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.

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.