Barbaresco

7 January 2015 – New York Vintners, Tribeca

I recently attended a tasting at NY Vintners with some board members from the Vinous website.  We tasted through 3 flights of Barbaresco and while I took notes, it paled in comparison to the cataloging others were doing so I’ll let them explain and put my thoughts below:

Making the Case – for Barbaresco

My response on the vinous site to the posting:

Great time as always and thanks to everyone who came and contributed their wines and thoughts.  Incredible notes and photos as always Eric.

My general impressions across the flights were fairly in line with prior comments.  I wasn’t all that impressed by the ’85 flight – unlike a few experiences I’ve had with ’85 Barolos, I felt that these Barbarescos were at best ghosts of what they were earlier in their lives and barely holding on to their fruit.  As a whole they felt thin – maybe chalk that up to how the bottles were stored or differences across producers but while they were intellectually interesting, I found them lacking.

The second flight was a stunner for me – I scored every wine 94 or higher and found the ’98 Asili (95 points) and the ’98 SSR (97+ points) as the standouts.  Both are still huge wines with long finishes and incredible structure.  Both will get better.

The third flight to me was dominated by the ’01 Rabaja Riserva – one of the best Barbarescos I’ve ever tasted and I gave it 99+ points.  Powerful dark, ripe fruit with cedar wood/cigar box and subtle flavor changes throughout each sip.  Other than the Pora that was corked, the other wines showed well and I found the ’01 Asili (96 points )to be a step ahead of the others.

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Giacosa & Conterno at La Ciau del Tornavento

9 November 2014, Treiso, Piedmont

One of the highlights of our recent trip abroad was dinner at La Ciau del Tornavento.  On a rainy, cold night, their white truffle dishes and a few nice bottles of Barolo are the perfect combination.

It begins with a funny coincidence:

It was rainy and cold that night so when we arrived, my wife requested that we sit at a table close to the fireplace.  As it was just the two of us, we decided to order a glass of champagne each and split a bottle of Barolo throughout the evening.  A few minutes after ordering, we saw a familiar face walk into the restaurant and sit down at the table right next to us.  Antonio was there with a couple friends and came over to say hello!

We were thrilled to see him and told him we were on the final leg of our honeymoon and found out we were going to a lot of the same producers to do tastings that week.  As we waited for our appetizers, the sommelier walks over and without saying a word, puts two new champagne glasses on our table.  A few minutes later he starts pouring what turned out to be the best Champagne I’ve ever tasted: NV Selosse Ay La Cote Faron – courtesy of Antonio Galloni (the wine critic) and his friends!

That was just the beginning of what was a truly memorable night for Diane and I.  By the end of the evening we had tasted half a dozen wines including some older wines that were still full of life and fruit.  The 1975 B. Giacosa Barolo Riserva Bussia from our friends at the nearby table and the 1993 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino from the restaurant that we were able to share with them as well (tasted but not pictured was a 1967 Giacosa Barolo Riserva Collina Rionda):

1975 B. Giacosa Barolo Riserva Bussia and 1993 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino

1975 B. Giacosa Barolo Riserva Bussia and 1993 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino

The two Giacosa’s were magnificent.  Sweet, candied fruit in perfect balance with the mellowed structure.  I was particularly stunned by the amount of life still left in the 1967 – plenty of intensity and depth on the palate I would not have expected for a wine of this age.  The 1993 Monfortino was everything I could have hoped when we ordered – stunning aromatics that continued to evolve all night in the glass.  A powerful wine with a very long finish – my WOTN among the reds.

The sharing continued as we tasted a 1970 G. Conterno Barolo and ordered a 1997 Chateau d’Yquem for our dessert course:

1970 G. Conterno Barolo

1970 G. Conterno Barolo

The 1970 was a very different wine from the older vintage Giacosas – less candied fruit and more tertiary flavors of leather, spices and tar.  Still very much alive and another bottle firing on all cylinders that night.  The d’Yquem is a perfect end to the night at an age I prefer to drink.  Honeysuckle and peach mixed with the perfect balancing acidity and a viscosity that is still light and fresh on the palate.

