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.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Our monthly wine group met last week at Sette Cucina, in Bernardsville, NJ.  The theme for the evening, selected by Jim, who also brought along the wines, was Sangiovese based wines from Chianti and Montalcino.  The 5 wines Jim selected all showed very well and Sette Owner Allan Russo created a meal that complemented the wines perfectly.

Sangiovese is the primary red grape of Chianti and Chianti Classico in Tuscany, while Sangiovese Grosso, a clone of Sangiovese, is the grape used in making Brunello di Montalcino, also in Tuscany.  Contrary to what “grosso” implies (large) the variety is medium to small in size, and produces wines of exceptional quality and depth.

We began the meal as we always do with chef’s version of Bruschetta and a plate of salumi followed by…

Roasted Shrimp atop Cabbage & Corn Compote
Pumpkin Ravioli w/Sage & Butter
Pork Osso Buco
2004 Fattoria Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva Bucerchiale.   Selvapiana, one of Chianti's historic properties, is a classic Tuscan Fattoria (farm) located in the Chianti Rufina zone east of Florence. The estate has a reputation of producing red wines of considerable terroir laden wines of capable of considerable.  Tonight’s wine had lively, deep hued fruit with a hint of spice. Tannins were soft on the palate, while there was sufficient acidity for another 10 – 15 years drinking.  I liked the finesse-laden finish the wine displayed.   At $35, this represents a spectacular value.  Wine-Searcher.

2004 Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia DOCG.   Antonio Galloni writes, “There is not too much more I can say about the wines of Felsina and proprietor Giuseppe Mazzocolin, except that they are reference point wines for anyone who wants to discover the essence of contemporary Sangiovese from Chianti Classico”. Fèlsina produces one of the finest ranges of age worthy and complex Chianti bottlings in all of Italy. Unlike many of their neighbors, Fèlsina has never succumbed to the temptation to produce “new age” wines, and continues to grow solely Sangiovese here, rather than dabble with international-styled blends that include Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.

Tonight’s wine definitely backed up Galloni’s statement.   It had a silky, focused and elegant palate with a lengthy old-world earthy finish.  At $40 Rancia also happens to be one of the finest values in wine today. Wine-Searcher.

Approximately 35 miles south of the Chianti region lies Montalcino, where one of Italy's greatest wines is made,  Brunello di Montalcino.  Traditional as well as more modern style Brunellos are made here.  Tonight we tasted both.

1997 Sesti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.   The vineyards here are in the enviable position of being on the southern slopes of Montalcino, where some of the most prestigious Brunello comes from.  After the fermentation the wine is transferred to medium size oak barrels, where it remains for four years before being refined in the bottle for another year.

On the nose the wine was compelling, but seemed to feel tired on the palate, reminiscent of a wine that is approaching the last few years of its life.  While a pleasant wine, there was not a lot to get excited about.  $100.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 Salicutti Brunello di Montalcino Piaggione DOCG.  Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso harvested from the Piaggione and Teatro vineyards. After traditional fermentation, the wine is aged in a combination of large French and Slavonian oak casks for 3 years, followed by a year in the bottle before release.

Tonight’s wine possessed an enticing bouquet of red berries with a soft and mildly complex palate.  I believe this would have benefitted from an hour or two of decanting to enable the fruit and finesse of the wine fully emerge.  $110.  Wine-Searcher.

1999 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso DOCG.  The "Pianrosso" Brunello di Montalcino is named after the vineyard of the same name. This single-vineyard bottling is what Ciacci's outstanding reputation was built upon and is only produced in the very best vintages. The wine is aged for 36 months in 20-62 hl Slavonian oak barrels, followed by a minimum of eight months' bottle ageing. Production is limited to 3,500 cases are produced annually!  The most modern of the Brunellos tonight, the estate has managed to bridge the gap between classic and contemporary styles gracefully.

The wine exhibited a ruby red hue in the glass with a complex and intense bouquet, while the palate displayed a full-bodied wine comprised of wonderful purity, complexity and focus. It finished with length and elegance.  Along with the Rancia, it was my favorite of the evening.  $70.  Wine-Searcher.

It was another wonderful evening with our group,  Terrific wines, thank you Jim, and great food, thank you chef Allan and Marc.

Saluté and Merry Christmas

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