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, October 29, 2015

2005 Barolo

This past Monday 6 Nebbiolo-loving Vinous members met at Via Emilia Ristorante in NYC where owner/chef William Matiello has been preparing and serving the traditional dishes from his hometown of Modena in the Emilia-Romangna region Italy for the past 15 years.  I have been here on multiple occasions and have thoroughly enjoyed it each time.   On this evening we put ourselves in his hands and he did not let us down.



Gnocco Fritto: puffy fritters with prosciutto di parma, sopressata, coppa & mortadella
Tigelle:  little tile-bake mountain bread  served with soft cheese, cold cuts and pancetta spread
Borlengo:  Thin broad-pan bread with pancetta spread, rosemary & Parmigianno Reggiano


Modena style Lasagna
Homemade Tortellini in a country meat sauce
Caramelle di Castelvetro.  Candy-shaped pasta stuffed with spinach, ricotta & prosciutto, served with butter and arugula sauce.


Scallopini of veal with asparagus and shaved pargmigiano.

I neglected to take any photos but if you click here it will take you to my previous post with plenty of pictures and descriptions of most of the food we had tonight.


We decided on the 2005 Barolo vintage for our tasting.  As is our custom we each bring one or two bottles to share.  Iggy graciously orchestrated the wines into 3 flights for the evening.  All wines were open a few hours prior to drinking.

According to Vinous founder Antonio Galloni, “…this (2005) is a medium-bodied style of Barolo, with about 1% less alcohol than has become common over recent years.”  He goes on to state that " ...wines should peak at around 15 years of age and possibly continue to hold for sometime considering their slightly higher than normal acidity levels.”

Before imbibing on the Barolo, we began the evening with NV Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru (disgorged July 2014) that Tony brought along.  I have only had this Egly bubbly a couple of times and I have enjoyed it immensely each time.  I love its yeasty and rustic palate.  A great start to any evening.  $50.  Wine-Searcher.

First Flight

2005 Giovani Canonica Barolo Paiagallo (Barolo).  The Paiagallo vineyard is a fairly small hillside vineyard about 300-400 meters up the slope above the town of Barolo.  I believe that the only other producer to bottle a Paiagallo is Fontanafredda.  Canonica did not begin to export his Barolo until 2004.  I have enjoyed the soft tannins, balance and complexity of this old world-style Barolo on may occasions over the past 4 years. Tonight's wine unfortunately did not fare as well as it appeared to be a bit off with a musty palate that distracted from the fruit and the finish. From previous experience I would think (hope) that this is a problem for this particular bottle.   2011 available.  Wine-Searcher. $81

2005 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato (Castiglione).  Outstanding bottle.  Tannins have begun to soften.  Medium-bodied at the moment, this should take on some weight and additional finesse in the coming years.  Marc, took the remainder of the bottle home and reported that the next night the wine showed even better. on day two.  Not surprising as my recent experiences with younger Nebbiolo are leading me to the conclusion that they really benefit from extended airing time.  $228 (Magnum).   NY Wine Warehouse.

Second Flight

2005 Domenico Clerico Barolo Percristina (Monforte).  The only modern wine of the group and it showed, at least for me.  While the wine is not difficult to drink with its soft tannins and balance, for me it lacked the depth, elegance and finesse of tonight's counterparts.  $127. Wine-Searcher.

2005 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito (Serralunga).  Terrific old world Barolo. Round and delicious wine with terrific balance, complexity, focus and a lengthy and elegant finish.   This will age beautifully over the next couple of decades.   $148.  Wine-Searcher.

Third Flight

2005 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia (Serralunga).  Very young and still very tight.  Pedigree is eminently evident here, but patience of another few years at least is needed. $153  Wine-Searcher.

2005 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto (Serralunga)  OMG was this good even at this very early age. Round and delicious wine that soared from the glass with the complexity, balance and focus in perfect harmony and finished with elegance and length.  Easily the wine of the night in my opinion and the consensus of the group.   $210.  Wine-Searcher.

2005 Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda (Serralunga).  Like the Casino Francia, still a bit tight, but the fruit began to open as it sat in the glass.  Medium-bodied at the moment, it may take on some additional weight with time.  Very enjoyable Barolo.  $118.  Wine-Searcher.

We finished the evening with 1985 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon (Loire).  Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, the wine had a beautiful golden straw hue and a pleasant viscous-honeyed palate medium body.  Finish was considerably shorter than my previous bottle of a year ago.  $50.  Wine-Searcher.

