choose your destiny

mercoledì 28 dicembre 2011

La Mondianese unoaked Barbera, a cheap wine that you can actually stomach!

Living in the city, money tends to fly out yo' pocket at a steady pace.  There is always a quest to find an affordable, under $15 bottle of wine that doesn't make your skin crawl while drinking it.  In Italy, you have vini sfusi to stock up on by the 1.5L Water bottle, here you gotta search it out for those nights when you just want a simple, drinkable cheap wine to go with everyday food. Last night cooking for my roomates birthday I gave some unoaked Barbera a chance.

La Mondianese Barbera d'Asti 2009 ''Baby Barb'' - First thing I must say is that the Baby Barb thing turned me off just a bit.  But anyway, the wine was lovely.  I bought it in Brooklyn for about $13 and I have even seen it online for just a bit over $10.  This wine is 100% Barbera, and it goes through malolactic fermentation in stainless steel. Simple, food friendly acidity, showing Barbera's character... exactly what I was looking for on this night.

lunedì 26 dicembre 2011

buon natale! sanvalentino and prime rib, naturally

Made it home to the berkshires for a day and a half... my mother picked up a grass fed prime rib cut from the best quality market in town.  The meat was incredible seasoned only with salt/pepper and olive oil.  Paolo Bea San Valentino 2007 was a beautiful choice for the natural wine and natural meat pairing.  Beautiful acidity and intriguingly concentrated and pure with that unfiltered loveliness.
Buone Feste!

venerdì 9 dicembre 2011

GD VAJRA langhe nebbiolo 2009

ahhhhhhh un-oaked nebbioloooo, what a breath of fresh air....

lunedì 5 dicembre 2011

Pelaverga and some Ossau-Iraty

Ran into some Fratelli Alessandria Verduno Pelaverga 2010 and needed to buy a bottle.  My first time drinking this variety and whether a Branch Scraper or a Dick Scraper it's some good shit. I talked with my Mexican friend Bruno who chuckled at the name Pelaverga translating from spanish to Dick Rubber (or at least some form of masturbator), which makes the connection of the name and the aphrodisiacal qualities associated with it.

Usually producing lighter style wines, this 2010 had beautiful red fruit with some strawberry notes reminiscent of those you would find in a Frappato from Sicily but with a completely different structure and complexity to it.  Pelaverga is a good time to try something a little more rare while staying in the comfort zone of Piemonte.  Sliced up some medium soft Ossau-Iraty sheeps milk cheese coming from south-western france to have with it.  This cheese was recently crowned as the 2011 World cheese awards best cheese.  I stopped at Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which is one of only 3 cheese mongers to sell it in New York City.

giovedì 1 dicembre 2011

Scenes from an Amatriciana lunch

If theres anything that I can cook, I would say it is the above Bucatini all'Amatriciana.  I feel a true connection to the dish as well as a good grasp on it's history and tradition.  Very few and good quality ingredients are the key here.

There are mainly three ingredients to make up the sauce, and the following is all I use.

Tomatoes (Preferably Italian ones, Mutti is nice)
Pecorino Romano

Splash of red wine after sautéing the guanciale
Pinch of peperoncino
Bucatini cooked al dente

buon appetito!

mercoledì 30 novembre 2011

ribolla CIALLA for a light brooklyn lunch

Visited some 2010 Ribolla Gialla from Ronchi di Cialla (located in Prepotto of the Friuli region) over a light lunch here in Brooklyn this week.  One of the more mineral expressions of Ribolla Gialla I have tasted but balanced with its generous acidity very well.  Not super expressive on the nose although containing just enough fruit to seal the deal.  Ribolla Gialla is one of my favorite wines to have with fish, but this can go with a number of lighter dishes.  When we visited Paolo Rapuzzi and the Ronchi di Cialla house hold with the COF2011 in February we tasted a vertical of some awesome Schioppettino, but this was the first run in with their Ribolla Gialla.
Bello fresco, e veramente buono!

above, a view of the vineyards that surround the house of the  Rapuzzi family.  

