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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Birds and Bottles

In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens", to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.  In 1941 the US Congress made it an official law and fixed the date as the fourth Thursday in November.  Thus today Americans the country over, regardless of their faith or ethnic background, celebrate the day with family and friends.  Turkey with gravy, stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie are the culinary traditions most follow.  Wine, however, can be a different matter.  What to drink is often the question.  Fortunately there are many wines, both red and white, that will complement your meal nicely.

Beaujolais Noveau is perhaps the most popular choice for Turkey Day and has been called by many “Thanksgiving Wine”.  A little history is in order here.  As the clock strikes midnight on the third Thursday of November, the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau, is released to the world! Over 60 million bottles make the trek to Paris for worldwide distribution. This is a young wine (only 6 weeks old), grown from the Gamay grape.  It is very fruity, light-bodied, and virtually tannin-free making for an extremely easy-to-drink red wine.   Like Coca-Cola, it is best served chilled.   It is also very inexpensive, often retailing for under $10 a bottle.  While Beaujolais is administratively considered part of the Burgundy wine region, the climate is closer to the Rhône and the wine is sufficiently individual in character to be considered separately from Burgundy and Rhône.  The wine is not intended for aging and should be consumed within the first year of release.  Some of the top producers of Beaujolais Nouveau include: Georges Duboeuf, Domaine Yvon Metras, Jean-Paul Thevenet, and Louis Jadot.

While I do think the Gamay grape is a perfect match for the Thanksgiving meal, I prefer the depth and purity of the Cru Beaujolais wines of the region to the fruity and listless Nouveau wines.  These wines see more traditional fermentation and aging before release.  They age very nicely for a decade or more.  They are usually low in alcohol, pair beautifully with turkey and its trimmings and are in the $20 to $40 range.  I always include one or two at our Thanksgiving meal.  Some worth considering are:

2011 Michel Guignier Beaujolais Villages La Bonne Pioche.  This is a beautifully made wine with pure earthy fruit and only 11.5% alcohol.  It is an example of how well the Gamay grape can be when it is crafted by a top producer.  $18.

2010 Michel Guignier Beaujolais Moulin a Vent Le Petit Osielle.  Another wonderfully pure and delicious expression of the Gamay grape.  $27.

2010 Jean Paul Brun Terres Dorees Morgon. 12% alcohol with a fresh and light palate, it has great purity, balance and a delicious finish.  $25.

2011 Christian Ducroux Regnie. Delicious wine.  Pure, clean fruit that dances on the tongue.  An amazing wine for any price, but at $15, wow! wow! wow!

2009 Jean Foillard Fleurie.  A pure and superbly balanced Cru Beaujolais with lovely fruit and spicy undertones.  $46.

Chambers Street Wines in NYC has one of the most extensive and excellent selections of Cru Beaujolais that I know of.

I also find that Bourgogne or Villages level reds from Burgundy go well with the Thanksgiving meal.  Much lighter and far less expensive than Premier Cru or Grand Cru Burgundy the current vintages are all drinking beautifully now.  Here are a few worth considering:

2011 Joseph Drouhin Chorey Les Beaune Villages. Bright fruit, elegant palate and a soft finish…and all for $21 at Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ.

2010 Jean Michel Guillon Marsannay Clos de Portes. This small domaine in Gevrey Chambertin, produces wines of great pedigree.   This wine has a gorgeous translucent red hue, and an enticing Burgundian nose.  A bit light on the , it finishes with length and elegance.  $45 at The Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop.

Joseph Roty, Domaine Coillot and Louis Jadot are also worth considering for these level wines.

Entry-level Nebbiolo wines are another good choice.   Wines such as 2006 Roagna Langhe Rosso are simply fresh and delicious and drinking with an elegant simplicity at the moment, and thus would be welcomed at any Thanksgiving table.  $30 at 56º Wine.

White wines such as dry Rieslings or un-oaked Chardonnays are also a good match to the meal.  Here are some suggestions.  I recently had some of these wines and will have some on our Thanksgiving table this year.

