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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Back of the Bottle

As a wine lover I buy a lot of wine. As I have learned a lot more about the wines I like over the past few years, purchasing wine is rarely hit or miss for me.  On the contrary, it is usually an exhilarating adventure as I continue to discover new grapes, new producers and new regions that delight my palate.  How do I discover them you ask?  I was hoping you’d ask that question.  In addition to learning about them in cyberspace, from wine journalists and from a number of learned wine shop proprietors, I pay attention to the back of the wine bottle.  That is usually where the label of the importer of the wine is listed.  Almost all have websites that talk of their origins, philosophy and wine producer portfolio.  It is a wealth of information and insight.  I have learned that there is a difference in philosophy amongst this group.  I have found that there are a number of importers that share my passion for wines that are an expression of the grape, climate and soil of the area, and thus import wines made by winemakers concerned with the end result of each vintage as opposed to how many points it may earn from wine critics.  As you can guess this group have become my heroes and I constantly seek out their wines.

Check out their portfolios by clicking on their name and visiting their web sites.

For my money at the top of this list is Louis/Dressner Selections, NYC.  Sadly Mr. Dressner passed away a few months ago, but his family carries on the tradition of maintaining a spectacular portfolio of artisan wine makers from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Slovenia & Chile.  I have yet to taste a wine from his portfolio that did not bring a smile to my face and delight to my palate.  Most of the wines I have tasted are in the $20 to $40 range and as such are incredible values.  The wines are magnificent expressions of the grape and terroir of the area.  Wines in my cellar include:

Domaine Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie.  Propieter and wine maker Marc Ollivier is one of the resident genius winemakers in the overlooked Loire Valley of France.  Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, this is a beautifully pure & delicious white wine that is absolutely the perfect accompaniment to fresh, ice-cold oysters on the half shell or simply by itself.  $13.50 at Chambers Street Wines, NYC, and Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ. This is a ridiculous price for a wine this good.

Arianna Occhipinti is a 20 something year old wine making super star on the rise.  From Sicily, she has only been making wine with indigenous Sicilian grapes since 2004.  Her wines, such as her Siccagno Nero D’Avola is simply one of the greatest expressions of the Nero D'Avola grape you will find.  I opened a magnum of the 2008 last week and it was magnificent.  The wine was a spectacular expression of pure fruit with an impeccable balance of acidity and minerality and a simply gorgeous finish.  Talk about soul, this wine has it in spades.  $37 per 750ml at Chambers Street Wines, NYC.

One of the most recent additions to the Dressner portfolio is the magnificent old world Barolo from Giovanni Canonica.  With only 1.5 hectares of vines, Giovanni only began selling his wines a couple of years ago.  I began buying them, starting with the 2005 vintage.  While I have only tasted the 2005 so far, it is in a class with Mascarello, Conterno, Rinaldi & Cappellano.  It is a beautiful expression of the Nebbiolo grape and at about $70 a bottle a bargain compared to what you pay for the “bigger name” wines.  Also at Chambers Street Wines, NYC.  Thanks Jamie, for turning me on to this producer.

Poloner Selections, Mt Kisco, NY is another importer I pay attention to when I see his label on a bottle.  Like Dressner, he seeks out the artisan winemaker.  An like Dressner wines, Poloner wines take up a fair amount of space in my cellar.  They include:

Gaston Huet, the standard for Chenin Blanc from Vouvray in the Loire Valley of France.  I have written about these wines on many occasions.  Buy them young when they are in the $20 - $30 dollar range and let them age for 10, 20 or 30 years or more.  Whenever you open them they will leave you spellbound.  If you want to experience how good white wine can be, start here. 

Francesco Rinaldi is one of Barolo’s top producers of Barolo.  The wines are beautiful examples of the Nebbiolo grape.  They are round, balanced and elegant on the palate. The 2006, a terrific vintage, is available at $52 at Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ.

