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.

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.