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.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Gentlemen’s Holiday Lunch - 2015

This past Thursday a bunch of wine-loving friends gathered at Il Capriccio Ristorante, Whippany, NJ for our annual holiday lunch.  Every one brings a bottle to drink as we enjoy Natale Grande’s excellent Northern Italian Cuisine.  This year Tony, who originally organized the event, decided that the theme would be Barolo or Barbaresco from 1978 to 2001.  I thought all the wines showed well.

Flight One

1985 Cavallotto Barolo Vigna San Giuseppe.  As this was my bottle, I gave it a 1-hour slo-o at home. The wine had a brickish and somewhat cloudy hue and a nice earthy nose that was reflected on the palate. The first couple of sips however showed very little as the wine was pretty much closed. As it sat in the glass (30 minutes) the fruit began to evolve nicely and the presence of an aged old world Barolo was evident. Tannins were soft and the finish had good length.

1989 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco. Upon opening the wine seemed to be a bit oxidized, which turned out not to be the case.  Within 15 minutes any hint of oxidation blew off and was replaced by good fruit and balance.  30 minutes later however the wine seemed to shut down.  ???

Flight Two

2000 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva Barolo.   Superb bottle of wine that is entering its drinking window.  Everything one expects of the estate’s flagship wine.  The wine was round and delicious with impeccable balance, focus, finesse and a lengthy and elegant finish.

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Barolo.   This bottle seemed a bit off.  Perhaps a storage or shipping issue.  In any case, in my opinion, it is way to young and needs at least another 5 years in the cellar.

Flight Three

2000 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  Superb showing of this wine today.  Enticing bouquet with an intense, rich palate of ripe fruit that kept evolving with each sip.  Magnificent finish.

2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  A couple steps behind the 2000 at this stage in its life, but a terrific wine for sure with a bright future. Lovely fruit, balance and complexity.  Would have definitely benefitted from a few hours in the decanter.

Flight Four

1988 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia. Another superb wine.  Bright, elegant fruit that evolved with every sip and finished with lengthy elegance.

1996 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  Even better than the 1988, which is saying something.  This is simply a round a delicious wine with a couple of decades of enjoyment ahead of it.  The wine hit on all cylinders. The fruit was gorgeous, balanced and focused.  The nose tantalized the senses and the finish was one where you close your eyes and enjoy.  The essence of traditionally made old world Barolo.  My wine of the day.

Flight Five

2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala Magnum.  A wine of great pedigree and a bright future as it comes of age.  Enjoyable wine now, but will benefit from cellar time.

Flight Six

1997 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate La Coste Magnum.  As a huge fan of Giuseppe Rinaldi, I was ready to be disappointed, as so many 1997 Barolos have proven to be.  There was no disappointment today, just a huge smile as I savored this delicious wine.  The magic of Rinaldi was present in each sip.  Gorgeous Piedmontese nose with vibrant fruit, complex palate and lengthy finish.  Old world Barolo at its best!.

Flight Seven

1996 Angelo Gaja Sori Tildin.  Not my kind of wine.  Fruit is over extracted.  Gaja all the way, and I am not a fan.

1981 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva.  A most welcomed deviation from the theme.  LdH wines are the epitome of old world craftsmanship as this one was.  What a magnificent old world wine that possessed an earthy bouquet and gorgeous translucent hue reminiscent of a wine 30 years younger.  On the palate it had vibrant fruit, complexity, finesse and elegance.  A terrific wine.


1963 Sandeman Vintage Port.  From the legendary 1963 vintage, this was as good a vintage port as I have ever had.  Round, delicious and elegant with a monster finish.  I was amazed in that the color was more like that of a Tawny Port.  I only wish I had a couple of cases in my cellar.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thoughts on Holiday Wines

It’s hard to believe but the Christmas holidays are quickly approaching.  While the children go to sleep at night with “visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads”, wine lovers have visions of what to drink and serve their guests during this time.  Many amazing wines, young and old, expensive and inexpensive will be opened to the delight of all.  With this in mind I thought I would provide a list wines that are worth consideration in different price ranges.


Is there a more appropriate or festive wine for holiday toasting than Champagne and sparkling wine?  I think not.  One does not have to mortgage the house to enjoy really fantastic sparklers.

NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé, $26.  It is really hard to find a more crowd pleasing bubbly than this.  A blend of Gamay and Poulsard grapes, this is delicious.  Wine-Searcher.

2010 Huet Petillant, $30. Huet is one of the great wine estates of France’s Vouvray district of the Loire Valley.  This delicious and elegant sparkling wine is made from 100% Chenin Blanc, and also in the Ancestrale Methode*.  It is a wine that will age for another couple of decades.  Wine-Searcher.

* Unlike Methode Champagne, in this Methode, the wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished.

