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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

1999 Barolo - A Magical Vintage

Our NYC Vinous group met at Hearth on Monday evening of last week to enjoy a number of Baroli from the magical 1999 vintage. Each of us brought a bottle or two from the vintage.  All the wines were open in the late morning or early afternoon to give them some air.  Ken, our resident Nebbiolo guru paired the wines with the 5 course meal and did his usual great job.

Antonio Galloni comments on the vintage… “One of the truly epic vintages of the last three decades. These are firm, classically built Barolos that will continue to drink well for another 20+ years. Stylistically, the 1999s are like the 1996s, but with more fruit and mid-palate sweetness/density. This vintage was largely ignored at the outset in favor of 2000, but as Barolo lovers know, 1999 is one of the greats. The best wines will continue to drink well for decades, although many wines are approachable now.”  Our tasting confirmed his comments.  With the exception of a couple of tainted bottles, the wines drank beautifully.

We began the evening with a stunning bottle of 1999 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Cuvée Nicolas-François Billecart.  To paraphrase a Sinatra song, “What a lovely way to begin an evening.”  This exceptional cuvée was created in 1964 as a tribute to the House’s founder. It results from the blending of grand crus from the classified Côte des Blancs vineyards (Chardonnay) and the Montagne de Reims (Pinot Noir). Its vinification, partially in traditional oak casks, underpins the generous character of this fine, elegant and rich wine.  The wine showed a wonderful rich palate of delicious ripe fruit and subtle floral notes and a lengthy elegant finish.

Our first course was Hearth Broth made from bone marrow, tumeric and black pepper.  This is a signature creation of chef/owner Marco Canora.  It was a great beginning on a cold, blustery NYC evening.

1999 Marcarini Brunate Barolo.  Based in La Morra, the estate is under the direction of sixth generation owners Luisa Marcarini Marchetti, her husband Manuel Marchetti and their 3 children. The highly regarded Armando Cordero consults with Luisa in the wine making.  Their wines are beautiful expressions of traditionally made Barolo and retail at very reasonable prices. Tonight’s wine was totally seductive…a balanced elegant wine that soared from the glass and finished with great length and finesse.  A contender for WOTN.

1999 G. Mascarello Monprivato Barolo. The wine unfortunately had a slight cork to it.  Although it was drinkable, it was less enjoyable than previous bottles I have had.

1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. Classic Bartolo Mascarello.  Gorgeous translucent hue with a classic Barolo bouquet and a pure and balanced palate.  Lengthy and elegant finish.  One of the top wines of the vintage and destined to drink well for many years to come.

Beef Tartare was our second course.  This version was a modern approach to the classic chopped raw beef dish.  It contained cheddar, salsa verde and potato chips.  When will chefs learn not to mess with the classic preparation of simple dishes?  One bite and I was finished.  Thankfully the wines compensated for the dish.

1999 Conterno Granbussia Barolo Riserva.  The initial sip was very tight, but after 10 minutes in the glass the wine really opened up revealing a full-bodied delicious Nebbiolo.

1999 Scavino Barolo Riserva Rocche dell'Annunziata.  Scavino is one of the most modern Barolo wine estates in all of Piedmont.  I find the wines dominated by oak and lacking complexity and balance.  Well, I was very pleasantly surprised when I took my first sip of the wine.  There was no oak in sight, instead there was a soft and nicely focused wine that delighted my palate.  An impressive bottle of wine.

Our pasta course was Whole Grain Rigatoni with pork ragu, kale and whipped ricotta. While the sauce was tasty, a pasta dish is, in my opinion, about the noodle, not the sauce. Call me old fashioned, but I like my pasta made with Semolina and/or Durum flour.

1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Cannubi San Lorenzo Ravera Barolo.  Big earthy bouquet with a soft fruity palate.  The finish was a bit short compared to the wine that followed.

1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate-Le Coste Barolo.  This wine shows why Rinaldi is one of the great traditional Barolo wine makers in Piedmont.  Completely round and delicious wine that seduces the palate, then finishes with length and elegance.  A wine with soul!

We were then served our entrée, Whole Spatchock Chicken, marsala, mushrooms, with polenta. This was simple and delicious.  The bird was juicy and succulent.  The sauce and polenta were harmonious additions to the dish.

1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo.  Unfortunately the bottle was corked.

1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto.  I loved this. Lush bouquet with layers of fruit and earth on a beautifully balanced and complex palate. This has the stuff to last another decade or two.

1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rocche.  A wow wine that is still very much a baby as the palate and finish were a bit tight.  The underlying pedigree of the wine is fantastic and this will be gorgeous in a few more years.  I am very happy to have 3 bottles sleeping in the cellar.

For dessert we had 2 year aged Cheddar Cheese; grappa-stewd fruits; candied hazlenuts.

1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  Gorgeous earthy and fruity bouquet and more open than the bottle this group had two years ago, but still very young.  Beginning to show signs of emerging into the great wine it is destined to be.

1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva.  A prodigious wine that is a joy to drink. Every bit as good as the bottle this group had two years ago.  I echo my notes from that tasting; earthy bouquet, full-bodied, balanced and complex with impeccable purity and a very lengthy, elegant finish.  One of the best Barolos I have ever tasted.  This has the stuff to last for decades. Truly a wine with soul and my WOTN.

All in all another stellar evening with a great group of friendly, knowledgeable and generous Barolo lovers.

Photo courtesy of Ken Vastola


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