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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Armonia Italiano

Last night our monthly wine group returned to Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville. Chef/Owner Allan Russo never fails to prepare a meal that is in harmony, in this case Armonia Italiano, with the wines.  The wine selection fell on the shoulders of Marc last night, who flexed them admirably with a memorable selection of older Nebbiolos.

The Food

We began the evening as we did when we visited in October with Allan’s version of Bruschetta; Antipasto of fresh Burrata Cheese, Speck. Soprasatta, marinated Zucchini and Asparagus drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil; and Arugola Fritters topped with Bagna Cauda.


Our pasta course this time was Risotto with sweet Italian Sausage that transported us back to Italy.  Risotto needs to be creamy to be fully appreciated as this was tonight.  It was a dish in which all the ingredients and textures came together in perfect harmony.  It was nothing short of culinary bliss.  In fact, it was so good that I asked to have it repeated as my entrée.


While I was enjoying every grain of my risotto, my fellow wine lovers were savoring every morsel of Brised Short Ribs served in a lush red wine reduction


Millefoglie, Italy’s answer to the French Napoleon, completed the meal.  Light as a feather, yet decadent as any great dessert, it quickly disappeared from our collective plates.


If you are a reader of this blog and live in NJ and have not been to Sette, I suggest you plan a visit soon.  You will be glad you did.

The Wines

All the wines were opened about 4 hours prior to serving.

We began the evening with two Baroli side-by-side from the 1967 vintage, a fantastic vintage in Piedmont.  1967 Prunotto Barolo & 1967 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo.  I was surprised and amazed by the gorgeous translucent red hue of the Prunoto.  Color like this is rare in a 38 year old wine.  On the nose it had a big earthy bouquet with a soft and balanced palate.  With each sip the wine evolved a bit more and finished with elegance.  It was delicious. Unavailable at retail.

The Rinaldi took a back seat to the Prunotto.  In a striking contrast to the Prunotto, the Rinaldi possessed an inky and opaque hue.  On the nose the bouquet had more red fruit, but less earth than the Prunotto.  The palate echoed the fruity bouquet.  That and the deep color caused Jeff to comment that "some Barbera may have been added to the wine", a technique often used by Angelo Gaja to enhance the color.  While a pleasant wine, it was simply outclassed by the Rinaldi.  Unavailable at retail.

     Prunotto                    Rinaldi

1985 Vietti Barbaresco Masseria.  Like 1967, 1985 was a great vintage in Piedmont and according to Antonio Galloni, “…this remains a reference point vintage for the 1980’s second half to the last century.”  I became a fan of this producer a couple of years back when I first tasted his Barolo Castiglione, a traditional Barolo loaded with soul.  This was my first taste of their Barbaresco and it likely will not be my last.  The wine was glorious.  The wine soared from the glass enticing the nose with an intoxicating bouquet of fruit and the soil that produced it.  I loved the fruity and harmonious palate that showed great balance and complexity before finishing with length and elegance. Has the stuff to last another 20 years. Unavailable at retail.  

1985 Paolo Scavino Cannubi Barolo. I have never been a fan of Paolo Scavino wines as I find them too modern for my palate.  Tonight’s wine I believe was made prior to his change over to the more modern style, and as such was quite nice.  It didn’t show the presence of oak that his modern wines display, but, in my opinion, lacked the depth and finesse of the others we drank. It was my least favorite of the evening.  $200.  Wine-Searcher.

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto.  What a beautiful bottle of wine.  Intoxicating bouquet of earth and fruit with a polished and complex palate.  The wine soared from the glass and evolved with each sip before finishing with a sublime elegance.  Many years of drinking pleasure remain here if you are lucky enough to have some.  This and the Vietti were my wines of the night, with the Prunotto a short step behind.  The estate seemed to have a set back after Bruno had a stroke a few years back, but once again seems to be getting back on track with the return of winemaker Dante Scaglione.  $180.  Wine-Searcher.



Just another magical evening with this great group of guys.  Very well done Marc!

Saluté







Saturday, December 19, 2015

Gentlemen’s Holiday Lunch - 2015

This past Thursday a bunch of wine-loving friends gathered at Il Capriccio Ristorante, Whippany, NJ for our annual holiday lunch.  Every one brings a bottle to drink as we enjoy Natale Grande’s excellent Northern Italian Cuisine.  This year Tony, who originally organized the event, decided that the theme would be Barolo or Barbaresco from 1978 to 2001.  I thought all the wines showed well.

Flight One

1985 Cavallotto Barolo Vigna San Giuseppe.  As this was my bottle, I gave it a 1-hour slo-o at home. The wine had a brickish and somewhat cloudy hue and a nice earthy nose that was reflected on the palate. The first couple of sips however showed very little as the wine was pretty much closed. As it sat in the glass (30 minutes) the fruit began to evolve nicely and the presence of an aged old world Barolo was evident. Tannins were soft and the finish had good length.

1989 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco. Upon opening the wine seemed to be a bit oxidized, which turned out not to be the case.  Within 15 minutes any hint of oxidation blew off and was replaced by good fruit and balance.  30 minutes later however the wine seemed to shut down.  ???

