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, April 20, 2017

An Eclectic Wine Dinner

Our local wine group returned to A Toute Heure in Cranford, NJ. last week.  A farm-to-table restaurant, it is run by husband and wife team, Andrea & Jim Carbine.  The menu is small, and changes for the seasons.  This BYOB provides friendly and attentive service along with decent stemware for your wines. Tonight’s menu choices included:

Chicken Livers on Toast with caramelized onions in a port reduction.  Very tasty.

Garlic Spice Pork, peanut croquettes, scallions.  These thin slices of sautéed pork were magnificent.

Chili Shrimp, roast sweet potato, green cabbage, mint-yogurt, chickpea
Crisps.  Spicy and delicious.

Garlic Zeppole.  Much too doughy in the opinion of all.

Flatbread Pizza, topped with mushrooms and a fried egg.  Quite good.

Veal Schnitzel, quinoa-cabbage slaw, maple-mint vinaigrette, sesame
Cashews.  The slaw topping did not work for me and the schnitzel was too thick.

Pork Belly Roulade, fingerling potatoes, choucroute with lardons &
apples, grainy mustard jus.  Emil enjoyed every bite.

Toffee apple cake, with a scoop of sweet cream ice cream.  Delicious!

Marc was responsible for the wines and he opted for an eclectic assortment that would take us on a kind of world tour.  His selections were terrific.

1983 Verwaltung der Staatsweingüter Steinberger Riesling Spätlese (Germany).  Wow was this good.  In fact it was my WOTN. In the glass the dark golden hue glistened while the bouquet heightened my anticipation that I was about to taste something very special.  The viscous palate had great balance, complexity and depth and it finished with great length.  It was a great accompaniment to the appetizers.

As I knew nothing about this producer, I asked my Vinous friend Marius, who lives in Germany, if he could help me out.  Marius is very knowledgeable about many wines, and German Rieslings are one of his fortes.   He commented of the producer, “it's the once famous Hessische Staatsweingüter in Eltville, a huge property blessed with tons of grand crus like Steinberger, Erbacher Marcobrunn, Rauenthaler Baiken and the likes . It belongs to the state "Hessen" (Wiesbaden is the capitol but Frankfurt is the most important town, so geographically we're talking about the Rheingau ).

By the time I started buying my own wine (beginning of the nineties) quality was already very poor and ever since they never managed to produce the premium quality they delivered in the past, so if you're able to find wines from the seventies or maybe even early eighties (1983 was a great year for Spätlese and higher) that have been properly stored, lucky you! Lucky we were with this bottle."

1996 Clos Erasmus Priorat (Spain).  A blend of Garnatxa (Grenache) and  Syrah, fermentation takes place in a combination of oak, concrete egg and clay amphorae.  The wine is then aged 20 months in 228L French oak barrels (2/3 new) and clay amphorae.  This was a big, modern styled wine, but not over the top as I thought before I took a sip.  It was beautifully balanced with the oak very well integrated and made for a very nice glass of wine.

2010 Domaine Alain Hudelot-Noëllat Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru (France).  Unfortunately this bottle was badly corked and undrinkable.

1995 Louis Jadot (Domaine Gagey) Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Estournelles Saint-Jacques (France).  Classical red Burgundy, ripe and nicely layered fruit on an earthy palate.  Elegant finish. Quite good.  Gevrey Chambertin is the northernmost of the great communes of the Côte de Nuits. There are 26 Premiers Crus and 8 Grands Crus. The Estournelles Saint Jacques vineyard is situated on that Southeast facing slope, at the beginning of the "Combe Lavaux", on top of "Lavaux St Jacques" and near "Clos St Jacques". There are similarities in the soil composition between the premiers crus and the grand crus. This wine is fermented in vats for 3-4 weeks and aged 15 months in oak barrels before bottling.

We completed the evening with a couple of fantastic Baroli from one of the all time great vintages from Piedmont, 1989.  Both wines lived up to the reputation of both the vintage and producer.

1989 Ceretto Bricco Rocche Barolo (Italy, Castiglione Falletto).  Typical of wines from this vineyard, the wine displayed vibrant red fruit, with soft, silky tannins and terrific balance and complexity along with a lengthy, elegant finish.  A wine with soul!

1989 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito (Italy, Serralunga).  This started out a bit tight, but after 20 minutes in the glass it began to soar with pure fruit on an earthy and elegant palate.  It displayed considerably more depth than the Ceretto.  A wine with soul...in spades!  It way my runner-up to WOTN.

Another terrific evening with a great group of guys.  Thanks for bringing such great wines Marc.