evening.   If found it to be soft and elegant with wonderfully pure fruit and a lengthy finish.

Conclusion:  While styles may vary some, great wine makers make great wines that provide extraordinary drinking experiences, especially as their wines age and mature.  My thanks to all who shared their wines and participated in this remarkable evening.  Special thanks to Anthony for orchestrating the event, to Eric for organizing the flights and the dinner and to Ignatius for bringing along a couple of stellar dessert wines to end the evening with. 

1998 Chateau Coutet Sauternes.  My first experience with this producer and it was quite good. Floral bouquet and tropical fruit palate that finished with length and finesse.  The wine is a blend of 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscadelle.  The wine is aged for 18 months in 70% to100% new oak barrels. 

2001 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito.  Delicious dessert wine.  The balanced palate is alive with dried figs and finishes with a lush and refined sweetness.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido

Saluté


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Alto Piemonte

Our wine group met this week at Divina Ristorante, Caldwell, NJ.  It was my turn to choose and bring the wine.  I stayed in Piedmont, Italy as we did last month, only this time I took us up north to the Northern Piedmont region known as Alto Piemonte.   The major red grape here is also Nebbiolo, although it is often called by the local names, Spanna or Chiavennasca.  The region is about an hour from Milan, in the foothills of the Alps. It is home to one of the most interesting terroirs in Italy.  It lies on the borderline between the Mediterranean climate, typical of the rest of Italy, and the temperate climate of continental Europe. The soil is rich in iron and other microelements essential to the growth of the grapevine. Viticulture goes back to the ancient Roman Empire and it is said to be one of the best wine and food paradises in Italy.

I find these wines to be beautiful and inexpensive expressions of Nebbiolo. While they age gracefully, they also can be enjoyed early in their life while the bigger Barolo and Barbaresco wines mature in the cellar.

Chef/owner Mario Carlino prepared a fantastic dinner for us to enjoy with the wines.


Soft Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragu.  I love this rustic peasant dish.  The creamy Polenta is the perfect setting for the tender mushrooms that lie atop it.  Nary a morsel was left on anyone’s plate.


Rigatoni Al Forno.  This is the traditional pasta dish made in Italy for La Pasquetta, the Monday after Easter.  Rigatoni pasta is mixed with tiny meatballs, salami, hard-boiled eggs and tomato sauce and then topped with bits of fresh Mozzarella and baked in the oven.  Mario’s preparation of this classic is spectacular.


While German in origin, Mario’s version of Veal Holstein had all of us licking our chops.  The combination of the runny egg yolks atop the fried Veal Cutlet is a remarkable combination.

We began the evening with two wines from the Carema.  Although not technically in Alto Piemonte, Carema is in the Canavese, bordering the Vallee d’Aoste. Its close proximity is apparent in the stylistic similarities of the wines, which are bright, acidic and wonderful to drink early on and yet have the ability to age effortlessly for decades.

All the wines I served tonight were opened at least 90 minutes prior to serving and double decanted.

2009 Produttori dei Carema Riserva DOC (Carema).  I have written about this terrific wine in a previous post, Wines of Cooperation.  This wine is aged for not less than 4 years of which at least 30 months is in large oak barrels and one year in bottle before release.  The initial sip displayed remarkable freshness and elegance with each subsequent sip taking on depth and focus.  It was a wonderful wine to begin the tasting with and at $27 a bottle is an incredible value.  Be sure and allow this wine at least an hour to breathe before drinking to really appreciate it.  56º Wine.

1964 Rosotto Carema Riserva DOC (Carema).  I found two bottles of this wine at Chambers Street Wines a couple of months ago.  I thought it would be a good addition to the tasting, especially to verify how well wines from the Carema age.  I am happy to report that they age very well.  At 51 years of age this is doing just fine.  While the wine has browned a bit, it had a nice translucency and the fruit was still apparent.  Bouquet and palate of worn leather and smoke that I find in many old Nebbiolo wines.  The wine improved over the evening and was quite enjoyable.  Unfortunately, I could not find out any information on the estate and am fairly certain that it no longer exists, which is a shame given the quality here.  

2008 Proprieta Sperino "Lessona" DOC (Lessona).  While Paolo de Marchi’s family origins are from Northern Piedmont, Paolo founded Isole é Olena in the 1970s in Tuscany. The estate produces some of Italy’s most exciting Chiantis.  His single vineyard Chianti, Cepparello, is one of Italy’s most widely regarded wines.

In 1999, along with his son Luca, he decided to return to Lessona and make wines from Nebbiolo. Lessona is located just to the west of Gattinara, in soils that are much more iron-rich and gravelly. Here he took the reins of the historic family estate, at the Castle of Lessona that was originally owned by de Marchi relatives, the Sperino family.  The estate stopped producing wine in the 1960’s for a number of economic & labor reasons.  The first vintage of Proprieta Sperino "Lessona" was 2004.  The 2008 we drank tonight was gorgeous.  On the palate it was pure with wonderfully ripe fruit, smooth and well integrated tannins, lending energy and finesse to each sip.  The wine finished with great length and elegance.  A wine with lots of soul.  It vied for wine of the evening. $74.  Wine-Searcher.

2004 Vallana Gattinara DOCG (Gattinara).  Gattinara is the best known of the Alto Piemonte wines.  Its warmer climate than the other Alto Piemonte areas produces bigger wines.  It is often called the “Barolo” of Alto Piemonte.  It is more accessible than Barolo when young, yet it is capable of long and graceful aging.  Previous bottles of the 2004 that I have had displayed a beautiful expression of fruit and soil with great complexity, acidity and elegance.  Unfortunately that was not the case tonight, as the wine was extremely tight. It began to wake up after an hour in the glass suggesting the wine, at least at the moment, needs 3+ hours in the decanter to really appreciate.   The grapes are handpicked and vinified in large cement tanks. The wine is then aged for at least 2 years in large oak barrels. It takes a few years in the bottle to fully develop its potential. At $30 a bottle this is a stunning bargain for lovers of old-world Nebbiolo wines.  Wine-Searcher.