Flight Two

2000 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva Barolo.   Superb bottle of wine that is entering its drinking window.  Everything one expects of the estate’s flagship wine.  The wine was round and delicious with impeccable balance, focus, finesse and a lengthy and elegant finish.

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Barolo.   This bottle seemed a bit off.  Perhaps a storage or shipping issue.  In any case, in my opinion, it is way to young and needs at least another 5 years in the cellar.

Flight Three

2000 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  Superb showing of this wine today.  Enticing bouquet with an intense, rich palate of ripe fruit that kept evolving with each sip.  Magnificent finish.

2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  A couple steps behind the 2000 at this stage in its life, but a terrific wine for sure with a bright future. Lovely fruit, balance and complexity.  Would have definitely benefitted from a few hours in the decanter.

Flight Four

1988 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia. Another superb wine.  Bright, elegant fruit that evolved with every sip and finished with lengthy elegance.

1996 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  Even better than the 1988, which is saying something.  This is simply a round a delicious wine with a couple of decades of enjoyment ahead of it.  The wine hit on all cylinders. The fruit was gorgeous, balanced and focused.  The nose tantalized the senses and the finish was one where you close your eyes and enjoy.  The essence of traditionally made old world Barolo.  My wine of the day.

Flight Five

2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala Magnum.  A wine of great pedigree and a bright future as it comes of age.  Enjoyable wine now, but will benefit from cellar time.

Flight Six

1997 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate La Coste Magnum.  As a huge fan of Giuseppe Rinaldi, I was ready to be disappointed, as so many 1997 Barolos have proven to be.  There was no disappointment today, just a huge smile as I savored this delicious wine.  The magic of Rinaldi was present in each sip.  Gorgeous Piedmontese nose with vibrant fruit, complex palate and lengthy finish.  Old world Barolo at its best!.

Flight Seven

1996 Angelo Gaja Sori Tildin.  Not my kind of wine.  Fruit is over extracted.  Gaja all the way, and I am not a fan.

1981 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva.  A most welcomed deviation from the theme.  LdH wines are the epitome of old world craftsmanship as this one was.  What a magnificent old world wine that possessed an earthy bouquet and gorgeous translucent hue reminiscent of a wine 30 years younger.  On the palate it had vibrant fruit, complexity, finesse and elegance.  A terrific wine.

Dessert

1963 Sandeman Vintage Port.  From the legendary 1963 vintage, this was as good a vintage port as I have ever had.  Round, delicious and elegant with a monster finish.  I was amazed in that the color was more like that of a Tawny Port.  I only wish I had a couple of cases in my cellar.



Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thoughts on Holiday Wines

It’s hard to believe but the Christmas holidays are quickly approaching.  While the children go to sleep at night with “visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads”, wine lovers have visions of what to drink and serve their guests during this time.  Many amazing wines, young and old, expensive and inexpensive will be opened to the delight of all.  With this in mind I thought I would provide a list wines that are worth consideration in different price ranges.

Bubbles

Is there a more appropriate or festive wine for holiday toasting than Champagne and sparkling wine?  I think not.  One does not have to mortgage the house to enjoy really fantastic sparklers.

NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé, $26.  It is really hard to find a more crowd pleasing bubbly than this.  A blend of Gamay and Poulsard grapes, this is delicious.  Wine-Searcher.

2010 Huet Petillant, $30. Huet is one of the great wine estates of France’s Vouvray district of the Loire Valley.  This delicious and elegant sparkling wine is made from 100% Chenin Blanc, and also in the Ancestrale Methode*.  It is a wine that will age for another couple of decades.  Wine-Searcher.

* Unlike Methode Champagne, in this Methode, the wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished.

Cedric Bouchard Champagne.   Cédric Bouchard is one of the fastest rising stars in Champagne. He began producing his own wines in 2000 and has very quickly established a reputation as Champagne’s most talented new wine producer. His philosophy borders on the revolutionary in Champagne, as he insists on bottling single vineyard, single varietal (Pinot Noir or Chardonnay), and single vintage cuvees, rather than blending different sources to make a single cuvee, as is the norm in Champagne.  The results are fantastic.  His wines display great depth, complexity and balance. They need to be sipped from a large wine glass instead of a Champagne flute to be fully appreciated.  His bottlings range in price from about $50 to $200.  Wine-Searcher.

Jacques Selosse Champagne.   It has been said that Anselme Selosse, who began bottling his own wine in 1959, has altered Champagnes image forever.  Each Selosse wine is conceived to express a different variable of making wine in Champagne, but each wine carries within itself the uniquely compelling Selosse style.  Selosse's cellar distinguishes itself from most others in the Champagne region with its distinct lack of steel tanks. The grapes are crushed and then the juice makes its way into oak barrels, where it first ferments, and then settles, ages, and where it will remain until bottling.  In my opinion they are the finest Champagnes made.  Production is minimal and allocations are very hard to come by. His bottlings range in price from about $150 to $600.  Wine-Searcher.

