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Vinous Table: L’Univerre, Bordeaux

Vinous Table

Apr 2014

Readers visiting Bordeaux will want to set aside at least one night for L’Univerre. The wine list will leave even the most seasoned traveler drooling, while the food is absolutely delicious.

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2013 Bordeaux: Walking the Tightrope

Bordeaux

Apr 2014

The 2013 vintage will be remembered as one of the most challenging Bordeaux has ever seen, but quality-minded properties found a way to make delicious wines with plenty of near-term appeal.

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Vinous Table: Marea, New York

Vinous Table

Apr 2014

It’s always great to get together with one of my local tasting groups for a night of fabulous wine, food and conversation, something that has become a rare occasion given my travel schedule these days.

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2011 Red Burgundy: Three Sides of a Coin - Parts 1+2+3

Burgundy

Mar 2014

The best 2011 red Burgundies are striking, quintessentially transparent wines that capture the essence of site, but overall this is a variable vintage that is going to require careful selection.

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Vinous Table: L’Assiette Champenoise, Reims, France

Vinous Table

Mar 2014

This recent dinner at L’Assiette Champenoise was off the charts. Proprietor Arnaud Lallement is at the top of his game these days.

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Vinous Table: Charity Dinner to Benefit the Frankie Lemmon School

Vinous Table

March 2014

This magnificent charity dinner in Raleigh raised $30,000 for the Frankie Lemmon School, which provides a number of programs for children with learning disabilities.

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Giacomo Conterno: Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia 2000-2010

Italy

Mar 2014

Barolo gets most of the attention at Giacomo Conterno, but the estate’s Barbera shows another equally fascinating side of the Cascina Francia vineyard.

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Alto Adige: A World Unto Itself

Italy

Mar 2014

Alto Adige is literally a world unto itself. Home to a number of indigenous white and red varieties seldom seen elsewhere in Italy, Alto Adige is one of the most unique and compelling regions in the world.

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Vinous Table: Gasthof Krone, Alto Adige

Vinous Table

Mar 2014

There are few regions in Italy that can match Alto Adige when it comes to top-notch hospitality and dining. Set in a small hotel in Aldino, Gasthof Krone captures the essence of Alto Adige kitchen and its rich tapestry of Italian and Austrian influences.

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Alpine Beauty: The Wines of Valle d’Aosta

Italy

Mar 2014

Viticulture is heroic on the steep Alpine vineyards in Valle d’Aosta. The result: terroir-driven wines that pulsate with minerality and energy.

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Vinous Table: Maialino, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2014

It has been a while since my last lunch at Maialino, but I make up for lost time quickly. Executive Chef Nick Anderer’s tasting menu is absolutely brilliant.

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Veneto: Stunning Landscapes, Stunning Wines

Italy

Mar 2014

A region of breathtaking beauty, Veneto is also home to an extraordinary range of wines made in all styles.

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Exploring Northern Piedmont

Italy

Mar 2014

The Nebbiolo-based reds of Northern Piedmont remain some of the most exciting, under-the-radar wines in the world.

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La Festa del Barolo 2013 Gala Dinner

Vinous Table

Mar 2014

The spirit of sharing and camaraderie the world’s best wines inspire was in evidence at La Festa del Barolo, where I was fortunate to enjoy a range of emotionally moving, transcendental wines.

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Epic Dunn: Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 1979-1999

California

Feb 2014

This tasting spanning 21 vintages of Randy Dunn's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain going all the way back to the inaugural 1979 was remarkable for so many reasons.

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Kata: An Exciting Debut From Napa Valley

California

Feb 2014

I knew it the moment I tasted it. The wine in my glass was one of the most exciting new projects in Napa Valley. What was it? Kata’s 2011 Beckstoffer Bourn Vineyard.

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Vinous Table: Ai Fiori, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2014

Over the last year Ai Fiori has become one of my favorite spots in New York. The food is incredibly wine-friendly, the service is superb and overall ambience is welcoming. Everything on our menu is out of this world.

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Interactive Vineyard Maps - Beta

Italy

Feb 2014

Our Interactive Vineyard Maps give readers a totally new and engaging way to learn more about specific vineyards and then explore the wines that emerge from those sites.

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Barolo: A Classification of Vineyards

Italy

Feb 2014

Trying to gain an understanding of the vineyards of Barolo has been an all-consuming passion since I started visiting Piedmont 18 years ago. Over the last few years in particular I have begun to collect my thoughts on the region and its vineyards. Barolo: A Classification of Vineyards is the result of that work.

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Sonoma and Beyond: New Releases

California

Feb 2014

Once again I was deeply struck by the quality and diversity of the wines I tasted in Sonoma County. At three times the size of Napa Valley, Sonoma County is home to a dizzying array of world-class whites and reds.

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Fontodi: Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 1985-2010

Italy

Feb 2014

The takeaway from this historic tasting is obvious: the Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo is Fontodi’s flagship wine. It’s as simple as that.

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The Undiscovered California

California

Feb 2014

It seems like everywhere I turn in California a new winery or project is popping up. Sure, visiting California’s reference point wineries is always exciting, but the real thrill of discovery lies in uncovering the new.

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Vinous Table: Castello di Grinzane Cavour, Piedmont, Italy

Vinous Table

Feb 2014

Located in the Castello di Grinzane Cavour, Alessandro Boglione’s Ristorante al Castello is one of the prettiest dining rooms in Piedmont. The menu is steeped in the classics, with a few innovative touches.

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Vinous Table: Le Bernardin, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2014

I can’t think of too many places I would rather spend a cold, winter afternoon than Le Bernardin. This marvelous, indulgent lunch was full of surprises.

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Vinous Table: Brooklyn Fare, New York

Vinous Table

Jan 2014

This recent dinner at Brooklyn Fare was one of my most memorable culinary experiences. Chef César Ramirez’s food dazzles at every turn, with a seemingly endless array of thrilling twists and turns.

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Vinous Table: Bistro de l’Hôtel, Beaune, France

Vinous Table

Jan 2014

A trip to Burgundy isn’t complete with a meal or two at the Bistro de l’Hôtel, where proprietor Johan Björklund serves seasonal cuisine in a gorgeous, intimate setting.

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2012 Red Burgundy: Against All Odds

Burgundy

Jan 2014

Mother Nature threw the book at Burgundy’s vignerons in 2012, with just about every kind of weather imaginable. Quality is uneven across the board, especially in the Côte de Beaune, but the best 2012s are undeniably thrilling.

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Gala Dinner at the World Wine Symposium

Vinous Table

Jan 2014

I have enjoyed a number of spectacular meals at the Villa d’Este over the last few years, but this was arguably the finest. The Gala Dinner that concluded the 2013 edition of the World Wine Symposium was a culinary tour-de-force from Executive Chef Michele Zambanini and his team.

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Vinous Table: Hurricane Sandy Charity Dinner at The Modern

Vinous Table

Jan 2014

This charity lot included a private tour of several galleries at the Museum of Modern Art, followed by dinner at The Modern. Executive Chef Gabriel Kreuther prepared a menu full of his signature Alsatian-inspired dishes to pair with our wines.

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2010 Barolo: Flying High Again

Italy

Jan 2014

The 2010 vintage in Barolo is shaping up to be a modern-day classic. The cool growing season produced transparent, vibrant Barolos that pulsate with tension, crystalline purity and site-specific nuance.

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Vinous Table: Lincoln Ristorante, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2013

I have been fortunate to enjoy two spectacular meals at Lincoln Ristorante recently. Chef Jonathan Benno’s food is rooted in the classics yet inventive and full of surprises.

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Mastroberardino – Defining the Greatness of Taurasi: 1928-2006

Italy

Dec 2013

My recent tasting with Piero Mastroberardino was a once in a lifetime experience, and not just for me. This was the largest comprehensive vertical the estate had ever staged of their Taurasi.

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Vinous Table: Mas Farmhouse, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2013

Tucked away in the labyrinth of small streets that is Greenwich Village, Mas offers an intriguing blend of contemporary American cuisine with French country inflections.

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Vinous Table: Ai Fiori, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2013

Two recent meals at Michael White’s Ai Fiori have been superb. This dinner featured a number of my favorite wines, all of which showed beautifully.

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Friuli – Parallel Universes

Italy

Dec 2013

Friuli is home to some of the most spectacular hillside vineyards in all of Europe. While the best Friulian wines are stunning, the full potential of these sites remains largely untapped.

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Antinori Solaia – A Complete Retrospective 1978-2010

Italy

Dec 2013

Chronicling the great wines of Italy for our readers has been a passion of mine for many years. Vinous Events take readers off the sidelines and make them participants in historic, once-in-a-lifetime tastings.

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The Vinous 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Rest of the World

Dec 2013

With the holidays in full swing it’s time to start thinking about gifts. This year, we are once again proud to present our selection of some of the best gift ideas for the wine lovers in your life.

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Vinous Table: Aureole, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2013

This was my first dinner at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole, but it won’t be my last. Everything was spectacular from start to finish.

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Castello dei Rampolla d’Alceo – A Complete Retrospective 1996-2011

Italy

Dec 2013

This complete vertical of Castello dei Rampolla’s d’Alceo was remarkable for many reasons, most importantly the absolute brilliance of the wines across vintages of all kinds.

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Talking Spirits with Nicolas Palazzi

Rest of the World

Dec 2013

Micro-negociant Nicolas Palazzi offers magnificent artisan spirits that deserve just as much attention as the best small production wines anywhere in the world.

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Vinous Table: Piedmont Icons at Del Posto

Vinous Table

Dec 2013

I was thrilled to host this small, intimate dinner for one of Vinous’s private corporate clients. For the occasion, I chose a number of reference-point wines with an emphasis on Piedmont that showed a variety of styles mixing up current and older vintages.

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Isole e Olena: Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione De Marchi 1986-2010

Italy

Dec 2013

Although Paolo De Marchi is best known for the sublime Sangioveses he crafts at Isole e Olena, his Cabernet Sauvignon is just as viscerally thrilling, as this vertical tasting amply proved.

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Domaine de la Romanée-Conti: An Essay in Terroir

Burgundy

Dec 2013

Two terroirs, across four vintages in four different decades. Those were the parameters for this fascinating tasting held at the World Wine Symposium a few weeks ago.

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Champagne – A Wine For All Seasons

Champagne

Nov 2013

As the end of year holidays approach, it’s only natural to start thinking a little bit more about bubbly. In reality, though, Champagne is a wine for all seasons.

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Vinous Table: The Night of the Forgotten Labels

Vinous Table

Nov 2013

This fabulous dinner at La Rei, in Serralunga, featured a number of oddball rarities, some of which I had never tasted. One of my friends dubbed it ‘The Night of the Forgotten Labels’ and it stuck.

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Borgo del Tiglio – A Study in Whites: 1982-2011

Italy

Nov 2013

Borgo del Tiglio is one of the world’s greatest estates. Proprietor Nicola Manferrari crafts brilliant, chiseled whites that capture the essence of some of Friuli’s most compelling terroirs.

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Vinous Table: La Ciau del Tornavento, Treiso, Italy

Vinous Table

Nov 2013

Truffles, truffles and more truffles. That was the theme of this spectacular dinner at La Ciau del Tornanvento last week. Even on a Monday night following a huge weekend of tourism in the Langhe, La Ciau was packed, as it pretty much always is these days.

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Vinous Table: Centro Storico, Piedmont

Vinous Table

Nov 2013

Centro Storico is one of my favorite places to eat and drink in Piedmont. I am not alone. Over the last few years, Centro Storico has become a huge hit with locals and tourists alike.

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2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Terroir Matters - Updated

California

Nov 2013

The 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons have turned out better than I expected. It was a challenging vintage, but the best wines will surprise for their aromatic intensity, finesse, balance and sense of place.

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Piedmont Beyond Barolo and Barbaresco

Italy

Oct 2013

As great as the best Barolos and Barbarescos are, Piedmont also offers a huge range of more affordable everyday wines that capture all of the virtues of one of the world’s indisputably great wine producing regions.

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Vinous Table: Piedmont Gems from the Cellar

Vinous Table

Oct 2013

There is nothing better than enjoying a few special bottles at home with friends. Wine has a rare ability to create lifelong bonds, so it is especially rewarding when I have an opportunity to share those wines with people who have encouraged me from the very beginning, something I never take for granted nor will ever forget.

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2009 Barolo: Highs and Lows, Part 2

Italy

Oct 2013

This set of reviews concludes our coverage of the 2009 Barolos in 2013, which focuses on wines that are bottled later than is the norm. I view the 2009s as uneven across the board. There are some surprises though, many of them in this article.

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Introducing Vinous Playlists

Rest of the World

Oct 2013

We are thrilled to introduce Vinous Playlists. With Vinous Playlists you can tag and organize your favorite wines by vintage, producer, region or simply by your own preferences, enabling you to revisit your personalized lists whenever and wherever you wish.

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Vinous Table: Cabernet Lovers of New York City

Vinous Table

Oct 2013

I was thrilled to join the Cabernet Lovers of New York City earlier this year for a casual, informal dinner with some of our favorite Napa Valley Cabernets. For the most part, the wines showed brilliantly, and highlighted the diversity Napa Valley is capable of.

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Vinous Table: Park Tavern, San Francisco

Vinous Table

Oct 2013

Park Tavern offers an attractive combination of American classics mixed with French influences in a casual, informal setting. Chef Jennifer Puccio’s food is exuberant, bold and utterly irresistible.

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Vinous Table: Classic Napa Cabernets at Press, St. Helena

Vinous Table

Oct 2013

I never miss a chance to get together with my Napa Valley tasting group. Our shared passion for the great wines of Napa Valley has been the catalyst for a number of fabulous tastings over the years. This dinner at Press was another in a series of unforgettable evenings.

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Barbaresco 2010: Treiso Shines

Italy

Oct 2013

Treiso is the undisputed star of Barbaresco’s 2010 vintage. The wines are aromatically expressive, layered and spiced, with fabulous balance and class. A number of the village’s top producers made some of their best wines ever.

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Antonio Galloni Announces Launch of Vinous Mobile Site

Rest of the World

Oct 2013

The new Vinous mobile site offers access to our entire library – nearly 30,000 reviews and hundreds of videos and articles – all optimized for smartphones. We will continue to lead with technology and mobile specifically as we introduce new features over the next year.

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School’s in Session – Dinner with Il Professore

Vinous Table

Oct 2013

I think it was the 1945 Conterno Barolo. Or maybe it was the 1931 Borgogno Barolo. Maybe the 1970 Mascarello Barolo Monprivato. Those are just a few of the most memorable bottles I have had the privilege of sharing with Il Professore.

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The 2011 Côte de Beaune Whites: Grace in Motion

Burgundy

Sep 2013

I was quite pleased with the 2011 white Burgundies I tasted in late June and early July. The wines are generally open, accessible and delicious, making this a great vintage to enjoy while the 2010s rest in bottle.

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The Vinous Guide to Eating and Drinking in Piedmont

Vinous Table

Sep 2013

Mother Nature is especially generous with Piedmont. She graces the region with world-class wines and a host of raw ingredients that provide the inspiration for the Piedmontese table, one of the most dazzling in Italy.

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Vinous Table: La Ciau del Tornavento, Treiso, Italy

Vinous Table

Sep 2013

Pasta, pasta, pasta. That seemed to be the theme of this spectacular dinner at La Ciau del Tornavento. I have had many memorable meals at La Ciau over the years, but the food has never been better than it is right now. The devil is in the details. Few do it better than Chef/Proprietor Maurilio Garola and his team, all of whom exude infectious energy and pure passion.

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2008 Brunello di Montalcino: A Consumer's Vintage

Italy

Sep 2013

Readers will find a set of mostly approachable, easygoing Brunellos in 2008. The vintage presented growers with many challenges, the severity of which varied from zone to zone.

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Vinous Table: Bistro de l’Hôtel, Beaune, France

Vinous Table

Sep 2013

The weather was unseasonably rainy and chilly during the two weeks I spent in Burgundy this past June, so when sunshine arrived one Saturday morning there was only once place to go for lunch. The Bistro de l’Hôtel.

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2006 Brunello di Montalcino Revisited

Italy

Sep 2013

At its best, Brunello di Montalcino is one of the world’s great wines. Like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, Sangiovese can communicate an extraordinary amount of detail about site and vintage, all in a variety of styles.

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Chablis 2012: Energy, Power and Class

Burgundy

Aug 2013

I was deeply impressed with the 2012s I tasted in Chablis during my annual trip to the region this past June. The 2012s bring together high levels of ripeness (by Chablis standards) with equally bright, vibrant acidities, a combination that is dazzling.

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Vinous Table: Tavernetta all’Androna, Grado, Italy

Vinous Table

Aug 2013

Grado is one of the prettiest and most quaint towns in northern Italy. Located just off the main church, Tavernetta all’Androna remains the best place to enjoy the numerous bounties of the Adriatic.

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In a Tuscan State of Mind

Italy

Aug 2013

This year I spent six weeks visiting wineries and vineyards in Tuscany. I tasted an enormous range of wines, mostly from the 2011 and 2010 vintages. Readers will find a bevy of compelling wines from which to choose.

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Vinous Table: La Subida, Cormòns, Italy

Vinous Table

Aug 2013

La Subida is one of ‘my don’t’ miss spots in Northern Italy. Located in the hills of Cormòns, in the heart of the Friulian Collio, La Subida captures so much of what makes the Collio such an interesting and intriguing region.

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San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo: The Essence of Gaiole Sangiovese

Italy

Aug 2013

This complete vertical of San Giusto a Rentennano’s flagship Sangiovese Percarlo left me speechless. Brothers Luca and Francesco Martini di Cigala showed me every vintage of Percarlo, back to the inaugural 1983, a wine that has now run its full course. I was deeply struck by the consistency of the wines from year to year, and even more importantly, by the great showing of a number of wines from long forgotten harvests, proving yet again the importance of choosing producer over vintage.

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Isole e Olena Cepparello: The Heart and Soul of Sangiovese

Italy

Aug 2013

Proprietor Paolo De Marchi has left an indelible and highly personal stamp on Isole e Olena and all of Chianti Classico, for that matter. Originally of Piedmontese descent, De Marchi stands apart from many of his colleagues for his vocal opinions and intense dedication to the vineyard above all else. Since taking over his family's estate in the late 1970s, De Marchi has transformed Isole e Olena into a powerhouse.

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Vinous Table: La Pineta, Livorno, Italy

Vinous Table

Aug 2013

Located just a few miles from some of the most prestigious wineries in Bolgheri, La Pineta and its charismatic owner Luciano Zazzeri are local legends. Inside the simple, rustic building, guests will find some of the best fish and seafood in Italy.

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Castello di Ama – Chianti Classico Bellavista: 1982-2007

Italy

Aug 2013

This vertical of Castello di Ama’s flagship Chianti Classico Vigneto Bellavista was one of the more remarkable tastings I have ever had the privilege of participating in. The Ama wines have always been rich, immediate and luscious, but it is their capacity to age that has always impressed me most. That was certainly the case once again in this magnificent retrospective.

