France, the North Fork and back to Italy

18-26 February 2012, 100 Jane Street & Bistro de la Gare, Manhattan

After a week of traveling for work and golf, I got back-logged on the wine I consumed recently so I’m combining a few meals in one post.

1. One of my goals this year was to learn more about French wines. Diane and I went to a red Burgundy tasting at LeDu’s Wines and although we didn’t find any Burgundy we liked, we bought a bottle of a white Rhone Valley wine – 2005 M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Hermitage. Not knowing anything about the varietal, we bought this bottle just based on the producer and wanted to try something new:

2005 M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Hermitage

Very full bodied, almost creamy with a nutty finish. A smooth mid-palate but with good acidity and a elegant finish. The first bottle of a Marsanne varietal that I’ve ever had and it was difficult to find good analogs. A link on the Chapoutier website that explains more:

http://www.chapoutier.fr/hermitage,chante-alouette,white,wine,22.html

2. A group of us went to dinner at Bistro de la Gare on this past Saturday – Cohen, Michelle, Nard, Diane and I – started out with some wine at our apartment and brought a couple bottles to the restaurant.

Our first bottle was a 1999 Lenz Cuvee – a sparkling wine from my favorite vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island and although we love their Merlot and Chardonnay wines, this was the first sparkling we tried:

1999 Lenz Cuvee

This bottle was actually aged at the vineyard and wasn’t disgorged until recently, allowing the sediments/yeast to age inside the bottle. The initial taste was smooth for a sparkling wine – very dry with a bit of earthiness that came from the aging. Not as complex as old French champagnes but a very pleasant wine to start the night.

Next up was one of my favorite discoveries from Sicily – Frank Cornelissen’s Contadino 8. A blend of indigenous red and white varietals, this wine is unlike any I’ve ever tasted. The grapes are grown on Mount Etna and the yields are extremely low. Focused on natural wine-making and farming with minimal intervention, I think Cornelissen makes some of the most unique and interesting wines in Italy:

N.V. Cornelissen Contadino 8

The wine itself has low acidity, high fruit and a funky aftertaste that tells you it was grown on a volcano. People had somewhat divergent views on this wine – some people said it wasn’t for them, I think it’s delicious.

At the restaurants, we started with a 1973 Riesling which I unfortunately don’t have the name of as Nard brought the bottle and the label was tough to read – I’ll hopefully find out what this was, as it was incredible, and post on it later.

The piece de resistance of the night, and this post, was the 2000 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. An incredible wine that has layers upon layers of flavors:

2000 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

A strong nose of tar and leather, the first taste is of dark red, ripe fruit and spices. High tannins and acidity and oddly, the owner of the restaurant recommended not to decant the wine. I went along with her recommendation but towards the end of the meal began to regret the decision as the wine started to open up in the glass and the last sip was definitely the best.

Soldera is an interesting producer – he bought the plot of land in the 1970’s and believes in creating an entire ecosystem to make healthy vines and good wine. More at his website:

http://www.soldera.it/en/default-fx.htm

3. The last meal of the weekend was at home on Sunday night. Nard, Clair, Manoj, Diane and I ate a casual dinner while we watched the start of the Oscars. The main entrees were the chicken with salsa verde from Barbuto and a simple pasta dish we threw together at home – rigatoni with homemade tomato sauce and some spicy and sweet sausages from Florence Meat Market.

We opened up a bottle I’d been saving for a while, a 1999 Ar.Pe.Pe. Grumello Buon Consiglio. 100% Nebbiolo but not from Piemonte! The vineyard is located in Lombardy and their wines tend to be more subtle, elegant versions of Nebbiolo:

1999 Ar.Pe.Pe. Grumello Buon Consiglio

The wine has a softer nose than most Barolos – almost floral – and the palate has much more red fruit and less tannins than a standard Piemonte Nebbiolo. Easy to drink and great with the pasta.

** 2005 M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Hermitage, $75

** 1999 Lenz Cuvee, $60

*** N.V. Cornelissen’s Contadino 8, $25

**** 2000 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, $250

*** 1999 Ar.Pe.Pe. Grumello Buon Consiglio, $70