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, February 24, 2013


The Sangiovese grape is responsible for two of Italy’s most famous wines, Chianti and Brunello di Montlacino.  Largely grown in Central Italy, it is particularly important in Toscana, Emilia-Romagna, the Marche and Umbria.  Prized for its high acidity and firm tannins, it has long been one of my favorite grapes.  In the hands of master winemakers it is an elegant wine to drink.  This past Wednesday evening our wine group met at Scalini Fideli Ristorante in Chatham for our monthly wine dinner.  Jim, in the wine queue this month, chose the Sangiovese grape as the theme with wines from Chianti and Montalcino.  He did a great job with his selections of vintages with some age on them. Wines labeled Chianti must consist of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes, while for Brunello, they must consist of 100% Sangiovese.

We began with a 1997 Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia alongside a 1999 Fattoria di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio. 

The Felsina, made from 100% Sangiovese, is the estate’s flagship wine.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, this bottle was off.  It possessed a weak bouquet and seemed very diluted on the palate with no finish to speak of.  Possibly due to either a bad bottle or poor storage. $55.

The Monsanto is made from a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 7% Canaiolo and 3% Colorino and is aged in new and used French oak barrels for 18 months.  This was a very good Chianti, with nice fruit, complexity and balance.  It evolved nicely in the glass and finished with considerable finesse.  $55.

We then moved to Brunello di Montalcino, starting with 1995 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Poggio All'Oro. This bottling is produced only in excellent vintages based on a meticulous selection of the harvested grapes.  Aged in barriques for 30 months, plus a minimum of 12-18 months bottle aging before release, it lends itself to a more modern style Brunello that drinks with balance and good focus.  The French oak was very well integrated and it finished with nice length.  $100

The next Brunello was a superb 1999 Piero Talenti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna del Paretaio.  I have been a huge fan of Talenti wines for some time.  Traditionally crafted they are an elegant expression of the elegance of the Sangiovese grape and the Montalcino countryside. Among the 20 hectares owned by the winery, the 2 hectares of the vineyard Paretaio have been rendered unique in the last number of years by the wine they produce. During this time, this vineyard has been planted for a large part with a Sangiovese-clone selected personally by Pierluigi Talenti. The excellent exposure as well as the soil characteristics, which together create a unique micro-climate, contribute to the peculiarities of this Riserva, which is made only in exceptionally good years. Made with 100% Sangiovese-grapes, the Riserva is the result of careful selection when the grapes are being gathered and continues in the cellar during vinification process.   The wine then matures in large Slovanian oak barrels (botti) for a longer period than the normal Brunello and is then bottled for further aging before being released for sale.

This bottle, my favorite of the evening, exhibited an gorgeous ruby-red color and an enticing earthy and fruity bouquet. On the palate it was smooth, rich, pure and elegant, with a lush finish.  This is a beautifully round and delicious wine.  A wine with real soul!  $75

The final Sangiovese was 1998 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve Vino da Tavola.  First made in 1981, it is one of the first 100% Sangiovese Super Tuscans.  The wine is a cru of grapes from the vineyard of the same name, the "Flaccianello  della Pieve."  This is a big and lush wine that combines the old-world characteristics of Sangiovese with modern vinification techniques.  The wine is aged for 16 months in small oak French barrels (barrique).  It drank very well tonight. Tannins were soft, the oak was very well integrated and finished with length.  $90

Jim also brought along a bottle of 1998 Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico, an outstanding dessert wine from one of the top producers in Chianti, Paolo Marchi of Isole e Olena. This bottle had a lovely amber-gold hue and a rich, balanced sweet palate with a never-ending finish and was a joy to drink.  The wine is made from a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia di Toscana grapes that are late harvested, then dried on mats throughout the winter to further concentrate the flavors. It's fermented, then matured in barrels, which are not topped during evaporation to purposely allow a slow, oxidative maturation.  The 2004 vintage is available at 56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ. for $60.