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Fontodi – Flaccianello and the Path to Greatness: 1981-2009

Italy

Aug 2013

This complete vertical of Fontodi’s flagship Flaccianello was fascinating on so many levels. Needless to say, the opportunity to check in on prior vintages and see how they are developing was a big privilege. Even more importantly in this case, though, was following the path proprietor Giovanni Manetti took in his quest to establish Flaccianello as one of the great wines of Tuscany.

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Montevertine Le Pergole Torte: A Sangiovese Icon

Italy

Aug 2013

In a week during which I tasted most of the reference point Sangioveses and Sangiovese-based reds, one wine stuck out – Le Pergole Torte. Quite honestly, I had a hard time getting to sleep the night I tasted these wines. They were that viscerally thrilling. Le Pergole Torte isn’t a great Tuscan or Italian wine. It is simply one of the world’s elite wines.

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Vinous Table: Villa Bordoni, Greve in Chianti, Italy

Vinous Table

Aug 2013

Villa Bordoni is one of the most beautiful spots in Chianti Classico. Set in the hills outside Greve, this small, family run hotel/restaurant is an oasis of tranquility and understated elegance.

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Paso Robles and Beyond: Excellence in 2011

California

Jul 2013

Paso Robles is buzzing with energy. Driven by an extraordinary level of ambition, Paso’s top producers and their continued search for a clearly defined identity within the wine world combine to make Paso Robles an incredibly dynamic region.

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Vinous Table: Alla Dama Bianca, Trieste, Italy

Vinous Table

Jul 2013

Set in a small, quaint fishing village with a dramatic castle, Alla Dama Bianca excels with the classics. There is nothing fancy here, just pure renditions of traditional Italian coastal cuisine.

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The Santa Lucia Highlands 2011s: Chardonnay Reigns Supreme

California

Jul 2013

Chardonnay reigns supreme among new releases from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The 2011 vintage brought with it pretty much the same challenges faced by growers across California; namely poor flowering and a long, cool, growing season with no heat spikes at all.

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Santa Cruz Mountains: California’s Best Kept Secret

California

Jul 2013

What is the most overlooked terroir in California? It is a question I am asked often. The answer is always the same: The Santa Cruz Mountains. These rugged hillsides just south of San Francisco are home to some of the world’s greatest vineyards and wines.

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Vinous Table: Ma Cuisine, Beaune, France

Vinous Table

Jul 2013

A temple to all things Burgundy, Ma Cuisine is always buzzing with people who love great food and wine. Husband and wife team Pierre and Fabienne Escoffier run their small, intimate restaurant with grace.

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Castellare I Sodi di San Niccolò: A Complete Retrospective 1979 – 2007

Italy

Jul 2013

Proprietor Paolo Panerai is adamant about it. Sangioveto is the correct name and spelling of Tuscany’s main indigenous red variety. Panerai is one of Italy’s most successful entrepreneurs. His publishing empire is vast and encompasses a number of journals running the gamut from Milano Finanza, an Italian version of Barron’s, to Class and other glossy lifestyle magazines. Since the late 1970s, Panerai has owned Castellare, one of the jewels of Chianti Classico.

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Castell’in Villa – An Icon Revisited: 1971-2007

Italy

Jul 2013

Castell’in Villa is one of the most historic estates in Chianti Classico. Princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa and her husband found the property in 1967 and purchased it the following year. Initially, Princess Coralia and her husband thought they would make wine for fun. Her father, a Greek aristocrat, demurred at the thought of his daughter becoming a peasant. At the time, there was just one hectare under vine, but planting began in earnest in 1968 following the suggestions the Chianti Classico Consorzio, which included the white grapes that ended up being used for the first vintages.

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Santa Barbara's Stunning 2011s

California

Jul 2013

Santa Barbara County is one of the unquestioned stars of California’s 2011 vintage. The best 2011s are gorgeous, drop-dead wines that fully capture the personalities of Santa Barbara’s top sites.

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Vinous Table: Bistrot du Bord de l’Eau, Beaune, France

Vinous Table

Jul 2013

Bistrot du Bord de l’Eau is located in Hostellerie de Levernois, outside of Beaune. At the Bistrot, the food, wine and service are top notch, while the ambiance is informal; a great combination.

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Felsina – Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia: A Complete Retrospective 1983-2011

Italy

Jul 2013

I will never forget this once in a lifetime tasting of Felsina’s flagship Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia. What started out as a casual survey of a few older vintages turned into a complete vertical as proprietor Giuseppe Mazzocolin and long-time oenologist Franco Bernabei surprised me with bottle after bottle of fabulous Rancias going back to the inaugural 1983. A few days after this tasting I received a complete lab analysis of all the wines, one of the most valuable pieces data I have ever seen, and a presentation worthy of serious wine scholarship. The single biggest takeaway from this tasting is the amazing consistency of the wines across all vintages. Considering its modest price, Rancia remains one the most fairly priced, cellar worthy wines in the world.

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La Festa del Barolo: Rare Wine Charity Dinner

Vinous Table

Jul 2013

Like all New Yorkers, Marzia and I were deeply affected by the devastation Hurricane Sandy left in its wake last October. Given the fast pace of the world we live in, it is easy to forget just how many people are still struggling to recover from Sandy, even today. This year’s La Festa del Barolo kicked off with a charity dinner at Eleven Madison Park to benefit Robin Hood’s Sandy Relief Fund. David Saltzman, Robin Hood’s Executive Director, shared details on the work his organization has done thus far, which includes disbursements of over $70 million. Specifically, the $45,000 we raised at dinner will be directed towards the rebuilding of homes that were damaged during the storm.

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Vinous Table: Trattoria de Toni, Grado, Italy

Vinous Table

Jul 2013

Grado’s pedestrian zone is one of the nicest places to take a stroll in this small, picturesque fishing town on Friuli’s Adriatic coast. The boardwalk is dotted with restaurants of all kinds, ice cream shops and coffee bars. For a great meal, we always head to de Toni, where proprietor Massimo Gaddi and his staff offer a menu of local specialties that showcase best of the region’s pristine fish and seafood. The outdoor seating in the summer makes for a quintessentially Italian experience that captures the essence of la dolce vita.

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Sonoma...A Thrill a Minute

California

Jul 2013

Racy Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays and Pinots of all breeds, expressive Syrahs, Zinfandel-based reds, and Bordeaux-inspired blends are all part of the rich tapestry that is Sonoma.

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Vinous Table: Artisan, Paso Robles, CA

Vinous Table

Jul 2013

Paso Robles has one of the most vibrant dining scenes in the US. There was quite a buzz when I was in town about Artisan’s new location and the cocktail program.

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Vinous Table: Thomas Hill Organics, Paso Robles, CA

Vinous Table

Jul 2013

One of the top restaurants in Paso Robles, Thomas Hill Organics' talented and creative French Chef Julie Simon makes the most of her raw materials from the restaurant’s own farm.

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Vinous Table: Le Bernardin, New York, NY

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

Le Bernardin remains one of the culinary highlights of New York City. Chef/Owner Eric Ripert has an uncanny ability to bring out extraordinary dimensions of depth and flavor from his pristine raw materials...

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Vinous Table: Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

Despite its informal sounding name, Osteria Francescana is anything but that. Widely recognized as one of the world’s top restaurants, Osteria Francescana is the backdrop for Proprietor/Chef Massimo Bottura's innovative, cutting-edge cuisine.

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Cédric Bouchard: In the Cellar

Champagne

Jun 2013

The gate opens to reveal a dilapidated villa worthy of a Romantic opera. It is easy to imagine what the building must have looked like in its prime. We are in Landreville, a few kilometers from Celles-sur-Ource, in the Aube. In the middle of nowhere. Literally. An abandoned residence is off to the left, but it is the cellar in the center of the small property that brought Cédric Bouchard to this spot. We descend into the cave through a wobbly freight elevator and it is clear why Bouchard is attracted to his new winery. The cellar is cold. Frigid, actually. Just the way Bouchard likes it. In front of me is Bouchard’s entire library, all the way back to 2000. Just a few bottles of most of his wines.

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Vinous Table: The French Laundry, Yountville, CA

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. This recent lunch at Thomas Keller's The French Laundry captured the sense of optimism of the season with course after course of gorgeous, beautifully prepared and presented dishes.

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Vinous Table: Charlie Bird, New York

Vinous Table

June 2013

At Charlie Bird, Chef Ryan Hardy and restaurateur Robert Bohr have teamed up to offer a thoughtful menu paired with a brilliant wine list in an edgy, hip space that is pure Soho. A decidedly urban soundtrack adds to the energy of the rooms.

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Castello di Ama: L’Apparita Retrospective 1985-2009

Italy

Jun 2013

I have been lucky to have had many fabulous tastings at Castello di Ama over the years, but this was one of the most remarkable. L’Apparita, a 100% Merlot from high-altitude vineyards in Gaiole, gets less attention than some of its peers, but it is right up there with the very finest wines, not just of Italy, but of the world.

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Focus on Grower Champagne

Champagne

Jun 2013

The energy in the room was palpable and electric from the very start. I lead a few seminars each year, but this was different. I am not sure why. The wines were dazzling. Surely that had a lot to do with it. But the wines alone are never enough to sustain the energy in a room. There has to be something more. And that something is usually the audience. I can control which wines are served in a tasting, but not the participation of the attendees. This was one of those days where everything came together. I can say I had just as much fun tasting through these ten Champagnes as anyone in the audience.

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Vinous Table: Les Avisés, Avize, France

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

Les Avisés is very much a family affair. Anselme and Corinne Selosse's hotel/restaurant is elegant yet intimate, with none of the stuffiness one sometimes sees in Champagne.

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Opus One – Past, Present and Future: 1979-2012

California

Jun 2013

I wasn't sure what to expect as I walked into the massive Opus One winery a few weeks ago. The opportunity to survey an estate’s entire production is not something that happens every day. At this level, wines can express so much; the spirit of the people involved, the characteristics of where they are from, and the personality of a vintage. Opus One is among the most famous wines in Napa Valley, but quality has been up and down over the years. How would the wines show? Well, that was answered loud and clear a few hours later.

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California Syrah on the Big Stage

California

Jun 2013

This charity event at the Culinary Institute of America last October was special for so many reasons. First and foremost, the tasting and dinner at Press that followed raised over $110,000 for two very worthwhile causes, students in the CIA’s wine program and a division of The Mount Sinai Hospital that treats children with terminal cancer. As for the wines, well, they were pretty special, too.

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Vinous Table: La Rei, Serralunga, Italy

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

La Rei is located in the Boscareto, one of Piedmont’s few full-service, luxury hotels. Il Boscareto and its design continues to sharply divide fans and foes...

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Kracher: A Brief Essay 2003-2010

Rest of the World

Jun 2013

Listening to Gerhard Kracher talk about his family can only be described as emotional. Kracher’s grandfather, Alois Sr., was chronically undernourished and was thus mistaken for a boy and spared by the Nazis during World War II. Kracher’s father, Alois Jr. ‘Luis’, was one of the most beloved figures in the world of wine. Luis Kracher put his estate on the map with a series of stunningly beautiful and rich dessert wines that showed the world what was possible with meticulous viticulture and inspired winemaking.

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Vinous Table: RN 74, San Francisco

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

Why have I let so much time pass between visits? That is what I kept thinking as a dear friend and I enjoyed a spectacular dinner at RN74 a few weeks ago.

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Vinous Table: Bistro de l’Hôtel, Beaune, France

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

The Bistro de l’Hôtel, located in the elegant Hôtel de Beaune, is one of the places to see and be seen in Burgundy. Or so I am told. I try to visit Beaune before or after the crowds descend on the city, when things are less hectic.

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Vinous Table: Press, St. Helena

Vinous Table

Jun 2013

At Press, sommeliers Kelli White and Scott Brenner have built what is probably the single most significant collection of California wines in United States...

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Zenato Amarone – A Journey Across Three Decades

Italy

Jun 2013

I remember my dad telling me when I was a kid that Amarone was one of the world’s great wines. Just behind Barolo, in his view. Ever since then, these wines have been a source of endless fascination. In the mid and late 1990s, when Italy’s top restaurants still kept well-stocked cellars of older wines, it was possible to find aged Amarone for extremely reasonable prices, making it quite fun and relatively easy to learn about the wines. Sadly, those days are long gone.

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Jadot: Beaune Theurons 1970-1997

Burgundy

Jun 2013

Jadot’s long-time winemaker Jacques Lardière spent a good deal of 2012 on a year-long retirement tour worthy of a rockstar. He earned it with four decades-plus of memorable wines. It seemed like every few weeks there was a magnificent tasting somewhere in the world celebrating one of the truly great careers and people in wine. I was privy to one of these tastings, held at Jadot’s headquarters in Beaune.

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Jadot: Corton-Charlemagne 1973-1996

Burgundy

Jun 2013

Many of my greatest wine experiences have been in front of a bottle of aged white Burgundy. This vertical of Jadot’s Corton-Charlemagne was a very pleasant and unexpected surprise. Best of all, the wines showed beautifully, even those from less fortunate years. One of things I admire most about Jadot, Pierre Henry-Gagey and Jacques Lardière is their willingness to include wines from very difficult vintages into verticals like these, always a bit of a risk. Most producers cherry pick and only show their very best vintages, but Jadot is willing to take more chances than most, and it usually works in their favor, as these tasting notes make abundantly clear.

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Falling in Love With Alto Adige

Italy

May 2013

Despite boasting breathtaking scenery, great wines of all kinds, equally world-class restaurants and hotels, and some of the best skiing on the planet, Alto Adige remains largely unknown to Americans, which is a shame.

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2009 Barolo: Highs and Lows

Italy

May 2013

I have been following the 2009 Barolos for several years. Tasting patiently, first from barrel, then from bottle. Waiting. Waiting for that spark that all the truly great years have. But it has never happened with the 2009s. I suppose it is only natural. How many great vintages can a region have in a decade?

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Champagne 2013: The Spring Preview

Champagne

May 2013

We drink a lot of Champagne. There is no denying it. At the same time, I am amazed that for many consumers Champagne remains a wine for celebrations, special events and the holidays. It shouldn’t be. Champagne is one of the most versatile wines at the dinner table and a great companion to a wide range of foods.

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Vinous Table: Solbar, Calistoga

Vinous Table

May 2013

No trip to Napa Valley is complete without at least one meal at Solbar. Nestled in the Solage resort in Calistoga, Solbar is close to Araujo, Aubert, Chateau Montelena and Peter Michael, among others, making it a convenient stop before or after a tasting.

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Vinous Table: Marea, New York

Vinous Table

May 2013

Marea is one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. Executive Chef Michael White does many things well, but I am generally attracted most to the crudos and pastas.

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Gems From The Cellar at Montevertine

Italy

Apr 2013

Montevertine is one of the most privileged spots for wine anywhere in the world. If I had to choose only one Sangiovese to cellar, it might very well be Montevertine's Le Pergole Torte. The wines from Montevertine, a small hillside property just outside Radda, in the heart of Chianti Classico, have demonstrated an uncanny ability to age beautifully for decades, acquiring incredible finesse in bottle. This cool, high altitude site encourages slow ripening and yields Sangioveses endowed with remarkable grace. Although most of the attention centers around the flagship Pergole Torte, I also adore the Montevertine bottling. Given the exceptional track record the Manetti family has built over the last few decades, it is hardly surprising some of their lesser known wines age just as well.

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Dosage Trials Chez Selosse

Champagne

Mar 2013

One of the things I love most about wine is the opportunity to be learning constantly. It is what keeps me energized and focused. My tasting last week at Selosse is a perfect example.

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Central And Southern Italy: A Wine Lover's Paradise

Italy

Feb 2013

At a time when prices for so many of the world’s great wines continue to spiral out of control, there aren’t too many regions that offer a level of breadth, quality and value that can match the best of Central and Southern Italy. My tastings this past year were by far the most comprehensive I have undertaken in eight years. Readers will find notes on many old favorites, but I am personally most excited about the many new estates that are appearing in these pages for the first time.

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Vinous Table: NoMad

Vinous Table

Jan 2013

Daniel Humm has been one of my favorite chefs since I met him and his team a few years ago in Piedmont, where we were staying in the same hotel. Since then, Humm’s career has taken off big time, culminating with a number of prestigious awards. Most recently, Humm’s Eleven Madison Park claimed the #5 ranking in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a survey sponsored by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.

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2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: An Epic Vintage

California

Dec 2012

Fans of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon will find a lot get excited about with the 2010 vintage. The 2010s are magnificent, viscerally thrilling wines loaded with character and personality. There is no question 2010 is the greatest vintage for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the 2008-2011 time frame.

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1978 Piemonte Retrospective at Eleven Madison Park

Vinous Table

Nov 2012

This dinner, organized and hosted by the Wine Workshop, showcased a number of gems from Piemonte’s celebrated 1978 vintage paired with the cuisine of Eleven Madison Park and Executive Chef Daniel Humm. I will confess I spent most of my attention focusing on the wines, but the food was out of this world.

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Piemonte: 2009 and 2010 Barbaresco Plus Other New Releases

Italy

Oct 2012

It is always a bit of a challenge to keep current with the bevy of fabulous wines that emerge from Piemonte’s top estates. Readers will find a huge assortment of wines in the market. This article covers the 2009 and 2010 vintages in Barbaresco, late-release 2008 Barolo, new releases from Roero and Piemonte’s northern appellations, and a wide range of every-day drinkers that won’t break the bank.

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Champagne: So Much More Than a Celebration Wine

Champagne

Oct 2012

Readers will find a bevy of compelling, totally thrilling wines among this year’s crop of new releases. With the holidays right around the corner, I am reminded that most Champagne is drunk during celebrations and/or at the beginning of meals. But the truth is that Champagne is one of the world’s most versatile wines. Superbly adept at pairing with a wide variety of foods, Champagne is a great wine for the dinner table.

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Vinous Table: Jean-Georges, New York

Vinous Table

Sep 2012

I can’t think of too many places I would rather have lunch in New York City than Jean-Georges. Everything simply works. The food is light and vibrant yet full of flavor, while the room is elegant but not overdone. It doesn’t hurt that Jean-Georges Vongerichten seems to always be in the kitchen during the day. The $38 lunch prix fixe (additional courses are $19/each) is one of the screaming values in New York City today.

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Elegance and Power: The 2010 White Burgundies

Burgundy

Aug 2012

The 2010 white Burgundies are some of the most riveting young wines I have ever tasted. In the finest examples readers will find superb richness, vibrant acidity and great transparency to site. These are marvelously complete wines that bring together the depth of fruit typically found in ripe years with the classicism, minerality and tension that are the signatures of cooler vintages. That all adds up to viscerally thrilling wines that at their best capture the essence of everything great Burgundy can be. All of the wines in this article were tasted in June and July 2012.

