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, January 2, 2017

9th Annual Gentlemen's Holiday Luncheon

L to R: George U., Jack, Jeff, Tony, George L., Paul, Mark, Gino
kneeling: Joe, Nick
Two days before Christmas fellow wine lover Tony P. once again organized our annual holiday luncheon, our ninth per Jack G.  The usual ten subjects were on hand, each with a bottle or two in hand to aid in celebrating the holidays and our friendship.  As is our custom the event was held at Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany, NJ. The Grande family not only prepares outstanding regional Italian cuisine, but they are very gracious to allow us to bring our own wine cork-fee free. Another family member, Sal LaRose, oversees the food and wine service to perfection, making sure that the stemware is changed as necessary and deftly pacing each course.

Antipasti of Artichokes, Mozzarella de Bufala & Prosciutto
Grilled Jumbo Shrimp With Shiitake Mushrooms
Seafood Salad

Three Pastas
  Spaghetti alla Carbonara
  Spaghetti con Vongole Bianco
  Spaghetti con sugo di Coniglio (rabbit)

After all of the above I went with a simple, but delicious, Chicken Francaise. I did not pay much attention to the other entrées, which were enjoyed by all.

Tony suggested that the theme be wines from Piedmont, the Veneto or Tuscany with the additional criteria be they come from vintages from 1978 to 2001. Although it did not meet the criteria, Jack brought along a magnum of 1990 Billecart-Salmon Grande Cuvée to accompany the large tin of Osetra caviar he recently received from Russia to share with the group.  As I am not a fan of caviar, I did not echo the oohs and ahs of the group over the fish roe.  I did however ooh and ah over the Champagne.  There is something magical about good, aged Champagne, especially when it is aged in large format.  The wine had an intoxicating yeasty bouquet with a nutty palate and elegant finish.

I decided to bring along a couple of bottles of white wine to begin the lunch with and while they did conform to the vintage criteria they did not meet the regional criteria.  The wines have quite a history.  They came from the Fiorano estate of Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, the Prince of Venosa. The wines are the product of a dedicated and passionate prince whose avant-garde approach was way ahead of its time. His whites took on a phenomenon for their ability to age, but became a true rarity as the prince was elusive and did not care to put the wines in the wrong hands. Luigi Veronelli, the famed Italian wine writer called his white wines the finest ever made. While I do not agree with his comment, I do find the wines unique and a pleasure to drink.

1989 Fiorano Semillon Botte 48.  Made from 100% Semillon, this had a gorgeous yellow-orange hue that exhibited a complex palate marked by depth an focus.

1988 Fiorano Bianco Botte 26.  Made from 100% Malvasia di Candia, this bottle was unfortunately corked.

1982 Nervi Gattinara.  Nervi is the oldest winery in the Gattinara DOCG area of Northern Piedmont.  Like the Barolo and Barbaresco wines of Piedmont, the wine is made from 100% Nebbiolo.  The wine possessed an earthy bouquet and palate with good fruit.  The finish however was a bit short.

2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Le Coste Barolo.  The wine was very one dimensional on opening with only a hint of the underlying fruit.  I thought it would emerge after a few hours in the glass, but alas it never did.  We had a bottle of this wine at last year’s luncheon according to my notes and I noted then that the wine “seemed to be a bit off”.  Two off bottles would seem to indicate that perhaps there was a storage or shipping issue, or the wine needs more time.

1993 Giuseppe Mascarello Ca d’Morissio Riserva Barolo.  This bottling is only made in exceptional vintages and the 1993 was the inaugural debut of the wine. It is made from a tiny parcel of Nebbiolo Michét in Monprivato planted in the mid-‘80s after being specially selected from the original 1921 plantings. It is named for Mauro Mascarello’s grandfather, Maurizio (Morissio in Piemontese dialect) who was the first generation to purchase a plot in Monprivato.  A very good wine to be sure that drank nicely, but it lacked the depth and finesse of other 1993 Ca d’Morissios that I have had.  I find a fair amount of inconsistency in the estates wines, both vintage-to-vintage and bottle-to-bottle.

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno.  The wine had a bit of funk on the nose when first opened which blew off after about 30 minutes.  As with many Baroli from the 2001 vintage, I don’t think the wine is fully awake yet.

1990 Aldo Conterno Barolo.  From the exceptional 1990 Piedmont vintage this was a fantastic example of old world Barolo.  This is the estate’s entry level Barolo and comes from different vineyards in Bussia.  The wine was firing on all cylinders with beautiful depth, complexity, finesse and a long elegant finish.  It was my wine of the day.

2000 Aldo Conterno Riserva Granbussia Barolo.  Granbussia, is a blend of three vineyards; 70% Romirasco, 15% Colonello, 15% Cicala, and is only made in top vintages that present perfect growing conditions in all three sites.  It too was fantastic with vibrant fruit, balance and elegance.  A very close runner-up to the ’90 Conterno Barolo for the wine of the day.

2001 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo Langhe.  Gaja is no longer able to call this single vineyard wine Barbaresco because of the addition of Barbera to the wine.  It really makes no difference to me what he calls the wine, as I simply do not like the wine.  I find it to be one dimensional and lacking finesse. I remain perplexed why anyone would spend more than $400 on this bottle of wine.

1997 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Ornellaia.  There were two bottles of this wine brought by two different attendees.  Readers of WWN know that I am not a fan of the Super Tuscan modern style of wine making, and neither of these did anything to change my opinion.  Both were identically massive fruit bombs with too much oak (50% new).  I also felt that the wines are in decline and would drink up now if you own any.

2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano.   This was another massive, modern-styled wine.  It has a cult following and commands a very high price.  Like most wines of this style it was not to my liking.

2001 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.  A great wine that unfortunately was holding back some today.  It gave a glimpse of the underlying fruit and complexity and did improve as it sat in the glass.  I believe the wine would have benefited from a few hours in a decanter.  The pedigree of the wine was imminently apparent and is destined to be a classic in four or five years.

2010 Campi di Fonterenza Brunello di Montalcino.  The Padovani sisters were mentored by Soldera and they learned well.  Like the Soldera however, the wine is holding back at the moment, but has a bright future ahead.  Of the three Brunelli we drank, in my humble opinion it was the most open and drank best.

2008 Monte Dall'Ora Stropa Amarone Della Valpolicella.  I did not taste this wine today.  Those that did however did not like it.

1999 Guseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico magnum.  This was a classic Quintarelli possessing a spectacular earthy bouquet with lush, ripe and balanced fruit on the palate.

Jack tallied the WOTD preferences of the group with the outcome; ’90 Conterno 5 votes; ’01 Soldera 3 votes; ’93 Ca d’Morissio and ’99 Quintarelli 1 vote each.

Paul summed it up perfectly: “No matter how good the food and wine are, it is always the company of good people that make the day.” We all echoed his sentiments.  Thanks Tony for organizing the event, the Grandes and Sal for the great food and service and all the attendees for sharing their wines.  Looking forward to next year gentlemen.



  1. Pleased to know about this luncheon and hope this information will help me in arranging official lunch party. In search of exquisite venues for corporate events Chicago and hope to find a good venue. Hope to have a lovely party.