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.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
I usually like to drink a dry Riesling with Asian food, but this time I decided to go red and chose instead a bottle of 2005 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge Réservé. It had been a while, 7 years in fact, since my last bottle of the ’05. The ’05 vintage is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wines to come from the estate and not far behind their legendary 1995 and 1990 vintages. I opened the wine 2 hours before taking it to the restaurant to give it time to breath and open up. It exhibited a gorgeous translucent red hue and beautiful bouquet of fruit and spice. The full-bodied palate showed superbly pure and balanced fruit and echoed the spice of the bouquet. It finished with a lengthy and velvety elegance that is a trademark of Rayas. Simply put it was a round and delicious bottle with lots of soul that will drink well for a couple more decades.
As for the pairing with the food, what can I say but wow. Each bite of food, followed by a sip of the wine was sublime.
"Lollypop" Shrimp. Nelson fashions a large wild shrimp into a circle, adds a bit of crab meat to the center and then encrusts it with Panko bread crumbs, skewers each one with stick and then fries them. The resulting "lollypop" is crunchy and greaseless and served with a lightly spiced dipping sauce made from chilis, tomatoes, onions and parsley. OMG, it is amazing and has to be tasted to be appreciated.
Himachi with truffle sauce. Pristinely fresh Yellowtail is topped with a delicate black truffle sauce. His judicious use of the truffle does not overpower the fish, rather it compliments it beautifully.
Berkshire Pork Goyoza. Nelson takes the pan-fried dumpling to new heights in this preparation. The incredibly light dumpling wrappers are made in house and stuffed with a minced pork stuffing made from wild boar. Lightly pan-fried, they are delicious and a far cry from the thick and doughy versions found at most other spots. I never asked what he makes the dipping sauce with, but it is the perfect foil for these heavenly pillows of pleasure.
Sushi Sandwich. For this amazing dish, Nelson stacks a homemade rice cracker with smoked salmon, fresh crab and fried leeks. He then tops all with a spicy mayonaise sauce . The combination of flavors and textures will have you clamoring for more.
Unagi Don. Unagi is Japanese for eel. As a lover of eel, I have had this dish many times, but again Nelson's preparation is far and away the best I have ever tasted. While I have never asked him how he makes it, I believe he glazes fresh eel with a sauce (miso?) and serves it atop a bowl of sushi rice. The textures and flavors explode in your mouth.
If you live nearby, grab a great bottle of wine and head over there, you will be very, very happy you did.
Friday, May 26, 2017
My experience with the wines of Isabel Ferrando is limited to a few bottles of 2005 Colombis CdP that I had a number of years ago (and liked). She was mentored by her neighbor, the late Henri Bonneau, and has learned very well from this master. Her first vintage was in 2003. Her wines exhibit the purity, balance roundness and elegance one usually finds in traditionally made wines. She uses whole cluster fermentation in all of her wines, mostly old wood barrels and bottles her wines without filtration. Perhaps the best news is that her wines retail in the $40 to $75 range compared to the $300 plus range one must pay to drink Bonneau or Rayas.
We began the evening with her 2016 Saint Prefert Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc Traditional. Poured from magnum, this was a young, fresh and utterly delicious blend of 80% Clairette and 20% Roussane. The wine spends 6 months in barrel of which 1/3 is new wood before being bottled without filtration.
This was followed by the 2012, 2014 and 2015 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc “Vieilles Clairettes”. Bottled only in magnums they are made from 100% Clairettes (80-100 year old vines) from the Quartier des Serres to the south of the village of Châteauneuf du Pape, renowned for being one of the most sun-drenched in the appellation. Fermentation is in wood, 50% new and then aged for 2 years before being bottled without filtration. All three wines drank beautifully and should add depth with a few years of cellar age. The 2015 however stole my heart. It was delicious with great pedigree. A monster in the making. While the new oak was evident at this early age, I would guess it will be very well integrated in a few years. A wine with soul! Producer M. Chapoutier says of the (2015) vintage, "...great and exceptional vintage that is destined to become legendary."
Our first flight of the reds were from the 2014 vintage, a vintage that produced fruit forward wines that are for the most part medium-bodied with a soft and elegant texture.
2014 Isabel Ferrando Chateauneuf du Pape “Colombis”. 100% Grenache, aged in 100% large, aged wooden casks. A delightful wine that fits neatly into the vintage description. My CdP preference has always been toward those wines made with 100% Grenache, as I enjoy the hint of pepper and spice on the palate Grenache usually offers up. This was no exception.
2014 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”. A blend of 82% Grenache and 10% Cincault, 8% Syrah that is aged for 18 months, 50% in concrete and 50% in aged wood. A medium-bodied CdP, it drank beautifully with a pure and silky mouth feel and elegant finish.