Whites


2014 Château Petit Roubié Picpoul-de-Pinet.  The wine is crafted from 100% Picpoul, a grape grown primarily in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc regions of France.  The wine shows a gorgeous yellow hue in the glass and a peachy floral bouquet, while the medium-bodied palate displays a lovely citrus undertone. I also like the balance of acidity and minerality the wine imparts on the palate.  If you like Pinot Grigio, you will love this and you will especially fall in love with the $15 price tag.  Wine Legend, NJ; Wine-Searcher.



2014 Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, $20.  It is hard to find a more classic match to seafood, especially Oysters than Muscadet and even harder to find a better Muscadet than those crafted by Marc Ollivier from France’s Loire Valley.  Made from 100% Melon Bourgogne grapes, his wines are crisp, clean and possess bracing acidity and minerality on the palate.  The wines finish with exceptional length and will age for many years.  His single vineyard bottlings such as Clos des Briords are simply spectacular.  It is hard, no make that impossible to find wines of this quality in the $15 to $30 price range.  Wine-Searcher.




Alfred Merkelbach Riesling. Located in the Mosel Saar region of Germany, the Merelbach brothers make some of the cleanest and most delicious Riesling wines on the planet.  The wines average around $20 a bottle and offer fantastic value.  I prefer the dryer bottlings of Kabinett and Spatlese.  These wines contain the least amount of residual sugar and display impeccable balance and complexity on the palate.  If you are a fan of dry Riesling, they are a must, if you are not, these may change your mind.  Wine-Searcher.




2014 Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie.  This is a fantastic white wine from the Roero region of Piedmont Italy.  Produced from the Arneis grape, the wine is full-bodied with crisp ripe fruit and a lush minerality on the palate and a long, clean finish.  One of the best Arneis wines I have ever had. $25.  Amanti Vino, Montclair, NJ.

2013 Pattes Loup Chablis.  This tiny estate located in Courgis, France (just outside Chablis) was started by Thomas Pico in 2005.  He uses only indigenous yeasts and harvests and sorts his grapes by hand. This, his Villages level Chablis, is crafted from 55+-year-old vines, and is fermented in about 30-40% in concrete egg-shaped fermenters with the balance in stainless steel.  His Premier Crus, from hillside vineyards between 25 and 50 years old, are all raised in older oak.   This wine is a great example of not having to spend a lot of money for a top white Burgundy. The wine displays pristine purity with impeccable balance on the palate before finishing with elegance and finesse.  $30.  Wine-Searcher.



2014 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay.  Founded in 1975 by Tim Hamilton Russell this estate is the most southerly wine estate in Africa.  The estate specializes in producing terroir driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines that are very reminiscent of the wines of the Cote de Nuits region of Burgundy.  The wine displays a rich, focused and elegantly textured palate with a great finish.  You have to spend at least 3 times the $26 price to get comparable Chardonnay from Burgundy.  Wine Legend, NJ; Wine-Searcher.





2013 Quintarelli Secco Ca del Merlo Bianco Veronese.  This is the only white wine made by the master of the Veneto, Giuseppe Quintarelli. While he is known for his Valpolicellas and Amarones, this white is completely round and delicious.  A blend of Garganega, Trebbiano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Saorin (a clone of the Tokay grape), the wine soars from the glass with an enticing floral bouquet.  The palate is marked by beautiful richness and finesse and the finish is long and elegant.  $48.  Wine Searcher.

Borgo del Tiglio.  The wines of Nicola Manferrari from the DOC Collio hillsides of Friuli Venezia are quite special.  Manferrari produces mostly white wines, all of which are barrelfermented.  They are amongst my favorite whites from anywhere.  His signature whites are 2012 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Ronco della Chiesa.  This remarkable wine is made from 100% Tocai Friuliano grapes. The wine has great balance and good acidity for longevity. Crisp and pure on the palate and still very much a baby, this wine should drink well for at least a decade or more.  $70. Wine-Searcher.

2013 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Studio di Bianco is the estate’s flagship wine. Each plot is kept separate in the winemaking process to highlight the influence of the terroirs.  Upon pouring into the glass the gorgeous crystalline yellow hue and stony bouquet set high expectations, which are fulfilled with each sip. On the palate it shows great complexity with lush, pure fruit and soft minerality. The wine evolves with each sip. Like the della Chiesa it has the acidity to last at least another decade.  $90.  Wine-Searcher.

If you are in the mood for something special and don’t mind spending $300+ a bottle the 2010 Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot will surely fill the bill.  Along with Rene and Vincent Dauvissat, Raveneau is considered the top producer of old world Chablis in all of France.  No new oak barrels are used to make the wines. They are fermented in stainless steel and then aged in barrels with an average age of seven to eight years, for twelve to eighteen months. The wine sparkles like a fine gem in the glass. On the palate one is immediately aware of the impeccable balance, sublimely pure fruit, stony minerality and bracing acidity. The superb finish is long and silky.  This is what Chablis can be about.  A wine with soul! Wine-Searcher.