With all the great wines we had a hard time focusing on the amazing dishes they serve there.  We started with their baked eggs in a box:

eggs

 

Followed by standard Tajarin with white truffles, and a new twist on dessert I’d never had – thistle ice cream with white truffles!  A great combination that I’m planning on copying for our Christmas dessert this year:

icecream

 

A fantastic evening all around and a huge thank you to the generosity of our friends.

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2nd Annual Barolo Dinner – NY Vintners

18 October 2012, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

This October, with help from the team at NY Vintners, we had our second annual Barolo dinner. With several repeat attendees from the first year as well as some new faces, we had a more structured approach to the tasting this year: the focus was on ’99, ’01 and ’03 vintage wines with a more limited set of producers than last year. The goal was to focus on vintage variation from a single producer as well as modernist vs. traditionalist’s style differences.

As is usually the case when Ryan is cooking, the food was so good it got as much buzz and comments as the wine. The menu for the night was:

  • Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with shaved parmesan tuilemy favorite comment: “I love this soup and I hate mushrooms!”
  • Cinnamon Braised Ossobuco with carrot risotto, Meyer lemon gremolatathis was an incredible preparation for this classic Italian dish. I had ossobuco at Babbo about a month later and it was nowhere near as tender and flavorful as it was at this meal.
  • Chocolate Pot-du-Creme with sea salt, pignoli

Our first flight of wines were the younger wines of the night:

Flight 1: 2003 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, 2003 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia, 2001 Cavalotto Barolo Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva, 2001 Vietti Barolo Brunate

Flight 1: 2003 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo, 2003 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia, 2001 Cavallotto Barolo Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva, 2001 Vietti Barolo Brunate

  1. ** 2003 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (La Morra; bought 3 bottles) – tart red fruit and high acidity from one of Barolo’s classic producers. Had a medium finish with medium tannins – not drinking at a point where I really enjoy Barolo but think this will develop into a medium body, aromatic Barolo. Revisit in a few years. $90
  2. ** 2003 Giacomo Conterno Barolo (Serralunga; bought 3 bottles) – earthy and acidic with a very long finish. Definition of traditional Barolo. A much more powerful wine than the Mascarello and as a result, another wine at a point where I don’t enjoy drinking it. Wait at least 3 years before revisiting. $90
  3. ** 2001 Cavallotto Barolo Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva (Castigilione Falletto) – more fruit forward than the ’99 wines with big acidity, oaked. Easier to drink than the Vietti today – definitely needs a lot more time. $100
  4. ** 2001 Vietti Barolo Brunate (La Morra; bought 3 bottles) – very high acidity with a medium finish. Not as complex and nuanced as other Vietti I’ve had but still a very strong wine – would expect this to drink well within the next couple years. $100

Our second flight of wines were all 1999’s:

  1. *** 1999 Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella di Santo Stefano (Monforte) – this is one of the wines I contributed for the tasting which was very well received. A modern style wine, having spent 36 months in oak, was everything you would expect from a Barolo: earthiness, big fruit, great structure with the acidity and tannins well integrated at this point. Drinking well right now. $90

    1999 Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella di Santo Stefano

    1999 Rocche dei Manzoni Barolo Vigna Cappella di Santo Stefano

  2. ** 1999 Pianpolvere Soprano Barolo Bussia Riserva (Monforte) – another wine I provided for this tasting, it didn’t show as well as the Rocche dei Mazoni. The same producer but the wine was not as well integrated – more tannic and a huge finish.  $100

    1999 Pianpolvere Soprano Barolo Bussia Riserva

    1999 Pianpolvere Soprano Barolo Bussia Riserva

  3. *** 1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (La Morra; bought 3 bottles) – lots of secondary flavors of leather and dark cherries. A long, complex and changing finish – starting to drink well but still an infant. Will continue to explore over the next decade. $125

    1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo

    1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo

  4. *** 1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia (Serralunga) – like the Mascarello, more secondary flavors but tasted less developed at the same age. More structured, power and a longer finish. Would hold off on opening any of these right now but would like to try it again in a few years. $190

    1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia

    1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia

Our third and final flight of wines were two older vintages:

  1. **** 1988 Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo – also one of the more modern producers who first starting incorporating oak into the wines in Piedmont, this wine looked more like a Cabernet when it was poured than a Barolo. Deep color which led to huge, red sweet fruit and perfect integration. Wine of the night. $250

    1988 Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo

    1988 Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo

  2. *** 1967 Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia Riserva Speciale (Monforte) – sweet, musty old wine with an impressive amount of fruit. More of a novelty wine than something to really drink but impressive to see how well this wine has held up at age 45.

