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, March 28, 2013

Friends, Food & Wine

Last week Carol and I had the opportunity to have dinner with good friends over a three-night span.  Our very dear friends Gene and Maureen celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary on Wednesday and asked us to join them to celebrate at Divina Ristorante in West Caldwell.

Anniversaries and Champagne seem to go together perfectly so I bought along a bottle of NV Jacques Selosse Brut Initial (digorged 10/10) to begin the celebration.  This was only my second bottle of a Selosse Champagne, as production is limited and allocations are miniscule.  Persistence however has paid off and I have been fortunate to pick up a couple of bottles here and there over the past year. Selosse, a maverick in the world of champagne, applies the teachings of legendary Burgundy winemakers such as Jean-Francois Coche and Henri Jayer in making his wines, and has thus altered Champagne’s image forever.   Selosse Champagnes are "grower champagnes" which means all the fruit comes from grapes grown in vineyards owned exclusively by the domaine, rather than being purchased from other growers.  The Brut Initial is a blend of 3 vintages of Chardonnay.  The bottle we enjoyed possessed an enticing yeasty bouquet that evolved with each sniff.  On the palate it was rich, creamy, and sublimely balanced. Do not drink this in a Champagne glass or you will miss the beauty of this wine as it evolves over time in your glass.  A Champagne with soul.  For more on Selosse, click here.

I also brought along a bottle from 1971 Franco Fiorina Barbaresco Riserva.  At 42 years of age the wine had as much vibrancy as the happily married couple exhibited tonight.  I decanted the wine for an hour.  It had a wonderful earthy bouquet and opaque brick red hue.  On the palate the fruit was pure, albeit a bit subtle with hints of smoke and leather.  It kept evolving in the glass making for a wonderful experience.  The wine has enough stuff left to last another 10+ years.

With these wonderful wines we enjoyed Penne alla Putanesca, Seafood Provencale, Veal Holstein (veal cutlet with fried eggs on top) and Penne Napoletano.

Gene & Maureen
The next evening found us with friends David and Lynn at La Pergola Ristorante in Millburn, NJ. This was our first time at La Pergola and it will not be our last as the food was very good. Highlights included a perfectly al dente Linguini with Clam Sauce MachiatoSquid Ink Ravioli stuffed with Salmon and LeeksRack of Lamb, Roast Pork Loin and Dover Sole.  We began with 2010 Inama Soave Classico Vigneto du Lot.  Made from 100% Garganega grapes this is one of the best Soaves I have ever had.  It was pure and focused on the palate with nice acidity and balance and finished with some length.  $25.  David tells me he can be purchased online at Get Wine On Line.

Rack of Lamb at La Pergola
The second white was 2008 William Fevre Chablis Vallions.  I wrote about this fabulous Chablis in my post a couple of weeks ago.  Once again the wine was superb, with great purity and balance of the palate.

Our final wine of the evening was 2004 Ada Nada Barbaresco Elisa. This is traditionally made Barbaresco that spends 20 months in small and medium size oak barrels and then another 14 months in bottle before being released. It possesses a wonderful earthy nose and on the palate it is soft with a long elegant finish.  I don’t think the 2004 is still available.  Expect to pay about $40 for current vintages.

On Saturday evening we joined good friends Tony and Fran for yet another terrific evening of food and wine at Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany.  We drank Barolo with the meal, beginning with 2005 Teo Costa Monroj Barolo, a wine that Tony and our friend Jack fell in love with last year when they attended the Italian Wine Festival, Vin Italy, in Verona, Italy.  They liked it so much they decided to import it.  The wine had that unmistakeable earthy Piedmontese bouquet that entices the senses and possessed nice up-front fruit and balance on the palate. The back end initially was a bit tannic but softened as the wine sat in the glass.  The wine, which will benefit from a couple of years of cellar time, is available at $40 at Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ.

