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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

HANJ Wine Dinner

For the past 15 or 20 years I have hosted a Gourmet Wine dinner to benefit the Hemophilia Association of New Jersey.  They are a remarkable group of people who do an awesome job in supporting the hemophilia community of NJ.  This year’s event netted more than $40,000.00 for the association.  The event was held at Il Capriccio Ristorante, Whippany, NJ on Monday evening, May 7, 2012.  Eighty-three people enjoyed the great food prepared by Tony Grande and his son Natale, and enjoyed the magnificent wines of Giuseppe Quintarelli.  Readers of this blog know how I feel about these wines.  I always have wanted to do a wine dinner that featured all of his wines and since he passed away in January of this year I felt that now was the time to honor the man and his legacy.  I served every wine he makes, with the exception of the dessert wine Amabile, which I served last year.

Tuna Tartare
Cappellini w/ Meatball 
We began as always with a cocktail hour that featured an amazing assortment of hot & cold appetizers served butler style. The appetizers, which seemed to never stop, were comprised of a of pristinely fresh Tuna Tartare, scrumptious Tomato Bruschetta, Mozzarello di Buffula tomato skewers drizzled with fresh Italian Olive Oil, Arancini di Riso (fried risotto balls), succulent Baby Lamb Chops, wonderfully moist mini Meatloaf with mashed potatoes,  Mini “Flying Meatballs” with Cappellini, tender and flavorful mini medallions of Chicken Parmigianno, and superb mini Mac N Cheese.

Pared with the appetizers were two gorgeous wines, 2009 Huet Clos du Bourg Sec and 2007 Quintarelli Primofiore.  Huet is in a class with Quintarelli, producing absolutely stunning Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley of France.   This wine, still very much in its infancy, had remarkable balance, was full-bodied with a subdued oily richness that tantalized the palate and finished with an earthy elegance.  While it is hard not to drink now, 3-5 years of cellaring will be rewarded.  Beyond that it should last for another 50 years at least.   $30. 

Primofiore & Clos du Bourg Sec
One might say that Primofiore is Quintarelli’s entry-level wine.  Whatever class you put it in it is a terrific wine at a very reasonable price.  The wine is made by gently pressing the remaining grape matter after the free-run juice is siphoned off for the higher end wines such as Valpolicella and Amarone. It is like drinking a baby Amarone. The wine was full of young fresh fruit that was beautifully balanced, and had a nice muted peppery palate and a clean finish. About $40.

Once seated we enjoyed our first course, Gamberetti, Calamari e Cannellini.  This was a harmonic combination of shrimp, squid & cannellini beans in a brandy cream sauce.  With this course we enjoyed Quintarelli’s only white wine; 2008 Secco Ca del Merlo Bianco.  Many of the attendees were unfamiliar with this wine, but were oh so delighted to learn of it and partake of it. It is a blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Saorin (believed to be a clone of the Tokay grape). Garganega is the 5th most widely planted white grape in Italy and the main grape used in the production of Soave (it constitutes 70-100% of the blend).   The wine was very elegant and soft on the palate with hints of citrus.  It finished rich and clean.  $35.

Next up was the pasta course, fresh Orecchietta Pasta al Passato di Pomodoro con Melenzane e Ricotta (homemade “little ears” with a sauce of tomatoes, eggplant and Ricotta cheese).  The dish similar to the Sicilian pasta, Penne alla Norma, was simply wonderful.  We enjoyed Quintarelli’s two Valpolicellas with the pasta.  In one glass there was the 2002 Quintarelli Valpolicella.  Made from a blend of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes this vintage is classic Quintarelli.  A gorgeous dark garnet hue with an almost indescribable dry/sweet balance, the wine simply mesmerizes the palate.  The wine soars with pure and harmoniously balanced fruit and finishes with a candied elegance.  What a wine.  $65.  Alongside this beauty was the 1986 Quintarelli Ca del Merlo Rosso, a single vineyard Valpolicella named after a plot of land where a large Merlo (bird) sat perched on a tree overlooking the hillside. It differs from the regular Valpolicella only in that the grapes come from this one specific site and thus the terroir and its influence on the wine are unique.  Tonight this bottle took a back seat to the 2002 Valpolicella.  It tasted old and tired compared to the 2002 and to the bottle I had and wrote about in March.  It was the most controversial wine of the evening, with many adoring it and many less than enthusiastic.  As I have some in my cellar, I will report on this vintage in upcoming posts.  $100.