2006 Ar.Pe.Pe. Grumello Rocca De Piro DOCG (Valtellina/Grumello). Ar.Pe.Pe is an historic and well-regarded traditional cooperative estate in the Valtellina, a mountainous region of northwestern Italy that borders Switzerland. A beautifully restrained style of Nebbiolo, the wine is fermented in stainless steel and aged in old chestnut barrels for 2 years, followed by 6 months in the bottle before release.  While more open than the Vallana, a bit more breathing time would have helped this also.   After 30 minutes in the glass, this medium-bodied Nebbiolo began to exhibit a delicate, earthy and graceful palate. $50.  Wine-Searcher.

The evening’s final wine, 2005 Ferrando Carema Etichetta Nera DOC (Carema) is one of the most sought after wines in Carema.   Luigi Ferrando has long been the leading winemaker of the Canvese, where his family's winemaking tradition goes back to 1900. His Nebbiolo wines, Etichetta Bianca (white label) and Etichetta Nera (black label), are renown for their finesse, complexity and longevity. The wines are aged for a minimum of four years, of which at least two are spent in barrel (a combination of large and small). The Carema "Etichetta Nera" is vinified and aged in similar fashion, but is only produced in exceptional years, and is exposed to a touch more small barrel aging (some new).

Tonight’s wine lived up to its reputation in spades.  It was clearly the WON for all of us.  It was a superb expression of Nebbiolo on the nose and the palate.  It was harmony in a glass with pure and focused fruit, impeccable finish and a monster finish. A simply a round and delicious wine with a long life ahead.  As production is small, the wine is highly allocated and very difficult to find.  $98.  Wine-Searcher.


Saluté




Saturday, April 11, 2015

Barolo Lovers Delight

Our wine group met recently at Scalini Fedeli Ristorante, Chatham, NJ.  The theme for the evening, chosen by Howard, was Barolo.  I don’t think I have ever met a wine enthusiast who was not smitten by the Nebbiolo grape and the Barolo and Barbaresco wines made from it. Kerin O’Keefe in her recently published and excellent book, Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine, comments on these wines as being…“structured yet elegant and complex wines of remarkable depth from Italy’s noblest grape, Nebbiolo.”

Nebbiolo translates to "little fog" and refers to the autumn fog that blankets most of Piedmont where it is grown, a condition the grape appears to thrive on. Attempts at growing Nebbiolo outside of Piedmont have proved fruitless.  One of the more interesting points Ms. O’Keefe talks about in her book are the nuances in style that the different soils in the various zones of Barolo produce; such as power, elegance, subtlety, perfume and texture.  These differences combined with the winemaker’s approach provide for some of the most exciting and enjoyable wines to be found on the planet.  For me drinking Barolo is like listening to the music of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin, wherein their individual interpretation of the Great American Songbook standards provides for heightened musical appreciation and hours of enjoyment.  Sipping one of these remarkable wines while listening to their music is one of life’s pleasures for me.  While the music was absent from our dinner, the wines played their own music in beautiful harmony.

1996 Valentino Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella Santo Stefano di Perno DOCG (Monforte d'Alba).  Located in Monforte d’Alba where the soil is composed predominantly of sandstone and clay, the estate produces more modern styled Baroli, opting to use new oak (Barrique) when making its wines.  I find that the use of new Barrique usually produces a Barolo with a palate marked by oak and vanilla.  That is not the case here as the oak was very well integrated.  The fruit was bit quiet to start but began to awaken after 30 minutes in the glass as the wine began to show power and finesse on the palate.  1996 was a great year in Barolo and this wine, like many others from the vintage, still has a long life ahead.  $85.  Wine-Searcher.

2007 Giovanni Canonica Barolo Paiagallo DOCG (Barolo).  Owner/wine maker Giovanni Canonica did not start to export his wine to the U.S. until 2004.  Production is small (6,000 bottles of the ’07) of this old world Barolo.  In the opinion of many, myself included, Canonica’s Baroli are in the same class as those of the iconic old world Barolo estates such as Cappellano, Conterno, Rinaldi and Mascarello. The Paiagallo vineyard is situated fairly high on the slope above the town of Barolo. The soil here has less sand and more clay, which tends to produce wines that are more approachable earlier than other Barolos.  Canonica follows super old-fashioned techniques with foot-pressed grapes; indigenous yeast fermentation; no temperature control; very long fermentation in wood; aging in very large old wood barrels (botte) and very minimal sulphur used throughout.  Tonight’s wine displayed impeccable balance, complexity and finesse with a lengthy and elegant finish.  I sipped the wine throughout the evening and it just kept evolving in the glass with each sip.  This clearly had my vote for the wine that drank best for the evening. While this is readily approachable now it will easily last for another 30 to 40 years. A wine with soul!  This will not be easy to find, as allocations are small.  $75 - $100.

1997 Bartolo Mascarello DOCG (Barolo).  While the 1997 Barolo vintage was initially thought to be an extraordinary one, it turned out not to be the case as most of the wines began to fall apart a few years ago.  Such was the case with 3 consecutive bottles of the 1997 Bartolo Mascarello I opened in 2012.  The wine was dead and wound up being poured down the drain. Fortunately I was able to return my remaining bottles.  The bottle we drank tonight was thankfully better than my previous bottles.  While there was not a lot of complexity to the wine, the fruit was more apparent, but did not have a lot of life.  A drinkable wine, but not what one expects from this iconic producer of usually outstanding Barolo.  If you have some in your cellar, I suggest you drink up!

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi S Lorenzo Ravera DOCG (Barolo/La Morra).  In my opinion, Giuseppe Rinaldi is one of the top 5 producers in Barolo, crafting traditional wines marked by succulent fruit, focus and finesse.  While the bouquet of this wine tonight was gorgeous, on the palate the wine was virtually closed.  The pedigree is apparent, but the wine is asleep now, as are most Baroli of this vintage.  The wine did begin to open after about an hour suggesting the need to decant for a few hours if you wish to drink it today.  I would revisit in 2 to 3 years, when it should be "singing".  Alas there does not seem to be any of this vintage available on the market today.