Another month and another great wine dinner with the group.  Thanks Jim for bringing such excellent wines and thanks Marc for dinner.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

3 Amazing Wines

With my wife up in the Berkshire’s spaing with our daughters, I had dinner with Lettie Teague, wine columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and her husband on Sunday night at Divina Ristorante, Caldwell, NJ.  We are all big fans of Mario Carlino’s exceptional food, and in fact it is where Lettie and I first became acquainted.  Sharing wine experiences and wines with someone as knowledgeable as Lettie enables me to expand my wine horizons.  Tonight was no exception.

Last Friday Lettie wrote an article on a young winemaker from Burgundy, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, entitled “The New Master of Affordable White Burgundies”.  It was a great article.  I always relish the opportunity to learn about young new producers that are setting the wine world on its ears with beautifully crafted wines.  Not only did I enjoy the article, I got to enjoy a bottle of his wine, as Lettie brought along a 2010 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey St. Aubin "La Chatenière" 1er Cru.  This was my initial experience with a wine from St. Aubin and it will not be my last.  The wine exhibited a gorgeous light yellow hue and an enticing fruity bouquet.  On the palate it was crisp and clean with great focus and it finished with considerable length.  I also enjoyed the fact that the oak was very well integrated into the wine (Pierre Yves uses 30% new oak for this wine). A round and delicious wine and at $42 a bottle an absolute bargain for a white Burgundy of this quality.  I was fortunate to locate some at New York Wine Warehouse, NYC.

The white that I brought was a 1994 Château d'Epiré Savennières Cuvée Spéciale, a Chenin Blanc from the Savenieres commune in the Loire region of France.  The soil in Savenieres is stony by contrast to the chalky soil of Vouvray, the other Loire region that produces the Chenin Blanc grape.  Both regions produce spectacular whites of that age very well for many years.  This bottle had an enticing bouquet of soil and stone. In the glass the hue was a gorgeous crystal clear honey-gold. Seductive and a bit viscous on the palate, it had great focus and finesse.  According to importer Kermit Lynch, wines from Savernieres “possess an attractive tinge of bitterness in its aftertaste”. While I would have never found those words, after tasting the wine, Mr. Lynch is spot on.  Since we did not finish the bottle, I recorked it and put it in the fridge.  The next day when I tried it, it was as good as it was the day before.  There was still structure, pure fruit and that tinge of bitterness.  We drank this ahead of the Colin-Morey, an order I would reverse should the occasion arise again.

This particular wine, the Cuveé Speciale is made strictly for Kermit Lynch.  After the death of their father, the Bizard family began to make the wine in a more modern style as the old world style of their father was time consuming, led to a smaller production and thus had a negative impact on the estate's revenue.  Mr. Lynch convinced the family to make, for which he would pay a higher price, the old style wine for his purchase.  They agreed and thus this wine is only available from Kermit Lynch.  $40.

For the red wine I brought along a 2000 Edoardo Valentini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  Valentini is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wine producers in the world.  His wines are terroir driven and make for an incredible wine drinking experience.  A staunch traditionalist, his winemaking techniques are a closely guarded secret.  He does not allow visitors into his cellar.  He sells 90% of his grapes to a local co-op, keeping only the ripest and best grapes for his wines.  As a result his production is only about 50,000 bottles annually for the three wine types he crafts, Trebbiano (white), Cerasuolo (rosé or rosato) and the red Montepulciano.  The bottle we shared was magnificent.  It had a seductive earthy bouquet and was round and delicious on the palate with a never-ending elegant finish.  Talk about a wine with soul, this is it.

Sadly Edourado passed away at the age of 72 in 2006.  However the winemaking has been taken over by his more than capable son Francesco Pablo who continues to make the wines to the same exacting standards of his father.

This wine is extremely hard to find and it is expensive.  Expect to pay upwards of $250 a bottle. If you are going to spend that kind of money for a bottle of wine, this is one of the ones to spend it on.  You will not be disappointed. New York Wine Warehouse and DeVino in NYC are your best bets if you choose to do so.

Wines of this caliber deserve the consistently delicious food put forward at Divina.  Our selections consisted of Seafood Salad; Whole Lobster in White Wine, Bucatini Putanesca, Cappellini with Clams Machiato (touch of tomato) and Veal Valdostana.  Food with soul that was a great match to the wines.

