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:


** 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


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

Bea and Bryant

November 2012, Manhattan

Two memorable wines from the month of November came at two great restaurants:

The first was a sommelier’s choice (on this occasion, Joey Campanale) at the newly opened L’Apicio in the East Village. A somewhat impromptu dinner with Diane, Pedro and Christina led to a bottle of wine that I had nearly forgotten about, having last consumed it a couple years ago at Anfora:

2006 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco

2006 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Pagliaro

A stunning wine from Umbria, made by a very traditional producer, this wine is huge and structured but with fruit and balance to match. Big mouth feel and a good match for meatier foods. The wine spends 38 days on the skins, 10 months in stainless steel and 25 months in casks before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. At $60-$70 / bottle, decent value for a top wine from its region.

The second meal was Diane’s birthday dinner at the NoMad Restaurant in Flatiron. The meal and service were great as expected and the piece de resistance of the night was the chicken for two. We brought our own bottle of wine for the night:

2003 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon

2003 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon

Bryant Family was one of the first, big new world Cabernet’s that I fell in love with and this bottle did not disappoint. Possibly the biggest body wine I’ve ever had, this needs some serious food and flavor to compete with the huge fruit and textures you find in the wine. Fortunately the foie-gras enhanced chicken was up to the task.

*** 2006 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Pagliaro $70

*** 2003 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon $350