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, March 10, 2012

New & Delicious Wines

This past week I have had some new and absolutely delicious wines that I would like to share with you. For our family Sunday dinner last week my wife made a large pot of Pasta e Fagioli and I made a bunch of Kobe Beef Cheeseburger sliders. Both turned out fabulous.
With these dishes I opened up two new wines that I had purchased the day before from 56º Wine in Bernardsville, NJ. As I have mentioned before, Master of Wine Chris Cree is forever bringing in wines from small artisanal wine makers, so when I read about his visit to Domaine Breton in the Loire Valley of France I knew I had to try the wines. The red varietal of the Loire is Cabernet Franc, which is a particular favorite of mine. Catherine & Pierre Breton are traditional wine makers who use only indigenous yeasts in their fermentations. The resulting wines are stunning, at least the two I tried were. Prior to sitting down to our meal we enjoyed a 2010 Catherine & Pierre Breton Anjou Rose de Saigne La Ritoumelle. The purity of this Rosé knocked my socks off. Importer Kermit Lynch writes, “Pierre Breton's idea is to make a rosé that approaches the pinnacle of naturalness. It is cold fermented to about 1.5% residual sugar. It is then racked and further chilled to stop the fermentation. It is bottled with approximately 0.5 atmospheres of pressure. There is only a very small addition of sulfur-dioxide just before bottling, so the wine has wonderful purity”. This was absolutely delicious, even my wife, Miss Arneis Blanghe loved the wine. At $25 a bottle it is as good a value as you can find.

With our meal we drank an absolutely perfect bottle of 1986 Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrieres. 100% Cabernet Franc from one of the most prized hillside parcels in Bourgueil, this was awesome. The wine possessed an intoxicating earthy bouquet on the nose and was pure and rich on the palate with a lengthy and elegant finish. Here is a completely round wine with soul. Fermentation and élevage (aging) is done in large (550L) barrique of which some are new. A bit pricey at $95, but well worth the price. Both wines are available at 56º Wine.

On Monday night Carol and I dined at Fin Rawbar & Kitchen in Montclair, the sister restaurant of Salute located a few doors south on Glenridge Ave. Only open a few months, owner Gerry Cerrigone has a hit on his hands. As the name implies, Fin is about seafood, and in this case pristinely fresh seafood. On this evening Carol began, as she always does here, with Crispy Spring Rolls that are stuffed with lobster and shrimp and served with Asian mustard and & sweet dipping sauces. These are very crisp and tasty spring rolls and always a great starter. I started as I always do with a half dozen of wonderfully fresh East coast oysters.

Carol patiently sipped her 2010 Brovia Rorero Arneis “Sanche di Vezza" while I devoured a bowl of New England Clam Chowder. Studded with Mahogany Clams and Apple Smoked Bacon it was the perfect answer to the chilly night air. The Brovia Arneis is wonderful. From one of Piedmont Italy's top producers, it is crisp and delicious on the palate and a great accompaniment to seafood. $23 at 56º Wine.
While I enjoy the Brovia Arneis I wanted to try the 2009 Olga Raffault Chinon Champ Chenin that I purchased a few months before. Located in the tiny commune of Chinon in the Loire Region of France, Domaine Olga Raffault produces stunning reds from Cabernet Franc and whites from Chenin Blanc. The wine was a terrific compliment to the meal. It was very crisp and pure on the palate with well-balanced acidity. This is still very much a baby and the fruit is not yet at full expression. I would give this wine a few more years of cellar aging. $30 at Chambers Street Wines, NYC.

Our main courses consisted of Crispy Skin Salmon (Carol) served with an Asian glazed radicchio, spinach and napa cabbage sauté, and Fish N Chips (me). Both were delicious; the salmon was moist and full of flavor and my battered codfish was fried to perfection, crunchy and yummy. I substituted mashed potatoes for the chips and they were smooth and creamy. A delightful and tasty meal.

Wednesday found me in NYC for a tasting of the 2010 vintage of Joseph Drouhin Burgundies. I must admit that while I enjoy these wines the fact that the tasting was being held at a private room above Restaurant Benoit was my reason for going. Not long ago while watching a Food Channel episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, the French Onion Soup at Benoit was featured. I simply had to try it and boy am I glad that I did.

This is the mother of all onion soups. It takes 5 hours to prepare. (I know this because the recipe was printed in the NY Times on January 27th of this year. Click here for the recipe). While the individual components of the soup, the onions, the Gruyere Cheese, the baguette bread and the broth are all fantastic on their own, in combination they soar to new heights. This is one great crock of soup and that ain't no crock!

The Benoit has a wonderful and reasonably priced wine list. However since we were going to a tasting immediately after lunch we decided to ask for a recommendation for a glass of white wine to accompany our lunch. Chief Sommelier Andre Compeyre suggested 2010 Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet, a wine from the Languedoc region of France that we were not familiar with.
The wine was beautiful. Its crispness and purity leaped from the glass and danced on the palate. It had wonderful acidity and balance and was perfect match for our raw oysters, lobster salad and onion soup. The Picpoul grape is primarily grown in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc regions of France. Its name means "lip-stinger" and refers to the high acidity of the grapes. I fell in love with the wine and a quick visit to Wine Searcher told me it was available at Chambers Street Wines, NYC. At $16 bottle I called Jamie Wolfe at Chambers and ordered a case.

A final note that may be of interest to some. The Benoit wine list offers back vintages of high-end wines by the ounce. For example if you are so inclined and do not mind spending $48 an ounce you can partake of a 1997 Chateau Petrus. For $16 an ounce you can drink 1986 Guigal La Landonne. An interesting idea.


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