I have been trying wines from New York State, specifically the wines of Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton, NY.  I am delighted to report that these represent some of the best value, high quality wines I have ever tasted.  The two Chardonnays that I drank recently are 2011 Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay ($18) and 2011 Channing Daughters Brick Kiln Chardonnay ($22).  Had I tasted these wines blind, I would have thought I was drinking an estate (entry) level Chablis from a house like Dauvisat or Fevre. Both wines possessed a gorgeous translucent straw-colored hue; a clean crisp and soft fruity bouquet that is echoed on the palate.  These are delicious, easy drinking wines, with a yummy finish that will have your guests refilling their glasses over and over.  The wine is available directly from Channing Daughters Winery.  They will happily deliver the wines to you.

A few weeks ago I picked up a few of bottles of 1999 Hexamer Meddersheimer Altenberg Riesling Spatlese at 56º Wine.   This dry German Riesling is drinking beautifully.  The glass showcases the wine’s stunning yellow hue.  On the palate it is focused clean and pure, with beautifully balanced residual sugar and a monster finish.  $50. While I did not try it yet, the 2001 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Hochsgewachs at $30 I am told is the equal of the 1999.

The Rieslings of Weingut Hermann Donnhoff, Willi Schaefer and Alfred Merkelbach are also highly recommended.  The entry level wines of these fantastic producers are in the $20 to $25 range.

From Corsica, France a bottle or two of 2011 Domaine Comte Abbatucci Ajaccio Blanc "Cuvée Faustine” ($38) would also pair beautifully with the turkery.  Made from 100% Vermentino, this is superb juice.  A completely round and delicious wine with good acidity to ensure 5 to 10 years of aging.  A wine with soul, also available at 56º Wine.

No Thanksgiving meal is complete with out Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie and other assorted desserts.  Allow me to suggest you pop open a bottle of NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé to enjoy with the dessert course. An absolutely delicious and fun sparkling wine to drink after dinner.  Made from a blend of Gamay and Poulsard grapes, it’s kind of like drinking cotton candy.  I have never served it without getting a bunch of wows.  $22, also at 56º Wine.

Of course the wines are secondary to gathering with family and friends and proclaiming our thanks for being able to share the day together.  My sincere wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

White Truffles and Eggs

While I do not look fondly on the cold weather and shorter daylight hours that November brings, I very much look forward to its arrival each year for two very good reasons.  My first child, Gina, was born in November and celebrating her birthday is always a joy.  It is also the month that fresh white truffles from Alba, Italy arrive.  And when they do, along with a couple of friends, I head to my favorite restaurant, Esca, in NYC and have them with soft-scrambled eggs. Eggs, in almost any form, with lots of shaved white truffles on them, are the ultimate conveyance for this culinary decadence in my humble opinion.  Chef/co-owner David Pasternack (Mario Batali & Joe Bastianich are the other owners) has a masterful hand in scrambling the eggs to perfection, resulting in a dish that must be tasted to appreciate.  The only improvement that can be made to this dish is to make it with fresh duck eggs, which I intend to bring to David next week for a repeat performance of the dish.

I chose 2011 Domaine Comte Abbatucci - Ajaccio Fuastine Blanc to drink with our meal. From Corsica, France, the wine is crafted from 100% Vermntino grapes, by the very passionate owner and winemaker Jean-Charles Abbatucci.    In addition to his wines being certified biodynamic, to keep his vines happy, he’s known to drive his tractor out to his vineyards and play traditional Corsican polyphonic songs over loudspeakers for their benefit.  After the harvest he treats his cellar to the same music.  I don't know if this makes any difference, but I can tell you that his wines are absolutely round and delicious as this was today.  It possessed a diamond like sparkle in the glass and on the palate was, clean, crisp, fresh, with great balance and acidity.  It got better with each sip.  Clearly a wine with lots and lots of soul.  We enjoyed it so much that we ordered a second bottle to drink with the balance of our lunch.  $41 at 56º Wine.  You might also want to check out his 2011 Ajaccio Rouge "Cuvée Faustine”,  a red wine made from the native Corsican grapes Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu.  I had a bottle a couple of months ago and it was superb with pristine fruit, balance, great acidity and a long elegant finish.  Also available at 56º Wine for about the same price.

