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.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hart Davis Hart BYOB Tasting

This past Tuesday evening I was invited to a BYOB wine tasting and dinner at The Dutch, a 10 month old restaurant located at 131 Sullivan St. NYC. Hart Davis Hart Wine Company, a leader in wine auctions as well as retail wines located in Chicago, hosted the event. And what an event it was. While there were only 14 of us present, each brought a great bottle of wine to enjoy with chef Andrew Carmellini’s (formerly of A Voce and Locanda Verde in NYC) terrific “fun” food. It was a great evening.

Since Gino, Tony & I arrived early, we settled in at the bar and ordered a Huet Vouvray 'Le Haut Lieu' Sec 2010 Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley to drink with a dozen of pristinely fresh East Coast oysters, spicy octopus, tripe and little oyster sandwiches. The oyster sandwiches were plump, fried oysters served on a homemade tiny sesame bun with a upscale tartar sauce. I could have eaten a dozen. I have lauded the wines of Huet many times as I have never had a bad one. They are expertly crafted and are a beautiful expression of how good the Chenin Blanc grape can be when placed in the hands of a master. This wine, which will live on for many years, had a wonderful fresh complexity with a lengthy and elegant finish. Wine Legend in Livingston, NJ is currently offering this wine for under $30, an absolute steal.

As we gathered in the private downstairs dinning room we began with a NV Demiere-Ansiot Blanc de Noir Grand Cru, Oger. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this grower-producer wine had wonderful balance with and a delicious citrous finish. With production limited to about 200 cases a year, this is a sparkler to pay attention to and seek out. Very reasonably priced at about $50. I just picked some up from 56º Wine, Berdardsville, NJ.

We then moved on to a four remarkable French whites, 2 from Burgundy and 2 from the Northern Rhone. The first to be poured was Francois Raveneau Grand Cru 'Blanchots' 2000. If there is a better producer of white wine in Chablis I do not know who it is. This wine was completely round, elegant with a long and seductive finish. Unfortunately wines like this do not come cheaply. However they are worth it, especially for that special occasion. $200

Next in the glass was Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru 'Pucelles' 2004. I began buying Leflaive wines three years ago and only wish I had known of them earlier, as they are amongst the best white Burgundies you can find. The wine exhibited a lovely yellow gold hue, lemony bouquet and soared from the glass. A beautifully pure and round wine. $200

With these wines we nibbled on what I believe was tempura fried rock shrimp with a spicy salsa dipping sauce. A great choice with the wines.

As we settled into our seats our glasses were filled with Jean Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc 2004. Considered by many as the finest producer of wines in the Northern Rhone, this beauty, made from 100% Marsanne grapes, would definitely support that belief. While I have this vintage in my cellar, I had yet to open a bottle, an oversight that will soon be corrected. The wine had an intoxicating citrus bouquet, a sensuous oily and viscous texture on the palate and a glorious round finish. Delicious. $200

Along side this we were poured a glass of M. Chapoutier, Ermitage Blanc, Le Meal, 2001, another 100% Marsanne wine. Another spectacular Norther Rhone white from yet another highly regarded Northern Rhone winemaker that drank beautifully; the wine had very nice minerality, however the high acidity was a bit of a distraction. It was not a match for the Chave on this evening. $150

As we tasted these wines our family style dinner began with a terrific salad of Beets, Smoked Egg, Apples & Horseradish; Octopus a la Barca, a delicately spiced dish that was tender and delicious; Fried Chicken Wings that were so off the chart, they will make you forget “Buffalo Wings”. These had a delicate sweet and spicy taste and were incredibly crispy. I could have made a meal of them and the delectable house made French Fries that made up our final first course.

We then moved on to the reds. I am not sure of the exact order but I believe we started with Château de Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2004. This is one of the great wines from CDP. It is only made in exceptional vintages from very old Mourvedre vines yielding tiny quantities of intensely ripe, concentrated fruit. The Hommage contains a higher percentage of this varietal than their normal bottlings. On this evening the wine, even after a few hours of decanting, never really blossomed and was surpassed in my opinion by the Chateau Rayas 2004 we drank alongside it. This was a classic Rayas with incredible purity and roundness on the palate and long velvety & elegant finish. Beaucastel $450, Rayas $160.

Next in our glasses was Chateau Figeac 2000. What was interesting is that in one glass we had the wine after being decanted for 3 hours, while in another glass the wine was opened 30 minutes prior to being poured. The decanted wine was much better. It was riper and more complex on the palate. Alas I am not a big fan of Bordeaux and this wine did not change my mind. $160

The second Bordeaux was Chateau Ausone 1962. I guess if your are a Bordeaux fan you would like this highly touted and very expensive wine. It had nice complexity but lacked the roundness and elegance of the Burgundies that followed. $500 - $800

We then moved onto Burgundy, beginning I believe with Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot 2005. A classic red Burgundy with terrific purity and complexity. I would like to revisit this wine in about 5 years when I think it will begin to peak. $174 This was followed by Joseph Drouhin Chambertin 2002, which drank very well even at a very young age. Pure and complex on the palate with a velvet finish. This wine, in my opinion, needs another few years in the cellar for it really be appreciated. $245

The next wine, Domaine Leroy Romanee St Vivant 2000, was the wine of the evening for most of us, myself included. Domaine Leroy is one of the top producers in Burgundy and this wine certainly lived up that claim. The earthy bouquet soared from the glass. On the palate it was delicate, round and pure with a sensous finish. Definitely a wine with soul. I could not track this beauty down, but if you are able to find it expect it to be pricey.

Alongside this wine we tasted Domaine Leroy Romanee Chapelle Chambertin 1980. Made prior to 1989 when the domaine moved to biodynamic wine making, this wine, while good, was no match for the 2000. I was unable to find this wine's availability or price. Like the Romanee, these are collector wines that are usually only found at auction.

The final red was Altesino Brunello di Montalcino, Montosoli 1997. For me this was just okay. It was not very exciting on the palate and had a somewhat bitter finish. I think this wine has passed its prime. $160

With the reds we were served four entrées family style. The dishes included a marvelous Steak Tartare served with Romaine lettuce and a Ceasar dressing. It was perfectly seasoned, pristinely fresh and just outright delicious. Sea Scallops served over Saffron Rice with a spicy Gumbo sauce. The rice and sauce were the stars of this dish. Farfalle (bowtie shaped pasta) with Black Kale Carbonara and a farm egg. Not a lot of flavor here. In fact the dish was really ho-hum. The 4th plate was Pecan Duck with Celery and organic dirty rice. As I am not a duck fan, I passed on this, but the others at the table raved about the dish.

With dessert we enjoyed Chateau Climens 1971. This was wonderful, full of honey, pineapple and apples. It enticed the palate and had a monster finish. A terrific Sauternes that I prefer to d’Yquem. This wine has many more years ahead of it. $400

I don’t recall the two desserts served with the Climens as I had requested one of the desserts on special that evening, Banana Cream Pie. One of my all time favorite desserts, and this was superb and went perfectly with the Climens.

If you are interested you can find where to purchase most of these wines on Wine-Searcher.com. You can also contact Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. as they may have access to them.

My sincere thanks to the folks of Hart Davis Hart for making this event happen and for inviting me to it.


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