1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia DOCG (Serralunga d'Alba).  Like Rinaldi, this is one of the top 5 producers in Barolo.  Traditional to the core, the wines are outstanding examples of the elegance and complexity of great Barolo.  This vintage is just beginning to wake up.  After about 30 minutes the wine began to show its stuff and display the fantastic pedigree of the estate’s wines.   It is a wine endowed with wonderful balance, focus and depth and a lengthy finish.   Give this a few more years in the cellar and you will be justly rewarded with a beautiful and stunning wine.  $250.  Wine-Searcher.

2005 Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia DOCG (Monforte d'Alba).   Granbusia is only made in years when all three of the estates vineyards, Romirasco, Cicala and Colonnello yield outstanding results.  Tonight’s wine was decanted for one hour.  What a glorious wine. One of the best wines of the 2005 vintage I have tasted.  The wine displayed great balance, complexity, finesse and focus and finished with considerable length and elegance.  The wines of the 2005 vintage are not destined for long aging, but like this bottle tonight, many are drinking beautifully now and will provide great drinking for the next decade.  $360.  Wine-Searcher.


Thanks Howard for the terrific selection.

Saluté

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Osteria Lupa Romana

It has been a least a decade since I ate at Osteria Lupa Romana in NYC, which I believe is the second (Babbo was the first) of the Batali/Bastianch restaurants.  Wherever it falls in their hierarchy is of little consequence, what is important is that it is a terrific restaurant in my opinion. It offers the traditional Roman cuisine.  I enjoyed two or three visits when it opened more than a decade ago, which is why two recent visits had me asking myself, “Why have you stayed away so long?”  

A couple of weeks ago, Chambers Street Wines hosted a dinner there that featured the Nebbiolo based wines of Antonio Vallana e Figlio from the Alto Piemonte region of Northern Italy.  Giuseppina Vallana and her children Francis and Marina run the estate today.  Marina was on hand to discuss the wines.

Here Nebbiolo is called Spanna.  I love these wines.  They possess a wonderful terroir-filled bouquet with a beautifully balanced, medium-bodied palate and lengthy elegant finish.   They also represent some of the best bargains in quality wines to be found today.  They drink well early on, thus they can be enjoyed while you wait for your Barolo & Barbaresco to mature.  They also have the ability to age beautifully for many years.  If you are a Nebbiolo lover and have not had Vallana wines, you owe it to yourself to pick up a couple of bottles.  You will be glad you did. It has been said of Vallana that  "...Even if he had the same batches of grapes to work with, no other winemaker would end up with wines quite like his...” - Burton Anderson.


Before I detail the spectacular wines and incredible plates served at the dinner,  I would be remiss if I did not mention the glass of 2012 Morgante Bianco di Morgante I had at the bar before the event began. This is a Sicilian white wine that is vinified from red Nero D’Avolo grapes (this really surprised me).   The estate is located in Grotte in the Province of Agrigento.  The wine exhibited a soft golden yellow hue in the glass, clean fruit, and good acidity on the palate and a lovely finish.  A delicious wine.  Discovering new wines like this really add to the pleasure of enjoying wine.  $16 for this is an absolute steal.  Wine-Searcher.



With our first course, Carne Cruda (raw beef) with Smoked Cauliflower & Crispy Shallots we were served 2007 Vallana Boca DOC.   Terrific pairing.  Boca is a rare wine produced in a very tiny area of Alto Piemonte, around the village of Boca, on the eastern side of the River Sesia.  The wine is a traditional blend of native grape varieties: Nebbiolo (65-70%), Vespolina  and Uva Rara.   Marina explained, “Nebbiolo confers the structure and the aromatic background; Vespolina and Uva Rara add freshness and some interesting varietal notes”.  The varieties are hand picked separately, each one at its perfect ripening time.  Fermentation occurs in large cement tanks and the wines ages for 2 years in medium-large oak barrels. Another 1-2 years in bottle are necessary for the wine to start to develop it's potential.  Tonight’s wine was light-bodied with a most elegant nose and fruity and spicy notes on a smooth palate.  I loved the delicate finish. $28.  Wine-Searcher.

The first of two outstanding past courses, Fontina & Black Truffle Agnolotti, was served next along with 2011 Vallana Colline Novaresi Spanna DOC.  The Agnolotti were divine and without some restraint could become quite addictive.  


The Colline Novaresi DOC is 100% Spanna and the grapes come exclusively from the Colline Novaresi DOC, a growing area characterized by old vines and high altitudes. Vinification takes place in cement tanks in order to obtain a wine suitable for medium to long aging. The wine is released after two years of maturation.  Ruby red in color, the wine had an enticing bouquet of earth and soil, with a medium-bodied, focused and complex palate.  It finished with a refined excellence one does not expect in a wine that costs $15.  Wine-Searcher.  Average annual production is 3,000 cases.

The second pasta course, Orrechiette with Lamb Neck Ragu, was served with 2005 and 1998 Gattinara DOCG. The subtle richness of the dish made for an excellent pairing with the wines.  It has been said that Gattinara is the King of Alto Piemonte.  Made from 100% Nebbiolo, the wine is produced only in the town of Gattinara, on the western side of the River Sesia.  In my opinion this is as close as one gets to traditional Barolo.  Vallana vinifies the wine in separately in large cement tanks before the final blending process and then ages the wine for at least 2 years in large oak barrels.  The estate recommends a few years additional aging in the bottle for the wine to fully develop its potential.


The 2005 is just beginning to enter its drinking window.  The enticing palate and impeccable balance, blossoming fruit, soft tannins and complexity on the palate provide insight into the pedigree here.  Tannins are soft and fruit is beginning to blossom.  This has all the makings of a blockbuster wine that will age for a few decades…and for the ridiculous price of $28 a bottle.  Wine-Searcher.

The 1998 was awesome and hitting on all cylinders.  I could not help but feel that this is what the 2005 will likely grow up to be. Simply put, a round and delicious with tons of soul!  Don’t think you will find this easily and if you do, expect to pay a handsome price.  Wine-Searcher lists a shop in the UK with a price tag of $400.

