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.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dinner at Home

I don’t cook at home as often as I used to, but when I do I really enjoy it, especially when it's for good friends who enjoy good food and wine.  A couple of weeks ago, Carol and I had four friends over for a dinner originally planned on the night Sandy decided to visit us.  It was a wonderful evening.

The evening began sitting before a crackling fire and starting with 2010 Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs Champagne and nibbling on paté de foie gras with figs (from my trees) and apples and Gorgonzola Cheese drizzled with Chestnut Honey atop thin slices of French Bagguette bread.

They made a delicious accompaniment to the Bouchard Champagne.  Made from 100% Pinot Noir this is an insanely delicious wine.  It is a champagne that needs to be drunk from a large Burgundy or Claret glass to appreciate its complexity and vibrancy.  Like any great wine, it evolves in the glass so that each sip is a new and breathtaking experience. This young maverick of a wine maker does not follow the usual convention of blending different grapes from different vineyards as well as the juice from different vintages to make champagne.  Instead his champagnes are made from a single varietal (Pinot Noir or Chardonnay), from a single vineyard, and single vintage cuveés. To quote importer Polaner’s web site “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”.  Treat yourself to a bottle. About $65 at Amanti Vino, Montclair, NJ; Chambers Street Wines, NYC, and 56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ.

As our glasses emptied and I had not yet prepared the Shrimp with Herbs appetizer, I uncorked a 2002 Huet Petillant Reserve ( a great year for Hute wines) for our guests to enjoy while I got busy in the kitchen.   This sparkling wine, one of two made by Huet, was brilliant and stood up well to the Bouchard.  The wine was rich and displayed great focus and a vibrant acidity.   We did not finish the bottle, so I put the cork in and put it in the refrigerator and promptly forgot it was there.  I noticed it 7 days layer and decided to try it.  Upon removing the cork it had a slight pop and when I poured it into the glass, it was loaded tiny effervescing bubbles.  I tasted it...wow!  It was still vibrant and wonderful. Considering the quality of Huet wines and how well they age, I was not surprised.  I selfishly finished the bottle.

Winemaker, Noel Pinguet, makes two Champagne style wines with the Chenin Blanc grape. There is a Mousseux bottling made in the méthode traditionelle, i.e. a bottling made à la Champagne, a vin clair bottled with yeast and sugar for the second fermentation.  In the other method, methode ancestrale, the wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished, the result being a lower pressure sparkling wine - the pétillant style - because only a portion of the fermentation occurs within the bottle. Although it is not strictly necessary to add anything when bottling, winemaker Noel Pinguet favors the addition of yeast to ensure the fermentation progresses smoothly.  This wine should age for decades.  The 2002 should be available and will cost you about $40.  The 2007 vintage (normal, not the reserve) can be found at Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ for under $30 a bottle.

With our appetizer I opened my only bottle of 1959 Le Huet Lieu Vouvray Demi Sec and immediately wished I had more bottles. It possessed a gorgeous translucent yellow hue and absolutely soared from the glass. It was pristine and pure on the palate with a long elegant finish. At 53 years of age, this wine still has many years in front of it.  It will be very hard to find and on the expensive side.  However 56º Wine, Bearnardsville has the 2002 and 2009 at about $40 a bottle.

Weeds & Sausage
For our entrée I made one of my favorite pasta dishes, Weeds with Sausage, from a recipe by Mario Batali.  For me it is the essence of simple country style Italian cuisine where the flavors and textures throw a party in your mouth.  With the pasta I served, side by side, 1998 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino and 1998 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.  In my humble opinion there is no better producer of Brunello di Montalcino than Gianfranco Soldera.  His wine is the essence of traditionally made, unadulterated wine.  I had the pleasure of meeting Soldera at his Case Basse estate in 2008 and was completely captivated by the man’s passion and convictions. He firmly believes that high quality production requires a complex ecosystem that constitutes an ideal habitat for natural cultivation.  Thus the Case Basse estate pays attention to preserving the stonewalls where birds, small mammals and insects nest and reproduce.  For the same purpose, he creates artificial sanctuaries to attract animals in the hope that they become permanent residents, and also establishes beehives.  What does this have to do with wine?  Well when you taste his wine you will know.  It is pure, round and delicious, a pure product of the grape, soil and climate. We first sipped the non-riserva and we all sang its praise in unison.  It was a beautifully vibrant expression of the grape with focus, purity and elegance.  It finished with great length.  The Riserva, while very, very good, and a pleasure to drink seemed either a bit tired or still asleep.  It lacked the youthful vibrancy of the normale.  I intend to give it at least another year before retrying. Pricey stuff, but worth it.

Just last week the Soldera wine cellar was vandalized and 6 vintages (2007 thru 2012) were completely drained from their large Slovanian oak barrels.  While the wine was insured, the wine world has been deprived of these vintages.  I would imagine that current vintages, already expensive, will soar in value.

For dessert there was a delicious homemade (not mine) Zuppa Inglese (English Trifle), which we enjoyed with 2006 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos.  This wine from Hungry is one of the great dessert wines of the world. The primary grape variety used in a Tokaji blend is Furmint, which account for around two-thirds of the Tokaj region’s total vineyard area. It is a high-quality grape, with plenty of natural acidity, which helps ensure the longevity of Tokaji wines. It is also very susceptible to the all-important botrytis rot that is responsible for producing Aszu (dried grapes) for use in the prized sweet wines of the region.   A round and delicious dessert wine that exhibited a terrific light golden hue, was full-bodied with wonderful complexity.   At $60 a bottle, it would make a great addition to anyone’s cellar.


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