About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

White Night

Our local wine group met last week at Wabi Sabi in Bloomfied, NJ for a dinner featuring white wines from Italy and France and the magnificent Sushi and cooked Japanese entrées from chef/owner Nelson Yip.  Emil was in the queue and did great job with an eclectic selection white wines that complemented the food perfectly.

I have praised the food prepared by chef/owner Nelson Yip on previous occasions and for good reason…he is a class all to himself.  He is fanatical about procuring only the freshest and highest quality ingredients available.  To that end he receives 3 shipments of fresh fish from Japan weekly and is equally stern about the quality of all other ingredients he purchases locally.  His wild mushroom soup is easily the finest and most flavorful version I have ever had.  I used to order it on almost every visit, but that stopped about 6 months ago when he removed the soup from the menu due to the fact that his supplier was mixing poor quality mushrooms in with the case of the high quality varieties he expects.  Rather than substitute inferior quality ingredients, he has removed the soup from the menu.  The man is serious about the quality of what he serves.  The food and wine service, under the direction of Alice and company is first glass.  Highlights from our meal included.

Clam Sake Soup.  Tender little nick clams swim in a jalapeño pepper based broth that is perfectly balanced between the brininess of the fish broth and heat of the jalapeños.  An amazing dish.

Hamachi Yuzu with Summer Truffle.  The freshness of the fish and subtlety of the flavors make this as addictive as any sashimi I have ever had.

"Lollypop" Shrimp.  Large wild shrimp are fashioned into a circle, the center of which holds a bit of crab meat to the center before being coated with Panko bread crumbs, skewered and deep friedThe 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 procured from Berkshire Farms. 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.

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.

Sushi and Sashimi Platter.

Not pictured, but also enjoyed

Truffle French Fries.  I am not a fan of truffle oil being added to any dish.  Here Nelson takes fresh cut French Fries and lightly salts them with truffle salt.  This I am a huge fan of.  By the way his truffled edamame are addictive.

Chicken Fried Rice.  Large pieces of fresh and deftly sautéed chicken are tossed in this classic Chinese dish.

Fried Spicy Rock Shrimp.  These amazing crustaceans are lightly fried and served in a spice mayo-based sauce.

Emil started us with a 375 ml bottle of 2002 Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec Vouvry. Since 1928 Vouvray’s Domaine Huet has set the standard year after year for great age-worthy Chenin Blanc. The estate produces some of the world’s most compelling white wines in a remarkable range that spans sparkling, dry, semi-dry, and breathtaking dessert styles.  The Le Haut-Lieu vineyard was Victor Huet’s first vineyard around which the domaine has grown, but in the 21st century.  Initially just 3 hectares, the vineyard saw more planting, broadening out so that today it covers 9 hectares. The estate also acquired Le Mont, an 8 hectare vineyard in 1957, and the Clos du Bourg, a 6 hectare site was purchased not long afterwards, in 1963.  These three vineyards are the core of the Huet domaine, each yielding rich fruit and an array of styles, from sec and demi-sec to moelleux and moelleux premier trie.

Since 1989, the estate has also produced this magical, botrytized dessert wine selected from one, two or all three vineyards. When made, the Cuvée Constance (named for Gaston’s mother) ranks among the world’s greatest dessert wines.

Tonight’s wine displayed a very expressive nose of white fruits and a full rich palate.  It is a beautiful wine that is drinking very well at the present time and should continue to do so for at least another decade.

2014 Quintarelli Secco Ca’ Del Merlo.  Quintarelli is known for his stunning Valpolicella, Amarone and Ricotto red wines.  Less known, but as compelling as his reds, is this white wine blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Saorin grapes.  The wine exhibited terrific depth and balance and finished with considerable length. 

2009 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d’Abruzzo.  Made from 100% Trebbiano grapes, the wine shows brilliant complexity and balance.  Crisp and full-bodied, the wine evolved with each sip taking on elegance and depth.

2015 Maison Lucien Le Moine Chassagne Montrachet Les Caillerets Premier Cru. Lucien Le Moine is one the most exciting Burgundy producers to come along in the last few years. Mounir Saouma and Rotem Brakin bottled the first wines of their negociant firm in 1999 and are already receiving rave reviews from the top critics. They do not grow any of their own grapes but have managed to earn the favor of excellent growers in the best Premiers and Grands Crus.

Both reds and whites are aged on 100% of their lees, with a gentle batonnage (stirring) three or four times a month. Their cellar is naturally cold and they are able to extend malolactic fermentation late into summer. They use CO2 whenever possible to minimize the use of SO2. After the malolactic fermentation is complete, they taste each barrel twice a month until it is ready to be bottled. The wine is then racked and bottled without either fining or filtration in order to preserve the character of the wine.