Produttori dei Carema is a producer of top quality Nebbiolo in Torino, located in the utmost northwestern region of Piedmont. Created in 1960, they are a small cooperative divided amongst 45 growers in this small, remote region. Each grower rarely owns more than 1 hectare, most having only ½ hectare. The D.O.C. Carema was established in 1967. Carema is a wine valued for its perfume and elegance, yet have the structure and acidity to age for decades.  While they do not have the same power and density of their Barolo brethren further south the wines provide to opportunity to drink first rate Nebbiolo, early on while the Barolos age in the cellar. 

Riserva
2012 Produttori dei Carema Nebbiolo $20.  The medium-bodied palate begins to take on depth and finesse after about an hour of airtime.  It shows wonderful balance and finishes with a soft and velvety elegance that belies its price. Wine-Searcher.

2011 Produttori dei Carema Nebbiolo Riserva $25.  The riserva bottling is simply superb.  More full-bodied than the normale, the wine requires a couple of hours of aeration to open and show its stuff.  The translucent red hue is reminiscent of a villages level Burgundy.  The feminine palate is marked by terrific balance and complexity and like the normale has the acidity to last for at least another 10 years.



2009 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe $36.  This is the estate’s entry level Barolo but you would never know it. Situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo, the estate was established in 1972. This under the radar producer of traditional Barolo makes some of the most consistently high quality and affordable wines produced anywhere.  The wine possesses a beautiful translucent red hue, huge earthy bouquet, a completely seductive palate of complex, focused and balanced fruit and had a delicate and elegant 45 second finish.  This is an amazing value.  Wine-Searcher.


2002 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses $36.  100% Cabernet Franc from the Chinon region of France’s Loire Valley, this is a formidable wine that brings smiles to the faces of all who drink it.  The grapes are handpicked and fermented in stainless-steel. The wines are then aged in larger, neutral oak and sometimes chestnut - a traditional barrel wood in the region. The ‘Picasses’ spends two to three years in oak, to reduce the wine and soften the tannins, and is usually released about 4 years after the vintage.  Give the wine 2+ hours of air and it will do a soft ballet on your palate with its superbly balanced fruit and acidity and finish with a lengthy and soft elegance. At the beginning of its drinking window this beauty will last for a couple more decades.  Wine-Searcher.

2012 Fonterenza Rosso di Montalcino $40.  This remarkable “baby Brunello” from the twin Padovani sisters must be tasted to appreciate.  Mentored by the great Gianfranco Soldera, the elegance and balance of this wine is amazing.  The wine is aged for 20 months, followed by another 8 months in barrel before it is released.  The fruit is pure on a complex and focused palate and the finish has substantial length.  Wine-Searcher.


2008 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino $182.  Feel like taking it up a couple of notches, the Brunellos of Diego Molinari will fit the bill nicely.   These are simply elegant wines that dance on the palate in a harmonious balance of fruit, complexity and elegance.  No riservas are made from the limited 1700 cases produced. Straightforward and traditional the grapes are harvested by hand and pressed in a vintage wood-sided press before fermenting in cement tanks. The wine ages for 4+ years in cask and at least 6 months in bottle before release. Nothing is added (no yeasts, no enzymes) and nothing is subtracted (no fining or filtration).  This is world glass juice at a reasonable price considering the quality.  Wine-Searcher.


1985 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano D’Abruzzo $220.  At age 30 this wine is really in its peak drinking window and should remain there for another decade at least, if not longer.  The wine soars from the glass with an enticing, earthy and complex bouquet and fruit and earth.  The mid-palate shows substantial depth and brilliant focus.  The finish seems to last forever.  A very special wine and worth the indulgence at this time of year.  Wine-Searcher.  The 2000 vintage at around $145 would be a fantastic alternative to the 1985 or to drink side by side. Pepe's wines are the quintessential examples of old world wine making.  It is his belief that Mother Nature is the best care-giver for the vines, thus his grapes are grown organically, hand-harvested, hand destemmed, naturally fermented and aged 18-24 months in glass-lined tanks. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, without added SO2, and aged in their cellar, in bottle, for continued development. Before release, the wines are decanted by hand into new bottles, and then labeled.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2001 Brunello

This past Wednesday our monthly wine group met at Ariane Kitchen & Bar in Verona, NJ. where owner/chef Ariane Duarte prepared a fantastic meal to compliment my selection of Brunello di Montalcino wines from the incredible 2001 vintage.  Ariane and her husband ran the immensely popular Culin Ariane in Montclair for a number of years before deciding on opening a slightly more casual spot with a focus on upscale comfort food.  Michael has put together a fantastic and reasonably priced wine list to complement the food.  He was gracious to allow me to bring along the Brunello for the evening.

Wine

Vinous founder Antonio Galloni says of the 2001 vintage, “There is much to be excited about as the vintage offers an array of outstanding wines. The best 2001 Brunellos are characterized by rich aromatics and generous, ripe fruit, with excellent structure and fine, elegant tannins. Although many wines are clearly built to age I also tasted quite a few that are drinking beautifully right now”.  

