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.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Notre Dame Wine Dinner

For the past three years I have been involved in our parish’s wine dinner fundraiser.  This year’s event took place at Il Tulipano Ristorante in Cedar Grove, NJ last Friday evening.  Chris Cree, MW, owner of 56º Wine in Bearnardsville, NJ once again put together an amazing selection of wines for the evening, and Gregorio Polimeni and his staff did a terrific job with a delicious menu to compliment the wines. 

With a fantastic assortment of passed antipasti that included delicious homemade pizza, tender & greaseless fried calamari and a host of assorted canapés we enjoyed 2010 Domaine Terrebrune Bandol Rose (from magnum) and 2011 Robert Sinskey Abraxas "Vin de Terroir" Los Carneros.

The Domaine Terrebrune is from the magnificent portfolio of Kermit Lynch, one of the country’s top importers.  From the Bandol (Provence) region of France this terrific wine is a blend of  Mourvedre, Grenache & Cinsault grapes.  The grapes are farmed organically and reside in limestone gravel and brown clay earth.  The resulting wine is delicious, round and well balanced with good acidity for aging.  While a bit pricey for a Rosé, it does define the category.  $80 per magnum.  This is a great wine to enjoy this summer when lounging by the pool or to compliment a meal with grilled vegetables, grilled fish such as Tuna, Salmon, Bronzino or for lunch with a Salad Nicoise.

I am not a fan of California wines, especially the whites as I find them akin to drinking liquid oak, so when Chris suggested the Sinskey Abraxas "Vin de Terroir" Los Carneros my initial reaction was, “Oh no!”, until he explained the wine and winemaker this way; “Ever the contrarian, Robert Sinskey continues to blaze trails in California winemaking searching outside the norm for wines of intrigue and allure.  At a time when most winemakers are trying to grow as much Chardonnay as possible, Sinskey discontinued his delicious Three Amigos Chardonnay and is instead focusing on Alsace varietals.  The Abraxas is a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Blanc raised entirely in stainless steel (NO OAK).  Winemaker Jeff Virnig has created an elegant, yet flavorful offering flowing with floral nectarine goodness, apples and spice.  This extremely aromatic offering is a perfect wine for Thai, sushi, and other Asian cuisine, Mexican dishes, an assortment of cheeses as well as your favorite fresh pan-seared fish simply prepared”.  After tasting the wine I understood what he meant.  The wine was delicious.   Farming is Certified Organic & Biodynamic.  $40.

With our first course, Tilapia Alla Fiorentina we enjoyed a wine from one of the world’s greatest winemakers, Gaston Huet.  The wine was 2010 Domaine Huet Sec Le Haut Lieu Vouvray.  I have written about the wines of Huet in many previous posts, as I drink them quite frequently.  This is world-class juice.  Made from 100% Chenin Blanc and vinified in stainless steel tanks the wine had a magnificent complexity and freshness on the palate with an exquisite elegant finish.  What is amazing about Huet wines is that they will age for decades and evolve into wines that will provide you with a provocative wine experience.    Upon release they are a steal at under $30 a bottle.  30 years from now this will easily be worth 10 times that price.  This bottle is $28 currently.

With the pasta course, Cannelloni Alla Piedmontese, we enjoyed two reds from Italy side by side. In one glass was 2005 Roagna Langhe Rosso.  This is essentially a baby Barolo.  Made from grapes produced on young vines (20 years old) Luca Roagna considers the vines too young to put into his Barolo, so he bottles them as a Langhe Rosso. This wine was stunning with fabulous purity, balance and elegance on the palate and finish.  It will age for years and at $30 a bottle is a steal.  It was for me, the wine of the night.

In the second glass was the 2010 La Crotta di Vegneron “Chambave” Val d’Aosta.  Located northwest of the Piedmont region of Italy this wine is a blend of mostly Petite Rouge with smaller amounts of Mayolet, Fumin, Cornalin & Pinot Noir.  Farmed organically, the wine sees no oak in the vinification process.  This is a friendly and easy drinking wine that goes well with pasta and at $17 a bottle hard to pass up on.  

Entrée choices were Chicken alla Forristierre or Tournedos of Beef Massena.   We enjoyed another two reds here.  The first, from Spain, was 2009 Dominio Pingus PSI Ribera de Duero.  Made from 100% Tempranillo grape, the wine is also farmed organically and biodynamically. The wine had a deep red hue and, in my opinion, highly extracted fruit.  Full-bodied and lush on the palate, it is not my kind of wine.  

Here are Chris Cree’s comments on this wine,  “Peter Sisseck, the rock star of Ribera del Duero, has crafted a gem of a wine that costs just a sliver of what his amazing Pingus does ($42 vs. $800).  All of the fruit is from the high quality vineyards of Valladolid, a sweet spot in Ribera.   Organic and biodynamically farmed vines give birth to great wine, according to Peter.  PSI, named after the 23rd letter in the Greek alphabet, is thoroughly mind-bending stuff.  Broad and rich on the palate, the dark berries, currants, lavender and gravel notes are linked together with silky fine tannins and a hint of oak.  This is clearly the best vintage of this wine I've ever tasted, so detailed and complex.  Very long finishing, this wine can stand up to more cellaring, so best to enjoy now through 2018.”  

The second wine with the entrée was 2008 Domaine de la Grange des Peres Vin de Pays de l’Herault Rouge.  From the Languedoc region of France the wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Mourvedre and is also farmed organically. The domaine is considered to be the best in all of the Languedoc-Rousillon area.  Chris comments, “Owner and winemaker Laurent Vaille is a former physiotherapist turned wine wizard.  His tutelage under Gerard Chave and Francois Coche-Dury gave him the tools to become the legendary figure he has now become.  Starting in 1992, this winery has gone from "on the map" to "off the charts", wowing not only the wine press, but also all who taste the wines.  They are that spectacular!  A wine that will age magnificently in a cool cellar but is truly hard to resist right now.  Should be decanted prior to enjoying”.  While a bit young this was great juice and a great wine in the making.  It was rich and pure on the palate and finished with elegance.  Alas, wines like this do not come cheap, $110.

With our dessert of assorted Italian pastries we were treated to 1985 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon.  Another Chenin Blanc sweet white wine gem from the Loire Valley in France, the wine is made without botrytis (noble rot), and is aged a minimum of 10 years before release. The wines have an amazing track record for longevity, and can last 50-100 years in the great vintages. The grapes are handpicked in several stages. The real secret of the Moulin Touchais longevity and charming complexity results from this harvesting strategy: 20% of the grapes are picked around 80 days after flowering while the fruit is still underripe and loaded with acidity, the other 80% is harvested late (one hundred & twenty days after flowering) yielding fruit with high sugar levels and concentrated flavors. High acidity and sugar levels ultimately determine Moulin Touchais' opulent style: smooth and elegant.  This wine sang tonight.  The sweetness was not cloying, instead in was in beautiful harmony with the purity of the grape.  It danced on and tantalized the palate and finished with considerable length.  $65.

All wines are available from 56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ.

My thanks to our wine committee, Chris Cree and Il Tulipano Risotrante for making the evening such a success.


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