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.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013

Carol and I once again celebrated a delightful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our family and close friends.  Ever since I was a child growing up in Newark, NJ, Christmas Eve was a joyous celebration of food and family.  We have been blessed to be able to continue that tradition these many years later.  Since there is always too much to eat, I cut back a bit this year. As I did last year, I collaborated with my daughters, friends and restaurant chefs for the food.  It was once again a terrific team effort.

Christmas Eve 

Italian Christmas Eve dinners are a bounty of fish, vegetables, pasta, good bread, wine and lots of cookies.  Each family have their own "traditional" favorites.  It is the adherence to tradition and passing it along that makes the evening so special in my opinion.

The Food

Pizza from Tony D’s Pizza, Caldwell, NJ. Square in style like a Sicilian Pizza, but thinner crusted, it is made with a savory tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano cheese and then finished with fresh basil leaves. It is crispy and delicious and a great way to begin the evening while people wish each other Merry Christmas.

Antipasto of fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh fennel, tomatoes and olives.  My daughter Gina made fresh oven roasted tomatoes with oil and garlic that was a great addition to the antipasto.

Arancini (rice balls).  Made by my good friend Louie C. and I, we stuff them with fresh mozzarella, peas and a dash of tomato sauce.  They are served with a fresh tomato sauce.

My mom’s Stuffed Italian Long Peppers.  As mom and my sister who usually makes these, were unable to join us this year, I made the peppers.  The stuffing is made from wet Italian bread, chopped walnuts, raisins and anchovies and then baked in the oven.  A delicious peasant dish.

Eggplant & Roasted Pepper Salad is a dish I came up with years ago that I continued to evolve over the years to where it is today.  It is kind of like a Capponata, only without the tomatoes.  I serve it on crispy Endive leaves.  Always a big hit, and it will last for days.

Rao’s Seafood Salad which consists of shrimp, crab, lobster and squid is the best version of this Italian classic that I have ever tasted.  One of the secrets to the dish is how it is assembled. My dear friend Gene does a fantastic job making this salad each year.  He has become a master of the dish.  Again this year each morsel was tender and perfectly seasoned.  The recipe can be found on page 21 of Rao's Cookbook: Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking.  Gene, who is also one of the country’s top photographers, took the photos in this post.  Check out his site Impressive Impressions.

Gamberoni alla Griglia (breaded and broiled jumbo shrimp) from Lidia Bastianich has also been a staple at our Christmas Eve table.  It is simple to make and when served with a light, fresh tomato sauce, simply delicious.  The recipe can be found in La Cucina Di Lidia.

Clams Oreganata and Rock Shrimp Arrabiatta were prepared for me this year by Mario Carlino, chef/owner of Divina Ristorante, Caldwell, NJ.  Both were superb.  The clams were moist, tender and yummy, while the Shrimp were spicy and crunchy.   Mario prepares the clams at the restaurant, but does not cook them.  They are cooked just before serving at my house. 

Polpo Luciano, baby octopus braised in a spicy tomato sauce. I cook the octopus slowly for about 75 minutes in a tomato sauce of San Marzano tomatoes. The secret to this dish is to put a couple of wine corks in the pan during the cooking process. The enzymes from the cork, I am told, aid in tenderizing the octopus.  With good Italian bread to sop up the sauce, this dish is hard to top.

Crab Cakes with caper mustard sauce were a new addition to the table this year and they were magnificent…and why not as they were prepared for me by “Top Chef” Ariane Duarte of Culin Ariane Restaurant, Montclair.  They will be back next year for sure.  Sorry no photo.

After taking a break to digest a bit and open gifts we returned to the table for the salad course and final three dishes.  Gino made a delicious Romaine Lettuce Salad that was the perfect intermezzo before the pastas.  Our pasta tradition ever since I can remember is Fedillini (thin pasta between Cappellini and Spaghettini) with Aglio, Olio e Accigua (oil, garlic and anchovy). For me, this is the highlight of the meal. I make this dish very wet so that the sauce can be soaked up with good Italian bread. It just does not get better than this.

There is also a delicious penne ala vodka that my daughter Gina makes for the kids and landlubbers who do not eat the Agili e Olio.  The truth is most have some of both pastas.

Eggplant Rollatini, prepared for us by Mario from Divina, is served with the pasta.  As always the ricotta filling was moist and silky.  I am way to full by this time to eat this, but those that do love it.

Last, but not least there was dessert. My wife Carol is a terrific baker and her Biscotti & homemade cookies are always the perfect ending to a perfect meal. 