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California's Central Coast: Better than Ever

California

Aug 2012

My annual tour of California’s Central Coast took me north, starting in Santa Barbara County up to Paso Robles, then on to the Santa Lucia Highlands and lastly to the Santa Cruz Mountains. I tasted a wide range of wines, many of them excellent and some of them flat-out great. The wines of the Central Coast remain exceedingly fairly priced vis-à-vis their peers throughout the world. In particular, I continue to be impressed with the quality of Syrah in California.

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Chablis 2011 and 2010

Burgundy

Aug 2012

Chablis fans will find a lot to like in both the 2011 and 2010 vintages. The 2011s are generally soft, open wines with lovely fruit, accessible personalities and little of the austerity often associated with young Chablis. The vintage is inconsistent, so choosing carefully will be the key, but the best wines are tasty and will be ready to drink upon release. The 2010s are much stronger across the board, but the finest wines are going to need to come together. It is an exceptional vintage that combines both richness and acidity to a degree Chablis has rarely, if ever, seen before.

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Tuscany 2009 and 2010: A World of Opposites

Italy

Jun 2012

These are interesting times in Tuscany. There is no doubt the region is in the midst of a profound stylistic evolution. A growing number of estates are moving in the direction of more natural viticulture. In the cellar, new oak is down and the use of neutral vessels is up. Cement, once virtually forgotten, is making a huge comeback. As it turns out, the makers of cement tanks and vats are now taking as long as six months to fill orders, something that was unheard of up until very recently.

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Staring Into The Heart of Sangiovese

Italy

Jun 2012

I am not sure what started it, but sometime this spring I got the bug for Sangiovese. Big time. Maybe it was the book I was asked to collaborate on. Or perhaps it was the fabulous 1995 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva I had at one of New York City’s best restaurants. At some point I decided it would be fun to taste verticals of a number of Tuscany’s icon wines, so here you have it.

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The 2002 Burgundies at Eleven Madison Park

Vinous Table

May 2012

This past spring I enjoyed a number of fabulous dinners at Eleven Madison Park, including this 2002 Burgundy retrospective, which I hosted for the Wine Workshop. On this night Chef Daniel Humm and his team prepared a fabulous menu, culminating with the lavender honey-roasted duck, one of Humm’s signatures as well as one of the very best dishes in New York City today.

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Col d’Orcia: Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Poggio al Vento 1982-2006

Italy

May 2012

Col d’Orcia is one of Montalcino’s most historic wineries. The estate’s modern-day lineage goes back to at least 1890, when records show the Franceschi family of Florence purchased the property, then known as Fattoria di Sant’Angelo in Colle. As early as 1933 Fattoria di Sant’Angelo in Colle presented its Brunelli at the Wine Exhibition of Siena, one of the first trade shows in Italy, decades before Brunello would become a prized, world-class wine.

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The 2009 Red Burgundies from Bottle

Burgundy

Apr 2012

There has never been a better time to buy and drink red Burgundy. Yes, prices for the top wines continue to escalate at an eye-popping pace, but just after the few names everyone seems to want the region is literally awash with bottles that can be had without taking out a second mortgage.

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Piedmont Report: Checking in on the 2001 Baroli

Italy

Apr 2012

I first reviewed the 2001 Baroli in my journal, Piedmont Report in late 2006. The 2001s have always held special meaning on a personal level because it was one of the first vintages I followed literally from the time the fruit was picked until the wines went into bottle. It was illuminating to go back to the 2001s and see how things were shaping up. I tasted most of these wines during a trip to Piedmont in November 2011, and followed up with subsequent tastings from my cellar in New York.

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Brunello di Montalcino 2007: A Worthy Successor to 2006

Italy

Apr 2012

I have been visiting Montalcino since 1997. During the years I lived in Italy (2000-2003), I traveled to this picturesque hillside town several times a year. Today I meet with countless winemakers and visit numerous estates on a regular basis. And I have had the privilege to taste virtually all of the reference point wines made in Montalcino, both new and old. But none of that really matters. It was two totally unrelated incidents during my recent trip that spoke most eloquently to what Montalcino is really all about.

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Barolo 2008: The Incredible Lightness of Being

Italy

Apr 2012

The 2008 Baroli have turned out better than I originally expected. They are for the most part gracious, medium-bodied wines that are highly expressive to site and full of character. Quality is inconsistent across the region, so consumers will have to choose with care, but the best 2008s are thrilling.

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Vinous Table: "Gourmand" menu at Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2012

This was my second phenomenal meal at Eleven Madison Park in the span of a few weeks. This time around, we thought it might be fun to order Chef Daniel Humm’s “Gourmand” tasting menu to get a deeper sense of his style.

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2012

I knew right away this was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime lunch, even though my wife and I have enjoyed many spectacular meals at Eleven Madison Park over the years. As much as I enjoy reviewing wines critically, it is a job that inevitably involves tasting a lot of wines. Sometimes, it is nice to spend a few hours with one or two wines. That’s what this lunch was all about.

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Masseto Vertical at A Voce Columbus

Vinous Table

Mar 2012

A Voce is one of my favorite places in a neighborhood filled with a high concentration of great restaurants. It is one of the best places to enjoy true lunch (not just brunch) in mid-town on Sundays, and also happens to be very child-friendly.

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Vinous Table: Ristorante di Poggio Antico, Montalcino, Italy

Vinous Table

Feb 2012

Getting a good meal in Montalcino isn’t as easy as one might think. Even though Montalcino produces America’s favorite high-end red Italian wine, the town lacks great restaurants, something that is amazing, considering the wide range of high quality ingredients available to local chefs. Poggio Antico’s restaurant has been through a few incarnations, but if this dinner is representative, the current team is doing fabulous work. The menu is based on traditional favorites, but prepared and presented with a modern flair.

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9th Annual Wine Dinner and Auction to Benefit The Mount Sinai Hospital

Vinous Table

Feb 2012

The Mt. Sinai Wine Auction has become a central part of my winter calendar since my wife and I became involved with the hospital a few years back. Led by the indefatigable Robin Solomon, each year the Wine Auction has brought together a number of New York’s most generous collectors and wine lovers. Even in the dark days of late 2008 and early 2009 when it appeared the world as we knew it was collapsing, perhaps forever, this group of generous supporters came through. The 2012 auction raised a whopping 3.4 million dollars.

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The 2010 Red Burgundies

Burgundy

Feb 2012

I spent a total of six weeks in Burgundy in 2011. My most recent trip, in late November/early December, was focused on the 2010 red Burgundies. Overall, I am thrilled with the 2010 vintage. The wines are racy, show fabulous minerality and are very true to site. In other words, the vintage embodies all of the qualities that make red Burgundy one of the world’s most compelling wines.

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The Best of Sonoma

California

Feb 2012

I spent eight days in Sonoma County in January and also tasted a number of additional Sonoma wines late last year for this article. Getting a good look at the wines of Sonoma is not an easy task. For starters, at approximately three times the size of Napa Valley, Sonoma is a vast region made even more complicated by the distances that are often required to visit the top addresses with thoroughness.

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Vinous Table: Blue Hill at Stone Barns, NY

Vinous Table

Dec 2011

Dinner at Blue Hill is an experience. The focus is on sustainable food grown on the property and other nearby farms. Guests are presented with four menu choices, which are essentially the number of courses; 4, 5, 8 or 12. That’s it.

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New Releases from Champagne

Champagne

Dec 2011

This is the fourth year I have reviewed Champagne. I never cease to be amazed by the large number of compelling wines that emerge from the region. The sheer diversity of terroirs, producer styles and vintages is a lifetime’s work and guarantees there is always something to learn. At the same time, though, of all the regions I cover, Champagne leads the way in the sheer number of totally innocuous wines with little in the way of real personality.

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New Releases from Napa Valley

California

Dec 2011

I spent nearly three and half weeks in Napa Valley this year. Temperatures were already un-seasonally cool in April, which delayed bud break at a number of properties I visited. A few weeks later, in mid-May, it was even more unseasonably cool. Maturation continued at a snail’s pace throughout the cold summer. A rainstorm on October 10 caused quite a bit of worry, as sugars dropped. I arrived on the 12th to find winemakers and oenologists very nervous. All but the Bordeaux-trained winemakers, that is.

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Fourth Annual White Truffle Charity Dinner

Vinous Table

Nov 2011

Del Posto’s Gattinara Room was the setting for my White Truffle Charity Dinner, an annual event that seems to have taken on a life of its own. This year’s dinner raised $45,000 for The Mount Sinai Hospital. Executive Chef Mark Ladner and his team did a great job with the menu, which included some of my all-time Del Posto favorites such as the agnolotti, risotto, wood-grilled lobster and broiled veal chop.

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Vinous Table: Marea, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2011

This was my second great lunch at Marea within the last few weeks. Michael White was not in the restaurant, but it didn’t matter one bit, the food and service were just spectacular as they always are.

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New Releases from Piedmont: The Stars Are Aligned

Italy

Oct 2011

<p>I tasted a seemingly endless number of drop-dead gorgeous wines from Piedmont over the summer. Piedmont has experienced a set of exceptional vintages that play to the strengths of the region’s indigenous varieties. At the same time, producers have backed off some of the more international leanings of the 1990s and now have the confidence to let their wines speak for themselves, and speak they do. Readers will find no shortage of stunning wines in all price ranges in these pages. </p>

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Vinous Table: Union Square Cafe, New York

Vinous Table

Sep 2011

Union Square Café is a Manhattan landmark. Although today the neighborhood is quite chic, that certainly wasn’t the case when Danny Meyer opened in 1985. Union Square Café has a familiar, comfortable feel that resonates in everything from the décor, to the food and service. On this night the food was terrific, although it was impossible to escape the feeling that the overall experience was a bit staid. A slight updating wouldn’t be a bad thing.

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Vinous Table: Marea, New York

Vinous Table

Sep 2011

This was one of two extraordinary lunches I enjoyed at Marea recently. It had been a few months since my last visit, and I had forgotten just how extraordinary the food and service can be. Lunch started with the trio of crudi, which can also be ordered separately.

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Vinous Table: The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York

Vinous Table

Sept 2011

I don’t get to the Four Seasons as much as I used to, but it remains one of my very favorite restaurants in New York City. For the three years I worked at Deutsche Bank my office looked out over the entrance of this Manhattan landmark. After 50 years the Pool Room is still one of the City’s most striking and romantic dining rooms. The Four Seasons was one of the places I did many of my early tastings for The Wine Advocate. Even today, I look forward to a meal at the Four Seasons with much anticipation because the room evokes so many memories.

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Chablis 2009 and 2010

Burgundy

Aug 2011

The 2009 and 2010 vintages in Chablis present readers with two dramatically different sets of wines. In general, the 2009s are supple and approachable upon release. The 2010s, most of which I tasted from barrel and/or tank, are much more structured and potentially long-lived. The sheer breadth and diversity of the wines across the top properties in Chablis is quite striking.

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The 2009 White Burgundies

Burgundy

Aug 2011

The 2009 harvest yielded a large number of delicious white Burgundies, many of which will drink beautifully with virtually no cellaring. As with the reds, the sweet spot is in the less prestigious appellations, where the sun and warmth of the year helped flesh out the wines to a greater degree than is often the case.

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Exploring California's Central Coast

California

Aug 2011

I tasted an amazing range of wines during my trip to California’s Central Coast earlier this summer. The Central Coast is the broad name given to a number of AVAs starting roughly north of Los Angeles and finishing just south of San Francisco. In reality these vastly diverse microclimates deserve to be acknowledged on their own rather than being lumped into one generic category.

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Focus on Tuscany: The 2009s and 2008s

Italy

Aug 2011

Readers will find a large number of wines to consider in Tuscany’s 2009 and 2008 vintages. The 2009s are the result of a warm, sunny year that yielded a number of gorgeous wines at all levels. It is a very consistent vintage that can be purchased pretty much across the board. The 2008s require a much more selective approach as weather was highly irregular across the region.

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Vietti: Barolo Riserva Villero – A Complete Retrospective 1982-2004

Italy

Aug 2011

Vietti is one of Piedmont’s historic estates. The late Alfredo Currado was among the first producers to bottle a single-vineyard Barolo (the Rocche in 1961), focus on estate-grown fruit and build a significant market presence outside of Italy. Today the winery is run by Alfredo’s son Luca, who oversees winemaking, and son-in-law Mario Cordero, who runs the business.

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Krug: Clos du Mesnil 1979-1998

Champagne

Jul 2011

This complete vertical of Krug’s Clos du Mesnil was one of the most amazing tastings I have ever attended. The event was organized by my New York tasting group and was important enough to attract Olivier Krug, who added his invaluable commentary to the wines. I am not sure Krug himself had ever tasted so many vintages side by side in one setting. The wines were tasted in thematic flights rather than in strict chronological order, which is how I have listed them here. The 1979, 1988 and 1996 form the triumvirate of the truly eternal, epic Clos du Mesnils, but there were many, many fabulous wines in this tasting. We finished with a look at the estate’s other 1996s, plus the 1995 Clos d’Ambonnay, a wine that continues to grow in bottle.

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Exploring the Best of Central and Southern Italy

Italy

June 2011

My tastings of central and southern Italy were the largest and broadest I have ever done. I found a number of properties that were new to me, but also tasted a huge number of wines that left a lot to be desired. Times are tough; there is no doubt about that. Demand in many markets remains weak while the shrinking power of the US dollar has begun to eat into margins in a big way. It appears that many wineries are making the choice to compete on price and are willing to sacrifice quality in the process.

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Checking in on Piedmont’s 2000 Vintage

Italy

Jun 2011

Piedmont’s 2000 vintage attracted considerable attention early on. I was living in Italy at the time and visiting the region frequently. I still remember the buzz the vintage was generating, even before the wines had been bottled. I began tasting the wines from barrel around 2002. At that time the wines were already open, radiant, and frankly delicious. It was clearly an anomalous vintage.

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The 2009 Red Burgundies

Burgundy

May 2011

The 2009 red Burgundies have attracted considerable attention for their ripe, seductive personalities. Is all of the hype justified? In most cases it is. The wines are open and expressive, with a warm radiance that seems to echo the extended sunlight that is one of the defining characteristics of the year. The 2009s are fleshy, generous wines that are impressive for their textural richness, even if at times they lack the verve, transparency and inner perfume that is such a big part of what makes Burgundy unique.

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2006 Brunello: The Emperor’s New Clothes or Historic Vintage?

Italy

May 2011

I can’t think of another region in the world that needs a great vintage more badly than Montalcino. Still reeling from the 2003 blending scandal, plummeting prices and a tarnished reputation, Montalcino desperately needs to get back on track, and the 2006 might just be the vintage that makes that happen. Interest in the 2006 Brunellos is by far the highest I have seen for any Italian wine since I joined The Wine Advocate, coincidentally that same year.

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Le Pupille: A Complete Retrospective 1987-2007


Italy

May 2011

Le Pupille has been on tear of late. I can’t think of too many estates that have made such a significant leap in quality over the last few years. This vertical of the flagships Saffredi and Poggio Valente provided a fascinating look at Le Pupille’s history and development over the years. I admire proprietor Elisabetta Geppetti’s willingness to show every vintage of her two top wines, which is pretty rare in a day and age where producers tend to cherry pick their best vintages for tastings like this one. As good as many of the wines are, there is a major improvement in quality and consistency across the board beginning in 2000.

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Tenuta dell’Ornellaia: Masseto – A Complete Retrospective 1986-2008

Italy

Apr 2011

This truly once in a lifetime tasting was the largest Masseto vertical ever staged in the United States and spanned every vintage back to 1986. The tasting was remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to taste bottles directly from the estate’s cellar. Provenance was as impeccable as it could have possibly been. Winemaker Axel Heinz was on hand to add his valuable perspective throughout the evening.

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Vinous Table: Solbar, Calistoga, California

Vinous Table

Apr 2011

This delicious, informal lunch provided an ideal backdrop to check in on a handful of iconic California Pinot Noirs. Solbar is part of the stylish Solage Resort complex just outside Calistoga. The restaurant has received quite a bit of favorable press recently, all wholly deserved. The ambience is pretty casual at lunch, although I am told the dining room is a bit more elegant for dinner. Our two pizzas were delicious and would have made a fabulous lunch on their own. Distinctive and creative, they are worth a special trip on their own. I preferred the maitake mushroom pizza, which was bursting with flavor and character. My cod main course was also very nicely done. On this day, though, the focus was a bit tilted towards the wines on the table. I look forward to going back to Solbar and spending more time with the menu, as the food merits more attention than I was able to give it.

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Vinous Table: Press, St. Helena

Vinous Table

Apr 2011

It was a 1970s-era Beaulieu Vineyards Private Reserve Georges de Latour. That was the wine that made me fall in love with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon many years ago. I was thrilled to attend this dinner at Press in St. Helena built around a number of reference-point Napa Valley Cabernets. We ordered a number of appetizers and entrees and shared them family-style. Everything was delicious, even if our attention was naturally focused on the wines. The crab, salmon and Flannery’s rib-eye were all dishes I would devour again with great pleasure. There were far too many wines to list individually, but these were some of the many, many highlights.

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La Festa del Barolo Gala Dinner at Del Posto

Vinous Table

Mar 2011

The inaugural Festa del Barolo brought together sixteen reference-point producers for what turned out to be an amazing day of tasting great Nebbiolo. During the afternoon session each producer presented a current release Barolo. The focus was on 2007s, but a few of the growers who are late to bottle showed their 2006s.

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Vinous Table: Dinner in the Kitchen at Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2011

Over the years my wife and I have enjoyed many spectacular meals at Eleven Madison Park, but this dinner was the finest of all. Quite simply, it was one of the most unforgettable, truly moving wine and food experiences of my life. We had the good fortune of sitting in the kitchen, which is much less glamorous than it might sound. Eleven Madison Park doesn’t have a true ‘chef’s table.’ Those lucky enough to eat in the kitchen are seated at a small table tucked into the wall that is used by the staff during busier nights towards the end of the week.

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2011

This was my first dinner since Eleven Madison Park and Executive Chef Daniel Humm reworked the menu. Guests are now offered two tasting menus, if that’s the right word for single words printed on a piece of paper. An a la carte dining option is no longer offered, which I have mixed feelings about. Sometimes it's good to know what to expect, but on the other hand the most thrilling meals I have had here have been those when I have left everything up to the kitchen. We opted for the larger tasting menu, and weren’t disappointed. All of the dishes were brilliant. The langoustine ceviche with celery showed Humm’s technical prowess in melding flavors and textures to create innovative, unusual combinations. The John Dory was cooked and seasoned to perfection. Both of the meat courses were delicious and beautifully executed. Service, as always, was impeccable from start to finish.

