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, April 11, 2012

Lunch at the Pluckemin Inn

This past Thursday, along with good friends Emil & Gino, I had lunch with Brian Hider, Wine Director at the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminister, NJ. Emil introduced me to Brian about a month ago when I was searching for Giuseppi Quintarelli wines for my annual Hemophilia Association of New Jersey gourmet wine dinner fundraiser. I have had the pleasure of working with this incredible organization for more than 20 years and they do a phenomenal job supporting New Jersey's hemophilia population.

I have always wanted to do a wine dinner that featured the wines of Giuseppi Quintarelli. Finding the wines is not always easy. As you know from a previous post, Giuseppi passed away in January, so I felt this was the perfect time and the perfect occasion to honor the man, his legacy and his wines and raise money for an incredible organization. Thanks to Brian I was able to find the wines I wanted and at a good price. The dinner will take place on May 7th, 2012 at Il Capriccio Ristorante in Whippany.

Brian not only oversees the restaurant’s wine list, but he is also responsible for the inventory for the Pluckemin Inn’s retail wine shop. Both lists are extensive, well thought out and reasonably priced. In my opinion both the restaurant list and the retail shop inventory are amongst the finest you will find not only in New Jersey but in all of the USA.

I found Brian to be a very articulate, knowledgeable wine person with a very warm demeanor. His passion for wine is evident from the onset and is evident in both his wine by the glass selections as well as bottle selections. On this day he was a most graceful host who treated us to three spectacular wines to enjoy with our lunch.

2000 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino. In my opinion Poggio di Sotto is in the same league with Gianfranco Soldera when it comes to traditionally crafted Brunello di Montalcino. Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes this vintage is drinking very nicely at the moment. It is nicely balanced on the palate with an enticing bouquet and a round and elegant finish. $100

2001 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve. I wrote about this fantastic wine in a previous post. This bottle was equally as stunning as the previous bottle. I initially thought the bouquet was a Burgunday but as the wine opened there was no mistake that it was an elegant CDP. As the wine evolved in the glass the bouquet became intoxicating. On the palate it was pure, complex and completely round with a monster finish. While CDP law allows for the use of all 13 grapes indigenous to the region, Rayas is made from 100% Grenache. This wine is what CDP is all about. $150.

The final bottle Brian treated us to was a 2003 Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1ere Trie. From the Loire Valley this 100% Chenin Blanc white was stupendous. Readers of this blog know that I am a huge fan of Huet wines and the Chenin Blanc grape. I have many vintages in my cellar. Alas I had not had this vintage of the Moelleux 1ere Trie. The wine was pristinely pure on the palate with a delicious mid-level sweetness and a ripe, rich finish. 2003 was not a very good year in the Loire Valley, but wine maker Noel Pinguet turned out just magnificent wines including this gem. Huet wines seem to age forever. And the more they age, the better they get and the more valuable they become. Upon release they are very inexpensive. I recently purchased some of the 2010 vintage (terrific vintage) for under $30 a bottle. This wine will last for many decades. The 2003 is priced at $48. BTW, Brian will be happy to sell you the 1921 vintage of this wine for a mere $1,160 a bottle. See what I mean about increasing in value.

Along with these great wines we enjoyed a couple of pizza thin crusted pizzas, Margherita and a white pie with mozzarella and prosciutto.. We then all opted for the Plucky Burger, juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare and served with fresh cut fries, they had us licking our chops. We also decided to sample a Porchetta sandwich, which we had cut into three pieces. It was comprised of thin sliced Italian roast pork, broccoli rabe and aged provolone. It was delicious.

If you have never been to the Pluckemin Inn for Dinner, put it on your bucket list. And for wine allow Brian to pair your dinner choices with the wine. You will be glad you did.


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