lunedì 14 novembre 2011

1971 Granbussia

With the never calming argument of traditionalism vs modernism in the land of Barolo it is easy for one to make a prejudgment on the wines of the Conterno brothers.  Giacomo Conterno making the classic traditional wines, while Aldo Conterno after traveling to California separated from his familys label to make his own wines in 1970 with a more modern approach.  Last week I was sipping 2006 Nebbiolo from Cantina dei Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema.  What an amazing value and a beautiful expression of traditional Nebbiolo.  A few minutes later I was given a pour of 2003 A. Conterno Il Favot which at the time I thought was barriqued.  The 2003 vintage however is the one exception as Aldo didn't produce any Barolo and declassified everything to the Il Favot label.  While tasting it later he realized his mistake and its potential as becoming a beautiful Barolo and refused to put it in barriques as it normally would have traveled to.  The 2003 didnt settle with me so well though and maybe it was the short maceration period that gave it an uneasy modern drinking style.  Being very concentrated and rich, I dumped the glass and reached back for the Carema.

Two nights ago we were able to uncork an A. Conterno Barolo Granbussia 1971.  I didnt have a great knowledge of Aldo Conterno wines and spent most of my energy in the past learning about Giacomo Conterno wines as I usually side with the traditionalists... so the hell with the modernists right?  But Granbussia is an excellent display of Nebbiolo and is bottled only in the best years. From 1970 up until 1985 the grapes were sourced from the Colonnello and Cicala vineyards in Monforte d'Alba.  After 1985  the grapes are coming 70% from the Romirasco vineyard.  Granbussia has a relatively long maceration period of 2-3 weeks depending on the vintage and is always aged in large Slavonian oak barrels.

The 71 is the first commercial bottling of the Granbussia.  How glorious it always is to unwrap and uncork the dirty moldy top of old Nebbiolo!  At first whiff this wine had crazy aromas of asian spice, ginger and peperoncino.  On the palate it was long and delicate showing off nice terroir and notes of roses, fig, truffles and dark chocolate while having a touch of silkiness and elegance to it.  Yes at first choice I would drink Giacomo Conterno, but this old Granbussia was intriguing and a wine worth pondering over.

For an interesting post on 1937 Aldo Conterno Barolo coming originally from 12.5 liter quarto di brenta check out 

giovedì 10 novembre 2011

california dreaming (again)

Watching instragram posts pop up all today (including the one above from my friend Pizzle) of the opening day at Mammoth Mountain, I cant help but to feel empty inside all the way over here on the east coast.  Being a traveling man is the most incredible feeling in the world but comes with the uneasiness of wishing you were somewhere else no matter where you are.

In Brooklyn tasting news...

A new oldest wine I have ever tasted
1947 Huet Vouvray Moelleux Le Haut-Lieu - What an insane wine this was the other night

For now I'll settle into Brooklyn and hope to find an escape onto the snow whenever possible.... or at least a mental escape from time to time with amazing wine like this Champagne from Laurent-Perrier (Grand Siecle).

domenica 6 novembre 2011

Unnatural composure

A shot of the painting Unnatrual Composure taken at the Walton Ford opening two nights ago at the Paul Kasmin Gallery, my favorite of the works being shown.

mercoledì 2 novembre 2011

Catarratto nights end

Ended a night at the 'ol Maialino with a swig of the above 2008 Porta Del Vento Saharay (photo: which is on the Sicilian wine by the glass program.  The most cider-like out of the Italian skin contact white wines I have tasted (Rusticum, Angiolino Maule etc) some surprising tannins as well.  What a terrific autumnal beverage right here, by itself or with most fall style dishes.  It is made from the Catarratto grape which is planted mainly in Sicily.

As I shlug down a last refreshing sip of Moretti before turning the lights off here in my Brooklyn Cabin, I have King Kong eyeing me from a short distance...  The below painting is from Walton Fords exhibit which opens tomorrow at the Paul Kasmin Gallery.  Walton lives in the Berkshires where I was coming from a about week ago.

lunedì 24 ottobre 2011

Hah, never seen Cristal pour faster...

