Dinner @ Maialino with a few French wines

28 August 2014, Maialino, Manhattan

Maialino has been one of my favorite restaurants in NYC since it opened.  It’s located in the beautiful Gramercy Park Hotel (a pre-dinner cocktail at the Rose Bar across the lobby is a great way to start the evening) and has a lively and inviting atmosphere paired with impeccable, friendly, Danny-Meyer style service.  The food is fantastic and the wine list is among the most fairly priced in the city.  I recently went for dinner with my fiance and a couple friends, one of whom works in the wine industry.

We had several antipasti to start including the fried artichoke and lemon (a must order).  We started with a bottle of the 2007 Pierre Peters Les Chetillons.  A gorgeous wine that took time to come alive in the glass.  Floral aromas and stone fruit with great minerality on the palate.  The wine was at its best after having time to breathe and warm up a bit – delicious today but will definitely get better with age.  (Also, at $185, an incredible deal at a restaurants given it retails for around $125 in the USA.)

*** 2007 Pierre Peters Les Chetillons:

We shared several pastas including the Malfatti with the braised suckling pig and arugula which is always my favorite pasta there.  We also shared a couple entrees including the piece de resistance, the maialino al forno!  The reason we came to eat here did not disappoint with the crispy skin and soft pork underneath.

For wines, we brought two Bordeaux: 1996 Jean Gautreau de Sociando-Mallet and 1998 Chateau Figeac.  All of us at dinner were relative novices in Bordeaux so thought it’d be fun to try these blind to see if we could guess which wine is which.  This would be harder than a typical left bank/right bank blind tasting as the Jean Gautreau is a barrel selection bottling and Sociando-Mallet has a large percentage of Merlot.  Also, the Figeac is almost 1/3 each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

** 1996 Jean Gautreau de Sociando-Mallet

*** 1998 Chateau Figeac

The 1996 Jean Gautreau tasted like the younger wine.  It still has heat on the nose and attack and actually smelled to me like a California style Merlot!  Green peppers and herbaceous notes, full bodied and noticeable oak.  Not my expected style of wine from Bordeaux but definitely well made and I would wait at least 5 years before trying another bottle of this.

The 1998 Figeac was much closer to fully mature – this smelled more like a left bank wine to me.  Floral aromas and cherry, tobacco and subtle hints of oak on the palate.  More medium bodied than the Gautreau and a lighter wine in flavor dimensions.  I had no problem finishing this wine but had some of the Gautreau left over – not because I didn’t enjoy it but it was too heavy for me by the end of the meal.

First Hard Tens Tasting Group – Tuscany

20 July 2014, 13 E 1st Street, Manhattan

We convened our first Hard Tens tasting group at L’Apicio this past weekend for a Tuscan themed dinner and wine tasting.  Attendees included, Cohen, Michelle, Thomas, Joe, Jill, Peoro, Nard, Michelle, Diane and myself.  The service, food and atmosphere couldn’t have been better.  The staff paced the meal and tasting perfectly and expertly switched to clean glassware after each flight.  We had the added benefit of free corkage as we did the tasting on a Sunday!

My thoughts and a brief outline of the meal and tasting:

Aperitif

** 2006 Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvee Extra Brut Pas Opere

We started with two bottles of this Franciacorta at the bar as people were arriving.  A yeasty and citrusy aroma with a clean, medium length finish.  Dry but not biting.  Refreshing and enjoyable but not terribly complex.  89 points.  $55

2006 Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvee Extra Brut Pas Opere

2006 Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvee Extra Brut Pas Opere

Flight #1 (all wines were double decanted 6 hours beforehand)

Served with a strawberry, watercress and pistachio salad; sausage arancini; housemade ricotta and bread; tuna tartare with chickpeas and spring radishes; green bean salad with pesto

* 2011 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico

Tons of sweet red fruit bursting onto the palate.  While this was refreshing and enjoyable to have on a summer day with with the crudo and salad courses in particular, I found it to be too simple for the purposes of a tasting.  I feel the same way about above average Beaujolais.  87 points. $20

*** 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico

In this flight, drinking the best today.  Bold and muscular but well-balanced between the savory elements and the red fruit.  Could still benefit from cellaring but delicious today.  The acidity made this my favorite pairing for the sausage arancini.  90 points (and the red wine we will be serving at our wedding!) $30

