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, January 24, 2015

Christmas Holidays 2014

Once again Carol and I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season with our family and close friends. While the food and wines were great, it is the smiles and excitement on the faces of our grandkids that makes the season so enjoyable and memorable.

Christmas Eve 

As has been our custom form many, many years, Carol and I host a traditional Christmas Eve fish dinner at our house.  Fortunately we receive a lot of help in the preparation and serving of the meal.  This year’s sumptuous meal consisted of

Pizza: Tony D’s Pizza, Caldwell, NJ.
Antipasto: Me, Gino, Divina Ristorante
Arancini (rice balls)
Mom’s Stuffed Italian Long Peppers
Eggplant Capponata:  Divina Ristorante
Seafood Salad:  Gene
Gamberoni alla Griglia (breaded and broiled jumbo shrimp).
Clams Oreganata: Divina Ristorante
Polpo Luciano, baby octopus braised in a spicy tomato sauce.
Crab Cakes with Caper Mustard Sauce: Ariane Kitchen & Bar
Fedillini with Aglio, Olio e Accigua (oil, garlic and anchovy).
Penne ala Vodka: Divina Ristorante
Eggplant Rollatini: Divina Ristorante
Pan Fried Flounder
Carol's homemade Biscotti & cookies are always the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Photos and descriptions of most of these dishes can be found in my blog from last Christmas. http://winewithoutnumbers.blogspot.com/2013/12/christmas-2013.html

The Wine

I began in late afternoon by opening a 2011 Domaine de Gioielli Cap Corse Blanc to sip while I put the finishing touches on the meal for the evening. I love the pure, crisp clean palate of this Vermentino from Corsica.  It was the perfect start for me. Old world in style, the grapes are all hand harvested, use indigenous yeasts and stainless steel in the vinification process.  A Kermit Lynch Selection.  $27.

As our family and friends arrived and nibbled on pizza bites, I opened a magnum (by request of my daughters & wife) of NV Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon Méthode Ancestrale Rosé.  I have posted about this wine previously.  It is a huge favorite at our gatherings. Great bubbles, lively sweet fruit that throws a party in the mouth. You would be hard pressed to find a better sparkling wine for the money anywhere.  It is simply delicious. I had to open another bottle of this as the magnum went quickly.  $22 at Chambers Street Wines, this is one of the best wine bargains ever.

We drank three Italian reds with some age on them and I am happy to report all three were in great shape beginning with 1983 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.  The wine had that earthy bouquet that one expects from Pepe's wines, especially when they have some age on them.  What surprised me was that previous experience with his older wines that are popped & poured is that they take a couple of hours to come around.  That was not the case here; it was ready to drink immediately upon opening and kept evolving in the glass as we drank it.  The earthiness of the wine was also reflected on the palate, which possessed balance, focus and finesse. A wine with soul!  $187.  Wine-Searcher.

1958 Teobaldo Cappellano Barolo and 1964 Giacomo Conterno Barolo graced the table as we sat down to dinner.  Both of them were given a 90 minute decant.  The Cappellano had a fabulous nose of a grand old Barolo.  Unlike my previous bottle a couple of years ago, the hue of this bottles was reminiscent of a rosé and showed no bricking at the edges.  On the palate it had great complexity, terrific balance and fantastic focus.  The fruit was very much alive and it finished with lengthy elegance.  A remarkable wine but not readily available.

The Conterno, like the Cappellano possessed a rosé-like translucent hue.  The fruit was vibrant, even more so than the Cappellano, and soared from the glass with each sip.  On the palate it had incredible focus and finesse and a long and elegant finish.  One of the best old Barolo’s I have yet to taste.  Wine-Searcher.

We finished the evening with a 1976 Château d'Yquem that my friend Gino brought along. While I like d'Yquem, I have never been completely in love with the somewhat pronounced medicinal finish if often exhibits. This however was not the case tonight.  The wine was simply glorious. A lush, viscous wine with tons of tropical fruits and coconut on the palate and a sweet and decadent finish. Wine-Searcher.

Christmas Day

Christmas day now begins at my daughter Gina’s house where my son-in-law Nick whips up a batch of Mimosas, scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage for us to feast on.  Our daughter Lisa and her family, who live next door join, us for breakfast.  After breakfast, we are most fortunate to be able to have the entire family together to gather around the tree and watch our grandkids tear open their gifts, the highlight of the day.