With the entrée, Braised Rabbit Leg with Green Olives & Swiss Chard, we drank 2010 “Cuvée Bernardo Vallana Spanna DOC.   This new addition to the estate is made in honor Bernardo Vallana, the founder of Vallana.  Spanna was his favorite wine. The wine is a blend from the best selection of Nebbiolo vines in Boca and Gattinara.   The wine exhibits a gorgeous translucent light red hue and a very soft and velvety palate. There is good acidity for aging, but this needs a few more years cellar time before it really shows its stuff.  $25.  Wine-Searcher.  I would be remiss if I did not mention how incredible the Braised Rabbit Leg was.  I really enjoy Rabbit, but this was off the charts.  I thought of the dish for days after.

With an amazing dessert, La Tur with Caramelized Pears, we got to taste the wine of the evening, 1958 “Castello Di Montalbano” Spanna DOC.  Let’s start with the dessert.  La Tur is a delicious soft, almost mousse-like cheese that consists of equal parts cow, goat and sheep milk.  Like the wine it comes from the Alto Piemonte area and is ripened for only 10 days to 2 weeks.  In addition to the pears, it was served with a thin sliced & toasted grain bread of some type.  It was a great combination. As for the wine, wow!  At 63 years of age, it displayed an amazing translucent red hue with nary a hit of bricking. The fruit was fresh and alive and tantalized the palate. Finished with great length and lots of elegance.

My hats off to Chambers Street Wines and Lupa for a wonderful evening of food and wine.

So inspired by the Vallana dinner, I returned last week to Lupa along with a couple of my wine group friends for lunch, one of whom is regular at the restaurant. He has always sung the praises of their pastas, and pehaps the most famous Roman dishes are the pastas.  Lupa offers a Roman Pasta Tasting Menu ($49) that features 5 signature pastas.  The entire table must participate in order to have this tasting, and I am happy to say, we eagerly agreed.


Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe.  Simplicity is the key to most great recipes, and this one is testimony to that premise.  Here homemade square spaghetti is tossed with olive oil, butter, Pecorino Romano Cheese and fresh, coarsely ground black pepper.  I had this dish on my first visit to the Eternal City 20 years ago and it instantly rekindled many fond memories.


Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.  Often called the Italian interpretation of Bacon and Eggs, this is another example of simple, quality ingredients coming together in harmony to provide a dinning experience.  In this dish the preferred cheese is Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is combined with sautéed Guanciale (pork jowl) or Pancetta and olive oil and then tossed with the pasta.  Off the heat beaten raw eggs are mixed into the Spaghetti and served.  True Carbonara DOES NOT INCLUDE CREAM. This was the real deal.  My one issue was that I would have preferred the Guanciale to have been cut up smaller and thus more of a part of the dish as to opposed to tending to dominate it.


Saltimbocca Ravioli.  Veal Saltimbocca is a classic Roman dish that combines tender veal scallopine, sage and proscuitto.  In this version, perfectly cooked homemade Ravioli are stuffed with seasoned ground veal and served in a sage butter sauce and topped with crispy fried prosciutto bits.  An absolute tour-de-force.


Pajata Finta.  Another classic Roman pasta, or so I have been told.  I never had this before, but you can bet I will be back at Lupa if for no other reason than to have this pasta.  For me, it was the best of the 5 remarkable pastas.  It is a sauce that is made with diced pieces of veal tripe and lamb sweetbreads. pancetta and tomato.  Rigatoni is added to the sauce, tossed and then served atop a dollop of fresh Ricotta Cheese. You mix it all together, take a bite and you are transported to culinary heaven.  The only thing missing was Dean Martin singing "On an Evening in Roma" as we savored this remarkable dish.


Bucatini All'Amatriciana.  Tomato sauce, pancetta or guanciale, olive oil, garlic and Pecorino Romano cheese combine to make what may be Rome's most famous pasta.  The addition of hot pepper seeds finishes the dish perfectly.  The classic version at Lupa is superb.

This is a remarkable bargain of good sized, perfectly prepared pasta for $49.  You even get lemon sorbet the cleanse the palate at the end of the meal.

As with all Bitali/Bastianch restaurants, Lupa has a good and reasonably priced wine list.  It was our intention to perhaps have a glass or two of wine with lunch.  That quickly evaporated with one sip of 2013 Principe Pallavicini Malvasia Puntinata from the Lazio terroir.  The wine is made from 100% Malvasia del Lazio, also called Malvasia Puntinata, which belongs to the aromatic Malvasia grape family, one the most ancient varieties cultivated in Italy.  Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for 20 days at the controlled temperature of 16° C.  The wine is left to refine “on the lees in stainless steel tanks of 50 hl for 4-5 months and 1 month in the bottle before release.  The wine had a golden straw yellow hue with an clean crisp bouquet that was echoed on the palate.  The finish was delicate and quite lengthy.  $15.

We quickly drained the bottle and decided we would have one more bottle, a red this time.  Marc selected a 2001 Petterino Gattinara from the Alto Piedmont region of Italy.  I am very familiar with Petterino wines (have some in the cellar) and this bottle with 14 years of age on it was beautiful.  Made from 100% Nebbiolo, this is a superb example of traditionally made Nebbiolo. The terroir filled bouquet filled the nose with wonderful anticipation.  The palate was balanced, focused and complex. Tannins were soft as velvet and the wine finished with lengthy elegance.  Simply a round and delicious. $40.  Wine-Searcher.



This bottle went quickly also and so, what the heck, we asked the sommielier (forgot his name) for a recommendation to drink with the Bucatini.  He suggested  2012 Passopisciaro Scinniri IGT from the slopes of Sicily's Mt. Etna.  The wine is crafted by Andrea Franchetti who also owns the Tenuta di Trinoro estate in Tuscany. This wine, a blend of Nerollo Mascalase, Cesanese and Petit Verdot, is aged for 10 months in large oak, before being bottled.  The wine had a rich, masculine palate with good focus and depth.  A very nice wine.  $21.  Wine-Searcher.

