The festivities began with a traditional Italian Christmas Eve meal centered on fish. Each family has their own traditional menu. Our menu was very similar to last year (for photos click here), my daughters Gina and Lisa, my sister Diane and my good friend Gene gratefully assisted me with the cooking this year. As I am not getting any younger their help was much appreciated. They did such a good job that they are now a permanent part of the tradition. Gina made a delicious Penne with Vodka Sauce while Lisa did a great job with Fresh Roasted Peppers. Diane made my mom’s Taralli biscuits and mom’s Stuffed Peppers. She makes these dishes as well as mom does. Gene, a great cook in his own right, stepped up to the plate with terrific Codfish Cakes and a delectable Seafood Salad.
Stuffed Calamari, Eggplant Rollitini, Clams Oreganata & Primavera Salad were provided by Divina Ristorante and Lobster Oreganata with a spicy tomato and hot green pepper sauce was made by Osteria Giotto. These are two of our favorite restaurants and their additions to the meal are always welcome.
The wines of the evening consisted of 2000 Bellavista Brut Rosé which we also drank last Christmas Eve. This was one of my last bottles of this terrific Italian sparkler and it was as good as the first bottle I drank in 2007. This is a gorgeous sparkling wine from the Franciacorta section of Lombardy, Italy. Made from Pinot Nero and Chardonnay grapes its vibrant bubbles danced on the palate in harmony with the holiday. Simply delicious. About $50
1996 Verget Chassagne Montrachet la Romanee 1er Cru from the excellent 1996 vintage still possessed fresh, focused fruit and had a wonderful balance with layers of complexity. It drank very, very well. I do not think it is available any longer. However Marc Olivier’s sensational 2011 Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords is widely avaialbe at at the unbelieveable price of $15 (Chambers Street Wines, NYC). This is Ollivier's most recognised cuvée. The wine comes from grapes from a small vineyard populated with Pépière's oldest vines planted in 1930. It is comprised of deep clay and sand laid over a friable granite subsoil; this combination tends to moderate soil moisture, giving a smoother development of the vine and ripening of the fruit throughout the season. Thereafter there are eight or nine months on the lees in steel before bottling. Pure and clean it has a perfect balance of acidity and minerality. it is a delicious wine to drink. I highly recommend getting this wine. It is the perfect accompaniment to chilled oysters on the half shell.
I find that Quintarelli’s Primofiore is a great red wine to begin this evening with. While this may be the least expensive wine from Quintarelli, it is superb, as was the bottle of the 2003 that I opened. 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 fruit is pure and focused on the palate. A simply delicious wine. NY Wine Warehouse or DeVino Wine Boutique usually have the wine at around $45.
As we took our seats at the table it was time for the big boy reds. We began with 2005 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo and 1999 Roagna Barolo Riserva la Rocca E la Pira, both from magnum and both decanted for 4 hours. Both of these were perfect examples how good wine can be when made by a master in the traditional old world Piedmont style. Both had a captivating bouquet that filled us with high expectations. Our expectations were not let down. Like a Manhattan Transfer song, the wines sung with spectacular harmony and soul. Here was pure fruit, perfect acidity, well-integrated tannins and a lengthy, elegant finish. The Roagna may be difficult to find but the 2005 Bartolo can be found at NY Wine Warehouse, DeVino Wine Boutique and The Pluckemin Inn Wine shop. About $100 for a 750ml.
For the second Christmas Eve in a row Gino brought along a bottle of 1990 Aldo Conterno Granbussia Riserva. On the nose there was that unmistakable Barolo earthy bouquet, while on the palate it was elegant, round and delicious. One need not say more about wines of this quality, they need to be tasted to be appreciated. While the wine is available, it is quite pricey right now.
Alongside the Conterno I opened a bottle of 1961 Giuseppi Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi that was magnificent. Because of its age, I did not decant the wine. I opened it and poured. It possessed an amazing translucent red hue with just a hint of browning at the edge. Amazing for a 51 year old bottle of wine. That intoxicating Nebbiolo bouquet leapt from the glass and was matched on the palate with vibrant fruit and elegance. It finished with considerable length. This wine can last another couple of decades. This will be impossible to find, but the 2006, which I have tasted and have in my cellar, is magnificent and available. At about $100 this is worth buying. 2006 was a spectacular year in Barolo, and this wine will become legendary in my opinion,
We concluded the evening with Chateau d’Yquem from the fantastic 2001 vintage that drank beautifully with a nose and palate of fruit and candy. My only problem with this wine is I find the finish to be somewhat medicinal. Very pricey.
|Rinaldi & Conterno bottles missing from photo.|
After a good night’s sleep, Carol & I joined our daughters Gina and Lisa and their families at Gina’s house for a Christmas breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits, expertly prepared by Gina’s husband Nick. I brought along my last bottle of Bellavista for Mimosas to enjoy with breakfast.
Christmas dinner is across the driveway at Lisa and Andy’s house. As is our tradition we stay simple with antipasto, pasta, meatballs, sausage and braciole. The highlight of the antipasto this year was Andy’s homemade Pepperoni Bread. Our pasta this year was homemade Manicotti that were made for me by Tomasso Colao owner of Bivio Pizzeria Napoletano in Little Falls, NJ. Tom is a master at this pasta. They are incredibly light and creamy and oh so delicious.
Another bottle of 2011 Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords and 2001 La Fuga Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Le Due Sorelle got us started with the antipasto. The Pepiere was a match for the bottle the night before and the La Fuga drank very nicely. It had big bold fruit and was a bit tannic, compared to the silky elegance of the 2004 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino Pian di Conte Riserva I opened at dinner. This wine possessed terrific structure and body along with a gorgeous earthy bouquet. A round and delicious wine. About $80.
For white at dinner I opened a bottle of Lisa’s favorite wine, 1985 Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux. I have written about this fantastic wine in two previous blogs. Made from 100% Chenin Blanc it is a wine that will turn the heads of those “who do not drink white wine”. The nose is refined and intoxicating, with a marvelous complexity of fruity aromas. On the palate it is completely balanced, round and pure with a slight hint of botrytis and a long and sensual finish. This is a wine that lets you truly experience what wine can be about when made by a master. The 1985 will be hard to find, but check out The Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop or 56º Wine for more recent vintages.