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, October 24, 2016

Wining and Dining with Franco Massolino and Franco Conterno

I had the opportunity to once again break bread and sip wine with two icons of Barolo, Franco Massolino and Franco Conterno.  My friend Tony has been a friend with both since he visited their estates a few years ago, so when they are in the United States he likes to host them and a few of his wine geek friends at his home.  Such was the case this past Saturday. Tony’s mom and wife are both exceptional cooks and prepared a fantastic lunch to go with the wines we all brought. Since they drink lots of Barolo, it was taboo at the luncheon.  Each of us brought along a bottle or two of wines we thought they would enjoy.

Unfortunately I did not take photos of the food, but suffice it so say that it was excellent.  Since my wife and I would be attending a wine dinner featuring the wines of Franco Massolino's later in the evening, I paced myself accordingly and made an early exit but not before enjoying a bit of:

Assorted Cheeses 
Homemade (Tony’s mom) dry sausage & sopresatta
Mozzarella di Bufala 
Roasted Baby Peppers 
Sautéed Mushrooms 
Homemade pasta (Tony’s mom again) with sausage and meatballs (Tony’s wife) 
Roasted Prime Ribs of Beef 
Italian Salad


Unfortunately a few of the wines were undrinkable.

1975 Chateau Musar: Corked
1985 Chateau Soldera Brunello di Montalcino: Oxidized and flawed.
1953 Chateau Lafite: I did not taste this wine, but was told later in the evening that the wine suffered from the same fate as the Soldera.

1996 Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Perignon. This bubbly is drinking beautifully and should do so for some time.  Great depth and focus.

2010 Dominique Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Les Poruzots. Superb wine that showed fantastic depth with bracing acidity, stony minerality and a lengthy, almost bubblegum like finish.  I preferred it to the Dom.

1993 Domain Maillard Pere et Fils Alex Corton 1er Cru.   Big barnyard bouquet and brownish hue upon opening.  Many felt the wine was bad, but I liked the smokey bacon bouquet and thought that given time the palate would evolve.  I turned out to be right (happens once in a while) as the wine really blossomed after about an hour in the glass.  The brownish hue became more ruby red and transparent and the barnyard funk blew off completely, leaving a delicious Burgundy.

2005 Bouchard Pere et Fils Beaune Greves L’Enfant Jesus.  The first bottle opened was corked, but the second was awesome.  I find that the 2005 Burgundies from top producers like Bouchard to be  classic Burgundy style wines that are drinking beautifully now.  One of the best wines of the luncheon.

1999 Soldera Brunello di Montacino.   Easily the wine of the luncheon.  This was classic Soldera, a wine with great balance, depth, focus and elegance.

2005 Opus One and 2005 Masseto.   Two very young wines that have never been my cup of tea. I find them over extracted and ridiculously overpriced.

2004 Quintarelli Alzero.   A magnificent wine that had it been given a few hours in a decanter probably would have nudged the Soldera as wine of the day.  Everything was here, just a bit asleep upon opening.

At 7PM Carol and I attended the aforementioned Massolino dinner hosted by Mahesh Lekkela, owner of the Wine Legend stores.  This event was held in his West Orange location, which has a bar and dining area to accommodate such events.  Chef Bryan Gregg of Think Local Foods is on hand Thursday, Friday, & Saturday evenings to prepare the food.  Chef Bryan is a proponent of farm-to-table cuisine and is very adept in his preparations.  Tonight’s plates were outstanding.

Foccacia with Fall Flavors.  Kale, mushrooms and grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese was paired with 2014 Massolino Langhe DOC Chardonnay.  This turned out to be a terrific pairing. This was my first experience with a Massolino Chardonnay.  Crisp fruit and a Burgundian palate made for a very nice glass of wine.

Lomo and Plum Aguadolce was was paired with 2014 Massolino Dolcetto d’Alba DOC.  Lomo is the Spanish word for tenderloin.  This plate was composed of a couple of slices of thinly sliced ham topped with Arugula in a sweet/sour sauce.  It was delicious, pure and simple.  Like the ham, the Dolcetto was delicious with lively pure fruit on a medium-bodied round palate.  This was one of the best Dolcetto’s I have ever had.  Franco explained that on day two of the fermentation process, 75% of the seeds are removed which leads to the roundness of the wine.

Lobster Risotto with Black Truffles was paired with 2012 Massolino Barolo Seralunga DOCG. Perfectly cooked risotto is al dente and creamy and this was just that…perfect.  All the elements of the dish were in perfect harmony with each other…and with the Barolo.  This bottling, the estate’s entry level, had fantastic freshness and ripe fruit that danced with elegance on the palate before finishing with very nice length.

