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, February 23, 2015

The Extraordinary 2010 Barolo Vintage

Two weeks ago, along with friends Emil and Tony, I attended the 2015 La Festa del Barolo that Antonio Galloni and his Vinous team hosted at the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC. Tastings of this type have become one of Vinous’ hallmarks and provide a great opportunity to taste wines from excellent vintages. 15 of Barolo’s finest producers were present to discuss their 2010 Baroli as we tasted them.  2010 has been heralded as one of the greatest Barolo vintages ever.  As Antonio writes, “The cool growing season produced transparent, vibrant Barolos that pulsate with tension, crystalline purity and site-specific nuance.  The 2010s are vibrant, finely sculpted Barolos built on power and intensity”.  The tasting confirmed his comments.  This is a remarkable vintage.  The wines display wonderful depth, finesse and elegance.  To really appreciate them, patience of 5+ years is recommended.  Most of these wines will not come cheaply, but if you are Barolo lover, the indulgence will be well worth it.

With the exception of Scavino and La Spinetta, wines I have never liked and nothing here changed my feeling, I thought all of the wines showed very well.  Since these wines are in their infancy, it would not be appropriate to attempt to pick the best.   I have listed below, however, those wines that I felt drank the best today.

G. Conterno; G.Rinaldi; Massolino; Vietti; Cordero di Montezemolo 

Vajra; A. Conterno; Burlotto; Ceretto; Cogno, 

Sandrone, E. Pira, Elio Altare

Scavino; La Spinetta

At lunch (delicious cheeseburger) the wines were closer to drinking temperature and really accentuated the magnificence of the vintage.  Our table drank Burlotto, A. Conterno, Massolino and Vajra.  When you get to sip wines of this caliber with good food, you move from tasting the wine to experiencing it.  It was quite and experience.

2010 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche (Alessandro Ceretto). Located in the village of Castiglione Falletto, this hill top vineyard has been producing single vineyard Barolo since 1982. The more modern winemaking approach that uses a combination of new (barrique) and old (5 years) oak is used in the aging process.  The wine is aged for 30 months in barrel and then 12 months in the bottle prior to being released for sale.  The oak was well integrated here resulting in a palate that was fruity and nicely balanced.  I found this to be much better than previous vintages from the estate.

2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole (Aldo Vajra). The Vajra estate is situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo, was established in 1972.  The Barolo Bricco delle Viole, is their flagship wine.  This was gorgeous, full of feminine elegance with a wonderful fruity and earthy palate.  This is old-world Barolo at its best and at a modest price compared to other top Baroli.  Also worth checking out is his Langhe Rosso ($18).  Terrific wine at an even more terrific price.

2010 Elio Altare Barolo Alborina (Silvia Altare).  Altare was at the forefront of the Barolo revolution of a more modern style Barolo, with the use of rotary fermenters, a short maceration period, and the use of small barriques for aging.  I found the tannins to be a bit harsher with this wine than any of the others.  The wine also lacked the soul of most of the others.  Not one I will add to my cellar.

2010 Paolo Scavino Barolo Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata (Enrico Scavino).  Not for me.  See my comment in paragraph two.  Dull palate with too much oak for me.

2010 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Enrico VI (Alberto Cordero). This was my first time tasting this producer’s wine, and I was very impressed.  It had an enticing bouquet of earth and fruit and drank with a soft elegance.  I was quite surprised to learn, after doing some research, that the wine is aged in French Barrique.  My experience with wines aged this way is that they are very oaky and full of vanilla on the palate.  Fortunately that was not the case here. I hope to add some to my cellar.

2010 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala (Franco Conterno).   I loved this.  Like all Aldo Conterno wines the pedigree was very much in evidence with the first sip.  The wine was elegant and beautifully balanced.  I would expect this to be a tour de force in time.  I was fortunate to have this as one of the Barolos served at our table at lunch.  A shining example of traditional Barolo (aged 2+ years in large Slovonian Oak) that will emerge in a few years and provide a couple of decades of enjoyment at the very least.

2001 La Spinetta Barolo Campé (Giorgio Rivetti).  IMO, not even close to the other wines tasted today.  Did not like this at all.  Like the Scavino, it lacked soul.