*** 2008 Felsina Fontalloro

The most complex wine of the flight and the greatest potential.  Leather and earth on the nose with a lot of red/black fruit and mocha on the palate.  92 points. $40

Flight #1

Flight #1

Flight #2 (all wines were double decanted 4 hours beforehand)

Served with a bucatini with shrimp, garlic and chilies; orecchiette with a spicy sausage ragu and broccoli rabe pesto; pork meatball polenta with tomato, bacon and parmesan

*** 1999 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia

A lot of funk still on the nose, leather, barnyard and wet earth.  Well-integrated tannins at this stage with red cherries and cedar wood on the palate.  Drinking incredibly well right now and wouldn’t wait to drink a good chunk of any bottles that are in storage.  Pairs well with the pasta as the acidity is still noticeable.  94 points. $70

** 1999 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo

Sweet, velvety red fruit with tar and dark chocolate on the palate.  The wine is well structured with smooth tannins but lacks the complexity of the Felsina Rancia – perhaps a bad bottle as I’ve had this before and found this to be somewhat flat.  89 points. $90

*** 1995 Isole e Olena Cepparello

Floral and earthy aroma with a noticeable paler color compared to the other wines in the flight.  Sweet red fruit with spicy leather and decent structure but I think on the declining side of its drinking window.  92 points. $110

Flight #2

Flight #2

Flight #3 (all wines double decanted 4 hours beforehand)

Served with roasted chicken with black pepper, fennel and olives; pork chop with red currants and market greens; hangar steak with tuscan fries and salsa bianco

**** 1996 San Guisto e Rentennano Percarlo

My (and the majority) WOTN.  Wow!  Still very young with tons of structure left for at least 5+ years.  Tons of red fruit, leather and spicy meat resolve into integrated tannins while remaining fresh and lively.  Perfect with the steak.  97 points. $200

*** 2000 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino

In an effort to add some Sangiovese outside of Chianti, we had this Brunello.  I’ve had this before and thought the bottle was slightly off and lacking it’s full depth and complexity.  Sweet red cherries and currants on the palate, significantly lighter bodied than the other wines in the flight.  91 points. $150

*** 1999 Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco

We threw in one Cabernet based wine for comparison purposes as well.  At this point, while the wine was thoroughly enjoyable, compared to the older Sangiovese it tasted like typical new world style Cali Cab!  Lots of oak with a rich Harlan/Bond-esque mouthfeel.  Good wine but out of place on this particular night.  92 points. $85

Flight #3

Flight #3

Digestif

Served with chocolate hazelnut ice cream cake; blueberry crostata; assortment of sorbet and gelato

*** 2004 Felsina Vin Santo (375 mL)

An incredible wine – slightly sweet with a fresh, light mouthfeel and minerality. We had taken votes for WOTN before we had the Vin Santo and two people actually changes their votes to this wine after we tasted it!  95 points. $38 / 375 mL

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

White Burgundy

6 March 2013, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

After the success of our Bordeaux dinner, Diane suggested we do another event focusing on white Burgundy. After some discussion, we narrowed our wines down to four Chablis and five Meursault. Vintages ranged from 1996-2002 and the freshness, diversity and complexity of the wines was incredible.

Our tasting table at the end of the night

Our tasting table at the end of the night

The food pairings worked well as Chef Ryan started us off with three ceviches: tuna with Shishito peppers, rockfish and scallops. The main course was organic roasted chicken on a bed of wheatberry, currants and olives.

On to the wines:

  1. *** 1996 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Montee de Tonnerre (Premier Cru) – in a surprising start to the flight, we had a barrel fermented Chablis that had a combination of the expected minerality and white pepper spice along with noticeable, but well integrated oak. The primary fruit was peach and this was not the stereotypical austere, high-acid Chablis that are typical from the region. $200
  2. *** 1996 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Vailllons (Premier Cru) – peach again, very similar to the first bottle but with more acidity and a less complex mid palate. Still excellent. $150
  3. *** 1997 Domaine Rene & Vincent Dauvissat, Les Clos (Grand Cru) – full bodied, almost creamy with pears and caramel on the palate. Reminded me of a white from Lopez de Heredia – slightly oxidized and deliciously thick. $200
  4. ** 1997 Domaine Rene & Vincent Dauvissat, Vaillons (Premier Cru) – medium bodied and less complex than the Les Clos, hint of peaches and fruit but believes this is past its prime. $165
  5. *** 2000 Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Les Perreiers (Premier Cru) – our first of the Meursault flight, medium body with the smell of burnt oak. Buttery with an extremely long finish. $250
  6. *** 2000 Domaine Coche-Dury, Vireuils (Village) – huge structure with striking acidity and peach/stone fruit on the palate. Balanced and elegant – my wine of the night. $300
  7. *** 2002 Guy Roulot, Les Luchets (Village) – slightly oxidized with a palate of honey and nutty stone fruit. Medium bodied and a long finish. $150
  8. *** 1996 Guy Roulot, Les Tillets (Village) – also slightly oxidized but very balanced with the acidity, less complex than the ’02 Luchets but similar flavor profile. $200

Dunn Vineyards Winemaker Dinner

26 January 2013, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

In late January, Diane and I along with Cohen and Michelle had the privilege of meeting Mike and Kara Dunn at a winemaker dinner hosted by New York Vintners. Down to earth., friendly and knowledgeable, they demonstrated how some Napa producers, like their Bordeaux brethren, have figured out not only how to make subtle, age-worthy wines but also how to pass that knowledge down through the generations.

The vineyard began with Randy Dunn, Mike’s father, acquiring a small parcell of land on Howell Mountain in 1978. Today they produce two wines: the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon made exclusively from their own vineyard site, as well as a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that can include purchased grapes. The Howell Mountain Cab is the more serious of the two wines and has the greater aging potential. From a 30 acre plot with average yield of 2-3 tons / acre, the wine is aged for 30 months in barrels with minimal racking. Shockingly, despite their Bordeaux style of more austere, less fruit-driven wines, theirs are exceedingly approachable at a young age.

Three flights and 14 wines wines later, I was infatuated with the wine and loved their vintage variation and how incredible their older wines showed:

Part of the 14-wine lineup

Part of the 14-wine lineup

  1. *** 2003 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – herbaceous and structured with tannins just starting to integrate into the otherwise austere wine. Would still give it another 3-5 years but expect this to be a great example of a restrained, elegant wine in years to come. $107
  2. **** 2007 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – much more fruit than the 2003 with a dark chocolate/mocha finish. Closer in style to a rich California Cabernet but delicious today and something I’d like to taste over the next 10-20 years. My wine of the first flight. $98
  3. *** 2008 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – a more classic style for their wine, very astringent and more tannic than the 2007’s which have yet to integrate. Could drink today but would be a waste – wait at least 5 years although I suspect it will require more time before hitting it’s peak. $95
  4. *** 2009 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – tastes younger than the structured 2008 but still needs time to develop. Could still be an interesting wine in the future but 2008 and 2007 are superior years. $90
  5. **** 1997 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – earthy aromatics of cedar and leather, sweet red fruit, balanced and well-integrated with the tannins and acid. My wine of the second flight. $125
  6. ** 1998 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – wine was shut down at this phase, decent fruit but not the same expressive aromas or secondary flavors. $115
  7. ** 1999 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – highly acidic and very tart on the palate. Not as balanced as the better wines of the night. $90
  8. ** 2001 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – more well balanced than the 1999 but still lacking the secondary aromas one would expect at this point. I’d guess that the 1998 and the 2001 have shut down in the bottle but could be interesting in the next 5-10 years to see if they break out and plateau after this phase. $110
  9. **** 1986 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – the wine of the night for me; balanced perfection with complex floral aromatics, sweet red fruit and tertiary flavors of cedar and tobacco. Delicious. $200
  10. **** 1987 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – a close second to the 1986 but not as complex or as developed. Still, on any given night given bottle variation this is right up there. $200
  11. *** 1993 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – silky smooth tannins and still showing great structure. May eventually get to the level of drinkability of the 1986 and 1987 but would wait another 3-5 years. $150
  12. *** 1995 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – more herbal than the other wines in the final flight, austere and feels like it’s just coming out of a phase where it’s been shut down in the bottle. Like the 1993 but a few years behind in development. $150

The last two wines of the night (as if we needed more) were the 2004 and 2008 Napa Valley Cabernets out of magnums. While these wines were great in their own right, they reminded me more of typical valley floor Cabernets and I didn’t take notes on them. The salient memories of this tasting were both the ability of Napa to produce truly incredible, restrained and elegant Cabernets as well as the great value these wines offered compared to other top tier Napa or Bordeaux labels. Shockingly, I bought a huge vertical and can’t wait to try them going forward.

