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, October 26, 2012

Culin Ariane

A couple of weeks ago our wine group met at Culin Ariane in Montclair, NJ for our monthly wine dinner.  It was Howard’s turn to provide the wines and he did a superb job with his selection of red Burgundies with some age on them.  The marvelous cuisine of chef Ariane Duarte was a perfect compliment to these glorious wines.

Fried Oysters w/ Horseradish Cream
Our appetizers consisted of Cornmeal Crusted Oysters with Horseradish Cream & Micro Greens.  Anyone who eats here with any regularity has become addicted to these perfectly fried crustaceans.  The combination of the brininess of the oysters with the "bite" of the horseradish cream works to perfection in this amazing dish.

Manila Clams with Spanish Chorizo, Cherry Tomatoes and an olive Olive Oil Herbed Crouton and Sashimi Tuna Flower with Crispy Wontons, Pickled Cucumber & Wasabi Crème Fraiche rounded out the appetizers.  As with the oysters, both dishes were a magnificent explosion of textures and tastes on the palate.  As always we also consumed way too many of the ethereal buttery homemade croissants that were served with the appetizers.

We began the evening with a 1978 Camille Giroud Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1er Cru.  While the nose had an enticing and earthy bouquet, the palate at first lacked fruit.  As the wine sat in the glass the fruit began to evolve nicely.  As I have this wine in my personal cellar, I opened another bottle a few nights later and decanted it for 3 hours and the wine really responded.  The earthy bouquet really soared from the glass and the fruit was much more vibrant.  While I don’t think this wine has a lot of time left, it should be enjoyable for another 3-5 years.  While the 1978 will not be easy to find and will be pricey, more recent vintages from this producer are highly recommended.

We followed this with a 1989 Joseph Drouhin Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru, which like the Giroud drank very nicely.  I found the wine to have a terrific feminine elegance with good fruit and a very nice finish.  Joseph Drouhin is a terrific producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  He owns three wineries: one in Beaune (his headquarters), one in Chablis, and, since 1988, a third in Oregon's Willamette Valley.  Drouhin follows biodynamic principles all of vineyards and organic farming is being practiced throughout all Drouhin properties. Annual production of Drouhin's Burgundy wines range from 300,000 to 400,000 cases per year, depending on the vintage.  You can pay as little as $25 a bottle or as much as several hundred dollars a bottle for his wines.  They are superb at all levels.  Since the wine we drank will be very difficult to find, allow me to suggest the 2010 Joseph Drouhin Cote de Beaune Villages Red at around $23 a bottle.  From the fantastic 2010 vintage, this wine, while not a Grand Cru, is an incredible value and should be widely available.

Fettuccine w/ Wild Boar Ragu

Main course choices included Thai Chile Garlic Seasoned Monkfish Osso Bucco with Quinoa “Fried Rice,” Summer Vegetables, Ginger Thai Basil Beurre Blanc; braised Short Ribs of Beef; homemade Fettuccine with Wild Boar Ragu and the same homemade Fettucine served Carbonara Style.  The Fettucine with the Wild Boar was fantastic, the Carbonara, while very tasty, lacked the textural component of the Carbonara I had here a week previously.  This was through no fault of Ariane.  The previous week she made the dish with Spaghettini and it was so good I asked her if she would make it again.  Alas, she had only Fettuccine and I gave it a try.  The dish needs Spaghetti or similar type pasta to get the textural component that makes the dish so special, especially at Culin Ariane.

The first wine we tasted with our entrées was 1990 Domaine Alain Burguet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes Villages.  As with the first two wines this wine had an enticing earthy bouquet, however the fruit lacked focus and it finished a bit short.

The next wine, 1996 Domaine Bertagna Clos St. Denis Grand Cru, was terrific.  On the palate the lively fruit was soft and pure and it finished with length, complexity and elegance.  A terrific bottle of wine.  Will not be easy to find.  If you do expect to pay around $100.

The final wine, 1997 Domaine Joseph Roty Mazy-Chambertin Grand Cru, was an equal match to the Bertagna.  In fact it was the consensus of the group that these two wines were the wines of the evening.  The wine had a beautiful translucent red hue and the unmistakable bouquet of great Burgundy.  On the palate it displayed wonderful ripe fruit and finished with considerable length.

It was a great evening of food & wine.  Thank you Howard and Ariane. 

A week prior to this Carol and I were joined by good friends Tony and Fran at Culin Ariane for another wonderful meal paired with a terrific selection of eclectic wines.  We began with a 2007 Scarbolo My Time.  A blend of Chardonnay, Friulano and Sauvignon Blanc, this white from Friuli Venezia, Italy had great focus and lush fruit.  Rich and pure on the palate it had a wonderfully long and soft finish.  About $35 a bottle, however it will not be easy to find.  The wine is imported by Soilair, NYC.

We visted the Northern Rhone Valley of France for two extraordinary wines that we drank side-by-side.  2003 René Rostaing Cote-Rotie La Landonne.  This single vineyard Syrah showed beautifully. On the palate the fruit was fresh and concentrated and tannins were soft and well integrated.  It finished with a lengthy richness.  The 1999 Jean Louis Chave Hermitage, also 100% Syrah, we drank alongside also showed beautifully.  It possessed a magnificent nose and on the palate it had pure, focused fruit and considerable complexity.  As with the Rostaing, the tannins were soft and well integrated, and it finished with a lengthy, soft elegance.  These were simply two round and delicious wines with considerable soul.   

The final wine of the evening was 2005 Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance.  This is a magnificent dessert wine that is graceful with an impeccable balance of residual sugar and fruit.  The wine soars on the palate, has a long rich finish and will last for decades.  

Culin Ariane and great wine is an unbeatable combination.


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