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, April 23, 2018

Polish Easter Dinner

Good health, family and friends are the stuff of a good life.  When you mix in good food and great wine, well you my friend are “living large”.  Carol, her brother and I were invited to our best friends’ Gene and Maureen’s house for dinner last Sunday.  Since they are of Polish descent, he decided to prepare a Polish Easter dinner.  Their son Gino, who is in the wine business, was there with his girlfriend Mary Jo who joined in the festivities.  As you can imagine there was plenty of great wine to be had.

Gene greeted us with an array of delicious Spanish and French cheeses along with the famous Spanish Ham, Patanegra (Black Hoof) Jamon from Joselito.  Aged a minimum 2-1/2 years this ham is only produced from 100% purebred Ibérico pigs that are fed a daily diet of acorns.  Gino, who visits Spain annually, always manages to find a way to sneak some out of the country as it is not available in the United States.

We enjoyed an excellent bottle of 2001 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo with the appetizers. This was a beautiful white wine that is drinking at its peak.  The wine begins with an enticing bouquet of fruit and flowers and exhibits a beautiful golden hue in the glass.  On the palate the fruit, acidity and minerality are in perfect harmony.  The finish is clean and lengthy.

Emidio Pepe is a great believer that Mother Nature is the best care-giver for the vines, thus the grapes are grown organically, hand-harvested, hand destemmed, naturally fermented and aged 18-24 months in glass-lined tanks. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, without added SO2, and aged in their cellar, in bottle (usually for about 10 years) for continued development. Before release, the wines are decanted by hand into new bottles, and then labeled. An extensive stock of older vintages is kept at the cellar.

Dinner began with homemade cabbage soup in which in which gnocchi like potato dumplings floated.  As a cabbage lover, this was fabulous and I readily devoured every delicious drop.

The soup was followed by family style servings of Pirogi, Kielbasa and Stuffed Cabbage.  The Pirogi, stuffed with potato and cheese, were purchased locally and served in a sauce of butter, onions and crumbled bacon.  Gene cooked them perfectly and the sauce was a beautiful complement to the delicious dumplings.  I don’t eat a lot of Pirogi, but I can easily say that these were the best I have ever eaten.

Gene purchases his Kielbasa from an authentic German butcher, Schwind’s, in Rockaway.  Since it is already smoked, he simply boiled it to bring it up to temperature before slicing and serving. Tender, perfectly spiced, it was simply delicious.

Maureen not only gets credit for the stuffed cabbage, but high acclaim as well.  Tender cabbage with a moist meat stuffing in a savory tomato sauce.  One word…outstanding!

I brought along a 1976 Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva, which we pared, with a 1988 Gaja Sperss Barolo from Gino’s cellar. I am not a fan of the more modern style of Gaja wines today, but his traditionally made wines of the past are superb, as was this. In 1988, Gaja acquired a vineyard in one of Serralunga’s best areas and named it “Sperss” –  Piedmontese for nostalgia. This was the first year he made Sperss and the wine contained no Barbera (today’s vintages do).  It was round and delicious with a silky, elegant palate and lengthy finish.

The LdH was incredible, and edged out the Gaja in my opinion.  The wine exhibited a gorgeous translucent red hue (no browning at all), enticing earthy bouquet with impeccable balance and a monster finish.  The wine evolved with each sip.  A wine with soul.

Next Gino opened a 2000 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste.  My last bottle of this amazing wine was 5+ years ago.  My notes then apply today. “Extraordinary bottle of wine than drank beautifully upon opening and as you might expect after 45 minutes in a decanter the wine soared from the glass.  Classic earthy bouquet of Piedmont.  The wine had great depth with multiple layers of complexity as it evolved with great length.  Round and delicious.  A wine with soul.”

We didn’t notice it until the bottle was opened, but it had been signed by Giuseppe Rinaldi at the lower left side of the front label.  While that didn’t change the wine, it most likely would have added to its value.

Since we ran out of wine, Gino went to the cellar and brought out a bottle of 2001 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne.  Sandrone’s largest production Barolo, made from a blend of fruit from four vineyards, Vignane (Barolo), Merli (Novello), Conterni & Ceretta  (Monforte d’Alba).  This started off great, with vibrant fruit and terrific depth and that signature Sandrone elegance.  After being open thirty minutes however, the wine went completely flat and never seemed to recover.

With coffee and desert, Gino opened a half bottle of 2001 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes.  This was an exceptional vintage for d’Yquem and this wine is aging beautifully. Apricots, peaches and vanilla on the nose with a lovely tropical fruit palate. 

We capped the evening with a snifter of Carlos 1 Spanish brandy.  A perfect ending to a perfect meal.  

Thanks Gene and Maureen for a great meal and Gino for some amazing wines.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

1998 Barolo & Barbaresco Retrospective

Our NY Vinous Nebbiolo group met a couple of weeks ago at Ai Fiori Ristorante in Manhattan to do a 20-year retrospective of Barolo and Barbaresco from the 1998 vintage.  For this dinner we invited Vinous wine writer Ian D’Agata to join us.  Ian is a respected wine writer and his book “Native Wine Grapes of Italy” was named 2015 Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year.  All welcomed his presence and comments.

This was my first visit to Ai Fiori, but not my first experience with restaurants owned by noted chef Michael White.  The food, like my experiences at Marea, Osteria Morini and Ristorante Morini was terrific.  We were given a private room and given two choices for each course.  I selected:

Polipo - octpus allapiastra, sepia, tomato ragu toasted bread, basil.  Fork tender Octopus in a harmonious sauce of tomato and sepia.

Tortelli – ricotta & mascarpone ravioli, sottocenere cheese, red wine glaze.  These handmade and perfectly cooked pasta pillows threw a party in my mouth.  Another dish in perfect balance.

Vitello – amish vial chop “au four”, root vegetable, blanquette.  Simply magnificent.  These dishes complemented the wine beautifully, making this one hell of a dinner.

Before getting to the Barolo & Barbaresco, we started the evening with a bottle of 2010 Larmandier-Bernier Champagne Grand Cru Les Chemins d’Avize. Chemins d'Avize is a blend of fruit from the Chemin de Plivot and Chemin de Flavigny lieux-dits. Disgorged in June 2016. The wine was vinified and aged in oak barrels of various sizes and bottled with 2 grams of dosage (some form of sweetness (sugar, or wine and sugar) added to a Champagne to balance it out). Winemaker Pierre Larmandier uses only indigenous yeasts for alcoholic fermentations, producing the most natural and terroir-specific wine possible. Each cru is vinified separately. This was terrific beginning to the evening.  I loved the yeasty bouquet and full, round and yeasty palate.