2010 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cerretta (Roberto Conterno).
My have been my favorite wine of the tasting.  In my opinion, Roberto Conterno is one of the finest makers of traditional wines on the planet.  His Cascina Francia and Monfortino Riserva are two of the most sought after wines in all of Barolo.  They embody the essence of the Piedmont terroir, climate and Nebbiolo grape.  Today's wine, Barolo Ceretto, is the first Barolo from the Ceretta vineyard since Roberto took it over in 2008.  It simply soared from the glass.  It was round and delicious and the essence of traditional Barolo. Only 3000 magnums were produced. Roberto surprised us all when he said that his 2010 reminded him of his 1985.

2010 G.B. Burlotto Barolo Vigneto Monvigliero (Fabio Allesandria). I first tried the wines from this estate about a year ago. The Barolo Monvigliero is the estate's flagship wine, and is one of the few Barolos made with 100% whole clusters.  It was delicious. The bouquet was gloriously aromatic while the palate was pure and beautifully balanced. A staunch traditionalist, the making of the wine begins with a gentle crushing of all the grapes by foot, an incredible 60-day maceration on the skins and long aging in large Slovanian oak. I had the pleasure of sitting at Fabio’s table at lunch and got to enjoy speaking with him while I enjoyed this beautifully made wine with lunch.

2010 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne (Luciano Sandrone).  When I first tasted this wine last April I was mesmerized by its finesse, elegance, depth and balance.  Sandrone is neither a traditionalist or modernist, rather he is somewhere in the middle.  Whatever he is, he makes fantastic Barolo.  The LeVigne is a blend  of fruit from four vineyards, Vignane (Barolo), Merli (Novello), Conterni & Ceretta  (Monforte d’Alba).  Unfortunately, the bottle we tasted today did not drink as well as well as when I tasted it last April.  I think it was either an off bottle or perhaps it was served too cold. In any case it is a wine to put in your cellar, as I believe it should be stunning in a few years.

2010 E. Pira (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova (Chiara Boschis). A more modern styled Barolo that sees 1/3 new oak, it was more impressive than other vintages of the wine I have had.  With this vintage Chiara explained that instead of a single vinyard wine, it is a blend of 6 small vineyards.

2010 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate (Marta Rinaldi).
This may very well compete with the Conterno Ceretta as the wine of the vintage.  This was a breathtaking wine that is the essence of traditional wine making, i.e. taking what Mother Nature gives and nurturing it.  Due to the insane new Barolo labeling laws, only one vineyard can appear on the label.  Thus what was previously bottled as Barolo Brunate Le Coste is now bottled as Barolo Brunate.  The wine contains 15% fruit from the Le Coste vineyard. The remaining Le Coste fruit goes into the former Cannubi/San Lorenzo-Ravera and is now called Tre Tine (3 vats).  It too is an awesome Barolo.  To quote Antonio Galloni, "Beppe Rinaldi's 2010 Barolos will go down as some of the most epic wines of this historic vintage".  

2010 Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda (Franco Massolino).  This was right up there with the Conterno and Rinaldi.  Simply round and delicious traditional Barolo that is still aging and will not be released until 2016.  The bouquet was enticing and the palate was pure and silky. The finesse and pedigree of this wine is magnificent and will provide a couple of decades at least of drinking splendor.  I was fortunate to have this poured at our lunch table where I had the chance to experience it evolve in the glass.  Can’t wait to get my hands on some.  Franco compared the 2010 to his 2004, another magnificent wine.

2010 Elvio Cogno Barolo Bricco Pernice (Valter Fissore).  My first experience with any Cogno wines. This was a solid, harmonious Barolo with an enticing bouquet that gave way to a soft earthy palate.  It was quite good.  The wine is aged for 24 months in large Slavonian oak barrels of 25-30 hl and then an additional 18 months in bottle. Production is limited to 5,000 bottles.

2010 Vietti Barolo Ravera (Luca Currado).  This is going to be another fantastic, info monumental, wine from Vietti.  Like the Cogno it is made from a single vineyard in Novello. The wine is aged for 32 months in Slovenian oak casks and bottled unfiltered.  The wine is embodied with poise, finesse, balance and elegance. Production of this wine is very, very small.

Quite a tasting to say the least.  If you like Barolo, this is a vintage that you want to put in your cellar.  Once again kudos to Antonio Galloni and the Vinous team for putting together another great wine experience.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Wines

While the weather forecast called for a winter storm starting during the Super Bowl, our usual party attendees opted to brave the potential storm and join Carol and I for some good eats and wine. The menu remained the same as last year from the same contributors (Super Bowl XLVIII).  Once again they all did a terrific job.  The wines, with one exception, were different and all drank beautifully.

