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, January 6, 2011

Lunch with friends

A bunch of us wine crazy guys (10 to be exact) got together for a wine lunch this week at Il Capriccio Ristorante ilcapriccio.com in Whippany, NJ. As usual it was an afternoon of great camaraderie, food and wine. First the food. Tony Grande, owner and executive chef, is a man with unparalleled passion for food. His staff shares his same passion. Appetizers began with mozzarella di bufala, proscuitto, parmigiano reggiano cheese, roasted peppers, tomatoes and marinated eggplant. They continued, first with perfectly grilled scampi (head in tact) with shiitake mushrooms, followed by baked oysters with crabmeat in a champagne sauce, and stuffed fresh artichoke hearts. After a romaine salad, I enjoyed paccheri pasta with a ragu of pork ribs. Absolutely delicious. If you have never eaten here, you are missing some of the best food in NJ. Now on to the wines.

We started with a NV Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle "La Cuvee". Rich and crisp with some complexity. A nice champagne but a bit pricey. We then proceeded onto 5 flights of reds.

First Flight
2002 Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques. From magnum. Simply awesome, Sense of place on nose and palate. Elegant. Best description I can think of is it is round and delicious. I kept my glass of this wine throughout the lunch and enjoyed each sip as the wine kept evolving and speaking to me “I am what wine is all about”. For me the wine of the lunch along with the Soldera.

1989 Joseph Droughin Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses. Wine seemed very tired and perhaps in its waning years. Brown hue, earthy bouquet, but the wine just sat on the palate and never really expressed itself. According to our Burgundy expert (JG) at the table, the wine is typical of older Burgundies. As I do not have his experience, I will defer to him…at least for the moment and since I have two bottles of this wine in my cellar I will get two more cracks at it.

Second Flight
1994 Sassicaia. I am not a fan of Super Tuscan wines since I don’t particularly care for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab blends and the modern techniques employed to make most of them. I have always felt this particular wine to be overrated and ridiculously over priced; this bottle did not change my opinion. There was nothing there. No sense of place, as the other JG said “wine is very thin” and it was. The wine had no soul.

2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino. Probably the best of the modern style wines today (due to use of large Slovenian oak???).

2006 Llanos del Almendro, Ribero del Duro. Did not like this at all. Very modern in style. Inky black hue and over extracted fruit. Perhaps it needs time.

Third Flight
1990 Montrose. I am not a big fan of Bordeaux wines because of my dislike of Cabernet Sauvignon, but this wine was flat out delicious. Full expression of place and wonderful balance and complexity. Very pure on the palate with a lengthy finish. This wine taught me something. Traditionally made wines, even Cab. Sauvignon based can rock your boat. For me, the number 3 wine of the lunch. A wine with soul.

1990 Masetto. Another Super Tuscan modern wine and another wine that I could never get excited over. No sense of place. No soul. Wine sits on the palate and never talks to you. And wow $700 - $1000 a bottle. One has to ask why? Ratings I guess.

Fourth Flight
1996 Gaja Costa Russi. A wine I bought to the tasting for my modern wine loving friends. In fact two of them voted it wine of the lunch I believe. This wine, in my opinion, is a great example of wine, with a big name and even bigger price tag, that is made or more accurately processed to appeal to wine critics and consumers enamored with ratings. Gaja can no longer call it a Barbaresco because of the addition of Barbera to the wine. I was told by his daughter, Gaia Gaja (wow I love the alliteration), that he adds it for color. What does color have to do with wine? Apparently a lot if you are appealing to consumers (as opposed to wine enthusiasts) and critics. Wine is also aged in Barrique, a standard modern technique. No sense of place or soul.

1995 Soldera Intistieti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Ah, now we are talking wine and the wine was talking to me. Spectacular and delicious. No doubt of sense of place with Soldera. A beautiful expression of what wine can be when the winemaker does not interfere with what the climate and vineyard has given him. There are few words to describe this wine except to quote Terry Theise from is book “Reading between the Wines”, this is a wine in which “…the spirit of celebration lives”. Initially I felt the number 2 wine of the lunch, but I have moved it into a dead heat with the Montet. Both wines touched my soul.

Fifth Flight
2001 Solaia. By now you know my feelings on Super Tuscans. This wine only reinforced it. Not a lot going on here…and at a hefty price.

2000 Clos du Caillou Reserve. Excellent CDP. Sense of place evident on nose and palate. Balanced and pure. Drank very well. Lengthy finish. I liked it a lot. My number 4 wine of the afternoon.

Dessert Flight
2003 Climens. Terrific wine from a great vintage. Wonderful balance with a beautiful candy filled finish.

2003 d'Yquem. My favorite d’Yquem vintage. Simply delicious. I could drink this over and over and never get tired of it. Another wine "in which the spirit of celebration lives".

Wow! That's a lot of wine. But also it was great fun. My sincere thanks to all participants for their wine and more importantly for making the lunch tremendous fun.



  1. I was fortunate to be there and I applaud Mark on his new blog. Tony Grande's food was well...GRANDE and the best in NJ.
    I think Mark was a bit hard on the Super Tuscans and the Masetto but that is why there is chocolate and vanilla.
    I brought the Montrose so I cannot be objective.
    The 3 best I believe of the day were the Soldera # 1, Montrose #2, and the Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques #3
    BTW..the company was not to shabby. Great bunch of guys

  2. Thanks for the input Emil. And yes there will always be chocolate and vanilla.

  3. Great blog Mark. Congrats on keeping a new years resolution. Being one of the fortunate 10, first I must agree with you on Tony Grande's food. Paired with great wines & excellent company it was a fabulous day. I also agree on the 02 Denis Mortet. That, for me, however was a tie with the 00 Clos du Caillou for wines of the afternoon. Everyone brought what they thought were great wines. Sorry the 90 Masseto didn't measure up for you. Although I must agree that matched up against the 90 Montrose, the Montrose was the winner.