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, April 20, 2014

Insane Italian Wine Dinner

Last Tuesday night I had the good fortune, along with my friend Emil, to be invited to the  “Insane Italian Wine Dinner” hosted by Matt Tornabene, owner of Manhattan Wine Company.  The dinner was held at Sfoglia Restaurant in NYC.

The dinner was inspired by a trip Matt and his fiancé Kerrie took last year to Piedmont and Modena, Italy.  Having had the opportunity to visit and taste the wines of Giuseppe Rinaldi and G.B Burlotto while in Piedmont, and than the 2005 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva of Gianfranco Soldera while dinning in Modena (where he proposed to Kerri…she said yes.), they decided to “recreate the magic with our own little Baroli/Soldera tasting here in NYC”.  Matt goes on to say about this event, “I’m more convinced than ever that traditional wine-making is the key to making the most profound wines.  Manipulating the process and slapping the lipstick of new wood and modern wine-making techniques only hides the terroir and tricks you into thinking you are tasting something great.  Gianfranco Soldera said it best, “Striving for quality: that’s the point. There was a time when great care was taken in the search for beauty and excellence. Then the masses came to prefer the façade to what lies behind it.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ll take tradition and the least amount of intervention as possible over more modern techniques that may yield high scores with Parker and the like any time.  In the end, these traditional wines will stand the test of time.  They always have, and they always will.  " It was a great event.

As Emil and I arrived an hour early we settled in at the bar and perused the wine list, which is under the direction of Sfoglia Sommelier Maria Rust.  I was very impressed by her selections that included some of Italy’s most artisanal wine producers.  We selected a glass of 2011 Zidarich Vitoska to sip while we waited for the dinner to start.  It was a great way to begin the evening. This “orange wine” (skins remain in contact with the juice during fermentation to impart the color) is one of the few I had yet to taste.  As a big fan of these type wines, I jumped at the chance to try it.  Made with the Vitoska grape by Friulian winemaker and owner Beniamino Zidarich, it had a deep golden hue, as opposed to the more orange color of Gravner or Vodipovec wines.  On the palate it displayed a pleasant stony minerality and pure fruit, but was a bit too cold to really appreciate.  As it warmed it took on a bit more depth and finesse.  These type wines should always be drunk at red wine temperature to fully appreciate them.  This wine will benefit from a year or two of cellar time in my opinion.  $30.  Wine Searcher.


Antipasti della Casa
Clams, Chilis & Tomato 
Burrata, Radishes, Sesame

Pappardelle alla Bolognese
Polenta Bianca, Spicy Sausage, Celery Root
Chicken al Mattone
Lamb chops, White Beans, Carrots, Lavender

Caramel Bread Pudding
Italian Cookies

TThe food was a terrific complement to the wines Matt selected and brought along. We began with two Italian whites from the Sfoglia cellar and selected by sommelier Maria.

2012 SP68 Bianco, Arianna Occhipinti.   This Sicilian white is made from a blend of Albanello and Moscato di Allesandria.  The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel tanks and then bottled unfiltered where it ages for a further month before being released.  SP68 refers to the road she must cross to reach her vineyards.  The wine had very good acidity and balanced fruit but had much too much perfume for me on both the nose and palate.  The perfume did begin to settle down after 30 minutes in the glass.  $30.  Wine Searcher.

2009 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Emidio Pepe.  I am a huge fan of Pepe’s wines.  He never fails to create amazingly complex age worthy reds and whites, that along with Eduardo Valentini are the standard of the region.  The vineyards are located in the northern province of Teramo, with siliceous soil rich in lime and iron. The Trebbiano is foot trodden in wooden tubs in order to avoid the contact between the iron presses and the acids of the fruit. The resulting white wines are slightly golden hued, well balanced and complex.

The grapes are grown organically, hand-harvested, hand destemmed, naturally fermented and aged 18-24 months in glass-lined tanks. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, without added SO2, and aged in their cellar, in bottle, for continued development. Before release, the wines are decanted by hand into new bottles, and then labeled.

Tonight’s bottle was classic Pepe Trebbiano, rich, focused and full of finesse, however it did finish a bit short.  In my opinion it is still too young to drink and needs a few more years cellar time.  $70.  Wine Searcher.

The large format reds that Matt brought along were very much the stars of the evenings.

1985 Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello (Magnum).  This bottle was a lot more tired than the magnum I had last November.  The fruit on the palate lacked the vibrancy of the November bottle. 

1995 Barolo, Monvigliero, Comm G. B. Burlotto (Double Magnum).  Wow was this good.  I am new to Burlotto’s wines, having only tried them a couple of times.  That is changing, as these are magnificent examples of traditionally made Barolo.  This exhibited a terroir-laden bouquet with superbly balanced and focused fruit on the palate. Completely round and delicious with a 30+ second finish.  Simply a magnificent wine.

1999 Barolo, Brunate Le Coste, Giuseppe Rinaldi (Magnum). Every inch the equal to the Burlotto with a bit more richness on the palate.  Another monster finish here.

Emil admires the Burlotto
2005 Brunello di Montalcino, Casse Basse Riserva, Gianfranco Soldera (Magnum).  WOTN for me.   Soldera is THE master craftsman.  In my opinion his Case Basse is the epitome of traditionally made Brunello.  Tonight’s wine had it all beginning with an enticing earthy bouquet that dazzled the senses.  Soldera wines always exhibit a gorgeous translucent red cryttal-like hue.  He believes that one should be able to see one’s finger through the wine after it is poured into the glass as was the case tonight.  On the palate the wine soared with lush and vibrant fruit, had impeccable balance and complexity and finished with elegance an length. Truly a wine with soul!

These wines will not be easy to find and will be very expensive if you do.  I thank Matt for pulling them together and sharing them with an intimate group of his friends and clients. 

NV Barolo Chinato, Cappellano.  A digestivo wine that is made from a blend of herbs, spices and essential oils that are steeped in Barolo wine. I have never been a fan of this or any digestivo for that matter, but I learned tonight that by putting a single ice cube in a dessert wine glass with the Chinato results is a very pleasant after dinner drink.  $85.  Chambers Street Wines, Amanti Vino.

It was a fantastic evening.   Thanks Matt for including me.


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