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, November 17, 2017

2004 Barolo

Last week our local wine group convened at Divina Ristorante in Caldwell, NJ for our monthly dinner.  It was my turn to bring the wine, so chef/owner Mario Carlino and I discussed a menu that would complement the theme I choose, 2004 Barolo.  Unfortunately I did not take any photos of the food, but suffice it to say we cleaned each and every plate he served us:

Bruschetta and Homemade Mozzarella
Calamari Fritti
Tre Mare
Risotto with Sausage and Asparagus
Veal Valdostana
Zuppa Inglese

I began the tasting with a bottle of 1992 Fiorano Bianco Botte 26.  Fiorano was the wine estate of the late Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, the prince of Venosa.  The estate is located in the region of Latium of Lazio. The rare and highly regarded wines come from the international varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for the Rosso and Malvasia di Candia and Semillon for the Bianco. The wines are the product of a dedicated and passionate prince whose avant garde approach was way ahead of its time. His whites took on a phenomenon for their ability to age, but became a true rarity as the prince was elusive and did not care to put the wines in the wrong hands.

The aging prince continued to make his wines until 1995, although he had stopped selling the bottles. After the '95 harvest he pulled out all the vines in his vineyard, except for a small plot of cabernet and merlot. He offered no explanation, and at the time none was asked.

The prince had one daughter, Francesca, who married Piero Antinori, the eminent Tuscan winemaker, at the Fiorano estate in 1966. Mr. Antinori suggests today that the prince was unable to bear the thought of anybody else making his wines when he could no longer do it.  His daughter has resurrected the estate in the past few years.  I have had both the Malvasia and the Semillon and always found the Malvasia to be the better wine.

1992 Fiorano Bianco Botte 26.  100% Malvasia di Candia.  The wine was superb tonight with a beautiful golden hue and a nutty bouquet and palate.  As the wine warmed in the glass it improved considerably.  One of the better bottles of Fiorano I have had.

The 2004 Barolo vintage is lauded by wine critics and collectors alike.  It is an exceptional vintage. Famed wine critic Antonio Galloni says"…These are wines of extraordinary elegance, balance and finesse."   He further commented “the 2004 Barolos combines the sweetness of 2000 with the classicism, perfume and freshness of 2001.”

I have been drinking quite a bit of the vintage over the past 6 months and I am in complete agreement with Mr. Galloni.

I gave each of the Barolo a 3 hour slo-o at home before bringing to the restaurant.

2004 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva.  Lead off wine in our group's 2004 Barolo tasting and it set the stage beautifully.  The wine is aged in Rovere botte (Italian oak) for 36-42 months followed by 18-24 months in bottle before being released.  It is the estate's flagship wine.  While the tannins were a bit tight, the balance and finesse of the vintage were evident.  Destined to a long and enjoyable life.

The Cappellano estate in Seralunga is among the best of the best for traditionally mad Barolo. The estate was under the direction of Teobaldo (Baldo) Cappellano until his passing in early 2009. Today it is under the capeable direction of his son Augusto and continues to make one of Italy's most sought after Barolo's.  While Baldo allowed wine critics to visit, taste and write about his wines, he was adament they the do not score the wines.  Cappellano makes fewer than 800 cases of Barolo per year, all vinified traditionally: a fermentation of 14 to 21 days with indigenous yeasts and aging in well-seasoned botti for at least three years.

2004 Teobaldo Cappellano Barolo Pie Rupestris.  Superb Barolo.  Great wine that is a small step behind the Pie Franco from the same vintage.

2004 Teobaldo Cappellano Barolo Pie Franco.  What a wine.  A wine with lots of soul.  One of the best wines from an exceptional vintage.  Glorious all around, bouquet, depth, balance, elegance, etc., etc., etc.   “Piè Franco,” is from a parcel planted on its own roots with Nebbiolo’s “Michet” clone in 1989. The ethereal delicacy of this great wine makes Cappellano wonder if it tells us what Barolo tasted like before Phylloxera.

2004 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo.  Another of Italy's most sought after traditionally made Barolo. The estate does not make any single vineyard wines, preferring to blend the fruit from its ancient hilltop vines in Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Rue and Rocche.  The resulting wines, like tonight's are simply gorgeous, round and delicious with a complex and elegant palate and lengthy finish.  The 2004 is one of the wines of the vintage.  Bartolo passed away in 2005, but the estate continues under the direction of his daughter, Maria Teresa.  Many feel, myself included, that she is taking the wines to new heights.

2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto.  Perhaps my biggest lament as a wine collector is that I did not learn of  Giacosa wines early enough.  His wines, traditional to the core, are magnificent. Tonight's bottle may have been the wine of the evening, with a gorgeous earthy nose and palate and lengthy and elegant finish.

It was another great evening with a great bunch of wine loving friends.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

1990 Nebbiolo

Our NY Vinous wine group met recently at the North End Grill in lower Manhattan.  Our theme for this dinner/tasting was the 1990 vintage of Barolo and Barbaresco.  The North End Grill is a Danny Meyer restaurant that showcases Chef Eric Korsh's rustic, French inspired cuisine.  The menu is not extensive but the food, as one would expect, was excellent.  I began with a delicious Country Pate, Confit Onion, House Mustard, Grilled Miche.    Served with toasted rustic bread to spread the pate on, I enjoyed each bite.  I have always heard that Danny Meyer restaurants do great justice to the Hamburger, so I ordered the Short Rib Beef Burger, Grilled Onions, Spicy Mayo on a Brioche Bun.  This was served up with a side of Duck Fat Fries.  While the burger was good, it did not make it into my top ten.