Tonight’s wine, the consensus WOTN of the group, was refined and classy with terrific acidity and minerality.  The wine at this young age drinks beautifully and has the pedigree to age effortlessly for a couple of decades.

2014 Bruno Colin Puligny Montrachet La Truffiere Premier Cru. I found this to be very young with a fair amount of oak on the palate.  At the moment several large steps behind the Le Moine.  Perhaps with cellar time the oak will become better integrated.

Great job by Emil on his wine selection and Nelson on the food.


Friday, September 7, 2018

2006 Sangiovese

Last month our local wine group met at Viaggio Ristorante in Wayne, NJ for a dinner featuring the 2006 vintage of Sangiovese based wines from Tuscany. All the wines were provided by group member Jim. Viaggio is a farm to table restaurant with a Tuscan flare.  The food is creative and well prepared, but a bit too rich for my palate.

I think the comments from the Vinous website on the 2006 vintage are well stated:


“Consistently stunning, full-bodied wines loaded with super-ripe fruit, but with plenty of stuffing underneath. In many cases the wines were made in the last month or so of the growing season, particularly in Chianti Classico, where warm daytime temperatures alternated with cool evenings. These conditions extended the grapes’ hang time and allowed the fruit to reach full phenolic ripeness while achieving maximum development of aromatics, acidity and structure. Growers had the luxury and peace of mind to harvest without being rushed. In a few spots producers reported harvesting into October, particularly for the Sangioveses. The 2006s will be tempting to drink young for their opulent fruit, but the best wines have the potential to age gracefully for many years. Since their initial release, many of the higher-end 2006s have begun to close down, so readers will want to approach these wines with caution. If the vintage has a weak spot it is the dry tannins that show up in a few wines where the warm conditions did not allow growers to achieve the level of sweetness and ripeness in the tannins that was evident in 2004.”

Brunello di Montalcino

“The 2006 Brunellos are big, powerful wines with beautifully delineated aromatics, great concentration of fruit and plenty of structure. There are significant differences between the northern and southern parts of the zone, once again demonstrating that Montalcino really must be considered as a group of smaller appellations. The wines of the north are generally more linear, focused and aromatic, while the wines of the south tend to favor a riper, warmer expression of fruit. The summer was hot, but temperatures did not reach the extremes of years such as 2003. Spells of rain in late August and early September refreshed the grapes and slowed down their maturation cycle, always a positive for Montalcino. Growers picked under gorgeous fall weather. Once again, very few Riservas are worth the money. In fact, in most cases, the regular bottlings are aging more gracefully than the Riservas.”

Jim started us off with a white wine from Angelo Gaja, 2016 Gaja Ca’ Marcanda Vistamare Toscana IGT. A blend of 60% Vermentino and 40% Viognier, fermented separately. The Vermentino is aged in stainless steel tanks while the Viognier is aged in oak (Barrique?) casks for 6 months.  Typical of Gaja wines I found this on the modern side with a fair amount of oak on the palate.  Not my cup of tea. 

2006 Felsina Chianti Classico Rancia Riserva.  100% Sangiovese. After the quality-selected clusters are de-stemmed and pressed, the must is fermented and macerated in stainless steel for 16-20 days at 28°C and 30°C, with programmed punch downs and daily pumpovers. In March-April, the new wine goes into new French oak barrels; after 18-20 months of maturation, the final blend is assembled, bottled, and ages in glass a minimum of 6-8 months.  Felsina wines, while aged in new oak barrels, integrates the oak very well and as a result it never dominates the palate. The wine was fantastic, with bright ripe fruit, great acidity and balance and a lengthy, delicious finish.  This was my WOTN and pretty much the consensus WOTN of the group.

2006 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino. 100% Sangiovese Grosso.  Ultra modern wine with oak dominating the palate.  A far cry from the Rancia.  I have never been a fan of this producer.

2006 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino. 100% Sangiovese Grosso that was fermented in cement and aged for three years in Slavonian oak casks.  Runner up to the Rancia, in my opinion. Nice balance and complexity here with a lengthy and elegant finish.

2006 Conti Constanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. 100% Sangiovese Grosso.  48 months. 18 months in tonneaux, 18 months in Slavonian oak wooden barrels and 12 months in bottle.  A nice wine that I felt was a bit tight and should benefit from an additional few years in the cellar.

Another wonderful evening with great guys.  Thanks Jim for the wines and dinner.