2014 Saint. Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Charles Giraud”. A blend of 60% Grenache (80 year old vines) and 35% Mourvedre (60 year old vines) and 5% Syrah (65 year old vines). Like the Favier, the wine was medium-bodied with bright acidity for aging. The wine displayed a soft, textured palate and a lengthy and peppery finish.
2010 Isabel Ferrando Chateauneuf du Pape “Colombis”. 100% Grenache, this was simply gorgeous. The wine begins with a rich bouquet of spicy and pure Grenache fruit and then coats a balanced palate with richness and elegance.
2010 Saint. Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”. 85% Grenache and 15% Cincault. A full bodied, lush wine that exhibits velvet tannins and excellent length. This should drink well for years to come.
2010 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Charles Giraud”. 60% Grenache and 40% Mourvedre. Another superb wine, with lively fruit, depth, balance and elegance.
2007 Isabel Ferrando Chateauneuf du Pape “Colombis”. 100% Grenache. 2007 was an extremely hot vintage that yielded very ripe wines. Tonight’s wine was full-bodied and had a deep ruby red hue with a slightly sweet palate. While the tannins were silky and the palate was nicely balanced, the sweetness, in my opinion, detracted from the wine.
2007 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”. 85% Grenache and 15% Cincault. While not as sweet as the Colombis, this was a big, California like wine. More power than elegance here.
2005 Saint Prefert Chateauneuf du Pape “Auguste Favier”. A blend of 60% Grenache, 35% Mourvedre and 5% Syrah. 2005 was another terrific year for the Rhone. The vintage was shaped by warm, sunny dry days and cool to cold nights and a long growing season which helped to produce rich, ripe, concentrated wines. Tonight’s wine had depth, balance and vibrant acidity to enable it to age and evolve gracefully over time.
|My apologies for the somewaht blurred photo.|
To complete the evening, Isabella treated us to NV Saint Prefert Vieux Marc Chateauneuf du Pape Brandy. Similar to Grappa, it possessed a gorgeous golden hue and it is made from all the grapes (I assume from the must) from her vineyards. As a huge Grappa fan, and I really enjoyed this.
It was a wonderful evening. Isabella did a great job in articulating her philosophy and describing here wines. Color me a fan.
By the way, I am told that the art you see behind us was all done by Robert DeNiro's father.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Antonio Galloni comments on the vintage… “One of the truly epic vintages of the last three decades. These are firm, classically built Barolos that will continue to drink well for another 20+ years. Stylistically, the 1999s are like the 1996s, but with more fruit and mid-palate sweetness/density. This vintage was largely ignored at the outset in favor of 2000, but as Barolo lovers know, 1999 is one of the greats. The best wines will continue to drink well for decades, although many wines are approachable now.” Our tasting confirmed his comments. With the exception of a couple of tainted bottles, the wines drank beautifully.
We began the evening with a stunning bottle of 1999 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart. To paraphrase a Sinatra song, “What a lovely way to begin an evening.” This exceptional cuvée was created in 1964 as a tribute to the House’s founder. It results from the blending of grand crus from the classified Côte des Blancs vineyards (Chardonnay) and the Montagne de Reims (Pinot Noir). Its vinification, partially in traditional oak casks, underpins the generous character of this fine, elegant and rich wine. The wine showed a wonderful rich palate of delicious ripe fruit and subtle floral notes and a lengthy elegant finish.
Our first course was Hearth Broth made from bone marrow, tumeric and black pepper. This is a signature creation of chef/owner Marco Canora. It was a great beginning on a cold, blustery NYC evening.
1999 Marcarini Brunate Barolo. Based in La Morra, the estate is under the direction of sixth generation owners Luisa Marcarini Marchetti, her husband Manuel Marchetti and their 3 children. The highly regarded Armando Cordero consults with Luisa in the wine making. Their wines are beautiful expressions of traditionally made Barolo and retail at very reasonable prices. Tonight’s wine was totally seductive…a balanced elegant wine that soared from the glass and finished with great length and finesse. A contender for WOTN.
1999 G. Mascarello Monprivato Barolo. The wine unfortunately had a slight cork to it. Although it was drinkable, it was less enjoyable than previous bottles I have had.
1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. Classic Bartolo Mascarello. Gorgeous translucent hue with a classic Barolo bouquet and a pure and balanced palate. Lengthy and elegant finish. One of the top wines of the vintage and destined to drink well for many years to come.
1999 Conterno Granbussia Barolo Riserva. The initial sip was very tight, but after 10 minutes in the glass the wine really opened up revealing a full-bodied delicious Nebbiolo.