The Wine

NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé from magnum.  Once again it was a huge hit with the ladies.  I must admit to really enjoying this also.  I do not think there is a better sparkling wine for $20 anywhere.  It is simply delicious.  I had to open another bottle of this as the magnum went quickly.  $22 & $50 at 56º Wine.  This is one of the best wine bargains ever.   After an enjoyable taste of the Bugey, the wine drinkers in the group smiled broadly as I poured each a glass of 1979 Gonzalez Byass Oloroso Vintage Dry Sherry. Our smiles were rewarded as we sipped this glorious wine.  It had a huge earthy nose and a sophisticated and dense palate, with a warm and lengthy finish.  It was the perfect way to begin the evening. While this vintage appears to no longer available, The Spanish Table would be your best place to inquire.

1961 Francesco Rinaldi & Figli Barolo.  What a shame as this bottle was completely gone. Cloudy ugly rosé like color.  No bouquet and no taste at all.  A very bad bottle.  Something happened to this bottle during storage over the years would be my guess.

1961 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi.  This was, in a word, magnificent.  What a difference between bottles (both purchased from the same reliable shop).  Amazing translucent red color.  Virtually no browning for a 52 year old wine.  Fruit was vibrant and in tact.  Earthy bouquet, round and pure on the palate.  A lengthy and elegant finish. Many years ahead for this wine. "Beppe" Rinaldi is in my opinion one of the top 3 producers of traditionally made Barolo in all of Piedmont.  If you are a Barolo fan, I encourage you to purchase his wines.  The 2008 and 2009 vintages are currently available at around $120.  Chambers Street Wines, and The Manhattan Wine Company.

1979 Giovannini Moresco Barbaresco Podere del Pajore.  I opened this to replace the F. Rinaldi and it may have been the wine of the night.  1979 was the last year Giovannini Moresco made wine before Angelo Gaja took over the vineyard.  This was the last of 6 bottles I purchased a number of years ago from The Rare Wine Company.  One bottle was flawed, 4 were superb, but this, the last one was phenomenal.  It possessed a seductive earthy bouquet, with gorgeous pure and balanced fruit and a monster finish.  This was as elegant a Barbaresco as I have ever had and was in the class of the Giacosa red labels. I wish I had more of this.

1990 Aldo Conterno Granbussia.    Gino brought this along from his cellar.  It was a very, very good wine, full-bodied with wonderful balance but quite a few steps behind the Rinaldi and the Moresco and far behind the legendary 1989 Granbussia.

1997 Dal Forno Romano Recioto della Valpolicella (375ml) and 1997 Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella (375ml).  A terrific way to end an evening.  While the Dal Forno was a nice expression of this style of wine, it was completely blown away by the Quintarelli, which displayed glorious fruit and magnificent balance between sweet and dry on the palate with a 60+ second finish.  A wine with soul!   I think these two bottles clearly show the difference between modern (Dal Forno) and traditionally made wines.

It was a terrific evening and Carol and I are able to enjoy it thanks to Mario and Wendy.  Both work for Divinia Ristorante as waiter and waitress respectively.  I have been fortunate to hire them to help out with final preparations, serving and clean up of the meal for the past 5 or 6 years.  We do not know what we would do without them.  They do a spectacular job.  Thank you both!!!

Christmas Day 

As has become our new tradition the past few years, after a good night’s sleep, Carol and I have a delightful Christmas breakfast of Mimosas, pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits with our daughters, their husbands and our grandchildren at Gina & Nick’s house.  After breakfast we get to watch in delight as Mia, Isabella, Nicholas and AJ enthusiastically tear open their gifts.  Watching the joy they get from this is one of the highlights of the holiday.

Christmas dinner is across the driveway at our other daughter Lisa and Andy’s house (it is truly a blessing to have both your daughters and grandchildren next to each other and just a few miles away from us).  Since we eat so much the night before, we keep it simple on Christmas Day.  The highlight of the antipasto, as it its every year, is Andy’s homemade Pepperoni Bread. For pasta this year I made my grandmother DeRosa’s Lasagna.  This is meatless Neopolitan Lasagna in which the ricotta filling and gravy (red sauce) are the stars.  It is served with meatballs, braciole and hot and sweet sausage.  I posted grandma’s recipe for the dish a couple of years ago.  You can find it here.

On Christmas day, by request we drank a couple more bottles of the NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé along with two terrific red Burgundies.

2003 Clos des Lambrays Grand Cru.  The extraordinary terroir of this site yieds a wine with a seductive nose, silky palate and lengthy and elegant finish.  $125.

2002 Dupont-Tisserandot Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux Saint Jacques 1er Cru.  Classic Burgundy. Gorgeous nose with lovely pure balanced fruit on the palate and a lovely finish.  Good value at $80.

