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.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Fantastic Wine Experience

On many occasions I have commented in WWN about “experiencing” wine, not just tasting it.  Let me see if I can explain what I mean by that statement.  When you experience a wine you are transported to the vineyard, its soil and climate, and the cellar of the winemaker.  You get to experience how good wine can be when it is crafted by those who understand that their mission is to take the grapes that Mother Nature has provided them and extract from them their full potential.  When this is accomplished, each sip seems speak to you as the wine evolves in the glass, soars on the palate and provides ever changing and wonderful tasting experiences.  Not easy to explain, but if you drink wines from artisans like Gravner, Massolino and Huet you will begin to understand what I mean.

A few weeks ago I was invited, along with a group of wine loving friends, to an industry wine tasting at the Pluckemin Inn.  The tasting consisted mainly of Bordeaux, not a favorite of mine, thus I tasted only a few wines.  Why then did I go?  Two reasons, our group planned to have dinner at the Pluckemin Inn after the tasting and partake of the superb wine selection wine director Brian Hider has amassed.  Brian offers many extraordinary wines from some of the most gifted winemakers in the world and at reasonable prices.

For dinner there were pristinely fresh, ice-cold oysters, NY Strip Steak and Braised Short Ribs.  While all were excellent the wines stole the show.

We began with a 1995 Chateau Leoville Barton that Allen in our group brought along.  As stated above I am not a fan of Bordeauxs as they are usually a blend of grapes, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which I do not like.  This wine is from a top producer and I did try it.  While the fruit was still young and the tannins were soft, it was a bit massive for for my palate.  The wine was enjoyed by the rest of the group who do not share my feelings on Bordeaux.  About $100.

In my last post I wrote about a bottle of 2005 Gravner Breg Anfora.  As you may recall the wine is made in large beeswax-lined clay amphorae.  The wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Italico, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.  What I have learned since that post is that Gravner did not start to use Amphorae until the 2001 vintage.  Prior to 1997 Gravner experimented with modern techniques for a brief time. 1997-2000 marked the period of Gravner's brief transitional phase. During this phase he made his wine in large open top wood vats.  Says Gravner, "I am convinced that wine is a product of Nature, not of Man, whose role therefore is to accompany its maturation process while avoiding any artificial intervention."

On this evening we got to try two wines from this period, 1999 Gravner Breg and 1999 Gravner Ribolla Gialla.  All I can say is “Wow! Wow! Wow!  Both of these wines were beautiful.  As with his Amphorae made wines the same gorgeous orange hue was present as was the impeccable purity and intoxicating earthy bouquet.  They were round and delicious. A fantastic wine experience.  Were they better or worse than the Amphorae wines?  No, they were on the same amazing level.  For three of my friends, this was their first experience with Gravner.  They echoed Wow! Wow! Wow!  As I mentioned in my last post these are white wines that should be decanted for at least four hours and drunk at red wine temperature.  While they are not for everyone, they provide a unique and incredible experience.  Unfortunately the 1999 is impossible to find.  The Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop may have some 2000 available and Italian Wine Merchants in NYC may still have some 1998.  Expect to pay $90 and above, depending on the vintage.

In case you are wondering what happened to the open vats that Gravner abandoned, they have since found a home in Barolo with the great Giuseppe Rinaldi, whose wines, like Gravner’s, are of a different world.  

What do you drink after wines like this?  Like I said earlier, Brian’s list facilitates the challenge.  We selected a 1999 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva that was superb.  Another round and delicious wine, with an earthy bouquet, clean fruit and a monster finish.  This wine is just coming into it’s drinking window and has many more years ahead of it.  $99.

Brian treated us to the final wine of the evening, 2003 Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1ere Trie.  I wrote of this wine in an April post.  From the Loire Valley this 100% Chenin Blanc white provides one great wine experience. The wine had a peachy bouquet that seduced the olfactory senses.  On the palate it was full-bodied with pure, ripe fruit, and a delicious mid-level sweetness.  It finished with considerable length.  A round and delicious wine experience.  Like all Huet wines they are built to age and this is certainly no exception.  $50

Thanks Brian for making such a great evening possible.


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