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Le Macchiole Messorio 1994-2006: A Study in Greatness

Italy

Feb 2011

Le Macchiole’s Merlot Messorio is one of Tuscany’s most sought-after wines. And with good reason. Over the years Messorio has built an extraordinary track record. This incredible tasting with proprietor Cinzia Merli spanned every vintage of Messorio back to the inaugural 1994. I was completely blown away by how well the wines showed. In most vintages Messorio is expressive even when it is young, yet it also has demonstrated the ability to develop spectacularly well in bottle in a distinctly personal, intimate expression of Merlot from Bolgheri. Frankly, after tasting the 1994 and 1995 I found it virtually impossible to move on to the more recent vintages. Not that there was anything wrong with them. Far from it. It’s just that those older wines were at absolutely glorious peaks of expression, while every wine that followed was more about potential.

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The Best of Northern Italy

Italy

Feb 2011

It’s always a challenge to encapsulate the best wines of all of northern Italy into one article given the huge number of noteworthy bottles that are made across the numerous regions that make up the north...

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Northern Italy: Alto Adige, Friuli, Veneto

Italy

Feb 2011

It is one my favorites drives in Italy. The highway turns north just past Verona. After a short while it feels like the valleys literally open up to reveal a dramatic landscape marked with apple orchards, the Adige River and the spectacular Dolomites. Just past Rovereto and Trento the vistas start to change again. We are in Alto Adige, one of the most spectacular regions in all of Italy. Seldom frequented by Americans, Alto Adige remains largely undiscovered.

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Barolo 2007: Greatness in the Making

Italy

Feb 2011

The 2007 Baroli are some of the most viscerally thrilling young wines I have ever tasted. The 2007s are similar to the 2004s, but with more substance. The wines are radiant, intensely perfumed and totally seductive, yet not at all heavy, in a style that offers the textural richness of a warm vintage with the aromatics of a cool year. In 2006 and 2007 readers will find the finest back to back Barolo vintages since 1989 and 1990. This article focuses on the 2007 Baroli, but I have also included notes on a number of other Piedmont wines too.

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Vinous Table: Del Posto, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2010

This was another fabulous dinner at Del Posto, where I do many of my tastings because wine service is so exceptional. We were treated to a wonderful, delicious meal full of highlights. The pastas at Del Posto are always terrific, as they were once again on this evening. The Caramelle with Robiola in particular were superb. I also adored the Wood-Grilled Lobster; easily one of the finest dishes being served in New York City today. The food was very much the equal of the wines on the table, and that is the highest compliment I can possibly pay considering the legendary wines we were privileged to drink. As always, Del Posto’s staff did a fabulous job in meeting all of our needs with regards to service of both food and wine, far from an easy task with this group.

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Vinous Table: Da Nando, Friuli, Italy

Vinous Table

Dec 2010

Da Nando is an institution in Friuli. Even after all these years, the food and wine are well worth a visit. Proprietor Ivan Uanetto is a larger than life character whose booming voice and equally outsize personality fill up the room. Da Nando is the kind of place that is typical of the Italian provinces. The menu is essentially useless; instead diners should rely on the waiters to recommend what is outstanding on any given day. I usually start and finish with the antipasti, which consists of 5-6 courses that are more than enough for a meal. On the occasions I have ventured into the pastas and meat courses I have rarely been disappointed.

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Bollinger: A Survey of the 2009 Vins Claires

Champagne

Dec 2010

There is probably no region where it is harder to get a handle on the most recent vintage than Champagne. The window for tasting the still wines, known as vins claires, is quite narrow, and only lasts from the end of the calendar year of the harvest until the following spring, when the wines are bottled. Unlike other regions, there are no formal events to show the young wines to the trade and press. Even visiting the region is no guarantee of being able to get a good look at the wines.

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New Releases from Piedmont

Italy

Dec 2010

Vintage 2007 will be remembered for a freakish set of weather conditions that have never been seen before. The winter was unusually warm and dry, with virtually no precipitation, a stark contrast to the norm in these parts. To be sure, rain and snow during the winter have been in decline in Piedmont for more than two decades, but 2007 was unusually dry, even by modern-day standards. Flowering took place a full month ahead of schedule. The spring and summer were warmer than normal, but without the heat spikes of truly hot years such as 2003.

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New Releases from Champagne

Champagne

Dec 2010

Once again I was completely blown away by the wines I tasted from Champagne, first during a visit to the region earlier in the year, and later in tastings in the US. I am convinced Champagne is the world’s greatest wine region that remains virtually undiscovered by the vast majority of wine lovers.

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Bruno Giacosa Dinner at Bar Boulud, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2010

This tasting/dinner at Bar Boulud featured two of my favorite things; the wines of Bruno Giacosa and the food at Bar Boulud. It is tempting to drink Barolo and Barbaresco with regional cuisine, and while that often results in great pairings, it is also fun to stretch out a bit and try new things as well. Our menu from Executive Chef Damian Sansonetti was brilliant. Each of the dishes was absolutely divine. I have been to Bar Boulud many times, but this was one of the best dinners I have ever had at Daniel Boulud’s casual brasserie in New York’s Upper West Side.

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Vinous Table: Del Posto, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2010

This was another delicious dinner at Del Posto. Executive Chef Mark Ladner and his team did a fabulous job with this tasting menu. The Wood-Grilled Lobster is one of the signature dishes at Del Posto, and it was once again amazing on this night. In my opinion it is one of the very finest dishes on the menu. The Stinco di Vitello was also sublime. The Risotto and Pansotti were tasty, but if I have one critique of Del Posto it’s that the portions can sometimes be on the small side. That wouldn’t be an issue in and of itself, but with this many wines, a little more food wouldn’t bad a thing.

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In a Tuscan State of Mind

Italy

Oct 2010

I continue to be amazed at the sheer diversity of wines coming out of Tuscany these days. While the big guns may still command the highest prices, the real attractiveness lies at the other end of the price spectrum.

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Vinous Table: Locanda Verde, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2010

This was my first dinner at Locanda Verde, Andrew Carmellini’s new restaurant in Tribeca. Even on a Monday night, the place was jam-packed. Once I tasted the food, it was easy to see why. Carmellini offers up generous doses of rustic, home-style cooking at reasonable prices in a casual, fun setting. What’s not to like? The crostini and pastas are particularly of note, so Locanda Verde is not the place for those on a carb-restricted diet. The lamb sliders, gigantone with Sunday night ragu, pappardelle with lamb Bolognese and the dry-aged ribeye are all dishes I would eat again in a heartbeat.

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Vinous Table: Casual dinner at Del Posto, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2010

This was one of the more casual dinners I have enjoyed recently at Del Posto, but as always the food, wine and service were superb. Del Posto’s Lobster Salad was just a touch spicy for my taste, but otherwise delicious. The 2006 Blanc de Noirs from Ulysse Collin took a little time to find its balance in the glass, but when it did it was stunningly beautiful. Rich, warm and expansive, the wine covered every inch of the palate with layers of fruit. Olivier Collin is one of the most dedicated and passionate of Champagne’s young growers. His wines deserve a much wider audience. This bottle of the 2006 Blanc de Noirs exceeded my expectations.

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Checking in on the 1996 Champagnes

Champagne

Sep 2010

Over the last few months I have had the chance to revisit a number of Champagnes from the celebrated 1996 vintage. My first retrospective on the 1996s, published last year, found many of the wines in great shape. Today, only a year later, a number of bottles are finally beginning to show hints of their ultimate potential. Many of these wines have been on the market for some time but only now, fourteen years after the harvest, is it possible to taste a complete range of the tête-de-cuvées from all of the major houses.

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Vinous Table: Casa Lever, New York

Vinous Table

Sep 2010

This was my first dinner at Casa Lever, the new Italian-inspired reincarnation of the former Lever House. The long, narrow dining space is nicely done, with Andy Warhol paintings that add a dash of color and brightness. The only negative is that the tables are tightly spaced and the room can get noisy.

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The Noble Wines of Southern Italy

Italy

Aug 2010

Piedmont and Tuscany may get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to important, ageworthy reds from Italy, but readers who look past the great classics of the south are missing out on some of the most distinctive wines in the country, and the world, for that matter.

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Taittinger: Comtes de Champagne 1971— 1998

Champagne

Aug 2010

For some reason, Taittinger’s tête de cuvée Comtes de Champagne seems to fly under the radar among the region’s elite bottles. Savvy consumers know better, though. Comtes de Champagnes is one of the most profound wines readers will come across, particularly with some bottle age.

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Italy’s Finest Values

Italy

Aug 2010

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there has never been a better time to be a wine consumer. The range of high- quality wines coming out of Italy today – and other countries, too – is amazing for its breadth and diversity.

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Bruce’s Birthday Bash 2010

Vinous Table

Jul 2010

Once again, collector Bruce Fingeret staged what has become one of the most anticipated events on the New York wine calendar. This was the birthday party of all birthday parties equalled only by previous editions. The number of great wines we tasted was simply amazing. Dinner was prepared by Grissini, which has become very well known for their white truffle pizza. I must have eaten several myself! From start to finish, all of Grissini’s appetizers and pizzas were first-rate.

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Roederer’s 2009 Vins Claires

Champagne

Jul 2010

Timing is everything, and fortunately my visit to Roederer turned out to be very well-timed. Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon prepared an incredible tasting of the estate’s 2009 vins claires that provided a rare glimpse into the base wines that make up the house’s top bottlings. I also had a chance to taste several of the just-bottled 2009s in their final blends and the 2004 Cristal and Cristal Rosé, both of which are scheduled to be released later this year.

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Vinous Table: Marea, New York

Vinous Table

June 2010

Pasta. Pasta. Pasta. That seemed to be the theme at this recent dinner at Marea. Not a problem, though, as I can’t think of too many places I would rather indulge in what is arguably Italy’s greatest contribution to gastronomy.

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Vinous Table: Esca, New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2010

I can’t think of too many places in New York I would rather eat than Esca. Three recent lunches were exceptional. One of the reasons the food is so consistently outstanding is that proprietor and chef Dave Pasternack is virtually always in the kitchen. In today’s world of globe-trotting celebrity chefs, Pasternack is one of the few who actually spends some time behind the burners…and it comes through in the pristine quality of his cooking.

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Vinous Table: Del Posto, New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2010

This recent dinner at Del Posto was so amazing I hardly know where to start. The collection of wines we tasted was mind-boggling. Our initial theme was a complete vertical of Bruno Giacosa’s mythical Barolo Collina Rionda, which we managed to pull off, save the 1968. All the reason to make another attempt in a few years’ time. Before we knew it, a desire to taste a few older Champagnes turned into a full-fledged second theme of 1970s Dom Pérignons.

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Pazo Restaurant

Vinous Table

Jun 2010

This fabulous dinner kicked off two intense days of business meetings for The Wine Advocate’s staff. As always, it was a privilege to compare notes with colleagues and tasters I hold in such high regard. Course after course of delicious Mediterranean-inspired dishes married well with this stunning selection of wines from Robert Parker’s cellar. The sea scallop carpaccio, crispy zucchini flowers, head-on shrimp, prime Kansas strip steak and Calaparra rice with lobster were among the highlights of this tasting menu.

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Haiti Charity Dinner

Vinous Table

Jun 2010

I visited Haiti a number of times when I was a young boy. As a child growing up in Latin America I often saw a level of poverty that was heartbreaking, yet in Haiti things always seemed worse than in other places. For that reason I was especially struck by the news of the devastating earthquake that struck the country earlier this year. Kudos to Eleven Madison Park, The Rare Wine Company and the Giacomo Conterno winery, who came together to put on this fabulous charity event to help the victims of the earthquake. It would be great to see more restaurateurs, importers, wineries and all of us who have the privilege of making a living in food and wine embrace initiatives such as this.

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Haiti Charity Dinner

Vinous Table

Jun 2010

I visited Haiti a number of times when I was a young boy. As a child growing up in Latin America I often saw a level of poverty that was heartbreaking, yet in Haiti things always seemed worse than in other places. For that reason I was especially struck by the news of the devastating earthquake that struck the country earlier this year. Kudos to Eleven Madison Park, The Rare Wine Company and the Giacomo Conterno winery, who came together to put on this fabulous charity event to help the victims of the earthquake. It would be great to see more restaurateurs, importers, wineries and all of us who have the privilege of making a living in food and wine embrace initiatives such as this.

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Miani Redux – Calvari: 1995-2008 and a Preview of the 2009s

Italy

Jun 2010

Miani is one of the crown jewels in the world of wine. Proprietor Enzo Pontoni excels with a range of both whites and reds that are typically monumental. That is the good news. The bad news is that Pontoni releases a mere 8,000 bottles from 18 hectares of vineyards, which means the wines are very hard to source. Yields are tiny and selection is Draconian, first in the vineyards and later in the cellar, where Pontoni is especially demanding when it comes what goes into the bottle. Last year I reported on a once in a lifetime vertical of Miani’s Merlot. This time around the focus was on the estate’s rarest wine, Calvari. Once again the results were stratospheric.

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Enjoying Italy’s Finest Rosés

Italy

Jun 2010

Rosé continues to be one of the fastest growing categories in wine. Consumers are discovering just how flat-out delicious the wines are, not to mention that they often deliver outstanding value as well. Producers have responded in a big way. Once again this year I tasted a number of wines that were made for the first time in 2009. Italy, with its incredible breadth of grape varieties, is particularly well-suited to offer consumers a wide range of fabulous wines, the best of which I have reviewed below. Readers who don’t go crazy for rosés might want to try serving slightly chilled lighter-bodied reds, such as Chianti Classico, Langhe Nebbiolo or Frappato, all of which make for great warm weather drinking. Readers will probably want to favor unoaked or cask-aged reds over wines aged in smaller barrels, which are likely to be too rich for summertime drinking.

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The Best of Central and Southern Italy

Italy

Jun 2010

I tasted an amazing range of wines from central and southern Italy this year. The sheer variety these regions encompass is truly amazing. Readers who are limiting themselves to the wines of Piedmont, Tuscany and other better-known regions in the world are missing out on some of the most exciting wines on the planet.

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Cédric Bouchard – Champagne Redefined

Champagne

May 2010

Cédric Bouchard is one of the most promising emerging young growers in Champagne. At their best, Bouchard’s Champagnes are exciting, viscerally thrilling wines that will challenge readers’ perceptions about what Champagne is and can be. The house style emphasizes single-vintage, single-vineyard, single-variety wines made in strict accordance with a natural, non-interventionalist approach in the vineyards and cellar.

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Allegrini Amarone: 1982 – 2004

Italy

Apr 2010

Allegrini is a reference-point producer for fine Amarone. The Allegrini family has played an important role in local Veronese society for hundreds of years going back to the mid-sixteenth century. The property’s modern history was built by Giovanni Allegrini, who purchased a number of top vineyards and made many of the estate’s first important wines. Today, the winery is run by Giovanni’s children Franco and Marilisa. A third sibling, Walter, passed away tragically in 2003.

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Argiolas Turriga – A Sardinian Icon: 1988-2004

Italy

Apr 2010

Argiolas is one of Sardinia’s – make that Italy’s – most historic properties, with a rich lineage that dates back to 1918, when the first vineyards were planted. The estate makes a large number of wines, including a number of terrific, budget-level offerings all the way to the top-of- the line Turriga, which has long set the benchmark for what great Sardinian reds are and can be all about. This incredible tasting provided an opportunity to taste nearly every vintage of Turriga from the inaugural 1988 to 2004.

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New Releases from Montalcino

Italy

Apr 2010

At a recent lunch I was reminded of Montalcino’s potential for greatness when a top producer’s Brunello from an excellent but not profound vintage outshone some of the most brilliant Burgundies ever produced, including those of what is arguably that region’s most storied domaine.

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Backstage at La Paulée

Burgundy

Mar 2010

The best seat at La Paulée isn’t at one of the tastings or dinners that grace the calendar during this weekend-long celebration of the wines of Burgundy, rather it is backstage at the main event Gala Dinner. Hundreds of the rarest Burgundies, many in large formats, are carefully opened, decanted and tasted in this inner sanctum that is strictly off limits to visitors. Poor weather forced me to move my flight up or risk being stranded in San Francisco. I ended up missing the Gala Dinner, but luckily I was able to sneak backstage before leaving to taste a number of mind-bending wines.

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Tasca d’Almerita Rosso del Conte: 1979-2006

Italy

Mar 2010

Tasca d’Almerita is one of the leading estates in Sicily and Italy. The estate’s top red, Rosso del Conte, is among the handful of wines from Southern Italy with a long, distinguished track record that goes back several decades. This tasting with proprietor Alberto Tasca provided an incredible opportunity to re-visit a number of older, and now exceedingly rare, vintages. It also proved the significant potential of both Nero d’Avola and Sicilian wines in general. I can only hope one day there will be many more properties making wines of such distinction and age-worthiness. In particular, readers lucky enough to own any of the older Rosso del Contes should be thrilled!

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La Paulée de San Francisco – Rare Wine Dinner

Burgundy

Mar 2010

La Paulée, Daniel Johnnes’s annual tribute to Burgundy, is a once in a lifetime event for anyone who loves the wines of this region steeped in history. This year’s Paulée was held in San Francisco, which always offers a more relaxed setting than the hustle and bustle of New York City. The festivities started with a fabulous afternoon tasting in which producers poured three vintages of one of their flagship wines. Needless to say, it was a real treat to taste these mini-verticals given the minuscule quantities made of most of these wines.

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Vinous Table: RN74, San Francisco

Vinous Table

Mar 2010

This amazing lunch kicked off an incredible weekend of food and wine at La Paulée. RN 74 is part of Michael Mina's group of restaurants. Don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere. Food and wine are taken very seriously here. Mina, and his team led Executive Chef Jason Berthold and Wine Director Raj Parr offer guests a fabulous dining experience. Not surprisingly, RN 74 was jam-packed on this Friday afternoon.

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Dom Pérignon: No Guts, No Glory

Champagne

I was blown away by these four new releases from Moët et Chandon. I confess I have long admired the flagship Dom Pérignon. There is a timeless elegance about Dom Pérignon that I find comforting and reassuring, like a favorite restaurant or food. For that reason, nothing could have prepared me for the Champagnes I tasted recently with Chef de Caves Richard Geoffroy.

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Roberto Voerzio – Past, Present and Future: 1988-2008

Italy

Roberto Voerzio’s Barolos are some of the richest, deepest and most texturally beautiful wines readers will come across. This incredible tasting, which spanned 20 vintages and nearly 40 wines, provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to look at the evolution of one of the world’s most talented and passionate winemakers. I was struck with nearly all the wines I sampled, but in many ways it is the Barolos from the smaller, forgotten vintages that made the deepest impression. The majority of these wines were tasted during a visit to the winery in November 2009, while a few additional bottles came from my cellar.

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Vinous Table: Petit Louis Bistro, Baltimore

Vinous Table

Feb 2010

This informal lunch with Robert Parker was a great way to spend an afternoon during what turned out to be a brutal winter for the Northeastern United States replete with multiple record-breaking snowstorms. Petit Louis, part of the empire of Baltimore restaurateurs Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman, serves up classic bistro fare in an informal and relaxed setting. The food was delicious, and a perfect foil for a number of breathtaking wines.

