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 …

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

Atlantic City

15 January 2012, The Borgata, Atlantic City

For the MLK long weekend, a group of us decided to go gamble, watch the Giants crush the Packers, and hang out in Atlantic City. Joe, Jill, Pedro, L-train, Manoj, Korean Elvis, Diane and I all drove down Saturday morning – and due to aforementioned thrashing of the Packers along with some fortuitous dice control, we decided to get a few nice bottles with dinner at Fornelletto on Sunday night.

We started with two white Burgundies:

2006 Domaine Bernard Morey Chassagne Montrachet, Les Caillerets 1er Cru; 2005 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet

We drank these wines for the appetizer courses and were able to compare them side by side. Both were incredible – most at the table preferred the Domaine Leflaive. The Morey  had a bit more oak in it vs. the Leflaive which had a more mineral taste. Both were subtle and complex as you would expect from well made Burgundy – I liked them both.

For the pasta course, we had a great Super-Tuscan produced Mauro Vannucci:

2008 Piaggia Il Sasso

70% Sangiovese with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, the wine ages for 20 months in new oak. Very fruity with good acidity to go with food.

For our main courses, we decided to go with a magnum of a 1990 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. We had the sommelier start decanting it as soon as we ordered and it was still changing when we started out meat courses:

1990 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (Magnum)

The bottle – the restaurant’s last – was in perfect condition and most agreed it was the wine of the night. Tobacco and earthy must on the nose leads to a medium bodied fruit palate with perfect integrated tannins. Best Mascarello Barolo I’ve ever had and since I was ordering the wine, I picked the perfect wine for my osso buco:

Osso buco at Fornelletto

** 2006 Domaine Bernard Morey Chassagne Montrachet, Les Caillerets 1er Cru, $90

** 2005 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, $100

** 2008 Piaggia Il Sasso, $25

**** 1990 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo (Magnum), $1,000