We kicked off the tasting with a bottle of 2014 Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé De Pouilly.  Lauded by many as the world’s best producer (and probably the most expensive also) of Sauvignon Blanc wines, this cuvée had a crisp, fresh palate, but was a bit tight.  Great pedigree here, but could use a year of two in the cellar.  Using the techniques favored by the old-timers of the village, the yields are kept low at 45 hl/ha, only 75% of that of his neighbors. They employ twice the number of workers than a conventional winery to give extra attention to the vineyards, and they use a horse to plow certain parcels where they feel that the compacting of the soil by the tractor’s wheels would hurt the vines. Weather posts are placed strategically throughout the vineyards to help determine the best treatments and minimize the usage of copper sulfate, ideally less than is permitted in both organic and biodynamic farming. All the grapes are picked manually and completely de-stemmed.

Along with the 1989 vintage, the 1990 Nebbiolo vintage is an extraordinary vintage in both Barolo and Barbaresco. The hot weather yielded rich, sometimes-opulent wines. Flowering and crop set were much more even than in 1989, and consequently yields were quite a bit higher. While my experience with the vintage is limited, I have liked what I have tasted.  Antonio Galloni wrote a terrific article on the vintages in 2010. If you are a member of his Vinous web site you can access the report here 1989/1990 Piedmont.  The eleven wines for the evening were organized into four flights

Flight One

1990 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc.  I am not a buyer of Scavino wines as I find them very oaky and modern.  While the oak was in check in this bottle, to me the wine lacked freshness.

1990 Paolo Scavino Rocche Annunziata Barolo Riserva.  I found the fruit to be fresher and the palate softer than in the BdF, but other than that not a style that excites me.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
Flight Two

1990 Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Brunate.  While the bouquet was glorious on the nose, the palate was dead.  In my opinion this wine has past its prime.

1990 Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina.  A more modern styled Barolo, this showed very well. The wine started with a lovely nose of cherries that were echoed on a soft palate.  I liked this more than I thought I would.

1990 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis.  I love Sandrone wines.  They lie somewhere between traditional and modern, but they are magnificent expressions of Nebbiolo.  This was one of the wines of the night in my opinion.  It was firing on all cylinders.  Earthy bouquet, complex, balanced and elegant palate with a monster finish.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido

Flight Three

1990 Gaja Sperss Barolo.  While I am not a Gaja fan, this was very good indeed, starting with a tantalizing earthy Piedmont bouquet and a soft beautifully balanced palate and lengthy finish,.  For a few in the group it was the WOTN.

1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  There was something amiss with this bottle.  It wasn’t anything like previous bottles I have had.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia.  A wine I have had on two previous occasions and once again it did not disappoint. Another terrific showing for this wine.  Silky palate with terrific balance and a lengthy and elegant finish.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
Flight Four

1990 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive. What a superb Barbaresco.  Silky palate with beautiful fruit, balance and elegance and a lengthy and spectacular finish.  One of the wines of the night.

1990 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Pora.  Another one of my wines of the night.  Simply spectacular showing.  Terrific structure and balance and a long and elegant finish.

1990 Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi.  While this drank nicely it was completely out classed by the Giacosa and the Produttori.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
As you can see it was a terrific evening.  Sharing great wines with this very generous group of knowledgeable guys is one of the highlights of my wine drinking experience.

Thanks so much to Eric Guido for organizing the flights and the dinner.  Please be sure to check out his notes on the wines in his report Prelude to the Modern Vintage.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Cru Beaujolais

A couple of weeks ago I hosted my annual (I think this was #25) Hemophilia Association of New Jersey Gourmet Wine Dinner fundraiser.  Thanks to the support of the attendees and sponsors we raised $40,000 for the association.  The theme this year was “The Other Red Wine of Burgundy: Cru Beaujolais”.  The venue was Il Tulipano Ristorante, Cedar Grove, NJ.

Beaujolais is a wine region of eastern France, famous for its vibrant, fruity red wines made from Gamay grapes. It is the most southerly region of Burgundy, rather confusingly in the Rhône department, and this micro-region is just to the north of Lyon. The climate has some warming influence from the Mediterranean, but also has some continental influence with cold winters and hot summers. This is an area of rolling hills with vineyards facing mainly south or east. Soils vary from north to south. To the north of Villefranche, the characteristic granite or schist so beloved of the Gamay grape is found on the upper slopes, with stony clay soils lower down. Further south, the soils become heavier clay and limestone (known in this area as ‘Pierres Dorées’ - golden stones), sometimes with sandstone producing lighter wines.  Although best known for its red wines, the region also produces white Beaujolais Blanc, from Chardonnay and Aligote.  Since these wines get very little attention from wine critics prices remain very low.   In my opinion they represent some of the most affordable and delicious wines on the planet.

With the help of Gino Urban of David Bowler Wines, we selected Cru Beaujolais from 4 of the top vintages of the past decade, including the remarkable 2015 vintage that is being hailed as the greatest vintage since 1947.  The region's highest-quality wines are those of the ten Beaujolais 'crus' – ten vineyard areas long recognized as the finest in the area. Each of these ten (Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie and Saint-Amour) has its own appellation title.

Josh Reynolds (Vinous Media) says of the 2015 vintage of these Crus. “The last three vintages for Beaujolais have been a string of home runs, but 2015 is likely to be the one that delivers the greatest impact and pleasure for most wine lovers. Two thousand fifteen has plenty of candidates for wine of the year; wines that deliver concentration and energy, with opulent fruit character and the classic core of acidity that gives Beaujolais its trademark vivacity. These wines are also built to age but at the same time display an exuberance that makes many of them pretty irresistible now.”

