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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Old Nebbiolo

Our local wine group met a couple of weeks ago at 100 Steps Supper Club & Raw Bar in Cranford, NJ. Eclectic farm to table cuisine is served at this attractive spot. 

Broccoli and Goat Cheese Soup
Cerviche of the Day
Fried Calamari Salad
Radish, Jalapeno, Pickled Ginger Aioli
Puttanesca Clam Pot
Eggplant, Bread Crumbs, Puttanesca Sauce, Grilled Sour Dough
Veal Flank Steak
Crispy potatoes, Cippollini Onions, Swiss Chard, Black Garlic
Braised Lamb ShankPickled Apple, Brussel Sprouts, Hazelnuts, Celery Root Romesco
Duck Liver MousseGrilled Sweet Potatoes, Cippolini Onions, Pomegranate Seeds, Grilled Sour Dough
Marc was in the queue to select and bring the wine.  He treated us to an evening of old Nebbiolo from both Alto Piemonte and Piedmont.  All the bottles were in great shape and made for a terrific evening.

We began the evening with 1964 Nervi Gattinara.  Nervi is the oldest winery in the Gattinara DOCG area. It was founded by Luigi Nervi in 1906 and covers 24 hectares of Nebbiolo vines in the Casacce, Garavoglie, Molsino and Valferana vineyards. The Molsino vineyard is one of Piedmont's finest South facing amphitheatres. The Valferana vineyard can be traced back to 1242 as Valferane in Gattinara's municipal deeds. At the foothills of Monterosa, Europe's second highest mountain protects from northerly winds, ensures sufficient precipitation and provides a steady termic breeze through the vines. With plenty of volcanic gravel and high clay content in the soil, Nervi's vineyards are unique in an Italian oenological context.

Harvesting is by hand and large oak casks are used for both fermentation and aging. Chief oenologist Enrico Fileppo ensures adherence to traditional wine making.  The ownership of Nervi moved from Italian to Norwegian hands in 2011. The Astrup family acquired a majority of the estate, with the Moestue, Wicklund and Skjelbred families as partners. 

Tonight the wine had a brickish red hue, with a slightly maderized palate but remarkably lively fruit for a wine this old.  Like all great wines, it evolved beautifully in the glass with each sip adding more depth and complexity.

1967 G.B. Burlotto Barolo.  I discovered the wines of Burlotto a few years back and have been smitten by them since, especially his Monvigliero bottlings.  This is old world Barolo at its best. This bottle I believe is a blend of Monvigliero and Cannubi fruit.  The estate, located in Verduno, and the winemaking today is in the hands of Giovan Battista Burlotto’s great-great-grandson Fabio Alessandria. Like his ancestors, Fabio approaches Monvigliero in a way that is both classical and idiosyncratic-to extract the vineyard's essential greatness. At the core of this technique is a gentle crushing of all the grapes by foot, an incredible 60-day maceration on the skins and, of course, long aging in large wood botte. It's an approach virtually unheard of today, yet its brilliance is revealed in every glass of this unique Barolo.

Tonight’s wine was certainly proof of that.  Upon opening it displayed an oxidized bouquet that blew off quickly. It possessed a beautiful transparency, with a soft mid palate that had terrific balance and focus.

1967 Cavallotto Barolo.   The Cavallotto family claims sole ownership of the beautiful Bricco Boschis cru in the Castiglione Falletto district (also home to Azelia), where they have been growing Nebbiolo since 1929 and bottling their own wine since 1948. These richly structured wines place emphasis on elegance and longevity, attributable to excellent vineyards in the Bricco Boschis and Vignolo crus and traditional long maturation periods in large Slovenian-oak casks.

Steadfast devotion to tradition combined with a high regard and respect for modern viticultural and winemaking techniques result in complex and elegant Baroli that are released for sale only when they have acquired perfect maturity. The estate produces three Baroli: two riservas and their anything but “regular” Bricco Boschis. The Vignolo cru, sloping 60-80 meters lower in altitude than the adjacent Bricco Boschis holding, shows a “creamy” flesh. 

The estate’s selection of the finest vineyard within the Bricco Boschis cru is San Giuseppe, the epitome of Castiglione Falletto: a powerful, majestic wine of absolute authority whose sweetness comes with time.

Alfio, Giuseppe and Laura Cavallotto successfully continue the family tradition started five generations ago, expertly transforming the grapes grown exclusively from their holdings into the most classic expressions of Castiglione Falletto!

Tonights’s wine was fantastic.  Dark translucent red, it had a beautiful old Nebbiolo bouquet with in tact fruit and wonderful balance and depth.

1971 Ceretto Barolo Grignore.   The estate’s wine production covers seven separate estates, while an eighth (I Vignaioli di Santo Stefano) is co-owned along with two other growers. The first estate to be established was the Azienda Bricco Asili. These 8.5 hectares lie in the Barbaresco communes of Bricco Asili, Bernardot, and Faset, and a cru Barbaresco is produced from each of these three sites. The other principal estate is the Azienda Bricco Rocche, located in the heart of Barolo and comprising 11 hectares in La Morra, Serralunga, and Castiglione Falletto. Only Barolo is made here: Brunate and Prapò are made in most vintages (the vintners pass grapes from difficult vintages to the central estate, where the Zonchera is made) and exceptional harvests brew the Bricco Rocche. 

Tonight’s bottling was their "cru" from the "Grignore" supposedly is sold only to ristorantes in Italy. Their website does not list the vineyard any more, so I don’t know if it still exists, which is a shame as this was the WOTN for me.  The wine was simply gorgeous.  A round and delicious wine with great balance and a lengthy and elegant finish.

1971 Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche Dell’Annunziata.  Located in the town of La Morra, Ratti consistently produces several top Barolos, including single-vineyard wines that have received acclaim from many wine critics. Founded by the late Renato Ratti in 1965, it’s now run by his son Pietro. LUX Wines, a Gallo luxury wine group, began importing the wines and distributing Ratti’s Barolo Marcenasco, Barolo Conca, Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata, Langhe Nebbiolo and Barbera d’Asti in 2016.

This was a close runner up to the Ceretto.  It too possessed lively fruit, impeccable balance and a seductive mid palate.  It finished with considerable length and elegance.

In sum a great evening, with 5 very good wines, especially the two 1971s.  Thank you Marc.


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