I sung the praises of David Pasternack in September in my post, Lunch at Esca.  Below are the other dishes he prepared for us today.

Baked Clams are a must at Esca.  They simply have no peer. They are always plump, tender and briny. David varies the stuffing from time to time.  On this occasion small cubes of apples and soppressata were added to his homemade breadcrumbs before baking.  Devine!

Another must here are the pasta dishes.  Today we had a menu standard, Spaghetti with a one pound lobster, chilis and mint (below right) and the pasta special of the day, house made Buccatini pasta with gulf shrimps, arugola and tuna/tomato ragu.  Tony cleaned his plate of spaghetti, while Jerry and I did the same with our Buccatini.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bordeaux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Our wine group met for our monthly dinner last week. Once again we met at The Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, NJ.  The food and wine service here is excellent and as a result many of our members choose it when they bring the wines.  Jim was in the wine queue this month and did a nice job with wines from Bordeaux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  These wines are very different both in the grapes used and the style of the wine.  For my palate I find the CdP wines to be more feminine and elegant than Bordeaux, and therefore more to my liking.

Most red Bordeaux wines are a blend of the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  It is up to the individual producer to determine if his wine will be a blend, and if so which grapes he will use, or if will be a single grape wine.  The majority of Bordeaux wines are often made almost exclusively of Cabernet Sauvignon (usually the largest component) and Merlot.  The other grapes may or may not play a role in the blend.  The two wines we drank were both blends.

1998 Grand-Pontet St Emilion.  While I am not a fan of Bordeaux, this bottle was very good.   It possessed an enticing earthy bouquet and on the palate it had good fruit, roundness and balance.  It finished with nice length.  $40.  Wine-Searcher.

1998 Monbousquet St Emilion.  Not my kind of wine.  This possessed, as most Bordeaux do IMO, a harsh palate and a grassy back end.  Did not enjoy this at all.  $100.  Wine-Searcher.

The laws of Chateauneuf-du-Pape allow for up to 13 grapes, 8 red and 5 white, to be used in the making of the wine.  The red grapes are, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, Cinsaut, Muscardin, Vaccarese and Terret Noir.  The white are, Clairette, Bourbelenc, Picpoul, Picardin, Rousanne.  To the best of my knowledge only two vineyards, Chateau Beaucastel, one of the most famous, and one other use all 13 varieties.  Grenache is the main grape used.  In my opinion the 100% Grenache based CdP wines are the most elegant and the most delicious.

2000 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois.  This CdP, with some modern overtones is completely hand harvested and aged 30% in oak barrels and 70% in enameled steel tanks. The wine drank very well.  It exhibited soft tannins, forward fruit and well integrated alcohol.  A blend of Grenache 80%, Mourvedre10 %, Syrah 5%, Counoise 2.5% and Vaccarese 2.5%.  $125.  Wine-Searcher.

2000 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf du Pape.  Another more modern styled CdP, this wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre , Syrah, Counoise, Cinsault, Muscardin, Vaccarese.  This bottle never really came around.  There was not a lot going on with either the bouquet or on the palate. $100.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Vieilles Vignes.  This CdP is a blend of 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 3% Mourvèdre, 2% various others. – Crafted from vines that are 60 to 100 years old, it was my favorite of the night.  It had a wonderful bouquet, earthy, complex and balanced palate and finished with considerable length. $150.  Wine-Searcher.

Some of the highlights of the meal were:

Tuna Crudo .  Pristinely fresh Raw Yellowfin Tuna on a plate with Edamame, Cilantro, Ginger, Coconut.  Delicious!

Risotto with fresh white truffles.  Ah my first truffles of the season.  Truffles were great, risotto however, while perfectly cooked, was a bit too salty.

Acqueello Risotto.  This week’s preparation of the dish was with Cherry Tomato, Guanciale, Parmigiano Reggiano and Basil Pesto.  It was superb.  Perfectly cooked and seasoned, each bite threw a party in my mouth.

I love pound cake, and so I could not resist the one served here with Vanilla Ice Cream.  See for yourself!

Another great wine dinner with the group.  Thanks Jim for a great choice of wine and thanks Marc for dinner.  Until next time...