Giacomo Conterno and Luciano Sandrone

14 May 2015, Morrell Wine Bar, Rock Center

My Vinous tasting group recently did a comparative tasting between Giacomo Conterno’s and Luciano Sandrone’s Barolos.  Two of my favorite producers but two very different styles.  A number of the guys at the tasting did full blown write ups which I’ve linked to below – I added a few of my own thoughts as well:

The Icon vs. The Iconoclast: An Epic Barolo Tasting – by Eric Guido on the Cellar Table @ Morrell

A Memorable Barolo Tasting – by Marc Scudiery @ Wine Without Numbers

G. Conterno Barolo vs. L. Sandrone Barolo Single-Blind – by Ken Vastola @ The Fine Wine Geek

Flight 1 – 97 and 00:

I felt neither of these wines were showing particularly well.  The ’97 Conterno appeared much older than it was – tannins were a bit absent and it had a shorter finish with a very linear mid palate.  I gave this wine 89 points and the ’00 Sandrone 90 points.  A lot of pepper and mint on the palate but this wine still felt like it could develop and resolve a bit more.

One thing I did note was that on a tasting I did a few weeks ago of various vintages of Canalicchio di Sopra, I liked the hot vintages the least – maybe the same could be said for Piedmont?  For my palate, I think cooler vintages can still make balanced and interesting wines but the hotter vintages just become flat over time.  Probably an over generalization but something I noticed.

Flight 2 – 98’s:
The ’98 Le Vigne and Cascina Francia were both very good wines.  Sweet cherries and impeccable balance for the LV and a more tart, younger wine in the CF.  The ’98 Cannubi Boschis (which I brought) was a big disappointment for me.  Perhaps it was too cold while I was tasting it and hadn’t opened up but it had no nose, menthol on the palate with no finish.  88 points.

Flight 3 – 99’s:
Flight was showing great across all wines.  I mixed up the Monfortino and CF as well as I recalled an earlier ’99 CF I had that was really singing whereas this wine still felt big, brooding and shut down.  A powerful wine with incredible tannins on the finish.  The Monfortino in contrast was all about the fruit – was just starting to develop some secondary aromas although it was still holding a lot back.  Felt more open to me than the CF on this night.  The Sandrone was a pretty wine – much less power than the Conternos but not in a bad way – Burgundian.

Flight 4 – 96’s:
Another great showing after the 99’s – in this flight I think all the wines showed as you would expect.  The CB had the mint/eucalyptus nose but with more age and sweet strawberries on the palate.  Starting to get a candied taste.  The Conternos were both much more masculine wines but in this case, the Monfortino was the darker, more reticent wine as you would expect.  Unyielding vs. the CF which still hadn’t resolved its tart red fruit.

Flight 5 – ’85 + 90’s:
And it gets better.  One of the best all around flights of Barolo I’ve ever tasted.  Every wine was amazing in a different way and although I socred the ’85 1 point ahead of the other two wines, it was really missing the point of how great these wines were in totally different ways.  The ’85 was fully mature – amazingly complex nose of dried figs and ripe red fruit.  Candied jolly rancher on the palate while still maintaining its acidic backbone to keep the balance.  The ’90 CF was floral on the aroma and still young – reticent in the beginning but started to come around towards the end of the night.  The ’90 CB was amazing for its purity of fruit and was one wine that left a finish of candied red fruit instead of tannin at the very end.

Final thoughts on the tasting:
I’m a big fan of both Conterno and Sandrone but found this tasting instructive in the relative differences.  In some flights they weren’t obvious and in others, their expected styles couldn’t have been more clear.  I’m a big buyer and believer in both producers and the experience of drinking these wines with friends who are unbelievable sources of wine knowledge was truly the best part of this tasting for me.

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Christmas Dinners

It was a busy and eventful year so we had a lot of things to celebrate this year and some incredible wines to match.