Buon Anno e Saluté

Monday, December 23, 2013

La Festa di Tartufi at Del Posto Ristorante

I had the pleasure along with friends Emil and Tony to attend the white truffle gala dinner hosted by Antonio Galloni and Mario Batali at Del Posto Ristorante in NYC last month. It was a pretty spectacular event.  As you may or may not know, Antonio was one of the wine reviewers for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate for the past 5 or 6 years.  In addition to his primary focus on Italian wines, he also reviewed Burgundy, Champagne and California wines.  I find his reviews to be very well done and very insightful.  Earlier this year he left the Wine Advocate and started his own website, Vinous.  Vinous has it all, insightful reviews, timely articles, incredible video interviews and the best wine bulletin board on the Internet.  It is definitely worth checking out.

Back to the event, which began with a complimentary Champagne cocktail hour for premium Vinous members (explained on the site).  This was no ordinary Champagne tasting.  It featured the six Champagnes from Jacques Selosse that he refers to as the Lieu-Dit (single vineyard) Project. In the fall of 2010, Anselme (Jacques son) announced that he'd be releasing a collection of six lieu-dit (single-vineyard) wines, each promising to be the definitive expression of a noble Champagne village.  As I understand it his intent is to demonstrate the difference the site makes in the crafting of a wine.   He has succeeded in spades.

Quite simply these were the best Champagnes I have ever tasted. Only 200 special cases, holding 1 bottle each of these magnificent wines are made. They are extremely rare, very expensive and very difficult to acquire.  Antonio was extremely gracious and generous to serve them prior to the dinner.

The Lieux-Dits Pinot Noir (Blanc de Noirs)

La Cote Faron Blanc de Noirs is from the village of Ay.  I think this was from the 2005 vintage. Whatever the vintage, it was magnificent, beginning with its golden yellow hue and earthy bouquet.  On the palate it was medium-bodied, with impeccable balance and very elegant.

Le Bout du Clos is from Ambonnay.  This was my favorite of the six.  It had everything; yeasty bouquet, creamy palate, layer upon layer of complexity and a lengthy finish.  I believe this is a blend of “04, ’05 and ’06 vintages.  Only 200 bottles of this is made, so it is only available in the Lieu-Dits 6 pack.

Sous Le Mont is from Mareuil-Sur-Ay, is comprised of the “05 and ’06 vintages.  I found this to be a little less complex than the two previous wines, but delicious nonetheless.

The Lieux-Dits (Blanc de Blancs)

The Chemin de Chalons, from Cramant and based on wines from 2003 to 2005.  Stunning wine, but perhaps a step behind the Pinot Noirs.

The Les Chantereines from Avize, was clearly the best of the Chardonnay based wines and on a par with the Le Bout du Clos is from Ambonnay in my opinion.   It had great focus, depth and complexity.  I believe this was from vintages ’04, ’05 and ’06.  Like the Champagne from Ambonay, only 200 bottles of this is made, so it is only available in the Lieu-Dits 6 pack.

The final wine of this group, Les Carelles from Le Mesnil-sur-Oge
was a half-step behind wine from Avize.  Wonderful balance and complexity on the palate.

Tasting these amazing Champagnes was an experience I will never forget. In my opinion they alone were worth the price of the event.

The Dinner and the wines

The wines served as part of the dinner all drank very well, especially the 2004 Baroli.  Yes they were young, but they were really delicious and will provide awesome drinking for a couple of decades at least.

All dishes were served with very generous shavings of fresh white truffles.  Life is good!

The dinner began with an absolutely delicious Truffled Beef Carne Cruda.

Malvira “Trinita” Roero Arneis 2009.   A very clean, crisp Arneis, with lovely minerality. 

Vajra Langhe Bianco 2012.  A nice effort here.  Very nice fruity palate and delicious finish.

Veal and Pork Agnolotti dal Plin. 

Giacomo Conterno "Ceretta" Barbera 2011.  One of the best Barbera’s I have ever drank. Terrific balance and finesse on the palate with a lush finish.

Vietti "Scarrone" Barbera 2009.  Good, but second fiddle to the Conterno.

Risotto alla Vacca Rossa.  Sorry no photo, but it was superb.  

Giuseppe Mascarello "Monprivato" Barolo 2004 and Giacomo Conterno "Cascina Francia" Barolo 2004.  Both of these wines soared from the glass, beginning with an earthy bouquet of Piedmont terroir and a rich, focused and elegant palate.  These beauties will last for a few decades at least, but provide pleasure now at this young age.