We then moved to two monumental Barolos from Giuseppe Mascarello1997 & 1993 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva Monprivato Ca’ d’Morisso.  The six hectare Monprivato vineyard is renowned for its great terroir, much of which was planted to one of the finest strains of Nebbiolo, the Michét variety, by Maurizio Mascarello in 1921. The Mascarellos own all of Monprivato making this great site now a monopole along the lines of La Tâche in Burgundy.  The soils of Monprivato, coupled with the haunting refinement found in Nebbiolo Michét, produce one of the most compellingly complex and elegant interpretations of Barolo to be found.  For four generations the winemaking style of the Mascarellos has followed a traditional approach that allows for the brilliant underlying terroir of all of their wines, and Monprivato in particular, to take center stage.  Ca’ d’Morisso is only made in outstanding years.  Both of the bottles we drank were magnificent and literally soared from the glass.  Each sip was focused, round and delicious with a very lengthy and elegant finish.  Wines with soul...in spades.

They were the perfect match for the wonderful food prepared by Natale Grande which included Calamari Affogati with SpaghettiniScrigno di Mare ( lobster, jumbo scallops and Maya prawns with oyster mushrooms in “Salsa Americana”), Veal Paillard and Swordfish Oreganata.
Spaghettini w/ Calamari Affogati
Swordfish Oreganata


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Louis/Dressner Tasting

Each year Chambers Street Wines in conjunction with Louis/Dressner Selections hosts a tasting of the wines of some of the Dressner portfolio producers.  The $20 entrance fee is a donation to Partners-in-Health, an international medical organization committed to improving the health of the poor and marginalized.  For more information about PIH click here.  This year the event was held at City Hall Restaurant in lower Manhattan.  It was quite an event as one might suspect with 34 of the most talented winemakers from France, Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Chile pouring their beautifully crafted artisanal wines.

If you read my previous posts Joe Dressner and The Back of the Bottle you know how highly I feel about this importer.  The portfolio abounds with naturally made wines of finesse and soul at very reasonable prices.  My cellar holds 18 of his portfolio producers and after yesterday it will add a few more.

When I taste wine, I do not take it in, swirl it around and spit it out.  In my opinion wine was made to be appreciated and to properly do so you need to drink it.  While this does limit the amount of wines I can taste at an event with as much wine as this one, I find that with careful selection, it expands my tasting experience.  Here are some of the highlights from the tasting.

Renardat-Fache 2011 Bugey Cerdon (Methode Ancestrale Rosé).  This was a ridiculously phenomenal sparkling rosé.  Lively and pure, the wine danced on my tongue and cried yummy, yummy, yummy all the way down.  This delicious wine 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.

The Bugey, located halfway between Lyons and Geneva, is one of the tiniest and most obscure wine areas in France. Although the altitude is modest, the terrain is very mountainous. The vineyards are hard to detect, little patches here and there on steep slopes looking southeast or southwest, lost in the midst of fields with grazing cows, and dense forests. The total Bugey acreage in vineyards is 170 hectares. The varietals are many, borrowed from all the surrounding areas: Gamay, Poulsard (a grape from Northern Jura), Roussette, Mondeuse (both from Savoie) and Chardonnay. Many still wines are produced, but the region's star wine is the Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale, a semi-dry, pink bubbly made by spontaneous, but incomplete, fermentation.  $20.

In my post 3 Amazing Wines I wrote about a Chenin Blanc from the Savennieres commune in the Loire region of France.  The stony schist soil of this area of France produces wines with a delicious minerality to them that I really enjoy.  Thus it was with great expectation that I tasted two wines from Domaine du Closel – Chateau des Vaults.  The vines are organically farmed and the vinification process is very traditional.  The 2007 Savennieres Clos Papillon, from one of the best parcels in the area is fermented in barriques for almost a year.  The wine possessed terrific complexity and was round and delicious with nary a hint of oak.  $33.  The 2011 Savennieres La Jalouise was less complex but possessed a refreshingly pure crispness that appealed to me more than the Papillon bottling.  It was round and delicious.  $23.

The Mâconnais district lies in the south of the Burgundy wine region in France.  It takes its name from the town of Mâcon. It is best known as a source of good value white wines made from the Chardonnay grape; the wines from Pouilly-Fuissé are particularly sought after. Almost all the wine made in the Mâconnais is white wine made from the Chardonnay grape.  I had not tasted much wine from this region so I was eager to taste the 2011 Macon-Charnay “Franclieu from Jean Manciat.  The wine is made in stainless-steel vats, to express the fruity, floral aromas and flinty minerality that characterize the best Chardonnay in the region. It was terrific.  It possessed stunning purity, crispness and complexity on the palate.  Hard to believe it only costs $19.