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Vinous Table: Convivo, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2010

Convivio is another of the fabulous restaurants in the Chris Cannon-Michael White empire. Tucked away in Tudor City, Convivio seems to get less mention than Alto or Marea, Cannon and White’s other two Manhattan restauraunts, but the food is equally brilliant and well worth a visit. Even better, prices are more modest than at either Alto or Marea. The menu at Convivio is based on the bold flavors of southern Italy and is offered either as a four course prix-fixe for $62 or a a la carte.

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Vinous Table: Jean-Georges, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2010

Jean-Georges has become one of my favorite places in New York for lunch. Two recent meals were simply extraordinary. The cuisine, service and ambience all live up to Jean-George’s status as one of a handful of restaurants in New York with three Michelin stars. Even better, the two-course prix-fixe at $29 is one of the very best deals readers are likely to find in the City.

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Vinous Table: Jean-Georges, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2010

Jean-Georges has become one of my favorite places in New York for lunch. Two recent meals were simply extraordinary. The cuisine, service and ambience all live up to Jean-George’s status as one of a handful of restaurants in New York with three Michelin stars. Even better, the two-course prix-fixe at $29 is one of the very best deals readers are likely to find in the City.

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2006 Barolo: A Modern-Day Classic in the Making

Italy

Feb 2010

One of the most fascinating aspects of Nebbiolo is its ability to express an extraordinary amount of information with regards to vintage, site, microclimate, terrain and a host of other variables. That seemed to be the overwhelming takeaway from my tastings of the 2006 Barolos. To gain as much perspective as possible, I tasted the 2006 Barolos next to vintages 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 (where the wines were through malo) at a number of estates including Giacomo Conterno, Altare, Clerico, Brovia, Conterno-Fantino, Bartolo Mascarello, E. Pira, Sandrone, Scavino, Vietti, Roberto Voerzio and others; while at a handful of addresses time constraints allowed for a comparison with just 2005 and/or 2007.

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Piedmont’s Glorious 1989 and 1990 Vintages Revisited

Italy

Feb 2010

The 1989 and 1990 Barolos and Barbarescos are among the most viscerally thrilling wines ever made in Piedmont. Even today, they remain benchmarks for greatness.

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Vinous Table: Del Posto, New York

Vinous Table

Jan 2010

This incredible dinner was organized around two themes; an in-depth look at several bottlings of the 1964 Dom Pérignon and a survey of Bruno Giacosa’s 1989s and 1990s, with a few bottles added for further perspective. Executive Chef Mark Ladner prepared a fabulous menu to go with our wines…in fact, the food was so delicious and the wines so brilliant that we added a couple of extra savory courses after the dinner had actually ended!

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Jan 2010

I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived for this dinner at Eleven Madison Park, except that Executive Chef Daniel Humm would be preparing a tasting menu specifically for our table. That was more than enough. As long-time readers know, Eleven Madison is one of my favorite restaurants on the planet. This dinner, though, seemed to take things to another level.

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Lupicaia: An Emerging Tuscan Thoroughbred

Italy

Dec 2009

Castello del Terriccio is one of Tuscany’s most impressive properties. The estate is located in the upper reaches of Maremma, near Pisa and only a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea. Terriccio traces its rich history back at least several centuries, but vineyards were only planted in the late 1980s. Proprietor Dr. Gian Annibale Rossi di Medelana was inspired by the success of Sassicaia and he set out to make his version of Tuscany’s most famous wine.

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Champagne: The Last Frontier

Champagne

Dec 2009

My tastings this year of Champagne revealed a fascinating breadth and diversity of wines. In many ways, Champagne remains the last frontier - at least in the Old World - in that it is arguably the last major region that has yet to be discovered in the big way its top producers deserve. Burgundy fans are keenly aware of the differences of the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays grown in the various villages that dot the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, down to which producers own the best rows in the most coveted vineyards. In Bordeaux, each of the main towns and their vineyards possess qualities that are generally understood and accepted.

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Ornellaia: A Major Retrospective 1985-2006

Italy

Dec 2009

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is the brainchild of Lodovico Antinori, who founded this gorgeous, sprawling estate in Tuscany’s Maremma in 1981. Vines were planted in 1982 and the first vintages were overseen by the legendary oenologist and winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Today Ornellaia is owned by the Frescobaldi family, but like all of the Frescobaldi properties, it is run independently. The estate produces a wide range of wines, from the entry-level Le Volte to the super-premium Merlot Masseto. To me, though, it is the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Ornellaia which truly captures the essence of these unique vineyards and microclimates.

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Vinous Table: Ristorante Bovio, La Morra, Italy

Vinous Table

Nov 2009

This was my first dinner at Ristorante Bovio, the new venture of the Bovio family who for many years ran the Belvedere, one of Piedmont’s best-known restaurants. Ristorante Bovio is a smaller, more intimate locale, with modern décor that is a big change over what diners were used to at the Belvedere. The cuisine also looks like it too has received a much-needed face lift.

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Vinous Table: La Rei, Serralunga d'Alba, Italy

Vinous Table

Nov 2009

Few topics have polarized locals in the Langhe as the recent construction of Il Boscareto, a new luxury hotel in Serralunga. This ambitious project was vociferously protested by many, who dubbed the huge building an “eco-disaster.” Take it from someone who has visited Piedmont regularly for over a dozen years, the region has long needed a full-service, high-end hotel near the vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco, of which there is now exactly one.

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Italian Wine Weekend at Del Posto

Vinous Table

Nov 2009

The first Italian Wine Weekend was held in New York City on November 12-14, 2009. The event, loosely based on Daniel Johnnes’s La Paulée, was held to benefit the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. As might be expected for any event in its first year, there were some rough spots, but both dinners I attended at Del Posto were packed. The charity auction raised almost $400,000 for the University, a great achievement by any measure. I am particularly grateful to the generous bidders who purchased the two dinner lots I was involved with. I hope the organizers, participating restaurants and wineries will make Italian Wine Weekend an annual tradition.

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Third Annual White Truffle Charity Dinner

Vinous Table

Nov 2009

I am deeply grateful to a small group of food and wine lovers who came together in December 2009 to support my annual White Truffle Charity Dinner, held to benefit the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.

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Vinous Table: Marea, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2009

I can't think of too many chefs doing better work in New York these days than Michael White. Marea, which is set in the space once occupied by San Domenico at 240 Central Park South, is White’s newest venture with Chris Cannon, his partner at sister restaurants Alto and Convivio.

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Vinous Table: Corton, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2009

This was my first dinner at Corton, restaurateur Drew Nieporent’s newest creation in the Tribeca space once occupied by Montrachet. Chef-Owner Paul Liebrandt offered to cook for us, and we took him up on the spot. The extensive tasting menu had plenty of highlights, most of which came later on in the meal. There is no question Liebrandt is massively talented, in fact he may be too talented at times.

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The Wines of Fausto Maculan: 1985-2007

Italy

Oct 2009

Fausto Maculan is one of the great characters in the world of wine. His larger than life personality, wicked sense of humor and charm are all reflected in these gorgeous wines. Much of Maculan’s vision is clearly informed by a huge passion for the finest wine and food money can buy. The eye-popping collection of lovingly cared for icon bottles in Maculan’s personal cellar is but one sign of the heights this driven producer strives for. Maculan is best known for his dessert wines, and rightly so, as they represent a glorious pinnacle of achievement. That said, Maculan is proving to be equally skilled with his dry red wines. This incredible tasting covered a number of older vintages of Maculan’s top reds, Fratta and Crosara, and sweet dessert wines Torcolato and Acininobili.

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Vinous Table: Second night at Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2009

My wife and I returned to Eleven Madison Park for a second night of fabulous food and wine, this time in the company of dear friends from North Carolina. Once again, everything we ate and drank was superb.

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Vinous Table: First night at Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2009

This was the first of two fabulous dinners I enjoyed at Eleven Madison Park on consecutive evenings in October, 2009. Executive Chef Daniel Humm and his team were firing on all cylinders, as every plate that came out of the kitchen was divine. I particularly like the smoked pork belly and organic milk-fed chicken, but then again, both dishes were topped with truffles, so it was hard to go too wrong. One of the qualities is I like most about Humm’s food is the way he builds clean, well-articulated flavors in a style that marries exceptionally well with wine.

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Vinous Table: Second night at Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2009

My wife and I returned to Eleven Madison Park for a second night of fabulous food and wine, this time in the company of dear friends from North Carolina. Once again, everything we ate and drank was superb.

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The Best of Northern Italy

Italy

Oct 2009

Veneto is one of Italy’s most fascinating and diverse winemaking regions. Along with Piedmont, I can’t think of another region in Italy that produces so many different and compelling wines, at all levels. The sparkling Prosecco is a delicious, budget-friendly choice for an aperitif. The white Soave is experiencing a resurgence as a number of growers exalt the unique qualities of the finest hillside vineyards. In the Valpolicella district, home to Valpolicella, Amarone and Recioto, readers will find an amazing number of terrific wines loaded with character.

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Piedmont Comes Of Age

Italy

Oct 2009

This year, I left my tastings of the wines of Piedmont energized and excited. Simply put, I have never encountered so many delicious wines from so many different producers. Of course, there are always varying levels of quality based on the characteristics of specific vintages (see 2008 Dolcetto below), but the simple fact is that Piedmont’s wines have never been better and more consistent across the board.

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A Survey of Michet: Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo 1967-2001

Italy

Sep 2009

This incredible tasting of Barolos from Giuseppe Mascarello - originally conceived as a survey of the Michet clone of Nebbiolo - spanned five decades going back to 1967, and included a number of benchmark wines such as the 1970, 1982, 1985, 1989 and 1990 Monprivatos plus a complete vertical of the estate’s Barolo Riserva Monprivato Cà d’Morissio. Virtually all of the older vintages were shipped over from the estate, which made this afternoon quite special, as provenance was unparalleled. Proprietor Mauro Mascarello and his son Giuseppe were on hand to lend their commentary to a group of Barolo aficionados that included sommeliers from a number of New York City’s very finest restaurants

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Vinous Table: Solociccia, Firenze, Italy

Vinous Table

Aug 2009

Solociccia is the brainchild of Panzano’s famous rock-star butcher Dario Cecchini, who seems to be everywhere in this small, hillside town. Panzano is technically part of the commune of Greve, in Tuscany’s Chianti Classico, but it is such a unique microclimate that it really deserves to be recognized for its own special qualities. This gorgeous, scenic village is home to some of Italy’s most celebrated producers, including Fontodi, Castello di Rampolla and La Massa.

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The Essence of Merlot: Miani 1994-2006

Italy

Miani is one of Italy’s cult properties, and with good reason. Proprietor Enzo Pontoni crafts some of the most profound, monumental wines readers are likely to come across. The range includes a number of compelling whites, two phenomenal Merlots and an equally majestic red from Refosco, the legendary Rosso Calvari, all made in miniscule quantities. Incredibly, this was the first comprehensive vertical tasting Pontoni had ever held of his Merlots. Because bottles have become extremely scarce – even in Pontoni’s own cellar – a number of wines were tasted from magnum, a format that is not commercially available. To say this was unforgettable tasting would be a colossal understatement, as the wines were brilliant in every way.

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Tuscany 2006 and 2007: A New Golden Age

Italy

Aug 2009

Readers who enjoy the best Tuscany has to offer will find no shortage of compelling wines at virtually all price points in vintages 2006 and 2007. I continue to be impressed with the consistently stunning 2006s. Most of the entry-level wines have been on the market for some time, and as I have written on this site previously, the vintage offers incredible quality from top to bottom in all of the region’s main appellations.

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Italy’s Finest Wine Values

Italy

Aug 2009

There has never been a better time to be a wine drinker. Period. Generally more favorable climactic conditions across the world, the emergence of high quality wines from once- dormant regions in Europe and newly developed areas in the New World, and increasing technical expertise in the areas of viticulture and oenology have come together to present consumers with a staggering array of delicious wines that can be found for under $25.

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Italy 1990 at Eleven Madison Park

Vinous Table

Jul 2009

Special thanks to collector Bruce Katz for organizing this incredible dinner built around Italy’s 1990 vintage, one of the most celebrated of its generation. The late afternoon/early evening hour is one of the most beautiful times to be sitting in Eleven Madison’s spacious, high-ceiling dining room, as the gentle light that filters through the windows is especially calming.

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Bruce’s Birthday Bash 2009, Part 1

Vinous Table

Jul 2009

Bruce the Returner. Airplane Eddie. Big Boy. The Hillbilly. King Angry. Wheels. You could be forgiven for mistaking this colorful cast of characters for something right out of Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. But no, these are some of the world’s most passionate collectors, all of whom gathered in New Jersey recently to celebrate the birthday of Bruce the Returner.

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Bruce’s Birthday Bash 2009, Part 2

Vinous Table

Jul 2009

This magical evening continued into a delicious dinner blessed with a stunning array of wines. The menu, prepared by Grissini Restaurant and served al fresco, was simple, tasty and very nicely done, as always.

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Exploring Sagrantino: The Wines of Arnaldo Caprai 1994 - 2007

Italy

Jul 2009

My visit with Marco Caprai a few months ago was one of the highlights of a day in Montefalco. In recent years Montefalco has experienced a boom in interest and new investments. Little of this success would have been possible without the foresight of Caprai, a man who has dedicated considerable time and resources in promoting the unique qualities of Sagrantino and Montefalco after taking over his family’s estate in 1988.

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Jul 2009

This delicious Friday lunch at Eleven Madison Park was a great way to kick off a summer weekend. As always, the food, service and ambience were first class. I was hardly surprised when, a few weeks later, The New York Times awarded Eleven Madison Park a very highly deserved fourth star. What I love most about Chef Daniel Humm’s food is the way each ingredient speaks with eloquence and clarity, like a world-class orchestra in a concert hall where all of the nuances are incredibly vivid. The $28 prix-fixe lunch (for an appetizer and main course) is easily one of the best deals in New York.

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Vinous Table: Alto New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2009

This was my second great meal at Alto within a span of a few weeks. Executive Chef Michael White may be spending much of his time at the recently-opened Marea, but you would hardly know it by the quality of the food at Alto, which hasn’t slipped one bit.

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A Taste of Champagne at Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2009

This delicious dinner was a slight departure from the norm at Eleven Madison Park. From time to time the restaurant hosts intimate theme-oriented wine dinners. Executive Chef Daniel Humm prepares a menu designed to pair with the wines of a specific region. Diners bring bottles from their own cellars (with no corkage) to share with fellow guests. The atmosphere is fun and celebrative.

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1970s Night at Babbo, New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2009

I owe special thanks to collector Bruce Fingeret for organizing this incredible dinner, which was built around a theme of wines from the 1970s. Thankfully the focus remained on the wines, and despite many threats, period music and video never made an appearance! Babbo proprietor Joe Bastianch and General Manager Colum Sheehan designed a menu that paired beautifully with these gorgeous wines.

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Summertime Drinking: Exploring Italy’s Finest Rosés

Italy

Jun 2009

Rosé continues to be one of the fastest-growing categories of wine in Italy. The best wines are delicious, pair well with a variety of foods and typically offer outstanding quality for the money.

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2004 Brunello di Montalcino: A Vintage Full of Surprises

Italy

Jun 2009

The much-anticipated 2004 Brunellos are now in the market and the moment of truth has arrived. Do the wines justify the hype or not? Like all things that involve Brunello di Montalcino, the answer is not a simple one. My first impression of the wines from bottle was not particularly positive as I encountered a number of disappointing wines from well-known producers. Then an interesting thing happened. I tasted Brunello after Brunello from lesser-known properties that were in many cases outstanding.

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Jackson Hole Wine Auction Charity Dinner at Alto

Vinous Table

May 2009

This magnificent dinner at Alto was held to benefit the Jackson Hole Wine Auction. Chef Michael White prepared an extraordinary menu to match a selection of wines pulled from my cellar and that of the winner of this lot, collector David Stout. The focus was on Friuli, Piedmont and Veneto. Not bad. Among the guests were several prominent Philadelphia restaurateurs, including the irrepressible, boisterous Mark Vetri who I had the privilege of sitting next to. A great time was had by all.

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Elio Altare: A Retrospective of Larigi 1985-2008

Italy

May 2009

Although Elio Altare is best known for the superb Barolos he crafts from the Arborina and Brunate vineyards, his entire range is among the most consistently brilliant in Italy. This truly once in a lifetime retrospective tasting traced the development of Altare’s Vigna Larigi, an old-vine Barbera made from a tiny one-hectare plot on the Arborina hillside. For the occasion Altare opened every vintage of Larigi from 1985 to 2006 - with the exception of the 1983 and 1984, which could not be located – a rare event by any measure, most importantly because Altare himself had never tasted so many vintages of the wine in one sitting.

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The Champagnes of André Beaufort

Champagne

May 2009

Jacques Beaufort makes some of the most pure, unadulterated and highly singular Champagnes readers are likely to come across. Beaufort is based in Ambonnay a village justly famous the high-class Pinot Noir that informs his wines with such eloquence. In addition to four hectares in Ambonnay, Beaufort also owns 14 hectares in Polisy, in the Aube.

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Produttori del Barbaresco: 1978-1996

Italy

Apr 2009

Produttori del Barbaresco is one of the few estates in the world that continues to produce fine, age worthy wines at consumer-friendly prices. Although the Produttori’s Barbarescos - the Riservas in particular - age extremely well, until recently the wines haven’t been considered collectible. Because of their reasonable prices, most of the wines have long been drunk up by the estate’s loyal supporters, making older vintages nearly impossible to source, even in the secondary market. This tasting provided an extraordinary opportunity to get a progress report on 21of the estate’s single-vineyard Barbarescos.

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Vinous Table: Matbaren, Stockholm, Sweden

Vinous Table

Apr 2009

I am deeply indebted to readers for their suggestions on dining in Scandinavia. I had a number of delicious meals on my recent trip to Helsinki and Stockholm, but our dinner at Matbaren in Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel in particular stood out. In fact, this was easily one of the best meals I have had so far in 2009!

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Central & Southern Italy: A World Waiting to be Discovered

Italy

Apr 2009

For many years discussions around fine Italian wines centered around Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, the high-end Tuscan reds and Amarone. That was pretty much it, and for good reason, as most of what came out of the Center and South was undistinguished, to say the least. That is no longer the case. Recent years have seen an explosion in the number of high- quality wines from the Center and South. Take it from someone who tastes thousands of wines from Italy each and every year; today the best Taurasis, Aglianicos, Sagrantinos, Montepulcianos,

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Vinous Table: Bar Boulud, New York

Vinous Table

Apr 2009

Bar Boulud, located across the street from Lincoln Center, has become one of my favorite restaurants in New York City. The food, wine and ambience are great, plus it’s an ideal spot to take young children, especially if you sit in one of the booths in the back of the restaurant.

