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.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My 72nd Birthday

Two weekends ago I celebrated my 72nd birthday with my family at our beach house in Lavallette, NJ. I am very fortunate to have my immediate family close by to celebrate with. Mother Nature provided great beach/pool weather to make it a truly special day.

We began with lunch from Midway Steak House in the center of the Seaside Heights Boardwalk.  For a good part of my 72 years I have been enjoying the incredible Italian Sausage and Pepper sandwiches from Midway.  Last year my sons-in-law had me try their cheese steak.  I was hooked after the first bite. This was as close to Pat’s Cheese Steaks in Philly as I have ever had.  I opted for the Cheese Steak this year (I'm saving the sausage and peppers for my next trip).  Like Pat’s, it is a thinly sliced fresh rib-eye steak (not the paper thin frozen kind), loaded with peppers & onions and smothered with melted cheese sauce.  An ice cold Becks Beer complemented the sandwich to perfection.

For my birthday dinner we went to Charlie’s of Bay Head, the latest addition to the dinning scene in the Point Pleasant to Seaside Heights corridor. I would categorize Charlie’s as a casual American Bistro with good food, courteous service and a better than average wine list.  Located on Twilight Lake, the space is large and handsome and a couple of earlier in the year visits did not disappoint. After perusing their wine list on line, I called the restaurant the day before and spoke to General Manager Mark Bernard regarding my selection.  I requested a couple of bottles of 2010 Roagna Paje Barbaresco to be opened and decanted 3 hours prior to our arrival.  Mark graciously complied.

The name Pajé is derived from the local dialect, which historically were used to name each parcel of land. Pajé is one of the historic vineyards of the village of Barbaresco and it located in the center of the area planted to vines.  It is particularly rich in calcareous marl soil with a high content of active limestone.  The vineyard covers a total of 1.83 Ha (4.52 Acres) with unique soil and microclimate.  Pajé is a small strip of land facing South West.

The vines for this wine are between 25 and 50 years of age and today the average ages of the vines is over forty years old. The roots are sourced by used the massage wood system by using only clippings that we have pruned from the Paje vineyard.

The harvest takes place in October by hand usually in the morning once the fruit has reached perfect ripeness. Before being made into wine we manually select each berry in order to have perfect fruit.

Fermentation takes place exclusively in large wood casks thanks to a pied de cuve created from indigenous yeasts. This lasts for ten days and then the ancient technique of maceration is used by splinting the submerged cap process which lasts for at least two months, (60 – 70 days). The wine is then aged in a neutral oak barrel for approximately 5 years.  The production of bottles is limited to less than ten thousand bottles per vintage and each bottle is numbered on the label.

While the 2010 vintage in Barbaresco does not reach the heights of 2010 in Barolo, this wine made by Luca Roagna was wonderful.  The 3 hour decant allowed the wine to open and it drank beautifully from the first sip. While still young, the wine was round and delicious, displaying a gorgeous earthy bouquet with a complex and velvety palate and a lengthy and elegant finish.  While the 2010 Barolos will require a lot of patience, this is ready now with a few hours of air time.  $90 Wine-Searcher.

For the white wine, I selected a couple of bottles of 2015 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Sec Les Argiles. Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, the initial sip was a bit acidic, but after 30 minutes in the glass, the pedigree of the wine emerged.  Nice balance and complexity with a clean crisp finish.  A couple of years of patience will be justly rewarded.  $30.  Wine-Searcher.  In my opinion, Francois Chidaine is one of the top producers of reasonably priced Chenin Blanc from Vouvray and Montlouis in the Loire region of France.

Given the size of the restaurant (250+), the food has yet to disappoint.  Today's selections were:

Fried Calamari with Lemon Garlic Aioli

Oysters on the half shell

Buffalo Wings

Vegetable Lasagna

Classic Burger

Pan Seared Halibut

Rib-Eye Steak

Steak Frittes

House Made Donuts

It was a great day, and to reiterate my earlier comment, I am grateful and blessed to have been able to celebrate it with my family.

A couple of good friends also stopped by during the week to wish me happy birthday.  Of course I popped a couple of bottles of wine to celebrate with.  

2003 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino.  Oh how I love this wine.  Made by Diego Molinari, a former Alitalia pilot, Antonio Galloni has commented on an average vintage that "Molinari  has once again crafted what may very well turn out to be the Brunello of the vintage."  I have had this wine on multiple occasions since 2011 and have enjoyed every sip.  The wine displays a fantastic translucent red hue, earthy bouquet and a palate marked by incredible depth, complexity and finesse and a long, elegant finish.  Molinari sold the estate in 2015 American Venture Capitalist Gary Rieschelin.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that the change of ownership will not affect the wines.  This vintage is no longer available in the market.

1999 Domain des Chezeaux Griotte-Chambertin.  From the excellent 1999 vintage, this was awesome and shows no signs of shutting down.  My first bottle in the past 4 years, this is a classic Red Burgundy with an enticing bouquet and a round and velvety palate with a lengthy and elegant finish.  The domaine was formed in 1982 from the holdings of the Mercier family who still run the company. The name Chézeaux refers to the original Mercier family home close to the Chateau of Gevrey within the walls of which are about half a hectare of vines – Clos de Chézeaux. The basis of the holdings date from 1928, but today there are no winemakers in the family, hence, their holdings are all ‘en metayage’ i.e. they are ‘farmed’ by others (Ponsot, Leclerc & Berthaut) who take two thirds of the crop as payment, the balance going to ‘des Chézeaux’. In the case of Chézeaux the ‘metayers’ also do the elevage and bottling.  This bottle was made by Ponsot.  If you are not familiar with Ponsot, his wines are highly sought after by collectors and command a high tariff.  These wines that he makes for des Chezeaux, are the exact same wines and about half the price.  Like the Cerbaiona, the vintage is no longer available in the general market.

Happy Birthday to me...one very lucky guy.