Before indulging in the Brunellos we began the evening with NV Cedric Bouchard Roses Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Côte de Val Vilaine.  Michael, our guest for the evening, brought this fantastic grower champagne along. It was made from 2012 fruit and disgorged in April of 2014. The wine was firing on all cylinders.  It possessed a gorgeous yeasty bouquet and palate that evolved with each sip. To really appreciate this Champagne, drink if from a large glass instead of a Champagne flute.  The larger glass will allow you to experience the evolution of the wine.  At about $65 a bottle, this is one of the great bargains in great Champagne.  Wine-Searcher.

All of the Brunellos were made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso and were opened 3 ½ hours prior to drinking.  The wines were not decanted but allowed to breathe in their respective bottles.

2001 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.  Owned by New Yorker Richard Evans, the wine making is in the hands of Enologist Paolo Vagaggini. Vagaggini ages the Il Palazzone Brunello longer than required by DOCG law--up to four years--creating an exquisite wine. Production is limited to 20,000 bottles a year.  Tonight’s wine sported an enticing bouquet of red fruit with lovely balance and focus on a full-bodied and elegant palate.  The wine is drinking at its peak at the moment, and should do so for 3 to 5 more years.  $185.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino. Giulio Salvioni, like Gianfranco Soldera, pursues very unique and highly individualized protocols with respect to the crafting of his Brunello. All the work in the vineyard is carried out by hand, with hard pruning to obtain low yields of fruit and careful selection during the manual harvest. Production is deliberately limited to 10,000 bottles a year, to obtain the very best from his unique terroir. Perhaps Salvioni distinguishes himself most prominently by the fact that he never makes a Riserva.  His 2001, one of the top bottlings of the vintage, saw four years in large Slavonian Oak.  Tonight’s bottle had a bright red translucent hue and a gorgeous earthy bouquet.  The wine possessed an incredible freshness, impeccable balance, finesse and complexity.  In short it was round and delicious with lots of soul.  The lengthy and elegant finish had us all wanting another sip.  For most of us, including myself, it was the wine of the night.  $147.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino.   Another of Monalcino’s top estates, it has been producing Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino since 1989.  (Elisabeth and Piero Palmucci sold the estate to the Grattamacco estate in Bolgheri in 2011).  I have had this wine a few times in the past few years and it was delicious and typical of great traditionally made Brunello on each occasion. The last two bottles have been somewhat of a different story. The wine seems to be in an awkward stage at the moment.  It was closed and tight on the palate upon opening and remained that way for the first 30 minutes or so, after which time it did begin to come around a bit.  Considering my experience with previous bottles of this vintage, it appears the wine is either asleep or napping.  Hopefully it will wake up soon.  $155.  Wine Searcher.

2001 Poggio di Sotto Brunello Il Decennale. This Riserva bottling was made to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the estate. The wine spent six years in cask prior to being bottled.  I found this to be more open on the palate than the normale we drank alongside it.  A few in our group detected VA (volatile acidity) but I have to admit I did not.  (According to Antonio Galloni, the wine can have relatively high levels of volatile acidity).  I have very little experience with VA, at least in detecting it.   I thought the wine improved as it sat in the glass and while quite enjoyable, it was not up to the wines that came before or after it.  Not Available.

2001 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.  In my humble opinion, Soldera is the gold standard for Brunello di Montalcino.   He employs a complex ecosystem that constitutes an ideal habitat for the natural cultivation of his grapes.  He limits his production to 15,000 bottles a year. The wines spend six years or more in large, very old, neutral oak casks with minimal rackings.  While still quite young the wine was simply a superb expression of old world, natural wine. The balance was impeccable and the fruit emerged more and more with each sip before finishing with incredible length and elegance.  This is truly a wine with soul that will live for many, many years.  A very close runner-up to the wine of the night.  Sodlera’s wines, always expensive, have become even more so recently, the result of a former disgruntled employee who destroyed 60,000 liters of wine in 2012 from vintages 2007 through 2012.  $549. Wine-Searcher.

2004 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino. Unfortunately I was unable to locate a bottle of 2001 from Cerbaiona so I settled on the 2004, a vintage which is shaping up to be very comparable to 2001.  Diego Molinari, a former Alitalia pilot, founded the estate in the early 1980’s and his wines are held in high regard.  Winemaking at Cerbaiona is straight-forward. The grapes are harvested by hand and pressed in a vintage wood-sided press before fermenting in cement tanks. After a period of settling, the Brunello spends 4+ years in cask and at least 6 months in bottle before release. Nothing is added (no yeasts, no enzymes) and nothing is subtracted (no fining or filtration).  Production is limited to 1700 cases, and like Salvioni, I do not think he makes a Riserva.  Antonio Galloni said in his review of the 2004, “If forced to drink only one wine from Montalcino, I might very well choose Diego Molinari’s sumptuous Brunello.”  Tonight's bottle was fantastic.  A completely round and delicious wine that demonstrated beautiful balance and complexity on a silky palate before finishing with substantial length and elegance.  Still very much a baby, it held up well to the wines from the 2001 vintage. The estate was sold to American Venture Capitalist Gary Rieschel in October of 2015.  $190. Wine-Searcher.