Antonio Galloni (Vinous Media) says of the 2009 vintage of these Crus. “Big, broad, weighty and age worthy wines that demand patience. Not youth typical Beaujolais because of the wines' power and heft but there's no lack of energy either. To cellar and savor.”  He also lauds the 2013 and 2014 vintages as “outstanding” and “excellent” respectively.

The food and service were simply magnificent.  Il Tulipano is known for their incredible cocktail hour buffet.  This year they completely outdid themselves.  The room was a buzz with comments like “did you taste the …” throughout the hour.  Below are but 3 of the more than 25 selections on display.  Another dozen or more hors d'oeuvre were passed by the wait staff.  Each item seemed better than the previous one.

Homemade Soppressata
Octopus Salad
Pizza Assortment

The cocktail hour wines were all from Domaine Terres Dorées, A 40-acre estate owned and run by Jean-Paul Brun.  The estate is located in the Southern Beaujolais just north of Lyons in a beautiful area known as the "Region of the Golden Stones". Brun has attracted the attention of the French and American press for the wonderfully fruity and delicate wines he produces; he wants to make "old-style" Beaujolais. Brun's wines are made to be pleasurable- light, fruity and delicious- not artificially inflated wines that shine at tasting competitions.

He believes that the charm of the Gamay's fruit is best expressed by the grapes' indigenous yeast, rather than by adding industrial yeast. Brun's view is that Beaujolais drinks best at a lower degree of alcohol, and so there is no need to systematically add sugar to the must (chaptalize) to reach alcohol levels of 12 to 13 degrees. With that in mind, he chaptalizes minimally or, depending on the vintage and the cuvée, not at all. The reds are a traditional Burgundy vinification and the grapes de-stemmed– no carbonic maceration here. All of Jean-Paul Brun's red wines use open cement tanks for pigeage (grape crushing), and all natural yeasts are used, with only a minimum amount of SO2 used at bottling in order to keep the wine fresh and "headache-free." Filtration is also minimal so that the wine keeps its original fruit and aromas. For the white wines, fermentation starts spontaneously.

Brun's wines are not "blockbusters" in the sense of being "big." The emphasis is not on weight, but on fruit; this is Beaujolais as it once was, and as it should be. Brun's methods– to make Beaujolais from natural yeasts, to not chaptalize, and to work at low yields- are all part of his effort to restore the Gamay of the Beaujolais as a light, delicate and silky drink. This attitude separates him from most other winemakers of the area.

(2015) NV Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) FRV Rosé.

The name FRV100 is a play on the word “effervescent” (which becomes more apparent when you sound/spell it out letter by letter by number in French) and is indicative of the playfulness of the sweet sparkling rosé in the bottle.  It is made from Gamay vinified with the méthode ancestrale (like the classic example of this style of rosé, the Cerdon de Bugey of the Savoie region). The grapes are chilled down and fermented in vat until the alcohol reaches about 6%. After a light filtration, the still-fermenting wine is bottled and continues along naturally with the remaining yeasts until they wind down at 7.5-8%. The result is a light-bodied, gently sparkling, refreshingly red-berried and sweet quaffer.   The vintage will never appear on the label, as there is no allowance for sparkling Gamay in Beaujolais, though the wine is always single-vintage.  Light pink in color, wine was easy drinking and delicious and drew oos and ahs from the crowd.  $18.

2015 Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay.

In the early 1990's, Jean-Paul Brun planted several hectares of Chardonnay on limestone soil. As demand increased, he expanded his holdings and began contracting for grapes with other local vignerons with limestone soils (which is perfect for Chardonnay, especially in warmer climates.) The warm climate allows Jean-Paul to produce a rich wine with lots of character, while the soils preserve a fresh, mineral component. Fermented in stainless steel tanks that are laid on their side for more lees contact.  The wine is bottled without any oak, and sports a fresh and fruity bouquet, a rich full palate and a lengthy mineral finish. I am told that the wine ages bequfiully and becomes more honeyed as it matures.  This wine was considered by many as the WOTN.  My first Beaujolais Blanc, I was very impressed by how well this drank.  $17.

2015 Terres Dorées L’Ancien Vieilles Vignes

Made from Jean-Paul's oldest vines, which grow in tighter bunches with fewer and smaller, thicker-skinned berries, yielding more concentrated flavor. The grapes are harvested late with a naturally high sugar level. The wine is vinified using traditional Burgundy techniques. Deeply colored with rich red-fruit aroma and flavor and soft tannins.  This is a gorgeous entry level Cru Beaujolais.  While not fully open yet, the underlying pedigree is apparent.   Give this a couple of years in the cellar. At $16 a bottle, this represents great value in an everyday drinking wine.  According to Josh Raynolds, Vinousmedia, “This wine is consistently among the best values from Beaujolais."

The Dinner & The Wines

We began with a salad of Medaglioni di Caprino Su Letto di Insalatina Tenera con Frutta Candida e Noce Secche (Goat Cheese Medallions over baby Greens with candied fruits and dried walnuts).  A nice, refreshing compliment to the appetizers.   The wines served with this course were the aforementioned 2015 Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay and…

2015 Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes Cote de Brouilly Cuvee Les Ambassades

Cote de Brouilly has a special terroir: “blue” granite is laced with volcanic porphyry, or crystallized mineral deposits. This mixture, combined with the elevation (AOC Côte de Brouilly is confined to the upper vineyards; AOC Brouilly is lower, and far larger), largely accounts for Côte de Brouilly’s highly scented and finely concentrated wines.  Winemaking at Chavannes is traditional and simple, with little extraction in the modern sense (Pavillon’s wine could well be labeled the antithesis of modern extracted power). The alcoholic fermentation is done in cement vats, after which the wine goes into foudre for aging.

