A couple of weeks ago, our friends Tony and Fran, invited us and a few other friends to their home for a very special Sunday macaroni dinner. It was special for a couple of reasons. The guests of honor were two two of Italy’s top producers of Barolo, Franco Conterno (Aldo Conterno Estate) and Franco Massolino (Massolino Estate). Tony befriended both of them on a trip to Italy a few years ago. Since both were in town for the La Festa del Barolo tasting that we attended the day before, they graciously accepted Tony's invitation to a traditional Sunday Italian dinner at his house. I had met both men before and they are very gracious, friendly and easy to talk with, which made for a most enjoyable afternoon.
The other reason it was so special is that Tony’s mother Elisabetta, who hails from Alberona, Italy, made homemade Cavatelli pasta that literally brought a tear to my eye. The lightness and freshness of the macaroni brought back memories of eating Sunday dinner at my Grandma DeRosa’s house. Tony, no slouch in the kitchen himself, made a large pot of delicious ”gravy, meatballs, sausage & braciole” to compliment his mom’s Cavatelli. We were all so busing devouring the "macaroni" that no one remembered to take a picture of it. Of course no Italian Sunday dinner would be complete without beginning with a large antipasto of cheeses and salamis. After the “macaroni” we enjoyed a delicious roast of Filet Mignon and of course finished with a bevy of Italian Pastries and other assorted goodies.
|Franco M., Mom Elisabetta, Franco C., Tony|
The two Francos had one request, “NO BAROLO!” They wanted to drink other wines. We raided our cellars and accommodated them with following selection.
2007 Joh. Jos. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese. I am a huge fan of Riesling and of J.J. Prum. I find their wines have outstanding complexity and balance. The harvest at Prüm is always extremely late. The 2007, which we drank today, harvest was not finished before December. Late picking allows the Riesling grapes in the cool Middle Mosel climate to be picked at ideal ripening conditions, the basis to produce wines of superb quality. Today’s bottle was superb, with just a hint of sweetness on a long and elegant palate. I find that Prum wines need a minimum of 5 years of cellar time before they can really be appreciated. $35. Wine-Searcher.
2001 Henri Boillot Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru. A brilliant expression of the Chardonnay grape in this remarkable wine. A rich, pure and elegant wine that dances on the tongue with vibrant fruit, acidity, depth and complexity before finishing with serious length and elegance. The wines are bottled after 18 months in barrel. $200. Wine-Searcher.
1993 Geantet-Pansiot - Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru (Magnum). 1993 was a very good year In Burgundy, which yielded a rather small crop of rich, concentrated and velvety red wines. Today’s bottle had a lovely fragrant and elegant nose and a full-bodied, complex rich palate that showed considerable depth. The finish was long and elegant. I think that this wine is a good example of the absurdity of numbers. His eminence RP gave the ’93 vintage a score of 80. $550. New York Wine Warehouse.
1989 Chateau LaFleur DeGay (Magnum). A Bordeaux blend from the highly respected Pomerol appellation in Bordeaux. Readers of this blog know I do not drink much Bordeaux. I find the wines, blends for the most part, to be very one-dimensional and lack the elegance of Barolo and Burgundy. At least for me they do. This wine did nothing to change my opinion. Yours (not mine) for only $330+ a bottle. Wine-Searcher.
1989 Chateau Margaux. More of the same in my opinion, except for the price, which is twice the previous Bordeaux. Why, you may ask? Simple, this is one of the classified first growths, thus very much a "status" wine and if you want to drink a first growth you must ante up big bucks like the Chinese do. $650. Wine-Searcher.
2004 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Crafted from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, Soldera, in the opinion of many (myself included) is the master of Brunello wines. The bouquet of this wine filled the nose with great anticipation of what we were about to drink. The wine soared on the palate with dazzling purity, complexity and balance and finished with a clean and pristine elegance. I believe that most of us felt this way about the wine. Franco Conterno, however, had a different opinion. He felt the wine was suffering from reduction. Reduction in wine is thought of as the opposite of oxidation, i.e. not enough oxygen was introduced into the wine, thus imparting an acrid aroma (sort of like corked wine) to the wine. When the wine is exposed to air the reduction can, although not always, dissipate. Franco thought that the case here initially. He did say the wine got better with air, but he did not seem as excited about the wine as the rest of us were. As an interesting aside, this was the first time he ever drank a Soldera wine. $500. Wine-Spectator.
1998 Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Reserva. My favorite Spanish producer and one of the few real traditionalists left in Spain. The wines of LdH rarely disappoint. Today’s bottle had a bit of bricking on the edge but it did not deter from the amazing purity of fruit and earthy palate that evolved in the glass with each sip. At $40+, this is a ridiculous bargain. Wine-Searcher.
|Paul, Emil, Franco M., Tony, Jack, Franco C., Mark, Vincenzo|
With espresso and dessert Tony broke out a bottle of Louis XIII Cognac and a couple of bottles of Grappa. The Louis XIII is an excellent cognac for sure, but the cost is way off base, in my opinion. In any case it was a great ending to a dinner. It is not everyday that one gets to converse with two of Italy's iconic wine producers while eating great food and drinking great wine. Thanks to Tony, Fran and Tony's mom Elisabetta for their gracious hospitality and outstanding food.