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, March 24, 2016

Return to the Loire

Our wine group returned once again to A Toute Heure ("anytime" is the English translation) in Cranford, NJ. for our monthly wine dinner. It was Jim’s turn to select and bring the wines.  His selection of white and reds from the Loire Region of France paired beautifully to the eclectic food served up at this excellent farm-to-table restaurant.

The Food

pan-roasted pizza, crumbled lemon goat cheese, crumbled potatoes, sunny-side up egg

Fresh Raw Oysters

roasted pork belly, fried pickles, pickled watermelon rind, spiced peanuts, and sweet and sour sauce (front below)

roast cauliflower, with stracchiatella, poached duck egg, sherry crema, fried bread crumbs, fresh horseradish, and crispy capers (back left)

spiced chickpea patty, crispy shrimp, mezcal glaze, harissa yogurt, pickled red onions, and cilantro (back right)

spinach and tuscan kale salad, shaved mushrooms, parsnip, porcini and roast garlic dressing, aged goat cheese, toasted walnuts (no photo)

seafood chowder pot pie: root vegetable “new england” style chowder base, with clams, oysters, and shrimp, with a puff pastry crust

duck leg confit, with goat cheese and duck pierogies, frisee greens with crispy duck skin, grapes, pickled beets, and a duck vinaigrette

Happy Valley Meat’s 18 oz. ribeye steak, prime PA pasture raised beef, paired with sauteed brussels sprouts, ATH frites with parmesan, and watercress butter

toffee apple and pear cake, with Phillips Farm’s fruit, with a scoop of sweet cream ice cream

warm baked chocolate chip cookie
all on its own

homemade triple chocolate ice cream

The Wines

1998 Huet Vouvray Sec Clos du Bourg. One of my favorite producers of Chenin Blanc, Huet wines rarely disappoint.   Tonight was no exception.  The wine began with a gorgeous golden yellow hue and an enticing citrus bouquet.  The viscous palate had terrific depth and finesse and the wine finishes with considerable length.  Unfortunately this vintage does not appear to be available in the U.S. market.  But fear not as many current vintages are available at around $35 a bottle.  Wine-Searcher.

2008 Stephane Cossais Montlouis-sur-Loire Le Volagré.   We had this wine last August at one of our group dinners and it was once again and outstanding an example of Chenin Blanc.  I mentioned in a previous post that Stephane trained under the legendary Foucault brothers and did not begin making his own wine until 2001, but was not proud of any until 2004.  Unfortunately he passed away suddenly, and this vintage was his final and unquestionably his greatest accomplishment.  $50.  Wine-Searcher.

2011 Catherine & Pierre Breton Nuits d’Ivresse Bourgueil.  Wines like this bring a huge smile to my face.  They are simply delicious and offer fantastic value.  Breton is another of the many under the radar estates in the Borurguiel, an AOC appellation in the Loire Valley region, which produces primarily red wine from Cabernet Franc grapes. Nuits d’Ivresse “Drunken Nights” is the name of a special cuvée of selected old vines from top clay and limestone sites in Bourgueil.

This bottling is crafted from a selection of old vines, vinified and aged without sulphur to preserve its fruity flavors. Tonight’s wine displayed a terrific balance of fruit and tannins and a fruity and focused palate.  At $37, it is hard to find better QPR anywhere.  Wine-Searcher.

2007 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses.  It is hard for me to fathom why this incredible producer flies under the radar as her wines are simply remarkable.  I won’t complain though as the low price is even more remarkable.  Les Picasses is the most classic and age worthy wine from the domaine. It comes from a limestone terroir, where the vines have reached a respectable fifty years of age. The fruit is hand-harvested and fermentation is carried out in stainless steel controlled to less than 30°C, followed by a maceration of 25-30 days.  The resulting wine goes into large foudres where it will rest for between 12 and 14 months before bottling. 

The 2007 is at the beginning of it’s drinking window and offers a great expression of traditionally made Cabernet Franc.  The wine began with a very earthy, and funky nose, while the palate displayed the outstanding pedigree of complexity, balance, focus and finesse of Raffault wines. While the wine will last for another two decades at least, at the moment it will definitely benefit from a couple of hours of slo-o or decanting. $27.  Wine-Searcher.