Flight 1
Barbaresco & Nieve.  The 4 wines that made up this flight were simply awesome.  It was without question the best flight of wines I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili.  Gorgeous Piedmont bouquet filled my nose in anticipation of what I was about to taste.  I was not let down.  This is classic Giacosa.  Round and delicious with an elegant and lengthy finish.

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà.  A bit bigger and earthier than the Asili, but round and delicious as well.  Like the Asili it kept evolving in the glass and had finished with great length.

Ken, who knows more about Giacosa and Nebbiolo than anyone I know, provided some interesting information on these two wines.  He explained that while Giacosa labeled one Asili and the other Rabaja, when the vineyard boundaries were made official, both parcels were classified as Asili. Thus we tasted two wines from different plots in the same vineyard, made by the same great winemaker, in the same way.  Check out Ken’s blog The Fine Wine Geek for an in depth look at Giacosa and his wines.

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva and 1998 Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Paje were my wines of the night.  They were simply magnificent.  Impeccable balance, complexity and depth with an soft, elegant palate and finished with the same elegance.

Flight 2
Barolo & La Morra.  This was an interesting flight of 3 wines with varying degrees of modern wine making.

1998 Vietti Barolo Brunate.  This drank beautifully.  The wine had a soft, elegant palate with a lengthy finish.  I was surprised to learn (from Eric’s notes) that wine maker Luca Curado did a bit of experimentation with the vintage and that the wine is considered to be modern-styled.  You could have fooled me.

1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis. Sandrone is considered a more modern styled wine maker, but it would be unfair to characterize him as a modernist.  His wines are always gorgeous, exhibiting depth, balance, complexity and finesse.  Unfortunately these characteristics fell short in tonight's wine.  It drank ok, but was outdistanced by the Vietti.  

1998 Paolo Scavino Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva. My least favorite in this flight.  Oak was well integrated, but present.  His wines are just too modern for me.

Flight 3
Monforte.  I did not like this flight at all.

1998 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia.  While I have enjoyed this wine on many occasions, tonight was not one of them.  The bottle was off.  I was particularly disappointed in that I sold the bottle from my cellar to Michael Z and it was pretty much a disaster.

1998 Domenico Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra.  Much too modern for me.  Oak was dominant.

Flight 4
Serralunga.  Another good flight, with the Falletto starring.

1998 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia.  Terrific bottle of wine.  Silky palate and elegant finish.

1998 Vieti Barolo Lazzarito.  Like the Granbussia, this was an off bottle.

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto.  Classic Giacosa.  Simply gorgeous, and one of the top wines of the evening.  Great mouth feel and lengthy and elegant finish.

1998 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva.  Fantastic potential here.  It drank very well, but is still very much a baby and needs more cellar time, in my opinion.

The bottom line is that 1998 is an excellent vintage and will drink well for quite some time.  The only downside is that the price of these wines has escalated in the past decade, so finding them at a reasonable price will be a challenge.  I only wish I had bought more of them years back.

We finished the evening with a cheese course of Caprotto  - Chiriboga Blue – housemade crackers, quince paste.  I brought along a bottle of 1998 Quintarelli Amarone to drink pair with the cheese.  Unfortunately the magic of Quintarelli was not to be found in this bottle. The palate was dull and the finish nonexistent.

Please check out Eric Guido's blog on the evening at The Cellar Table.  

All in all it was a magical evening.

Photo courtesy of Eric Guido


Sunday, March 25, 2018

1996 Louis Jadot Red Burgundy

A Toute Heure was the venue for our local wine group’s most recent dinner.  Located in Cranford, NJ this farm to table restaurant recently changed ownership.  Thankfully the food is still very skillfully prepared.  Some of the dishes we enjoyed included:

A salad of roasted baby candy cane beets, goat cheese, candied pecans, baby greens, balsamic drizzle 

Tuna Tartare, honey soy drizzle, candy cane beets, black radish, spiced panko crumbs

Txistorra: sautéed chorizo & shrimp, fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, jalapeno garlic-herb pan jus

Charred Iberian octopus, garlic oil, broccoli rabe, beet chips, toasted pumpkin seeds, smoked paprika

Adobo marinated half amish chicken, baby beets, beet tops, turnips, red bliss potato, parsnip jus

Five hour braised (Nieman ranch) short rib, roasted seasonal vegetable potato gratin, braising liquid

The Florio Mussel Pot - crushed tomato, torn basil, garlic confit, white wine

The ATH Mussel Pot- spicy chorizo sausage, saffron cream sauce

Copious amounts of house made French Fries

Howard was in the wine queue and he selected 1996 red burgundies (Cote de Nuits) from Louis Jadot.  Says wine critic Antonio Galloni of the vintage, “This vintage featured a rare combination of healthy grape sugars, high acidity and sound, ripe skins, thanks in large part to a very even flowering, well-timed late August rain and a very dry and sunny but cool September. While '96s made from copious yields can be lean and unsatisfying, even tart, the best examples are evolving at a snail's pace and benefit from decanting.”  With the exception of one corked bottle, the wines we drank tonight showed well.

Louis Jadot is one of Burgundy's most important négociants, both qualitatively and quantitatively, with a portfolio that covers everything from inexpensive Bourgogne and Beaujolais wines to several grand cru wines, from the Côte de Beaune to Chablis. Unsurprisingly, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay feature heavily in the portfolio.

The estate was founded in Beaune in 1859 by Louis Jadot.  The headquarters remains in Beaune, although vineyard holdings have increased exponentially. Louis Jadot owns land in some of Burgundy's most famous vineyards, including Le Musigny, Échezeaux, Chapelle-Chambertin and in the famously fragmented Clos de Vougeot vineyard. Louis Jadot wines are also made in Chambertin, Montrachet, Corton and Romanée-Saint-Vivant.

As well as the sizeable portfolio of wines made under the Louis Jadot label itself, the house also makes wines for Domaine du Duc de Magenta, and for Domaine Gagey. Andre Gagey took over as general manager for Louis Jadot in 1968 and, along with winemaker Jacques Lardiere, is often held responsible for Louis Jadot's high reputation.

Maison Louis Jadot created its own cooperage, Cadus, in 1995.  Cadus aims to work only with oak from the very best forests in France, and the wood is seasoned outside for 30 months before it is used to create Burgundian Barrels (which each contain 228 litres of wine).  The amount of time the wine spends in barrel depends on a number of variables, there is no recipe: it may be a year, fifteen months or even eighteen. They don't like to rush things.

