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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Northern Rhone Tasting

A couple of my good wine drinking friends, Emil & Howard, are part of a small (5 guys) wine group. They meet once a month at a BYOB restaurant with one of the members in charge of bringing the evening’s wines. I have been graciously invited a few times over the past year, but alas I was unable to attend until last night, and I am glad I did.

Howard was in charge of the wines last night and brought 5 wines from the Northern Rhone. We enjoyed these wines over dinner at Scalini Fideli Ristorante in Chatham, NJ. The restaurant does have a full bar and wine list, but as I understand it they allow customers to bring their own wine during the week. As I was a guest, I don't know if there is a corkage fee assed per bottle. I suggest you check with them to get the facts about bringing your own wine.

I have not been to Scalini in many years as I found the food, while good, to be a bit rich for my taste. I was glad to give it another try last night. For my appetizer I had a terrific pan-seared foie gras over roasted apples. It was delicious and went very well with the 1999 Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc. JL Chave is an icon in the Northern Rhone and his wines are superbly crafted. This Marsanne (80%) & Roussanne (20%) blend was delicious. Chave uses only old oak or stainless steel for aging and as a result the wine possessed great purity and balance and finished with power and elegance. This wine, in my opinion, has another 20 years of enjoyable drinking. This was my first experience with the 1999. I am glad I have a few bottles in my cellar. At between $120 - $150 a bottle, while a bit pricey, it is well worth the indulgence. I rated this the #2 wine of the evening.

A 1993 Chapoutier Ermitage le Pavillon also went superbly with my foie gras. Crafted by yet another great Northern Rhone wine maker, this 100% Syrah comes from a small granite soiled 4-hectare plot. Yields are tiny and typically only about 600 cases are made annually. The nose upon opening would have made any farmer smile broadly as it was pure barnyard. On the palate it was soft, complex and balanced. The wine kept evolving in the glass over the next hour with the barnyard bouquet retiring and replaced by an enticing earthiness, while on the palate the wine took on a soaring elegance with a gorgeous finish. I rated this the #3 wine of the evening. This will also hit your pocketbook for about $120, a bargain in my opinion for an 18-year-old beauty.

For my main course I had Papparadelle pasta with a veal osso buco ragu, which was good but the addition of Mascarpone cheese, unneeded in my opinion, took the richness of the dish over the top. With our main courses we had 3 more Northern Rhone Syrahs. The next wine was a 1999 Guigal Cote Rotie Chateau d’Ampuis. This wine is made from grapes from six hillside vineyards of the d”Ampuis property. (La Garde, La Clos, La Grande Plantee, La Pommiere, Pavillon Rouge, and Le Moulin). The wine is aged in both barrel and large foudre for 30 months prior to bottling. There are approximately 3,000 cases produced annually. While the wine is aged in new oak for 42 months, the oak is very well integrated. The wine had good balance and nice complexity, but in my opinion not worth the $200 price tag. I rated this the #4 wine of the evening.

The next wine of the evening was 2003 Delas Freres Cote Rotie la Landonne. This was definitely more modern in style with oak dominating the wine. Perhaps the reason can be found on their importer’s website which states that Delas wines are made by “a panel of experts headed by winemaker Jacques Grange . Together, the team makes wines that have been heralded for their intensity of flavor and excellent value." Perhaps there are too many cooks in the kitchen? At about $200 a bottle I think the team needs to reconsider the words “excellent value”. The wine was overshadowed by the other wines. Everyone was of the opinion that it was the #5 wine of the evening.

The final wine of the evening was a 1997 JL Chave Hermitage. Wow! Consensus had it as the wine of the evening. This wine absolutely soared from the glass. Nothing more to say than it was full of terroir, balanced and outright delicious. As Jeff so aptly put it, this was a wine with soul. This will set you back about $200. A small price to pay for such soul.

Howard you did a great job. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Drinking great wines with friends, old and new, is surely one of life’s finer moments. Thanks again for inviting me.

Until next time,


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