I really enjoy drinking wine with Vinous board members.  No pretense here, just camaraderie, good wine and lots of fun.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tis The Season…Again

The only good thing about the end of summer is that it marks the beginning of the fall season and the arrival of fresh White Truffles from Alba, Italy to a number of NYC restaurants.  While this year’s prices are significantly higher ($2500/lb) than last year, it is hard to pass up the orgasmic dishes they create, especially when in the hands of chef David Pasternack at Esca.   My good friend Emil and I made our customary trip there yesterday for soft scrambled eggs with truffles followed by homemade Tagliolini with truffles.  We were joined later in the meal by another friend, Cosmo, who had been at a steak house for lunch, and decided to come here for a “dessert” of the aforementioned Tagliolini.

In addition to great food, Esca has a superb and reasonably priced Italian wine list, thus selecting a wine to compliment the food is a pleasure instead of an adventure.  I selected two whites from Brazzano, Friuli Venezia Giulia.  Nicola Manferrari founded Borgo del Tiglio in 1981 on the marl and sandstone hillsides in the DOC Collio area.  He produces mostly white wines and to highlight the influence of the terroir the grapes from each plot are kept separate in the winemaking process. The wines are fermented in barrel.  The wines are produced from vines of different ages, harvested by hand, lightly pressed and fermented in small French oak barrels for 9 – 14 months during which time they are tasted frequently until the definitive cuvee is decided upon.  Quite a large part of the wine originally destined for the cuvee is rejected.  Borgo del Tiglio makes two ranges; the white labels, which we drank today, are considered the entry and mid-tier wines, while the dark green label is reserved for the Selezioni, or the top selections, bottlings that vary from year to year.  Both "levels" are delicious and represent pure expressions of terroir and fruit.

2013 Borgo del Tiglio Chardonnay.  While I own quite a few of his wines, this was my first time with the Chardonnay.  This bottling, his entry level Chardonnay, had excellent depth and a fresh, clean palate of ripe fruit.  It has the stuff to age for another 5 years or so.  $46.  Wine-Searcher.

2014 Borgo del Tiglio Collio Bianco.  Another entry-level wine in which Nicola blends Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon.  Like the Chardonnay it drank with a youthful precision and finished with nice length. $35.

We began the meal with an order of Tuna Meatballs.  David fashions the classic Italian Meatball out of fresh ground tuna and serves them in a classic tomato sauce.  Simply delicious.  On this day David's preparation of “Clams Oreganata” contained Bay Scallops and Prosciutto.  Briny and moist, there is simply no finer version of this classic anywhere!

David is a master of the soft-scrambled egg, and when it is topped with a generous shaving of truffles it is Nirvana.

What better to follow up this dish than he homemade Taglioni with another generous shaving of truffles.

Cosmo enjoys his "dessert"
I have said it before, and I will say it again...life is good...very good!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015


Our monthly wine group met this past Monday at Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville.  Sette has become one of our most frequented restaurants for our tastings.  In addition to the great food and service we love the fact that we can tell Chef/Owner Allan Russo what wines we will be drinking and he prepares a meal to compliment the wines.  He never fails to please and awe us as he did again on this visit.  As the title of this post suggests the wines and food were in glorious harmony.

The Food

Allan’s version of Bruschetta eschews the usual mix of chopped fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil atop toasted bread.  Instead he places thick slices of fresh tomato atop sliced Italian Bread.  He then drizzles them with extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and grated Parmigianno Reggiano cheese.  He then bakes this in the oven for a brief time before topping with strands of fresh basil.  It is a very addictive dish and the perfect start to any meal.

An antipasto of fresh Burrata Cheese, Speck. Soprasatta, marinated Zucchini and Asparagus drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil followed.  Fresh ingredients, simply prepared are the hallmark of this dish.

As good as the first two plates were the Arugola Fritters that followed stole the show.  Here he batters fresh Arugola, gently fries each fritter in extra-virgin olive oil and tops each with Bagna Cauda, a Piedmontese sauce similar to a fondue.   It is made with garlic, anchovies, oil and butter.  A light sprinkling to toasted bread crumbs completes the dish.  Fantastic mélange of textures and flavors.  I would have been happy with this as a main course.

Our pasta course, Pasta alla Norma, is regarded as one of Sicily’s most popular dishes. Small quills of Penne pasta are tossed with a savory fresh tomato sauce and fried eggplant and topped with shaved Parmigianno Reggiano cheese.  Allan’s preparation is as good as I have had in Sicily.

