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.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

La Cucina di Giorgio

My good friends Cosmo & Giorlamo Cerrigone were responsible for my wine epiphany when they treated Carol and I to dinner at Parioli Romanissimo (now defunct) in NYC in the late 70's and ordered a bottle of 1955 Biondi Santi Brunello Riserva.  It was a dinner and wine that I will never forget.  I can still recall the memory of that evening to this day.  It was the first time I really tasted what wine could be.  Unfortunately at the time I could not afford wine of this caliber.  I did however move up from Gallo Hearty Burgundy and Principato to better wines that I could afford.  .

Over the years I have enjoyed many wonderful bottles of wine and terrific dinners with them. While both can hold their own in the kitchen, especially Cosmo, their older brother Giorgio is the Maestro della Cucina.  Unfortunately Giorgio lives in Treviso, Italy so I only get to enjoy his cooking when I visit him in Italy, or when he visits his brothers and sister here in NJ.  After a six-year hiatus, he is back.  So naturally I invited him to my house to cook a meal for us.  You must understand, Giorgio has no formal training as a chef.  What he does have however, is an understanding and passion for extracting the essence of the food he prepares in the same manner in which a great winemaker crafts his wines.  The results are always magnificent as they were tonight.

Me, Giorlamo, Cosmo & Giorgio
While Giorgio settled into the kitchen and began his preparation I popped a bottle of NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose Champagne. What a terrific Champagne this is.  Complex and seductive on the palate with a creamy delicacy and long lush finish.  $75 Readily available – Wine Searcher.

We began the meal with Spaghetti con Vongole Bianco (clams in white wine sauce).  While this is a simple dish to make, in the wrong hands it is a disaster.  In the right hands it evokes the same delight as an Andre Bocelli offering.  We were in the right hands tonight.  Giorgio makes one addition to this dish that takes it to a new level.  He finely dices celery and sautés it along with garlic.  The celery adds another layer of flavor and elevates the dish to a new level.

Salmon is one of my least favorite fishes…unless Giorgio makes it.  I first had his preparation of Salmon al Forno at my home more than 10 years ago.  It was simply amazing then and ditto tonight.  He starts with a large (2 lbs+) piece of salmon which he places skin side down in a shallow baking pan.  He completely covers the top of the fish with a mixture of plain bread crumbs to which he has added minced fresh garlic, parsley, capers, white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Into the oven at 375º until the topping is brown and crisp. The finished fish is moist and bursting with flavor.

Along side the Salmon, he made Mellanzane Ripieni (stuffed eggplants).  
For these he cuts the eggplants in half lengthwise and then cooks them in salted boiling water until the pulp is soft.  The soft pulp is extracted and added to a mixture of beef, pork and veal along with an egg, minced garlic, parsley, parmigano reggiano cheese, one fresh diced tomato, white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper.  This mixture is used to stuff the eggplants, which are then baked for about 30 minutes at 350º.  They are amazing.

Food of this caliber deserves amazing wines.  I choose two of my favorite Brunello producers, beginning with 2003 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino. This is a superb old world Brunello that I opened 3 hours prior to drinking but did not decant.  It possessed wonderful balance and complexity with an elegant soft palate that kept evolving in the glass.  The wine finished with length and elegance.  A wine with soul.  $90.  Wine Searcher.

I followed this wine with a bottle of 2003 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva which I decanted for two hours prior to drinking.  Soldera is my favorite Brunello producer by a long shot.  His wines are the epitome of old world elegance. They soar from the glass.  This was spectacular juice, exhibiting a huge earthy bouquet with a gorgeous translucent red hue.  On the palate it had fantastic pure fruit, impeccable balance and complexity and finished with a sensuous elegance. Completely round and delicious.  A wine with soul!  Unfortunately his wines carry a high tariff.  $329 at Italian Wine Merchants.

With our dessert of Italian pastries (not pictured) and espresso we sipped a botlle of 1999 Sine Qua Non Mr K Semillon Vin de Paille.  In my opinion this is one of the greatest dessert wines ever made. The wine possessed a gorgeous deep yellow hue, was lush, rich and complex on the palate with a lingering killer finish. Nectar of the gods.  Very difficult to find.

A wonderful night indeed.  Grazie Giorgio!


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