Tonights wine, Ambassades, comes from 12 acres of estates best parcels, and is purchased by the Quai d’Orsay for use in French embassies around the world. It is the last to be bottled and it is the most age-worthy. The wine showed a light red hue, with a bouquet of fresh red berries and a hint of pepper and spice.  It showed great depth and evolution in the glass and finished with elegance and length.  One of my favorites of the evening.  $20.

For the pasta course there was Lasagna Verde Pasticciata  Alla Bolognese (Spinach Lasagna Classic Bolognese Style).  Delicious, but hard to eat more than one or two bites after all the appetizers and the main course still to come.  Sorry, no photo was taken of the lasagna.

Domaine Grand Moulin comes from a four-hectares spread over several parcels - Champs de Cour, La Roche, le Moulin, le Clos, Perreins and Brouilleres. The grapes are mostly destemmed and fermentation happens in large conical-shaped (tronconique) wooden fermenters and some are placed in cement tronconique tanks. The tronconique shape gives more skin contact for a long and slow extraction. Fermentation lasts 7-10 days and is followed by a maceration totalling four weeks. Next the wines go by gravity into barrels and demi-muids, new to eight years old for aging. Moulin a Vent is considered to be the richest Cru in Beaujolais and the longest lived.

2013 Grand Moulin Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes (Xavier et Nicolas Barbet)

Known locally as the ‘King of Beaujolais’ for its power, structure and longevity, Moulin-à-Vent is actually atypical of the Beaujolais Crus; its style is the antithesis of what most people think of when they think of Beaujolais wines, and when fully mature (often at 10 years old or more) it resembles more a fine Burgundy, or even a Rhône, than Beaujolais. Named after the local windmill (which translates as moulin-à-vent in French,) Moulin-à-Vent is a real vindication of the principle of ‘terroir’.  I found this to be a deep, full-bodied wine that is just entering it's drinking window, which should last 10 to 20 years.  $16.

2009 Domaine Des Billards Saint-Amour Réserve

Situated at the mid-point of the sloping vineyards of Saint Amour, the Domaine des Billards belongs to the Barbet and Teissier families. This domaine has a long and storied history: an ancient parchment order book still in the family’s possession shows a number of prestigious customers in Paris in the 18th Century, among them a sale, in 1774, of 10 barrels to Marquis Turgot, Louis XVI’s Finance Minister. Today, they produce around 6,000 cases annually from their 5.26 hectares.
The soil is composed of sandstone pebbles underlying granite outcroppings at a depth of 50cm to 1 meter and beneath that, layers of clay. Farming is very traditional and natural, with no use of herbicides. The soil is regularly ploughed to develop the biodiversity: the Domaine des Billards is today a paradise for worms and beetles!

The traditional vinification lasts between 12 to 15 days; they use a weighted grill to keep the “crust” submerged in the fermenting juices leads to a more effective extraction of tannins. Aged an additional 5 years before release.  This was my WOTN.  Gorgeous red translucent hue, with lots of structure, depth and finesse.  Round and delicious wine with elegance and soul!  $32.

Our entrée consisted of Costate di Bue Brasate con Puea di Patate Profumate All’Aglio Fresco (Braised Prime Beef Short Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes).  Tender and delicious and a great compliment to the final two red wines.

2014 Louis-Claude Desvignes Morgon Javerniéres les Impenitents

The Desvignes family has been making Morgon for generations. The vineyards are on the Montagne de Py in the center of Morgon, the fruit of which is of far superior quality to that produced in the outlying areas of the appellation. If there were a classification of vineyards in Morgon, Côte-de-Py would be a premier cru and Javernières a grand cru. They are located on the best exposition of the hill, with soil of decomposed schist, and Javernières is a plot within the Côte-de-Py with a little more clay.  The wine is vinified by the traditional cru Beaujolais method with a grille to keep the cap submerged. Recently, the fermentation has been longer and more controlled than in the past in order to extract the color and material that are the most obvious virtues of this wine.

Morgon is, along with Moulin-à-Vent, the most age worthy of the Cru Beaujolais and Desvignes wines are fine examples. The wines age terrifically well and take on the character of Pinot Noir, or pinotize (the term used in Beaujolais). When young, the character is of dark cherry, raspberry and blackcurrant. With age, the wines become more earthy, velvety with cocoa and coffee tones. At the request of the importer, Louis/Dressner, the wines are bottled unfiltered some years or at most lightly fined.

Tonight's wine, the Javernieres les Impenitents, comes from a remarkable old vineyard, planted between 1912 and 1914. Located midway up the Cote de Py. The parcel is only one hectare and consists of sand anc clay. There are only 1000 bottles produced in a good year. The Impenitents is typically lower in alchol than the Côte du Py bottling from Desvignes. Impenitents means unrepentant. This is typically the most structured and deepest colored of all the Desvignes bottling but not, paradoxically, the highest in alcohol. The 2014 cuvee is 12.5% alc.

No barrels and no foudre are used here. Only concrete and a little bit of steel just before bottling.  The wine is made using a pneumatic horizontal press. Best with fine lees. Open at bottom. Allows for some oxidation. Natural yeast fermentation.  

This wine had a deep ruby color with a big nose of cherries and blueberries.  Tannins were supple and the palate was pure and complex.  The wine drank very much like a Burgundy.  This will age beautifully.  My second WOTN.  $45.