21 December 2014, Gotham Bar & Grill, Manhattan

One year earlier, I had proposed to Diane and we went to dinner at Gotham Bar & Grill to celebrate.  A year later, I surprised her by having her parents and my brother join us.  In addition to a superb seasonal menu, we had:

N.V. Jacques Selosse Champagne Blanc de Noirs La Côte Faron

N.V. Jacques Selosse Champagne Blanc de Noirs La Côte Faron

The same wine we had in Piedmont at La Ciau del Tornavento – it remains my favorite Champagne I’ve ever tasted.  His solera-style Pinot Noir based wine is utterly profound with huge textural depth and richness.  It develops over time in the glass as the Champagne warms up to room temperature.  Floral and fruity armoas overlay the biscuity/brioche flavors of the wine.  98 points

Our white for the evening was from one of our favorite producers in Burgundy:

2011 Domaine Roulot Meursault Meix Chavaux

2011 Domaine Roulot Meursault Meix Chavaux

Still very young and tense with a piercing acidity that made me think of Chablis initially.  Mainly lemon and citrus at this point as I believe this is still too young to hit its proper stride but still a good wine.  90 points

We finished the meal with the wine that was a turning point for both Diane and I:

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero

We tasted this wine for the first time 4 years ago and it was the first “wow” wine we shared together.  It immediately made Giacosa one of our favorite producers and Barolo one of our favorite regions to this day.  This wine was in top form with the perfect combination of sweet candied fruits with the complexity of leather, cigar box and damp earth that age adds to Barolos.  Don’t think this improves much more although I think it will continue to hold on for another 5 years at least.  96 points

24 December 2014, 222 Park Ave. South, Manhattan

We were fortunate enough to share Christmas Eve with Anthony, Jennifer, Jennifer’s mom and Nicolas at their apartment.  An incredible meal of smoked salmon (from Scotland!) and rack of lamb with potatoes was delicious as always.  As is becoming a bit of a tradition this holiday season, we started with our favorite Blanc de Blancs:

2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs

2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs

The tasting notes from our visit to the winery are still relevant here.  An incredibly complex wine that’s still an infant but shows freshness as a result.  96 points

For the smoked salmon, we moved on to a Champagne with more Pinot in the blend:

2004 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame

2004 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame

Again, the tasting notes from the Chateau visit are relevant here although as we spent more time with this wine during the meal, I felt the wine started to open up more, possibly hinting at its potential down the road.  White stone fruit and more textural depth than the Ruinart.  93+ points

The piece de resistance of the night was the red Anthony opened for us – the best Bordeaux experience I’ve ever had:

1983 Chateau Palmer

1983 Chateau Palmer

You can taste the large portion of Merlot with the great body.  It still has huge structure as you’d expect from Palmer but in this instance with the tannins balanced and smooth and the entire palate in perfect harmony.  I’m not sure if Bordeaux can get better than this … but in case it can: 99 points

25 December 2014, 100 Jane Street, Manhattan

Our Christmas dinner was spread out over a few hours as we moved from cured meats and cheeses to the various courses of the meal.  The highlight of the food was a 4 oz white truffle which we paired with several courses but the wines made it special.

With our cured meats and cheeses, we had:

  1. N.V. Veuve Clicquot (Yellow Label) – a great entry level wine that’s simpler than its vintage brethren.  Good acidity and citrus fruit with just minor hints of bread.  A good aperitif.  89 points
  2. 2004 Veuve Cliqcuot La Grande Dame (see note above) – showed just as well one day later. 93+ points

For our first course, we had baked eggs with white truffles.  I wanted a lighter but medium bodied white to pair with the truffles here so we went with a 2010 Emidio Pepe Pecorino.  This was my first experience with a Pepe white and I wasn’t a huge fan of the fairly oxidative style although the pairing was decent.  Golden yellow color with some honeysuckle and peach on the palate.  Too much air for a 2010 in my opinion.  Curious to see how this changes in bottle although I’m not sure it’s going to get matierally better.  88 points

For our pasta course, we had the simple tajarin with white truffles, paired with a wine Nard brought, the 1996 Eraldo Viberti Barolo.  Drinking perfectly now from a strong vintage, the Viberti has everyone you want in a Barolo of this age, it just is lacking the extra “it” factor to make it an exceptional wine and I think it’s at the peak of its drinking window at this point.  90 points.

