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.

Monday, February 15, 2016

La Festa Del Barolo 2016

Last Friday friends Emil and Michael joined me at the 2016 La Festa del Barolo dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant in NYC, where we met up with many wine friends who, like us, are huge Barolo fans.  This annual event, orchestrated by Vinous founder Antonio Galloni and his Vinous team is, in my opinion, the epitome of a great wine tasting. The format of the dinner calls for all dinner attendees to bring bottles of great Barolo to share with the others at their table.  As you would imagine, sharing with other tables is another highlight of the evening.  Seated at each table is one of the winemakers who will be participating in the 2011 Barolo tasting to be held on the following morning.  They also bring wines, usually back vintages, from their cellar.  The opportunity to speak with these gracious folks and share their wine is worth the price of admission alone.

Emil, Antonio, Michael, Mark
As good as the wine and food was the big winner of the evening was The Mount Sinai Hospital. A charity auction of some amazing wines donated by Antonio and the winemakers raised in the neighborhood of $200,000 (my estimate) for The Zone, a state-of-the art facility within the hospital that helps seriously ill children and their families cope with hospitalization.

The evening began with passed hors d’oeuvres and champagne, compliments of Vinous.

2008 Cédric Bouchard-Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Côte de Béchalin.  100% Pinot Noir, a stunning bubbly.  I loved the yeasty nose and palate that was refined, complex and balanced. The grapes are hand harvested and crushed by foot and fermented using indigenous yeast before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.  Only first pressed juice is used. Disgorged: April 2015.

NV Egly-Ouriet Extra Brut Grand Cru Vieillissement Prolongé.  Every bit the equal to the Cedric Bouchard.  Stunning. Disgorged November 2014.

2011 Ultramarine Blanc de Blancs Charles Heintz Vineyard.  A pleasant surprise here for me as I drink very little California wine. The wine had a wonderful texture, but lacked the complexity of the Bouchard and Egly in my opinion.

2002 Dom Pérignon. Did not taste.  Gone by the time I got to it.

We then adjourned to the dining area and our assigned tables for a nice dinner comprised of Duck Broth with dumplings; Risotto with Black Truffles and Braised Short Ribs.


1995 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dam.  Very nice bubbly with some age on it.   I have to admit to being bubbled out at the reception so only had a small sip.

2004 Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra Barolo.  Decidedly modern styled Barolo with harsh tannins and too much oak for my palate.

1996 Pio Cesare Ornato Barolo.  This was very good.  I expected more oak given the fact that the wine sees 3 years in 75% new Barrique barrels.  Fortunately that was not the case as the wood was beautifully integrated into a seamless and delicious round wine with a velvety palate and finish.

2000 Aldo Conterno Riserva Granbussia Barolo.  Unfortunately this bottle was corked, which is a shame as I have had the wine before and it is terrific.

1997 Aldo Conterno Riserva Granbussia Barolo.  Another pleasant surprise for me as I have found most of the ’97 Baroli to be long gone.  Alas, that was not the case here.  It possessed lively fruit, wonderful balance and finesse and a lengthy finish.

1967 Cappellano Barolo.  Fantastic!  A bit of a brownish translucent hue, the wine had a glorious earthy bouquet with a wonderful smoky palate.  A fantastic old Barolo.

1997 Sandrone Boschis Barolo (magnum).  Like Pio Cesare, Luciano Sandrone wines are a combination of traditional and modern techniques.  His results are always terrific as was the case with this bottle.  While the wine is from the ’97 vintage, which I am not a fan of, Sandrone wove his magic here.  The wine had a silky and beautifully balance palate with an elegant finish.

Alex Sanchez, owner of Brovia was seated at our table.  Until this time my only experience with Brovia wines was a delightful bottle of their white, Arneis a few years back.  Vinous members have been praising his Barolo routinely on the site and so I purchased some for my cellar, but had yet to taste one.  That was about to change as Alex brought along a couple of bottles from his estate.  Color me very impressed.  The wines are beautiful expressions of traditionally made Barolo.

1998 Brovia Barolo Brea Vigna Ca'Mia .  A round and delicious wine with great balance and complexity that is at the beginning of a 20+ year drinking window.

2004 Brovia Barolo Villero.  From the extraordinary and soon to be legendary 2004 vintage, this was a medium-bodied tour de force in the making, as patience of 5+ years will be rewarded. While the bouquet is enticing and tannins are soft, the wine only give a slight glimpse  of the underlying pedigree at this moment in time.

2003 Bruno Giacosa Falletto di Serralunga Barbera (magnum).  A gift from our host Antonio Galloni.  My first ever Giacosa Barbera, and it was magnificent.  Rich and focused palate with a long finish.  Thank you Antonio.

2005 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  While the 2005 vintage takes a small back seat to the  highly ’04 vintage, the wines are marvelous.  I had this particular wine twice in the past year and It has be superb on both occasions. In fact it is one of the best wines of the 2005 vintage I have tasted.  It displayed great balance, complexity, finesse and focus and finished with considerable length and elegance.  The wine is drinking beautifully now and should provide great drinking for the next decade.

Photo Courtesy of Eric Guido
2010 Sergio Barale Barolo.  Even thought the Barale family has been making traditionally styled Barolo for almost 150 years, this was my first experience with the wine.  One would expect that a traditionally made Barolo from the epic 2010 vintage would be tremendous, and this certainly did not disappoint anyone at our table.  It drank beautifully with great balance and complexity.  At $47 a bottle, Chambers Street Wines, this is worth adding to your cellar.

1971 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo.  From the epic 1971vintage, this was sensational.  The wine lingered on the palate in glorious harmony before finishing with a captivating length.  Thanks Eric for sharing a bit with me.

1990 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo.  What do you get when you taste a Barolo made by a great winemaker from a fantastic vintage, simply an incredible experience.  The wine soared from the glass with brilliance, focus and finesse.  Thank you Tony and Marta for sharing some with me. Wish I had some in my cellar.

1966 Cappellano Barolo 2.1 liters, Troglio bottling. The wine was brought by Vinous member Ken Vastola.  As you can see the bottle has a very weird shape.  According to Ken, Giovanni Troglia was a wine merchant in Turin who bottled a wide range of Northern Italian wines under his own label. Check out Ken’s blog, The Fine Wine Geek, for information on this bottling.  The wine itself was simply magnificent.  The fruit was still very much intact on a beautifully round and soft palate.  A memorable drinking experience.  My wine of the night.

Photo Courtesy of Ken Vastola

It was a great evening.  I look forward to next year's event.