Food

Wines of this caliber should be accompanied by food of equal caliber.  Each of the wines we drank tonight were crafted by passionate winemakers who take what Mother Nature gives them and nurtures the elements into remarkable wines.  Ariane is their equivalent on the culinary side. There is no pretense to her food.  High quality, fresh ingredients prepared with passion and skill.  I left the meal in her hands and she performed in spades...as she always does.

She started us off with a couple off hors d'ouveres served family style, which I might add were gobbled up in a heart beat.

Deviled eggs.  Who doesn't like deviled eggs, especially Ariane's.  I could easily make a meal out of them.

Bacon wrapped, Parmesan stuffed Medjool dates.  A fantastic rendition of this European classic comfort appetizer.  Completely addictive.


For our first course she presented us with a bowl of Prince Edward’s Island Mussels, fennel, chorizo, toasted garlic, touch of tomato.  These perfectly cooked crustaceans had just the right amount of spice.  We all made sure to sop up each drop of the broth with house-made Croissants.


For the pasta course I requested Pasta Carbonara.  While Ariane's version of this Roman classic contains cream (a no-no in Italy), it can easily compete with the cream-less versions. In addition to the cream she incorporates peas and apple smoked bacon tossed with perfectly al dente pasta.  It was magnificent and nary a morsel was left on anyone's plate.


Our entrée of Roasted pork loin, butternut squash Brussels sprouts hash, cranberry relish, pork jus was cooked to perfection and enjoyed by all.


 Ariane's signature mini Banana Cream Pie completed an evening of culinary delight.


A terrific evening to say the least.  Great wines, food and conversation as well as the presence of our guest Michael.

Saluté

Thursday, October 29, 2015

2005 Barolo

This past Monday 6 Nebbiolo-loving Vinous members met at Via Emilia Ristorante in NYC where owner/chef William Matiello has been preparing and serving the traditional dishes from his hometown of Modena in the Emilia-Romangna region Italy for the past 15 years.  I have been here on multiple occasions and have thoroughly enjoyed it each time.   On this evening we put ourselves in his hands and he did not let us down.

Food

Antipasti

Gnocco Fritto: puffy fritters with prosciutto di parma, sopressata, coppa & mortadella
Tigelle:  little tile-bake mountain bread  served with soft cheese, cold cuts and pancetta spread
Borlengo:  Thin broad-pan bread with pancetta spread, rosemary & Parmigianno Reggiano

Pasta

Modena style Lasagna
Homemade Tortellini in a country meat sauce
Caramelle di Castelvetro.  Candy-shaped pasta stuffed with spinach, ricotta & prosciutto, served with butter and arugula sauce.

Entrée

Scallopini of veal with asparagus and shaved pargmigiano.

I neglected to take any photos but if you click here it will take you to my previous post with plenty of pictures and descriptions of most of the food we had tonight.

Wine

We decided on the 2005 Barolo vintage for our tasting.  As is our custom we each bring one or two bottles to share.  Iggy graciously orchestrated the wines into 3 flights for the evening.  All wines were open a few hours prior to drinking.

According to Vinous founder Antonio Galloni, “…this (2005) is a medium-bodied style of Barolo, with about 1% less alcohol than has become common over recent years.”  He goes on to state that " ...wines should peak at around 15 years of age and possibly continue to hold for sometime considering their slightly higher than normal acidity levels.”

Before imbibing on the Barolo, we began the evening with NV Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru (disgorged July 2014) that Tony brought along.  I have only had this Egly bubbly a couple of times and I have enjoyed it immensely each time.  I love its yeasty and rustic palate.  A great start to any evening.  $50.  Wine-Searcher.

First Flight

2005 Giovani Canonica Barolo Paiagallo (Barolo).  The Paiagallo vineyard is a fairly small hillside vineyard about 300-400 meters up the slope above the town of Barolo.  I believe that the only other producer to bottle a Paiagallo is Fontanafredda.  Canonica did not begin to export his Barolo until 2004.  I have enjoyed the soft tannins, balance and complexity of this old world-style Barolo on may occasions over the past 4 years. Tonight's wine unfortunately did not fare as well as it appeared to be a bit off with a musty palate that distracted from the fruit and the finish. From previous experience I would think (hope) that this is a problem for this particular bottle.   2011 available.  Wine-Searcher. $81

2005 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato (Castiglione).  Outstanding bottle.  Tannins have begun to soften.  Medium-bodied at the moment, this should take on some weight and additional finesse in the coming years.  Marc, took the remainder of the bottle home and reported that the next night the wine showed even better. on day two.  Not surprising as my recent experiences with younger Nebbiolo are leading me to the conclusion that they really benefit from extended airing time.  $228 (Magnum).   NY Wine Warehouse.

Second Flight

2005 Domenico Clerico Barolo Percristina (Monforte).  The only modern wine of the group and it showed, at least for me.  While the wine is not difficult to drink with its soft tannins and balance, for me it lacked the depth, elegance and finesse of tonight's counterparts.  $127. Wine-Searcher.