As full as I was, I made the necessary effort to partake of the oven roasted Porchetta stuffed with Pancetta, Juniper Berries and Parmigianno Cheese.  The silky pork sauce, which I assume was made from the pan drippings, added depth and precision to the plate.

Homemade Profiteroles drizzled with Chocolate Sauce completed another magnificent meal.

The Wines

It was Howard’s turn to select and bring the wines and he did a great job bringing along aged Burgundies from five different villages that Jeff (our Burgundy expert) noted, “were true to their terroir”. 

1996 Louis Jadot Vosne Romanee Les Suchots 1er Cru. Located in Beaune, Maison Louis Jadot has been making excellent expressions of classic red and white Burgundy since 1859. Vosne Romanée is situated just to the north of Nuits-Saint-Georges and produces the region’s most celebrated wines. The A.C. of Vosne Romanée has an average vineyard size of 105 ha (13 in Flagey Echezeaux). There are 14 Premiers Crus and 7 Grands Crus, including Romanée-Conti and La Tache to name a couple.

"Les Suchots" consists of two continuous parcels between Romanée St Vivant and Richebourg on the South side, and "Les Echezeaux" on the North side.  This wine is fermented in vats for 3-4 weeks and aged 15 months in oak barrels before bottling.

I was at first surprised at how youthful this was.  It had a wonderful earthy bouquet with great texture and balanced fruit on the palate.  An outstanding negociant wine that will has plenty of time ahead of it.  $100. Wine Searcher.

1996 Meo-Camuzet Nuits St Georges les Boudots 1er Cru.  The estate as has been producing wine under its own label since 1985.  Today it is under the direction of Jean-Nicholas Meo.  The legendary Henri Jayer spent 40 years farming parcels from Meo-Camuzet under his own label.  For three years, he mentored Jean-Nicolas during the transition of the winery to Meo before retiring in 1988.  Jayer’s wines are amongst the most expensive (thousands of dollars a bottle) and sought after wines in the world.  While I have never had a Jayer wine, and at these prices never will, I have had Meo-Camuzet before.  I find the wines to be a bit on the modern side, probably reflective the large amount of new oak used in making the wines.  I thought that tonight’s bottle was completely closed down or past its prime.  There was very little fruit, depth or complexity on the palate in my opinion.  While others did not necessarily agree, a few felt that after their initial sip the wine seemed to shut down.  As far as I am concerned it is not worth the $400 price tag this will cost you.  Wine-Searcher.

1991 Faiveley Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru.  The wines of Domaine Faiveley are widely recognized for being among the finest produced in Burgundy and Domaine Faiveley among the finest wine producers in the world.  Tonight’s wine, my favorite of the evening, underscored these claims.  A completely round and delicious wine with vibrant fruit, depth, focus, finesse and balance.  The great acidity of the wine will ensure that this wine will drink well for decades.  Truly a wine with soul!  $350.  Wine-Searcher.

1988 Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Champans 1er Cru. To quote The Rare Wine Company, “Nothing demonstrates red Burgundy’s magic like great Volnay, with its enveloping aromatic complexity, silky texture and tremendous aging potential. And for a half century, the name “Jacques d’Angerville” was synonomous with the greatest Volnays”.   Jacques, who passed away in 2003, was, according to Allen Meadows, “minimalist in the extreme.”  He told Meadows, “I want to do as little as possible to the wine. I want low yields and no signature.” Relying on great sites and old vines of a unique clone, "Pinot d’Angerville", he proved that great wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.

After complete de-stemming, fermentation lasts for 10 to 12 days, with a 12 to 18-month élévage in largely used barrels.  To extract fine tannins, the cap is kept moist by twice-daily pump overs. Such methods not only bring out the crus’ inherent nobility; they create wines of perfect balance and great aging ability.

Tonight’s wine substantiated the above comments.  What a lovely wine.  It possessed a classic Burgundian earthy bouquet, while on the palate the fruit was very much in tact and the mid-palate showed nice depth and focus.  The finish was long and elegant.  In a nutshell, it drank beautifully.  This was my second favorite wine of the night.  This vintage appears to be long gone in the U.S., but current vintages will cost about $140.

1985 Domaine de Courcel Pommard 1er Cru Grand Clos des Epenots.  A new producer for me.  The wine displayed a medium-bodied and soft palate. While it did improve a bit as it sat in the glass I felt it lacked the complexity and depth of the previous wines.  Current vintages will run about $150.

It was another magical evening thanks to Howard's great selection and Allan's food.  Life is good...very good!