The wines of François Pinon are considered among the finest of Vouvray. His vineyards are in the corniche (ridge of a cliff) of the Vallée de Cousse. The soil is clay and silica on a base of limestone (tuffeau) with flint (silex) and the area is rated among the top sites in the appellation for Vouvrays of distinction and long life.  I tasted three of his wines today, 2010 Vouvray “Les Trois Argiles” (previously known as Cuveé Tradition), 2010 Vouvray “Silex Noir” and NV Vouvray Brut Petillant.  The Les Trois Argiles possessed a subtle sweetness on the palate and finished with considerable length.  The Sixex Noir exhibited a golden straw hue, had impeccable balance and purity on the palate and finished with lengthy seduction.  The Vouvray Brut Petillant, a sparkling Chenin Blanc, was as good as Champagnes costing 4 to 5 times the price.  All of thes wines are about $22 a bottle.

I have been drinking a lot of Marc Ollivier’s Muscadet for the past couple of years, thus I was very happy to meet this master winemaker in person and taste three of his wines that I had not tasted before.  These gorgeously crisp and minerally white wines are made from the Melon Bourgogne grape.  While they are delicious in their youth, they can also age for 20 years or more. I began wih 2010 Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Clisson”.  It is made from 50 to 110 year-old vines on a lower slope at Pepiere.  As with all his wines the grapes are hand-harvested then aged on the lees for 24 months. The wine was stony and elegant and finished with incredible length. It can be enjoyed now or cellared for 20 to 30 years.  It is considered one of the greatest wines ever produced at Domaine de la Pépière.  $24.

The next wine was 2009 Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Chateau Thebaud Clos Morines”. From a superb parcel of old vines on a steep slope comprised of a very warm and porous granite soil this was wonderfully fresh with superb acidity and a brilliant stoniness. Bottled after 30 months on the lees, this is another wine that will provide superb drinking now and last for 20+ years.  $24.

I followed this with his 2009 Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3”. This wine spent 3 years on the lees (hence the name) and like the previous two displayed wonderful freshness, acidity and focused fruit.  Like the others it can be enjoyed now or cellared for 20+ years.  $24.

If you are a lover, as I am, of ice-cold fresh oysters, then you must try one of these wines with them.  It is a perfect match.

I first tasted the remarkable wines of Bernard Baudry about 3 years ago.  His wines are masterly crafted from vines that are up to sixty years old.  One of the stars of the Chinon in the Loire Valley, his reds are made from 100% Cabernet Franc and possess complexity, finesse, elegance and finish with great length.  They can be enjoyed now or cellared for 10 – 15 years.  From the terrific 2010 vintage I tasted the Chinon Domaine ($19), Chinon “Les Grezeaux” ($26) and the Chinon “La Croix Boissee” ($38).  Each was fantastic.  These are wines with tremendous soul and it would be impossible to choose a favorite.

At age 24 Sicilian born Arianna Occhipinti made her first wine.  Now 7 years and numerous NY Times articles later she has become an icon to a generation of wine lovers that appreciate honestly made and pure wines that touch the soul.  Her 2010 Siccagno Nero D’Avola is such a wine and was superb.   It 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. $39.

Adjacent to Arianna at the tasting was Francesca Padovani of Campi di Fonterenza in Montalcino, a producer I was not familiar with.  Francesca and her twin sister Margarita planted their first vines in 1997.  I tasted the 2010 Rosso di Montalcino.  It was delicious.  Traditionally made it had glorious ripe and pure fruit, was soft on the palate and finished beautifully.  $35.  I also tasted the 2007 Brunello di Montalcino which, as one would expect, had considerably more depth than the Rosso.  Still a baby this is destined to become a beautiful wine in a few years. $90.