1999 Scavino Barolo Riserva Rocche dell'Annunziata. Scavino is one of the most modern Barolo wine estates in all of Piedmont. I find the wines dominated by oak and lacking complexity and balance. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised when I took my first sip of the wine. There was no oak in sight, instead there was a soft and nicely focused wine that delighted my palate. An impressive bottle of wine.
Our pasta course was Whole Grain Rigatoni with pork ragu, kale and whipped ricotta. While the sauce was tasty, a pasta dish is, in my opinion, about the noodle, not the sauce. Call me old fashioned, but I like my pasta made with Semolina and/or Durum flour.
1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Cannubi San Lorenzo Ravera Barolo. Big earthy bouquet with a soft fruity palate. The finish was a bit short compared to the wine that followed.
1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate-Le Coste Barolo. This wine shows why Rinaldi is one of the great traditional Barolo wine makers in Piedmont. Completely round and delicious wine that seduces the palate, then finishes with length and elegance. A wine with soul!
We were then served our entrée, Whole Spatchock Chicken, marsala, mushrooms, with polenta. This was simple and delicious. The bird was juicy and succulent. The sauce and polenta were harmonious additions to the dish.
1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo. Unfortunately the bottle was corked.
1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto. I loved this. Lush bouquet with layers of fruit and earth on a beautifully balanced and complex palate. This has the stuff to last another decade or two.
1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche. A wow wine that is still very much a baby as the palate and finish were a bit tight. The underlying pedigree of the wine is fantastic and this will be gorgeous in a few more years. I am very happy to have 3 bottles sleeping in the cellar.
For dessert we had 2 year aged Cheddar Cheese; grappa-stewd fruits; candied hazlenuts.
1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. Gorgeous earthy and fruity bouquet and more open than the bottle this group had two years ago, but still very young. Beginning to show signs of emerging into the great wine it is destined to be.
1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. A prodigious wine that is a joy to drink. Every bit as good as the bottle this group had two years ago. I echo my notes from that tasting; earthy bouquet, full-bodied, balanced and complex with impeccable purity and a very lengthy, elegant finish. One of the best Barolos I have ever tasted. This has the stuff to last for decades. Truly a wine with soul and my WOTN.
All in all another stellar evening with a great group of friendly, knowledgeable and generous Barolo lovers.
|Photo courtesy of Ken Vastola|
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Before leaving for the city, we had a late breakfast at The Corner in Montclair. This is a tiny breakfast and lunch spot that we have wanted to try since it opened a couple of years ago. Weekend attempts were met with long waiting times, so we deferred until now. Service was very attentive and the food was great.
Carol ordered an Omelet, which she filled with spinach, ham and goat cheese, while I had a Breakfast Sandwich of house cured bacon and an over easy egg on a house made buttermilk biscuit. I love fresh biscuits and this was fantastic. We also shared a monster sized order of matchstick fries which were quite good. We will be back.
Off to the show. No traffic today, so we cruised in to the City. The show was great...every bit as good as the movie. I highly recommend it.
We had not been to Le Bernardin Restaurant in at least 15 years and felt it was time to change that. Le Bernardin has held 3 Michelin stars since 2005 when Michelin began rating US restaurants. Getting a reservation was a challenge, but thanks to a couple of contacts we were able to secure a table.
With an hour to spare before our reservation we settled into the Aldo Sohm Wine Bar directly across the square from the restaurant to pass the time with a glass or two of wine. Aldo is the head sommelier at Le Bernardin restaurant.
Carol chose a glass of 2015 Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara. It displayed a deep rosé hue, with a berry nose. The palate was fresh and crisp.
For me I began with a glass of 2015 Domaine Aux Moines Becreau Des Fées Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc is a favorite of mine and I found this young vine wine to have terrific purity and was excellent balance.
2013 Sohm & Kracher Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner. Owner Aldo Sohm makes this wine with Gehard Kracher, son of the late Alois Kracher. This was a beautifully balanced wine with nice acidity and texture.
Time for dinner, so we headed across the square to the restaurant. The food, service and overall experience at the restaurant were worthy of the 3 stars and fantastic reputation it has earned. We were greeted (as are all diners) with a complimentary glass of Champagne. I didn’t pay close attention to the label, but it was very good. A brut for sure, it had a yeasty bouquet and palate and excellent balance.
Le Bernardin is primarily a seafood restaurant, serving pristinely fresh fish prepared simply and always perfectly cooked. For land lubbers there are a limited number of meat selections. The four course prixe-fixed menu offers an exciting selection dishes. Our meal began with a complimentary amuse-bouche of Salmon Sashimi, Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio and Lobster Bisque. Each bite was spectacular and set the stage for the meal to follow
Carol began with Warm Artichoke Panaché; Vegetable Risotto, Black Truffle Vinaigrette. Delicate and delicious is the way I described the forkful I tried.