We celebrate a simple Christmas dinner at Lisa and Andy’s house.  Everyone looks forward to Lisa’s homemade Pepperoni Bread, the highlight of the antipasto, prior to the meal.   As for wine, we began with a Christmas Champagne toast of NV Jacques Selosse Brut Initial (digorged 4/12).  This is simply stunning juice and is my favorite Champagne.  The wine possesses a gorgeous golden hue when poured into the glass.  Lift the glass to your nose and the bouquet fills it with an enticing yeasty aroma that stimulates the palate for the sheer brilliance it is about to experience.  This is Champagne that must be drunk from a fine white wine glass to be fully appreciated.  The wine continues to evolve and soar from the glass with each sip before finishing with great length and finesse.

With the pasta, Fusilli with Meatballs and Sausage, I opened 2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia.  I gave the wine a 2 hour slo-o followed by 90 minutes in the decanter.  The wine needed every bit of the time to begin to open.  As it began to blossom, the underlying pedigree was apparent.  Like many 2001 Barolos, this is still a bit asleep, but beginning to wake up.  Tannins were soft, palate had good balance and acidity, but I must agree with Antonio Galloni, 2001 Baroli need a bit more cellar time.

New Year's Day 

On New Year’s Day Carol roasted a Filet of Beef in the oven and served it with Potatoes and Broccoli.  I wanted to toast the New Year with a sparkling wine.  I pulled a 2000 Movia Puro Rosato from the cellar.  From Friuli, near the border of Slovania, this is delicious and inexpensive sparking wine made from 100% Pinot Nero. This wine comes bottled undisgorged, meaning that it has a plug of yeast in the neck of the bottle which must be removed before drinking. This involves icing the bottle upside down and then opening the bottle upside down, underwater, which pushes the yeast plug out but keeps the wine in. While it lacks the deep complexity of some of the best Champagnes, this is a fantastic and quite unique sparkling wine. Unfortunately this bottle was severely flawed and completely undrinkable and so I popped the back up I had on ice…

Francois Pinon NV Touraine Brut NV Rose
From a plot of very old Chenin Blanc vines, the Brut NV is kept on the lees for 18 months before bottling. It had pretty apple and toasty flavors with good acidity balancing the fruit. A great alternative to Champagne, it was delicious and at $21 a great value.  Wine-Searcher.

With our main course, I opened a bottle of 2010 Louis Barruol Cote Rotie Les Roses, a lovely 100% Syrah from the Kermit Lynch Portfolio of producers.  From the Shist soils of the steep slope of Cote Rotie, this is a beautiful example of an old world Northern Rhone Syrah.  Deep, dark inky hue with a bit of spice on the nose, seductive complex earthy palate with wonderful balance and acidity. Fnished with length and elegance.   Louis Barruol has incredibly old cellars in Gigondas in the southern Rhone where he makes his own Domaine's wines. He also works with importer Kermit Lynch to blend selections of terrific wines, such as this one, from some of the best terroirs in the Northern Rhone as well.  $70.

We capped the evening with a snifter of Domaine Charbay Whiskey (Single Malt Scotch). Located on Spring Mountain above St. Helena in Napa Valley, Miles Karakasevic and his son Marko are the current master distillers from a family that counts 11 previous family member master distillers.  I had the opportunity to visit the estate in the early 2004 and was simply awed by the quality of their spirits, especially their Scotch, which is made from distilling bottle-ready beer into whiskey.  Since it is not distilled in Scotland, they cannot call it Scotch.  132.4% proof, this is the third release of this remarkable spirit.  It is the smoothest (absolutely no burn) single malt scotch I have ever tasted.

Charbay Whiskey was made from European Two-Row Barley, grown and malted in British Columbia, which has much more concentrated flavors than the more mainstream 6-row barley. Made into beer by professional brewers. Choice hops were added just before distillation to create the floral and spice notes that Marko envisioned in his mind. No peat was used during malting; the brewers, as well as Marko and Miles, the distillers, prefer to focus on the pure grain and hops flavors.

It takes 3.5 weeks of distilling 24/7 in the family's classic 1000-gallon Alambic Charentais Pot Still to distill 20,000 gallons of great Pilsner into just 1000 gallons (24 barrels) of Whiskey.

Aged 6 years in new American White Oak barrels (charred #3 'Gator skin') and an additional 8 years in neutral vessels to continue evolving without additional oak extraction.  Only 2173 bottles were made.  Available for purchase on their website.  While this is very pricey stuff, if you like aged Single Malt Scotch, you may want to indulge.

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New year to all!