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, December 29, 2016

The Magic of Bruno Giacosa

Our NY Vinous group met earlier this month at DeGrezia Ristorante in NYC for an epic tasting of Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco and Barolo.  We welcomed Vinous founder Antonio Galloni who joined us for the evening.  As is our custom we each bring a bottle (sometimes two) of wine to the dinner. A list of the wines and who is to bring them is agreed upon ahead of time to prevent duplication.

I have always been a fan of the amazing wines that come from the Giacosa estate.  However after having the chance to taste some of the older vintages I could only lament that it took me far too long to discover the wines when I started collecting some 35 years ago.  They are pure expressions of how good wine and the Nebbiolo grape can be when in the hands of a master.  The estate did suffer what us Giacosa lovers hope is only a hiccup when Bruno had a stroke in 2006.  A couple of subsequent vintages were not very good after oenologist, Dante Scaglione left the winery and the direction fell solely into the lap of Bruno’s daughter, Bruna.  Fortunately Bruno is back on his feet and Scaglione has returned, thus I am very optimistic of a return to greatness at the estate.  I suggest you check out Eric Guido’s excellent blog about the evening and the Giacosa estate at  The Cellar Table at Morrell Wine.

Before getting into the wines a few words about the food.  It was fantastic and enjoyed by all. Since we ordered ala carte I can not recall all the plates.  I do recall mine however quite fondly.

Sweetbreads with Mushrooms (Animelle ai Funghi) 

Spaghetti Carbonara

Fegato (Liver)ala Venezia 

The Wines

2008 Bruno Giacosa Spumante Rosé.   Made from purchased fruit this Pinot Noir sparkler had a nice yeasty nose and palate.  

2008 Bruno Giacosa Barolo La Rocche Riserva .  While the palate was soft, there was very little going on here.  One of the hiccup wines for sure, it was my least favorite of the evening.

2007 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.   Gorgeous nose, beautiful palate and a lengthy and elegant finish sums up this beautifully made wine.

2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.  A stunning example of why ’04 vintage in Piedmont was so extraordinary.  Round and delicious wine with a lengthy and elegant palate. Giacosa fans if you don't own any, loosen the purse strings and pick some up.

2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva.  This was simply fantastic, displaying impeccable balance and a long elegant finish.

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Riserva.  This started out with a monstrous enticing bouquet on the nose.  I detected a bit of oxidation on the palate but the overall depth, balance and complexity and elegant finish made for one terrific wine.

1996  Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba.  While this is still a young wine it is oh so round and delicious.  A bouquet of dark berries fills the nose in anticipation of the first sip which does not let you down.  Many years ahead for this Giacosa classic.

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.  As good as the white label was, the riserva is on another plateau.  Another contender for WOTN, the bouquet kick starts the senses and delivers in spades on the palate a gorgeous feminine elegance that is echoed in the monster finish.  Truly a wine with soul!

1989 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero.  My first Giacosa Villero and it was quite special.  The wine began with an earthy bouquet and a soft beautifully textured palate.  The wine finished with a long, feminine elegance.  A wine with soul!

1989  Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto Riserva.  This definitely took a back seat to the Villero.  The wine exhibited an old and earthy bouquet and aged palate marked by hints of chocolate.  

1986 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Castiglione.  Lush, fruity and vibrant palate made for a delicious glass of wine.

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Castiglione.  A round and delicious wine that was firing on all cylinders.   Enticing bouquet with a superbly balanced palate and long elegant finish.

1985 Bruno Giacosa Falletto.  Corked

1980 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche Castiglione.  The wine possessed a very old nose and an earthy palate.  For me the wine is on a downturn.  

1979 Bruno Giacosa Barolo.  Gorgeous bouquet, however a one-dimensional palate and short finish.

1978 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano.  Simply an awesome bottle of wine that showed beautifully in the presence of so many red label reserves.  An elegant and beautifully balanced wine with a long and elegant finish.  Round and delicious with lots of soul!  I wish I had some of this in my cellar. 

1967 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.  Deep earthy bouquet and a nice balanced palate.  While it had an earthy finish, it was shorter than the previous two wines.

1964 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva.  This was simply awesome and a contender for WOTN.  I sipped it slowly and reveled as each sip evolved with more fruit than the previous.  Truly a wine with soul! 

1961 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Speciale.  Sourced from the Gallina and Santo Stefano vineyards, this was excellent. One sip of this wine and you are given an insight into why 1961 was one of Piedmonts greatest vintages.  The fruit was amazingly vibrant and the finish was long and elegant.