    1967 Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia Riserva Speciale

    1967 Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia Riserva Speciale

A Bruno Barbaresco at B&B

22 June 2012, B&B Ristorante, The Venetian, Las Vegas

Deb, Ben, Diane and I arrived in Las Vegas a day early to celebrate Carolyn’s 30th birthday. One of the highlights was dinner at B&B Ristorante – a Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich restaurant in the Venetian. Deb, Diane and I (Ben was meeting up with his brother) ordered a few apps, pastas and entrees to share. While the food was delicious as usual, one of the indelible moments of the meal for me was the wine:

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabaja

Giacosa’s first wine from the Rabaja site in Barbaresco, this wine was stunning: musty earth, leather and sweet red fruit in the aroma. Dark black fruit with shockingly young acidity and tannins that are just starting to integrate with the wine. The wine was opened at the beginning of the meal and developed for the next two hours until we finished the bottle. A longer decant would have helped but I still think the peak of this wine is 3-6 years down the road.

**** 1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabaja, $175

Dinner, Wine and Friends

7 January 2012, 100 Jane Street, Manhattan

Recently, Nard, Clair, Diane and I cooked dinner and invited Dan, Sul and Manoj. Food and wine pairings below:

the five wines of the night

1. 2004 Agrapart & Fils Champagne Blancs de Blanc Brut

My first Blanc de Blanc and it was delicious. Agrapart is made from 50 year old vines in Les Robarts and La Voie d’Epernay. The winery uses organic farming and fermentation with natural yeasts. The champagne explodes in your mouth and felt cleaner to me than regular champagnes. Minerality with good acidity and a light but lasting finish.

2. 2009 Kistler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – roasted beet salad with arugula, shaved parmesan with an olive oil and lemon dressing

My first Pinot Noir from Kistler (I’ve had several of their Chardonnays) and it was probably the best California Pinot Noir I’ve ever had. The wines are fermented with native yeasts, aged in French Oak for 14-18 months and finally bottled unfiltered and unfined. Strawberry, red fruit and surprising earthiness with a medium body. The wine had a complexity that changed on your palate and was great with the salad. This was the group’s wine of the night.

3. 2007 i Clivi Brazan Collio Goriziano – fettucini with a mushroom and onion cream sauce

I Clivi is a vineyard in Friuli that focuses on non-interventionist wine-making using organic methods. A small producer, they make about 1,500 cases of their DOC whites which are blends of Tocai, Verduzzo and Malvasia. The soil composition is a mixture of limestone, clay and sandstone with yields of about 1.0 ton per acre. The wine is fermented with its own yeast, undergoes malolactic fermentation and matures in stainless steel tanks on its own lees for 2 years with no racking or filtration. No oaking or wood of any kind is used to fully express the purity of the grapes.

The wine tastes the way it was made – clean, non-interventionist with subtle hints of stoned fruit. Medium acidity and clean, but short finish. Had enough acidity to keep up with the pasta but not the best pairing as the weight of the pasta overwhelmed this simpler wine.

4. 2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili – prime rib rubbed with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil

I’ve written about Giacosa’s wines before and this was incredible as expected. Upon opening the bottle, it was extremely acidic and fruity with exploding tannins. After a 7 hour decant, the wine was showing in a much more integrated way: a strong nose of spice, Giacosa earthiness and tar. The palate had hints of sweet, ripe red fruit with spice and mustiness. Perfect wine for a red meat roast and still has a lot of years left to develop in the cellar.

5. 1990 Chateau d’Yquem – poached pears in a red wine sauce and brownies with French Vanilla Breyer’s ice cream

The most incredible wine that I think currently made is Chateau d’Yquem. This bottle was courtesy of Dan and it did not disappoint. Exceptional elegance with sweetness, acidity and good body. It has an incredible texture of honey and peach with perfect acidity to balance the wine. The perfect wine:

1990 Chateau d'Yquem

*** 2004 Agrapart & Fils Champagne Blancs de Blanc Brut, $80

*** 2009 Kistler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, $75

** 2007 i Clivi Brazan Collio Goriziano, $25

*** 2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili, $130

**** 1990 Chateau d’Yquem