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.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Great Female Wine Makers

A couple of weeks ago I once again hosted a Gourmet Wine dinner to benefit the Hemophilia Association of New Jersey (HANJ).  This year I decided to focus on wines made by a few of the great female winemakers from Italy and France.  My sincere thanks to Gino Urban of David Bowler Wines for procuring all the wines for the event.

Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany once again provided the venue for a wonderful evening. Tony Grande (owner), Natale Grande (Executive Chef), Salvatore Le Rose (Maitre'd/Wine Director) and the very professional staff of Il Capriccio Ristorante saw to it that the event was orchestrated like the NY Philarmonic.

I am most delighted to report that the event netted more than $49,000 for the evening.  I want to thank all of my friends, coagulation manufacturers and home care companies whose financial support made it all possible.  As for HANJ, I have always said that if I had hemophilia or a child with hemophilia and I did not live in NJ, I would move here to have access to their support.  Led by outgoing Executive Director Elena Bostick and new Executive Director, Stephanie Lapidow and their committed staff, HANJ has accomplished more for families that live with hemophilia than any other state in the country.  Once again hats of to you and the hemophilia treatment centers that mange the medical needs of the community.

Stephanie Lapidow & Elena Bostick

The festivities began with an hour of passed assorted hors d'oeuvres that were enjoyed by all

Prosciutto & Melon                 Mozzarella di Bufala   
Stuffed Zucchini Flowers         Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
Baby Polpettini                  Baby Lamb Chops

With these delicious bites we enjoyed:

 2012 Ariana Occhipinti Nero d’Avolo Siccagno.  The young and extremely talented Ariana Occhipinti has been making extraordinary “natural” wines in Vittoria, Sicily since 2004 at the ripe old age of 24. Tonight’s wine, crafted from 100% Nero d’Avolo, was a beautiful example of turning Mother Nature’s fruit into a compelling and delicious wine.  The ashy & earthy bouquet is complemented by an elegant and pure fruity palate that displays considerable depth.  The finish is both delicious and lengthy.  A tour de force of natural winemaking!  $42.  Wine-Searcher.

1993 Olga Raffault Champ Chenin.  I remain both confused and grateful that the wines from the Loire Valley of France get very little press. My confusion stems from the fact that while the red (Cabernet Franc) and white (Chenin Blanc) grapes produce delicious and age-worthy wines year after year, they play second and third fiddle to the wines that receive high scores from critics.  On the other hand, I am grateful, make that very grateful, that because of this the wines are very reasonable and offer great value to the drinker.   This Chenin Blanc is of the grape variety "Pineau de la Loire".  23 years old and the wine displayed both youthful fruit and incredible depth on a complex palate with enough acidity to keep this beauty drinking for at least another decade, if not longer.  The finish was monstrous both in length and flavor.  This wine was made by Olga Raffault who sadly passed away a few years ago.  Her granddaughter Sylvie is at the helm today and has continued to produce great wines in the tradition of her grandmother.  $54. Wine-Searcher.

We then sat down to our pasta course of Trofie Al Ragu d’Anatra Al Barolo (Quill Pasta in a sauce of Duck and Barolo Wine).  While Il Capriccio does everything well, chef Natale Grande really shines with his pastas, as he did tonight.  Generous plates were served and more than a few said yes when second helpings were offered.

We had three wines with the pasta.

2006 Chandon de Briailles Savigny-les Beaune 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses Blanc.  Since 1988 Claude de Nicolay took over from her mother as winemaker at this top estate. This wine was a great example how a great wine maker usually makes an outstanding wine in a so-so vintage.  At age 10 the wine is just coming into its drinking window.  The nose displayed rich fruit while the slightly mineral palate revealed a delicious, beautifully balanced wine with an excellent finish. Expect to pay about $60 should you be able to find it.

2012 Foradori Morei Teroldego delle Dolomiti (Magnum).  Teroldego is a native grape variety of the Trentino Alto-Adige region of Italy. Located in the foothills of the Dolomites, it is related to Syrah and Pinot Noir.  Elisabetta Foradori is referred to as the “undisputed top producer of Teroldego”.  For the Morei she vinifies in amphorae (tiñaja from Villarobledo, Spain); She finds that the shape of the vessels and the porosity of the clay lends exceptional purity and balance to the wine. The winemaking process is non-interventionistic, so that only the character of the land and the variety shows through.

A compelling wine, it boasts a dark hue with an enticing nose of spice and stone. A host of intensely savory/mineral notes meld into a core of dense dark red and black stone fruits.  A bit tannic on a wonderful complex palate, the wine finishes great length.  $45. Wine-Searcher.

2010 Fonterenza Brunello di Montalcino (Magnum).   Mentored by the great Gianfranco Soldera, twin sisters Margarita and Francesca Padovani founded the estate in 1997 and produced their first vintage in 2004 if I recall correctly.  Biodynamic farming and natural wine making are followed religiously resulting in stunning wines marked by both purity and complexity.  What an elegant Brunello this is.  If one were to taste this blind, I would not be surprised if they guessed Soldera.  While still a bit young, the pedigree shines through as each sip evolved and opened a bit more thus giving a peek into the impeccable balance, finesse and elegance that is waiting to be released after a few more years of cellar time.  This is definitely a wine with soul!  $100.  Wine-Searcher.  Since this is a bit pricey, I suggest looking for their Rosso di Montalcino and about 1/3 the price.

The main course was an expertly prepared Stinco d’Agnello con Risotto Milanese (Roasted Lamb Shank with Risotto). I will let the photo below speak for the dish.

We drank two French reds, one from the Loire and one from Burgundy with the entrée.  Both were awesome.

2006 Chandon de Briailles Corton Bressandes Grand Cru.  This was simply magnificent, and for we the wine of the night.  As I mentioned earlier, 2006 was a rather average vintage, but this wine was anything but average and in fact bordered on the extraordinary. The enticing Burgundian nose soared from the glass and immediately seduced the senses, wetting the palate in glorious anticipation of what is was about to experience.  There was no let down when it hit the palate with elegantly ripe, yet soft, fruit that danced in harmony with the velvet tannins before exiting with a fantastic and lengthy elegance.  $112.  Wine-Searcher.  

2002 Olga Raffaut Les Picasses.  100% Cabernet Franc, this beautiful wine is just entering its peak drinking window.  The wine begins with a deep earthy bouquet that like the previous wine created high expectations for the palate.  On the palate the wine was full-bodied, with remarkable balance and complexity.  Like all great wines it kept evolving with each sip and finished with considerable length.  At $37, one is hard pressed to find a better value.  Wine-Searcher.
Gorgonzo Dolce, Purée di Fichi           Chocolate Lava Cake  
2013 Occhipinti Passito Passo Nero 500 ml accompanied the cheese and dessert courses which followed. I couldn’t really get excited about this. The wine seemed to be very one-dimensional, with sweetness dominating the palate.  I think that a few years in the cellar will help this wine a lot.  $60.  Wine-Searcher.

Thanks again to all that made this evening the success it was.  Special thanks to Gene Urban, Master Photographer, Impressive Impressions for donating his time and talent for the evening.


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