The final wine of the evening was 2009 Massolio Barolo DOCG Parafada and was paired with Roasted Veal Saddle, Charred Cauliflower and Alluims (onions).  How chef Bryan turns out dishes of this quality in what is basically a kitchen-less facility is amazing. The Parafada vineyard benefits from Southern expoure and consists of marly lime soil.  These conditions yield a complex Barolo built for aging.  The ’09 is drinking beautifully today and should do so for another 20+ years. The wine possessed a gorgeous translucent red hue, earthy nose and a focused and beautifully balanced palate.  The wine finished with length and elegance.  

It was great to see both Franco's again.  Thank you Tony and Mahesh for making it possible.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An Italian Wine Tour

Our local wine group met last night at Fascino in Montclair.   Chef/owner Ryan DePersio describes his style of cooking as Italian Without Borders.  It takes talent to succeed when you push the culinary envelope.  And while there is no denying his talent, not all dishes succeed at the same level.  Highlights from our meal included Mascarpone Polenta Fries with a Gorgonzola Fonduta (no photo).  The Polenta was perfectly cooked, while the Gorgonzola fonduta was much too watery for my liking.

Foie Gras receives a different preparation on most nights.  Tonight it was pan-seared with sautéed apples and served atop crostini.  It was a perfectly prepared dish that really did not need the crostini.

The star pasta of the evening was Bucatini sauced with a little neck clam ragu and sprinkled with toasted breadcrumbs and chilies.  Pasta was cooked perfectly and sauce was balanced with a hint of the briny sea.

Jim was our wine guide for the evening and he escorted us on a terrific tour of Italy, beginning in the Veneto region of Northern Italy.  There are many estates in the area, but none, in the opinion of many, better than Giuseppe Quintarelli.  The essence of his wines is captured in his own words. “The fundamental problem in wine today is that too many producers ‘hurry’ to make their wines: they hurry the fruit in the vineyard and they hurry the vinification and rush to bottle. They rush to sell their product without allowing it the proper time to age. Patience – this is the most important attribute in winemaking. Patience in growing, patience in selection, and patience in vinification.”  One can taste the patience that is given to each wine with each sip taken.

Quintarelli wines, especially the Amarone and dessert wines do not come cheap.  However he makes two wines that allow wine lovers to enjoy his talents at a very reasonable price.  Jim began the evening with both of them.

2014 Quintarelli Secco Ca del Merlo Bianco Veronese. This stunning white wine is an artful blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Saorin (believed to be a clone of the Tokay grape and meaning "flavor" in Veronese dialect).  The wine showed a round and delicious palate accentuated by great balance and bracing acidity.  $43.  Wine-Searcher.

1999 Quintarelli Primofiore.  Primofiore (first flower) is the only red wine at Quintarelli that does not employ dried grapes or the ripasso technique. It is also the youngest red wine released by the estate every year.  The wine is a blend of 50% Corvina and Corvinone, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.   After harvest, the grapes are left in wooden boxes to continue ripening, then after pressing and fermentation, the wine is aged for several years in Slavonian oak barrels.  While tonight’s wine is getting on in age, it still showed wonderful fruit and complexity.  $60.  Wine-Searcher.

From the Veneto we traveled south to the Campania region and two wines from Feudi di San Gregorio.  The estate is located in Sorbo Serpico, a commune in the province of Avellino. Under the winemaking of renowned winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, the more stylistically modern wines have a tremendous following

2001 Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Irpina.  The wine is made from 100% Aglianico, the indigenous red grape of the area.  Fermentation and maceration take place in stainless steel tanks for about 3-4 weeks before spending a minimum 18 months in small barrique barrels.  The wines are then aged for a minimum 12 months in bottle before being released.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well the oak was integrated into the wine, which had a soft palate, nice fruit but little depth and a short finish.  $73.  Wine-Searcher.

1999 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi Piano di Montevergine.  Also 100% Aglianico. Fermentation is similar to the Irpina, while the aging in barrique and bottle is about 12 months longer.  Here too, the oak was very well integrated and the wine showed considerably more depth than the 2001.  $68.  Wine-Searcher.

We completed our journey in Abruzzo a region of Southern Italy about 50 miles east of Rome along the Adriatic Sea), with a bottle 2000 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  Made from 100% Monepulciano grapes it was the consensus wine of the night.  Full of terroir and a bit of funk that is the hallmark of Pepe’s attention to old world style wine making.  The wine kept evolving with each sip and finished with amazing length and focus.  This is a wine built to last for decades.  $145.  Wine-Searcher.

What a lovely way to spend an evening, touring Italy.