If you live in or near NYC and have not been to Lupa, I suggest you consider giving a try.

Saluté

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Spectacular Loire Valley Wine Dinner

If you read this blog, then you know that the wines from France’s Loire Valley hold a very special place in my heart (and my cellar).  Our wine group dinner last week was centered on Loire Valley whites and reds. It was Emil’s turn to select the theme, wines and restaurant.  If this were baseball, I would have awarded him the Triple Crown, as he orchestrated an over-the-top event.   While Emil is no slouch when it comes wine, he recruited Matt Tornabene, wine connoisseur and owner of The Manhattan Wine Company to select, pour and talk about the evening’s wines.  He also chose Café Matisse for the venue.  I have extolled the praises of chef/ owner Peter Loria before; http://winewithoutnumbers.blogspot.com/search?q=cafe+matisse. Once again the food was delicious and a perfect compliment to the wines.  The service here, under the direction of Maitre’d Larry and his staff, is as spectacular as the food that is served. A BYOB restaurant, the wine service outdistances most restaurants with wine lists. Wine is decanted with a smile and there are always appropriate glasses to match the wine.

Lobster, Sushi Tuna “Satay” was composed of Soba Noodle Cake, Spicy Peanut Jus, Thai Cucumber Salad, Creamy Chili Vinaigrette, Caramelized Pineapple, Julienne Scallions

Matisse Burger, Blended Sirloin, Short Ribs and Brisket, Creamy Blue Cheese Mousse, Red Onion Jam, Hickory Smoked Bacon, BBQ Short Ribs, Yukon Gold Shoe String Fries, Spicy Tomato Aioli

Speck Wrapped Veal Tenderloin with Rigatoni w/ Pesto

Emil & Matt
The Loire Valley is often divided into three sections. The Upper Loire includes the Sauvignon Blanc dominated areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. The Middle Loire is dominated by Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc wines found in the regions around Touraine, Saumur, Chinon and Vouvray. The Lower Loire that leads to the mouth of the river's entrance to the Atlantic goes through the Muscadet region which is dominated by wines of the Melon de Bourgogne grape.


Matt selected 5 Chenin Blanc and 2 Cabernet Franc from Middle Loire.  Both of these grapes produce age worth wines of depth, character, balance and soul as was the case with each one tonight.

2010 Eric Morgat Savennières, L'Enclos.  For the past decade Eric Morgat has quietly been producing some of the Loire Valley’s most interesting and complex Chenin Blancs.  It is the only grape he vinifies. The estate is situated along the north bank of the Loire River, in the Anjou-Saumur subregion of Savennieres.  Here the Chenin Blanc grape grows in soils of sand and schist unlike the limestone chalk soil of the Vouvray, 100 miles to the east. A strict manual harvest using small bins with strict selection in the vineyard is adhered too religiously. Fermentation and elevage in 400 liter Foudre for a year, without racking.  Several weeks before the following harvest the Foudres are blended into a cuvée, and the wine remains on the fine lees for another year.  After 22 months of aging the wine is bottled after a light filtration in the summer at the time of the rising moon.  Tonight’s wine was a beautiful expression of Chenin Blanc.  The wine displayed a wonderful crisp and stony palate with great acidity.   A joy to drink, it was the perfect start to the evening.  $40.  Manhattan Wine Company.

2012 Thibaud Boudignon White Anjou à Françoise.  A similar terroir of shallow soils on grey schist, ryholite (volcanic soil) and sand as in Morgat.  Mr. Boudignon crafts his wines using gentle pressing, indigenous yeast fermentation, barrel vinification (new and used French & Austrian oak)  and no malolactic fermentation.  Tonight’s wine had a brilliant fresh floral nose, a crisp & mineral driven palate the displayed intense focus, bracing acidity, with a textured and rather unique, almost tart-like finish that added a lovely dimension to the wine.  I was smitten by this wine. $49. Manhattan Wine Company.

2012 Richard Leroy Les Noels de Montbenault.  Montbenault is a 2 hectare parcel within the appellation Coteaux du Layon Faye de Anjou, situated on the top of the hill with superb exposure. The soil is volcanic and the vines are 50 years old, making this is one of the great terroirs of the Coteaux.  Bottling occurs one year after the vintage with no chaptalization (added sugar).  Production is limited to 1500 bottles.  Tonight’s wine was round and delicious wine, with crisp, soft elegant palate and lengthy finish. $49.  Manhattan Wine Company.

2011 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Clos de Guichaux. Romain Guiberteau, a disciple of Dani Foucault (Clos Rougeard), made his first wine in 1997. The Clos de Guichaux vineyard is composed of a shallow clay and limestone topsoil over chalk bedrock. Whole cluster pressing. No chaptalization. Native yeast. VInification and 10 month ageing in two to four year old large 600L barrels. Light filtration. Production is limited to 575 cases.  This is a wine with great pedigree and potential. Tonight’s bottle was tightly closed upon opening.  It began to open a wee bit after 2 hours in the glass. Probably needs 5+ years in the cellar.  $44.  Wine-Searcher.

2008 Montlouis-Sur-Loire, Le Volagré, Stephane Cossais.  Stephane trained under the legendary Foucault brothers.  After tasting a bottle of their 1996 Brézé, Rougeard’s iconic dry Chenin Blanc, he was convinced that his calling was to make a wine of this style, not the reds for which the Foucaults are largely known.  He began making his own wine in 2001, but was not proud of any until 2004.  He was poised to become the greatest winemaker in Montlouis when he passed away unexpectedly in 2009 of a heart attack, leaving his last two vintages still in barrel.  Tonight’s wine, his final wine, and was simply brilliant, possessing an enticing fruity and stony bouquet with a crisp and gloriously fresh palate.  The monster finish was elegant and lengthy.  $50. Manhattan Wine Company.