Working one last dinner in the Berkshires brought Frederic Rouzaud of Louis Roederer to the area for a Cristal and Pichon lalande wine diner.
The collection of wines included:

Louis Roederer Brut Premier Magnum
Louis Roederer Brut 1985
Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 1990
Cristal 1996, 2000
Cristal Rosè 1996 2000
Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande 1982, 1996, 2005

The Brut 1985 was brilliant, complex and if I could put it into words it was like drinking honey graham crackers.  The 1990 wasnt holding up as nice and had an edgy oxidation that wasnt so attractive.  For the Cristal I preferred the 2000. It was rich, powerful, crisp and seductive while the 1996 (also amazing) was long, deep, more complex and had nutty characteristics.  The second growth Lalande uses the highest percentage of Merlot in Pauillac which I thought really stood out in the 2005.  The 1996 had reached a nice stage with loads of tobacco and cigar box, and a slight gaminess to it.  I didn't taste the '82 but have in the past and a year ago it was amazingly complex and definitely my favorite vintage.

The title of this post comes from the Notorious B.I.G. song ''Your nobody 'till somebody kills you''.  The album was released in 1996 and Biggie was the first rapper to promote Cristal in his songs and hip hop culture (which contributed to Cristal's success in America).  Ten years later Jay-Z started a Cristal boycott after Mr. Rouzaud made some comments in the Economist towards rappers drinking and promoting the Champagne that Jay-Z saw as snotty and racist.

I will bring you back to 1996.. where all of the sommeliers of my generation enjoy a little Cristal and Biggie Smalls.

(Second verse)

Uhh, uhh
Watch Casino, I'm the hip-hop version of Nicky Tarantino
Ask Nino, he know
Green with envy, the green tempts me
to make the richest enemy, and take their cheese
Take their spots, take their keys, make my faculty
live happily, ever after in laughter
Hah, never seen Cristal pour faster

And to those bastards, knuckleheads squeeze lead
Three of mine dead, nothing left to do
but tear they ass to shreds, leave em in bloodshed
Incidents like this I take trips
Lay up in Miami with Tamika and Tammy (huh)
Some Creole C-O bitches I met on tour
Push a peach Legend Coupe, gold teeth galore
Told me meet em in the future later, they'll take me shopping
buy me lavender and fuschia Gators
Introduce me to player haters and heavy weighters
Rich bitch shit, drinking Cristal
til they piss the shit
, uhh
Thorough bitches, death to any borough bitches
Be in spots where they were no bitches, you feel me
Reminisce on dead friends too
You're nobody 'til somebody kills you

Cheers, motha fuckas!  Cristal spillin out the seams.

domenica 23 ottobre 2011

A day in Pompeii, Massachusetts and wacko wine preservation

A Thursday off of work found me in Boston for a short visit, a few days before a move to NYC.  First I checked out the exhibit A day in Pompeii at the Museum of Science.  A sharp but more limited exhibit than expected.  It did feature some body casts which were fascinating, and below these four amphorae which were traditionally used to transport wine (like the two on the left) or olives and fruit (the two on the right).

Afterwards, I stopped into Enoteca Bin 26 an Italian Focused wine list with Italian and Italian influenced food on the menu.  Didn't eat dinner, but had some pecorino toscano cheese (which was wonderful) with a glass of Aglianico.  They offer 100 ml ''tasting glasses'', 250 ml, 500ml, or by the bottle.  The 100ml is a sly maneuver because your paying $7 to $13 for essentially half of a glass of wine.  Another thing they use which has been bugging me lately with restaurants is a pump vacuum and pour system for the wines by the glass. Being an old school kinda guy, I am really feeling anti pump technology... and that bullshit wine preservation spray that they are selling now... come the fuck on! Most of the time I find these devices really suck the soul out of the aroma and/or bouquet of the wine.
Below, the wine by the glass pump system at Bin 26.