2015 Chateau de Fleurie Fleurie

Built in the 18th century, the Château de Fleurie dominates a beautiful vineyard situated in the heart of the village itself, with views of Mont Blanc in the east. The current owners- the Boisen and the Barbet families- are direct descendants of the original owner. The property covers 4.5 hectares stretching over the best sites in Fleurie- les Grands Fers, la Madone and le Point du Jour- on the middle slopes facing southeast. The soil is of a very pure granite, ideal for a good drainage, with a pink color called “le gore”. Farming is very traditional and free of pesticides and herbicides. The winemaking process is traditional "Burgundian" method with extended fermentation of 12-15 days, in vats covered by a weighted grill, to extract color and flavor. Under the winery a vaulted cellar holds an impressive store of old, traditional large oak barrels which are still in use. Fleurie is locally known as the "Queen of the Beaujolais" for its elegant style of Gamay.

Tonight's wine is aged for six months in cask and can age up to 10 to 15 years in good vintages.  It sports a bright magenta hue with a fresh bouquet of red fruits and asian spice. The palate had good balance with excellent acidity.  The wine finished with great length.  $17.

No great dinner and tasting would be complete without dessert.  I forgot what the chef called this, but to the Chocolate lovers (I am not one), it was sublime decadence.

Since I am not aware of any dessert wines made in Beaujolais I travelled to the France's Loire Valley and the estate of Francois Pinon.  The wines of François Pinon are considered among the finest of Vouvray. François, a former child psychologist, took over the estate from his father in 1987, and has steadily made a name for the estate since then. He is a serious winemaker whose main focus is "to keep the typicity of both the appellation and the vintage" in all his wines.

2005 Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Botrytis Limited Release

100% Chenin Blanc. This cuvée comes from vines averaging 45 years old in several Pinon sites (Déronnières, Fosses Rouges, Terné and Mortier) on soils of clay and black flint over tuffeau (the classic Loire limestone). The fermentation lasted between 3 and 4 months and involved only indigenous yeasts. The wine was aged on its lees in old barrel for 5 months and gently filtered before bottling. The yield in 2005 was 8 hl/ha. 11.6% alcohol with 103 g/l residual sugar and 4 g/l acidity.

Tonight's wine offered up plenty noble rot (Botrytis) in its aromatic blend of on a palate of tropical fruits and honey. The wine is deep, full-bodied and still quite young.  It displayed a great core, bright acidy and outstanding focus and balance on the long, complex and zesty and non-medicinal finish.   While superb now, this will be a great, great wine in another 20+ years.  If you can find it expect to pay about $60 for 500ml.

 It was a great evening that I felt really demonstrated that there are great wines available for less than $30.  If you have not yet discovered Cru Beaujolais, you owe it to yourself to check it.

All photos are compliments of my great friend Gene, owner of Impressive Impressions Photography.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Over the top Jersey City Wine Tasting

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining some fellow Vinous members for a delightful dinner and wine tasting in Jersey City, NJ.  The evening was hosted by Canadian Vinous member Philippe and 4 of his fellow Canadian wine loving friends.  Philippe did the cooking and we each brought along a couple of bottles to share.  In addition to demonstrating his considerable culinary talents, his arrangement of the flights was perfect and a glorious time was had by all.

We began the evening with 2010 Cedric Brouchard Roses de Jeanne Presle. Cédric Bouchard is one of the fastest rising stars in Champagne.  He began producing his own wines in 2000, and is very quickly garnering a reputation as Champagne’s most talented new wine producer.  He was awarded the title as Champagne’s finest winemaker for the year 2008 by the Gault Millau. 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 cuvée. This is a highly unique concept in Champagne, where so many of the top producers have made their reputations for many centuries by blending various wines and various vintages to make a consistently excellent bottle of bubbly year in and year out. However, blending is anathema to Cédric Bouchard, who seeks to create individual wines of great character each year from his single vineyard bottlings. Each wine is made only from juice from the first pressing, fermented only with indigenous yeast and handled meticulously in the cellar to guarantee the finest wines possible.

The Presle we drank comes from 15 rows (0.25 hectare) of 10 different Burgundian Pinot clones planted in 2007, all of which are massale selection.  1st press juice only, hand harvested and crushed by foot and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel. The wine is aged 36 months sur lie before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.  It was glorious.  The wine exhibited a light golden hue and offered up huge yeasty bouquet.  On the palate it was creamy, yeasty and lively and endowed with fantastic complexity and elegance.  It is a Champagne that must not be confined to a Champagne flute, but rather a large quality wine glass so that one can experience the evolution of the wine as it evolves in the glass.

We then moved onto 2004 Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve. Here is a wine that shows the magnificence of Rayas.  The 2004 vintage on the whole was nothing special, but the Rayas entry was just marvelous, proving once again that great wine makers make great wine, even in lesser vintages.

The wine had a beautiful translucent red hue with hints of cherries, raspberries and pepper on a seductive and beautifully balanced palate.  Like every Rayas I have ever had (and I have had a bunch) each sip exuded elegance before finishing with fantastic length.  A round and delicious wine with lots of soul!

We were then seated for our first course of seared tuna, 48 month aged prosciutto ages, black truffle, micro green, roasted pecan and balsamic.  The tuna was perfectly seared and danced in harmony with the other ingredients on the plate.  Hats off to Philippe who really showed off his culinary talents.

Philippe paired the dish with what he called a “once in a life time flight...just Abruzzo".  The fight consisted of two whites, 1999 Eduardo Valentini Trebbiano and 2010 Emidio Pepe Pecorino and three reds, 1990 Eduardo Valentini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2003 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and 2003 Stefania Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  Valentini and Pepe are the benchmarks for the region, producing wines of incredible character.

