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, August 24, 2013

Wonderful Wine Week

This past week has been one filled with lots of fun, family, friends, food and fantastic wines.

Hot & Sour Soup
Chengdu Cold Noodles
Saturday:  My daughter Gina, grandkids Mia and Nicholas along with Carol, her mom and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Chengdu 46, Clifton, NJ for dinner.  There is simply no better authentic Chinese food in NJ.  For starters we stuffed ourselves with Chicken Soon, Chengdu Cold Noodles, Pan-Fried Dumplings and Hot & Sour Soup.  Each of these dishes are explosions of flavors and textures on the palate.  Our main courses were a continuation of our Asian feast with Chicken with Mixed Vegetables in Brown Sauce, Three Delights with Sizzling Rice (shrimp, pork & chicken sautéed with fresh snow peas, tomatoes and water chestnuts over sizzling rice) and Sichuan Style Lobster.

I enjoy either a crisp Riesling or a silky red Burgundy with the food here.  Tonight my choice was 1999 Domaine Chezeaux Griotte Chambertin. Made by famed winemaker Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot, this is a beautiful classic Burgundy with an enticing bouquet, a round and velvety palate that finishes with finesse and elegance.  Ponsot makes the wines for Domaine Chezeaux as the result of a 1982 metayage agreement which provides for the cultivation of land for a proprietor by one who receives a proportion of the produce, as a kind of sharecropping.   Thus these are the same wines from the same fruit that are bottled by Ponsont at his Domaine Ponsot, only at half the price.  While not inexpensive at about $150 a bottle, they represent a great value.  New York Winewarehouse, NYC

Sunday: Our entire immediate family (14 of us) gathered at Rare The Steakhouse in Little Falls to celebrate my birthday (I know again) and our grandson Nicholas upcoming 4th birthday.  Our appetizers consisted of deftly Fried Zucchini Flowers, Chilled Alaskan King Crab Legs, and Fresh Jersey Tomato and Onion Salad.  The tomatoes were from owner Gregorio Polimeni’s garden and were ripe and delicious.

Our entrées included a mammoth 28 oz Cowboy Steak that brother-in-law Ed diligently and with great gusto did justice to.  Prime NY Sirloins, juicy and tender, were the choice of son-in-laws Nick and Andy.  A moist Grilled Swordfish caught the attention of my sister and my wife Carol. The kids and my girls selected Penne with Basil and Tomato and Penne ala Vodka respectively, while Carol’s mom and I enjoyed a delicious homemade Lasagna.
I selected a magnum of 2006 Didier Dagueneau Pouilly Fumé Silex for the white wine.  Didier sought to make the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world.   A feat that most people will tell you he achieved.  His Sauvignon Blanc is like no other I have ever tasted.  This bottle was crisp, round and
Fumé Silex
delicious on the palate with a lengthy and superb finish.  It is a wine with considerable soul, however it comes with a very hefty price tag, and as much as I like the wine, I find it hard to justify stocking up on it.  Didier met with an untimely death in 2008 in a light airplane crash.  His son, Louis-Benjamin continues he legacy.  The wines are available at Amanti Vino, Montclair, NJ.
Giacosa Riserva 2000

For red I brought along a magnum of 2000 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Riserva Falletto.  Giacosa, as I have mentioned in the past is one of the icons of traditionally made Barolo and Barbaresco wines.  This bottle, which I decanted for 3+ hours, was a classic Barolo with an enticing earthy nose, a balanced and pure palate with ripe, vibrant fruit and a lengthy & elegant finish.  Truly a wine with soul, this was round and delicious and soared from the glass with each sip.  On a sad note, this estate seems to faltering lately and with the exception of the 2007 vintage, recent vintages have been sub par.  

Monday:  Along with friends Cosmo, Jerry, Giorgio and Gregorio I made my first visit to the Jersey shore since the devastation of hurricane Sandy.  It was quite a sight to see so much destruction on one hand, but invigorating to see the rebuilding that is taking place.  My good friend Tony P has a home on the beach in Normandy Beach, and was among the fortunate ones who did not loose his house.  He had some damage, but it has been repaired and so we visited him for the day.  I brought along a magnum of 2001 Ronchi di Cialla Ciallabianco for us to sip as we sat on his deck and enjoyed the beautiful day.  This delicious white is a blend of Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo Friulano and Picolit.  It is crisp with a terrific focus, finesse and elegance.  It went down very nicely as we munched on the appetizers Tony set out for us.  While this vintage will be hard to find, 56º Wine has the 2010 for $35 in stock.

For lunch we went to one of my, and Tony P’s, favorite places at the shore, Runner’s Seafood Restaurant and Market in Lavallette.  The seafood here is fresh, and cooked with love and simplicity.  I enjoyed a delicious New England Clam Chowder followed by a Fried Filet of Sole Sandwich, while the others all opted for fresh caught Lobsters.  Tony P brought along a couple bottles of 2012 Zenato Lugana San Benedetto that were crisp, cold and delicious and complimented the lunch beautifully.  Made from 100% Trebbiano at about $15 a bottle, this has a great QPR (quality/price ratio).  Wine-Searcher.

Tuesday:  Dinner with friends at Divina Ristorante, Caldwell.  I have written about the great food here on numerous occasions previously and tonight was no exception.  Alas I did not take any photos and I do not recall what anyone else had, but I enjoyed a Fresh Jersey Tomato & Onion Salad followed by one of my favorite specials, Shell Pasta with Hot Sausage Ragu.  This is a great dish with just the right amount of heat, perfectly cooked pasta that is not over sauced. Unfortunately the photos I took all came out to blurry to post.  Sorry Mario.