Broiled Veal Chop with Barolo Fondo.

Cavallotto "Bricco Boschis" Barolo 2004.  While his was still a bit tight, there is great pedigree here.  This promises to be awesome in a few more years.

Conterno-Fantino "Vigna del Gris" Barolo 2004.   I find his wines a bit modern, but the oak was very well integrated here and as a result drank very well.  My least favorite of the ‘04s.

La Tur (Creamy blend of cow, goat and sheep milk cheese from Piedmonte.)

Elio Altare Barolo 2004 and Luigi Pira "Marenca" Barolo 2004.  Both of these traditional Baroli complemented the cheese very nicely.

As good as these wines were, my friends and I were fortunate to be seated at Antonio’s table for the dinner. He continued his generosity by bringing some amazing wines from his cellar to share with the attendees.  These, along with the Selosse Champagnes, were the highlight wines of the evening in my opinion.  

2009 Miani Bianco (Magnum). This was superb juice.  Incredible balance and delicacy on the palate with a lengthy soft finish.  I wish Miani's wines were easier to acquire, as they are simply gorgeous.

1985 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (Magnum).  Delicious wine, still very young and vibrant.  The essence of old world Barolo.

1989 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (Magnum).  Even better than the ’85. What a magnificent wine, completely round and delicious.  A wine with soul!

1996 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis.  This drank with elegance and finesse.  A terrific wine.  I know that Sandrone uses some modern techniques in his winemaking, but the results are always great.

2003 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto Di Serralunga.  Classic Giacosa, with gorgeous pure fruit, superb balance and a long elegant finish.

2003 Giacomo Conterno Barolo.  I missed this one.

2003 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Barolo Monprivato Ca d'Morissio Riserva.  Still a bit young, but stunning non-the-less.  Great pedigree here.

2004 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra (3L).  Most modern of the Baroli at the table.  Wine drank very well.  Oak was well integrated into the wine and it had a lovely soft and elegant palate.

2003 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Barolo Monprivato.  From the more difficult 2003 vintage, this was very good indeed.  Lots of finesse and character here.

In addition ot Antonio, most of the attendees at the dinner also brought along a bottle or two of some pretty great wines.  I brought along two bottles of 1993 Edoardo Valentini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  Unfortunately one bottle was corked, but the other was simply stunning.  The wine was still very young and alive.  It possessed wonderful soft, pure fruit with a superbly balanced and complex palate and long elegant finish.  

Emil brought a 2000 Roagna Barberesco Crichet Paje, that was singing.  It had a fabulous nose with glorious and balanced fruit on the palate.  Still a baby and should last for a few more decades.

Tony brough a 1967 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo.  At 46 years of age this still exhibited a lot of life.  Gorgeous bouquet and elegant palate.

Quite an evening and quite a line up of wines, especially when you consider there were many other great wines other attendees brought along that I did not taste (only so much I can drink).

Great job Antonio and Mario.  Certainly a wine experience that I will never forget.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Burgundy Bug

This month’s wine group dinner once again took place at the Pluckemin Inn, Bedminster, NJ. Yes we do go here a lot, and for good reason.  In addition to the excellent cuisine prepared by executive chef Andrew Lattanzio, wine director Brian Hider keeps the restaurant and wine shop well stocked with excellent wines from Burgundy. Emil, who was in the wine queue this month, has been bitten by the “Burgundy Bug” (as we all have) and consulted with Brian in purchasing 5 outstanding red Burgundies from the Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop for our dinner. They were all terrific.

My wine palate prefers wines that are feminine and elegant in style.  Big, over-extracted, in your face macho wines are not for me.  The Nebbiolo grapes from Piedmont, Italy and the Pinot Noir grapes from Burgundy, France fill the bill for me, especially when those entrusted with turning the grapes to wine do so with old-world craftsmanship.  Tonight’s wines filled that bill in spades.

2006 Denis Bachelet Bourgogne.  This very small, less than three hectares, estate produces some of the finest and reasonably priced wines in all of Burgundy.  While his Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin has achieved cult status (with prices to match) his Villages level wines are simply gorgeous and very affordable.  A sniff of the wine filled the nose with ripe and earthy fruit, while on the palate it was soft, nicely balanced and had a lengthy finish.  At $35, this is a terrific entry level Burgundy.

2006 Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru ”les Vergelesses”. I adore this estate.  Owner/winemaker Claude de Nicolay crafts stunning and very affordable high quality Burgundy at her estate in Savigny-les-Beaune.  This vintage is just entering it’s peak drinking window in my opinion.  The wine  had a gorgeous transparent red hue, enticing earthy and fruity bouquet with a elegant and pure palate with just impeccable balance.  It finished with considerable length.  A wine with soul!  $35.

