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, November 16, 2011

Bivio e Bovio

Is there anything better than wine and food crafted simply & deliciously from the purest ingredients available? I think not, especially when we are talking about pizza and Barolo. I don’t know about you, but for me, pizza is first and foremost about the dough. It is the foundation of the pizza and when it comes together in harmony with the other main ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, homemade mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and a fine extra virgin olive oil, it transports you to culinary heaven.

For the second time in a week we went to Bivio Pizzeria Napoletana in Little Falls, NJ. And for the second time in a week we savored the wonderful pizzas crafted by Tomasso Colao, who is the owner along with his wife Jackie.

Before opening Bivio, Mr. Colao befriended Anthony Mangieri, proprieter of Una Pizza Napoletana, formerly of NYC and now San Francisco and learned all he could about making pizza dough. Mr. Mangieri makes his dough with the aid (I hope this is the right word) of a starter dough. I am a bit fuzzy here, but as I understand it, in lieu of adding yeast to the day’s dough production a piece of “mother dough” is added allowing the dough to “rise naturally”. Whatever the case is, the resulting dough is amazing and produces an incredible pizza. For a video of Mr. Mangieri making his dough and pizza click here.

Mr. Calao has been feeding his pizza dough his “mother culture” (the foundation of his pizzas) daily for 6 years. The pies are baked in a custom-built brick oven made in Naples, Italy.

The pizza that emerges from the oven is a thing of beauty. It is comprised of a puffy, sporadically charred blistery crust that is neither crisp nor soggy but has the tenderness reminiscent of a great loaf of Italian bread and is the perfect setting for the limited number of toppings available to compliment it.

The menu lists 5 pizzas plus two daily special pizzas, and 3 salads along with one salad special. My favorites are the Marghrita made with San Marzano tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt and the same pizza with the addition of Italian sausage.

While I love an ice cold beer with my pizza, pizza this good deserves a great wine and a 1996 Bovio Barolo Vigna Gattera was a perfect match on this evening. A traditionally made, great old world wine that is singing at the moment. An earthy bouquet greets the nose in an almost intoxicating fashion. On the palate there is an explosion of pure fruit with a finish that is pure elegance. A wine full of soul as was the pizza. $75 at De-Vino Wine Boutique in NYC.

Ah, but let us not forget dessert. We enjoyed homemade cannelloni and Italian Orange Cheesecake that were the ideal compliments to our espresso.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the staff is courteous, friendly and very professional. Only open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations for 5 or more accepted. BYOB.

Until next time,


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Great Wines Under $40

Someone once said that anyone can buy a good wine at $300 - $500 a bottle, but to find a good wine for less than $40, now there’s a challenge. Fortunately there are many great wines out there that are in this price range. These wines are made by artisan wine makers who have crafted some of the most delicious wines I have ever tasted. Each of these wines boasts a very reasonable price tag, especially in relation to the quality of wine in the bottle. They all occupy space in my cellar.

As you know I am a traditionalist when it comes to wine, and so it should come as no surprise that the ensuing wines fall into that category. They tantalize the palate with their purity and balance and finish with elegance. Simply put they are delicious, inexpensive and possess soul. The only down side is they may not be that easy to find as most wine shops probably do not carry them. If you subscribe to Wine-Searcher.com, I suggest you avail yourself of this resource if you are interested in purchasing them. You will be glad you did.

Touraine is a Loire Valley appellation around the city of Tours, France. Pineau d'Aunis, also known as Chenin Noir is the red grape variety around Touraine and Anjou. The vineyards of Clos Roche Blanche were planted on the Touraine hills bordering the Cher River by the Roussel family at the end of the 19th century and have remained in the family since. Organically farmed, the grapes are hand-harvested. The must is handled by gravity at all stages. The wine then ages on its lees, is bottled by gravity by hand without filtration to avoid mechanical manipulation that would unsettle it. Instead of using sulfur at bottling, the bottles are blanketed with CO2. The resulting wines are a terrific expression of the grape, the land and the climate, i.e. terroir. I have recently tried two of the wines from this amazing producer and they are destined to occupy space in my cellar for years to come.

2010 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Pineau D'Aunis Rosé. This is quite simply one of the most delicious Rosé wines I have ever tasted. It possesses a cloudy pink hue and is dry & peppery on the palate, similar to Grenache. The wine is completely round and must be tasted to appreciate, and at $20 a bottle is a fantastic value. Equally impressive is the 2010 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine L'Arpent Rouge. This is a wine filled with terroir. Upon opening you are met with a bouquet that is pure barnyard. After about 20 minutes in the glass the barnyard is replaced by a peppery & earthy bouquet, also reminiscent of Grenache. Delicious, and also only $20 a bottle. Both of these wines are full of soul.