The Valentini estate has been under the direction of Eduardo’s son Francesco Paolo since he passed away in 2006.  Thankfully, Francesco has not changed a thing and continues to produce the family wines to the same exacting standards that were set by his father.  The wines are not cheap and are extremely hard to find. Based on the regional laws and standards of this wine zone, the Valentini estate could deliver 800,000 bottles annually. However, artisanal craftsmanship relies on selecting the ripest fruit, which limits their production to approximately 50,000 bottles. Eduardo considers his Trebbiano to be his finest wine. I personally love all three of his wines (red and rosé also).  The wine displays a startlingly natural character, freshness, complexity and depth. To be truly appreciated, they need 10+ years of aging.  This all falls perfectly in step with one of Valentini's favorite lines, Natura non facit saltus or “Nature doesn't leap.”  Tonight’s wine was simply glorious with a round and delicious palate and lengthy finish.

The Emidio Pepe estate, like Valentini, has a very traditional approach to wine making and takes the fruit that Mother Nature provides and turns it into great wine. The 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 for another 8 years in bottle. Before release, the wines are decanted by hand into new bottles, and then labeled.  2010 was the initial vintage for his Pecorino.  It is very different than Trebbiano, exhibiting an orange hue and slightly oxidized style.  I much prefer his Trebbiano.

The 1990 Valentini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is quite simply one of the greatest red wines I have ever tasted.  The style is very different than Emidio Pepe, closer in fact to Quinterelli in my opinion.  The wine was just amazing.  Very dark in color and absolutely pure and complex on the palate with a lush finish.  One of the best wines I have ever had.

2003 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  What a beautiful wine that was perhaps one short step behind the Valentini.  Deep red hue, with fantastic concentration, impeccable balance and depth.  This wine will live on for a few more decades at the very least.

2003 Stefania Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  This was my first taste of this wine made by Emidio’s daughter Stefania.  The wine was vey good, but much tighter than her father’s.  The Pepe pedigree is quite evident, and my guess is that with 5 to 10 years cellar time this will equal her father’s.  According to Philippe the wine is only available in the Italy and Canada.

'99 Trebbiano; 2010 Pecorino
"90 Valentini (front); '03 E. Pepe behind; '03 S. Pepe far right

Our main course consisted of grass fed steak (aged 48 days), seared mini potatoes and Chanterelles in a foie gras and Armagnac sauce.  I admit to not being a big steak fan, but this dish could easily change that.  Perfectly cooked, it was just sublime  as were the two wine flights Philippe paired the dish with.

The first steak flight belonged to Côte-Rôtie, while the second featured Tuscany and Piedmont. Côte-Rôtie is a French wine Appellation (AOC) in the northern Rhône wine region of France. The vineyards are unique because of the steep slopes facing the river and their stonewalls. Côte-Rôtie can be rendered in English as "the roasted slope" and refers to the long hours of sunlight that these steep slopes receive.

1999 René Rostaing Cuvée Classique. This cuvée is usually a blend of 13 different lieux-dits other than Landonne and Côte Blonde.  The wine is made from 100% Syrah. Rostaing's winemaking is a mix of tradition and modernism such as total or partial destemming and the fermentation in roto-fermenters. The two-year ageing process is carried out in 228 liter Burgundy barrels and in demi-muids (600 liters). The part of new wood remains minimal so that it does not interfere with the terroir nor alter the fruit purity.  On the palate the wine showed pure fruit and good balance, but lacked the depth of the Jamet.

1998 Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie.  The Jamet brothers, Jean-Paul and Jean-Luc, have 25 plots spread across 17 lieux-dits.” Every year the Jamet brothers carefully select from these sites to craft a highly nuanced wine silky in texture and endowed with depth, elegance and finesse. Jamet is a traditional Cote Rotie producer that retains a large portion of stems for use during the vinification. The percentage of stems used differs, depending on the vintage. On average, 30% of the stems are removed. Vinification takes place in stainless steel vats. The destemmed grapes get cap punching, while the whole bunch fruit is pumped over. Jamet Cote Rotie is aged in 20% new, French oak barrels. The remaining wine is aged in oak barrels and large oak casks ranging from 3 to 10 years of age for close to 22 months.  I have not had a lot of experience with Jamet, but I liked this a lot.  At 19 years of age, the wine was a bit tighter although more youthful than the Rostaing, and appears to be entering its drinking window, which should last for a few decades.

For the final flight we returned to Italy with 3 wines, that like the Côte-Rôtie, complemented the steak beautifully.  For the final flight we returned to Italy for the final three wines, that like the Côte-Rôtie, complemented the steak beautifully.

1999 Montevetrano. This Super Tuscan (Italy’s version of French Bordeaux) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Aglianico.  Like Bordeaux, I am not a fan of these more modern styled wines.

The 2008 Le Pergole Torte, from Montevertine is 100% Sangiovese and more in my wheelhouse.  It drank beautifully and will for years to come.

2004 Bartolo Mascarello.  Oh how I love this wine.  2004 was an extraordinary vintage in Barolo and this is one of the wines of the vintage.  A blockbuster wine that is just entering its drinking window.  The wine exhibits absolute purity on the palate, soft tannins and is beautifully balanced. This wine will drink well for many years to come.

My thanks to Philippe and the others for making it a truly remarkable evening.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

My 72nd Birthday

Two weekends ago I celebrated my 72nd birthday with my family at our beach house in Lavallette, NJ. I am very fortunate to have my immediate family close by to celebrate with. Mother Nature provided great beach/pool weather to make it a truly special day.

