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.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Beppe Rinaldi

A couple of weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure to once again participate in a Vinous Members wine tasting.  This group was more or less created by Tony a while back.   I was honored and delighted to be invited when the group was formed.  Tony, along with Eric Guido once again orchestrated the venue, I Trulli Ristorante, and the wine theme, Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo.

In my opinion two of the finest wine makers in Italy (perhaps the world for that matter) are often referred to as “Beppe”; Giuseppe Quintarelli (Veneto) and Giuseppe Rinaldi (Piedmont). Both of these producers are at the very top of my “favorites” list.  Their wines are the ultimate expression of traditionally made wines that provide for memorable drinking experiences.

Beppe Rinaldi took over the winery after the death of his father Battista in 1992 and runs it today with his daughter Marta.  The only change he made was regarding the blending of the vineyards in the two Barolo his father made.  Eric Guido’s write up of this dinner includes an in depth history of the estate and I would encourage you to read it.  The Cellar Table at Morrell Bar & Café.

Since 2010 the Barolo Consortium’s ever changing wine label laws preclude producers from using more than one vineyard name on the label. The wines we drank tonight Brunate Le Coste and Cannubi San Lorenzo, have been replaced since 2010 with Brunate and Tre Tine. Eric’s write up explains this in detail.

Before settling down to the 5 Rinaldi flights Tony brought along a bottle of NV Jacques Selosse Initial Champagne that we all thoroughly enjoyed.  We drank this from large glasses to enjoy the yeasty bouquet and evolution this remarkable wine goes through as it sits in the glass.  In my opinion, Selosse is king when it comes to bubbly.  The only downside is the wines are highly allocated, thus hard to find and expensive.

Flight 1

1956 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo.  What a pleasant surprise this was.  If I had to guess the age of the wine by the color, I would have added at least 40 years to it as it possessed a surprisingly translucent red hue.  The bottle was brought along by Jamie Wolfe of Chamber Street Wines. Jamie, who is extremely knowledgeable about Nebbiolo, especially older vintages, informed us that up to 20% Barbera was added to the wine in 1956.  While the wine lacked the vibrancy of the younger vintages, it drank very well for its age.

1985 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Riserva.  Made by Giuseppe’s father the color of this wine was a bit cloudier than the 1985 and lacked the body and depth of the 1956.  While the wine was no slouch, I found it to be a few large steps behind the 1956.

1985 (left) - 1956 (right)
Flight 2

1993 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo – Ravera.  I had hoped for more from this, but alas that was not the case.  Not a bad wine, but compared to many of the others I felt it lacked depth and focus.

1997 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  In my opinion the 1997 Barolo vintage, once thought to be the vintage of the century, has long faded into the horizon.  This bottle did nothing to change that.  I had it at the bottom of the list.

1998 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  A vintage that seems to be overlooked by many, I have yet to be disappointed by any Barolo from the vintage.  The bouquet and palate were very youthful, the fruit was pure and balanced and it finished with considerable elegance. It was easily the best wine of the flight.

Flight 3

1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Easily the wine of the night for me.  This was a completely round and delicious wine that is a beautiful example of how good Nebbiolo can be when made by a master. The wine is in perfect harmony with the terroir of Piedmont and just keeps evolving with each sip.  This will last for decades.  Decant for at least 3 hours to give it time to open up.  My only regret is that I have none of this in my cellar.

2000 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Another vintage that is often overlooked by many and one that I have enjoyed on a number of occasions. Tonight’s bottle was not up to previous bottles I have had, nor is it in the class of the other two in the flight, but I enjoyed every sip.

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  The pedigree of this wine is incredible. At the moment it offers up hints of the great wine lurking inside the bottle.  This is destined to be a blockbuster in another 5 years.

Flight 4

2003 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  2003 was a scorching hot year that produced wines of varying quality throughout the region.  Not so for Beppe.  This was an absolutely gorgeous surprise to all of us. It was incredibly alive with fresh fruit, focus, complexity and depth and a lengthy finish.  It is easily one of the best 2003 Barolos I have had…and I believe it will only get better with bottle age.

2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Like the 2001, the pedigree here is eminently evident.  It possessed a silky and harmonious palate with a gorgeous bouquet of fresh fruit and earth.  The finish is elegant and will lengthen with bottle aging.

2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi - San Lorenzo – Ravera.  Like Eric and Ken, I felt this bottle was really off.  Perhaps storage during shipping affected the wine.  I will know soon enough as I have 6 of these in my cellar.  I hope they fare better than this bottle did.