Robert Chadderon, owner of Robert Chadderon Selections in NYC is considered by many to have the finest palate in the wine business.  He is also, so I have been told, a rather unique individual who only sells the wine he imports to select customers.  To each his own.  However if you see his name on a bottle, buy it.  You will not be disappointed.  Some of the producers from his portfolio that are in my cellar and I suggest you consider are Giuseppe Quintarelli (Amarone & Valpolicella); Albert Boxler (Riesling); Alessandro E Gian Natale Fantino (Barolo).  DeVino Wine Boutique in NYC carries a large portion of the Chadderdon portfolio.  Mr. Chadderdon does not have a website.

Other importers worthy of consideration and a website visit include:

Michael Skurnik also imports the wines from the Terry Thiese portfolio, which specializes in German, Austrian and Champagne Estate Selections.

This is by no means an all inclusive list.  The message is simple... when you find a wine you like, check out who imported it.  Chances are there are other wines in the portfolio that will fit you palate and budget.  Venture out, it is worth the trip!!!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

MY 67th Birthday

This past Sunday was my 67th birthday. My children, grandkids, sister, mother, mother-in-law and of course my wife were all on hand to celebrate the day with me at the beach house we rented for the month of August in Lavallette, NJ. Mother nature obliged us with perfect weather to enjoy the special day.

Naturally we ate and drank very well the entire day.  A magnum each of 2010 Clos Sainte Magdeleine Cassis Rosé and 2010 Domaine Terrebrune Bandol Rosé were the perfect quaffs to beat the 90º heat.  Simply delicious, they were enjoyed by even the red wine drinkers in the group.  I wrote about these two gorgeous wines in my last two posts, so if you would like more information, please refer to them.  They are usually available at 56º Wine in Bearnardsville, NJ and Chambers Street Wines, NYC.

Diane's Taralli
Alas, the food was the real star of the day however.  Prior do dinner we enjoyed freshly baked Taralli that my sister Diane made. Taralli, an Italian snack food, common all over the southern half of the Italian Peninsula, they are similar in texture to a semi hard biscuit or a breadstick.  They are usually oval in shape and can be made with various condiments. My family family is partial to those made with ground black pepper fennel seeds. They are the perfect accompaniment to wine, either dunked in it or eaten alone.  Using my mom’s recipe, Diane has mastered this “betcha can’t eat just one” biscuit.

Shrimp cocktail and Maui Coconut Fried Shrimp from Runners Seafood Restaurant in Lavalette were served alongside the Taralli.  

Joe Leone Ravioli, my gravy
The main course was pasta of course.  No Sunday or birthday is complete without it.  My absolute favorite pasta is the homemade cheese Ravioli my grandmother Michelina DeRosa, rest her soul, used to make.  Large in size, yet light as a feather they simply had no peer in the ravioli world.  They key to this heavenly dumpling was the creaminess of the filling, which was made with fresh ricotta cheese, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, fresh parsley, eggs, salt and pepper.  Try as I might, my attempts to duplicate them have been less than successful.  Fortunately a couple of years ago I discovered the homemade cheese ravioli from Joe Leone’s in Point Pleasant, NJ.  They are as close to grandma’s in every respect.  They went perfect with the pot of gravy, meatballs, and gravy meat that I made.  

With the ravioli the ladies continued to drink the Rosé, while the guys enjoyed a 1997 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva Monprivato Ca’ d’Morisso.  From one of Italy's top traditionalists this is the estate's top wine and is only made in top vintages and from a special parcel within the heart of the Monprivato vineyard.  I wrote about the difficulty of the 1997 vintage in Barolo in my last post as well as this particular wine.  It was the best of the wines from the vintage I opened last month, and was once again today.  A classic Nebbiolo with a great sense of place, a focused balance and elegant finish.    

A salad made with fresh Jersey tomatoes from my friend Gregorio’s garden, basil and cucumbers from my garden and red onions was the classic way to end this classic meal.

We finished with two homemade desserts.  My lovely wife Carol made one of my favorites, Banana Cream Pie.  It was fabulous.  My sister made a marble cake that was made with ricotta that was simply amazing.  It was moist, light and delicious.

It was a great birthday.  I am very fortunate to have such a great family to enjoy this special day with, for it is they who make it so special.  My thanks and love to each of them.