We began with lunch from Midway Steak House in the center of the Seaside Heights Boardwalk.  For a good part of my 72 years I have been enjoying the incredible Italian Sausage and Pepper sandwiches from Midway.  Last year my sons-in-law had me try their cheese steak.  I was hooked after the first bite. This was as close to Pat’s Cheese Steaks in Philly as I have ever had.  I opted for the Cheese Steak this year (I'm saving the sausage and peppers for my next trip).  Like Pat’s, it is a thinly sliced fresh rib-eye steak (not the paper thin frozen kind), loaded with peppers & onions and smothered with melted cheese sauce.  An ice cold Becks Beer complemented the sandwich to perfection.

For my birthday dinner we went to Charlie’s of Bay Head, the latest addition to the dinning scene in the Point Pleasant to Seaside Heights corridor. I would categorize Charlie’s as a casual American Bistro with good food, courteous service and a better than average wine list.  Located on Twilight Lake, the space is large and handsome and a couple of earlier in the year visits did not disappoint. After perusing their wine list on line, I called the restaurant the day before and spoke to General Manager Mark Bernard regarding my selection.  I requested a couple of bottles of 2010 Roagna Paje Barbaresco to be opened and decanted 3 hours prior to our arrival.  Mark graciously complied.

The name Pajé is derived from the local dialect, which historically were used to name each parcel of land. Pajé is one of the historic vineyards of the village of Barbaresco and it located in the center of the area planted to vines.  It is particularly rich in calcareous marl soil with a high content of active limestone.  The vineyard covers a total of 1.83 Ha (4.52 Acres) with unique soil and microclimate.  Pajé is a small strip of land facing South West.

The vines for this wine are between 25 and 50 years of age and today the average ages of the vines is over forty years old. The roots are sourced by used the massage wood system by using only clippings that we have pruned from the Paje vineyard.

The harvest takes place in October by hand usually in the morning once the fruit has reached perfect ripeness. Before being made into wine we manually select each berry in order to have perfect fruit.

Fermentation takes place exclusively in large wood casks thanks to a pied de cuve created from indigenous yeasts. This lasts for ten days and then the ancient technique of maceration is used by splinting the submerged cap process which lasts for at least two months, (60 – 70 days). The wine is then aged in a neutral oak barrel for approximately 5 years.  The production of bottles is limited to less than ten thousand bottles per vintage and each bottle is numbered on the label.

While the 2010 vintage in Barbaresco does not reach the heights of 2010 in Barolo, this wine made by Luca Roagna was wonderful.  The 3 hour decant allowed the wine to open and it drank beautifully from the first sip. While still young, the wine was round and delicious, displaying a gorgeous earthy bouquet with a complex and velvety palate and a lengthy and elegant finish.  While the 2010 Barolos will require a lot of patience, this is ready now with a few hours of air time.  $90 Wine-Searcher.

For the white wine, I selected a couple of bottles of 2015 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Sec Les Argiles. Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, the initial sip was a bit acidic, but after 30 minutes in the glass, the pedigree of the wine emerged.  Nice balance and complexity with a clean crisp finish.  A couple of years of patience will be justly rewarded.  $30.  Wine-Searcher.  In my opinion, Francois Chidaine is one of the top producers of reasonably priced Chenin Blanc from Vouvray and Montlouis in the Loire region of France.

Given the size of the restaurant (250+), the food has yet to disappoint.  Today's selections were:

Fried Calamari with Lemon Garlic Aioli

Oysters on the half shell

Buffalo Wings

Vegetable Lasagna

Classic Burger

Pan Seared Halibut

Rib-Eye Steak

Steak Frittes

House Made Donuts

It was a great day, and to reiterate my earlier comment, I am grateful and blessed to have been able to celebrate it with my family.

A couple of good friends also stopped by during the week to wish me happy birthday.  Of course I popped a couple of bottles of wine to celebrate with.  

2003 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino.  Oh how I love this wine.  Made by Diego Molinari, a former Alitalia pilot, Antonio Galloni has commented on an average vintage that "Molinari  has once again crafted what may very well turn out to be the Brunello of the vintage."  I have had this wine on multiple occasions since 2011 and have enjoyed every sip.  The wine displays a fantastic translucent red hue, earthy bouquet and a palate marked by incredible depth, complexity and finesse and a long, elegant finish.  Molinari sold the estate in 2015 American Venture Capitalist Gary Rieschelin.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that the change of ownership will not affect the wines.  This vintage is no longer available in the market.

1999 Domain des Chezeaux Griotte-Chambertin.  From the excellent 1999 vintage, this was awesome and shows no signs of shutting down.  My first bottle in the past 4 years, this is a classic Red Burgundy with an enticing bouquet and a round and velvety palate with a lengthy and elegant finish.  The domaine was formed in 1982 from the holdings of the Mercier family who still run the company. The name Chézeaux refers to the original Mercier family home close to the Chateau of Gevrey within the walls of which are about half a hectare of vines – Clos de Chézeaux. The basis of the holdings date from 1928, but today there are no winemakers in the family, hence, their holdings are all ‘en metayage’ i.e. they are ‘farmed’ by others (Ponsot, Leclerc & Berthaut) who take two thirds of the crop as payment, the balance going to ‘des Chézeaux’. In the case of Chézeaux the ‘metayers’ also do the elevage and bottling.  This bottle was made by Ponsot.  If you are not familiar with Ponsot, his wines are highly sought after by collectors and command a high tariff.  These wines that he makes for des Chezeaux, are the exact same wines and about half the price.  Like the Cerbaiona, the vintage is no longer available in the general market.