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Vinous Table: L’Oste Scuro, Verona, Italy

Vinous Table

Apr 2009

L’Oste Scuro is a cozy restaurant located off a side-street in the historic center of Verona, a town that is notorious for its high prices and indifferent food targeted at the waves of tourists who descend upon the city nearly every day. Partly for those reasons, this was such a magnificent dinner. The food, wine and service were all top-notch. L’Oste Scuro is small, so reservations are essential.

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Vinous Table: Il Calandrino, Padova, Italy

Vinous Table

Apr 2009

This impromptu lunch at Il Calandrino was a nice reward after several bruising days tasting Amarone from cask. Il Calandrino is the informal café that is part of Le Calandre, one of the few restaurants in Italy with three Michelin stars.

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Barolo 2005: Location, Location, Location

Italy

Apr 2009

My late November trip to Piedmont was full of surprises. I encountered two massive snowstorms in the span of three days, the second of which forced me to abandon my car on the hills of La Morra! The roads were virtually desolate, and the sight of these pristine hillside vineyards covered in snow instilled a surreal sense of calm in my otherwise jam-packed schedule.

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La Paulée 2009 (Part 1)

Vinous Table

Mar 2009

La Paulée, Daniel Johnnes’ homage to Burgundy, kicked off with a phenomenal evening of food and wine at David Bouley’s Test Kitchen in Tribeca. The following day’s lunch at Daniel and the centerpiece Gala Dinner were equally monumental. This year the Paulée was especially cathartic. For a few magnificent days the world’s troubles were put on hold, and wine, food and friendship took center stage.

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La Paulée 2009 (Part 3)

Vinous Table

Mar 2009

The Gala Dinner was a fitting culmination to an extraordinary weekend of tastings and events dedicated to the glories of Burgundy. Guests were seated alongside winemakers at long, communal tables that paid homage to La Pauleé’s origins as an after-harvest celebration.

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La Paulée 2009 (Part 2)

Vinous Table

Mar 2009

The festivities at La Paulée continued with this superb lunch prepared by Daniel Boulud and his team of brilliant young chefs. All of the dishes were perfectly executed and utterly delicious. Anne-Claude Leflaive and sisters Marie-Andrée and Marie-Christine Mugneret offered an incredible selection of bottles from their own cellars.

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Vinous Table: Bellavitae, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2009

Proprietor Jon Mudder left the high-flying world of investment banking to open Bellavitae a few years ago. Based on what has transpired in global markets of late, it looks like his timing was brilliant.

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Vinous Table: Veritas, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2009

This recent dinner at Veritas was superb. Chef Grégory Pugin prepared an extraordinary menu that went from strength to strength. Before moving into the dining room we enjoyed a few appetizers at the bar, including the frog’s legs and steak tartare, which were brilliant.

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Vinous Table: The Modern, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2009

This was my first time eating at the Modern, the luxury restaurant in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. Before dinner my wife and I spent some time wandering through the museum’s galleries, something I highly recommend, as the MOMA’s collection is superb.

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Checking in on the 1998 Barolos

Italy

Feb 2009

1998 has always been an interesting vintage for Barolo. Caught between the more hyped 1996 and 1997 on one end, and 2000 and 2001 on the other, the 1998s have often been overlooked. It also didn’t help that the wines were first released during a period global economic malaise. While 1998 is not a truly iconic, legendary vintage, these Barolos are great choices for medium-term drinking as a number of wines are entering their early maturity, making them great choices for readers who are cellaring wines from Piedmont’s sturdier vintages such as 1996, 1999 and 2001.

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Vinous Table: Del Posto, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2009

This was another great dinner at Del Posto. The central theme of the evening was comparing different disgorgements of several iconic Champagnes, although a number of other monumental wines were thrown in for good measure. As always, it was an enriching experience to share these bottles with friends who brought so much sheer passion to the conversation.

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Simply…..Dom Pérignon

Champagne

Jan 2009

When I was a child my father gave his best customers bottles of Dom Pérignon as a holiday gift. From an early age, to me Dom Pérignon was virtually synonymous with fine Champagne. I imagine many people feel the same way, as Moët et Chandon has done a remarkable job in building Dom Pérignon’s prestige around the globe. While some of the large production Champagnes often give emphasis to style over substance, there can be no denying that at its best Dom Pérignon is more than just a brand.

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Gems from Tuscany’s Spectacular 2006 Vintage

Italy

Jan 2009

I continue to be impressed with the consistently stunning 2006s from Tuscany. Most of the entry-level wines have been on the market for some time, and as I have written on this site, the vintage offers incredible quality from top to bottom in all of the region’s main appellations. Over the coming months many of the high-end bottlings will be arriving on retailers’s shelves. The best of these wines offer breathtaking richness in a style that marries ripeness with structure to a degree that has seldom, if ever, been seen in Tuscany. Although 2006 is very strong across the board, I couldn’t help notice that Maremma in particular was graced with a number of simply profound wines that readers won’t want to miss out on.

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The 1996 Champagnes Revisited

Champagne

Jan 2009

1996 remains one of the great modern-day vintages for Champagne. The wines possess a combination of bright acidity and high sugars that is extremely rare. The best 1996 Champagnes are bold, racy and exuberant, in both absolute and relative terms, something that has also come across in numerous recent tastings, including verticals of Dom Pérignon, Cristal, Krug and Dom Ruinart. For all of these houses 1996 is one of the more powerful, extroverted vintages of the last 15 or so years.

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A Survey of Cristal: 1979-2002

Champagne

Jan 2009

Cristal, first created in 1876 for Tsar Alexander II of Russia, is one of the most iconic wines of Champagne. Sometimes lost in the glamorous image the wine has acquired over its long history is the fact that Cristal also happens to be a serious Champagne that is capable of aging extraordinarily well. I recently sat down with Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon to survey a collection of vintages. The wines were grouped in pairs meant to represent Cristal in three distinct stages; mature, peak and young. This was an incredible opportunity to compare some of the legendary Cristals side by side, and to revisit a few personal favorites, like the 1979, which was one of the standouts in a recent horizontal tasting that included nearly all of that vintage’s top wines.

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A Holiday Lunch

Vinous Table

Dec 2008

Sometimes simpler is better, as was the case with this holiday lunch. The 2000 Dom Pérignon was absolutely delicious as it hovered on the palate in fresh, sensual style.

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2nd Annual Barolo and White Truffle Charity Dinner

Vinous Table

Dec 2008

Following on the heels of last year’s event, the 2008 Barolo and White Truffle Charity Dinner, held on December 1, 2008, was another success. The dinner raised over $40,000 to benefit the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation, an organization that supports medical research for this rare and debilitating brittle-bone disease.

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2008

Eleven Madison Park has become one of my favorite restaurants in New York, as just about every meal I have had here has been absolutely brilliant. This was no exception. We opted for the Late Fall Tasting Menu, which was superb. Among the dishes that were especially notable were the Diver Scallop, Nova Scotia Lobster and Black Angus Beef.

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Vinous Table: Esca, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2008

Readers will have a very hard time finding better fish and seafood than at Esca, located in mid-town Manhattan. I have eaten at Esca many times, but each time I leave wondering why so much time has passed between visits, as the food is never anything less than outstanding.

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1967 Piedmont….and White Truffles

Italy

Dec 2008

A simple, casual dinner with friends provided a great opportunity to check in on a few wines from Piedmont’s 1967 vintage. We were fortunate, as all of these wines were terrific. If well-stored, the 1967s can still keep and drink well for at least a few more years although the potential for further development seems exhausted at this point.

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New Releases from Champagne

Champagne

Dec 2008

My November trip to Champagne was fascinating, as I visited a number of properties and tasted an extraordinary range of wines. Readers will find a dazzling variety of Champagnes on the market, from outstanding non-vintage releases all the way up to the rarest, most prized trophy wines and everything in between. In general, producers were upbeat about the recently concluded 2008 harvest, although the slowdown in the global economy was a subject of much discussion, especially given the proposed expansion of the region to include a number of new villages. It remains to be seen how much demand, and therefore prices, are affected by the current synchronized global economic slowdown countries around the world are grappling with.

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Antinori: Tignanello and Solaia Revisited

Italy

Nov 2008

My recent visit to Antinori’s Tignanello property in Chianti Classico provided an object lesson in the challenges of understanding the complexities and nuances of Tuscan terroir, something that can be extrapolated to many other regions within Italy as well. I saw vineyards where the two major terrains in these hills, galestro and alberese, alternated in groups of three to four rows within the very same plot. As a result, vines that were separated by no more than a few meters were at slightly different points in their vegetative cycles, meaning that work in the vineyards must literally proceed on a row by row, and sometimes, plant by plant basis.

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Valdicava: Brunello di Montalcino 1988-2004

Italy

Nov 2008

Valdicava makes some of most intense, richly-flavored Brunellos coming out of Montalcino today. Proprietor Vincenzo Abbruzzese speaks in a surprisingly soft-spoken voice, but his lively sense of humor hints at the extroverted style of his wines. The Valdicava Brunellos have at times been controversial because of their massive concentration, but as this vertical attests, the only thing these wines need is time. To be sure, Abbruzzese favors small yields and his newest vineyards are planted to very high densities, but the wines are aged in cask and ultimately represent an intriguing intersection between traditional and modern styles. Valdicava releases two Brunellos; a normal bottling, and the single-vineyard Riserva Madonna del Piano.

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Vinous Table: Asiate, New York

Vinous Table

Nov 2008

Asiate is one of the most dramatic dining rooms in New York City. Perched on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Time-Warner Center, the restaurant offers incredible views of the surrounding neighborhoods.

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Vinous Table: Bar Boulud, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2008

This was my first dinner at Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud’s new winebar located right across the street from Lincoln Center. The casual, bustling Bar Boulud serves rich bistro fare with an emphasis on traditional French comfort foods such as charcuterie and steak frites.

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In Appreciation of Madeira

Rest of the World

Oct 2008

“I am sorry, but I hope you understand that we can only taste a few wines from the 1700s and 1800s,” says Richard Hales as he escorts me into the tasting room. Right. That’s how most of my tastings usually begin. Hales is the Wine Director of Asiate, the restaurant in New York’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and a longtime veteran of the company. Hales has prepared an incredible assortment of rare Madeiras for us to taste, many of them recent auction purchases. Few, if any, wines are as evocative as Madeiras, as it is nearly impossible not to wonder what was taking place in the world when they were being made. Readers who enjoy the complexity of fine, aged wines will find much to admire in these sublime, compelling Madeiras.

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Dom Ruinart at Cru, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2008

I have been to Cru twice in the last few months, and have enjoyed terrific meals both times. This dinner was quite special as it featured a large number of Ruinart Champagnes paired with the brilliant cuisine of Chef Shea Gallante. All of the dishes worked beautifully with the food.

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New Releases from Piedmont

Italy

Oct 2008

2005 is a fascinating vintage in Barbaresco for many reasons. First, and foremost is the simple fact that a generation ago 2005 would have likely been a lost vintage. Much has often been made of how technical advances have improved winemaking over the years.

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The Best of Northern Italy

Italy

Oct 2008

This year the most exciting wines I tasted were those of Veneto. The 2004 Amarones have turned out splendidly. The wines show many of the same qualities that define the best wines from Piedmont and Tuscany in this vintage; namely well articulated aromas, clean, focused fruit and finessed tannins. Readers who prefer a more opulent style of Amarone will want to consider the 2003s, although quality is less consistent and many wines possesses noticeably less finesse, particularly in the tannins. I was also very pleased with the 2007 Soaves and found numerous sweet wines well worth purchasing. I can think of few better ways to begin a meal with a glass of Prosecco, and most of those wines are reviewed in Issus 178. Overall Veneto remains an under- appreciated region, especially in the US.

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Vinous Table: Ristorante Cracco, Milan, Italy

Vinous Table

Sep 2008

I generally avoid super-luxurious restaurants in Italy as my experience is that simpler is better in a country where the richness of raw ingredients is among the finest in the world. Ristorante Cracco is an exception.

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Piedmont’s Legendary 1978 Barolos and Barbarescos Redux

Italy

Aug 2008

1978 in Piedmont remains one of the most historic vintages in the world the world of fine, collectible wine. Even today, at thirty years of age, well-preserved bottles remain positively youthful, with plenty of life ahead of them. Yet virtually no one could have ever imagined the harvest would turn out as it eventually did. An irregular bud break that year acted as nature’s version of a green harvest. The plants carried very little fruit into a summer that was especially cool, even by the standards of the time. Needless to say, early prospects were not encouraging. Then, miraculously, the region saw a month of intense, uninterrupted sunshine and heat beginning in early September that allowed the fruit to ripen perfectly.

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Discovering Italy’s Finest Wine Values

Italy

Aug 2008

Preparing the Best Values issue is always something I look forward to with much excitement. In fact, I get much more satisfaction and pleasure from finding a great budget-priced wine than I do tasting a high-flying wine from one of Italy’s famous regions.

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Jul 2008

This was another stupendous dinner at Eleven Madison Park, which has quickly become one of my favorite spots in the city. Every meal I have had recently has been superb.

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Jul 2008

This was another stupendous dinner at Eleven Madison Park, which has quickly become one of my favorite spots in the city. Every meal I have had recently has been superb.

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Bruce’s 50th Birthday Bash

Vinous Table

Jul 2008

This incredible dinner, hosted by collector Bruce Fingeret to celebrate his 50th birthday, was one of the most amazing nights I have been a part of. All of the food was catered by Grissini, a small family-owned restaurant that did a great job keeping us well fed throughout the night with an array of delicious and pure dishes that worked perfectly with our wines.

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Vinous Table: Otto, New York

Vinous Table

Jul 2008

Owners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich opened Otto, their pizzeria/wine bar several years ago and have never looked back. Not surprisingly in these tough economic times, Otto is almost always packed. Diners come for the pizza, pasta and Italian charcuterie that are the house specialties.

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Soldera: Brunello di Montalcino 1977-2000

Italy

Jul 2008

Gianfranco Soldera is without question Montalcino’s most iconic producer. At their best, his Brunellos are monumental examples of the heights Sangiovese can reach in Montalcino. Soldera is a man with an incredible culture of wine. He is one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met when it comes to the great traditionally made Barolos and Barbarescos of Piedmont. These wines are among his deepest passions and clearly his own wines share many attributes with them.

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Poggio Scalette: Il Carbonaione 1992-2007

Italy

Jul 2008

Poggio Scalette is a tiny, family-run property located in the hills of Greve right next to neighbors Querciabella. The estate is run by father and son team Vittorio and Jurij Fiore. Vittorio is most well-known as consulting oenologist for a number of top wineries, including Costanti and Il Carnasciale, while Jurij oversees day to day work at Poggio Scalette itself. The hillside vineyards are located at about 500 meters in altitude, which is ideal for making elegant, finessed wines that are capable of aging.

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Vinous Table: Bar Boulud, New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2008

Café Boulud is Daniel Boulud’s version of a neighborhood restaurant, although the New York incarnation reflects its surroundings in the fashionable Upper East Side. The ambience and service are slightly less formal than at the flagship Daniel but the food and wine are equally brilliant. This early summer dinner was fantastic. With the exception of an overcooked risotto, all of the dishes were flawless. The two tartares were not only delicious and vibrant, but also very attractively presented.

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Tuscany: The Best of 2005 and 2006

Italy

Jun 2008

Tuscany is a region of great contrasts that at its best is capable of producing an extraordinary range of wines. A few years ago I would have thought it unthinkable, but the simple fact is that many of the finest Tuscan wines are being made in Chianti Classico. The region once so maligned (and rightly so) for its mediocre, weedy, acidic wines is today home to some of Italy’s most exciting bottlings.

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Thirty Years of Vietti: Barolo Rocche 1974-2004

Italy

May 2008

A simple, informal dinner at Becco, in New York City’s theater district, provided an incredible opportunity to survey a broad range of vintages of Vietti’s Barolo Rocche. Vietti is one of Barolo’s historic properties. Husband and wife team Alfredo Currado and Luciana Vietti were pioneers in the 1960s. They were among the first producers to recognize the unique qualities of their vineyards, many of which are among the finest in the region, even today.

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Vinous Table: La Ciau del Tornavento, Trieste, Italy

Vinous Table

May 2008

La Ciau del Tornavento is one of Piedmont’s most dramatic dining rooms. Set in the hills of Treiso, in the heart of the Barbaresco zone, La Ciau offers spectacular views of these gorgeous vineyards through large sliding glass doors which are left open when weather permits. The tables are spaced far apart, which adds to the feeling of calmness and serenity.

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Vinous Table: L’Aquila d’Oro, Dolegna Del Collio, Italy

Vinous Table

May 2008

I admit to having a special fondness for L’Aquila d’Oro as this is where I had my wedding reception a few years ago. The restaurant is located in the Castello di Trussio, which sits on a picturesque hillside in the Ruttars district of the Collio.

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Vinous Table: Noble's Restaurant, North Carolina

Vinous Table

May 2008

This incredible dinner was organized by Wine Advocate subscriber Kelly Walker as part of Charlotte Wine and Food Weekend, a bi-annual event that raises money for several local charities. Having spent much of my childhood in this part of US, it was great to get a dose of old-fashioned southern hospitality.

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Vinous Table: Babbo, New York

Vinous Table

Apr 2008

I always look forward to dinner at Babbo, one of New York’s top destinations for great food and wine. The plan was to focus on wines from the great 1980s vintages; 1982, 1985 and 1989. Along the way we added a few wines to round things out.

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Vinous Table: Al Cacciatore - La Subida, Friulu, Italy

Vinous Table

Apr 2008

I can’t imagine visiting Friuli and not having a meal at Al Cacciatore, known by everyone simply as La Subida. This comfortable, rustic restaurant is perched atop the picturesque, undulating hills of Cormons, in the prestigious Collio.

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Vinous Table: Asiate, New York

Vinous Table

Apr 2008

This was my first dinner at Asiate, the restaurant located in New York’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel. We were seated in a corner table that provided spectacular views of Central Park West as late afternoon melded into night. The tasting menu created by Chef Toni Robertson to match our wines was fantastic.

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Montalcino: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Italy

Apr 2008

No other region in Italy is as full of contrasts as Montalcino. These gorgeous, rolling hills south of Siena are home to a variety of diverse microclimates capable of yielding expressions of Sangiovese that at their best are among the most unique wines being made anywhere. The producers' consortium, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, aided by the marketing savvy of the region’s largest estates, has succeeded in creating an upscale image for the region in a very short time.

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Soldera Brunellos and 1979 Champagnes at Alto, New York

Vinous Table

Apr 2008

This amazing dinner was built around two themes: the Brunellos of Gianfranco Soldera and a retrospective of the 1979 vintage in Champagne. I am not quite sure how these two groups of wines came together at the same dinner, but the combination worked.