The Jura is a small and relatively obscure wine region in eastern France, between Burgundy and the Swiss border. Its geographical isolation has helped it to remain a rare bastion of traditional winemaking techniques, and today it produces some of the most distinctive wines in the world. Reds from the Jura are often light-bodied, earthy, berried, and reminiscent of the village wines of Burgundy (though here they are made of local grapes like Poulsard and Trousseau) and are best appreciated if served with a slight chill on them. Arbois is a small commune in the Jura and produces some of the best wines of the Jura. Jacques Puffeney is one of the superstars of the Jura (among his colleagues he is known as the “the Pope of Arbois.” His wines are fantastic. The 2006 Jacques Puffeney Arbois Poulsard M, a blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau & Poulsard, is an elegant, light red wine that is delicious. A perfect accompaniment to pizza, eggplant ptarmigan or spaghetti and meatballs. $24.

Philippe Bornard is another superstar of the Arbois. His 2006 Arbois Pupillin Melon le Rouge Queue is a spectacular white from the area. A blend of Melon and Malbec grapes the wine is stunning. The wine has wonderful complexity and balance and is fresh and pristinely pure on the palate with a hint of viscosity. The wine keeps evolving in the glass during the course of sipping it. Whenever I drink this wine I am reminded of the difference between enjoying and experiencing a wine.

My favorite white wine grape is Chenin Blanc. A grape of high acidity it is used to make spectacular still wines, sparkling wines and well-balanced dessert wines. In the hands of master traditional producers such as Gaston Huet and Francois Pinon these wines will rock your world. The wines hail from the Vouvray district of the Loire Valley in France. They are made to contain a percentage of residual sugar, which means fermentation is stopped before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. The resulting wines rather than being "sweet" have a beautifully integrated sweetness that seduces the palate. One of the beauties of these wines is that they can be enjoyed young (when they are inexpensive) or kept for 50+ years (when their value has increased by 10 to 30 fold) in the cellar. Here are some of my favorites that are drinking well now and will for decades to come.

2009 Francois Pinon Vouvray Silex Noir $22
2009 Francois Pinon Vouvray Cuvée Tradition $22
Francois Pinon NV Touraine Brut Rose $19
2009 Huet Lieu Demi Sec $36

The red wines of Burgundy (Pinot Noir) continue to occupy more and more space in my cellar. They are for me they a wonderful expression of feminine elegance in a glass. Grand & Premier Cru Burgundies command a big price tag. Fortunately there are the Bourgogne and Villages levels of these wines, which are meant to be drunk earlier and are very affordable. They are usually made of the grapes that do not make it into the Grand & Premier Cru bottlings, but are crafted as the higher priced wines are. Here are a few from top producers that are worth trying. One note, do not worry about the year so much in as much if these producers make a wine in any given vintage it will be very good.

2007 Joseph Drouhin Chorey-les Beaune Villages Red $15
2004 Denis Bachelet Bourgogne Rouge $21
2009 Faiveley Ladoix $25
2006 Camille Giroud Marsannay Les Longeroles $30

Occupying even more space in my cellar are the red wines of Piedmonte, Italy. While Barbaresco and Barolo are the superstars of the region, do not over look the Barberas, Dolcettos and Arneis (white) made from top producers. Give these a try.

2007 Flavio Roddolo Dolcetto d’Alba at $17 is one of the best Dolcetto’s I have ever tasted. Pure & earthy with a long silky finish.

2007 Bartolo Mascarello Dolcetto d’Alba. From the master Barolo producer, this is a beautiful wine for under $25.

2004 Ada Nada Barbaresco Elisa, $36, along with Produttori Barbaresco, $35, these wines represent some of the greatest values for Nebiolo you will ever find.

The white wine grape of Piedmont is Arneis. It is most commonly found in the hills of Roero, northwest of Alba. Arneis wines are dry, full bodied, crisp and delightful to drink. Two of the best producers of Arneis are Bruno Giacosa and Ceretto. Ceretto’s Arneis Blange has a slight bit of spritz upon opening, and is very clean and soft on the palate. It is my wife’s favorite wine and has been for many years. $20.

Giacosa’s Rorero Arneis is also very clean and crisp on the palate. The wine has more complexity than the Ceretto and is my favorite Arneis. A bit more expensive at about $30 a bottle.

The following shops carry some, if not all of these wines.
Chambers Street Wines, NYC
New York Wine Warehouse, NYC
Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ
De-Vino Wine Boutique, NYC
ShopRite Liquors, West Caldwell, NJ

Until next time,


"Life’s too short to drink bad wine"!