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.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Notre Dame Wine Dinner 2013

Notre Dame Church of North Caldwell, NJ held it’s annual wine dinner fundraiser on Friday, May 10th at Il Tulipano in Cedar Grove, NJ.  Chris Cree, MW, owner of 56º Wine in Bearnardsville, NJ once again put together an amazing selection of wines for the evening, while Gregorio Polimeni and his staff did a terrific job with a delicious menu to compliment the wines.  This year’s theme was “Wines of Passion”.  Each wine that was poured was made by an artisan winemaker with a passion for taking the elements of fruit, soil and climate given to him by Mother Nature and crafting them into a pure expression of these elements.

Il Tulipano is known for its superlative “Antipasti Hour”.  With an array that included greaseless fried calamari, Neapolitan pizza, hotdogs in puff pastry; crab cakes; shrimp; tuna tartare; various cheeses, salamis and canapés it is important to pace oneself so as to enjoy the dinner to follow.
Fried Calamari

The antipasti hour wines, one white and one red, matched the food perfectly and got the evening off to an exciting start.  The white was 2007 Huet Vouvray Petillant from the Loire Valley, France.  This is an uncommonly delicious Chenin Blanc sparkling wine made in the Champagne style, but not in the traditional méthode traditionelle.   Traditionally made Champagne goes through a complete primary fermentation before it is put into the bottle.  At the time of bottling, yeast and sugar are added so that a second fermentation can take place in the corked bottle.  Thus the bubbles are formed and trapped under pressure.  Prior to being released, the wine is uncorked and disgorged to purge the sediment of the yeast cells from the wine.  The wine is then corked for the final time.  In the Petillant style the wine is made in the methode ancestrale in which the wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished, the result being a lower pressure sparkling wine, because only a portion of the fermentation occurs within the bottle. The wine we drank tonight was rich with great focus and a vibrant acidity, and at $25 one of the world’s best wine bargains.

The red wine, 2012 Domaine du Cros Vin Rouge de Marcillac from Marcillac, France was medium-bodied, fruity and peppery and delightful to drink. This is the ultimate French country red, made from indigenous grape variety Fer Servadou (also called Mansois), and it is best when served with a slight chill.  The wine will also age very well.  Another incredible bargain at $15 a bottle.

Gamberi del Signor Rex was served shortly after we were seated for our dinner courses.  This remarkable dish, named after a long time customer of Il Tulipano, is comprised of breaded Jumbo Shrimp with a Tomato/Mustard/Cognac Sauce.  It is simply delicious.  What do you drink with this dish?  How about in one glass 2011 Quintarelli Bianco Secco Cà del Merlo, Veneto, Italy and in the other 2011 Chateau Maris Brama Grenache Blanc, Languedoc, France.  Both were spectacular.  The Quintarelli, a blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Saorin, was perfectly balanced and pure on the palate with a lingering finish. While every vintage I have had of this wine has been superb, this vintage was over the top.  I heard raves from every table as they drank this wine.  The wine is in a class by itself.  $48.

The Chateau Maris, made from 100% Grenache Gris (very rare white grape variety), had a brilliant freshness, crispness on the palate.  It was round and delicious, with layers complexity and a lengthy and elegant finish.   I am told only 70 cases of the wine were made.  $45.

Risotto con Funghi Esotica (wild mushrooms) followed our first course.  While a bit peppery, the rice was perfectly al dente, creamy and yet not too rich as is the case with many risottos. Chris paired two superb red wines with this dish, 2008 Quintarelli Primofiore Rosso, Veneto, Italy and 2011 Danilo Thomain Enfer d'Arvier Rouge, Valle D'Aosta, Italy.

While Primofiore may be the least expensive red wine from Quintarelli, it is as superb as his other wines. 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 wine had great balance, purity, pepper & spice on the palate and a lengthy finish. $62.

Thomain is much lesser known than Quintarelli.  He owns only one hectre of vines from he produces only 2500 bottles of wine made from the traditional grape of the area, Petit Rouge. The grapes grow in impossibly steep, terraced rock vineyards at the very feet of the Alps.  The wine had a compelling rusticity and a lively freshness on the palate.   Danilo Thomain is the sole independent grower in the region.  $38.

The evening;s entrée choices were Saltimbocca di Petti di Pollo Novello (Breast of Spring Chicken topped with Parma Prosciutto in Sage Butter Sauce) or Brasato di Manzo al Barolo (Beef braised in Barolo wine, Potato Purée & Spring Asparagus).  We stayed in Italy, Northern Piedmont to be exact, with the wines for this course.  From Gattinara (Province of Vercelli) was 2001 Petterino Gattinara ($32), and from 10 miles west of there from Lessona (Province of Biella), was 2008 Proprietå Sperino Lessona ($70).  Both of these wines were wonderful examples of the soul of the Nebbiolo grape.  They both drank very well.  I felt that the Lessona was a bit more elegant and round on the palate than the Petterino.  Both had a long and earthy finish.

For our dessert wine, we moved to the commune of Cerdon in the Bugey region in the Ain department of Eastern France for NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé.  Like the Huet Vouvray Petillant, this wine is made in the Methode Ancestrale style. Deep pink in color, this is  like drinking sparkling cotton candy… and who doesn’t like cotton candy.  This was fun, enjoyable and easy to drink and captured the palates of all in the room.  A fantastic wine at the unbelievable price of $24.

Each of the wines we had were wonderful expressions of wines made with passion and soul. They are not wines that are made to please wine critics, but instead to please the winemaker and his family.  In fact with the exception of the Lessona, not one of these wines was rated by any critic that I am aware of.   Antonio Galloni gave it 95 points.  If you enjoy drinking wine for the experience it will bring as opposed to the name on the label and/or its price tag, seek out wines like these that often travel under the radar but soar to the top of superb and exciting wines.  All of the wines mentioned above, if still available, can be purchased at 56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ

It was a terrific evening that many people contributed to.  My sincere thanks and appreciation to:
Chris Cree, MW for his wine expertise and procuring the wines;
Arlene Catanzano, my co-committee member who worked tirelessly to help make the night a success;
Gene Urban, Master of Photography, owner of Impressive Impression for taking the photos in this post;
Gregorio Polimeni and the Il Tulipano staff for a great meal;
Fr. Anthony Randazzo, Pastor of Notre Dame, for his constant inspiration;
The Scudiery Family Foundation for donating the wines;
To all attendees who made the night a huge success.
Fr. Randazzo leads us in Grace

Happy wine raffle winners...
Rosan & John won a bottle of each wine served

Frank & Ann won 3 bottles.

We all hope to see you next year!!!


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