2005 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito (Serralunga).  Terrific old world Barolo. Round and delicious wine with terrific balance, complexity, focus and a lengthy and elegant finish.   This will age beautifully over the next couple of decades.   $148.  Wine-Searcher.

Third Flight

2005 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia (Serralunga).  Very young and still very tight.  Pedigree is eminently evident here, but patience of another few years at least is needed. $153  Wine-Searcher.

2005 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto (Serralunga)  OMG was this good even at this very early age. Round and delicious wine that soared from the glass with the complexity, balance and focus in perfect harmony and finished with elegance and length.  Easily the wine of the night in my opinion and the consensus of the group.   $210.  Wine-Searcher.

2005 Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda (Serralunga).  Like the Casino Francia, still a bit tight, but the fruit began to open as it sat in the glass.  Medium-bodied at the moment, it may take on some additional weight with time.  Very enjoyable Barolo.  $118.  Wine-Searcher.

We finished the evening with 1985 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon (Loire).  Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, the wine had a beautiful golden straw hue and a pleasant viscous-honeyed palate medium body.  Finish was considerably shorter than my previous bottle of a year ago.  $50.  Wine-Searcher.


I really enjoy drinking wine with Vinous board members.  No pretense here, just camaraderie, good wine and lots of fun.

Saluté


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tis The Season…Again

The only good thing about the end of summer is that it marks the beginning of the fall season and the arrival of fresh White Truffles from Alba, Italy to a number of NYC restaurants.  While this year’s prices are significantly higher ($2500/lb) than last year, it is hard to pass up the orgasmic dishes they create, especially when in the hands of chef David Pasternack at Esca.   My good friend Emil and I made our customary trip there yesterday for soft scrambled eggs with truffles followed by homemade Tagliolini with truffles.  We were joined later in the meal by another friend, Cosmo, who had been at a steak house for lunch, and decided to come here for a “dessert” of the aforementioned Tagliolini.

In addition to great food, Esca has a superb and reasonably priced Italian wine list, thus selecting a wine to compliment the food is a pleasure instead of an adventure.  I selected two whites from Brazzano, Friuli Venezia Giulia.  Nicola Manferrari founded Borgo del Tiglio in 1981 on the marl and sandstone hillsides in the DOC Collio area.  He produces mostly white wines and to highlight the influence of the terroir the grapes from each plot are kept separate in the winemaking process. The wines are fermented in barrel.  The wines are produced from vines of different ages, harvested by hand, lightly pressed and fermented in small French oak barrels for 9 – 14 months during which time they are tasted frequently until the definitive cuvee is decided upon.  Quite a large part of the wine originally destined for the cuvee is rejected.  Borgo del Tiglio makes two ranges; the white labels, which we drank today, are considered the entry and mid-tier wines, while the dark green label is reserved for the Selezioni, or the top selections, bottlings that vary from year to year.  Both "levels" are delicious and represent pure expressions of terroir and fruit.

2013 Borgo del Tiglio Chardonnay.  While I own quite a few of his wines, this was my first time with the Chardonnay.  This bottling, his entry level Chardonnay, had excellent depth and a fresh, clean palate of ripe fruit.  It has the stuff to age for another 5 years or so.  $46.  Wine-Searcher.

2014 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Bianco.  Another entry-level wine in which Nicola blends Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon.  Like the Chardonnay it drank with a youthful precision and finished with nice length. $35.


We began the meal with an order of Tuna Meatballs.  David fashions the classic Italian Meatball out of fresh ground tuna and serves them in a classic tomato sauce.  Simply delicious.  On this day David's preparation of “Clams Oreganata” contained Bay Scallops and Prosciutto.  Briny and moist, there is simply no finer version of this classic anywhere!


David is a master of the soft-scrambled egg, and when it is topped with a generous shaving of truffles it is Nirvana.

What better to follow up this dish than he homemade Taglioni with another generous shaving of truffles.

Cosmo enjoys his "dessert"
I have said it before, and I will say it again...life is good...very good!

Saluté


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Harmony

Our monthly wine group met this past Monday at Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville.  Sette has become one of our most frequented restaurants for our tastings.  In addition to the great food and service we love the fact that we can tell Chef/Owner Allan Russo what wines we will be drinking and he prepares a meal to compliment the wines.  He never fails to please and awe us as he did again on this visit.  As the title of this post suggests the wines and food were in glorious harmony.

The Food

Allan’s version of Bruschetta eschews the usual mix of chopped fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil atop toasted bread.  Instead he places thick slices of fresh tomato atop sliced Italian Bread.  He then drizzles them with extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and grated Parmigianno Reggiano cheese.  He then bakes this in the oven for a brief time before topping with strands of fresh basil.  It is a very addictive dish and the perfect start to any meal.


An antipasto of fresh Burrata Cheese, Speck. Soprasatta, marinated Zucchini and Asparagus drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil followed.  Fresh ingredients, simply prepared are the hallmark of this dish.


