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 22, 2012

What WWN Readers Drank for the Holidays

I thought it would be fun if the readers of WWN emailed me with what they drank over the Christmas holidays. I want to thank those of you who replied. As you can see a number of terrific wines were enjoyed.

The first to report in was Geore U. He writes, “I started Christmas Eve afternoon with a Macallan 25 & a 25 year old Cuban Dunhill & a nap. Now we are getting ready for some food & wine. Starting the weekend with some Ornellaia, Masseto & Valdicava." George went Italian with two well-known Italian producers.

Ornellaia is a Super-Tuscan cult wine, very modern in style, that is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (Bordeaux style) made by Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. It is aged in 70% new French oak barrels (barrique). It is a big wine and sought after by those that like this style. Not cheap, expect to pay upwards of $125 a bottle, depending on the year.

Masseto, also made by Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, is also a modern style wine that is made with 100% Merlot and one of Italy’s biggest cult wines. I must admit to not being a fan of the wine as I do not like the Merlot grape and modern style wines and I think the price tag of several hundred dollars a bottle is well beyond the caliber of the wine. However since the wine routinely is given high numbers (scores) many feel justified in anteing up the cash required to purchase a bottle.

Valdicava is a very good Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany. The wine is consistently good and made in the more traditional, old world style that uses old large Slovonian oak botti (barrels) to age the wine. The top wine from this producer is Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano. 2001 was an exceptionally good year for both wines and the prices reflect it.

Erik B. enjoyed a 2005 Francesco Borgogno Barolo. I am not familiar with this wine, however after doing some research it sounds like my kind of old world wine. It is aged in Slovonian oak for 3 years followed by a year in the bottle. About $40. For information on the winery click here.

Joe B. is the wine director for 56º Wine in Bernardsville, NJ. He has one of the best palates in the business as well as being one of the most knowledgeable wine guys I know. I was delighted that he shared his wines for us. He reports that for Christmas Eve began wirh Tuna Tartare & Leg of Lamb w/ Harissa (a hot sauce or paste used in North African cuisine, made from chili peppers, paprika, and olive oil), Apricots and Olives. With the Tuna he drank a NV Jacques Selosse Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs "Initial". I tasted this champagne once with Joe and it blew me away. Anselme Selosse is considered the most original winemakers in Champagne. His Champagnes do not come cheap, but wine like this never does. I remember that on the night I drank it with Joe that the wine kept evolving in the glass and an hour after being poured it was soaring from the glass. Not the typical experience one has with Champagne. About $150 a bottle. To read more about Selosse, click here.

With the Lamb he drank a 2001 Schiavenza Barolo Bricco Ceretta. I am not familiar with this wine and I was unable to find out much information about it. I am sure if it was on Joe’s table it was a great bottle. $50.

For Christmas Day there was more Tuna Tartare, Wild Mushroom Risotto and Dry Aged Rib Eye Steak. As you can see, Joe knows how to eat well also. For the meal he began with NV Demiere-Ansiot Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne. While I am not familiar with this Champagne producer, a little research has told me that Demiere-Ansiot is a Becky Wasserman Selection. Mrs. Wasserman, known by many as Mother Burgundy, is an exporter of exceptional French wines. Her portfolio of wines is considered one of the best in the business. The wines I have in my cellar from her portfolio are some of my best treasures. $54 a bottle at 56º Wine.

This was followed by a 2010 Donnhoff Riesling Grosses Gewachs "Felsenberg" from magnum. From the Nahe region of Germlany, Donnhoff is one of the finest producers of Riesling wines in the entire world. While I have not had this particular wine, I have a number of Donnhoff wines in my cellar. They are simply delicious as I can imagine this one was. $58 a 750ml bottle at 56º Wine.

Next up was a wine I am not only familiar with, but a big fan of, 2004 Roagna Langhe Rosso. Roagna is one of Piedmont’s top producers of Barolo and Barbaresco. The grapes that do not make it into the Barolo or Barbaresco go into the Langhe Rosso. The result is a wine that while it lacks the depth and complexity of their Barolos or Barbarescos, it has great purity, balance and elegance on the palate. $30. Amanti Vino, Montclair.

Staying in Italy, but moving to Chianti in Tuscany for a 1995 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva. I reported on this wine in my blog, Lunch at Maialino. I hope Joe’s bottle was as good as the one we had on that October day. Some additional information. This wine did not receive a high rating from Parker. In fact according to him it is well past its drinking time. The wine, in my opinion, is at its peak at the moment. So much for numbers. $50.

For his final bottle Joe chose a 1973 CVNE Rioja Gran Reserva Vina Real from Spain. If you recall I reported on the 1976 vintage of this wine a couple of weeks ago. Talk about old world elegance, CVNE wines from before 1990 were amongst the best in Spain. Unfortunately they have since succumbed to more modern wine making and the wines just do not have the soul they used to have. $199 at The Spanish Table, Berkley, CA.

The last to report was my friend Bucky. Here is what he drank along with his notes. 2004 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva. “Was not decanted and probably a little young but after a half hour difference was amazing. Dark fruity and smooth.” One of my favorite producers, Massolino’s wines are a phenomenal expression of traditional, old world winemaking. I tasted this wine at a tasting in NYC a few months ago and it showed great depth, complexity and balance. Finish was pure and elegant. Alas, Bucky you are right it is too young to drink. Put it away for at least 5 years. $125.

2004 Roagna Barbaresco Asili "Very surprised this wine on this night was better than the Massolino. Again this was young but smooth and the fruit not as dark." Another one of my favorite old world producers. While I have not had the Asili from this vintage, I have no doubt of its pedigree. Again, this will benefit from 4-5 years of cellar age. $90.

2009 Aubert Chardonnay "A strong Chard and I know not one of Mark’s favorites. Went great with a couple appetizers". Bucky's right I am not a big fan of California Chardonnay as I find them very oaky in most instances. Marc Aubert, who was the wine maker at Peter Michael before starting his vineyard, makes very good Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The Chardonnays that I have had from him in the past have had well integrated oak and were drinkable for me. Not easy to find and not cheap. Expect to pay about $100 a bottle if you can find them.

2000 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo "Decanted for 3 hours. Surprisingly to me this wine tasted like it is at its peak. Ruby and light in color went perfectly with dinner". World class Barolo here. The essence of terroir and purity in wine. I have had this vintage on numerous occasions and have enjoyed each bottle. Since I have not had it though in 2 years, based on Bucky's comments I need to open a bottle soon and give it a taste.

Thanks again for each of you who shared your holiday wines with us.


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