The perfect solution?
Save the wine for a day or max two days (with a normal cork) if you feel the need.  Otherwise if you have leftover wine, let the staff drink it. That way your keeping your staff and your customers happy at the same time. The staff can relax and unwind after a hard nights work, and the customers are always drinking fresh wine.  Afterall, you can't have happy customers without a happy staff!

venerdì 14 ottobre 2011

Lost in translation

Today my friend Rivka Spizzichino in Rome shared this photo from the Metro... Classic Italian workmanship here!

lunedì 10 ottobre 2011

Life, Death and Yquem 1983

''Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I have ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.''   - Steve Jobs

Above, a birds eye view of 1983 Yquem in my glass showing the vintages captivating colour.

Last night I enjoyed some Chateau d'Yquem 1983 (in Magnum) which was given to us by a very generous guest at the hotel.  I don't think I have even seen Yquem in a magnum before, but I knew it would be special as it always is.  After many recent posts on brief tasting notes which gets old quickly this sauternes surely caused me to stop and think for a few days before attempting to write about it. First off, this must be my favorite vintage I have had yet from Yquem... definitely the most flamboyant and instantly seductive.  A very concentrated vintage.  The amazing thing about this wine which for me is the reason why it's delicious, is it's ability to be very sweet and bone dry at the same time.  at first you taste the sweet (the honey, creme brulee, citrus notes etc.) but in your mouth you are left with a sensational dry aftertaste.  There is a wonderful acidity of Yquem which balances the sweetness.

While drinking this wine as it made me ponder, I couldn't help but to think about life and death.  If your familiar with Yquem wines you know they are special for their capability to age for a very long time.  Many say over 100 years for the 1983 and it is already a year older than I.  Most of the people on this earth today will be dead when this wine is still being enjoyed by our children.  It recalls as of recent, the passing of Steve Jobs and his motivational views on life and death.  The importance of doing what you feel from your heart without any fear. Or as the slightly less optimistic motto goes in which Michelangelo Merisi lived by  Nec Spe Nec MetuWithout hope, without fear

With your next glass of Chateau d'Yquem ponder just a bit.. about the future of the world and who will be drinking that same exact wine 100 years from now, long after you have passed.

above, natura morta. grapes from Yquem during the botrytis cinerea (noble rot) process. 
photo from

above, Sommelier Luc Chevalier pouring some liquid gold.

domenica 9 ottobre 2011

Friday bringing more Leflaive to the table

Had a couple of Leflaive white burgundy wines this friday... The Puligny-Montrachet 2003 ''Les Pucelles'' was showing an unusual weak side.  There was not much expression here, tasted almost watered down.. mineral, citrus and some toasted notes but a weak finish and a bit of a disapointment..

Later in the evening a superior Grand Cru from Leflaive made an appearance in the dining room...
Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet 2004 Grand Cru was showing ages ahead of the ''Les Pucelles'' with an incredible complexity.
The 2004 harvest (ending on Oct. 3rd) took place a month later than the 2003 harvest (ending on Sept. 5th) in which the grapes suffered through some scorching summer heat.
Although tough to compare these two wines (sourced from different vineyards) I have had other great experiences with the 2004 vintage from Leflaive's Puligny-Montrachet. 

The Leflaive website says the 2004 Grand Crus shouldn't be enjoyed before 2012.  I would beg to differ as this wine is already exploding with action...long, toasty, and mineral deliciousness!

martedì 4 ottobre 2011

19 year old Chardonnay!

Posting quickly about some nice wines tasted last night including 
Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet 1992!
19 year old Chardonnay from Burgundy. Amazing shit... layers of honey, citrus, toasted almonds, sauternes-like characteristics...longevity for days.. lasting over 5 minutes on the palate.

Free Amanda

After a terrifying 4 years in prison Amanda Knox has finally returned to her home in Seatle...

lunedì 3 ottobre 2011

Oddero Rocche Di Castiglione 2005, showing marvelous

After a freaky bizarre night in the restaurant and some shitty weather around (a damp and rainy fall in the Berkshires so far) I arrived home and Oddero Barolo called out to me.  Instead of planning a certain moment to open a special bottle of wine, I find it always best to open spontaneously... you know when you just feel like having some Barolo.