1985 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses.   In my opinion this is one of the finest estates in the Loire.  Their wines are crafted with tons of soul, making for an exciting drinking experience.  Les Picasses is the most classic and age worthy wine from the domaine. It comes from a limestone terroir, where the vines have reached a respectable fifty years of age. The fruit is hand-harvested and fermentation is carried out in stainless steel controlled to less than 30°C, followed by a maceration of 25-30 days.  The resulting wine goes into large foudres where it will rest for between 12 and 14 months before bottling.  Tonight’s wine, 100% Cabernet Franc, was absolutely stunning.  It exhibited a deep earthy bouquet with great length and purity on the palate and on the finish. Round and delicious. A wine with soul! $75.  Manhattan Wine Company.

1989 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses.  Matt thought the wine was slightly corked.  You could have fooled me, as I thought it was quite good, albeit not a match on this night for the ’85. I have had the ’89 a couple of years ago and found it to be on that night on a par with the ’85. Bottle variation is something we all learn to live with.  $70 Manhattan Wine Company.

2009 Clos Rougeard Samur-Champigny Les Poyeux.  Clos Rougeard is considered the reference point for Cabernet Franc in Saumur and Saumur-Champigny. These incredible wines, made by the Foucault brothers, are considered a cult wine in France and every 3 star Michelin restaurant there scampers to get a small allocation (rumor has it that only 3 are successful).  US allocations are miniscule, and acquiring the wine takes more than a bit of luck.  I have been fortunate to acquire a mini stash. Charles Joguet, the great winemaker of Chinon, once said: “there are two suns. One shines outside for everybody. The second shines in the Foucaults’ cellar.”

Quite simply these wines are among the best red wines I have ever tasted.  I would put them up against any red wine on the planet.  The vineyards have been farmed organically for generations; with the wines see extended fermentation (18-24 months) in old oak barrels before being bottled unfiltered.

The Saumur-Champigny “Les Poyeux” is one of their signature wines.  “Les Bourg” being the other. Tonight’s wine simply soared from the glass and threw a party for the olfactory and gustatory senses. It began with compelling and enticing earthy aroma, before gracing the palate with impeccable balance, seductive elegance and a long velvety finish.  All of this and still the wine is in its infancy and will reward 5+ years of patience.

We finished the evening with a 1976 Dujac Morey St. Denis, that Jeff brought along.  What a lovely aged burgundy with the bouquet, fruit, balance and finish hitting on all cylinders.  Jeff explained that he did not believe Dujac made a premier cru that year so this wine probably included a mixture of village and premier cru grapes.  Most likely explains why it drank so well despite being a village wine and a difficult vintage.


Our sincere thanks to Emil, Matt, Peter and Larry for a wonderful evening.

A happy and contented group (Emil is taking the photo)

Saluté

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Very Special Italian Sunday Dinner

The traditional Italian Sunday dinner that my generation grew up with always consisted of "macaroni" and "gravy" with meatballs, sausage and braciole.  The meal usually began promptly at 1:30 in the afternoon and lasted a good 3 to 4 hours.  Today many restaurants in the NY/NJ metro area attempt to recreate the tradition by serving "Pasta with Sunday Sauce" as a special on Sundays.  Perhaps the new name is justified, because it usually is a far cry from the macaroni and gravy that I grew up with.  I am very thankful that the tradition continues with the current generation of Italian Americans in their home kitchens and dinning rooms on most Sunday afternoons.

A couple of weeks ago, our friends Tony and Fran, invited us and a few other friends to their home for a very special Sunday macaroni dinner.  It was special for a couple of reasons.  The guests of honor were two two of Italy’s top producers of Barolo, Franco Conterno (Aldo Conterno Estate) and Franco Massolino (Massolino Estate).  Tony befriended both of them on a trip to Italy a few years ago.  Since both were in town for the La Festa del Barolo tasting that we attended the day before, they graciously accepted Tony's invitation to a traditional Sunday Italian dinner at his house.   I had met both men before and they are very gracious, friendly and easy to talk with, which made for a most enjoyable afternoon.

The other reason it was so special is that Tony’s mother Elisabetta, who hails from Alberona, Italy, made homemade Cavatelli pasta that literally brought a tear to my eye. The lightness and freshness of the macaroni brought back memories of eating Sunday dinner at my Grandma DeRosa’s house.  Tony, no slouch in the kitchen himself, made a large pot of delicious ”gravy, meatballs, sausage & braciole” to compliment his mom’s Cavatelli.  We were all so busing devouring the "macaroni" that no one remembered to take a picture of it.  Of course no Italian Sunday dinner would be complete without beginning with a large antipasto of cheeses and salamis.  After the “macaroni” we enjoyed a delicious roast of Filet Mignon and of course finished with a bevy of Italian Pastries and other assorted goodies.

Franco M., Mom Elisabetta, Franco C., Tony

The two Francos had one request, “NO BAROLO!”  They wanted to drink other wines.  We raided our cellars and accommodated them with following selection.


NV Krug Rosé Champagne.  A great way to begin the dinner.  This was wonderful with its pinkish hue, yeasty and rich palate and sublime finish.  It is a blend of 59% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 8% Pinot Meunier and spent six years aging on the lees prior to disgorgement.  $300.  Wine-Searcher.

2007 Joh. Jos. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese.  I am a huge fan of Riesling and of J.J. Prum.  I find their wines have outstanding complexity and balance. The harvest at Prüm is always extremely late. The 2007, which we drank today, harvest was not finished before December. Late picking allows the Riesling grapes in the cool Middle Mosel climate to be picked at ideal ripening conditions, the basis to produce wines of superb quality.  Today’s bottle was superb, with just a hint of sweetness on a long and elegant palate.  I find that Prum wines need a minimum of 5 years of cellar time before they can really be appreciated.  $35.  Wine-Searcher.

2011 Manni Nössing Kerner.  The Alto Adige region of Northern Italy lies adjacent to the Austrian border.  The region produces a number of delicious white and red wines.  This delicious white is made from the Kerner grape and this particular bottle is from vineyards in the Valle Isarco (to the northeast of Bolzano), Manni Nössing is a brilliant young artisan wine maker who has only been bottling his wines since 2000.  He produces only 2,500 cases of wine in total. Prior to that he sold off his juice.  Following traditional wine making methods, he hand harvests his fruit, ferments it in stainless steel and ages in stainless steel on the lees for eight months. Today’s wine was crisp and pure on the palate, with a lovely stony minerality and hints of flowers.  It was delicious.  $34.
Wine-Searcher.

