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, June 4, 2012

Recent Food & Wine

I thought I’d share some of the wines I drank and food I ate over the past week beginning with Memorial Day weekend.  The weekend began on Friday evening with most of the family going to Tina Louise Restaurant in Carlstadt, N.  This is a terrific Chinese restaurant that my good friend Emil introduced me to a couple of months ago.  Small & cozy (30+ seats), the food is authentic and cooked fresh each day.   On my few visits to date, I have enjoyed an incredible Hot and Sour Soup, Peking Ravioli (pot stickers), Wonton in Spicy Sauce, Soft Shell Crabs in Ginger Sauce and various noodle dishes.  Portions are ample and prices are very reasonable.
I prefer white wines, especially Reislings and Gruner Veltliners with Asian food, so I brought along a 2004 F X Pichler Gruner Veltliner Kellerberg Smaragd.  From the Wachau region of Austria this was an absolutely stunning bottle of wine.  It possessed wonderful balance and acidity while imparting an interesting hint of pepper on the palate.  The finish was clean and lengthy.  A wine with soul.  All Pichler wines come from one of their single vineyard sites.  $65.

My son-in-laws both are red wine only kinda guys, so I brought a 2001 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas les Ruchets.  While the style appears a bit modern to me (70% new oak) the wine had a wonderful peppery palate, was medium-bodided and nicely balanced.  It drank nicely, however, I would drink up any remaining bottles as I think the wine is nearing its end.  $75.  Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ. 

Weeds & Sausage
The absolutely gorgeous weekend weather made for a perfect three days with all of us, especially the grandkids, lounging by and enjoying the pool.  In addition to traditional Memorial Day fare of burgers, cheese steak sandwiches and hot dogs I made a couple of pasta dishes and some homemade Zeppole (Italian doughnuts). 

Valentini Cerasuolo
Hot, sunny days call for crisp white and rosé wines in my opinion.  I especially like rosé and near the top of my most favorites list is Edoardo Valentini Cerasuolo Rosato.  We drank the 2005 vintage.  Deep pink in color, with layers of pure fruit, the wine soars from the glass with each sip and has a sensational finish. It drinks more like a light red than a rosé.  It is a wine that one can drink all day long.   Not easy to find and a bit pricey at $85.

The whites that accompanied the rosé were a 2010 Testalonga Bianco Vermentino Dolceacqua, which I wrote about in my last post, and a 2005 Ezio Voyat La Gazella.   Voyat is a terrific producer from the Valle d’Aosta region of Emilia Romangna in Northern Italy.  This is a delicious white wine made from the Moscato grape.  While Moscato is usually used to make sweet dessert wines, here it is used to produce a crisp, pure and elegant dry white wine.  $38. 

With the pasta, Weeds & Sausage (Fusilli col Buco in a sauce of sausage and tomato paste) I opened a bottle of 2006 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino.   Led by Stella di Campalto, the family began making wine in 1992 after acquiring the property.  She only makes Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino and Grappa.  Her Brunello is in a class with Soldera.  Farmed biodynamically, the wine exhibits a wonderful old world purity, earthiness, balance and elegance.  2004 was her first Brunello bottling.  I decanted the 2006 for 3+ hours and while still a bit tight its pedigree was evident.  This is a round wine with soul.  Give it an additional 5 years of cellar time and it should reach the “awesome” stage.   An absolute bargain at $75.  ShopRite Liquors, Caldwell, NJ.

A 1998 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo was the perfect accompaniment for Spaghetti Puttanesca on Memorial Day evening.  My last few bottles of Bartolo's wines have been a bit disappointing, but this one did not disappoint.  Decanted for 6 hours the wine soared.   Here again was the old world essence of Barolo that led me to Bartolo's wines a number of years ago.  Two words for this wine, round and delicious.  $90.  This vintage may be a bit hard to find.  Check with DeVino Wine Boutique, NYC, The Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop, Bedminster, NJ or NY Wine Warehouse, NYC

On Thursday evening Carol and I had the pleasure of having dinner with Wall Street Journal Wine Columnist Lettie Teague and her husband.  I was introduced to Lettie a a few months ago at Divina Ristorante in Caldwell, NJ, by owner Mario Carlino.  Occasionally we shared a glass of wine if we ran into each other at Divina before finally getting together for dinner.  As we are both huge fans of Mario's cooking, what better place to meet and share some great wine together than his restaurant.  Incredibly light gnocchi, Sole Livornese and Veal Holstein (breaded veal cutlet with two sunny-side up eggs on top) made up the menu.  Lettie brought two whites and I brought a red and a dessert wine.  We started with a lovely NV Valentin Zusslin Cremant d'Alsace Brut Zero.  A sparkling wine made with 95% Pinot Auxerrois (Pinot Noir clone) and a splash of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  This wine was new to me and I loved it.  It had amazing purity and clarity on the palate and finished with a bit of elegance.  About $25.  Appellation Wine & Spirits, NYC.

The second white was a 2010(?) Chateau Lynch-Bages Blanc.  I have had very few Bordeaux white wines so I looked forward to the opportunity to try this.  A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion and Muscadelle the wine exhibited nice balance and complexity, but was not in my wheelhouse.  About $40.

For the red I chose a 1981 Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva.  Readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of Lopez de Heredia.  They are amongst the finest old world wines made and they seem to age forever.  This bottle was gorgeous.  It had a rusty hue, earthy bouquet with dazzling purity on the palate.  The wine kept evolving in the glass with each sip.  I did find this vintage a little less vibrant than the 1987, suggesting that the drinking window on this vintage may be beginning to reach its end in five or so years.  I did not decant the wine as I was told by Maria Lopez de Heredia, owner and winemaker, that "if you decant my wines you will miss their evolution in the glass".  Expect to pay $100+ if you can find the vintage.

The dessert wine was 2003 Giuseppe Quintarelli Bianco Amabile de Cere Bandito and it was fabulous.  This wine is only made in years when  the grapes have been "attacked" by botrytis or "noble rot," which is to say that they are somewhat in the classic Sauternes style.   This bottle had a gorgeous caramel hue with a sensous bouquet of candied fruit. On the palate it was seamless with great purity and a marathon finish.  And this is still a baby.  This will last for decades.  Amabile is my absolute favorite dessert wine.  A couple of weeks ago when out to dinner with friends David and Lynn, they brought along a bottle of the 1986 vintage of this remarkable wine.  A bit more mature than the 2003, it was utterly superb.

Check out Lettie's columns in the WSJ on Friday and Saturday or click here to read them on line.



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