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.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Our wine group met last week at Fin Raw Bar and Kitchen in Montclair.  It was my turn to bring the wine, and I decided it was time we visited the historic white Burgundy town of Chablis in France.  Chablis happens to be my favorite white Burgundy.  

Chablis is an historic wine-producing town in northern-central France. It produces light, dry white wines famed for their minerality and crisp acidity. AOC Chablis wines are produced exclusively from Chardonnay. They must be produced from vineyards in a specifically designated area surrounding the town of Chablis and its nearby villages.  Located in northern Burgundy (Bourgogne), it has a cooler climate than the rest of Burgundy, which contributes significantly to the style of wine its vineyards produce. The effects of terroir on wine can be seen more clearly in Chablis than almost anywhere else.

What really distinguishes the wines for me is that most Chablis sees no new oak, if any at all, in the winemaking process. As a result they are drier and fresher, rather than weightier and richly flavored.

The vineyards of Chablis are classified into four tiers of quality. Starting from the top, they are: Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis and Petit Chablis.  Chablis Grand Cru wines are produced from just 250 acres (100ha) of vineyards planted on gentle south-west-facing slopes at the eastern edge of the town. There are seven Grand Cru vineyards: Preuses, Bougros, Vaudesir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot. Wines claiming the Grand Cru title are made under stringent regulations; the maximum permitted yield is lower than for standard Chablis, and the minimum potential alcohol one degree higher. Chablis Grand Cru wines respond well to bottle ageing for between 10 and 15 years.

For our tasting I brought along 4 Grand Cru Chablis from 3 of the areas top producers and one rising new star along with a bottle of Champagne to kick off the evening.  We began the evening with a dozen Naked Cowboy Oysters (East Cost) and a fantastic bottle of NV Jacques Selosse Brut Initial (digorged 10/10).  The oysters at Fin are always briny and pristinely fresh and their combination with a great Champagne is magical.  The Selosse is exactly that, a great Champagne.  This bottle was made from 100% Chardonnay.  It possessed an enticing yeasty bouquet that kept evolving just as each sip of this extraordinary Champagne did throughout the evening. On the palate it is creamy, sublimely balanced, rich and layered with complexity.  It is a Champagne that must be drunk from a large white wine glass as opposed to a flute so that you can enjoy the wine at evolves in the glass over the course of the evening.  I sipped this throughout the meal and it just kept getting better.  In my opinion, there is no better producer of Champagne on the planet than Selosse.  The wines are not easy to come by, and are a bit pricey.  $150.  Wine Searcher.

After the oysters we moved onto a selection of delicious appetizers.

Grilled Caesar Salad, which consists of grilled Romaine Hearts, caeser dressing, reggiano crispelle and toasted garlic baguette.

Grilled Cheese with Lobster, Gruyere, Bacon, Arugula, Heirloom Tomato.

Crabcake made with tons of lump crabmeat, roasted yellow corn, chipotle aioli and served with baby arugula salad.

Lobster Sliders with plum tomato, applewood smoked bacon, peppercress and servedwith potato sticks.

With the appetizers we enjoyed our first two Les Clos Grand Cru Chablis, beginning with 2010 Patrick Piuze Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru.  Mr. Piuze is one of Chablis’ rising superstars.  He owns no vineyards of his own and thus purchases his fruit from top wine growers in Chablis.  His reputation was established while working for some of the top producers in Chablis.  This reputation has allowed him to enter into a long-term partnership with wine growers that enables him to pick the best lots in Chablis, most of them of very old vineyards, to collect high quality grapes.

2010 was his third vintage under his own label.  This bottle tonight had a gorgeous light yellow hue and fruity bouquet.  Fruity and balanced on the palate, this is a pure and completely unadorned classically styled Chablis.  At the moment it is a bit light, which I suspect is due to the fact that it is still very much a baby and will benefit from 2 to 3 more years of cellar time.  $95. Wine Searcher.  New York Wine Warehouse carries a large selection of Piuze wines at some very attractive prices.

We also drank 2009 William Fevre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru with the appetizers.  Stunning!. Crystalline medium-gold hue with lovely floral nose.  On the palate it had terrific richness, depth and purity of fruit.  A round and delicious wine that finished with considerable depth and elegance. $90.  New York Wine Warehouse.

If memory serves me correctly for our entrée we all enjoyed one of Fin's signature dishes, 7 Spice Big Eye Tuna.  The Sushi grade Tuna is prepared rare and served with Soba Noodles, Stir Fried Vegetables, Soy and Scallion Vinaigrette, it is a wonderfully spicy and savory dish.

With the tuna we had two more Grand Cru Chablis from, in my opinion as well as most other wine lovers, the two top producers in the region, Dauvissat and Raveneau.

2009 Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru.  Gorgeous light yellow hue and a pleasant citrus bouquet.  On the palate it was simply round and delicious with finesse, focus and elegance.  It finished with great length.  A wine with soul!  Should give pleasurable drinking for many years to come.  The Rare Wine Company says “Along with François Raveneau, Dauvissat is unquestionably Chablis' greatest producer, owning some of the oldest and best vineyards, including prized sections of the grand crus, Les Clos and Les Preuses”.  It was the wine of the night by the consensus of all.  $150.  Wine Searcher.  Other vintages of this spectacular wine are available at The Rare Wine Company and New York Wine Warehouse.

