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.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with David Marsteller the founder and creator of Great Sommeliers.com.  David is a recent graduate of Quinnipiac University where he majored in video production.  He decided to combine his talents and skills in video production with his growing passion for wine through the creation of this terrific website.  Extremely high quality video clips convey the comments,  insights and food & wine pairing ideas from top sommeliers, winemakers and private collectors. The site is free, and if you enjoy wine (if you are reading this I assume you do) it is worth checking out.

David suggested lunch at Casa Lever, an Italian Restaurant specializing in Milanese Cuisine and located on Park Ave. in Midtown Manhattan. The upscale space is home to modern art and architecture with numerous and priceless original Andy Warhol paintings adorning the walls. The wine list is extensive (and a tad on the expensive side) and very well thought out, with numerous selections from around the world.  As we settled into our table, we put ourselves in the very capable hands of Chief Sommelier Gaetano Muscatello for our wine selection.  We told him what we were planning on ordering and he suggested a 2000 Domaine de la Solitude Cuvée Barberini Chateauneuf-du-Pape to complement the dishes.  I am a big fan of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but I was not familiar with this producer.  Double decanted, the wine drank beautifully.  A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre that is aged 24 months in 40% small barrels and 60% neutral wood foudres, the wine had a dark inky hue, earthy bouquet and exquisitly balanced fruit on the palate.  It continued to evolve in the glass with each sip and finished with considerable elegance and length.  A wine with soul and a perfect match for our food selections.  Current vintages of the wine are available at $50 - $75 a bottle, depending on the vintage.  Wine-Searcher.

What we ate

I began with a classic dish from Milan, Italy, Vitello Tonnato.  For this dish the veal is slow roasted, chilled, then thinly sliced, and served with a tuna & caper sauce. This has long been one of my favorites and it was superbly done here.  David opted for the Caprese Salad of heirloom tomato, mozzarella di bufala, modena aged balsamic vinegar (sorry photo was blurred).

Compliments of the house, we also enjoyed an absolutely delicious Melanze Alla Parmigianna.  This was one of the better versions I have had of this classic dish.  The crispy fried eggplant was layered with soft mozzarella di bufala. A sweet tomato sauce was poured around the eggplant at the time of serving, allowing you to dredge each bite in it.

For my entrée I chose Risotto Al Peperone.  Creamy al dente Arborio rice made with a sweet red bell pepper essence and a dollop of chilled goat cheese mousse in the center.  A wonderful combination.  The chilled goat cheese helped cut the richness of the risotto. It paired magically with the wine.  David selected the Veal Milanese topped with an arugula & cherry tomato salad.  I snuck a small piece and it was delicious.

Espresso helped to wash down a classic Tiramisu and Giandua, a decadent chocolaty dessert fashioned from milk chocolate, hazelnut crunch, gianduia mousse and hazelnut cream.

It was quite a lunch.


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