Cedric Bouchard Champagne.   Cédric Bouchard is one of the fastest rising stars in Champagne. He began producing his own wines in 2000 and has very quickly established a reputation as Champagne’s most talented new wine producer. His philosophy borders on the revolutionary in Champagne, as he insists on bottling single vineyard, single varietal (Pinot Noir or Chardonnay), and single vintage cuvees, rather than blending different sources to make a single cuvee, as is the norm in Champagne.  The results are fantastic.  His wines display great depth, complexity and balance. They need to be sipped from a large wine glass instead of a Champagne flute to be fully appreciated.  His bottlings range in price from about $50 to $200.  Wine-Searcher.

Jacques Selosse Champagne.   It has been said that Anselme Selosse, who began bottling his own wine in 1959, has altered Champagnes image forever.  Each Selosse wine is conceived to express a different variable of making wine in Champagne, but each wine carries within itself the uniquely compelling Selosse style.  Selosse's cellar distinguishes itself from most others in the Champagne region with its distinct lack of steel tanks. The grapes are crushed and then the juice makes its way into oak barrels, where it first ferments, and then settles, ages, and where it will remain until bottling.  In my opinion they are the finest Champagnes made.  Production is minimal and allocations are very hard to come by. His bottlings range in price from about $150 to $600.  Wine-Searcher.


2014 Château Petit Roubié Picpoul-de-Pinet.  The wine is crafted from 100% Picpoul, a grape grown primarily in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc regions of France.  The wine shows a gorgeous yellow hue in the glass and a peachy floral bouquet, while the medium-bodied palate displays a lovely citrus undertone. I also like the balance of acidity and minerality the wine imparts on the palate.  If you like Pinot Grigio, you will love this and you will especially fall in love with the $15 price tag.  Wine Legend, NJ; Wine-Searcher.

2014 Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, $20.  It is hard to find a more classic match to seafood, especially Oysters than Muscadet and even harder to find a better Muscadet than those crafted by Marc Ollivier from France’s Loire Valley.  Made from 100% Melon Bourgogne grapes, his wines are crisp, clean and possess bracing acidity and minerality on the palate.  The wines finish with exceptional length and will age for many years.  His single vineyard bottlings such as Clos des Briords are simply spectacular.  It is hard, no make that impossible to find wines of this quality in the $15 to $30 price range.  Wine-Searcher.

Alfred Merkelbach Riesling. Located in the Mosel Saar region of Germany, the Merelbach brothers make some of the cleanest and most delicious Riesling wines on the planet.  The wines average around $20 a bottle and offer fantastic value.  I prefer the dryer bottlings of Kabinett and Spatlese.  These wines contain the least amount of residual sugar and display impeccable balance and complexity on the palate.  If you are a fan of dry Riesling, they are a must, if you are not, these may change your mind.  Wine-Searcher.

2014 Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis Bricco delle Ciliegie.  This is a fantastic white wine from the Roero region of Piedmont Italy.  Produced from the Arneis grape, the wine is full-bodied with crisp ripe fruit and a lush minerality on the palate and a long, clean finish.  One of the best Arneis wines I have ever had. $25.  Amanti Vino, Montclair, NJ.

2013 Pattes Loup Chablis.  This tiny estate located in Courgis, France (just outside Chablis) was started by Thomas Pico in 2005.  He uses only indigenous yeasts and harvests and sorts his grapes by hand. This, his Villages level Chablis, is crafted from 55+-year-old vines, and is fermented in about 30-40% in concrete egg-shaped fermenters with the balance in stainless steel.  His Premier Crus, from hillside vineyards between 25 and 50 years old, are all raised in older oak.   This wine is a great example of not having to spend a lot of money for a top white Burgundy. The wine displays pristine purity with impeccable balance on the palate before finishing with elegance and finesse.  $30.  Wine-Searcher.

2014 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay.  Founded in 1975 by Tim Hamilton Russell this estate is the most southerly wine estate in Africa.  The estate specializes in producing terroir driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines that are very reminiscent of the wines of the Cote de Nuits region of Burgundy.  The wine displays a rich, focused and elegantly textured palate with a great finish.  You have to spend at least 3 times the $26 price to get comparable Chardonnay from Burgundy.  Wine Legend, NJ; Wine-Searcher.

2013 Quintarelli Secco Ca del Merlo Bianco Veronese.  This is the only white wine made by the master of the Veneto, Giuseppe Quintarelli. While he is known for his Valpolicellas and Amarones, this white is completely round and delicious.  A blend of Garganega, Trebbiano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Saorin (a clone of the Tokay grape), the wine soars from the glass with an enticing floral bouquet.  The palate is marked by beautiful richness and finesse and the finish is long and elegant.  $48.  Wine Searcher.

Borgo del Tiglio.  The wines of Nicola Manferrari from the DOC Collio hillsides of Friuli Venezia are quite special.  Manferrari produces mostly white wines, all of which are barrelfermented.  They are amongst my favorite whites from anywhere.  His signature whites are 2012 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Ronco della Chiesa.  This remarkable wine is made from 100% Tocai Friuliano grapes. The wine has great balance and good acidity for longevity. Crisp and pure on the palate and still very much a baby, this wine should drink well for at least a decade or more.  $70. Wine-Searcher.