The main course featured a roasted pork shoulder, green beans with almonds and Diane’s famous mashed potatoes.  This paired with a second bottle Nard brought, the 2003 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo that was drinking exceptionally well for an off vintage.  Great complexity on the palate and a lingering finish – I’m not sure this gets better but it might so I’m going to wait before trying another one. 92+ points

The Christmas Lineup

The Christmas Lineup

We’re going to have to open some serious wines on New Year’s Eve to top this …

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.

IMG_5577

Catch Up

24 March 2013 – 14 April 2013, Manhattan, NY and Tucker’s Point, Bermuda

Lots of travel, golf and work set me back a few months on the blog so here’s my catchup post.

Prior to Dan and Sul’s move to London, Anthony, Jennifer, Diane and I joined them for a memorable dinner at Gramercy Tavern. We started with Dom Perignon at Anthony’s apartment beforehand and had two delicious but totally different wines with our meal:

2011 Anthony Nappa Wines "Anomaly" White Pinot Noir

2011 Anthony Nappa Wines “Anomaly” White Pinot Noir

A white pinot noir from the Finger Lakes of NY, this was refreshing and clean but with a red fruit flavor. The wine is made from Pinot Noir but the juice is immediately pressed and does not ferment with the skins, stems or seeds. The wine has a slight rose color despite the name and no tannins – great for appetizers and seafood.

The second wine of the night was my contribution:

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Santo Stefano di Perno

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno

Giuseppe Mascarello’s Barolo from Monforte and his less heralded wine was drop-dead gorgeous. The floral and earthy aromatics led to an elegant mixture of red fruit, tannins and structure. Extremely delicate for a 2001 Barolo and in my opinion, drinking better today than the 2001 Monprivato.

Before Dan and Sul took off, we spent one evening setting up a Slingbox for them in our apartment (don’t think they get NFL Redzone yet in London). We opened two California reds that night and both were juicy, young and delicious:

2009 Bryant Family DB4 & 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Bryant Family DB4 & 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon

The Bryant Family was a huge, inky, dark wine with strawberry, cherries and spice. Huge body and a bit too bold for me right now (will leave the other two bottles in the cellar for a while). While everyone else preferred the DB4, I liked the Paul Hobbs which had a similar fruit profile but more spice and leathery/earthy characteristics. It is also a wine I’ll wait a few years before tasting again.

Our second annual pre-golf, golf trip was female friendly so Diane came this year and we stayed at Tucker’s Point in Bermuda. The last night we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, The Point, and picked a new wine for both of us:

2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin

2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin

A balanced and subtle Burgundy with plenty of bright red fruit but with a good backbone. It paired well with our fish dishes that had more complex sauces and seasonings. Medium body with a long finish.

We opened this last bottle after I got back from the 4th annual actual golf trip (AAA victorious!). Diane’s mom came into the city and we decided to go to dell’anima last minute. We brought:

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato

As I said above, I think that today, the Santo Stefano di Perno is drinking better than his flagship wine from Castiglione Falletto. I decanted this for a few hours and it was still continuing to evolve in the glass at the restaurant. While it wasn’t shut down, it took lots of swirling to coax the fruit out of the glass and the aromatics still have a ways to go before producing the perfume you’d expect from a Monprivato. Great wine but I plan on waiting at least three to four years before opening my next bottle.

