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, February 19, 2017

La Festa del Barolo 2017

As we do each year a bunch of us Jersey wine guys, Emil, Michael, Tony, Joe, Jack and Paul attended the La Festa del Barolo dinner held in NYC.  This year it was held at Del Posto. This annual event, orchestrated by Vinous founder Antonio Galloni and his Vinous team, is one of the more spectacular tasting events of the year and it is done with remarkable class.  In addition to the great food and wines, 58 of NYC’s top sommeliers are on hand to open and pour the wines. The format of the dinner calls for all dinner attendees to bring bottles of great Barolo (other wines also are allowed) to share with the others at their table.  As you would imagine, sharing with other tables is another highlight of the evening.  This sharing of great wines is the highlight of the evening, and the remarkable generosity exhibited by attendees to share great wines with others is very special.   One of the winemakers who will be participating in the 2012 Barolo tasting to be held on the following morning is seated at each table. They also bring wine, usually back vintages, from their cellar.  The opportunity to speak with these gracious folks and share their wine is worth the price of admission alone.

Our table was comprised of Vinous members Marc D. and his Jennifer; Iggy M.and his wife Carolyn; Michael Z; Emil S.; Jonathan G. and myself.  Paola Rinaldi of Francesco Rinaldi Winery along with the estate’s winemaker Fabio Gemme joined us at our table.

The Rinaldi winery was founded in 1870 and is a top producer of traditionally made Barolo and Barbaresco.  The wines are aged in Slavonia oak barrels of medium and large capacity (20 – 50 Hl) for at least 3 years.  The estate has been in the hands of Paola and Piera Rinaldi, great granddaughters of Giovanni Rinaldi, since the 1990s.  I personally have found that the sisters have turned up the quality of the wines over the past few years.  I am a frequent buyer of their wines.

Prior to the cocktail hour Michael treated Emil and I to a glass of 2014 Radikon Pinot Grigio at the bar. 2 weeks of skin maceration. Aged in barrel one year, then bottled and release. This style utilizes hand-harvesting, extended skin maceration, large, older barrel fermentations without temperature control, no added yeasts or enzymes, and little or no use of sulfur. In short, this is the way wines were made in the area prior to World War II. The resulting wines are usually golden in color, rich with complex fruit aromas, and notable for their length on the palate and their ability to age. The golden orange hue usually associated with “orange” wines was replaced in this wine by a pinkish hue reminiscent of a Rosé.  The palate displayed remarkable character and depth.  A perfect glass of wine to begin the evening with.

Del Posto is the flagship restaurant of the Batali/Bastianch empire.  It is a spacious and upscale restaurant serving great Italian cuisine that is complimented by highly professional service and a world class Italian wine list.  The restaurant was closed all day to prepare for the event and then reserved for the event itself, which began with passed Assagi (little bites).  Four Champagnes were served with the Assagi.

2004 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne.  A terrific vintage for the bubbly and it showed in the first sip.  The wine was young and bright with a full-bodied palate and brilliant focus.  This will drink well for decades.

2002 Pierre Péters Cuvée Spécial Les Chétillons Champagne. Another outstanding vintage for Champagne.  This was medium-bodied and delicious.

2002 Dom Ruinart. Elegance with bubbles.  

NV Cédric Bouchard-Roses de Jeanne La Haute-Lemblé Champagne. Made from the juice of the 2009 vintage, this was my favorite.  Bouchard’s wines have incredible depth, focus and finesse on the palate.  Unlike most Champagne houses who blend vintages, sites and fruit, Bouchard wines are always from a single plot, single vintage and single grape.  

I can recall most, but not all of the wines I tasted during the evening.  Allow me to begin with the wines at our table.

2009 Angelo Gaja Chardonnay Gaia & Rey.  This is the first white wine ever produced by the Gaja family. Named for Angelo's daughter, Gaia, and his grandmother, Clotilde Rey.  It’s a big wine for a Chardonnay, with too much oak and vanilla for me.

1997 Angelo Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Conteisa.  Piedmontese for "quarrel," this wine was named for the historic dispute between the communes of La Morra and Barolo for possession of the Cerequio land. Deep garnet red hue.  Muted earthy bouquet with a bold palate and a bit too much oak for me.

2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala (Magnum). Unfortunately this was corked.

1999 Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia.  A round and delicious classically made Barolo with a big earthy bouquet and an elegant and refined palate.

2001 Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia.  Glorious wine that is entering its peak drinking window.  Gorgeous bouquet with a vibrant fruity palate and lengthy finish

2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano.  Stunning wine that is the essence of old world Barolo.  Elegant balance, great complexity with a lengthy velvet finish.

1980 Cappellano Barolo.  Classic Cappellano that is fully mature and drinking with soul!

1997 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco. Dark red hue.  While I am not a big fan of Gaja’s wine style, this drank well.  I found the tannins a bit harsher than the Contesia, but the oak was better integrated in my opinion.

2006 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino.  2006 was a great vintage in Barolo, and this wine is one of the very finest examples of the vintage.  Even though the wine is still very young, the pedigree of the wine is apparent with each sip.  Impeccable balance, finesse and elegance soared from the glass with each sip.  In another 5 to 10 years this may well be judged the wine of the vintage.

2007 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  2007 was another terrific vintage in Barolo. Roberto Conterno did not make any Monfortino in 2006, opting instead to use the fruit instead in the CF. More approachable than the 2006 Monfortino, the wine is drinking beautifully and has the balance and acidity to last another 2 to 3 decades at least.

2004 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcinio Riserva (Magnum).  I broke with the theme of the evening by bringing this wine as I thought it would offer a nice contrast to the Baroli.  The wine more than held its own as it drank beautifully.  Gorgeous bouquet of fruit and earth with a beautifully balance palate and a lengthy and elegant finish.

The final two wines were brought by Paola Rinaldi from the winery.

2008 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo Brunate.  Another prized Barolo vintage, this was elegant and polished on the palate.  Still very much a baby but will give much drinking pleasure for another couple of decades.

1964 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo.  This wine was in great shape with vibrant fruit and terrific balance and complexity on the palate.

Wines from other tables

1982 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco Magnum.  Best of the Gaja wines I tasted.  No tannins or oak in sight.  Drank very nicely.

1958 Cantina Mascarello Barolo Canubbi 1.9 liters.  Terrific and still very much alive.

1964 Giacomo Conterno Barolo. The hue was rosé-like with a beautiful translucency.  The fruit was vibrant and soared from the glass with each sip.  On the palate it had incredible focus and finesse and a long and elegant finish. 

1990 Gianfranco Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.  A totally mesmerizing wine.  Everything one looks for in a great wine.  Wish I had some in my cellar.

???? DRC Montrachet.  Unfortunately I did not get a glimpse of the bottle, but the wine was superb.

There were a few others, but I can not recall what they were.  My only negative comment on the evening is that the amount of wine is really too much to really appreciate these remarkable wines.  I do prefer smaller tastings limited to 8 to 10 bottles, so that each wine can be sipped and enjoyed with the meal.

My thanks to Antonio and his Vinous team and all the generous attendees who shared a number of very special wines.


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