2013 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Studio di Bianco is the estate’s flagship wine. Each plot is kept separate in the winemaking process to highlight the influence of the terroirs.  Upon pouring into the glass the gorgeous crystalline yellow hue and stony bouquet set high expectations, which are fulfilled with each sip. On the palate it shows great complexity with lush, pure fruit and soft minerality. The wine evolves with each sip. Like the della Chiesa it has the acidity to last at least another decade.  $90.  Wine-Searcher.

If you are in the mood for something special and don’t mind spending $300+ a bottle the 2010 Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot will surely fill the bill.  Along with Rene and Vincent Dauvissat, Raveneau is considered the top producer of old world Chablis in all of France.  No new oak barrels are used to make the wines. They are fermented in stainless steel and then aged in barrels with an average age of seven to eight years, for twelve to eighteen months. The wine sparkles like a fine gem in the glass. On the palate one is immediately aware of the impeccable balance, sublimely pure fruit, stony minerality and bracing acidity. The superb finish is long and silky.  This is what Chablis can be about.  A wine with soul! Wine-Searcher.

Produttori dei Carema is a producer of top quality Nebbiolo in Torino, located in the utmost northwestern region of Piedmont. Created in 1960, they are a small cooperative divided amongst 45 growers in this small, remote region. Each grower rarely owns more than 1 hectare, most having only ½ hectare. The D.O.C. Carema was established in 1967. Carema is a wine valued for its perfume and elegance, yet have the structure and acidity to age for decades.  While they do not have the same power and density of their Barolo brethren further south the wines provide to opportunity to drink first rate Nebbiolo, early on while the Barolos age in the cellar. 

2012 Produttori dei Carema Nebbiolo $20.  The medium-bodied palate begins to take on depth and finesse after about an hour of airtime.  It shows wonderful balance and finishes with a soft and velvety elegance that belies its price. Wine-Searcher.

2011 Produttori dei Carema Nebbiolo Riserva $25.  The riserva bottling is simply superb.  More full-bodied than the normale, the wine requires a couple of hours of aeration to open and show its stuff.  The translucent red hue is reminiscent of a villages level Burgundy.  The feminine palate is marked by terrific balance and complexity and like the normale has the acidity to last for at least another 10 years.

2009 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe $36.  This is the estate’s entry level Barolo but you would never know it. Situated in Vergne, the highest village in the Commune of Barolo, the estate was established in 1972. This under the radar producer of traditional Barolo makes some of the most consistently high quality and affordable wines produced anywhere.  The wine possesses a beautiful translucent red hue, huge earthy bouquet, a completely seductive palate of complex, focused and balanced fruit and had a delicate and elegant 45 second finish.  This is an amazing value.  Wine-Searcher.

2002 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses $36.  100% Cabernet Franc from the Chinon region of France’s Loire Valley, this is a formidable wine that brings smiles to the faces of all who drink it.  The grapes are handpicked and fermented in stainless-steel. The wines are then aged in larger, neutral oak and sometimes chestnut - a traditional barrel wood in the region. The ‘Picasses’ spends two to three years in oak, to reduce the wine and soften the tannins, and is usually released about 4 years after the vintage.  Give the wine 2+ hours of air and it will do a soft ballet on your palate with its superbly balanced fruit and acidity and finish with a lengthy and soft elegance. At the beginning of its drinking window this beauty will last for a couple more decades.  Wine-Searcher.

2012 Fonterenza Rosso di Montalcino $40.  This remarkable “baby Brunello” from the twin Padovani sisters must be tasted to appreciate.  Mentored by the great Gianfranco Soldera, the elegance and balance of this wine is amazing.  The wine is aged for 20 months, followed by another 8 months in barrel before it is released.  The fruit is pure on a complex and focused palate and the finish has substantial length.  Wine-Searcher.

2008 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino $182.  Feel like taking it up a couple of notches, the Brunellos of Diego Molinari will fit the bill nicely.   These are simply elegant wines that dance on the palate in a harmonious balance of fruit, complexity and elegance.  No riservas are made from the limited 1700 cases produced. Straightforward and traditional the grapes are harvested by hand and pressed in a vintage wood-sided press before fermenting in cement tanks. The wine ages for 4+ years in cask and at least 6 months in bottle before release. Nothing is added (no yeasts, no enzymes) and nothing is subtracted (no fining or filtration).  This is world glass juice at a reasonable price considering the quality.  Wine-Searcher.

1985 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano D’Abruzzo $220.  At age 30 this wine is really in its peak drinking window and should remain there for another decade at least, if not longer.  The wine soars from the glass with an enticing, earthy and complex bouquet and fruit and earth.  The mid-palate shows substantial depth and brilliant focus.  The finish seems to last forever.  A very special wine and worth the indulgence at this time of year.  Wine-Searcher.  The 2000 vintage at around $145 would be a fantastic alternative to the 1985 or to drink side by side. Pepe's wines are the quintessential examples of old world wine making.  It is his belief that Mother Nature is the best care-giver for the vines, thus his 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.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!