2000 Francois Raveneau Chablis Valmur Grand Cru.  The wines of Raveneau are simply spectacular across the board.  They are magnificent expressions of clean, complex and elegant Chardonnay.  Tonight’s wine took some time to open, but when it did it was pure Raveneau.  The palate was clean, crisp and had beautiful balance and acidity.  While it did not have the vibrant fruit of the Dauvissat, it possessed a long and graceful finish.  The 2000 vintage will be difficult to find, and will be quite expensive.  More recent vintages are available however.  Expect to pay upwards of $150 a bottle, depending on the vintage.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dinner at Cosmo's

The things that are most important to me in my life are my family, health, wine, food and true friendship.  I have been blessed with all of these, and for that I am grateful.  One of these true friends is Cosmo, or as I refer to him, Il Grande Cosmo.  The “Grande” does not refer to his belly (although some may argue that point) but rather to his enormous heart, zest for life and lack of bulls..t. There are no pretenses or facades about him.  When he learned that my wife and two daughters were off on their annual Spa vacation at Canyon Ranch in the Bershire Mountains of Massachusetts, he quickly invited me to dinner at his house.  A superb hair-stylist by profession, he is as accomplished in the kitchen as he is in his salon, especially when it comes to making pasta.  A couple of weeks ago I joined him, his wife, son and mutual good friend Gino for Sunday dinner.

Cosmo's favorite white wine is Montrachet.  We have shared numerous bottles together over the years.  On this evening I brought along a bottle of 2006 Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles to enjoy while we picked on an antipasto of Mortadella, Proscuitto, Olives and Mozzarella. Domaine Leflaive is one of the great white Burgundy estates in Burgundy, producing a finesse filled expression of the Chardonnay grape.  The wine began with a seductive bouquet on the nose, while the sensual palate displayed a wonderful stony viscosity, had superb balance, acidity and complexity and finished with tons of class.  The only negative is the $200+ price a bottle will cost you.  Wine Searcher.

As the Leflaive was consumed rather quickly, Cosmo popped open a 2012 Quintarelli Secco Ca del Merlo Bianco Veronese. A blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Saorin, this was classic Quintarelli.  The wine was crisp, fresh, superbly balanced with finesse and focus on the palate.  It was simply delicious.   $45. 56º Wine, Bernardsville, NJ. By the way, Kermit Lynch has become the importer of Quintarelli Wines with the retirement of Robert Chadderdon, thus I am confident that obtaining them in the future will become a lot less difficult.

With our pasta, Bavette Putanesca, I brought along a 1998 Roagna Crichet Pajé Barbaresco.  Bavette is similar to tagliatelle, only a bit narrower. Putanesca (woman of the streets) is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  It begs to be served with long pasta like spaghetti, perciatelli or bavette. Cosmo’s preparation was masterful, with all ingredients (anchovy, hot pepper flakes, capers, olives, garlic & olive oil) coming together in perfect harmony.  The performance of any pasta dish, this one in particular, is dependent on saucing the noodle properly.  Over sauce it and you have chaos on the plate.  Sauce it properly, like this was, and you are transported back to Italy.  Like fine wine, balance and quality ingredients make a huge difference.

The Roagna was superb and a symphonic pairing with the pasta. I opened the bottle 2 hours prior and allowed it to slo-ox (breathe in open bottle).  The Crichet Pajé is their top bottling, coming from their vineyard of the same name. The wine was absolutely magnificent.  On the nose it had an earthy, intoxicating bouquet with an absolute seductive palate that was completely round and delicious.  This wine will provide many more years of drinking pleasure.  A wine with soul!  $90.  I doubt that this will be easy to find. However current vintages of Roagna, especially the Langhe and regular Barbaresco and Barolo should be much easier to find.  These are superb wines, and very reasonably priced.  Wine Searcher.

Il Grande Cosmo is also very adept with veal, as was evidenced by fork tender Veal Scallopine con Funghi (mushrooms).  Cooked to perfection it paired beautifully with 2003 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo that he served with the dish.  The wine was classic Bartolo Mascarello, another terrific expression of traditionally made Barolo.  In addition to its lovely bouquet and gorgeous red hue, the palate was earthy, elegant, complex and the finish had wonderful length.  It was round and delicious with a lengthy and classy finish.  $100 and hard to find.  More recent vintages are available at a similar price.   For ¼ to ⅓rd the price I highly recommend looking for the Dolcetto d'Alba ($23) or the Barbera d"Alba ($35). These are both terrific wines made with the same attention to traditional craftsmanship as the Baroli are.  They can be enjoyed now and over the next 5 to 6 years.

A great meal with great wines deserves a great bottle of dessert wine as a conclusion.  As Cosmo pulled out a bottle of 2001 Chateau d’Yquem, huge smiles appeared on our faces.  Our smiles quickly changed to frowns as the bottle was corked. Fortunately, as I said at the beginning of this post, true friends not only are special, but can always be counted on.  Gino pulled out a bottle of 2001 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes.  While this may not be d’Yquem it is a terrific house that always produces delicious and affordable Sauternes.  2001 was a monumental vintage and each whiff and sip of this beautifully viscous wine reminded us of that fact. This was kind of like drinking Crème Brulee.  It was simply delicious.  $80.  Wine Searcher.

Grazie mio caro amico per una cena più deliziosa!

Il Grande Cosmo