All harvesting is done by hand to ensure that only the best grapes are used in the wines. By and large, complete destemming is practiced. They favor long macerations in oak or stainless steel, and the use of wild yeasts for alcoholic fermentation. Malo-lactic fermentation takes place slowly, towards the end of winter, in oak barrels.

In order to achieve the best possible quality for the past 20 years Jadot has banished all use of synthetic products (fertilizers, herbicides, etc.) in their vineyards have taken up traditional practices instead. All work is done either by tractor or, for the most inaccessible vineyards, by horse.
All the wines made under the Maison Louis Jadot label are Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée wines from across the region. Maison Louis Jadot controls today 210 hectares scattered across Burgundy, from the Côte d'Or to the Mâconnais and down into Beaujolais.

1996 Louis Jadot Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 1er Cru.  Translucent red hue with a bit of bricking at the edges.  Lovely bouquet of cherries.  Medium bodied palate and short finish.

1996 Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin Clos Saint-Jaques 1er Cru. Corked

1995 Louis Jadot Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Boucherottes Domaine des Héritiers 1er Cru. Since the previous wine was corked, Jeff grabbed this bottle from his car to replace it.  Earthy bouquet and soft palate but not a very exciting wine.

1996 Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru. This was very good and drank very nicely.  Soft and round palate with a lengthy finish.

1996 Louis Jadot Echezeaux Grand Cru. This was also very good.  Most structured wine of the evening with good acidity and a long and pleasant finish.

1996 Louis Jadot Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru. Consensus wine of the evening.  The wine was full-bodied with terrific structure, balance, complexity and a lasting finish.  What is interesting is that according to wine critic John Gilman it was not made by the domaine, but was mad with purchased wine.

Thanks Howard for an excellent selection of wines and food.  Very happy to be part of this wonderful group.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

2008 Barolo Dinner

On the last Tuesday evening of February our NY Vinous Nebbiolo lovers group met to do a 10-year retrospective of 2008 Baolo.  Like all tastings with this group it was a spectacular night with some really good wines, and a couple that were less so.  Danny Meyer’s North End Grill provided us with a private room for the evening.  The food was excellent and the service was top notch. Crispy Pork Belly, Wood Grilled Duck Breast and Steak Frittes were the popular choices for most of the group.  The Pork Belly & Duck were lauded, the Steak Frittes was not.  I went a different route and was very happy with my selections.

Steamed Mussels
Spinach Ravioli, Parmesan Broth & Hedgehog Mushrooms

2008 was an exceptional vintage in Barolo.  Antonio Galloni of Vinous stated “…The late harvest yielded a set of beautifully perfumed, sensual wines that are all about finesse.”  For more detailed information about the vintage check out Eric Guido’s blog The Cellar Table.

All wines were double decanted in the morning and left to slow-o throughout the day before being transported to the restaurant.  Wines were served blind, with the exception of the second flight.  I am not a proponent of blind tasting.  I fail to see its value.  Some claim that blind tasting removes the prejudice one may have about the wine if they know what it is.  I don’t buy that at all.  If I know the wine and the producer, then I have a reference point and an expectation level about the wine. I can evaluate where the vintage is relative to other vintages of the wine.  For me wine is about enjoying what you are drinking not guessing what the wine is, who made it or the year.  Just my opinion.

My top three were Bartolo Mascarello, Sandrone and Cascina Francia.  I must admit, I was also smitten by the Gaja.

Flight 1 (La Morra)

2008 Angelo Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Conteisa.  Contesia is 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.  Since Gaja adds Barbera (approximately 5 to 8%), Italian Barolo and Barbaresco laws do not allow him to call it Barolo (or Barbaresco) since it is not 100% Nebbiolo. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised when this wine was revealed, as Gaja’s more modern style is usually not to my liking.  This drank very well however.  The palate was soft and balanced and finished nicely.  Because of the Gaja name the wine commands a high price (not worth it in my opinion).  $215

2008 G.D. Vajra Bricco delle Viole Barolo. One of the top wines of the evening.  This was firing on all cylinders, round and delicious palate, elegant finish and has the stuff to age for a few decades.  In my opinion it is clearly one of the wines of the vintage. At $90 it is one of the most reasonably priced wines around.

2008 Accomasso Rochette Barolo. This bottle was flawed.

Flight 2 (Barolo).

Most, if not all of us, thought this was the flight of the evening.  It was also the only flight that was not served blind.

2008 Giuseppe Rinaldi Cannubi San Lorenzo Ravera Barolo. What a beautiful wine that is entering its drinking window with silk and elegance.  Terrific texture, balance and complexity with a lasting finish.  This will drink well for a couple of decades at least.  $175.

2008 Sandrone Cannubi Boschis Barolo. Although Sandrone makes his wines in a more modern style, the result is always fabulous as this bottle was tonight.  The wine began with an intoxicating earthy bouquet and coated the palate in beautiful fresh fruit and finished with length and elegance.  I am sorry that I have none my cellar, something I hope to rectify soon.  $150.

2008 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. The wine of the night, in my opinion, in fact it may well be the wine of the vintage.  Round, delicious, elegant, balanced, etc, etc, etc.  Built to last for decades, but who can wait.  This wine was $100 upon release and has soared to $320 a bottle currently.

2008 Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate Le Coste Barolo. The tightest wine in the flight but the underlying pedigree is apparent.  I would hold this for a couple more years before drinking.  Also another example of the soaring prices of great Barolo.  I paid $107/btl upon release.  Today it will set you back $500/btl.

Flight 3 (Castiglione Falletto)

2008 Cavallotto Riserva Vignolo Barolo. Cavallotto is a rock-solid producer of traditionally made Barolo.  Tonight’s wine drank very well, but was not as awake as the top wines.  Cellar time will be kind to the wine.  $120.

2008 Brovia Rocche Barolo.  Unfortunately this was a flawed bottle.  $95.

2008 Vietti Rocche Barolo.  There seemed to be not a lot going on here.  I expected more depth and balance, but the wine just seemed to be happy sitting in the glass.  $190.

Flight 4 

We had two bottles of the Cascina Francia, as I mistakenly pulled one from my cellar by mistake. It turned out to be a bit of a blessing as the other bottle turned out to be flawed.