** 2011 Anthony Nappa Wines “Anomaly” White Pinot Noir $19

*** 2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno $85

*** 2009 Bryant Family DB4 $100

*** 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet $75

*** 2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin $150

*** 2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato $125

Christmas

14 December 2012, 100 Jane Street, West Village

With a newly decorated Christmas tree in our apartment, Diane and I decided to have some friends over for the holidays to celebrate. Nicole, Elliott, Pedro, Christina, and Manoj came over for appetizers and wine:

The Lineup

The Lineup

The food during the night was (in no particular order):

  • Cured meats and cheeses – my favorite cured meat in the world is the Jamon Iberico from Spain. Nearly impossible to find in the US, Murray’s Cheese typically carries some and is where I usually load up. Our favorite cheeses including the clothbound Cabot cheddar and aged manchego also made an appearance.
  • Mini cheese-burgers and portobello-mushroom-burgers – the beef was from our local butcher, Florence Meat market with minimal seasoning and American cheese. The mushrooms were marinated in a balsamic vinegar sauce. Both cooked in the oven broiler.
  • A few assorted desserts  – cookies and ice cream

I spent a fair amount of time planning the progression of wines and thought it worked out fairly well:

  1. *** NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rose – my go-to rose Champagne. Reasonably priced and delicious with food or as an aperitif. Floral and fruity with a lighter body, I like drinking it out of a white wine glass to allow the bubbles to dissipate and wine to warm a bit. It gives me a better sense of the aromatics and freshness. $80
  2. ** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble – as I mentioned before, the best value wine I had on my trip to California. Completely unoaked and an old-world style wine. This was served at the same time as our next white wine to compare it against. $28
  3. ** 2007 Martinelli Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard – a classic example of a well-made California style Chardonnay. Plenty of oak and vanilla and a much heavier mouthfeel than the Copain. While most enjoyed both wines, the majority preferred the Copain (at less than half the price!). $60
  4. *** 1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo – the Azienda Agricola (non-estate) bottling, this was sadly my last bottle of this great value/entry level Giacosa Barolo. Still young and powerful, I decanted the wine for 6 hours and it still had plenty of sweet red fruit and smooth tannins. This wine was served at the same time as the next red to compare. $95
  5. ** 1981 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino – not as aromatic or open as the last time I tried this wine a few months ago. More tar and leather than fruit in the aroma or palate; I was a bit disappointed compared to what I tasted the first time I had this at dell’anima. The opinion here was split but more people preferred the Giacosa. $85
  6. * 1969 Hugel Traminer “Hugel” Reserve Exceptionelle – a wine we tried more to explore than anything, the bottle was in surprisingly good condition for its age. On the palate a bit disappointing, well past its prime, it was barely clinging on to the fruit and acidity it probably once had and just retained its residual sweetness. $80
  7. ** 2010 Domaine des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (375 ml) – great wine for the price. Lots of sweet stone fruit and honey, medium body for the sweetness and well balanced. Great after dinner digestif. $15

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

Dinner in the Hamptons

29 June 2012, 57 Old Trail Road, Water Mill

Eugene was visiting from Hong Kong and we spent a week relaxing in the Hamptons. The first weekend there, we decided to cook dinner for everyone who would be arriving later that night. The main meat course was lamb chops in a mint and cumin rub with a yogurt dipping sauce. To accompany, I opened two bottles of one of my favorites, the entry level Barolo from Bruno Giacosa:

1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo

This bottle is from estate grapes (Azienda Agricola) but not a single vineyard bottling. Decanted for six hours, it had the standard light red color of Nebbiolo and intense aromatics. Spice, sweetness and earthiness – you can smell the bottle age. Sweet red fruit and light mouth feel – stood up to the spice of the lamb but didn’t feel heavy at all.

After dessert, we opened a bottle of one of my favorite sweet wines from Alsace:

1989 Albert Boxler & Fils Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles

Delicious and light for a dessert wine of this sweetness. Nice acidity to balance the sugar – honeysuckle, sweet citrus and peaches. A great sweet wine and only lacking in it’s complexity throughout the palate.

*** 1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo, $95

*** 1989 Albert Boxler & Fils Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles, $170