The food prepared by Ryan Smith was a great pairing and delicious as always:

  • Antipasto – assorted cured meats and cheeses
  • Garganelli with sea urchin and wild mushroom (good enough to go up against any Italian restaurant’s best pasta dish)
  • Springer Mountain Farm’s free range chicken with gigante beans and berkshire sausage
  • Birthday Cake – it was Mike’s birthday this weekend. What a great way to celebrate his wines!
Myself, Diane and Mike Dunn

Myself, Diane and Mike Dunn

A Bordeaux Tasting

23 January 2013, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

On a frigid weeknight, a group of us gathered in the wine cave at New York Vintners to eat, drink and learn about Bordeaux. The guidelines for the night were: only Left-bank Bordeaux and vintages from 1986-1995 (years we felt were at their peak for drinking). The goal was to understand the differences between the various sub-appellations and vintages. I was shocked at how different some of these wines tasted – not something you’d expect from vineyards which are 5-10 miles away from each other.

The food, as always, was incredible – we started with some assorted meats and cheeses followed by a Brandt Farms sirloin steak with tons of sides including heirlooms carrots and a fried polenta dish that was probably my favorite of the night.

Not to be outdone, the wines delivered – 8 reds, 5 in the first flight followed by 3 blind, finishing with a dessert wine:

The Lineup

  1. ** 1989 Lynch Bages (Pauillac) – probably the one wine of the night that didn’t show well relative to expectations. Even those who had this wine before thought it was bottle variation or just a bad showing – vegetal as is indicative of Pauillac but with an additional layer of funkiness – not the good kind. Structurally sound but couldn’t make up for the odd aromatics. $300
  2. *** 1990 Cos d’Estournel (St. Estephe) – like the Lynch Bages, this started with a funky, closed aroma with good structure and a better palate than implied by the nose. All the bottles had been open for several hours before the tasting but this wine changed the most throughout the night. Started as a disappointment but by the end of the meal was showing brilliantly. $250
  3. *** 1986 Leoville Las Cases (St. Julien) – structured, huge fruit and despite being one of the oldest wine of the night, expect this to continue to develop. I always thought of St. Julien as being more fruit driven but this wine demonstrated the heft and body their wines can develop as well. $300
  4. **** 1986 Chateau Palmer (Margaux) – big, red fruit, with earthiness and mustiness. Someone accurately described this as “licking the side of a basement wall, but in a really good way.” To me, the biggest, most opulent wine of the night. $250
  5. **** 1995 Chateau Margaux (Margaux) – my red wine of the night. Delicate, feminine with balanced fruit and extremely smooth tannins. A great example of subtlety being more expressive than sheer power. It still feels like this one is in the very early stages of being ready to drink – would love to try this wine again in another 10 and 20 years time. $500
  6. Blind #1: *** 1995 Leoville Las Cases (St. Julien) – our first blind wine of the night was also our first vertical comparison of the night. Sweeter and fruitier than the ’86 and more prototypical of a Bordeaux from St. Julien. Great wine but won’t be as long lived as the ’86. $190
  7. Blind #2: *** 1995 Ducru Beaucaillou (St. Julien) – our second blind wine was another ’95 from St. Julien. Also very fruity and floral aromatics. I got more red fruit sweetness on this wine than the other St. Juliens. Also a great wine but don’t expect further development at this point. $175
  8. Blind #3: *** 1995 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – the only non-Bordeaux wine of the night was thrown in by Shane and Jesse and it completely fooled me. A handful at the tasting correctly guessed this was a California wine (including Diane) but it tasted too reserved and almost austere to be compared to the richer, more-extracted California style. My loss, as I hadn’t tasted much Dunn before. Biggest surprise of the night for me. $150
  9. **** 1995 Chateau d’Yquem (Sauternes) – as always, arguably the best wine of the night even with the incredible reds that preceded it. Balanced, light with honeysuckle and stone fruit with decades of life left, I still have yet to find a wine that is definitively better than a well aged bottle of d’Yquem. $250

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