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Il Poggione: Brunello di Montalcino 1967-2001

Italy

Apr 2008

Il Poggione is one of Montalcino’s historic wineries. The estate, which is owned by the Franceschi family, traces its lineage back over 100 years. Leopoldo Franceschi was one of the founders of the Brunello producers’ consortium, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, and also served as its first president. Today the Il Poggione is run by Franceschi’s grandson, also named Leopoldo.

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Vinous Table: Le Dune, Friuli

Vinous Table

Apr 2008

Le Dune is not the kind of place readers visiting Friuli are likely to happen upon by chance. The restaurant is tucked off a small road in the sleepy rural town of Mariano del Friuli and is very easy to miss.

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La Paulée de San Francisco

Vinous Table

Mar 2008

Once again, the unflappable Daniel Johnnes put on what is probably the single greatest tasting and dinner of fine Burgundies in the world. This year’s event was held at the Westin Hotel in San Francisco.

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Dinner at Home

Vinous Table

Mar 2008

My March trip to Napa Valley was fantastic. I visited several estates and attended La Paulée in San Francisco. Although I had a number of terrific meals, none gave me more pleasure than the dinners I enjoyed at the gorgeous St. Helena home of dear friends. For the sake of simplicity both dinners are listed below.

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Vinous Table: The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, CA

Vinous Table

Mar 2008

Meadowood is the posh resort located just off the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. We arrived for dinner just as the sun was setting but did manage to get a few glimpses of the stunning property. The Restaurant at Meadowood had been closed for over three years, but was recently re-opened to much acclaim.

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Vinous Table: Eleven Madison Park, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2008

Eleven Madison Park had been on my list of places to visit for a while, yet for some reason I had never managed to eat there until fairly recently. What was originally intended as a casual, leisurely lunch unexpectedly turned into one of the greatest meals I have had in a long time. A second dinner a few weeks later was equally brilliant.

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The Best of Central and Southern Italy

Italy

Feb 2008

The regions of central and southern Italy offer consumers an incredibly wide panorama of wines that cover a veritable kaleidoscope of grape varieties and styles. As outstanding as the top wines are, I must caution readers that overall quality is highly irregular, even within the portfolios of the better producers. This is one critical element that separates the center and south, as opposed to regions likes Tuscany and Piedmont, where as a general rule producers are much more consistent. The good news is that the wines of the center and south remain very reasonably priced. These wines are unlikely to attract the feverish, sometimes speculative, interest of recent Tuscan and Piedmontese vintages, and therefore remain wines for the true consumer who intends to actually drink the wines.

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Vinous Table: Daniel, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2008

Even though Daniel Boulud is a rock star global celebrity chef with a number of restaurants in New York, not to mention newer projects throughout the US and soon China, Restaurant Daniel remains his home base.

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Vinous Table: Alto, New York

Vinous Table

Feb 2008

I have enjoyed a number of delicious meals at Alto recently. The cuisine seems to have reached a more inspired level since Executive Chef Michael White arrived a few months back. The extensive wine list is overseen by Wine Director Eric Zillier and offers a broad array of choices.

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Vinous Table: Esca, New York

Vinous Table

Jan 2008

Esca, located in Manhattan’s theater district, is one of New York’s top fish and seafood restaurants. Chef David Pasternak is an absolute maestro when it comes to preparing the finest local purveyors have to offer. The cooking is brilliant, but never overwhelms the purity and sheer quality of the raw materials.

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Festa di Barolo

Vinous Table

Jan 2008

I often find the best way to enjoy fine older wines is at home, where the more relaxed pace allows for re-visiting wines over the course of an evening, something that is much harder to do in a more formal restaurant setting.

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A Holiday White Truffle Lunch

Vinous Table

This leisurely BYOB lunch at Del Posto Ristorante in New York City was a great way to spend the better part of a Sunday just before the rush of the December holiday season kicked in to high gear.

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A First Look at the 2004 Barolos

Italy

Dec 2007

My November trip to Piedmont was one of the most eventful in recent memory. It seemed like every day brought with it an important piece of news, ranging from the possible sale of one of the region’s historic estates, to reports of a second winery caught in a bitter power struggle among families, to the locals’ displeasure over the construction of an imposing new luxury hotel many view as an eyesore among these generally bucolic landscapes. Several landmark restaurants will be closing, changing ownership and/or relocating at the end of the year.

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Vinous Table: Guido da Costigliole, San Maurizio, Italy

Vinous Table

Nov 2007

Alciati is without question the most celebrated name in Piedmontese cuisine. For decades Guido Alciati, his wife Lidia and their family ran Guido, the landmark restaurant in Costigliole d’Asti. Guido attracted diners from all over the world for Lidia’s sublime cooking and Guido’s legendary wine list. Upon Guido’s passing some years ago, his sons Pietro and Andrea went their separate ways. Pietro opened his version of Guido in the beautiful gastronomical complex in Pollenzo, which is worth a visit just to see the grounds. Unfortunately I have had mixed experiences both times I have eaten there.

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The HANY Charity Dinner

Vinous Table

Nov 2007

This annual BYOB dinner held to benefit the New York Hemophilia Association has to be one world’s premier food and wine events. We enjoyed breathtaking array of the world’s greatest wines, many of them from large formats.

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Dinner with Friends

Vinous Table

Nov 2007

The highlight of this evening was a massive white truffle sourced from one of New York’s finest restaurants. Its very presence could be sensed by the profound aromatics that wafted throughout the dining room as we indulged in a delicious antipasto of meats, cheeses and roasted vegetables.

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Granbussia Through the Decades: 1974-2001

Italy

Nov 2007

Aldo Conterno’s Barolo Riserva Granbussia has long been one of Piedmont’s icon wines so it was with great pleasure that I sat down recently with brothers Franco and Giacomo Conterno to survey seven vintages of their top Barolo. Needless to say, the opportunity to taste these wines from impeccably stored bottles was an enormous privilege and made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

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First Annual Nebbiolo and White Truffle Charity Dinner

Italy

Nov 2007

The First Annual Nebbiolo and White Truffle Charity Dinner was held on November 14, 2007 at Del Posto Ristorante in New York City. All proceeds were donated to Tomorrows Children’s Fund, a New Jersey-based organization that offers a variety of programs to help children with cancer and rare blood disorders.

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Vinous Table: Babbo, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2007

I know its going to be a serious night of eating and drinking when my long-time tasting group convenes for one of our dinners. Proprietor Joe Bastianich and his team put together a wonderful menu to match our wines.

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Exploring the Best of Northern Italy

Italy

Oct 2007

This article covers the new releases from Northern Italy. The introduction includes insight into the main regions: Friuli, Veneto Trentino, Alto Adige, Lombardy and Valle d’Aosta.

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Piedmont Report

Italy

Oct 2007

After a series of poor 2002s and uneven 2003s Barbaresco bounces back with its stunning 2004s. It is a vintage that happily coincides with a growing maturity and seriousness among producers. The most striking developments taking place in Piedmont are a return to larger barrels for aging, a reduction in toast levels and a generally more refined style of winemaking all of which are very much in evidence in the 2004s.

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Brunello di Montalcino: The 2001 Riservas

Italy

Oct 2007

The 2001 vintage in Montalcino continues to provide a number of superb wines. The best Brunello Riservas have expressive aromatics, vibrant, ripe fruit, sweet tannins and the ability to continue to improve with bottle age. Readers will also find a number of wines that offer rewarding drinking today. Of course Montalcino is home to an extraordinarily diverse variety of terroirs, microclimates and winemaking styles, all of which are reflected in the wines.

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Vinous Table: Lunch with Friends

Vinous Table

Oct 2007

A gorgeous sunny Sunday in rural New Jersey provided the backdrop for this relaxing, leisurely lunch. Highlights included the polenta with shrimp and spicy tomato sauce and perfectly grilled veal chops, one of my favorite dishes.

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Massolino: A Journey Through Vigna Rionda 1982 - 2001

Italy

Oct 2007

Franco and Roberto Massolino put together a remarkable tasting when I visited their small estate in Serralunga earlier this year. Massolino makes a number of outstanding wines but their flagship Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda is particularly noteworthy. All 14 vintages of the Rionda were represented, including the legendary Barolo vintages of the last 20 years – 1982, 1985, 1989 and 1990 – as well as the more recent wines from the 1990s.

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Vinous Table: Al Cacciatore - La Subida, Friuli, Italy

Vinous Table

Sep 2007

No trip to Friuli is complete without a visit to Al Cacciatore. Proprietors Joško and Loredana Sirk offer a refined version of country-style cooking in their homey, old-fashioned trattoria. Located in the hills of Cormons, Al Cacciatore reflects everything that is fascinating about this region so steeped in the traditions of multiple cultures.

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Vinous Table: Al Campiello, Friuli

Vinous Table

Sep 2007

Al Campiello is one of my favorite places to eat in Friuli. The restaurant is located in the hotel of the same name right off the main road that connects Gorizia and Udine. Owner Dario Macorig runs the dining room with extraordinary passion and energy.

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Jackson Hole Wine Auction Charity Dinner at Daniel

Vinous Table

Aug 2007

This fantastic dinner at Daniel was auctioned at the Jackson Hole Wine Auction. The generous and passionate wine lovers who purchased the dinner recently convened in New York to enjoy a breathtaking collection of lovingly-cared for wines provided by Robert Parker paired with the extraordinary cooking of Chef Daniel Boulud. Daniel Johnnes and his team of sommeliers made sure the wines were served with the utmost care.

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Vinous Table: Bellavitae, New York

Vinous Table

Aug 2007

Bellavitae has become one of my favorite informal places to eat in New York. Located in the West Village, Bellavitae serves simple, homestyle cuisine with an emphasis on using the finest raw materials.

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Vinous Table: Locanda nel Borgo Antico, Barolo, Italy

Vinous Table

Aug 2007

La Locanda del Borgo Antico is one of my favorite restaurants in Piedmont for a great all-around dining experience. The new Locanda, which relocated a few years ago, is set among the vineyards that straddle Barolo and Monforte.

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Cavallotto: The Re-Emergence of One of Barolo’s Historic Estates

Italy

Aug 2007

Time has always marched to a different beat at Cavallotto. One of the things I enjoy most about visiting this property is the absolute calm and relaxed pace here. Cavallotto remains somewhat of an anomaly in Piedmont. Up until recently the estate was off the radar screens of all but the most devout Barolo aficionados. The 1990s boom seemed to have passed this winery by. I remember seeing plenty of 1996 and 1997 Barolos still available for sale a few years ago, including a significant number of large format bottles, long after those vintages had disappeared from other producers’ cellars. Perhaps that is because Cavallotto releases their flagship Riservas later than what has become the norm these days.

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Vinous Table: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at The Four Seasons, New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2007

My wife and I recently enjoyed a spectacular dinner at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon located in the Four Seasons Hotel in New York. We ordered the tasting menu, which consisted of a series of small tasting portions that allowed us to sample a broad range of dishes, all of which were superb.

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Vinous Table: La Pizza Fresca Ristorante, New York

Vinous Table

Jun 2007

La Pizza Fresca is one of my favorite places to go in New York for a simple, casual meal. Although the atmosphere is informal the food is prepared with the highest-quality ingredients and is always delicious.

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Central Tuscany 2003 and 2004: A Tale of Two Vintages


Italy

June 2007

Readers are sure to enjoy exploring new releases from the 2003 and 2004 vintages in Central Tuscany. Although they could not be more different in terms of their personalities, 2003 and 2004 have yielded a large number of exciting wines. In 2003 Tuscany, like the rest of Europe, suffered through a heat wave the likes of which was virtually unprecedented. The effects of the scorching heat were exacerbated by near drought-like conditions. Over the last few years, however, producers have learned to better cope with such weather, meaning that the vintage has yielded some gems even if overall quality is irregular.

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A Conversation with Domenico Clerico

Italy

May 2007

Few producers’ wines have given me as much pleasure over the years as those of Domenico Clerico. Based in Monforte, Clerico has been turning out spectacular Barolos since the mid-1980s. I find a spirituality and character in these wines that puts them in a class with few peers. Although a visit to Clerico’s cellar is always at the top of my list of things to do when I visit Piedmont, on this evening we sat down at La Pizza Fresca in New York’s Flatiron District. I brought bottles of the1989 and 1990 Ciabot Mentin Ginestra that we tasted over several hours. Clerico is one of Piedmont’s most passionate vignerons and is blessed with a talent for telling a good story. As expected, the conversation was lively and punctuated by a healthy dose of humor.

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Podere Il Carnasciale: Il Caberlot 1988-2004

Italy

May 2007

On a cold fall day I made my way up into the hills above Mercatale Valdarno in search of Podere Il Carnasciale. The unpaved winding roads pass through the adjacent Petrolo estate in this very rugged corner of the Tuscan landscape rich in forests. I followed my hand-written directions diligently and when I saw the small house at the end of the road I knew I had arrived. I was greeted by owner Bettina Rogosky and oenologist Peter Schilling, both of whom seemed relieved I had actually made it.

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Vinous Table: Da Cesare, Piedmont, Italy

Vinous Table

Apr 2007

I never miss an opportunity to eat at Da Cesare, especially when my local tasting group assembles in what has become an almost ritual pilgrimage to this temple of everything that is satisfying to the soul about Piedmont. The early April weather was quite chilly and rainy, more reminiscent of Fall than Spring, except for the absence of truffles.

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New Releases from Piedmont: Dolcetto 2005 and Barbera 2003/2004

Italy

Apr 2007

In most discussions on Piedmont wines Barolo and Barbaresco typically receive the lion’s share of the spotlight and rightly so, as they are among the world’s great wines. That said, readers who want to explore the full range of what the region has to offer owe it to themselves to check out the top Dolcetto and Barbera bottlings, which offer much pleasure at more accessible prices.

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Vinous Table: The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York

Vinous Table

Apr 2007

The Four Seasons is a Manhattan landmark. The gorgeous rooms, which were designed by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, represent a timeless elegance that is just as remarkable today as it was in 1959 when the restaurant first opened its doors.

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Tenuta di Trinoro: Tenuta di Trinoro 1997-2005

Italy

Apr 2007

Franchetti favors late harvests that push ripeness to the extreme. This is clearly a high-stakes approach to winemaking as the likelihood of rain and other inclement conditions increases as the harvest season moves into the Fall. Franchetti typically picks his Merlot in beginning of October while the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot are usually picked towards the end of the month, although in some years, such as 2004, the harvest can stretch into November. Because of the extended growing season at Trinoro, the quality of the harvested fruit varies quite a bit from year to year, as does the final blend of the wine.

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La Paulée de New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2007

In March of this year I was fortunate to attend La Paulée in New York, an event that anyone who loves Burgundy must experience at least once. La Paulée is rooted in the traditional dinner Cistercian monks held for their workers at the end of the harvest.

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Tenuta dell’Ornellaia: Ornellaia and Masseto 1997-2004

Italy

Mar 2007

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is without question one of Italy’s blue-chip properties. The gorgeous, sprawling estate is located in Bolgheri in Tuscany’s Maremma. On a recent visit I had the opportunity to taste a number of the estate’s wines with General Manager/Agronomist Leonardo Raspini and Oenologist Axel Heinz, including verticals of the estate’s top bottlings Ornellaia and Masseto.

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Vinous Table: Per Se, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2007

I had been looking forward to this dinner at Per Se for some time. Located in the stylish Time-Warner Center, Per Se is Chef Thomas Keller’s New York restaurant. The main dining room is elegant and spacious in its design. We were seated in a private room which offered lovely springtime views of Central Park.

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Exploring Maremma’s 2003 and 2004 Vintages

Italy

Feb 2007

With its many seaside resorts and state of the art wineries, it is hard to believe that up until the 1930s Maremma was a disease-infested swampland. The noble families preferred to live in the hills, which were set back from the coastline, while their servants lived closer to the sea. In fact, the emergence of Maremma as one of the world's leading wine production zones is somewhat of an accident. The region owes its prominence to Mario Incisa della Rocchetta. Inspired by the wines of Bordeaux, Incisa wanted to make a similar wine on his own property.

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Bruno Giacosa and Giacomo Conterno at Della Notte, Baltimore

Vinous Table

Jan 2007

There are few things I look forward to more than a meeting of my tasting group. In January we gathered at Della Notte, located in downtown Baltimore. Any one of these wines we had could easily have been the centerpiece of an unforgettable evening. Needless to say were incredibly fortunate to drink so many towering Barolos and Barbarescos at one dinner.

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Dinner at Home with Le Macchiole

Vinous Table

Dec 2006

This past fall my travel schedule took me to Tuscany rather than Piedmont, which has been my more typical destination in late November. Although I suffered from a severe case of truffle withdrawal in Chianti Classico I did come home with several bottles of freshly-pressed olive oil, my second-favorite food of the season. We started with very simple bruschetta topped with the 2006 olive oil from Petrolo, a remarkable estate for the exceptionally high quality of all its products.

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A Holiday Lunch

Vinous Table

Dec 2006

This Christmas morning started out somewhat unusually. It was a bright, sunny day so I decided to go out for a run with my son. While the sight of mothers and fathers jogging with their babies in strollers may be a common sight in Central Park, it is apparently anything but that in the small Friuli town of San Lorenzo Isontino, judging by the many bewildered stares I received.

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Vinous Table: La Bottega del Vino, New York

Vinous Table

Dec 2006

I recently had the pleasure of attending a tasting at the Bottega del Vino organized by François Mauss of the Grand Jury Européen. After the formal tasting was concluded the group sat down to dinner in the private dining room located in the restaurant’s wine cellar, which holds an eye-popping collection of trophy wines. We tasted many wines blind during the course of the evening; the following are just a few that were especially noteworthy.

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Vinous Table: Le Calandre, Padova, Italy

Vinous Table

Dec 2006

The Alajmo family has built a small empire around Le Calandre, one of only five restaurants in Italy with three Michelin stars. The complex also includes the informal Le Calandrine café, the Maccaroni Hotel and a specialty food shop selling everything from an enticing array of aged cheeses to a selection of high-end wines.

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Vinous Table: Villa De Winckels, Verona, Italy

Vinous Table

Dec 2006

On Romano dal Forno’s recommendation my wife and I visited the lovely Villa De Winckels for lunch after our visit to the estate. Diners can choose to eat in the more formal dining room or the casual enoteca. We chose the latter. The cozy, small enoteca specializes in the traditional Veronese comfort foods.

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Giuseppe Mascarello Revisited: 1967 - 2001

Italy

Oct 2006

At a recent meeting of my local tasting group the focus was on the wines of Giuseppe Mascarello, one of Barolo’s historic producers. For this event we were fortunate to have Mauro Mascarello as our guest. The focus of the evening was Mascarello’s most famous wine, Monprivato, and his new luxury bottling the Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio. Chef Silvano Fiorindo, a veteran of Cipriani in New York, Buenos Aires and his native Venice, prepared an exquisite meal to accompany the wines.