When one speaks of the great winemakers and estates of Burgundy, Armand Rousseau is high up on the list.  His wines are gorgeous and expensive.  Meticulous attention is paid to grape selection and all grapes are picked by hand.  HIs wines are amongst the finest expressions of how good old-world Burgundy can be.

Tonight we drank a 2000 Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru, that was an absolute knock-out, especially for a wine from a difficult vintage.  .  It was the consensus wine of the night for the group.  The earthy bouquet flowed from the glass with a seductive invitation to lift the glass to your lips.  And when you did the fruit danced on the tongue like a choreographed Twyla Tharp dance number.  It was superb.  This wine also reinforced my strong feelings for the absurdity of point scores.  Not only did two of the industry’s top wine critics score the wine in the 80’s, they also recommended the wine be consumed by 2010.  The vibrancy of this wine indicated that it still as a number of years ahead of it.   It is important to note that they made these notes in 2002.  There is a message here if you care to listen to it.  $150.

2004 Rene Engel Vosne Romanee 1er Cru les Brulees.  This was a new producer for me and I enjoyed the wine very much.  While 60% new oak was used to make the wine, it was very well integrated into the wine.  There was good spice and balance on the palate with a long finish.  $?

Domaine Dujac is another of the great wine making estates of Burgundy, crafting wines of elegance and finesse. The wines always demonstrate balance, harmony, length and complexity. The grapes are vinifed with little or no destemming.  Owner/winemaker Jacques Seysses that while this results in a bit of a loss of color, it gives the wines greater complexity.  The 2000 Domaine Dujac Gevrey Chambertin Aux Combottes 1er Cru, from the difficult 2000 vintage showed very well.  While complexity and finish of the wine left a bit to be desired, the fruit was soft and elegant and made for a very nice glass of wine.  $125.

As for the food, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, it is always excellent.  The one new dish I had this time was Octopus Carpaccio with Daikon Radish and mixed greens.  Sublime!!!

Once again it was a terrific evening of food, wine and comraderie.  Thanks Emil and Brian for your selections.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Birds and Bottles The Sequel

I sincerely hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. Carol and I once again spent the day at our oldest daughter Gina’s house.  We numbered 25 this year and Gina and her husband Nick once again were perfect hosts.  As is our custom, everyone brings something for all to enjoy.

Pepperoni Bread
Corn Muffins
Pumpkin Soup
Roast Turkey, gravy, stuffing & cranberry sauce
Mashed Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots and Parsnips
Pumpkin Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Apple Crisp, Stuffed Donuts

No one left the table hungry.  Great job by all you chefs.

NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé. Everyone, especially non-wine drinkers, go gaga over this wine. It is ridiculously delicious and delightful to drink.  It works equally as well as an aperitif before the meal or as a sweet dessert wine after it.  Lively and pure, the wine throws a party in the mouth.   It is made from a blend of Gamay and Poulsard in which the grapes are fermented at low temperatures in tanks to obtain a sweet, low alcohol wine. This partial fermentation preserves the softness, aromas and color of the grapes. Because the alcoholic fermentation has not yet peaked, the wine retains its yeasts and fermentation continues after bottling. Once this second fermentation occurs, the remaining yeasts are filtered out and the wine is rebottled.  Best of all it costs all of $24 and is available at 56º Wine.

2007 Francois Mikulski Meursault Villages White.  Francois Mikulski's is a relative newcomer to Burgundy.  Since his first vintage in 1992, his star has been on the on the rise...and no wonder with wines like this one, a rich Chardonnay that is drinking at its peak right now.  The wine exhibited a beautiful crystalline yellow hue and was crisp, balanced and focused on the palate.  It was simply delicious and it kept evolving in the glass with each sip and finished with considerable length and elegance. A Becky Wasserman selection, this is a $60 White Burgundy that can hold its own with many of the more expensive big boys.  Wine-Searcher

2012 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie Beaujolais.  This estate, according to Chris Cree, MW and owner of 56º Wine, boasts one of the best slopes in the Beaujolais Crus. Its eastern exposure, borders the Moulin-à-Vent appellation, and produces wines that are beautiful when young and have the capacity to age 5-10 years.  The soil, comprised mostly of clay and manganese, and 25+ old vines accounts for the richness of their wines.  In the glass the wine has a deep red, almost purple hue, with a fresh and young bouquet.  On the palate it displayed soft pure fruit, good depth and terrific balance.  A delicious glass of wine that is drinking beautifully now and will for at least another decade..  At $19, a great QPR.  56º Wine.