We began, as it seems we always do, with NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé from magnum.  The Bugey, one of the tiniest and most obscure wine areas in France, is located halfway between Lyons and Geneva.  A semi-dry, pink bubbly wine made by spontaneous, but incomplete, fermentation is crafted from Gamay and Poulsard grapes by Alain Renardat, resulting in a crisp and round delicious wine, that is delightful to drink.  $23. Wine-Searcher.

2013 Dominique et Janine Crochet Sancerre.  Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, this is a mineral infused pale yellow wine with hints of nectarine and peaches on the palate.  The refreshing acidity is harmoniously balanced with the stony minerality and the finish leaves one wanting more.  An absolute bargain at $25.  Moore Brothers.

2005 Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune Greves L’Enfant Jesus 1er Cru. 2005 was an exceptional vintage in the Cote de Beaune as is apparent in this elegant Burgundian Pinot Noir from the estate’s famous monopole vineyard.  The wine exhibits lots of terroir on both the nose and palate.  The tannins are well integrated, adding to the terrific balance and complexity of the wine.  The wine finished with harmonious elegance. $130. Wine-Searcher.

2005 Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune Teurons 1er Cru.  Just south of Les Greves lies Les Teurons, one of Beaune's most highly-respected Premier Cru vineyards.  We drank this alongside the ‘05 L’Enfant and it held its own beautifully, especially considering it sells for less than half the price of the L’Enfant.  This is a superb entry level Burgundy.  The terroir laden and delicate palate exhibited excellent depth and weight.  A delicious wine and a great value at $50. Wine-Searcher.

2003 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Chateau D'Ampuis.  I gave this wine a 90 minute slo-o.  Fruit was alive, tannins soft and finish was lengthy.  It lacked however the depth and focus of the 2001 we drank immediately after this bottle.  $150.  Wine-Searcher.

2001 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Chateau D'Ampuis.  Right out of the bottle it had more depth, complexity and balance than the 2003.  Fruit was vibrant on a slightly peppery palate and the finish was long and elegant.  This was a terrific bottle of wine.  $150.  Wine-Searcher.

The wines of Chateau D’Ampuis are produced from ancient plots which are amongst some of the finest of the Guigal domaine.

1989 Hans Kramp Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett Troken.  Gino brought along this delicious dry, bright, balanced and mineraly Riesling from Kramp’s prime vineyard, Ayler Kupp, located in the Saar River region of Germany. The wine had a lovely nose of petrol and evolved and opened more with each sip.  $30…if you can find it.

2009 G.D. Vajra Freisa Kyé.  Another superb showing of this wine.  Gorgeous translucent hue, earthy, chewy and balanced palate with a lengthy and elegant finish.

2005 Quintarelli Ca del Merlo Rosso. Emil brought along this recent release from Quintarelli. A blend of Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella grapes, this was a classic Quintarelli Valpolicella with fantastic balance, depth and finesse.  The finish was long and lush.  I had read that the difference between the Ca del Merlo bottling and regular Valpolicella bottling is that this is aged longer in large wood vessels and comes from a hilltop single vineyard.  I have also been told there is no separate vineyard and that Ca del Merlo was produced for an old US importer, to show a distinction with what the rest of the world was buying and what he was getting. Whatever the case it is a round and delicious wine that will provide years of drinking pleasure.  $92.  Wine-Searcher.

One of my favorite Producers is Paolo Bea from Umbria, Italy. Paolo is a quintessential artisanal producer who presides over a classic family-owned estate that makes handcrafted wines.  His approach to winemaking is wholly natural and follows the traditional, old world wine making style that has been the family hallmark since the 1500s. The two wines we drank, 2001 and 2003 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Secco were both stunning examples of this. Both wines exhibited magnificent earthiness, purity, complexity and balance with a refined excellence.  Wines with soul!  The wines are then aged for one year in stainless steel, another two years in large Slavonian oak barrels and, finally, one more year in bottle and like all Bea wines, is unfiltered before release.  Annual production is 15,000 to 20,000 bottles.  Current vintages are available for around $83.  Wine-Searcher.

With coffee and dessert we drank 2000 Ezio Voyat Ambrato Le Muraglie. Located in the town of Chambave in the Valle d’Aosta region of Northwestern Italy, the wine, made from Moscato Bianco grapes, had a beautiful amber color, with a bouquet and taste of figs on the nose and palate.  The finish was sweet and oh so seductive.  As far as I can tell, this vineyard is no more, which is a shame as I have enjoyed, along with this wine, their white and red wines in the past.

An exciting game, great wines, food and good friends made for a perfect afternoon and evening in spite of the weather.