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.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Recent Wines

While I have not been very active in blogging about wine lately, I certainly have been active in enjoying a number of terrific wines so far this month.  Here are some highlights.

2001 Radikon Oslavje.  From Friuli-Venezia at the Slovanian border, Stanislao Radikon is one of Italy’s iconic producers. He pursues a deceptively simple philosophy—the production of wines that are wholly natural. These wines are singly devoted to the grape and the grape alone. His white or “orange wines” such as Ribolla Gialla & Oslavje (white blend) are stunningly pure and balanced on the palate and provide a remarkable drinking experience.  The 2001 Oslavje is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc.  At 11 years of age the wine continues to drink beautifully.  These wines should be drunk like a red wine, i.e. at room temperature, to be properly appreciated and enjoyed.  They exhibit a slight oxidation on the palate and as such you will either love the wine or hate it.  It is a unique drinking experience. The 2005 vintage is currently available at Chambers Street Wines, NYC for $47. The Ribolla Gialla is also delicious and sells for the same price.

Antonio Galloni of The Wine Advocate once told me that Enzo Pontoni, owner/wine maker of Miani Winery in Friuli-Venezia, Italy is a genius when it comes to making both red and white wine.  Pricey and very difficult to acquire, a recent bottle of 2009 Miani Friulano Tocai Buri gave me every cause to agree with Mr. Galloni. The wine was absolutely stunning.  Pure, balanced and focused on the palate with an enticing bit of viscosity.  The wine continued to evolve in the glass with each sip and finished with elegance and soul.  One of the best white wines I have ever tasted.  I was able to locate some a while back at Zachy’s.  

My good friend Gabrio Tosti, owner of De-Vino Wine Boutique, NYC, reminded me at a lunch a while back about the problems of the 1997 vintage in Italy.  He especially recommended drinking up all Barolos, Barbarescos and Valpolicellas from the Veneto in short order.  I am glad we had the lunch, as unfortunately he was right.

When first released, the 1997 Barolos were highly praised by most wine critics.  Today, with the exception of Wine Spectator, which scored the vintage 99 points (numbers, ugh), most knowledgeable wine writers and sommeliers will tell you they were wrong about the vintage and that 1996 has in fact turned out to be a much, much better vintage. 

The 1997 growing season in the Barolo region in Piedmont, Italy was hot and dry. As a result of the weather the Nebbiolo grapes had uncharacteristic low acidity and high sugar levels that produced atypical Barolos that are not for long aging. 

I opened close to a dozen bottles of 1997 Italian wines this month from Barolo and the Veneto and was extremely disappointed and unimpressed with all but one of them.  I found that they had become "tired" and had lost their vitality in most cases.  The fruit was waning and the complexity was gone.  These wines were not much fun to drink.

The Barolos I drank were from three of the region’s top producers.  1997 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva (5 bottles); 1997 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (4 bottles) and 1997 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Riserva Monprivato Ca’ d’Morisso (1 bottle).

While each of the Conterno bottles had that signature Conterno traditional earthy bouquet and purity of fruit, the wine was old, tired and on the boring side.

Of the 4 bottles of Bartolo Mascarello, 3 were undrinkable.  They were oxidized and insipid.  The other bottle while drinkable was similar to the Conterno.  Fortunately the wine shop I purchased them from took back my remaining unopened bottles.

The Ca’ d”Morisso was by far the best of the lot.  Fruit and vitality were still in tact and the wine drank very nicely.  I plan on finishing my last 5 bottles in the near future as I am afraid they will undergo the same fate as the others.

I also opened 3 bottles of 1997 Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore, and while each drank much better than the ’97 Baroli, the fruit in each bottle was starting to decline.  The remarkable balance between sweet and dry, acidity and fruit that gives his wines such a remarkable complexity was not up to other vintages of this wine that I have enjoyed.  It is still a good bottle of wine, but I would drink whatever you have up over the next year as I do not think it is going to last much longer.

The 2007 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is considered by every wine writer I have read to be one of the greatest vintages ever for the appellation and comparable to the fabulous 1990 vintage.  A 2007 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Reserve certainly lived up to the accolades of the critics.  The wine had incredible depth and purity of fruit on the palate, along with a bracing acidity, complexity and roundness.  It finished with unparalleled elegance.  Alas wines of this quality will set you back more than a few dollars and are difficult to find.  Definitely a wine for that special occasion. 

While the 2001 vintage in Chablis in Burgundy is no match for the 2007 vintage in CDP, top producers such as Francois Raveneau managed to turn out superb wines such as his 2001 Raveneau Chablis Valmur.  This was a terrific bottle.  Crisp with a wonderful stony minerality on the palate, it had beautiful balance, long finish and is in its drinking window now.

The 2004 vintage in the Northern Rhone region of France was in the same category of the 2001 Burgundy vintage, good but not the stuff of which legends are made.  Many excellent wines were made in the vintage however.  I am a fan of Norhern Rhone white grapes such as Marsanne, Viognier & Roussanne.  I like their complexity and viscosity on the palate.  The 2004 Chapoutier Ermitage le Meal Blanc made from 100% Marsanne is a perfect example. The wine exhibited great depth & purity on the palate.  Its finish was lush and long.  A wine with soul!

Staying in the Norther Rhone but moving over to red, I opened a bottle of 2009 Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie Ampodium Classique that I purchased recently. Rostaing's winemaking is a mix of tradition and modernism such as total or partial destemming (100% for the Classique) and the fermentation in roto-fermenters.  A fair amount of new oak is used.

Made from 100% Syrah from 13 different plots, the wine was rich and concentrated, the oak was well integrated and hints of pepper and spice danced on the palate.  It finished a bit short however, suggesting to me that it probably needs a couple more years of cellar aging.  56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ. 

For my money, one of the best Sauternes you can buy is from Chateau La Tour Blanche.  The 2001 La Tour Blanche Sauternes is drinking marvelously at the moment and will continue to do so for many years.  I absolutely love the fruit, coconut and vanilla layers that soar from the glass and delight the palate.  The wine’s impeccable balance and yummy non-medicinal finish make this wine a tour-de-force in my opinion.  At $45 a bottle this is the average guy’s Chateau d’Yquem.  


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