2008 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia Barolo. Cascina Francia has always been one of my favorite Barolo’s and tonight’s wine was singing. It started with an enticing earthy bouquet on the nose, with a beautifully structured palate marked by soft tannins.  It got better with each sip and finished with length and elegance.   One of my wines of the night.  $180

2008 Giacomo Conterno Cascina Francia Barolo.  Flawed bottle.

2008 Elio Grasso Casa Matè Barolo. Classic old world Barolo.  Earthy bouquet, medium bodied with a soft elegant finish.  This is aging nice nicely.  A lot more depth than the bottle I had 3 years ago.  $85.

Photo Courtesy of Eric Guido

Additional notes on the tasting can be found by following the link to Eric Guido’s blog The Cellar Table mentioned in the second paragraph above.

Bottom line, I am lucky to be a member of this illustrious Barolo group.  Another great night.

Michael, Jonathan, Anthony, Marc, Iggy, Mark, Ken, Michael, Ben, Jamie
Photo Courtesy of Eric Guido


Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Glories of White Burgundy

Our local wine group met recently at Wabi Sabi in Bloomfield, NJ.  I have praised the Japanese food and Sushi prepared by chef/owner Nelson Yip on previous occasions and for good reason…he never disappoints.  Emil, who’s turn it was to bring the wine and choose the venue decided he wanted to do an evening of white Burgundy and thought that Nelson’s food would be a perfect complement…and it was.  Emil did a masterful job with his selections, and we were most fortunate that there was not a hint of premature oxidation in any of the wines we drank.


While the other group members had not been to Wabi Sabi before, they applauded each and every dish.  Marc, a frequenter of NYC restaurants commented to the effect “I’m getting flavors very reminiscent of Nobu”.

Nelson Yip is the finest Asian/French fusion chef I have ever encountered.  The secrets to his success are quite simple; great mentors in both French and Asian cuisine, a fanaticism for fresh ingredients and an unbridled passion for transforming ingredients into simple and at the same time spectacular dishes. He is so fanatical about the quality of his sushi, that he receives 3 shipments of fresh fish from Japan weekly.  There simply is no comparison to the quality and freshness of his sushi and sashimi to most other Japanese restaurants in the area...at least in my opinion.  I would be remiss if I did not mention that the service here is equal to the food.  Some of the dishes we enjoyed were:

Seared Salmon w/ Yuzu Soya.  This is as addictive a dish as any I have ever encountered. Pristinely fresh salmon is pan seared for a few seconds and then lightly dressed with a high quality light soy sauce to which Yuzu (yellowish citrus fruit with fragrant, acidic juice) has been added.

Hamachi Yuzu with Summer Truffle.  Yuzu makes another appearance as it delicately coats mouth-watering fresh Yellowtail.  Watercress and summer truffles complete the dish.  The freshness of the fish and subtlety of the flavors make this as addictive as the Seared Salmon.

"Lollypop" Shrimp.  Here Nelson fashions a large wild shrimp into a circle, adds a bit of crab meat to the center and then encrusts it with Panko bread crumbs, skewers each one with a stick and then fries them.  The resulting "lollypop" is crunchy and greaseless and served with a lightly spiced dipping sauce made from chilis, tomatoes, onions and parsley.  In combination, the sauce and shrimp throw a party in your mouth.

Berkshire Pork Goyoza.  Nelson takes the pan-fried dumplings to new heights in this preparation. The incredibly light dumpling wrappers are made in house and stuffed with a minced pork stuffing made from wild boar. Lightly pan-fried, they are delicious and a far cry from the thick and doughy versions found at most other spots.  I never asked what he makes the dipping sauce with, but it is the perfect foil for these heavenly pillows of pleasure.

Fluke Sashimi.  This is without question my all time favorite when it comes to raw fish. Unfortunately it is a too infrequent special at Wabi Sabi.  It is one of the fishes he gets directly from Japan.  Preparation is the essence of simplicity.  The Fluke is sliced transparently thin and served with a bit of equally thinly sliced Daikon radish.  A bit of soy with a hint of wasabi added will bring tears of joy to your eyes with each piece you eat.

Wabi Sabi Chicken.  Nelson’s version of General Tso Chicken will open your eyes as to how good this dish can be.  He only uses white meat which he soaks in ice water overnight before doing his magic in the Wok.  The chicken is cooked to a moist and greaseless perfection that will have you applauding the dish with your chopsticks.

Hot Stone Angus Steak.  Premium Aged Angus beef is slightly seared in the kitchen and served tableside with a hot lava stone that allows you to cook the beef to your perfection.  It is served with another of his incredible dipping sauces.

Duck Confit with Mushroom Risotto.  I am not a fan of duck, so I have not tried this French classic.  Everyone who has ever ordered it ususally reorders it on subsequent visits.  I can however attest to the creamy and al dente risotto that accompanies the duck.

And of course there is a wide selection of  the freshest Sushi and Sashimi one can find this side of Japan or New York City.

Not pictured (they were devoured as soon as they made an appearance) is the Fried Spicy Rock Shrimp appetizer.  Nelson actually doesn’t use Rock Shrimp, but medium sized shrimp that he appears to flash fry and then coat with a spicy mayonnaise based sauce.  It is one of the best shrimp dishes I have ever had, and I have had it as a main course on occasion.


I mentioned earlier that Emil did a masterful job with his selections and that was probably and understatement as the wines were simply glorious.  When white Burgundy is on, it is very hard to beat, especially from winemakers like Emil chose.

2012 Domaine Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre Villages.  A legendary estate that produces legendary wines that are not easy to come by and expensive when you can find them. Dominique Lafon took over from his father in 1984. The domaine earned organic certification in 1995 and biodynamic certification in 1998. The team at Domaine des Comtes Lafon limits yields by de-budding vines in the spring. The harvest is all done by hand, and the grapes are sorted twice—once in the vineyards and again at the winery. Their vines average 32 years of age.

Traditional, natural fermentations are the hallmark of the domaine. Native yeasts, slow fermentations and long élévages allow the wines to express the complexity and nuance of each terroir. The Chardonnays are pressed gently and undergo a cool settling of the must for 24 hours before the juice is racked into both new and lightly-used oak barrels. Alcoholic fermentations last for three months, kept at a cool 22 to 24°C in their underground cellars. The whites are generally stirred on their lees, depending on the cuvee, and then undergo malolactic fermentation, which ends in May following the harvest. The whites are bottled unfiltered 18 to 22 months after the harvest.  Sublimely silky and complex, the wines of Domaine des Comtes Lafon are a marvelous glimpse into the diversity of Burgundy’s terroirs.

