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 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


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