Oddero 2005 Barolo, Rocche di Castiglione.  Right away this Barolo had the most magnificent bouquet.  I have never had such a young Barolo still strong and tannic, be so expressive at the same time.  Beautiful dried flowers, cherry, spice, liquorish, and tar.  Enjoyable on the palate with good acidity but one of those wines you cant stop smelling.  I reheated some Beef Bourguignon, my father ''big frank'' had cooked earlier that night and it went insanely good together.

It is said that Barolo made here in the Rocche vineyard in Castiglione Falletto has a markedly aromatic nose that makes it outstanding even when drunk only a year or so after the harvest.  Some Barolos (like those from Serralunga d'Alba for instance) take a lot of bottle age to acheive these classic barolo characteristics and aromatics.  The soil of Rocche is also very unique.  Slightly sandy, limestone-rich and loose packed, with a very hard rock like surface just a meter deep.  This type of ground does not retain water well and Rocche suffers the most in the very hot and dry years.

Cristina Oddero shared the following photo through twitter of Nebbiolo grapes during this past weeks harvest.

Ultimi giorni di raccolta a Bricco Chiesa, storico vigneto attorno alla proprietà Barolo é di casa!

giovedì 15 settembre 2011

1978 Chateau Latour... Un Grand Vin!

Had the pleasure to taste this 1978 Pauillac from Chateau Latour on my birthday.  Tasted both of these bottles and they were both very similar... something that doesn't happen so often in a wine having over 30 years on it.  The complexity was amazing.  Right away I tasted fireworks and gun smoke... which morphed into a spicy pepper, tobacco and pencil shavings.  Long in the mouth with some fruit present and just enough acidity but you can tell it is fading quickly.

A lot of Bordeaux wines have the same characteristics but depending on the quality the complexity and elegance will change dramatically.. as with this grand vin from Chateau Latour.  The 2002 Sassicaia (a rough year for Sangiovese, but much better for Cabernet from Sassicaia) went better with the food as it had a flawless acidity to it and the Latour was the wine of the night to meditate on.  Drink this 78 Latour now!

Notice the fill difference here with these 78's... giving them 33 years to slowly evaporate

mercoledì 14 settembre 2011

Un Compleanno... Non da solo ma con una boccia di Krug!

im not ashamed... Krug is a guilty pleasure of mine...

As midnight struck turning me 27, I looked around.. everybody was gone except a lonely bottle of Champagne. Soon we became friends, and I was beginning to understand my love for Krug... I will take it any day over Dom Perignon.  So often are luxury goods over rated and nothing near what they are talked up to be.  For me this is an exception. Although usually not a fan of grand oakyness the Krug grand cuvee (a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) fermented completely in small oak casks really shows the harmonious side of OAK.  The wine dances on your tongue and the components play together like a symphony.

All I need in this life of sin... is me and some Krug

Some of the wines opened tonight.  The 1999 Marcassin Pinot Noir was nice upon opening had a rich barnyard smell with dirty fruits.  Within only 10 minutes It completely cleaned up with bright red fruits and violets as if it had jumped in the shower, shaved put on a tie and said ''okay, I'm ready for ya!''.

sabato 10 settembre 2011

French Mags' up in the spot

Had to do a post in honor of Wayne Young of old white wine, and which I drank a fair share of last week.  I put up these two bottles to mention briefly...

1995 Champagne Dom Perignon (Magnum)

This was a cool bottle of bubbly here.  I never thought to open champagne for the sake of breathing before serving.  You always pop the cork when you are ready to drink.  In this case we opened this vintage Champagne (which is roughly around 50/50 chardonnay/pinot noir) and I tasted it right before serving to the guests.  I wasn't expecting heaps from this wine, thinking it might be slightly past it's peak.  It had a very edgy, agressive oxidative character that bit at your toungue a bit.  We served it and that was that.  After service, maybe 3 hours later we opened it back up to share a drink before the nights end.  I wasn't even going to taste it as I had my eyes wrapped around a leftover Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco.  Someone said how great it tasted so I gave it another shot.  The wine changed completely!  Still fresh acidity and bubbles but that agressive oxidation was completely gone! and it smoothed out into a long finish.  Wow what an unexpected personality on this wine...