2012 was an exceptional Vintage for white Burgunday.  It is also the very first vintage that the Clos de la Baronne has been bottled as a single parcel.  This debut bottling is sourced from the 2.7ha Clos de la Baronne, a monopole that includes 40-year-old vines.  Oh what a wine, especially when one realizes this is a Villages level wine and not a premier cru or grand cru.  It is simply stunning, displaying exceptional balance, finesse, complexity and a lengthy and magnificent finish.  I sipped it slowly throughout the dinner an each sip seemed to add depth and elegance to the wine.  It is a wine that will last for decades to come.

2012 Dauvissat Chablis Vaillons 1er Cru.   Dauvissat is one of Chablis' great traditionalists, making Chablis reminiscent of Raveneau. Owner/winemaker Vincent Dauvissat prefers natural farming, using vine treatments sparingly, if at all. The fruit is harvested by hand and not destemmed; fermentation is part in enameled steel vats and part in wood, and all aging is in 6-to-8-year-old barrels.  Vincent says, "Oak is very important to Chablis. The synergy of air and wood adds character and also helps soften the wine. Without oak, Chablis is too hard, too austere."

Tonight’s wine was classy, but definitely at the beginning of its drinking window.  Give the oak a couple of years to become better integrated and this promises to be awesome wine.

2008 Raveneau Chablis Montée de Tonnerre Premier Cru. Domaine Raveneau, along with Domaine Dauvissat, is one of the two leading stars in Chablis.  They continue to craft beautiful, and highly sought after wines seemingly almost every vintage.  They are hard to come by and prices have soared in recent years. Brothers Bernard and Jean-Marie Raveneau are now in charge of 7.5 ha, where the philosophy in the vineyards is one of lutte raisonné (the practice of reactive, rather than proactive vine treatments, and largely natural farming). The harvest is 100% manual, after which the fruit is immediately pressed and given a 12 hour débourbage (settling) and the fermentation is initiated in large fermenters with or without selected yeasts, depending on the vintage. The malos are allowed to occur naturally and the élevage occurs in older casks (mostly small feuillettes or half barrels, which in Chablis equals 132 liters) and lasts for 12 months. There is no deliberate cold stabilization as the winter cold is all that is used. After approximately 18 months, the wines are usually fined, filtered and bottled.

François Raveneau established the domaine in 1948 by combining vineyards that he had purchased with vineyards owned by the family of his wife, who was part of the Dauvissat wine family.  François was the first member of his family to bottle his own wine; previously the grapes had been sold to other estates to use.   No new oak barrels are used to make the wines. The wines are fermented in stainless steel and then aged in barrels with an average age of seven to eight years, for twelve to eighteen months.

Raveneau owns sections of three Chablis Grand cru vineyards. These holdings are 0.54 hectares in Les Clos, 0.60 hectares in Blanchots and 0.75 hectares in Valmur.  They also own land within six Chablis Premier cru vineyards. The largest holding is Montée de Tonnerre, with 3.20 hectares, followed by Butteaux with 1.50 hectares. The other four are Foret with 0.60 hectares, Vaillons with 0.50 hectares, Montsmains with 0.35 hectares and Chapelot with 0.30 hectares.  There is also a newly acquired 0.95 hectare parcel of village classified Chablis, on the opposite side of the Vaillons slope. The first vintage from this plot was harvested in 2007.

2008 was another outstanding vintage. Tonight’s wine was elegance and finesse in a glass. It was beautifully balanced on the palate with a lengthy and soft finish.  Like the wines of Dauvissat, they will age gracefully.

2007 Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru.  From a very good vintage, this is a superb Chablis.  Each sip displayed beautiful acidity on a stoney palate with lots of depth and a lengthy finish. Allen Meadows of Burghound calls it “One of the wines of the vintage.” 

2002 Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot. One of the greatest white wines I have ever had. This was the first Raveneau I ever tasted (Sept. 2009).  It mesmerized me then and it did so again tonight. 2002 was an outstanding vintage, and this surely is one of the wines of the vintage.  I will reiterate my notes of 9 years ago when I tasted the wine. The wine displays an amazing purity.  It sparkles like a fine gem in the glass.  Incredible balance of minerality and acidity.  Silky on the palate with a lengthy and pure finish.  The wine has the stuff to last for quite some time.  Along with the Lafon, this was my wine of the night.

2013 Château de Puligny-Montrachet Meursault 1er Cru Les Porusots.  This was Emil’s back-up wine in the event of a flawed bottle.  Fortunately none were flawed.  Since we finished all the wines, Emil popped it so that we could have a glass with Nelson, who like the rest of us is a lover of fine wine.  The wine is owned by the de Montille family.  The wine is quite young, but showed great potential given a few years of cellar time.

As you can imagine it was an “over the top” evening of great wine and great food.  It will be a hard tasting to top.  Thanks Emil for your generosity and great selections.  And thank you Nelson for the incredible food.  Until next time.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

La Festa Del Barolo 2018

Earlier this month a joined a few Vinous members at the La Festa del Barolo dinner held in NYC. For the second straight year it was held at Del Posto Ristorante. This annual event, orchestrated by Vinous founder Antonio Galloni and his Vinous team, is without question the highlight wine event of the year and it is done with remarkable class.  53 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.  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 2013 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.; Eric G. and myself.  We were delighted to have Franco Massolino, from the Massolino winery in Serralunga d’Alba at our table.  Many other Vinous members stopped by to share wine with us.

Del Posto is the flagship restaurant of the Batali/Bastianch empire.  It is a spacious and upscale restaurant serving excellent 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.  Each Champagne was very good, but for me the Cedric Bouchard was head and shoulders above the rest.

2010 Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Cote de Bechalin Champagne. Disgorged (the disgorging or removal of sediment from bottles that results from secondary fermentation in the production of sparkling wines and Champagne) in April of 2017.  This is a Spectacular Champagne.  Creamy and rich with lush fruit.  It continues to evolve in the glass. Absolutely gorgeous finish.

NV Agrapart & Fils Brut Les 7 Crus Champagne. A nice champagne, but lacks the depth of the Bouchard.  Disgorged June 2017

NV Jacquesson Cuvée No. 740 Champagne. Disgorged July 2016.  Based on the 2012 vintage this was my runner up to the Bouchard.  Delicious creamy texture and a lasting finish.

2013 Savart Le Mont des Chrétiens Champagne (Magnum). 95% Pinot Noir and 5% Chasrdonnay.  Disgorged February 2017. Did not taste.