As for wines my friend, who is a wine writer and has a great palate, brought along a bottle of 2011
François Chidaine Vouvray Sec Les Argiles.  As you know if you read my posts, I am a huge fan of the Chenin Blanc white grape from the Vouvray in the Loire Valley of France.  This was a new producer for me and I really enjoyed the wine. It was clean, crisp, and possessed terrific acidity.  As with all Chenin Blancs this will age gracefully for at least another decade.  A fantastic bargain at $20, Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ.
For red I brought along 1999 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve.  In my opinion, along with Hernri Bonneau, there is no finer producer of this wine.   Made from 100% Grenache as opposed to all 13 varieties of the region, this wine is always magnificent and memorable.  The wine exhibited a compelling and enticing bouquet that you want to just continue to take in.  On the palate it was completely round and delicious with a long elegant finish.  A wine with tons of soul and that has to be tasted to appreciate, as words are inadequate to describe it.  Not easy to find and very pricey.

Wednesday: Our grandson Nicholas turned four this day and his parents hosted a small party at our house.  Cheeseburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches along with Carol’s amazing homemade macaroni salad made up the menu.  Beer is the best beverage to go with this menu, but as the sun began to set I opened a bottle of 1999 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape. I found this bottle to be a couple of steps back from previous bottles I have had with the fruit in decline.  I think it is time to drink this vintage up.  I also find that Beaucastel wines are not what they used to be.  The newer vintages appear to be more modern in style and, in my opinion, lack the finesse that they once possessed.

Thursday:  We were in the mood for fish, so we headed over to Fin Raw Bar and Kitchen in Montclair.   The fish here is always fresh and expertly prepared by executive chef Michael Juliano.  A new summer menu has replaced the standard menu and I am happy to say that while I missed the excellent New England Clam Chowder the new items brought smiling nods to our faces as we partook of them.  I began with my usual ½ dozen of pristinely fresh and briny Naked Cowboy Oysters.  Along with this we tried Fish Tacos made with Mahi/Mahi that were marvelous...

...and a delicious grilled cheese that was comprised of Gruyere Cheese, tomato, bacon and slices of boiled lobster.  A different combination for sure, but it was finger lickin' good.

Our main courses consisted of a Grilled Shrimp and Lobster Combination (not pictured) and 7 Spiced Big Eye Tuna with Soba Noodles, a very addictive dish.

A bottle of 2001 Eduardo Valentini Trebbiano was the perfect accompaniment to the food.  It possessed gorgeous golden hue, earthy bouquet and spectacular focused fruit on the palate. The wine kept evolving with each sip and finished with finesse and elegance.  A wine with soul!

Friday:  La Cucina di Giorgio: Due.  In July I posted La Cucina di Giorgio, in which I wrote of the wonderful meal he prepared at my house.  On this Friday, his brother Jerry invited Carol and I to his house for another superb meal prepared by Giorgio.  Not only was it another spectacular meal but, in addition to Jerry and I, charter "C" Team member Louie C. joined us making it a truly special evening.   I will not bore readers of this blog with the histrionics of the "C" team, but suffice it to say that we were not members of the exclusive "A" Team that was prevalent a number of years back.  While the "A" Team has long since vanished into the past, the "C" Team is still very much in tact, and for good reason.  While many felt that "A" and "C" stood for a position on some status scale, in reality "C" stood for and still stands to this day, for "Camaraderie" as was evident in spades on this evening.  What then did "A" stand for?  I will leave that up to the reader's imagination.
The "C" Team: Jimmy, Rob, Jerry, Bucky, Me, Louie

Sorry if I digress.  Let's get back to Giorgio's magic.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few such as delicious, fantastic, rustic, amazing, etc., etc., etc.

Melanzane (Eggplant) with tomatoes
Spaghetti con Vongole
Pollo al Forno (Oven baked chicken w/ Potatoes)
Coniglio - Pan Fried Rabbit
Everything was delicious.  I brought along a magnum of 1985 Emidio Pepe Montelpulciano D’Abruzzo to drink with the dinner.  The essence of old world wine, this showed incredibly young fruit with a luxurious earthy palate and superb finish.  Along with our dessert of Italian Pastries from Palazzone 1960, Wayne, NJ we enjoyed espresso and a seductive 1999 Paolo Bea Sagrantino Passito dessert wine.  Wonderfully balanced, it was the perfect close to a great evening.

Saturday:  Time for Pizza and a couple of new wines, so Carol, her mom and I headed over to Bivio Pizzeria Napoletano in Little Falls for their authentic and fabulous pizza.  Earlier in the day I picked up a couple of new wines from 56º Wine in Bernardsville that owner Chris Cree suggested.  Chris knows my palate, and he assured me not only would I like them, but also that they would go well with the pizza we were having that evening.

The white was a crisp and delicious 2011 Filippi Castelcerino Soave.  From the Veneto region of Italy and made from the indigenous white grape of the region, Garganega, it was crisp with fresh fruit on the palate with a very pleasant finish.  At $15 a bottle this represents a fantastic bargain.

The red he suggested was 2011 Domaine Comte Abbatucci Ajaccio Rouge "Cuvée Faustine” from the island of Corsica.  I love discovering wines and grapes that I have never tried, especially when they turn out to be as good as this was.  Biodynamically made by owner Jean-Charles Abbatucci from the indigenous grapes Sciaccarellu (70%) and Niellucciu (30%), this was a wine with lots of soul.  In the glass the gorgeous translucent red hue sparkled while the pristine fruit danced on the palate in harmony and balance before finishing with length and elegance.   The $38 tariff is proof that one need not spend a lot of money for good wine.  Both are available from 56º Wine. Oh, and by the way,  both went magically with the pizza.

Pizza Margharita

Yes, it was a very good week!


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