Very hard to choose a wine of the night but I thought the '64, both the '96s, '04 and '61 were all in contention.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido
It was truly a magical evening of wines with a very special group of guys.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Another Evening of Aged Red Burgundy

Since December is a busy month for our local wine group, we decided to meet just one week after our last dinner.  Howard was in the wine queue, and selected 5 aged Burgundies for the evening. Since Emil was a bit under the weather and unable to attend we showed some restraint and drank only 4 of the 5.  Howard selected Scalini Fideli, Chatham, NJ as the venue for the tasting. Scalini Fideli is an upscale Italian restaurant with an inclination towards modern Italian cuisine. While the food is deftly prepared, for my palate I find the preparations to be on the rich side. Highlights of the evening included:

Chicken liver and pancetta ravioli in a boscaiola sauce with marsala wine

Butternut Agnolotti with a sage brown butter, amaretti and buffalo mozzarella

Pappardelle in a braised veal shank and marrow sauce with minced cherry pepper and a hint of Italian mascarpone

Veal chop with a porcini-dijon sauce served with braised vegetables

Jeff brought along a bottle of white, 2011 Francois Carillon Bourgogne, to kick off the evening. The Domaine has been located in Puligny-Montrachet since the sixteenth century and produces white wines racy, elegant, fruity while embodying perfectly the terroir of soil their Chardonnays come from.  Bourgogne is the entry-level wine in Burgundy.  The wines are made from the grapes that don’t qualify for Permier Cru or Grand Cru wines.  From producers like Carillon they represent great value and can be enjoyed in their youth as well as with age.  Tonight’s wine was crisp, round and delicious with a wonderful finish.  $25.  Wine-Searcher.

1996 Robert Arnoux/Arnoux-Lachaux Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots.   One of the flagship wines of the estate, the wine is aged in 40 – 60% new oak for 16 months.  The wine drank very well, like a good aged Burgundy usually does.  The oak was seamlessly integrated.  A nicely balanced wine that was a bit too cold to appreciate the underlying fruit and pedigree of the wine.  I would love to drink this after about 3 hours of aeration.  $249.  Wine-Searcher.

1999 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux.  This famous Clos, a magnificent parcel of five hectares, is one of the 10 largest premier or grand cru monopolies of the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits.  The wine is made from 100% de-stemmed fruit, keeping most of the berries whole, not crushed.  Depending on the appellation and age of the vines, the wines age18 to 24 months in barrels, with a percentage of new oak ranging from 0% for the Village appellations to 30% for the old vines of Clos des Epeneaux.  I really liked this wine.  The purity and complexity of the wine was apparent with the first sip.  The wine had a beautifully elegant feminine palate and finished with considerable length.  It was my favorite of the evening.  $183.  Wine-Searcher.

1989 Domaine Maume Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru.  Maume is a relatively tiny estate in Gevrey-Chambertin.  The vines average 50 years of age.   A nice bottle of wine, that was a bit more tired than a bottle I had 3 years back.  It lacked the purity and vibrancy of the Armand.  More recent vintages will cost in the neighborhood of $150 to $200.

1985 Louis Jadot Chambertin Clos De Beze Grand Cru.  Louis Jadot has been making superb red and white Burgundy wines since 1859.  The estate produces wines that are rich and sumptuous with terrific balance of power, elegance and finesse.  The wine sees 18 to 20 months in oak barrels before bottling.  I found this to be much better than the Maume with more vibrant fruit and balance on the palate, yet with much less complexity, finesse and depth than the Armand.  A wine that should be drunk sooner than later in my opinion.  This vintage is also no longer available. More recent vintages will set you back around $400.

Nicely done Howard.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Super Tuscans

Our local wine group met once again at Sette Cucina Italiana, Bernardsville, NJ this past Monday evening.  Owner/chef Allan Russo was absent attending a wedding, however his sous-chef did not miss a beat in as he prepared yet another fantastic meal for us. New to the table for this dinner the chef prepared:

Perfectly roasted Jumbo Shrimp atop a bed of sautéd cabbage offered a balanced melange of flavors and textures that was applauded by all.

The shrimp were followed by Risotto Alla Crema Di Funghi.  The dish is made with Piemonte Vialone Nano Rice which produces the most creamy textured risottos of any grain.  A Béchamel Di Crimini, Parmigiano Reggiano, Black Truffle Carpaccio added an ethereal flavor to the dish. Like a fine wine, each bite seemed to evolve to a new level.