2001 Henri Boillot Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru. A brilliant expression of the Chardonnay grape in this remarkable wine.  A rich, pure and elegant wine that dances on the tongue with vibrant fruit, acidity, depth and complexity before finishing with serious length and elegance.  The wines are bottled after 18 months in barrel.  $200.  Wine-Searcher.

1993 Geantet-Pansiot - Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru (Magnum). 1993 was a very good year In Burgundy, which yielded a rather small crop of rich, concentrated and velvety red wines. Today’s bottle had a lovely fragrant and elegant nose and a full-bodied, complex rich palate that showed considerable depth. The finish was long and elegant.  I think that this wine is a good example of the absurdity of numbers.  His eminence RP gave the ’93 vintage a score of 80. $550.  New York Wine Warehouse.

1989 Chateau LaFleur DeGay (Magnum).  A Bordeaux blend from the highly respected Pomerol appellation in Bordeaux.  Readers of this blog know I do not drink much Bordeaux.  I find the wines, blends for the most part, to be very one-dimensional and lack the elegance of Barolo and Burgundy.  At least for me they do.  This wine did nothing to change my opinion. Yours (not mine) for only $330+ a bottle.  Wine-Searcher.

1989 Chateau Margaux.  More of the same in my opinion, except for the price, which is twice the previous Bordeaux.  Why, you may ask?  Simple, this is one of the classified first growths, thus very much a "status" wine and if you want to drink a first growth you must ante up big bucks like the Chinese do.  $650.  Wine-Searcher.

2004 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.  Crafted from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, Soldera, in the opinion of many (myself included) is the master of Brunello wines.  The bouquet of this wine filled the nose with great anticipation of what we were about to drink.  The wine soared on the palate with dazzling purity, complexity and balance and finished with a clean and pristine elegance.  I believe that most of us felt this way about the wine.  Franco Conterno, however, had a different opinion.  He felt the wine was suffering from reduction.  Reduction in wine is thought of as the opposite of oxidation, i.e. not enough oxygen was introduced into the wine, thus imparting an acrid aroma (sort of like corked wine) to the wine.  When the wine is exposed to air the reduction can, although not always, dissipate.  Franco thought that the case here initially.  He did say the wine got better with air, but he did not seem as excited about the wine as the rest of us were.  As an interesting aside, this was the first time he ever drank a Soldera wine.  $500.  Wine-Spectator.

1998 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Reserva.  My favorite Spanish producer and one of the few real traditionalists left in Spain.  The wines of LdH rarely disappoint.  Today’s bottle had a bit of bricking on the edge but it did not deter from the amazing purity of fruit and earthy palate that evolved in the glass with each sip.  At $40+, this is a ridiculous bargain.  Wine-Searcher.

Paul, Emil, Franco M., Tony, Jack, Franco C., Mark, Vincenzo

With espresso and dessert Tony broke out a bottle of Louis XIII Cognac and a couple of bottles of Grappa.  The Louis XIII is an excellent cognac for sure, but the cost is way off base, in my opinion. In any case it was a great ending to a dinner.  It is not everyday that one gets to converse with two of Italy's iconic wine producers while eating great food and drinking great wine.  Thanks to Tony, Fran and Tony's mom Elisabetta for their gracious hospitality and outstanding food.


Saluté





Monday, February 23, 2015

The Extraordinary 2010 Barolo Vintage

Two weeks ago, along with friends Emil and Tony, I attended the 2015 La Festa del Barolo that Antonio Galloni and his Vinous team hosted at the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC. Tastings of this type have become one of Vinous’ hallmarks and provide a great opportunity to taste wines from excellent vintages. 15 of Barolo’s finest producers were present to discuss their 2010 Baroli as we tasted them.  2010 has been heralded as one of the greatest Barolo vintages ever.  As Antonio writes, “The cool growing season produced transparent, vibrant Barolos that pulsate with tension, crystalline purity and site-specific nuance.  The 2010s are vibrant, finely sculpted Barolos built on power and intensity”.  The tasting confirmed his comments.  This is a remarkable vintage.  The wines display wonderful depth, finesse and elegance.  To really appreciate them, patience of 5+ years is recommended.  Most of these wines will not come cheaply, but if you are Barolo lover, the indulgence will be well worth it.

With the exception of Scavino and La Spinetta, wines I have never liked and nothing here changed my feeling, I thought all of the wines showed very well.  Since these wines are in their infancy, it would not be appropriate to attempt to pick the best.   I have listed below, however, those wines that I felt drank the best today.

G. Conterno; G.Rinaldi; Massolino; Vietti; Cordero di Montezemolo 

Vajra; A. Conterno; Burlotto; Ceretto; Cogno, 

Sandrone, E. Pira, Elio Altare

Scavino; La Spinetta

At lunch (delicious cheeseburger) the wines were closer to drinking temperature and really accentuated the magnificence of the vintage.  Our table drank Burlotto, A. Conterno, Massolino and Vajra.  When you get to sip wines of this caliber with good food, you move from tasting the wine to experiencing it.  It was quite and experience.


2010 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche (Alessandro Ceretto). Located in the village of Castiglione Falletto, this hill top vineyard has been producing single vineyard Barolo since 1982. The more modern winemaking approach that uses a combination of new (barrique) and old (5 years) oak is used in the aging process.  The wine is aged for 30 months in barrel and then 12 months in the bottle prior to being released for sale.  The oak was well integrated here resulting in a palate that was fruity and nicely balanced.  I found this to be much better than previous vintages from the estate.



2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole (Aldo Vajra). The Vajra estate is situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo, was established in 1972.  The Barolo Bricco delle Viole, is their flagship wine.  This was gorgeous, full of feminine elegance with a wonderful fruity and earthy palate.  This is old-world Barolo at its best and at a modest price compared to other top Baroli.  Also worth checking out is his Langhe Rosso ($18).  Terrific wine at an even more terrific price.