Cappellini w/Clams Machiato
Yes it was great evening of wine, food and conversation.  Be sure and check out Lettie's columns in the Wall Street Journal on Fridays and Saturdays.  They are well written and very informative.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII

Another Super Bowl has come and gone and as has been our custom for the past 4 or 5 years a group of friends and family members convened at Casa Scudiery to enjoy the game and partake of some great Super Bowl chow and drink some great wines.  Everyone brings one of his or her specialty dishes for the occasion.   The dishes were similar to last year (hey never fix what ain’t broke) with a couple new and very welcomed additions.

Returning from last year were my Meatball Sliders, Gene’s moist & delicious Pulled Pork Sliders topped with Bill and Linda's Crunchy Cole Slaw and Tina’s remarkable Eggplant Caponata.   Returning after a one year hiatus was George’s refreshing Mixed Arugula Salad.

Nancy's Italian Wedding Soup
Three new dishes made an appearance this year and from the crowds reaction they will be appearing in future years.  Cosmo delighted the crowd with moist, tender and flavorful Clams Oreganata with Pancetta. RosAnn and John made crowd pleasing Sausage & Peppers; while Nancy made an incredible Italian Wedding Soup that was so good it took MTD (Most Tasty Dish) honors.

For dessert once again we savored the spectacular Italian Pastries from Vaniero’s Bakery in NYC, compliments of Peter & Amelia.

Sausage & Peppers
I am happy to report that we drank very well also.  For white wine I popped the cork on 2010 Gini La Frosca Soave and 2005 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.  Different wines to be sure, but both are oh so  good.  Made from 100% Garganega grape, a native white grape of the Veneto region of Italy, Gini is simply a crisp and delicious wine that always pleases.  Easy to drink now, the wine will age beautifully for another 10 years.  At $18 a bottle, it represents a great value. Stop by Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ and pick some up.

The Clos des Pape Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc continues to drink beautifully.  I am a huge fan of the whites from CDP.  In their youth they possess a stunning yellow hue and as they age the hue morphs into a glistening honey-gold.  The fruit was pure, balanced and focused on the palate with layers of complexity and finished with considerable length.

For red wine we began with a few bottles of 2005 Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Reservee. 2005 was a spectacular vintage for Chateauneuf-du-Pape and these bottles were certainly a testament to that fact.  Soft and silky tannins entice the palate.  The fruit is ripe and focused and the wine finishes with impressive length.  A very, very good CDP at $75 per 750ml.

Next we popped the cork on a 2000 Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia.  This spectacular wine is from one of Italy’s best wine making estates and is only made in vintages in which all three of the Conterno Cru vineyards, Romirasco, Cicala and Colonnello yield outstanding results. The wine is velvet on the palate with great structure and balance.  It is drinking well now, but will benefit from a few more years in the cellar.

Emil brought a bottle of 1998 Quintarelli Amarone, and we were glad he did.  I have written about Quintarelli’s wines on many occasions and there is not much to say other than they are “other-worldly”.  They are simply the essence of great wine making are have to be drunk to be appreciated.  This had an almost port-like nose and was sweet and inviting on the palate with a monster finish.  A wine with soul.

Bill, my fraternity brother from Pennsylvania brought along a couple Pennsylvania wines to try. While I forgot to open the Chardonnay (I will soon Bill) I did open the 2010 Chaddsford Barbera Portfolio Collection, Miller Estate Vineyard.  This was quite nice.  It had a soft palate of ripe fruit and reminded me of a very good homemade wine.

With dessert I opened what is in my opinion one of the great dessert wines of the world, 1993 Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu Mollieux 1er Trie.  Alas the wine was corked and undrinkable.  In its place I opened a 1997 Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico.  Amber gold in color with a pleasing sweet palate, it was superb.  The wine is made from a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia di Toscana grapes that are late harvested, then dried on mats throughout the winter to further concentrate the flavors. It's fermented, then matured in barrels which are not topped during evaporation to purposely allow a slow, oxidative maturation.  $60 at 56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ.

My thanks to all who came and made this a great party…and the game was good too!