Panzanella Invernale, Roasted Squash & Puntarelle

Swiss Chard Agnolotti with Black Truffle Butter

Fennel Pork Sausage & Groccoli Rabe

Braised Beef Short Rib, Anson Mills Polenta & Root Vegetables

Fontina, La Tur, Parmigiano; Drizzled Honey & Grilled Bread



1998 Luciano Sandrone Cannubi Boschis (magnum).  1998 is an often overlooked vintage. I, however, find the wines to be drinking beautifully now, and have found them to be very consistent across the board.  They have fared much better than the heralded 1997 vintage.

Located in Barolo, Luciano Sandrone is one of Barolo’s leading producers. Although he makes wines in a more modern style than the traditionalists, he makes fantastic wines.  I have enjoyed them for years.  Sandrone respects tradition and only incorporates aspects of modern technology and technique to showcase the utmost potential of his estate's grapes. His wines see nearly 10 percent new oak during vinification, and he opts for shorter macerations and aging periods. Rather than rely on the smaller, 250-liter barrique for style, he prefers larger, 500-liter French oak barrels instead. All these steps make Sandrone's wines distinctive.  Sandrone began in 1978 and now has a production level that runs to some 8000 cases annually from his 22 hectares of vineyards.  I had the pleasure to visit the estate in 2008 and it remains one of my fondest memories today.

Tonight’s wine was beautiful.  The fruit was fresh and vibrant and danced on the tongue with impeccable balance and finesse.  One of the wines of the night, in my opinion.

1964 Borgogno Barolo Riserva (original release). I have not had a Borgogno Barolo in quite some time.  This was in very good shape and drank well.  A bit of bricking at the edges, but overall a very nice bottle of wine.

1990 Massolino Vigna Rionda Riserva "Speziale.”  This was a very special bottle of wine and brought a huge smile to the face of Franco Massolino.  He commented that it was a special bottling that was only made for a good customer of the winery.  The wine was shipped to the customer without a label, which the customer created for the bottle.  It was the first time Franco tasted the wine, and he was delighted at how well it drank. 1990 was an exceptional vintage marked by vibrant fruit, elegance, complexity, balance and a long elegant finish.  Tonight’s bottle, while it took a while to open, was a perfect example of the vintage and drank beautifully.

1971 Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco. 1971 Produttori Del Barbaresco Barbaresco. This cooperative was founded in 1958 by the priest of the village of Barbaresco, who recognized that the only way small properties could survive was by joining their efforts together.  Thus he gathered together nineteen small growers and founded the Produttori del Barbaresco. From its humble beginnings making the first three vintages in the church basement, Produttori del Barbaresco has grown to a 56 member co-operative with 250 acres of Nebbiolo vineyards in the Barbaresco appellation and an annual production of over 500,000 bottles. Its vineyards amount to almost 1/6 of the vineyards of the area. Each member is in full control of their land, growing Nebbiolo grapes with the skill and dedication they have honed over generations.  In a good vintage they are divided among Barbaresco (40%), single vineyard Barbarescos (40%) and Nebbiolo Langhe (20%).

Playing a key role in elevating the quality level of Barbaresco over the years, Produttori del Barbaresco produces a simpler Nebbiolo Langhe, a Barbaresco blend and nine single vineyard wines produced in premier vineyards: Asili, Rabajà, Pora, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajè, Montefico, Muncagota and Rio Sordo.

The wines represent the best value for Italian Nebbiolo in all of Italy.  The wine is then barrel aged for one to two years and rests in bottles for six months before release.  This is the non-riserva bottling and it is glorious. The wine showed a beautiful translucent red hue with vibrant fruit and an elegant and balanced palate that was echoed in the finish.  A wine with soul!

1996 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano.  From a classic vintage, this was sublime. A classic Barolo that is still a very young wine it is oh so round and delicious on the palate. A bouquet of dark berries fills the nose in anticipation of the first sip which does not let you down. Many years ahead for this Giacosa classic.  One of my WOTN.

1971 Francesco Rinaldi Barolo.  1971 was one of the truly legendary vintages for Barolo. Heavy rain in the spring and early summer resulted in a poor flowering and lowered yields dramatically. Once the sun arrived it never let up and the small crop ripened quickly.   The wine possessed a brickish red hue but very vibrant fruit.  With its elegant finish, it shows no signs of shutting down.

2006 Giuseppe Mascarello Monprivato (Magnum).  My wine, so I opened it at 1 pm and let it slow-0 for 4 hours. At bit tight at first, but with some time in the glass the pedigree began to shine through.

1971 Gaja Barbaresco (3.78 Liter).  While I am not a fan of the Gaja wines made today, those made by his father in the 70’s and 80’s are very special.  This bottle was firing on all cylinders.  Great balance, complexity and a monster finish.

2004 Massolino Parafada and 2004 Massolino Vigna Rionda were both brought from the Massolino cellar by Franco.  Both wines were superb, with the Parafada displaying a softer palate and less depth than the Vigna Rhonda, perhaps due to the fact that the Parafada was made partly in French Oak.  While the Parafada is drinking beautifully at the moment, the Vigna Rionda, the estates’s top wine is just beginning to approach its drinking window.

1978 Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala.  From the Cicala vineyard in Bussia (Monforte d’Alba).  Harvest is by hand.  This drank surprisingly well for its age.

2000 Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva.  One of the wines of the night brought to our table by Vinous member Manuel Buergi.  A wow wine.  Perhaps my wine of the night.  Simply round and delicious.

It was a great evening as usual, however, I could not get up early the next morning to attend the 2013 tasting.  Probably better off that I missed it.