2010 Elio Altare Barolo Alborina (Silvia Altare).  Altare was at the forefront of the Barolo revolution of a more modern style Barolo, with the use of rotary fermenters, a short maceration period, and the use of small barriques for aging.  I found the tannins to be a bit harsher with this wine than any of the others.  The wine also lacked the soul of most of the others.  Not one I will add to my cellar.

2010 Paolo Scavino Barolo Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata (Enrico Scavino).  Not for me.  See my comment in paragraph two.  Dull palate with too much oak for me.

2010 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Enrico VI (Alberto Cordero). This was my first time tasting this producer’s wine, and I was very impressed.  It had an enticing bouquet of earth and fruit and drank with a soft elegance.  I was quite surprised to learn, after doing some research, that the wine is aged in French Barrique.  My experience with wines aged this way is that they are very oaky and full of vanilla on the palate.  Fortunately that was not the case here. I hope to add some to my cellar.

2010 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala (Franco Conterno).   I loved this.  Like all Aldo Conterno wines the pedigree was very much in evidence with the first sip.  The wine was elegant and beautifully balanced.  I would expect this to be a tour de force in time.  I was fortunate to have this as one of the Barolos served at our table at lunch.  A shining example of traditional Barolo (aged 2+ years in large Slovonian Oak) that will emerge in a few years and provide a couple of decades of enjoyment at the very least.

2001 La Spinetta Barolo Campé (Giorgio Rivetti).  IMO, not even close to the other wines tasted today.  Did not like this at all.  Like the Scavino, it lacked soul.

2010 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cerretta (Roberto Conterno).
My have been my favorite wine of the tasting.  In my opinion, Roberto Conterno is one of the finest makers of traditional wines on the planet.  His Cascina Francia and Monfortino Riserva are two of the most sought after wines in all of Barolo.  They embody the essence of the Piedmont terroir, climate and Nebbiolo grape.  Today's wine, Barolo Ceretto, is the first Barolo from the Ceretta vineyard since Roberto took it over in 2008.  It simply soared from the glass.  It was round and delicious and the essence of traditional Barolo. Only 3000 magnums were produced. Roberto surprised us all when he said that his 2010 reminded him of his 1985.

2010 G.B. Burlotto Barolo Vigneto Monvigliero (Fabio Allesandria). I first tried the wines from this estate about a year ago. The Barolo Monvigliero is the estate's flagship wine, and is one of the few Barolos made with 100% whole clusters.  It was delicious. The bouquet was gloriously aromatic while the palate was pure and beautifully balanced. A staunch traditionalist, the making of the wine begins with a gentle crushing of all the grapes by foot, an incredible 60-day maceration on the skins and long aging in large Slovanian oak. I had the pleasure of sitting at Fabio’s table at lunch and got to enjoy speaking with him while I enjoyed this beautifully made wine with lunch.

2010 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne (Luciano Sandrone).  When I first tasted this wine last April I was mesmerized by its finesse, elegance, depth and balance.  Sandrone is neither a traditionalist or modernist, rather he is somewhere in the middle.  Whatever he is, he makes fantastic Barolo.  The LeVigne is a blend  of fruit from four vineyards, Vignane (Barolo), Merli (Novello), Conterni & Ceretta  (Monforte d’Alba).  Unfortunately, the bottle we tasted today did not drink as well as well as when I tasted it last April.  I think it was either an off bottle or perhaps it was served too cold. In any case it is a wine to put in your cellar, as I believe it should be stunning in a few years.

2010 E. Pira (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova (Chiara Boschis). A more modern styled Barolo that sees 1/3 new oak, it was more impressive than other vintages of the wine I have had.  With this vintage Chiara explained that instead of a single vinyard wine, it is a blend of 6 small vineyards.

2010 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate (Marta Rinaldi).
This may very well compete with the Conterno Ceretta as the wine of the vintage.  This was a breathtaking wine that is the essence of traditional wine making, i.e. taking what Mother Nature gives and nurturing it.  Due to the insane new Barolo labeling laws, only one vineyard can appear on the label.  Thus what was previously bottled as Barolo Brunate Le Coste is now bottled as Barolo Brunate.  The wine contains 15% fruit from the Le Coste vineyard. The remaining Le Coste fruit goes into the former Cannubi/San Lorenzo-Ravera and is now called Tre Tine (3 vats).  It too is an awesome Barolo.  To quote Antonio Galloni, "Beppe Rinaldi's 2010 Barolos will go down as some of the most epic wines of this historic vintage".  

2010 Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda (Franco Massolino).  This was right up there with the Conterno and Rinaldi.  Simply round and delicious traditional Barolo that is still aging and will not be released until 2016.  The bouquet was enticing and the palate was pure and silky. The finesse and pedigree of this wine is magnificent and will provide a couple of decades at least of drinking splendor.  I was fortunate to have this poured at our lunch table where I had the chance to experience it evolve in the glass.  Can’t wait to get my hands on some.  Franco compared the 2010 to his 2004, another magnificent wine.

2010 Elvio Cogno Barolo Bricco Pernice (Valter Fissore).  My first experience with any Cogno wines. This was a solid, harmonious Barolo with an enticing bouquet that gave way to a soft earthy palate.  It was quite good.  The wine is aged for 24 months in large Slavonian oak barrels of 25-30 hl and then an additional 18 months in bottle. Production is limited to 5,000 bottles.




2010 Vietti Barolo Ravera (Luca Currado).  This is going to be another fantastic, info monumental, wine from Vietti.  Like the Cogno it is made from a single vineyard in Novello. The wine is aged for 32 months in Slovenian oak casks and bottled unfiltered.  The wine is embodied with poise, finesse, balance and elegance. Production of this wine is very, very small.



Quite a tasting to say the least.  If you like Barolo, this is a vintage that you want to put in your cellar.  Once again kudos to Antonio Galloni and the Vinous team for putting together another great wine experience.

Saluté