Our entrée on this gala evening consisted of Costoletta di Maiale Biologico Arrosto (Berkshrie Pork Chop oven roasted with rosemary & Santa Teresa lemon in a light demi-glaze).   This was paired with a flight of three of Quintarelli’s finest wines, 2002 Rosso del Bepi; 2000 Amarone; and 1998 Alzero.  It is not often that you will find three glasses of world class wines sitting in front of you simultaneously as we had tonight.  There are but three words for these wines, “Oh My God”. 

L to R, Rosso di Bepi, Amarone, Alzero
Let me begin with the  Rosso di Bepi.  This is a wine that is only made in vintages when Giiuseppe feels that the grapes do not meet his strict standards to be labeled Amarone. Thus he declassifies the wine and calls it Rosso di Bepi. It is in fact his Amarone at ½ the price.  The bouquet that flowed from the glass energized the senses to what you were about to taste.  Rich, balanced and pure on the palate, the wine soared from the glass and prepared your palate for the Amarone that sat waiting in an adjacent glass.   

On to the 2000 Amarone.  Wow.  If there is such thing as a perfect wine this may be it.   This was just spectacular, exploding on palate with an incredible rich and balanced sweetness.   The wine continued to evolve with every sip.  It was round, lush and delicious with a finish that almost brought tears to my eyes.  Opened 7 hours prior to drinking (as were all the wines except the whites), this was a memorable wine.  Quintarelli also made a riserva Amarone “Selizone” in 2000 that I have had and while very good, at the moment is not really a match for this “normale” wine.  $300.

The final wine in this flight, also memorable and perhaps also perfect, was the 1998 Alzero.  Made in the Amarone-style, it is mostly Cabernet Franc with a small bit of Merlot.  It has incredible balance with amazing length.  Like the Amarone it soars from the glass and evolves with each sip.  The wine is only made in exceptional vintages and is a wine every serious wine drinker should experience.

Before we enjoyed our dessert and dessert wine we refreshed our palate with Insalatine di Campo all’Aroma di Tartufo, a salad of field greens in a truffle vinaigrette. 

1997 Guiseppe Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella was the final wine of the evening.  The wine brought new meaning to the adage “going out in style”.  This amazing sweet dessert wine paired magnificently with the homemade Cannoli alle Mandorle (Almond Tuille Cannolli).  Recioto refers to the extending lobes of a grape cluster that appear as "ears" at the top of the cluster. The exposed grapes on the "ears" usually receive the most direct sunlight and become the ripest grapes on the cluster.  What Quintarelli does with these grapes is magical.  The initial sip reminds you of a great vintage port.  Subsequent sips tell you that you are being transported to another dimension of sweet dessert wines.  The wine was simply profound with an understated complexity, impeccable balance and a long and sensuous finish.  $175 per 350ml bottle.

It was simply a fantastic evening with the wines showing beautifully.  My sincere thanks to Tony and Natale Grande and the Il Capriccio staff for their great food and service, to Brian Hider, Wine Director for the Pluckemin Inn for getting me the wines at a very reasonable price & for and adding his comments & knowledge about the wines, to Chris Cree, MW for his comments & knowledge also and to Gene Urban, Mater of Photography, for memorializing the evening on camera.  To view this incredible evening, Gene uploaded an incredible slide show of the event.  Please click here to view it. Thanks also to my wine loving friends for their support.
Me, Brian Hider & Chris Cree
Tony & Natale Grande
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not give a very special thanks to Giuseppi Quintarelli and his wines.  He was a special person who took an enormous amount of pride in what he did.  Had you been present tonight and tasted these wines, you would understand that these are not just idle words.  Speaking of words, In his own words Giuseppe says, ""Our traditional methods and savors must not be abandoned or forgotten. More than anything else, one can never force nature. One must be calm, have the right method, and have a lot of passion." -Giuseppe Quintarelli 
Finding Quintarelli wines can be a challenge.  Three very reliable sources for his wines are   The Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop, Bedminster, NJ., De-Vino Wine Boutique, NYC, and NY Wine Warehouse, NYC.


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