Michael Z; Mark S; Emil S; Franco Massolino, Iggy M; Marc D; Manuel B.
For notes on the 2013 Barolo tasting held the next day please follow the the links to Ken Vastola's blog, The Fine Wine Geek and Eric Guido's Morrell Wine Bar Blog.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wines of Rayas

Our local wine group met last Wednesday at Turtle + The Wolf restaurant in Montclair. Chef/owner Lauren Hirschberg learned his craft at Craft in Manhattan working under Tom Colicchio.  He learned it so well that he became culinary director for all the Colicchio restaurants before heading out on his own.  The BYOB restaurant serves locally sourced seasonal foods that are expertly prepared

Steak tartare, black garlic aioli, crispy potato, egg yolk, crostini
Burrata + spaghetti squash crepe, baby kale, marinated apples, cured egg yolk, saba
Roasted Cauliflower
Short Ribs of Beef
Ricotta raviolo + smoked pork ragout, egg yolk, pickled onion, gremolata, parmigiano-reggiano
Potato gnocchi "caccio e pepe", parmigiano-reggiano, butter, black pepper
Pan seared Bronzino fall vegetables, sunflower romesco + aged balsamic vinegar
Duck pot pie, braised leg, foie gras, duck heart gravy, bacon, root vegetables
Not pictured Chicken liver mousse, rhubarb puree, pickled red onion, mustard seeds, toasted brioche

The wines, brought and selected by Jim, were from the three Chateau Rayas properties; Chateau des Tours, Chateau De Fonsalette and Chateau Rayas.  These estates are all located in the Southern Rhone Region of France.  The estates today are in the very capable hands of Emmanuel Reynaud, who took over Chateau Rayas and Chateau De Fonsalette when his uncle Jacques Reynaud died suddenly in 1997.  At the time Emmanuel was making wines at his father’s Chateau des Tours.  Jacques Reynard is often referred to as the godfather of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  In my opinion Rayas and Henri Bonneu are the standards when it comes to traditionally made Chateauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhone.

Emmanuel is somewhat reclusive, and can be found working his vineyards at most any time of day, every day. Emmanuel does not revel in the fame and notoriety that come with making such sought-after and acclaimed wines, but he continues to carry the mantle of his famous forebears, producing hauntingly aromatic wines at all three estates. He is, at heart, a farmer, and here he grows food for his family, in addition to grapes. Like all Reynaud vineyards, these are tended with the same organic methods, manually plowed, harvested much later than other producers and centered around a reverence for old-vine Grenache.

Chateau des Tours

Situated in an old house flanked on both sides by tall towers (hence “des Tours”), Château des Tours is Emmanuel’s own family estate, which he took over from his father, Bernard, in 1989.  The estate is located in Sarrians, Côtes-du-Rhône, just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  A 40-hectare property of vines which grows Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Merlot and Counoise for red wine; Grenache and Clairette for white wine. Weighty, complex and savory, the wines produced here are among the most well regarded, sought-after bottles of the appellation

Château de Fonsalette

Just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, near the village of Lagarde-Paréol in the Côtes-du-Rhône appellation, Château de Fonsalette was purchased by Emmanuel’s grandfather, Louis Reynaud, in 1945. It holds 300 acres, 30 of which are planted with Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah for reds, and Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Marsanne for whites. The estate also produces wonderful olive oil. Quite simply, the three wines of Fonsalette — a blanc, made from Grenache, Clairette and Marsanne;  a rouge made from Grenache (50%), Cinsault (35%) & Syrah (15%) and a 100% Syrah, which is rare for the region — defy their appellation: They are among the best and most in-demand wines from Côtes-du-Rhône.  The grapes are vinified and sold at Rayas.

Château Rayas

Rayas is a small ten-hectare vineyard composed of three separate vineyards — Le Couchant, Le Levant and Le Coeur — Château Rayas occupies one of the most unique sites in the world. The estate is surrounded by towering pine trees (pignan in French) that monitor the airflow into the vineyards, and the vines are planted in very fine sand that regulates their temperature and maintains humidity around the roots. This seemingly magical sand creates its very own microclimate — and exceptionally elegant wines.

While 13 varietals are permitted in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Emmanuel uses only one for Rayas’ red wines: Grenache. For the whites, he uses Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Grapes come from the three vineyards, are vinified and aged separately in old barrels, then are blended to achieve Emmanuel’s vision for the vintage, always adhering to Château Rayas’ signature style. With a Pinot Noir–like flavor profile — kirsch, cherry, peat moss — coupled with a peppery Mediterranean flair that is distinctively “Southern France,” there is simply nothing like a bottle of Château Rayas. The vines are planted in the heart of the woods, in very poor, sandy soil producing wines with great finesse.  He makes two reds at this estate, Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve red and white and Pignan Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve, red only.

The wines we drank were all outstanding and complimented the food beautifully.

2013 Chateau des Tours Cotes du Rhone Blanc. Côtes du Rhône White made from 100% Grenache blanc.  Pale yellow hue with a bouquet of white fruit.  A full bodied wine with great balance and mouth feel.  A terrific bargain at $39.  Wine-Searcher.

2013 Domaine des Tours Vin de Pays de Vaucluse. This delicious red is a blend of  Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, Cinsault, Merlot.  A nose and palate of bright cherries, this was delicious and represents substantial value at $24.  Wine-Searcher.

2010 Chateau des Tours Vacqueyras. Blended from 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, the wine displayed a spicy bouquet and a superbly balance peppery palate.  The wine finished with length and elegance.  $60.  Wine-Searcher.

2006 Chateau Rayas Cotes du Rhone Chateau de Fonsalette.  From a classic vintage, this was sublime, displaying a peppery and complex palate with a monster finish.   This wine sets the bar for Cotes du Rhone wines. $135.  Wine-Searcher.

2006 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Pignan Reserve. Pignan is the second wine of Chateau Rayas. However, because much of Pignan comes from their more northern vines, it can also be looked at as a unique brand. In some years, like 1990, Pignan is an amazing wine that while not at the level of Rayas, it’s still outstanding. In total, close to 20% of harvest goes into producing Pignan. In most years Pignan is produced from almost 100% old vine Grenache and also uses grapes from their young vines. Pignan is aged for 16 months in demi-muids and foudres. Only 650 cases are produced of Pignan each year.

It is miles better than most other CdPs on the market. The wine showed brilliantlytonight.  Bouquet of pepper and spice was echoed on a superbly balanced palate that had fantastic depth.  The wine never stopped evolving in the glass and finished with fantastic length.  Truly a wine with soul!  As one would expect, this wine commands a much higher tariff, $225.  Wine-Searcher.

A truly remarkable evening of wine from a master.  Thanks Jim for sharing it with us.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Gentlemen's Holiday Lunch 2017

Two days before Christmas 10 wine loving buddies got together at Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany, NJ for our annual holiday lunch.  This tradition was started about 6 or 7 years ago by Tony.  Tony set two criteria for the luncheon:

1. Robert Parker rating of 95 points or higher
2. Wine-Searcher price of at least $250

1959 Huet Le Haut Lieu Vouvray Moelleux (Jack).  As always Huet wines never disappoint and they seem to live for ever.   Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, the Moelleux is sweeter than the Clos du Bourg, but less so than the Moelleux Premier Trie, which is specifically a desert wine.
The wine soared from the glass.  It possessed a gorgeous translucent yellow hue.  It was pristine and pure on the palate with a long elegant finish.  At 57 years of age, this wine has many years in front of it.

