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, March 18, 2012

Les Cinque Arias

The aria is the highlight of any opera. It is a number that is usually performed solo because it stands on its own. This was very much the experience our wine group had with the 5 bottles of wine we drank this past Monday when we gathered at Osteria Giotto in Montclair, N.J. Howard, who was in the cue for the wine, did a magnificent job in his selection of 5 absolutely stunning wines from Italy, each of which had a magnificent aria of its own to sing.

Osteria Giotto is in my opinion one of the top Italian restaurants in all of New Jersey and has been since it opened a number of years ago. Owners/chefs Roberto Pantusa and Luca Valerin met and worked at the Michelin starred San Domenico Ristorante in Imola, Italy. They learned their trade extremely well. Their food is authentic, fresh and prepared with great care and skill. Tonight I cleaned up every morsel of my appetizer of Tripe served over grilled Polenta. I must tell you that I have never been a fan of tripe. I always found the consistency in the mouth to be chewy and very unappetizing until I tried Luca’s tripe a few years ago. His preparation of the dish is the antithesis of my previous experience. Following his mother’s recipe, he cuts the tripe into small pieces and stews it in a delicious tomato sauce that contains a bit of cinnamon until it is meltingly tender. The flavor simply explodes in the mouth.

For my main course I had Cavatelli pasta in a Tomato & Basil sauce. Simplicity itself. The combination of the perfectly made sauce with the freshly made (on the premises) & perfectly cooked Cavatelli must be tasted to be appreciated. Additional dishes that were enjoyed included Tuna Tartare, Veal Milanese alla Holstein (served with 2 friend eggs on top) and the above-mentioned Cavatelli in a sauce of eggplant, crumbled sausage and plum tomatoes. Each dish received applause from the group and were great matches for the wines.

As for the wine we began with a terrific 1997 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano. We drank this right out of the bottle with no decanting and it really sang. It had a beautiful earthy bouquet with vibrant young fruit. Balanced, complex and pure on the palate, the wine finished with length and elegance. In my opinion the wine has entered it’s drinking window and can be enjoyed for at least another 15 to 20 years. $160 at The Rare Wine Company, Sonoma, CA.

The next bottle to be opened was a 2000 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I am a big fan of Pepe wines, especially the 2000 vintage. I have not had the vintage in couple of years, but will return to it very shortly as this is drinking beautifully at the moment. The wine was full of terroir and is just a beautiful expression of old world style wine making. Great color and balance, with a lush finish, it absolutely soared from the glass. This wine will last for decades, however finding this vintage may be a challenge. The 2003 is available at Wine Legend, Livingston, NJ and DeVino Wine Boutique, NYC for around $55.

Our rhapsodic evening of Italian red wine continued with a 1998 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino. In my opinion there is no better wine maker of Brunello di Montalcino than Gianfranco Soldera. His wines are the essence of what a great wine is all about. I have had this vintage on several occasions and it once again soared. This is a wine to be sipped and enjoyed over a couple of hours. It continues to evolve in the glass with each sip better than the previous one. This is a completely round wine with soul. Its elegance reminds me of a great French Burgundy. Expect to pay upwards of $250 a bottle.

The next wine, a 1999 Giocomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia, is an absolutely stunning wine in the making. The wine exhibited fantastic purity of fruit, was full-bodied with great complexity on the palate and finished with elegeance and length. Still a baby give this another 5 to 10 years in the cellar and you will be amply rewarded. $190. The Rare Wine Company.

The final wine of the evening was our old friend Giuseppe Quintarelli Rosso del Bepi 1999. I wrote about this wine in my post Tony’s Barolo Birthday last month. My comments then are applicable now, “…soared from the glass, tantalized the palate with its lush, pure fruit and finished with great length". As I reported previously, Rosso del Bepi is only made in vintages when Giiuseppe feels that the grapes do not meet his strict standards to be labeled Amarone. Thus he declassifies the wine and calls it Rosso di Bepi. It is in fact his Amarone at ½ the price. About $130 a bottle. De-Vino Wine Boutique, NY Wine Warehouse, Italian Wine Merchants, NYC.

We concluded a wonderful evening with espresso, cappuccino and Luca’s marvelous Millefoglie. This magnificent dessert is made with delicious vanilla custard layered between 3 layers of puff pastry.

The general consensus was that the wines of the evening were the Emidio Pepe and the Soldera, with the vote for the top one split between the group. However each wine on its own was terrific. This was simply a great tasting.

A final note, these wines are a bit expensive to acquire now, which is why it is wise to purchase wines from these producers upon release when the price tag is much more affordable. Cellar them and then enjoy them as they mature.

Howard, thanks again for a great selection of wines.


No comments:

Post a Comment