My wine loving friend David, who accompanied me to this tasting, listed amongst his favorites in addition to the afore mentioned Bernard Baudry and Francois Pinon wines:

2009 Romeo del Castello Allegracore from Mt. Etna in Sicily.  $22

The terroir driven Rhone wines of Eric Texier:
2010 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Rouge.  $15
2011 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhone Brezeme.  $24
2010 Eric Texier Domaine de Pergaud Brezeme Vieille Serine. $34
2010 Eric Texier Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes.  $54

The gorgeous “orange wines” of Stanko Radikon of Slovania:
2010 Radikon Venezia Giulia Pinot Grigio (amazing juice) $40
2010 Radikon Venezia Giulia Ribolla Gialla.  $40
2010 Radikon Venezia Giulia Oslavje (a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Grigio, 30% Sauvignon Blanc).  $40

The wines of Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa in Emilia Romangna.
2007 IGT Emilia Bianco Ageno.  $37
2010 IGT Emilia Rosso Trebbiolo Frizzante.  $21
2007 IGT Emilia Barbera della Stoppa.  $35

Each of these wines is a terrific example of traditionally crafted wines.  They provide a remarkable drinking experience and prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that one does not have to spend a lot of money to enjoy truly GREAT WINE.  All wines are available from Chambers Street Wines, NYC.  I strongly suggest you try a few.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Last Month's Highlights

Here are some terrific wines and an incredible risotto I enjoyed last month.

The Whites

2008 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spatlese #10.  For many Riesling drinkers, Willi Schaefer is the lord and master of Mosel wines. This bottle certainly made me a believer in this idea.  Clarity, precision and gorgeous fruit were evident in each sip.  This is an absolutely round and delicious wine and it costs less than $30 a bottle.  56º Wine usually has these wines.

In my previous post I wrote about Eduardo Valentini’s magnificent red wine, Montelpuciano d’Abruzzo.  His white wine, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, is a stunning example of how good white wine, or any wine for that matter, can be.  The 1998 bottle that I opened last month was sublime.  The wine soared from the glass with tons of complexity and pure fruit.  The finish was pure elegance. When he was alive, Eduardo felt that his Trebbiano wine was the finest wine he made.  Hard to argue with his feelings when you taste the wine. $60 DeVino Wine Boutique, NYC.

My heart, actually my palate, leaps for joy when I have the opportunity to taste and then drink a wine that is new to me but steeped in old world tradition. 2006 Betts & Scholl Hermitage Blanc is such wine. Betts & Scholl is a cooperative effort between Master sommelier Richard Betts, wine director at the Little Nell in Aspen Co. and Dennis Scholl contemporary art collector and joyous wine drinker.  The partnership is dedicated to making great wines to drink, not for competition. Based in NYC the juice for this Marsanne & Roussanne blend is sourced from none other than J.L. Chave in France.   Chave is considered by many as the greatest winemaker in all of Hermitage in the Northern Rhone.  Having had his wine on numerous occasions, you would not get an argument out of me.  Like the Chave wines I have had the pleasure to drink, this bottle was round and delicious with tons of soul.  It was crisp and balanced on the palate with a superb finish. Perhaps the best part is that at $70 a bottle, it is about 1/3 the cost of a J.L. Chave.

It had been a couple of years since I opened a bottle of 2003 Damijan Collio Bianco Kaplja. This “orange wine” from Friuli Venezia in northern Italy is fermented on the skins (thus giving it its orange hue) with natural yeasts. A blend of Chardonnay, Tocai and Malvasia the wine has long been a favorite of mine, especially when pairing it with fish.  So while Carol was off spaaing, I moseyed over to Divina Ristorante with a bottle to enjoy with Spaghetti Carbonara and Sole Milanese.  This wine, which needs to be drunk at red wine temperature to be appreciated, is a bold expression of purity, balance and elegance.   Mario, Divina’s chef/owner also likes this wine, so he graciously helped me finish the bottle.  $40

One of the finest Domaines from the Chablis region of France is Domaine William Fevre.  A staunch traditionalist, all the grapes at the domaine are hand harvested and then sorted by hand into 1er Cru and Grand Cru designations.  Intact clusters of grapes are pressed without crushing or destemming and only indigenous yeasts are used.  Since 1998 when the Domaine was purchased by Bouchard Pere et Fils, only old wood casks from Bouchard are used to age the wine.  The 2008 Chablis Vallions we drank was a stunning example of how good Chablis can be.  It possessed a magnificent crispness, pure, ripe fruit with beautiful balance and a lengthy finish.  $40 at New York Wine Warehouse.