Ever since I introduced my two sons-in-law to Chateauneuf-du-Pape a few years ago, they always request it at family get togethers.  A 2007 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape brought smiles to their faces and a few others at the table.  I decanted the bottle for more than 90 minutes and the wine responded nicely. In the glass it displayed a deep dark purple hue, while on the palate the tannins were soft.  While the wine was good, it unfortunately lacked depth and focus in my opinion. 2007 was a fantastic vintage in CdP and I expected more from this wine, but it just was not there.  It appears to me that this glorious estate is following the path of many producers who seem to be seeking high scores from the critics and have begun to make the more modern style of wines this group seems to applaud. Widely available at $100.

2001 La Tour Blanche Sauternes finished the meal.  Always a favorite of mine, this is a high quality Sauternes that retails for $50 a bottle, a terrific value.  Once again it had a palate of sweet fruit, complexity and balance.  Alas I found the finish of this particular bottle to be extremely medicinal and thus I did't enjoy the wine nearly as much as I have previous bottles.  Wine-Searcher.

While it was a great day of food, wine and being with family, the day after was the highlight of the holiday for Carol and I.  For the past 3 or 4 years we have taken our oldest granddaughter, Mia to the Meadowlands to see the Disney on Ice show.  It is always a great show.  This year Mia was joined by her brother Nicholas and her cousin Isabella.  Our daughter Lisa also came along.  I was fortunate to land front row seats and as you can see the kids had a ball.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Birds and Bottles

In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens", to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.  In 1941 the US Congress made it an official law and fixed the date as the fourth Thursday in November.  Thus today Americans the country over, regardless of their faith or ethnic background, celebrate the day with family and friends.  Turkey with gravy, stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie are the culinary traditions most follow.  Wine, however, can be a different matter.  What to drink is often the question.  Fortunately there are many wines, both red and white, that will complement your meal nicely.

Beaujolais Noveau is perhaps the most popular choice for Turkey Day and has been called by many “Thanksgiving Wine”.  A little history is in order here.  As the clock strikes midnight on the third Thursday of November, the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, is released to the world! Over 60 million bottles make the trek to Paris for worldwide distribution. This is a young wine (only 6 weeks old), grown from the Gamay grape.  It is very fruity, light-bodied, and virtually tannin-free making for an extremely easy-to-drink red wine.   Like Coca-Cola, it is best served chilled.   It is also very inexpensive, often retailing for under $10 a bottle.  While Beaujolais is administratively considered part of the Burgundy wine region, the climate is closer to the Rhône and the wine is sufficiently individual in character to be considered separately from Burgundy and Rhône.  The wine is not intended for aging and should be consumed within the first year of release.  Some of the top producers of Beaujolais Nouveau include: Georges Duboeuf, Domaine Yvon Metras, Jean-Paul Thevenet, and Louis Jadot.

While I do think the Gamay grape is a perfect match for the Thanksgiving meal, I prefer the depth and purity of the Cru Beaujolais wines of the region to the fruity and listless Nouveau wines.  These wines see more traditional fermentation and aging before release.  They age very nicely for a decade or more.  They are usually low in alcohol, pair beautifully with turkey and its trimmings and are in the $20 to $40 range.  I always include one or two at our Thanksgiving meal.  Some worth considering are:

2011 Michel Guignier Beaujolais Villages La Bonne Pioche.  This is a beautifully made wine with pure earthy fruit and only 11.5% alcohol.  It is an example of how well the Gamay grape can be when it is crafted by a top producer.  $18.

2010 Michel Guignier Beaujolais Moulin a Vent Le Petit Osielle.  Another wonderfully pure and delicious expression of the Gamay grape.  $27.

2010 Jean Paul Brun Terres Dorees Morgon. 12% alcohol with a fresh and light palate, it has great purity, balance and a delicious finish.  $25.

2011 Christian Ducroux Regnie. Delicious wine.  Pure, clean fruit that dances on the tongue.  An amazing wine for any price, but at $15, wow! wow! wow!

2009 Jean Foillard Fleurie.  A pure and superbly balanced Cru Beaujolais with lovely fruit and spicy undertones.  $46.

Chambers Street Wines in NYC has one of the most extensive and excellent selections of Cru Beaujolais that I know of.

I also find that Bourgogne or Villages level reds from Burgundy go well with the Thanksgiving meal.  Much lighter and far less expensive than Premier Cru or Grand Cru Burgundy the current vintages are all drinking beautifully now.  Here are a few worth considering:

2011 Joseph Drouhin Chorey Les Beaune Villages. Bright fruit, elegant palate and a soft finish…and all for $21 at Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ.

