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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Older Vintages

Last Monday our wine group met for our monthly dinner.  We returned to one of our favorite spots, The Pluckemin Inn, Bedminster, N.J.  The food here is always terrific and our wines are expertly handled by Wine Director, Brian Hider.  Jeff was in the queue for the wine, so we anticipated some special wines.  We were not disappointed.  Jeff is the most knowledgeable member of our group.  He has an extensive cellar, that contains selections of back vintages from Italy, France and California.  Tonight he treated us to 5 bottles, the youngest of which was from 1979.  They paired beautifully with the food and made for lively conversation.


Acquerello risotto: squash blossom, zucchini, bottarga, parmesan, mint.  One of the best Risotto’s I have ever tasted.  The rice was creamy and perfectly al dente, while the other ingredients were in symphonic harmony with each other.  A magnificent dish!

Organic Risotto: glazed veal cheek, walnut, sage, casatica di bufala.  Cavatelli with white beans, clams, black truffle, lacinato kale, pecorino romano.  Macheroni, Porcini ragu, plum tomatoes, suckling pig, grana padano sage (no photo).

Organic Risotto

Chatam Cod with piquillo peppers, wheat berries, soppressata, mussels, watercress.  This was a magical combination of perfectly cooked cod with accompaniments.


Lava Lake Lamb with white eggplant, broccoli rabe, charred tomato, black olive, rosemary.  

Niman Ranch Pork with gala apple, parsnip, savoy cabbage, dried plum, fennel, cider jus.


1964 Marquis de Terme Maragux.  A Fourth Growth Bordeaux, the wine had a brownish red hue and an earthy bouquet.  For a 49-year-old wine, this still had quite a bit of life to it.  A typical Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, the old world style of this wine was quite appealing to me.   Don’t think you will find any of this vintage but current vintages appear to be widely available in the $40 range.

1979 Solaia.  In general Super Tuscan blended wines are not to my palate. I find them to be very modern in style, perhaps in an attempt to please the critics and receive high point scores. The 1979, the second vintage ever of this wine, that we drank was very much old world in style and simply superb.  At 34 years of age it still had lively fruit and a round and elegant palate.  I liked it very much.  It was my favorite wine of the night.  The ’79 is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, compared to today’s blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5%, Cabernet Franc.

Solaia grapes come from the sunniest part of the Tignanello hill, from the best grapes grown in the best vineyard. The wine is aged in Barriques for about 12 months and for a further 12 months in the bottles and is only produced in superior vintages.  The wine was not produced in 1980, 1981, 1983,1984, and 1992.  Current vintages of the wine are widely available at about $150 - $200 a bottle.  A price, in my opinion, more reflective of the cult status of the wine as opposed to its quality.

1969 Larcis Ducasse St. Emilion.  A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the wine had a pleasant earthy bouquet, however on the palate it seemed very tired.  I think its peak days have long passed. My least favorite of the evening.

1970 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvigon.  I do not have much experience with old vintages of California Cabernets, but if they are like this one, I would love to drink more of them.  I was really surprised how superbly balanced and youthful on the palate this wine was.  It drank beautifully and had quite an elegant finish.   Still available at about $200. Wine-Searcher.

1950 Leoville Las Cases St. Julien.  One of the top Bordeaux 2nd growth classifications, we were all amazed that the wine was very drinkable at 63 years of age.  The pedigree of the wine was apparent and I can only imagine how good it would have been 20 or 30 years ago.  Current vintages of the wine are currently available and expect to pay upwards of $150 a bottle depending on the vintage.

This was a terrific selection of wines for me, as readers of my blog know that Super Tuscan Blends, Bordeaux Blends and California Cabernets are not to my liking.  In these wines however I found the earthiness, purity, finesse and elegance that I find in traditional Baroli and Burgundies.  Perhaps that it is because these wines were made prior to the advent of wine publications such as the Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator and therefore the winemakers concentrated on making wines for consumption as opposed to receiving high scores from wine critics.  Just a thought.  In any case, thanks Jeff for helping me and the other members of our group to continue to learn and marvel at the many wonderful experiences wine has to offer.


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