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

Dinner at Anthony and Jennifer’s

16 November 2012, 222 Park Avenue South, Union Square

Before the holiday season got into full swing, Anthony and Jennifer invited Dan, Sul, Diane and I over for dinner at their place. As part of their wedding registry, they had several wines they chose at New York Vintners and they opened several of those bottles they received from us for this meal!

The Lineup

The Lineup

  1. *** NV Krug Champagne Grand Cuvee – a perfect aperitif paired with some cured meats, this champagne was light, floral and crisp. We quickly went through two bottles before sitting down for the meal.
  2. *** 2007 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino – from one of my favorite producers in Tuscany, this wine was drinking surprisingly well at a relatively young age. The wine was decanted for many hours before the meal and had the typical leather and tobacco aromas of a well-made Brunello. Smooth tannins and very strong fruit on the palate. Great to drink now and I think will continue to develop for over a decade.
  3. **** 2001 Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque – allegedly the middle child among the three great Guigal wines of Cote Rotie (La Landonne and La Mouline being the others), this wine typically has a small percentage of Viognier for added aromatics. Huge fruit, big body but with a lingering but somehow light finish. Doesn’t leave your mouth coated or blown away like most California Syrahs – much more elegant and refined.
  4. *** 2008 Chateau Rieussec – my first time having this Sauternes, delicious, young, vibrant and a long life ahead. I don’t have much experience with Sauternes but this was the closest in balance – acidity, mouthfeel and sugar – that I’ve ever had when compared to d’Yquem.

As is always the case when they have us over for dinners, the food at Anthony and Jennifer’s was incredible. I took no notes but vividly remember each course today, over two months after the meal:

  • Assorted cured meats: my favorite meats were the jamon and bresaola – an air-dried, salted and aged cured beef.
  • Tagliatelle with white truffles: the most decadent dish of the night, fresh pasta with butter, an egg yolk and shaved white truffles – an unbeatable dish for the Fall/Winter.
  • Roasted leg of lamp: seasoned with garlic and spices, a perfect main for the big red wines we had lined up.
  • Mixed green salad with a mustard vinaigrette
  • Cheese course: I had my first taste of an incredible cheese, Mont d’Or. This rich, creamy cheese (only available in winter months) is held in an oak encasing. Anthony told me you typically leave it on top of the oven to heat up and serve slightly warm. Made from cow’s milk, this  is incredibly rich with a woody taste imparted by the encasing.
  • Assorted cupcakes and banana cream pie from Magnolia

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

Bond Estate Tasting – NY Vintners

September 2012, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

New York Vintners recently had a Bond Estate tasting where we got to try two different vintages from each of their vineyard sites. It was a rare opportunity to compare vintages within a specific vineyard site as well as across the different vineyard sites. This was a particularly exciting tasting to me because you really got to see how the different terroirs influenced the wine and how that could change year to year.

All of the wines are made by Bill Harlan’s team – from vineyard management to winemaking. With the same winemaking team at the helm and a consistent aging process of 26 months in oak followed by 16 months in the bottle, the differences in these wines were driven by their terroir and to a small extent varietal selection. The five vineyard sites are in their map below, showing the different elevations, sun exposures and soil types they use:

The five vineyard sites of Bond Estate

We tasted 10 wines in total – two from each of their vineyard sites. Notes and recommended food pairings by their estate director, Paul Roberts, are listed below. I ended up purchasing a 5-pack of the ’06 wines across all vineyard sites:

  1. *** 2005 and 2006 Bond Melbury – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, powerful aroma of floral fruit with a palate of crushed red berries. Slight preference to the ’06 here which came across as more well balanced despite being a year younger. Rocky hillside vineyard with a Eastern and Southeastern exposure. Sedimentary soil with compressed clay. Recommended food: chicken, turkey. $295
  2. *** 2006 and 2008 Bond Quella – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, more tannins noticeable than in the Melbury. Cedar with darker fruits – less enthusiastic about Quella then Melbury and a slight preference to the ’06 vs. the ’08 which still felt way too young. Vineyard site is an old riverbed of cobble and rocks with pockets of volcanic ash. Southwest exposure. Recommended food: anything with lots of salt. $295
  3. **** 2006 and 2007 Bond St. Eden – my favorite of all the vineyard sites, just beating out Vecina. This is what I think of when I think of a big, well done California wine. Slight preference to drinking the ’06 today although the ’07 may be the better wine in the long run. Dark chocolate, black fruit and huge body and mouth feel. Red, rocky soil with a Northern exposure. Recommended food: steak; anything braised; spicy food. $295
  4. **** 2003 and 2006 Bond Vecina – A powerful but balanced wine with plenty of black fruit and herbaceous aromas. Juicy. I preferred the ’06 which seemed to have more substance and body than the ’03 although it was very close. Bedrock with fine grained alluvial wash with an Eastern exposure. Recommended food: anything with tomatoes. $295
  5. *** 2004 and 2006 Bond Pluribus – More concentrated and powerful the Vecina, less so than the St. Eden but lacking the balance of either. Licorice, dark fruit and coffee with a spicy finish. Slight preference to the ’04 but probably just do to a bit more bottle age. Decomposed volcanic soil with a North and East exposure. Recommended food: lamb; game, cheese. $295


Another Dinner at Dan & Sul’s

14 June 2012, 27 N. Moore Street, Tribeca

Dan and Sul hosted another dinner at their place, catered by New York Vintners and Chef Ryan. It was an incredible meal and wine pairing, again, in a beautiful apartment and great company:

1. 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal (provided by Dan and Anthony) with cured meats and cheeses: this wine was discussed at the last big wine meal we had at Dan and Sul’s apartment. Simply incredible depth and complexity that changed my mind on Champagne.

2. 2010 Schafer-Frohlich Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Grosses Gewachs (Magnum – brought by Diane and I) with three summer ceviches – spicy tuna, rock fish and watermelon, scallop and cilantro yuzu:

2010 Schafer-Frohlich Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Grosses Gewachs

Crisp, lemon acidity with an aroma or pear. Firmness on the palate with a taste that lingered and changed depending on the ceviche it was consumed with. Good, though not terribly complex wine that was a perfect pairing for the food (Jesse from NY Vintner’s recommendation).

There were two main courses, with sides, and two reds accompanying them – splitting them up in no particular order:

3. 1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (Magnum – brought by Matt Schwab and his wife) with marinated flat iron steak and raw kale salad with parmesean, citrus, and dried cranberry:

1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate

Full-bodied, opulent, fruity and perfectly integrated at this point in it’s life. The tannins reached a level of sweetness with the meat and the age added earthy aromas. Delicious wine.

4. 2003 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Magnum – brought by Anthony and Jennifer) with seared tuna and Napa cabbage with a side of a marinated bean salad with citrus:

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Lighter body, brighter and more subtle than the big California Cabernet. I had this wine a few years ago and the bottle age has made this much more enjoyable as the tannins are less awkward and upfront.

5. 2003 Pax Cuvee Moriah (Magnum – brought by Diane and I):

2003 Pax Cuvee Moriah

69% Grenache, 18% Syrah, and the balance of Mourvedre, Counoise, and Roussanne. Dark and full-bodied and striking similar to a Chateauneuf du Pape. Drinking extremely well with tons of fruit and smoothness – not paired with any course and a wine we sipped on after the main courses were done.

6. 1990 Chateau d’Yquem (provided by Dan and Sul) with assorted Takahachi desserts: also discussed in an earlier post when Dan and Sul brought a bottle to a dinner hosted at 100 Jane. As is typically the case, my wine of the night – can never get enough d’Yquem.

**** 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal

** 2010 Schafer-Frohlich Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Grosses Gewachs (Magnum), $240

**** 1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (Magnum)

*** 2003 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Magnum)

*** 2003 Pax Cuvee Moriah (Magnum), $125

**** 1990 Chateau d’Yquem