2010 Jean Michel Guillon Marsannay Clos de Portes. This small domaine in Gevrey Chambertin, produces wines of great pedigree.   This wine has a gorgeous translucent red hue, and an enticing Burgundian nose.  A bit light on the , it finishes with length and elegance.  $45 at The Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop.

Joseph Roty, Domaine Coillot and Louis Jadot are also worth considering for these level wines.

Entry-level Nebbiolo wines are another good choice.   Wines such as 2006 Roagna Langhe Rosso are simply fresh and delicious and drinking with an elegant simplicity at the moment, and thus would be welcomed at any Thanksgiving table.  $30 at 56º Wine.

White wines such as dry Rieslings or un-oaked Chardonnays are also a good match to the meal.  Here are some suggestions.  I recently had some of these wines and will have some on our Thanksgiving table this year.

I have been trying wines from New York State, specifically the wines of Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton, NY.  I am delighted to report that these represent some of the best value, high quality wines I have ever tasted.  The two Chardonnays that I drank recently are 2011 Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay ($18) and 2011 Channing Daughters Brick Kiln Chardonnay ($22).  Had I tasted these wines blind, I would have thought I was drinking an estate (entry) level Chablis from a house like Dauvisat or Fevre. Both wines possessed a gorgeous translucent straw-colored hue; a clean crisp and soft fruity bouquet that is echoed on the palate.  These are delicious, easy drinking wines, with a yummy finish that will have your guests refilling their glasses over and over.  The wine is available directly from Channing Daughters Winery.  They will happily deliver the wines to you.

A few weeks ago I picked up a few of bottles of 1999 Hexamer Meddersheimer Altenberg Riesling Spatlese at 56º Wine.   This dry German Riesling is drinking beautifully.  The glass showcases the wine’s stunning yellow hue.  On the palate it is focused clean and pure, with beautifully balanced residual sugar and a monster finish.  $50. While I did not try it yet, the 2001 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Hochsgewachs at $30 I am told is the equal of the 1999.

The Rieslings of Weingut Hermann Donnhoff, Willi Schaefer and Alfred Merkelbach are also highly recommended.  The entry level wines of these fantastic producers are in the $20 to $25 range.

From Corsica, France a bottle or two of 2011 Domaine Comte Abbatucci Ajaccio Blanc "Cuvée Faustine” ($38) would also pair beautifully with the turkery.  Made from 100% Vermentino, this is superb juice.  A completely round and delicious wine with good acidity to ensure 5 to 10 years of aging.  A wine with soul, also available at 56º Wine.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete with out Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie and other assorted desserts.  Allow me to suggest you pop open a bottle of NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé to enjoy with the dessert course. An absolutely delicious and fun sparkling wine to drink after dinner.  Made from a blend of Gamay and Poulsard grapes, it’s kind of like drinking cotton candy.  I have never served it without getting a bunch of wows.  $22, also at 56º Wine.

Of course the wines are secondary to gathering with family and friends and proclaiming our thanks for being able to share the day together.  My sincere wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

White Truffles and Eggs

While I do not look fondly on the cold weather and shorter daylight hours that November brings, I very much look forward to its arrival each year for two very good reasons.  My first child, Gina, was born in November and celebrating her birthday is always a joy.  It is also the month that fresh white truffles from Alba, Italy arrive.  And when they do, along with a couple of friends, I head to my favorite restaurant, Esca, in NYC and have them with soft-scrambled eggs. Eggs, in almost any form, with lots of shaved white truffles on them, are the ultimate conveyance for this culinary decadence in my humble opinion.  Chef/co-owner David Pasternack (Mario Batali & Joe Bastianich are the other owners) has a masterful hand in scrambling the eggs to perfection, resulting in a dish that must be tasted to appreciate.  The only improvement that can be made to this dish is to make it with fresh duck eggs, which I intend to bring to David next week for a repeat performance of the dish.

I chose 2011 Domaine Comte Abbatucci - Ajaccio Fuastine Blanc to drink with our meal. From Corsica, France, the wine is crafted from 100% Vermntino grapes, by the very passionate owner and winemaker Jean-Charles Abbatucci.    In addition to his wines being certified biodynamic, to keep his vines happy, he’s known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play traditional Corsican polyphonic songs over loudspeakers for their benefit.  After the harvest he treats his cellar to the same music.  I don't know if this makes any difference, but I can tell you that his wines are absolutely round and delicious as this was today.  It possessed a diamond like sparkle in the glass and on the palate was, clean, crisp, fresh, with great balance and acidity.  It got better with each sip.  Clearly a wine with lots and lots of soul.  We enjoyed it so much that we ordered a second bottle to drink with the balance of our lunch.  $41 at 56º Wine.  You might also want to check out his 2011 Ajaccio Rouge "Cuvée Faustine”,  a red wine made from the native Corsican grapes Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu.  I had a bottle a couple of months ago and it was superb with pristine fruit, balance, great acidity and a long elegant finish.  Also available at 56º Wine for about the same price.

I sung the praises of David Pasternack in September in my post, Lunch at Esca.  Below are the other dishes he prepared for us today.

Baked Clams are a must at Esca.  They simply have no peer. They are always plump, tender and briny. David varies the stuffing from time to time.  On this occasion small cubes of apples and soppressata were added to his homemade breadcrumbs before baking.  Devine!

Another must here are the pasta dishes.  Today we had a menu standard, Spaghetti with a one pound lobster, chilis and mint (below right) and the pasta special of the day, house made Buccatini pasta with gulf shrimps, arugola and tuna/tomato ragu.  Tony cleaned his plate of spaghetti, while Jerry and I did the same with our Buccatini.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bordeaux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Our wine group met for our monthly dinner last week. Once again we met at The Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, NJ.  The food and wine service here is excellent and as a result many of our members choose it when they bring the wines.  Jim was in the wine queue this month and did a nice job with wines from Bordeaux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  These wines are very different both in the grapes used and the style of the wine.  For my palate I find the CdP wines to be more feminine and elegant than Bordeaux, and therefore more to my liking.

Most red Bordeaux wines are a blend of the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  It is up to the individual producer to determine if his wine will be a blend, and if so which grapes he will use, or if will be a single grape wine.  The majority of Bordeaux wines are often made almost exclusively of Cabernet Sauvignon (usually the largest component) and Merlot.  The other grapes may or may not play a role in the blend.  The two wines we drank were both blends.

1998 Grand-Pontet St Emilion.  While I am not a fan of Bordeaux, this bottle was very good.   It possessed an enticing earthy bouquet and on the palate it had good fruit, roundness and balance.  It finished with nice length.  $40.  Wine-Searcher.

1998 Monbousquet St Emilion.  Not my kind of wine.  This possessed, as most Bordeaux do IMO, a harsh palate and a grassy back end.  Did not enjoy this at all.  $100.  Wine-Searcher.

The laws of Chateauneuf-du-Pape allow for up to 13 grapes, 8 red and 5 white, to be used in the making of the wine.  The red grapes are, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, Cinsaut, Muscardin, Vaccarese and Terret Noir.  The white are, Clairette, Bourbelenc, Picpoul, Picardin, Rousanne.  To the best of my knowledge only two vineyards, Chateau Beaucastel, one of the most famous, and one other use all 13 varieties.  Grenache is the main grape used.  In my opinion the 100% Grenache based CdP wines are the most elegant and the most delicious.

2000 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois.  This CdP, with some modern overtones is completely hand harvested and aged 30% in oak barrels and 70% in enameled steel tanks. The wine drank very well.  It exhibited soft tannins, forward fruit and well integrated alcohol.  A blend of Grenache 80%, Mourvedre10 %, Syrah 5%, Counoise 2.5% and Vaccarese 2.5%.  $125.  Wine-Searcher.

2000 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf du Pape.  Another more modern styled CdP, this wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre , Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault, Muscardin, Vaccarese.  This bottle never really came around.  There was not a lot going on with either the bouquet or on the palate. $100.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Vieilles Vignes.  This CdP is a blend of 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 3% Mourvèdre, 2% various others. – Crafted from vines that are 60 to 100 years old, it was my favorite of the night.  It had a wonderful bouquet, earthy, complex and balanced palate and finished with considerable length. $150.  Wine-Searcher.

Some of the highlights of the meal were:

Tuna Crudo .  Pristinely fresh Raw Yellowfin Tuna on a plate with Edamame, Cilantro, Ginger, Coconut.  Delicious!

Risotto with fresh white truffles.  Ah my first truffles of the season.  Truffles were great, risotto however, while perfectly cooked, was a bit too salty.

Acqueello Risotto.  This week’s preparation of the dish was with Cherry Tomato, Guanciale, Parmigiano Reggiano and Basil Pesto.  It was superb.  Perfectly cooked and seasoned, each bite threw a party in my mouth.

I love pound cake, and so I could not resist the one served here with Vanilla Ice Cream.  See for yourself!

Another great wine dinner with the group.  Thanks Jim for a great choice of wine and thanks Marc for dinner.  Until next time...