Flight 5

2007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Cannubi - San Lorenzo – Ravera.  Very nice wine, but overshadowed by the BLC.

2007 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  Simply gorgeous.  What I like to call a round and delicious wine (it has it all).  The wine was very much alive and soaring in the glass with each sip.  The long and elegant finish made me want another sip immediately.

2008 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste.  A great year for Barolo, and this offering is one of the reasons why.  Oh, what a wine.  It should be allowed at least 5 years in the cellar, but it is so delicious it is hard to keep your hands off it.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido

The opportunity to share and discuss wines of this caliber with friends of equal caliber is something I cherish more than all the wine in my cellar.  Of course nights like this have a tendency to entice one to add more wine to the cellar.  Thanks again to Anthony and Eric for making happen.  I look forward to our next dinner.

I did not take any pictures of food and attendees, but fret not I'm sure they will soon be available when Ken Vastola posts his notes at http://www.finewinegeek.com.  Be on the lookout for it.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oh What a Night!

My previous post was about some incredible bottles of aged Nebbiolo wines.  This one moves to Pinot Noir and some incredible red Burgundies with lots of age on them.

Monday our wine group met at Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville for our monthly dinner. Jeff was in the queue to provide the wine and so our collective anticipation was very high.  Jeff has been collecting wine longer than anyone in our group.  His cellar and knowledge, especially of Burgundy, is very deep.  His selections are always exciting as they were tonight.  He decided on wines from Burgundy with considerable age on them.  It was a multiple WOW evening.

Sette Cucina has become a regular stop for us.  We tell chef/owner Allan Philip Russo what wines we will be drinking and leave the menu in his hands.  He never fails to knock the ball out of the park.  Tonight’s menu:

Caponata Bruschetta

Buffula Mozzerella, Figs, Speck

Batter Fried Zucchini,  Bagna Cauda Piedmont fondue garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter

Nano Vallano Risotto, saffron, crumbled sausage, hint of truffle oil

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Grilled Australian Lamb


We began the evening with 1985 Jacquesson & Fils Signature Brut Champagne.  I have very little experienced with aged Champagne, but after this bottle I may have to change that.  This was a superb bubbly blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a yeasty and slight bacony (is there such a word) bouquet.  On the palate it displayed vibrant fruit and finished with length and elegance.  The wines are vinified in old oak casks.  We drank this in white wine glasses instead of Champagne Flutes which don’t allow the wine to evolve and show its stuff.

1996 Jacques Prieur Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru.  This prestigious domaine is alone in owning vines in each of the five most prestigious vineyards in Burgundy; Chambertin, Musigny, Clos Vouget, Corton Charlemagne and Montrachet.

Tonight the wine drank magnificently.  Not a hint of premature oxidation.  It possessed a wonderful and what I would call mature bouquet that heightened expectations that were fulfilled with the first sip.  The palate was deep, rich, and complex with harmonious acidity and minerality.  The finish was long and elegant.   One of the best Montrachet’s I have ever tasted.  

For the reds, Jeff brought along three Volnays, two from the same vineyard with a gap of 42 years between youngest and oldest. The commune of Volnay is in Côte de Beaune of Burgundy. There are no Grand Cru vineyards within Volnay, but several highly regarded Premier Cru vineyards such as the three we drank.  As Jeff explained, "all the wines were tasting correct for the Volnay terroir and very similar.  This is why in Burgundy people always talk first about the terroir and second the winemaker."

1979 Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos des Chenes 1er Cru.  The wine exhibited a translucent red hue with very little bricking. An amazing color for a wine of this age. The palate was medium-bodied with excellent fruit, purity and focus.  I can only imagine what this wine was like 10 or 15 years ago.  After 36 years it continues to drink with lots of soul.

1952 Potinet-Ampeau Volnay Clos des Chenes 1er Cru. I was initially blown away by the gorgeous translucent red hue. There was virtually no bricking. The fruit was very much in tact on a harmonious and focused palate. Quite and enjoyable experience.

1937 Camile Giroud Hospices de Beaune Volnay Cuvée Blondeau 1er Cru.  Like the previous two bottles, the hue here was gorgeous with no bricking.  The wine had quite a bit of life to it and probably will for another ten years or so I would think.  The bouquet was earthy and fresh.  On the palate it was full-bodied with amazing complexity and balance for its age.  The oldest red Burgundy I have ever had and it was a joy to experience.

Jeff, thanks again for your generosity in sharing amazing wine experiences with the group.