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, September 13, 2012

Vacation Wines

Well I’m back from a wonderful month at the beach in Lavallette, NJ.  Weather for the most part was great and having our children and grandchildren with us made for a great time.  We did some cooking, visited some good restaurants and drank some good wine.

Of the restaurants we visited, Firefly American Bistro in Manasquan, NJ, a recent addition to the Jersey shore, was absolutely first rate.  Chef Lou Smith has created a terrific menu that is supported by excellent service in a lovely space.  And it is BYOB.  Our plates, each of which was superb, included Wild Mushroom Fricassee, Crab Cakes, Foie Gras, Steak House Wedge Salad, Veal Paillard and Papparadelle with seafood.

For the white wine I brought along a magnum of 2007 Poggio Dei Gorleri Pigato Albium. Pigato is a white grape planted primarily in Liguria and is one of my favorite white wines.  The wine showed great balance and acidity with a bit of viscosity on the palate and possessed a lovely lengthy finish.  Only 700 magnums are produced each year.  The wine is fermented on skins in French oak vats for 3 days, followed by a further period in tonneaux (French barrels). The wine is aged for 3 months in tonneaux, then refined for 7 months in bottle, followed by another 3 months in bottle prior to release. Available at 56º Wine, Bearnardsville, NJ.  $55 per magnum.

Another great Pigato is from Bruna. We consumed a couple of bottles of 2005 Bruna Pigato U Baccan during our month at the beach. The U Baccan is produced entirely from late harvest Pigato grapes primarily from the old vines on the Bruna Estate.  It is a sensational wine.  $45 at DeVino Wine Boutique, NYC.  For more about the Pigato grape click here.  For more about the Pigato grape click here.

For the red I bought a magnum of 2003 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape which drank very well.  This estate makes only one red and one white wine.  The wine is a bit on the modern side but has good balance and terroir.  I find it a bit pricy though at about $100 a bottle.

I am a big fan of the Gruner Veltliner white wine grape, so I brought a few bottles along.  Grown primarily in Austria, it is a very food friendly wine that drinks easily and exhibits great balance and purity on the palate, with a lovely finish.  We happily drank a 2005 Franz Hirtzberger Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Rotes Tor; 2004 FX Pichler Gruner Veltliner Smaragd Durnsteiner Kellerberg and 2005 FXPichler Gruner Veltliner Smaragd M.  Each bottle was superb.  Pichler wines come from single vineyard sites and are made in a traditional style.  If you have never tried Gruner Veltliner, treat yourself and you will be happy you did.  They cost about $40 a bottle.

A few other nice white wines we drank included Jermann Vintage Tunina, a white from Venezia Fruili that is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana and Picolit.  Made in a more modern style, the wine never disappoints.  Widely available, but a bit pricy at about $70. 

At a much more reasonable price is the 2004 Movia Ribolla Gialla at about $30.  Also from Venezia Fruili at the Slovanian border this incredible wine is made by master winemaker Ales Kristancic.  Simply delicious.

Another terrific Italian white wine grape is Trebbiano. This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo.  Mostly, they are pale, easy drinking wines, but Trebbiano from producers such as Paolo Bea, Valentini and Emidio Pepe have been known to age for 15+ years. At the shore we drank a couple of bottles of 2004 Paolo Bea Arboreus.  Bea is one of the iconic traditional producers in all of Italy.  Located in Umbria, this is a delicious wine with great purity, balance and focus.  Alas it is not easy to find, but if you do expect to pay about $60.

For red wine I brought along 2000 Bruno Giacosa Riserva; 2000 Roagna Barolo Riserva la Rocca E la Pira;  2000 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo and 2000 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Cerequio.  2000 was a warm vintage in Italy yielding wines of low acidity and therefore not wines that will have a long life.  Happily all of these drank well with the Giacosa, Roagna and Bartolo giving virtuoso performances.  The Voerzio while more modern, drank well, but was not up to the others.

2010 was an exceptional vintage in Burgundy.  The wines are spectacular and will require cellar time to reach peak drinkability. I could not resist trying a wine from this vintage so I brought along a 2010 Domaine Joseph Voillot Bourgogne Rouge Vielle Vignes (old vines) to try.  Bourgogne level wines are meant to be drunk early so I decided to give this a try. While the fruit was pure, soft and balanced on the palate, it was a bit light and thus will benefit from a couple of more years in the cellar.  At $35 a bottle a great wine to add to your cellar.  56º Wine, Bernardsville, NJ.

Additional restaurants that we enjoyed and you might want to check out were:

Runners Seafood Restaurant andMarket, Lavallette, NJ.  Fresh seafood, properly cooked.  BYOB

Xina, Toms River, NJ.  A new addition to the shore this is a great spot for sushi, oysters and Chinese food.  Courteous service, reasonable prices and good food.  BYOB

Labrador Lounge, Normandy Beach, NJ.  Eclectic menu featuring Asian, Mexican and American dishes prepared very well.  BYOB

Via Veneto Ristorante, Brick, NJ.  Good Italian food, but service can be a problem.

Mia’s Pizzeria, Ortley Beach,NJ is a great take-out spot (dinning in also available) for pizza, pasta and veal parm.



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