1985 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses.  Decanted at the restaurant.  The waiter who opened the wine thought it was a bad bottle.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  He mistook that deep earthy and funky bouquet for a corked wine.  An hour in the decanter and the wine had blossomed and displayed vibrant and balanced fruit on a pure and complex palate before finishing with considerable length.  WOTN.  $73.  Wine-Searcher.

Yes it was another wonderful evening with a great group of guys, great food and great wine. Thanks Jim for the excellent selections.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Aged Burgundy

Our local wine group returned again to Sette Cucina Italiana in Bernardsville for our monthly tasting. As expected Chef/Owner Allan Russo performed his culinary magic making for yet another night of great food paired with some remarkable wines.  Jeff, our Burgundy expert, was in the queue for the wine, and thus our anticipation level was quite high.  He didn't let us down with his wonderful selections of aged Burgundies.

The Food

Bruschetta of Radish; Roasted Pepper & Olives

Bresaola (air-cured beef) with Arugula and shaved Parmigianino Reggiano 

Prince Edward Island Mussels and Grilled Bay Octopus in a light tomato broth 

Arugula Fritters topped with Bagna Cauda

Spaghetti Bolognese 

Pork Scaloppini topped with Prosciuto in a pork-wine reduction sauce

Perfiteroles (no photo)

The Wines

Jeff not only has a deep knowledge of Burgundy but a cellar to match as well.  A savvy buyer at auctions, his cellar contains many aged Burgundy gems, which he happily shares with fellow wine enthusiasts.  With exception of a bottle of 1975, he treated us to red Burgundy 1er Crus from the excellent 1976 vintage.  The wines all showed very well for 40 years of age.  This is really no surprise since the Pinot Noir grown in Burgundy, especially under the direction of top winemakers, produces some of the most elegant and age worthy wines in the world.  None of the reds showed any bricking around the edges.  In most cases they displayed an aged, slightly musty bouquet with nicely balanced palates of varying degrees of complexity.  Each had a slightly different expression that related to the individual terroirs of the wine.  As has been my experience with older Burgundy, the fruit was somewhat muted and lacked the vibrancy and sheer feminine elegance that I find and prefer in younger Burgundies.

Before getting into the reds Jeff started us off with a Grand Cru white Burgundy, 1995 Paul Pernot et Fils Bienvenues Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru. We crossed our fingers that the wine would not suffer from premature oxidation (an all to routine condition that hit Burgundy in the mid 90’s) and thankfully it did not.  Instead it was glorious from the first sip and just kept getting better.  The viscous palate had pure fruit with density and complexity and finished with an incredible length.  This was a great wine to begin the evening with.  It was my wine of the night.

1976 Louis Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules 1er Cru. Maison Louis Jadot has been an icon of excellence in Burgundy since 1859. 1976 was an outstanding vintage marked by low yields but exceptional concentration.  The wine displayed a nice terroir-laden bouquet with a soft palate.   While there was not a lot of depth left and the finish was rather short it drank very nicely.

1976 Bouchard Pere & Fils Gevrey-Chambertain Aux Combottes 1er Cru.  This top estate has been making terrific red and white Burgundy for almost 3 centuries.  I found the fruit here much more vibrant than in the Jadot.  It possessed great balance and considerable depth for its age.  One of the wines of the night in my opinion.

1976 Robert Arnoux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots.  One of the flagship wines from the estate, this was a match to the Bouchard.  It began with a lovely Burgundian nose of cherries, while on the palate it demonstrated amazing complexity.  It’s polished and concentrated fruit evolved with each sip before finishing with length and elegance.  One of the wines of the night.

1975 George Roumier Morey Saint-Denis Clos de la Bussiere. I am a huge fan of Roumier wines.  His Grand Cru Bonnes Mares is one of the finest examples of traditionally made Burgundy I have ever tasted. This 1er Cru was a step or two behind the Bouchard and the Arnoux, but was a wonderful wine that showed nice balance and focus.  The fruit however was a bit faded and the finish was short.

Thanks Jeff for sharing these beauties with us.