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, June 23, 2013

Emil's B-Day Lunch

Our good friend Emil had a birthday this past week, so Tony and I took him to lunch at Benissimo Ristorante in Madison, NJ.  Benissimo is the latest restaurant of Nicola Moncada, who previously owned Due Nicola in Little Falls, NJ and Il Cinghiale in Little Ferry, NJ.  Good, honest Italian food, with an emphasis on Sicily, has always been Nicola's trademark.  I have had many wonderful meals at his previous restaurants and our lunch at Benissimo was up to the same excellent level as the others were.

For lunch we enjoyed Pizza with Grilled Vegetables.  While I am a traditionalist and prefer pizza with mozzarella and tomatoes, this was delicious.  Nicola explained that pizzas are new to the menu and he is awaiting a brick oven from Italy to be delivered.  While he awaits the delivery, he is making them in his regular oven with wonderful results.

Caesars Salad, Spaghetti with Botarga (tuna roe) and my favorite, Spaghetti con Lentiche (lentils) followed the pizza.  Unfortunately I was too busing stuffing my face and neglected to take photos of these dishes.   Suffice it to say they were terrific.

As I am closely watching my growing waistline, I stopped here and sipped my wine while Emil and Tony dug into roasted medallions of Wild Boar in a port wine and fig reduction.  The huge grins on their faces displayed their approval of the dish.

All of us, including our host Nicola, are huge fans of good Amarone, especially those made by Giuseppe Quintarelli.  Thus it was only appropriate that we drank a couple of fantastic bottles with our lunch.

2001 Marion Amarone della Valpolicella.  The Campedelli family acquired the Marion estate in 1988 but did not produce its first Amarone under its own label until 1999.  The wines here are made by Celestino Gaspari who was the wine maker at Quintarelli for 20 years.  The wine is a blend of 45% Corvinone, 25% Corvina Gentile, 20% Rondinella, 10% Croatina. 2001 was a superb vintage for Marion and it showed once again today.  A deep dark, garnet color, with a somewhat smoky bouquet, the wine possessed vibrant fruit, finesse, complexity and soul.   At $75 a bottle this is a steal compared to the $300-$500 dollars you must dole out for Amarones in this class.  The bad news, it is very difficult to find.

1996 Quintarelli Rosso del Bepi.  This is Quintarelli’s de-classified Amarone.  In vintages where the juice of the grapes does not meet his high standards to be called Amarone, he de-classifies the wine and bottles it as Rosso del Bepi and sells it for less than half of what a bottle of his Amarone would cost.  1996 was the second time he did this, 1994 being the first. While still drinking very nicely, the wine is beginning to fade a bit. Color, bouquet and complexity are intact, however the fruit and finish are beginning to ebb. Time to drink up.  This will be very difficult to find, however the 2002 vintage, which is a gorgeous wine, is available at about $175 a bottle at 56º Wine.  BTW "Bepi" is what Giuseppe was called.  It is in fact short for "Giuseppe".

We concluded the meal with espresso, Grappa Tiganello and Nicola’s signature dessert, Pistachio Sponge Cake.

Happy Birthday Emil and thanks Nicola for your great and generous hospitality.


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