2003 Domaine Ponsot, Morey Saint Denis Clos des Monts, ''Vieilles Vignes'' (Magnum)

From the Morey Saint Denis Appelation in the Cote De Nuits - Domaine Ponsot produces red and white wines from Pinot Noir and Aligoté.  White wine only makes up 4% of the wine produced here.  This is the only premier cru burgundy made up of 100% Aligote.  This old white wine was killer though and had a perfect amount of cellar time on it.  The fruit still fresh, expressive and complex with a long finish.


venerdì 9 settembre 2011

I'm going to Graceland, Eataly NYC

Was taken unexpectedly to Eataly for lunch this week by my Italian friend Arianna...  I knew it was going to be thrilling, and an incredible experience and that it was.. Probably more so then I expected.  We ate at the Rosticceria and had Brisket Bollito with salsa verde and a side of escarole.  Every day they prepare a different meat for a special.  Eataly...A market, a wine shop, 9 restaurants, a gelateria and 2 espresso bars all in one space.  To sit here and try to explain the experience would be pointless... get out of your chair and run don't walk!

200 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010

15th Floor, above the rest of Eataly lies the Birreria
Dante's stairs leading to the Birreria...

venerdì 2 settembre 2011

giovedì 1 settembre 2011

1996 Asili in magnum

Bruno Giacosa 1996 Asili di Barbaresco Riserva (red label) Magnum, (bottle 048 of 1520)

One of the many reasons Nebbiolo is so fascinating is its versatility.  It can produce wines with different style and character depending on the terroir...but all within northern Italy, and mainly Piemonte.  As Angelo Gaja has said,  Nebbiolo is ''infinitely more complex'' than Cabernet Sauvignon, which is grown all over the world.

After tasting a very powerful and noble 1985 Bruno Giacosa Santo Stefano Riserva last week, it made it that much more meaningful to taste a younger 1996 Bruno Giacosa Asili Barbaresco RiservaAsili has been mentioned as the vineyard capable of producing the best expressions of Barbaresco and even Nebbiolo in some cases.

I tasted this wine throughout a 24 hour period from being opened and double decanted.  Although not as powerful and complex as the Santo Stefano (which we have said closely resembles a Barolo), it showed wonderfully.  The colour was still a very dark red and showing no signs of the classic orange reflections.  The first thing you notice when tasting this wine at 15 years out, is how powerful the tannins still are and how much more time this can spend in the cellar.  It started off gamy, slightly chewy and with notes of toasted hazelnuts.  After an hour it lost the gaminess and hazelnut, the beautiful fruit came out and it stayed pretty much the same for 24 hours showing a textbook nose of tar and roses with a beautiful acidity making it show best when paired with food.

mercoledì 31 agosto 2011

2004 Pico, e cena con mia zia calabrese di 92 anni!

My Aunt Ceil made an appearance this week in The Berkshires, coming from Florida for the wedding of my brother.  We dined with family at The Church St. Cafe in Lenox, my friend Stefan's place.  What a night, enjoying Quail and '09 Langhe Nebbiolo from Produttori del Barbaresco with my 92 year old aunt.

Earlier on...

After my first and very memorable experience of 2009 Angiolino Maule Pico with the COF 2011 crew, I found a 2004 vintage in The Wine Bottega in the north end of Boston two weeks ago.  I was slightly skeptical at first wondering how this Garganega would hold up after 7 years, but by the beard of Zeus this bitch was shining like a rock star.  Orange peel, grapefruit, hibiscus, bangin' acidity and a touch of tannin, best at room temperature.
Not a bad way to spend $20....

lettori fissi