For our main course we were served a Stuffed Roast Porchetta with mushroom gravy.  All plates were cleaned down to the last morsel.

So what wines did we drink with these wonderful dishes...Super Tuscans.  Quite a departure for our group, but Emil, who was in the wine queue, decided to mix it up a bit.  He brought along a selection of some of Italy's biggest wine names.  Before getting into them we began with a bottle of 2015 Ronco del Gnemiz Friulano San Juan from the Friuli-Venezia region of Italy.  The estates vineyards are located on Friuli's prized sandstone soil ‘Ponca’ which comprises many layers of soil built up over millions of years making it rich in minerals and microelements which give the wine a highly distinctive character.  The wine showed bright acidity and a touch of viscosity to give in an added dimension of depth and character.

What does Super Tuscan wine refer?  The designation emerged in 1970 for a wine made outside the formal Italian DOC or DOCG regulations. Traditionally, the term has most often been used to describe wines made partly or wholly from international French grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc.  Many of the wines, Sassicaia, Tiganello, Solaia and Ornellaia became “cult” wines, and as such command high price tags. In the reformation of the Italian classification system many of the original Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines (such as the new Bolgheri label) but some producers still prefer the declassified rankings or to use the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification of Toscana.  While each of the wines we had tonight was its own unique blend of grapes, to my palate they were for the most part one-dimensional.   I attribute this to the more modern wine making techniques and the high amount of new oak (Barrique) used in making the wines.  I, for one, can not justify the high tariff one has to spend to acquire them.

2007 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Ornellaia DOC.   This wine is a blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot.  Fermentation took place primarily in oak barriques, 70% new and 30% once-used.  After fermentation the wine then remained in barriques for about 18 months. After the first 12 months of maturation, the wine was assembled and then returned to the barriques for an additional six months. After bottling, the wine aged a further twelve months prior to release. While the oak was present it was not as overpowering as I would have expected.  The one-dimensional palate was soft and velvety yet lacked complexity.  $230.  Wine-Searcher.

1997 Antinori Solaia IGT.   80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese blend (the current blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc). The wine is aged in barriques, mostly new I believe, for about 12 months and for a further 12 months in the bottles.  The oak was very well integrated here and unlike the others displayed a bit of complexity and depth.  While it was my favorite of the evening, I'd be hard pressed to justify the very high price tag.  $350.  Wine-Searcher.

1971 Antinori Tignanello IGT.  This was the debut Super Tuscan wine and was a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  It was the first modern wine of Chianti to contain a nontraditional grape—Cabernet Sauvignon—while omitting white grapes, and the first wine to be aged in small new Barrique barrels.  Like the Solaia the wine is aged in barriques for about 12 months and for a further 12 months in the bottles.   I thought the wine had a nice bouquet for a 45 year old wine.  The palate was similar to the Ornellaia.  This vintage is no longer available, while current vintages will run you about $100.

1989 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia VDT. A blend of 85 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 % Cabernet Franc.  Sassicaia is a cuvée of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes from the vineyards of Castiglioncello, Doccino, Quercione, San Martino, Mandrioli, Sassicaia, and Aianova, all of which are situated on hilly slopes in a sub- zone of Bolgheri.  The wine sees 20 months in 40% new Barrique.  This lacked fruit, complexity and depth.  Far behind the others in my opinion.  $299.  Wine-Searcher.

1995 Gaja Sori Tildin Barbaresco.   While not a Super Tuscan wine, the modern wine making style of Gaja fits in with the Super Tuscan style.  Angelo Gaja is a major player in the high priced Italian "cult" wine scene.  Italian wine laws governing Barbaresco mandate that the wine must be made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes to include "Barbaresco" on the label.  Since Gaja blends 5% to 10% Barbera grapes into the wine he must forgo the "Barbaresco" name.  I found tonight's wine to be quite drinkable, and placed it just below the Solaia.  The wine was well balanced with nice complexity and well integrated oak.  $318.  Wine-Searcher.

1990 Quintarelli Amabile del Cere.  Emil brought along a half bottle of this remarkable dessert wine so that we could toast group member Jim on his birthday.  What can I say other than, awesome. A magical blend of Trebbiano, Garganega, Saoarin, Chardonnay and  Sauvignon Blanc that have been attacked by noble rot, it produces a sumptuous, rich and profound dessert wine.  $230 (375ml); $473 (750ml).  Wine-Searcher.

A great job by Emil and Sette made for yet another wonderful evening.