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 20, 2013


In the past two weeks I have been to Xunta, a new Spanish Tapas restaurant in Caldwell, NJ, for lunch, brunch and dinner.  Chef Gonzalo Fernandez was the chef at the Spanish restaurant of the same name in the East Village of NYC for 15 years before coming to work with co-owners Alfonso Meneses and Carmen Mendez in Caldwell.  The cuisine is authentic Spanish. The menu offers a nice assortment of dishes, many of which are available in either Tapas (small plate) or Racion (entrée size) plates.  On Friday nights Flamenco Dancing to the music of a Flamenco Guitar will entertain you while you enjoy your meal.

The Plates

The Gazpacho Soup had a creamy texture, suggesting a blending of the ingredients, that coated the palate with a slightly sweet spiciness that I enjoyed very much.   Then there were Datiles con Touciño (Baked dates stuffed with Cabrales Blue Cheese Wrapped in Hickory Smoked Bacon, Drizzled with Agave Nectar and Balsamic Glaze).  While I did not try one, my wife and our friends adored them. Sorry, not photos of these dishes.

 Patacas Bravas (Spanish Spicy Potatoes) were simply awesome.  They consisted of cubes of lightly fried potatoes that were dressed in slightly spicy, but oh so delicious sauce.  These will make you forget about French Fries.

I love eggs.  I love them in virtually any form.  The two dishes that I had here each paid homage to the '70's slogan of the American Egg Board;  "The Incredible Edible Egg".  At brunch I ate every morsel of Ovos da Granxa (two Sunnyside-up eggs with two homemade corn tortillas with Salsa Roja, Fresh Cheese and Wheat Germ Refried Beans).  Either this is the forerunner of the popular Mexicn dish Huevos Rancheros, or vice-versa.  Whichever it is it is an inspired brunch item here.

Tortilla española con cebola, pementos roxos, verdes e chicharos (Spanish potato omelet with green and red bell peppers, garden peas, and a side of mixed greens and homemade garlic aioli.  The fluffy omelet was a perfect vehicle for the vegetables it housed.

On my first visit I tried the Croquetas do dia (Croquettes of the day with a sweet smoked paprika and garlic mayonesa).  Made freshly daily, they are so good; I have had them on all three occasions I have been here.  On each visit they were made with Spanish ham, Spanish cheese and potatoes, breaded and deep-fried.  Sensational.  On my next visit the Cheese stuffed Piquillo Peppers and imported White Asparagus in a Spanish Sherry Vinaigrette) were a wonderful combination of fork tender sweet peppers, oozingly good cheese and tender asparagus.

Fish and Chourizo are well represented on the menu, and tastefully prepared as well.  Lulas Na Sua Tinta con Arros Branco (Squid cooked in its ink and served with garlic cilantro rice) was fork tender, nicely spiced and perfectly complemented by the rice.

While the Chourizo  con Cebola Ao Vino (Sautéed Spanish Chorizo with Spanish Onions, Green Bell Peppers in a Rioja Wine Reduction), was tasty, I preferred the spiciness and textures of the Chourizo A Prancha (Sautéed Spanish Chorizo with Tangy Carmelized Spanish Onions) (no photo)

Additional plates well worth trying are Costelas sin Oso Refogadas con Arros Branco (Braised Short Ribs with Cilantro Rice).  These were fall-apart tender and were in perfect harmony with the rice. The Empanada is always a staple in Spanish and Mixican cuisine and the Empanada Galega de Polo (Puff-Pastry Galician Chicken Empanada with Piquillo Peppers, Spanish Onion and Sweet Paprika) served here was moist, tender and full of flavor.  For dessert there was Flan and freshly made stuffed Churros (Spanish donuts). Two classics that were simply delicious.

The Wines

My good friend Gino who is in the wine importing and distribution business brought along a 2009 Dario Princic Pinot Grigio to enjoy with our lunch.  While I have read about this iconic “orange” wine producer from the Friuli-Venezia region of Italy, this was my first time trying one of his wines.  It will not be my last.  This was one of the best, and certainly the most unique Pinot Grigios, I have yet to taste.   The hue of this wine is more rosé like in color than the amber or orange hue most of these wines possess.  It was round and delicious, with good depth and a long finish. Definitely a wine with soul.  The grapes see a 7 day maceration on the skins in large open-top oak and chestnut fermenters, and the wine is aged for 2 years in botti, tonneaux, and used barriques. No fining, no filtering.  I have yet to see this wine, which according to Gino retails for about $30, in any stores yet.  Gino is working on changing that.

A few days later Gino stopped by my house with two other wines from Princic; 2005 and 2009 Ribolla Gialla.  Both were terrific.  The Ribolla is aged for 4-5 years in botti, tonneaux, and used barriques. No fining, no filtering.  If you are a fan, as I am of orange wines, be on the look out for these.

2012 Domaine du Cros Marcillac Lo Sang del Païs from Marcillac, in Southwestern France.  This was medium-bodied, fruity and peppery and delightful to drink. Made from indigenous grape variety Fer Servadou (also called Mansois), this is typical country red wine that is best when served with a slight chill. The wine will also age very well. Good availability and a steal at $15.  Wine-Searcher.

Vinification takes from 20 to 25 days in stainless steel, thermo regulated vats.  After an 18-month maturation in casks, the wine is bottled. The wines are released for sale one month after bottling. These wines are ideal for ageing; they will reach full quality and develop their secondary flavors only after three or four years. They can also be enjoyed young because they have all the primary black currant and raspberry flavors of the grape variety.

2006 Movia Lunar, another “orange” wine from Friuli-Venezia. Made from 100% Ribolla Gialla, it is a wine that I have had on many occasions and the wine has never failed to bring a huge smile to my face.  Maverick vineyard owner and winemaker Ales Kristancic makes this wine with no human intervention and bottles it without any filtration or fining. It is a one of a kind wine.  The grapes are put into specially designed barrels and then allowed to ferment and age on their own for seven months, without pressing the grapes or adding any chemicals. They are then bottled without filtering. The result is a deep golden hued wine with incredible character, depth and finesse.  On this day the wine just kept evolving in the glass and dancing on our palates.  A wine with soul!  The 2008 vintage is available at $40.  Wine-Searcher.

1991 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva.  I have written about the wines from this traditional maker of Rioja wines in four previous posts.  In my opinion LdH is one of the very top producers of wines of purity, essence and soul one can find anywhere in the world. The Gran Reservas are aged for six to eight years in 225 liter American oak barrel. The wines are then further aged in bottle, until the family feels that they are ready to be released, usually another 3 years.  All Lopez de Heredia wines are clarified with fresh egg whites and bottled from cask unfiltered.  I have had this wine on 3 previous occasions, and each time it was superb, completely round with amazing purity on the palate and length on the finish.  In spite of the magnificent translucent red hue and earthy bouquet, this particular bottle however was a tad off on the palate and finish.  The wine never really seemed to come around.  Hopefully this is simply a case of bottle variation. About $90.  Wine-Searcher.

Xunta, which has appropriate wine stemware, is a welcome addition to the area.


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