NV Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Côte de Béchalin Blanc de Noir Pinot Noir Champagne (Ian). Cédric Bouchard has become one of the fastest rising stars in Champagne. He began producing his own wines in 2000 under the label Rose de Jeanne.  In 2008 he was awarded the title as Champagne’s finest wine maker by Gault Millau. His philosophy borders on the revolutionary in Champagne, as he insists on bottling single vineyard, single varietal (Pinot Noir or Chardonnay), and single vintage cuveés rather than blending different sources to make a single cuvée. This is a highly unique concept in Champagne, where so many of the Grandes Marques have made their reputations for many centuries on the high art created in blending various wines and various vintages to make a consistently excellent bottle of bubbly year in and year out.  Today’s bottle is a non-vintage made exclusively from 2009 grapes and disgorged in 2016.  The fruit comes from a 1.5 hectare vineyard in the lieu-dit Cotes de Bachelin, consisting of 100% Pinot Noir. Cédric gives the grapes from this site the longest aging regimen of all his wines. This wine is unfined, unfiltered, and aged for 80 months.  It is an amazing Champagne that must be sipped from a large wine glass to appreciate the incredible depth and focus of the wine. Decanting his wines is always a good idea as they really open with air and time as this one did.  I did not enjoy the first sip, but within thirty minutes I was smitten by the complexity, balance and finish of the wine.  Truly a wine with soul!

2000 J.L. Chave Hermitage from magnum (Jack). Some experts feel that the greatest maker of Hermitage (100% Syrah) is Jean-Louis Chave (you will get no argument from me). The Chave family has been growing grapes at Hermitage since 1481. They have a reputation for making good wine in poor years, and excellent wine in good ones. They use low yielding vines (average age 60 years) and a late harvest to produce the ripest fruit, and there is virtually no intervention in the winemaking and bottling with no filtration. There are a dozen or so named vineyards in Hermitage, and Chave owns vines in most of them. They vinify each separately, which allows them to blend for greater complexity before bottling.

My last bottle of this was 6 years ago, and the wine was simply too young at the time.  Cellar time has been good to the wine.  The wine has entered the beginning of a drinking window that should last for a couple of decades.  Gorgeous terroir laden bouquet with terrific balance and focus on a palate of ripe black fruit.  Destined to be a monster in another 3 or 4 years.

2012 Santuvario Lozio Vino Rosso (Gino).  The wine is made by Ivano Barbaglia in Boca, a region of Northern Piedmont.  The wine is a blend 85% Nebbiolo/15% Vespolina. The farming is organic and the harvest is by hand. The fruit is destemmed and fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel tanks with a month-long maceration. The wine is aged in a single 300-liter oak barrel for three years, followed by a year in bottle. Production is but 100 cases in years that Ivano fells the grapes merit the wine.  It is one of the finest wines I have tasted this year (today was my second experience).  It possessed a gorgeous bouquet of red berries, with a seductive palate of white pepper that displayed terrific balance, complexity and a long and velvety finish.  The wine has the acidity to age for a couple of decades.

2014 Mondavi Reserve to Kalon Vineyard (Tony).  Served blind.  I had no idea what it was.  No one guessed California.  As for the wine, it was a good example why I do not buy or drink California wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was completely one-dimensional with an insipid palate and zero finish.

2006 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino (Jeff). Superb!  In my opinion Gianfranco Soldera is the master of thes 100% Sangiovese wines, and this wine solidly supported my feelings.  I had the wine 3 years ago at a Soldera tasting and found it to be tight and a bit green but with great potential.  Today’s bottle, while still young, as matured quite a bit in the past three years.  The palate had marvelous balance, complexity and elegance.   The finish is still a bit short, but in a few more years this will be a magnificent wine…in my opinion.

1999 Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin (me) and 2001 Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin (Ian) were poured side by side. Beaucastel is one of the few wineries that blends all 13 permitted grape varietals in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  The “Hommage” bottling is made only in exceptional vintages, and that means only when the Mourvedre grape reaches sufficient ripeness to merit a special bottling and thus the Hommage contains a higher proportion of Mourvedre.  I felt that both wines drank ok with the 1999 having a softer and slightly more elegant palate than the more fruit laden 2001.  The group was pretty much divided on their preference.

1996 Chateau Latour (Tony) was poured alongside a 1996 Chateau Lafite‐Rothschild (George). Two first growth Bordeaux that for me underscore the comments of wine importer Kermit Lynch regarding these first growths.  He writes in “Adventures on the Wine Route”, “As a Bordeaux proprietor, you do not even need a good winemaker…you need only have been included in the classification of 1855.  Most of the Bordeaux wine trade is quite happy keeping everybody’s eyes on labels instead of wine.”  My limited experience with Bordeaux, especially first growths, leaves me with the “I don’t get it” feeling.  These two did that again.  Some thought the Lafite was corked.  I didn’t.  I simply thought it was not a good wine.  I had similar feelings about the Latour.   These were very, very expensive wines that receive high critic scores and will continue to do so as long as the people who buy them keep their eyes on the labels.

1994 Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella (Emil). Dal Forno’s wines are usually over the top for me.  I find they lack the balance and complexity of Quintarelli.  This drank better than most I have had however.  It displayed more balance and elegance that usually.

2001 Chateau Climens (Gino).  This was superb.  Beautiful golden hue, palate of tropical fruit with good balance and complexity.

1975 Chateau d’Yquem (Joe).  I felt this bottle was off, which was a shame as this is a great year for Sauternes.  It lacked the depth, balance and complexity of the Climens.  Hopefully just an off bottle.

As my readers know I do not subscribe to the points rating system for wine.  For the curious my top wines were in order:

2006 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino – 95+, $600
1959 Huet Le Haut Lieu Vouvray Moelleux – 98, $350
2000 J.L. Chave Hermitage – 96; $650 (Magnum)
NV Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Côte de Béchalin Blanc de Noir Pinot Noir – 94, $120
2012 Santuvario Lozio Vino Rosso – not rated, $70.

My bottom wines:

2014 Mondavi Reserve to Kalon Vineyard – 95, $125
1996 Chateau Latour – 95, $800
1996 Chateau Lafite Rothschild – 98, $1,100
1975 Chateau d’Yquem – 98, $1,100

Fortunately, the wines were really secondary.  The company and lively conversation along with the excellent food made for a great afternoon.  You just can’t put a number or price tag on friendship.

Thanks Tony for putting it together.