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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gino's Birthday

Another week, another birthday and more great wine. This time the birthday boy was my good friend Gino who turned 39 last week. So the usual cast of wine characters, along with Gino's dad met once again at Il Capriccio in Whippany to wish Gino happy birthday. The nine bottles we drank ranged from ok to spectacular. The food, with one exception, was up to Capriccio's usual high standard.

First the wines in the order in which we drank them. The (number) at the end of each wine description is my, not necessarily the consensus, ranking of the wines. I ranked the dinner wines 1 through 7, and dessert wines are ranked 1 & 2.

1997 Louis Jadot Echézeaux. Jadot has made some very good wines, unfortunately the 1997 Echézeaux is not one of them. The wine was past its prime and the fact that the bottle was too warm upon opening did not help matters. Not a lot to say about this bottle except that it was my least favorite of the wines. $45. (7)

1979 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe This was the bottle I brought and decanted for 3 hours. It is a classic old world Barolo with lots of earth on the nose and palate and nice complexity. Production is small with only 1500 case made each year. The grapes are macerated on the skins in steel vats for 26 days; the wine is then aged in Slovenian oak casks of different capacity for 4 years. This bottle however seemed to be a bit tired. Perhaps the wine is in its decline or it just may be this bottle. I am learning that when you buy older vintages of good wines it is always going to involve some risk. Since I have had some magnificent older vintages, I for one will continue to take the risk. $140. (4)

1997 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe Upon opening, this bottle had harsh tannins on the back palate, but after about 30 minutes the wine began to blossom beautifully. Like the 1979 it possessed an enticing earthy bouquet, but was much more elegant on the palate than the 1979. In short this is a terrific wine with lots of soul. I wish I had more than 3 bottles in my cellar. $90. (3)

2000 Armando Parusso Barolo Riserva. This was my first time tasting this wine and it had more oak on the palate than either of the Cavallottos. I have since learned that Parusso ages his wines in small oak barrels for 24 months. The type and age of the barrels I have been unable to determine. The wine showed good complexity and balance, but the finish was very short. I think the $100 price tag for this wine is a bit much. (6)

1996 Valentino Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella Santo Stefano di Perno. If you recall I wrote about this wine in my last blog Birthday Food & Wines. Last week's bottle was softer and more elegant on the palate than this one, although it was by no means an inferior wine. However against the other wines we drank it did not fair as well as it did last week. (5)

1986 Giuseppi Quintarelli Amarone Riserva. For me the wine of the day. First a story about this wine. About 15 years ago was the first time I tasted a Quintarelli wine and it happened to be this exact wine. Once again it was Gino who brought it. Gino had just begun his career in the wine industry and he wanted me to taste "this amazing wine". I did, and I did not like it. I commented that it was much to sweet to be good. This was at a time when I drank wines based on the points Robert Parker or The Wine Spectator gave them. My cellar at the time was loaded with California & Australian reds because they got "big" points. When my epiphany regarding what made a wine truly great came about 10 years later I began to appreciate the beauty and magnificence of the wines Quintarelli made and I began to acquire them . Today they are the single largest selection of wines in my cellar.

There is only one way to describe a wine like the '86 Amarone Riserva, it is the wine equivalent to the mesmerizing music of Andre LLoyd Weber's Phantom of the Opera. Just as this music transforms one to a whole new level of experiencing musical greatness, so does this wine. The power and harmony of the wine on the palate must be experienced to appreciate. It is a wine you think about for days after drinking it. The wine, if you can find it, will set you back about $1800 a bottle. When Gino had me taste it I could have bought it from the store he was working at for about $100 a bottle. While I have had few regrets in my life, not listening to him on this wine back then is one of them.

1986 Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino A Brunello that is in the class of Soldera in my opinion. This wine, only the second year Giulio Salvioni, began to bottle and sell his wine was seductive. It had a wonderful earthy bouquet, purity on the palate and good length on the finish. A wine with soul. This vintage does not seem to be available anywhere. (2)

For dessert we tasted side by side a 2001 Chateau Climens Sauternes and a 2003 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes. Both wines were great but my favorite was the d'Yquem. 2003 is my favorite vintage of this wine. It is like drinking liquid candy and does not have the medicinal finish I usually experience with other d'Yquem vintages. The finish here is lengthy and delicious. A truly amazing wine. The Climens was also fantastic, but it did not possess the finish of the d'Yquem. Both of these wines will set you back about $300 for a 750ml. New York Wine Warehouse in NYC usually has these very sought after wines.

As for the luncheon itself, we began with a platter of fresh figs (from my own fig trees), Pata Negra Hame and Chorizo that the birthday boy brought from his private stash. The figs were ripe and delicious while the meats were tender, spicy and downright fabulous.

Next came a platter that contained deliciously fresh Tuna Tartar and fork tender Grilled Octopus Salad.

This was followed by tomato and onion salad fresh from Tony Grande's farm, which in turn was followed by a plate of roasted seafood that contained a couple of baby scallops in their shell, a large sea scallop and prawn served with an eggplant mousse. Delicious. Pasta was next with most having a combination plate of Spaghetti with the baby scallops in their shell, lobster and tomato on one side and Spaghetti Chitara with oil garlic & Bortaga on the other. I opted for a half portion of the Spaghetti Chitara with Bortaga. Always a great dish here, but on this day it was just so-so. It was no match for the same dish I had here two weeks before. Just as some bottles of wine from the same vintage are better than others, such was the case here. While others moved on to a main course, I was content to have an espresso and enjoy the Sauternes.

A great day, with great food, wine and friends. Happy Birthday Gino!!

Gino and his dad.

Until next time,


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