The Reds

1995 E. Guigal Cote Rotie Chateau D’Ampuis is crafted from 100% Syrah fruit from six hillside vineyards of the d”Ampuis property. (La Garde, La Clos, La Grande Plantee, La Pommiere, Pavillon Rouge, and Le Moulin). The wine is aged in both barrel and large foudre for 30 months prior to bottling. There are approximately 3,000 cases produced annually. While the wine is aged in new oak for 42 months, the oak is very well integrated. This bottle possessed great structure and balance.  On the palate the fruit was pure with nice complexity.  It kept evolving in the glass and was a treat to drink.  If you can find this vintage expect to pay about $100.

Last year my good friend Gabrio, owner of De Vino Wine in NYC introduced me to a terrific red wine from Pinerolo, which is located in the Piedmont region of Italy in the province of Turin.  The wine, 2009 Coutandin Pinerolese Ramie is a blend ancient local varieties grown in promiscuity with zucchini, thyme and flowers, Avana’, Avarengo, Bequet, Chatus and Barbera.  Production is limited to only 2000 bottles annually. I was so impressed with the wine then that I purchased a few bottles and opened one recently. It was superb.  The wine soared from the glass with glorious pure fruit and impeccable balance.  The wine kept evolving in the glass with each sip dancing on the palate.  It finished with glorious length.   $40

Whenever I come across a wine that is imported by Kermit Lynch I jump at the opportunity to try it.  The KM portfolio is comprised of traditionally crafted artisanal wines from France and Italy. Every wine I have ever had has been beautifully crafted and priced within most anyone’s reach. Last month Chris Cree, owner of 56 Wine in Bernardsville, NJ told me he had received two wines from an “under the radar” producer in Piedmont, Italy by the name of Guido Porro.  I quickly purchased a couple of bottles each of 2009 Guido Porro Langhe Nebbiolo and 2007 Guido Porro Barolo "Vigne Lazzairasco".  I have not yet tried the Barolo, but the Langhe Nebbiolo was heaven in a glass. It possessed pure, clean fruit with a soft earthy palate and lengthy velvet finish.  It was better than many Barolos I have tried.  The grapes are harvested by hand and only indigenous yeasts are used in the fermentation process.  The wine is aged for 6 to 7 months in large Botti.  The Barolo sees 3 years of barrel aging.  At $25 a bottle for the Langhe and $40 for the Barolo I highly recommend you consider adding them to your cellar.

Speaking of great “under the radar” Barolo producers, Giovanni Canonica is another.  With only 1.5 hectares of vines, Giovanni grapes come from a high and relatively small hillside vineyard above the town of Barolo called Paiagallo. Canonica’s work is super old-fashioned in the vines, with no chemicals used. In the winery the same approach: foot-pressed grapes; indigenous yeast fermentation; no temperature control; very long fermentation in wood, and aging in large old wood Botti.  Minimal sulphur is used throughout. The bottle of 2005 Barolo Paiagallo that I opened was spectacular. It was a pure expression of the Nebbiolo grape with beautiful balance and complexity on the palate, a long elegant finish and enough acidity to allow this to age gracefully for another 10 to 15 years.  This is definitely a wine with soul.  It is no wonder why the folks at Chambers Street Wines put Cononica in a class with Mascarello, Conterno, Rinaldi & Cappellano.  $70.


Gregorio Polimeni is the owner of Il Tulipano (Cedar Grove, NJ) and Rare The Steak House (Little Falls, NJ).  In addition to being a great restaurateur and a good friend, he is a master in the kitchen.  He has an uncanny ability to make Italian classics that can bring tears of joy to your eyes.  One such classic is risotto al nero di seppia (Italian rice with cuttlefish and their ink).   With seppia flown in fresh from Greece (yes fresh from Greece, thank you Tommy), Gregorio cooked up batch a couple of Sunday’s ago.  I was most fortunate to receive a call to head over to Il Tulipano for a plate.  I have had risotto in Italy and here many, many times, but this was special.  The rice was perfectly cooked, the seppia nuggets were fork tender and echoed the sea from which they came.  However, it was the addition of larger pieces of the same seppia cooked quickly in tomato sauce and ladled on top of the risotto that took this dish to another level.  I have dreamt of this dish frequently since savoring every last morsel on my plate and only hope he does an encore at sometime in the future.
Risotto al Nero di Seppia alla Gregorio