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, January 18, 2011

Birthday Lunch

Yesterday 4 of us gathered at Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany, NJ to celebrate the birthday of a good friend. Chef Natale Grande prepared another terrific lunch that began with a terrific antipasto of international hams, fresh roasted peppers, grilled eggplant and tomatoes. For pasta we enjoyed half orders of Bucatini ala Amatriciana, a Roman classic. The pasta was so spectacular that I ordered another half order for my main course. The others enjoyed a perfectly prepared pork chop Valdostana.

Il Capriccio is at the top of their game. The food under the direction of Tony Grande and his son Natale is amongst the best in the state. Food and wine service under the direction of Tony’s nephew Salvatore is impeccable. If you live in northern NJ and have not yet visited Il Capriccio, I suggest putting it on your list of restaurants to try in 2011.

As for the wines we started with a 1964 Cantina Mascarello that the birthday boy received as a gift by one of the lunch attendees. I thank both for their generosity in sharing this remarkable wine. Cantina Barolo, which since 1982 has gone under the name Bartolo Mascarello (when Bartolo took over for his father Giulio), is my favorite Barolo producer. The estate and winemaking today are under the direction of Bartolo's daughter, Maria Teresa Mascarello, who continues the tradition of great winemaking. The wine was simply amazing and remarkably young for 57 years in the bottle. The only sign of its age was the rusty brown hue that wines with this much age usually take on. The wine exhibited a classic old world Barolo nose of the earth and climate of the region. The wine was balanced, fresh and pure on the palate with a lengthy finish. As I sipped the wine and closed my eyes I was transported back to Piedmonte. Definitely a wine with soul.

Next up was a 1998 Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Lucien and Andre Brunel. Decanted for about an hour. Another wine with soul. A classic traditionally made wine. Since 1989 the wine is only made in good vintages. A blend of 80% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre and 8% Syrah, the wine tantalized the palate with pepper and spice and finished with elegance. Delicious!

This was followed by a 1999 Dal Forno Romano Valpolicella and a 1998 Giuseppe Quintarelli Ca del Merlo Rosso, his single vineyard Valpolicella. There was simply no comparison of these two wines. The Dal Forno was insipid & mute on the palate, while the Quintarelli was majestic and sang to me like a classic Sinatra song. Unbelievably the Dal Forno sells for 30 – 50% more than the Quintarelli. To each his own I guess.

We finished the lunch with a half bottle of 1998 Chateau d'Yquem. Another superb vintage from one of the most acclaimed properties in the world. Complex and balanced with a long and wonderful finish. Delicious!

Life is good, no life is very good!!!


  1. Mark --

    You hit the proverbial nail on the head with your comments. I couldn't agree more about the 1964 Mascarello -- what a treat. The only correction I'd make there is that the wine is 47 years old, not 57 years old. Thinking about that extra decade makes me wonder whether that wine still has another ten years of life to it. Based on the ripe cherry wafting up from the glass as soon as it was opened, I'd like to think that it could last another decade. I also hope that I'll be around in 10 years to enjoy another bottle with such a great group of fellow enthusiasts.

    Also, after having the 1998 Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire Chateauneuf-du-Pape for the third time in less than a year, I decided it was time to restock, so an order was placed within the day for another six bottles, as well a couple of other vintages. What nectar.

    As for the Veneto debate, I don't see it either. For me, Quintarelli beats Dal Forno hands-down.

    And, of course, Chateau d'Yquem. Even in the 'lesser years' that Sauternes is heavenly. (I know this is "wine without numbers" but the '98 received a paultry 91 points.)

    I'm getting thirsty again just thinking about that lunch.

  2. Jack,
    Thanks for correction on year. I guess as I get older my math suffers. BTW, your note on the score the d'Yquem received is exactly why numbers are meaningless to me.


  3. Sounds like a great time. I couldn't agree more about Quintarelli vs Dal Forno...no comparison at all. Dal Forno may be the most over priced wine I can think of produced in Italy. Although my favorite Barolo producer's are Aldo and Giacomo Conterno, Is there anything better than a well aged Barolo? I think not!