Happy Birthday to me...one very lucky guy.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Magnificent Wines of Chateau Rayas

Our local wine group met last evening at a new venue, Roberts Scratch Kitchen, Totowa, NJ.  . Opened last May, this is a cozy, attractive restaurant serving fresh food with a smile.  Owner Robert explained that he has no freezer and that everything is cooked from scratch daily with fresh ingredients.  In lieu of printing or reciting the daily specials, Robert displays them pictorially on an iPad while he describes each.  To begin with, we enjoyed two terrific shrimp dishes

RSK Shrimp (Sautéed Shrimp in Sweet Chili Sauce)
Shrimp Sautéed in Olive Oil, Lemon and  Butter Sauce Over Pieces of Polenta 
Although not pictured we also shared Hand cut Fries with Long Hots and Fresh Mozzarella; lightly Fried Calamari Served with Ginger Sauce; Diced Tuna Sashimi with toast points.  

In addition to all the appetizers being delicious, on Monday evenings they are all priced at $10.

Main courses faired equally well.

1 lb. Veal Chop, pounded thin and served Parmigianno style with pasta.
An enormous serving that was shared by two of us. 
Chilean Sea Bass Risotto
Rigatoni with Lobster & Brocolli Rape 

Emil, our wine host for the evening, treated us to 5 magical Southern Rhone red wines from Chateau Rayas. Many consider the estate, myself included, to be the benchmark for Châteauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhone wines, both red and white.  Today the family’s three properties, Château Rayas, Château des Tours and Château de Fonsalette are under the direction Emmanuel Reynaud, nephew of the legendary Jacques Reynaud.  These traditionally made wines are not easy to come by and on the pricey side for their top wines.  In my opinion, they are worth every penny and provide an exciting drinking experience.

Chateau Rayas is a small ten-hectare vineyard, in the heart of the woods, planted in very poor, sandy soil producing wines with great finesse. While CdP laws allow for all 13 grapes in the region to be included in the wine, Chateau Rayas uses only Grenache for the red and Grenache and Clairette for the white CdP.

Chateau Fonsalette is a large property with a dozen or so hectares of vines, woods, agricultural land and olive trees. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah are used for the red wines.  On occasion the estate will bottle a 100% Syrah.  Grenache, Clairette and Marsanne are used for the white. The grapes are vinified and sold at Rayas.

Chateau Des Tours is a 40-hectare property of vines, a mother plantation, cereals and a plot of olive trees planted in 1997. The grape varieties are as follows: Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Merlot and Counoise for red wine.  Grenache and Clairette are used for white wine.

We began the evening with 2011 Rayas La Pialade Cotes Du Rhone.  This amazing wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Cinsault and 5% syrah.  It is made from fruit that didn't make the cut for Rayas, Pignan or Fonsalette and thus sells at a fraction of the price of these wines ($50). This is one of the best Cotes Du Rhone I have ever tasted.  Gorgeous bright red translucent hue with a peppery palate of lovely pure fruit with superb balance, complexity and a lengthy finish.  A wine with soul that evolves with time in the glass.

2006 Rayas Pignan Chateauneuf du Pape Réservé followed.  Pignan is the second wine of Rayas. However, because much of Pignan comes from their more northern vines, it can also be looked at as a unique brand.  Pignan is produced from almost 100% old vine Grenache and also uses grapes from their young vines. Pignan is aged for 16 months in demi-muids and foudres. Only 650 cases are produced each year.  My first sip gave me a moment of concern as the wine yielded very little.  However a few moments of air and the wine began to soar from the glass. An enticing bouquet of pepper and spice was echoed on a superbly balanced palate that had fantastic depth.  The wine never stopped evolving in the glass and finished with fantastic length. Truly a wine with soul!

2004 Rayas Chateauneuf de Fonsalette Réservé.  A Cotes Du Rhone blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Cinsault and 15% Syrah, the wine was delicious, like those before it.  I loved the pepper palate and lengthy finish.  

2006 Rayas Chateauneuf Du Pape Réservé.   The flagship wine of the estate is made from 100% Grenache and is aged in large, ancient wood vats, or "foudres" that are 80 to 100 years old. What a wine.  While in my opinion it lacks the elegance of the 2005 vintage, it is round and delicious with a pure and beautifully balanced palate and lengthy finish.  This wine should age beautifully for another couple of decades.

1985 Rayas Pignan Chateauneuf du Pape Réservé.  While the wine lacked a bit of the freshness of the other wines, for its age it had wonderful balance, depth and complexity.  Finished a bit shorter than the others, but a terrific wine and a joy to drink.

Rayas, in my opinion, is amongst the top ten winemakers in the world.  I love his wines and thus am very grateful of Emil’s generosity for treating us to such a magnificent tasting.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Food & Wine Pairing

If you Google “food and wine pairing”, you will get 2,3000,000 hits that include charts, guides, articles etc.  All can be very helpful.  And, while I do think there are certain wine types and foods that pair magically, such as a bright, minerally Muscadet with fresh Oysters, I have always been of the opinion that great food and great wine always go together, be it white wine with meat or red wine with fish. My opinion was reinforced this past Friday when Carol and I dined with good friends Maria and Enzo at our favorite Asian/Sushi restaurant, Wabi Sabi in Bloomfield, NJ.  Chef/owner Nelson Yip is one of the finest Asian/French fusion chef’s I have ever encountered.  The secrets to his success are quite simple; great mentors in both French and Asian cuisine, a fanaticism for fresh ingredients and an unbridled passion for transforming ingredients into simple and at the same time spectacular dishes. He is so fanatical about the quality of his sushi, that he receives 3 shipments of fresh fish from Japan weekly.  There simply is no comparison to the quality and freshness of his sushi and sashimi to most other Japanese restaurants in the area...at least in my opinion.  I would be remiss if I did not mention that the service here is equal to the food.  Alice and company will see to all your needs with a smile and efficiency.

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.