As good as the first two plates were the Arugola Fritters that followed stole the show.  Here he batters fresh Arugola, gently fries each fritter in extra-virgin olive oil and tops each with Bagna Cauda, a Piedmontese sauce similar to a fondue.   It is made with garlic, anchovies, oil and butter.  A light sprinkling to toasted bread crumbs completes the dish.  Fantastic mélange of textures and flavors.  I would have been happy with this as a main course.


Our pasta course, Pasta alla Norma, is regarded as one of Sicily’s most popular dishes. Small quills of Penne pasta are tossed with a savory fresh tomato sauce and fried eggplant and topped with shaved Parmigianno Reggiano cheese.  Allan’s preparation is as good as I have had in Sicily.


As full as I was, I made the necessary effort to partake of the oven roasted Porchetta stuffed with Pancetta, Juniper Berries and Parmigianno Cheese.  The silky pork sauce, which I assume was made from the pan drippings, added depth and precision to the plate.


Homemade Profiteroles drizzled with Chocolate Sauce completed another magnificent meal.


The Wines

It was Howard’s turn to select and bring the wines and he did a great job bringing along aged Burgundies from five different villages that Jeff (our Burgundy expert) noted, “were true to their terroir”. 

1996 Louis Jadot Vosne Romanee Les Suchots 1er Cru. Located in Beaune, Maison Louis Jadot has been making excellent expressions of classic red and white Burgundy since 1859. Vosne Romanée is situated just to the north of Nuits-Saint-Georges and produces the region’s most celebrated wines. The A.C. of Vosne Romanée has an average vineyard size of 105 ha (13 in Flagey Echezeaux). There are 14 Premiers Crus and 7 Grands Crus, including Romanée-Conti and La Tache to name a couple.

"Les Suchots" consists of two continuous parcels between Romanée St Vivant and Richebourg on the South side, and "Les Echezeaux" on the North side.  This wine is fermented in vats for 3-4 weeks and aged 15 months in oak barrels before bottling.

I was at first surprised at how youthful this was.  It had a wonderful earthy bouquet with great texture and balanced fruit on the palate.  An outstanding negociant wine that will has plenty of time ahead of it.  $100. Wine Searcher.

1996 Meo-Camuzet Nuits St Georges les Boudots 1er Cru.  The estate as has been producing wine under its own label since 1985.  Today it is under the direction of Jean-Nicholas Meo.  The legendary Henri Jayer spent 40 years farming parcels from Meo-Camuzet under his own label.  For three years, he mentored Jean-Nicolas during the transition of the winery to Meo before retiring in 1988.  Jayer’s wines are amongst the most expensive (thousands of dollars a bottle) and sought after wines in the world.  While I have never had a Jayer wine, and at these prices never will, I have had Meo-Camuzet before.  I find the wines to be a bit on the modern side, probably reflective the large amount of new oak used in making the wines.  I thought that tonight’s bottle was completely closed down or past its prime.  There was very little fruit, depth or complexity on the palate in my opinion.  While others did not necessarily agree, a few felt that after their initial sip the wine seemed to shut down.  As far as I am concerned it is not worth the $400 price tag this will cost you.  Wine-Searcher.

1991 Faiveley Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru.  The wines of Domaine Faiveley are widely recognized for being among the finest produced in Burgundy and Domaine Faiveley among the finest wine producers in the world.  Tonight’s wine, my favorite of the evening, underscored these claims.  A completely round and delicious wine with vibrant fruit, depth, focus, finesse and balance.  The great acidity of the wine will ensure that this wine will drink well for decades.  Truly a wine with soul!  $350.  Wine-Searcher.

1988 Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Champans 1er Cru. To quote The Rare Wine Company, “Nothing demonstrates red Burgundy’s magic like great Volnay, with its enveloping aromatic complexity, silky texture and tremendous aging potential. And for a half century, the name “Jacques d’Angerville” was synonomous with the greatest Volnays”.   Jacques, who passed away in 2003, was, according to Allen Meadows, “minimalist in the extreme.”  He told Meadows, “I want to do as little as possible to the wine. I want low yields and no signature.” Relying on great sites and old vines of a unique clone, "Pinot d’Angerville", he proved that great wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.

After complete de-stemming, fermentation lasts for 10 to 12 days, with a 12 to 18-month élévage in largely used barrels.  To extract fine tannins, the cap is kept moist by twice-daily pump overs. Such methods not only bring out the crus’ inherent nobility; they create wines of perfect balance and great aging ability.

Tonight’s wine substantiated the above comments.  What a lovely wine.  It possessed a classic Burgundian earthy bouquet, while on the palate the fruit was very much in tact and the mid-palate showed nice depth and focus.  The finish was long and elegant.  In a nutshell, it drank beautifully.  This was my second favorite wine of the night.  This vintage appears to be long gone in the U.S., but current vintages will cost about $140.

1985 Domaine de Courcel Pommard 1er Cru Grand Clos des Epenots.  A new producer for me.  The wine displayed a medium-bodied and soft palate. While it did improve a bit as it sat in the glass I felt it lacked the complexity and depth of the previous wines.  Current vintages will run about $150.


It was another magical evening thanks to Howard's great selection and Allan's food.  Life is good...very good!

Saluté