Carol's second plate was Lacquered Lobster Tail; Herb Spring Roll, Lemongrass Consommé. Like the fluke, the consommé bath elevated the dish to new heights.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
|Gnocchi di Ricotta w/Speck & Butter Sauce|
|Risotto w/Sweet Italian Sausage|
|Roasted Pork Loin|
Jeff, our Burgundy expert selected the wines for the evening. He chose four reds from one of Burgundy’s top estates, Georges Mungneret-Gilbourg. Since the passing of founder Dr. Georges Mungneret in 1988, the estate has been run by his wife and two daughters. Their wines are known their finesse and delicacy. The wines were all from the 1995 vintage. This vintage yielded concentrated, dense, structured wines with substantial firm tannins and average to slightly above average acidity.
Prior to the 2007 vintage the domains’ wines were marketed as either Dr. Georges Mugneret or Mugneret-Gibourg depending on the vineyard. Starting in 2007 all wines were amalgamated into one label, Dr. Georges Mugneret-Gibourg.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Our table was comprised of Vinous members Marc D. and his Jennifer; Iggy M.and his wife Carolyn; Michael Z; Emil S.; Jonathan G. and myself. Paola Rinaldi of Francesco Rinaldi Winery along with the estate’s winemaker Fabio Gemme joined us at our table.
The Rinaldi winery was founded in 1870 and is a top producer of traditionally made Barolo and Barbaresco. The wines are aged in Slavonia oak barrels of medium and large capacity (20 – 50 Hl) for at least 3 years. The estate has been in the hands of Paola and Piera Rinaldi, great granddaughters of Giovanni Rinaldi, since the 1990s. I personally have found that the sisters have turned up the quality of the wines over the past few years. I am a frequent buyer of their wines.
Del Posto is the flagship restaurant of the Batali/Bastianch empire. It is a spacious and upscale restaurant serving great Italian cuisine that is complimented by highly professional service and a world class Italian wine list. The restaurant was closed all day to prepare for the event and then reserved for the event itself, which began with passed Assagi (little bites). Four Champagnes were served with the Assagi.
2004 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne. A terrific vintage for the bubbly and it showed in the first sip. The wine was young and bright with a full-bodied palate and brilliant focus. This will drink well for decades.
I can recall most, but not all of the wines I tasted during the evening. Allow me to begin with the wines at our table.
2009 Angelo Gaja Chardonnay Gaia & Rey. This is the first white wine ever produced by the Gaja family. Named for Angelo's daughter, Gaia, and his grandmother, Clotilde Rey. It’s a big wine for a Chardonnay, with too much oak and vanilla for me.
1997 Angelo Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Conteisa. Piedmontese for "quarrel," this wine was named for the historic dispute between the communes of La Morra and Barolo for possession of the Cerequio land. Deep garnet red hue. Muted earthy bouquet with a bold palate and a bit too much oak for me.
2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala (Magnum). Unfortunately this was corked.
1999 Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia. A round and delicious classically made Barolo with a big earthy bouquet and an elegant and refined palate.
2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia. Glorious wine that is entering its peak drinking window. Gorgeous bouquet with a vibrant fruity palate and lengthy finish
1980 Cappellano Barolo. Classic Cappellano that is fully mature and drinking with soul!
1997 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco. Dark red hue. While I am not a big fan of Gaja’s wine style, this drank well. I found the tannins a bit harsher than the Contesia, but the oak was better integrated in my opinion.
2006 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino. 2006 was a great vintage in Barolo, and this wine is one of the very finest examples of the vintage. Even though the wine is still very young, the pedigree of the wine is apparent with each sip. Impeccable balance, finesse and elegance soared from the glass with each sip. In another 5 to 10 years this may well be judged the wine of the vintage.
2007 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. 2007 was another terrific vintage in Barolo. Roberto Conterno did not make any Monfortino in 2006, opting instead to use the fruit instead in the CF. More approachable than the 2006 Monfortino, the wine is drinking beautifully and has the balance and acidity to last another 2 to 3 decades at least.
2004 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcinio Riserva (Magnum). I broke with the theme of the evening by bringing this wine as I thought it would offer a nice contrast to the Baroli. The wine more than held its own as it drank beautifully. Gorgeous bouquet of fruit and earth with a beautifully balance palate and a lengthy and elegant finish.
The final two wines were brought by Paola Rinaldi from the winery.
2008 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo Brunate. Another prized Barolo vintage, this was elegant and polished on the palate. Still very much a baby but will give much drinking pleasure for another couple of decades.
1964 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo. This wine was in great shape with vibrant fruit and terrific balance and complexity on the palate.
Wines from other tables