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Italy’s 2001 Barolo and 2001 and 2003 Barbaresco vintages

Italy

Oct 2006

The 2001 vintage caps off a remarkable string of outstanding vintages for Piedmont that began in 1996. During that relatively brief time period producers gained a great deal of knowledge and experience, both in the vineyard and in the cellar, a positive trend which continues today. In addition, 2001 featured the growing conditions in which Nebbiolo thrives: hot daytime temperatures alternating with cool nights. The favorable weather, along with producers’ newfound sense of maturity combined to produce an extraordinary set of wines. Simply put, for Barolo, 2001 is the most complete of the vintages between 1996 and 2001.

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Paolo Scavino: A Major Retrospective

Italy

Oct 2006

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend an incredible tasting at the Scavino estate in Castiglione Falletto. Readers who have visited the winery within the last few years will have no doubt have seen the massive renovations that have been under way for some time. The work was finally completed earlier this year and to celebrate the opening of the new cellar Enrico Scavino hosted a vertical tasting featuring three of his four single-vineyard Barolos; Carobric, Bric del Fiasc and the Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata.

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Vinous Table: Esca, New York

Vinous Table

Oct 2006

Readers dining at Esca are in for a treat. Chef David Pasternack's cuisine features the freshest fish and seafood prepared simply but brilliantly. We started with the crudo which alone is worth a visit.

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The Wines of López de Heredia: 1954–1998

Rest of the World

Oct 2006

López de Heredia is one of the historic bodegas in Rioja, with a rich lineage dating back well over a century. The estate produces age-worthy, traditional Riojas of the highest level. These are among my favorite Riojas, and I have been fortunate to drink more than my fair share of the wines over the years. A few months ago I had the opportunity to taste an extensive collection of older vintages with importer Doug Polaner and proprietor Maria Jose López de Heredia when López was in New York to present the estate’s new releases.

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The Wines of Emidio Pepe: 1964 – 2001

Italy

Oct 2006

Bucking every trend and modern convention, the wines of Emidio Pepe represent one of the most singular expressions in winemaking today. That can’t be too surprising given that Pepe himself is quite a personality. Initially somewhat stern, he seems to live in world long gone by. Pepe doesn’t say much except that all his wines are excellent and that he only drinks his own. Fortunately the wines speak for themselves. In a time of increasing convergence these wines stand out for their unique style, artisan approach and notable purity.

Interior

Vinous Table: Michael Mina, San Francisco

Vinous Table

Oct 2006

Extraordinary is the word that comes to mind when I think about the dinner I enjoyed at Michael Mina recently. Everything from the food to the service was truly exceptional. My only quibble was with the noise level, which can be rather high, especially around the 6pm cocktail hour. Once immersed into the menu, however, such considerations take a back seat to the eating and drinking experience.

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Vinous Table: Da Cesare, Piedmont, Italy

Vinous Table

Sep 2006

Chef and proprietor Cesare Giaccone is one of Piedmont's legendary culinary figures. For decades Da Cesare, located high in the hills of Albaretto Torre, was a destination point for those seeking the finest food and wine in the region. Two years ago, seeking to scale back and simplify things a bit, Giaccone moved the restaurant back to his original house.

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A Birthday Dinner

Vinous Table

Sep 2006

After a long day on the tasting trail nothing beats a simple home-cooked meal featuring the best of the classic Piedmontese comfort foods enjoyed with close friends. We started with insalata russa, a salad of boiled potatoes, carrots and peas dressed with mayonnaise that when well-prepared is always greater than the sum of its humble parts.

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Vinous Table: Centro Storico, Piedmont

Vinous Table

Sep 2006

The tiny Centro Storico, appropriately located in the old historical center of Serralunga, has become on of my favorite spots in Piedmont for a casual meal. Visitors looking for a break from the region's more elegant restaurants will delight in the informal atmosphere which includes a few tables for outdoor eating during the summer months.

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2001 Brunello Vintage

Italy

Aug 2006

This year marks the release of the much-anticipated 2001 Brunellos from Montalcino. There is much to be excited about as the vintage offers an array of outstanding wines. The best 2001 Brunellos are characterized by rich aromatics and generous, ripe fruit, with excellent structure and fine, elegant tannins. Although many wines are clearly built to age I also tasted quite a few that are drinking beautifully right now. Readers should not ignore the 2004 Rossos, the best of which are also outstanding.

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Elio Altare Revisited: 1970 – 1991

Italy

May 2006

"The idea that a Barolo should be undrinkable in its youth and that a consumer should have to wait twenty years for the wine to be great is ridiculous,” says Elio Altare,…and so begins what will turn out to be a memorable day.

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An Unforgettable Winter Dinner: Barolo 1958 – 1998

Italy

May 2006

For our January meeting my local tasting group gathered to survey the wines of Francesco Rinaldi and Luciano Sandrone, two producers who represent different schools of thought when it comes to Barolo. By the time the evening was over however, we had also opened terrific bottles from Bruno Giacosa, Bartolo Mascarello, and Giacomo Conterno. Not a bad way to spend a cold winter evening. On this night I was fortunate to host the group at my house. For the occasion I prepared a simple meal to accompany the wines, including tagliolini al ragu (featuring pasta directly from Alba), osso buco, and a selection of cheeses. As always, a great time was had by all.

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Piedmont Report Issue 7

Piedmont Report

May 2006

Barolo 1999: The Forgotten Vintage; Barolo 2002: New Releases; Elio Altare Revisited: 1970 – 1991; Bruno Giacosa: Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano 1982 – 1990; Bruno Giacosa: The 1978 Barolos; Giacomo Conterno: Barolo Riserva Monfortino 1978 – 1985; Francesco Rinaldi: Barolo 1958 – 1993; Luciano Sandrone: Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1982 – 1989

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A Memorable Evening of Barolo and Barbaresco: 1978 – 1990

Italy

May 2006

It’s always a lot of fun to get together with my tasting group. I knew this was going to be an unforgettable dinner when the first wine of the evening was listed as the 1985 Sassicaia, one of the most legendary and collectible wines ever produced in Italy. The plan also included a deep selection of classics, including three Giacosa Barolos from 1978, a mini-vertical of Giacosa’s Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano spanning 1982-1990, and a mini-vertical of Conterno’s Barolo Riserva Monfortino covering the historic 1978, 1982, and 1985 vintages. We were fortunate, and indeed privileged, to taste these wines from bottles that had been perfectly stored since release. As always it would be a great pleasure to share these wines and the animated conversation they bring out in a small group setting. What a night lay ahead!

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The ‘Legends of Piedmont’ at Crush

Italy

May 2006

The following wines were tasted at a class on Barolo and Barbaresco I led at Crush Wine and Spirits in mid-town Manhattan in February 2006. The evening provided a great opportunity to check in on a few new releases as well as taste some of the region’s benchmark wines from nearly all of the most important vintages back to 1961.

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Vinous Table: Del Posto, New York

Vinous Table

Mar 2006

A dinner at the newly opened Del Posto, the latest restaurant from the Lidia and Joe Bastianch/Mario Batali team, provided a great opportunity to enjoy several impeccable bottles from Giacomo Conterno.

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Vintage Retrospective: The 1978 Barolos and Barbarescos

Italy

Jan 2006

For most observers 1978 occupies a hallowed place among the legendary vintages in Piedmont. From a purely historical perspective 1978 is also a fascinating vintage to study because it is the last important vintage in which the wines were largely made with traditional methods, both in the vineyards and in the cellar. These wines pre-date the arrival of the more modern style of winemaking which in the 1980s would begin to change the way many estates vinified and aged their wines. A recent dinner in New York with a group of die-hard Nebbiolo fanatics provided a great opportunity to re-visit many of the vintage’s benchmark wines.

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Piedmont Report Issue 6

Piedmont Report

Jan 2006

Barolo: A Preview of Vintages 2003 and 2004; New Releases from Barolo and Barbaresco; Vintage Retrospective: The 1978 Barolos and Barbarescos; A Magical Evening of Great Barolos at Cru; The Rising Stars of Roero; The Wines of Northern Piedmont; Barbera d’Asti: A Primer; Hastae: Barbera d’Asti Quorum 1997-2003

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A Magical Evening of Great Barolos at Cru

Italy

Jan 2006

An evening at Cru is always a memorable experience, and this night was no exception as we were treated to an amazing dinner featuring great food, wine, and most important of all, the company of close friends. Readers who love older wines owe it to themselves to pay a visit to Cru and to explore its breathtaking wine list, which offers a rich treasure trove of selections. I think it is fair to say that every major producer of note is well represented in an astonishing range of vintages. On this occasion the focus was on Bruno Giacosa’s Red Label Riservas from the mid-1980s although we did have a chance to taste some other great wines as well. The four of us had no problem polishing off these fine bottles…quite an achievement especially given that my wife does not drink much.

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Vintage Retrospective: The 1985 Barolos and Barbarescos

Italy

Oct 2005

The subject of evaluating and rating vintages is one of the favorite topics of discussion among Piedmont lovers, so the opportunity to taste sixteen of the best 1985 Barolos and Barbarescos with a group of hardcore New York Nebbiolo fans made for a truly special evening.

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Bruno Giacosa Revisited: 1986-1988

Italy

Oct 2005

When people talk about the great Piedmont vintages of the 1980s, you are most likely to hear a discussion centered around 1982, 1985 (see above) and 1989, the relative merits of which are still debated with much passion and enthusiasm today. Until fairly recently, most of my own experience with the wines of Bruno Giacosa had also been limited to the better known labels from the more famous vintages. Nothing, then, could have prepared me for what I was about to experience in this impromptu, surprise tasting organized by two of my closest friends. These wines are from vintages long-forgotten by all but the most diehard of Piedmont aficionados-1986, 1987, and to a lesser extent, 1988.

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Luciano Sandrone: Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1985-2001

Italy

Oct 2005

From his first vintage in 1978 Luciano Sandrone set out to make a more approachable and drinkable Barolo. No one has managed to bridge tradition and innovation as brilliantly as Sandrone, rendering pointless any of the typical arguments in favor of one winemaking philosophy versus the other. Over the years Sandrone has turned out a stunning group of wines, often reaching stratospheric heights. Although Sandrone’s wines are accessible when young, they also age beautifully as is demonstrated by the wines from the 1980s. Yet as magical as the older wines can be, Sandrone believes his recent releases are even better, saying “today we know so much more about how to work in the vineyards and in the cellar.” I consider Luciano Sandrone’s Cannubi Boschis to be one of a handful of benchmark wines for the region, well worth the effort of finding and cellaring.

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Paolo Scavino: Barolo Cannubi 1989-2001

Italy

Oct 2005

Owing to its small production, Scavino’s Cannubi is perhaps the least well known of his single-vineyard Barolos. It is made in a very ripe style with notable concentration and suppleness, but without losing the feminine, perfumed quality that makes wines from this vineyard so distinctive and irresistible. Although Cannubi is the most approachable of Scavino’s Barolos it is also a wine that has also proven to be quite capable of aging.

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Four Decades of Barolo: Wines of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s

Italy

Oct 2005

A recent gathering of passionate Nebbiolo lovers in Boston provided a great opportunity to open a wide range of wines spanning four decades and the full gamut of styles. The wines were critically evaluated and discussed without food after which they were heartily enjoyed with a variety of delicious homemade dishes, among them our hosts’ spectacular braised short ribs, which were so exceptional they nearly stole the show. The wines were decanted for several hours prior to being served and tasted blind. Given the casual nature of the evening notes on these wines should be interpreted as impressions rather than formal tasting notes.

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Piedmont Report Issue 5

Piedmont Report

Oct 2005

New Releases from Barbaresco: The 2002s and Late-Release 2001s; Vintage Retrospective: The 1985 Barolos and Barbarescos; Bruno Giacosa Revisited: 1986-1988; Focus on Cannubi
E. Pira (Chiara Boschis): Barolo Cannubi 1996-2001; Luciano Sandrone: Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1985-2001 Paolo Scavino: Barolo Cannubi 1989-2001; Four Decades of Barolo: Wines of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s; Where to Eat and Sleep in Piedmont

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Giacomo Conterno Vertical Tasting

Italy

Jul 2005

In May of this year I attended two very special tastings at Cru in New York. Winemakers Roberto Conterno and Mauro Mascarello were in town to present extensive verticals of their Barolos. The first tasting took place in the afternoon and featured current releases as well as a few older vintages. Although I generally avoid trade events because they don’t allow enough time to accurately assess each wine, this sit-down tasting, which was hosted by importer Doug Polaner, was extremely well organized. Cru Wine Director Robert Bohr and his staff did an outstanding job in coordinating the service of the wines, which was no small feat. Between the afternoon tasting and the dinner that followed, I don’t think I have ever tasted so many profound and emotionally moving wines in a single day! The wines were double decanted a few hours prior to serving.

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An update from Barolo...

Italy

Jul 2005

The market for Barolo worldwide continues to be soft although on my most recent trip producers told me that demand is beginning to pick up in the US while they still face difficulties in the continental European markets, especially Germany. I found the mood among producers to be fairly optimistic even though some are worried about the ability of the US market to absorb the 2001 wines after all of the hype and interest surrounding 2000. Estates have the benefit of being able to be patient with their 2001s as many will have little, if any, 2002 Barolo to offer. Quite a few wineries will deliberately hold off on releasing some of their 2001s in order to smooth their revenues over the next few years. Recent weakness in the euro should benefit producers and US consumers alike.

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Giuseppe Mascarello Vertical Tasting

Italy

Jul 2005

In May of this year I attended two very special tastings at Cru in New York. Winemakers Roberto Conterno and Mauro Mascarello were in town to present extensive verticals of their Barolos. The first tasting took place in the afternoon and featured current releases as well as a few older vintages. Although I generally avoid trade events because they don’t allow enough time to accurately assess each wine, this sit-down tasting, which was hosted by importer Doug Polaner, was extremely well organized. Cru Wine Director Robert Bohr and his staff did an outstanding job in coordinating the service of the wines, which was no small feat. Between the afternoon tasting and the dinner that followed, I don’t think I have ever tasted so many profound and emotionally moving wines in a single day! The wines were double decanted a few hours prior to serving.

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Piedmont Report Issues 3 & 4

Piedmont Report

Jul 2005

Barolo 2001, Part 2: A Comprehensive Overview of Current Releases; Giacomo Conterno: Barolo Cascina Francia 1989-2000 and Barolo Riserva Monfortino 1958-1997; Giuseppe Mascarello: Barolo Monprivato 1970-1999 and Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio 1995-1997

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Cavallotto: The Barolo Riservas

Italy

Apr 2005

During a recent visit to the estate, brothers Alfio and Giuseppe Cavallotto surprised me with not one, but two vertical tastings of their Barolo Riservas, Vignolo and Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe. This was a great opportunity to taste both wines side by side and compare vineyard and vintage characteristics. The Vignolo is typically the more feminine of the two wines. Explains Alfio Cavallotto “The soils at Vignolo are deep, and they retain water very well. This means that in hot vintages such as 1997 an 2000, the vines don’t go into stress and the wines remain quite fresh” I find the Vignolo often has a very aromatic profile and flavors of small red fruits such as raspberries, although that varies from vintage to vintage.” San Giuseppe is decidedly the more masculine and muscular wine. “At San Giuseppe we have soils that begin to resemble those of Serralunga. The wines are usually more complex, structured and higher in alcohol, with flavors of spices and dark fruit,” says Cavallotto.

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Piedmont Report Issue 2

Piedmont Report

Apr 2005

Barolo 2001, Part 1: An Overview of Current and Future Releases; Exploring Brunate: The 2000 Brunate Barolos Elio Altare: Barolo Brunate 1999-2001 Marcarini: Barolo Brunate 1996-2001; Cavallotto: Barolo Riserva Vignolo 1996-1999 and Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe 1989-1999; Produttori del Barbaresco: The 1999 Riservas; Notes from a Birthday Lunch; Bartolo Mascarello 1926-2005

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An Introduction to Piedmont Report

Italy

Dec 2004

Welcome to the first issue of Piedmont Report, the Consumer’s Guide to the Wines of Piedmont. My goal is to provide not only extensive tasting notes of current releases, but also to take you into the vineyards and cellars of this incredibly fascinating region. For many consumers, the large number of producers and vineyard designations in Piedmont makes gaining a familiarity with the region a daunting task. I hope to make that easier. From time to time I will also write about thematic vertical tastings that explore one particular dimension such as the wines of a specific vintage, vineyard, or producer.

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The 1997 Gajas Revisited

Italy

Dec 2004

The merits and faults of the 1997 vintage have been debated endlessly. Some people love the wines for their rich round fruit, others find the wines atypical and overly ripe. My own feeling is that the vintage is simply uneven, and that there are exceptional wines that capture the best of the vintage and there are overripe, unbalanced wines that are by comparison much less complex. Without a doubt the1997 Gaja wines from the Barbaresco zone are among the very best wines of the vintage.

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Marcarini: Barolo Brunate 1996-2001

Italy

Dec 2004

Marcarini’s Barolo Brunate is one the most representative wines in the region year in year out. I recently had a chance to taste the six most recent vintages, which was a great learning experience. The wines are all very young and will require patience. It would be great to do this tasting again in ten years, and see how the wines have developed. While all the wines are excellent, the 1999 and the 2001 are truly special and the 1998 is not too far behind…

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Some Thoughts on Barolo 2000 and a Preview of 2001....

Italy

Dec 2004

Earlier this year I visited the region to get a sense of what the hype surrounding the 2000 vintage was all about. In 2000 the hot weather produced wines that are round, rich and approachable when young, all qualities considered to be atypical for Barolo. As with everything Piedmont, generalizations are very tricky because there are always so many exceptions to any statements that can be made about a vintage. It really pays to taste as many wines as possible so that you can decide for yourself whether you prefer warmer vintages like 1997 and 2000 or more classic vintages such as 1996, 1999, and 2001.

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Piedmont Report Issue 1

Piedmont Report

Dec 2004

Barbaresco 2001: A Comprehensive Overview of Current Releases; Some Thoughts on Barolo 2000 and a Preview of 2001....
; The 1997 Gajas Revisited: Costa Russi, Sorì Tildìn, Sorì San Lorenzo; Barolos of the 60s, 70s, and 80s: Notes from a Memorable Tasting

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Barbaresco 2001: An Overview of Current Releases

Italy

Dec 2004

For this report, I spent ten days in October in Barbaresco tasting mostly current releases. I also wanted to get an update on the 2002 and 2003 vintages. I arrived in mid-October, as the Nebbiolo harvest was in its final days. Without exception, every producer I spoke to was enthusiastic about the potential of the 2004 vintage. The growing season had started a bit late due to unusually cold weather in the spring, which continued into the summer.

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Elio Altare: Barolo Brunate 1999-2001

Italy

Dec 2004

Elio Altare realized a long-standing dream when he began to produce a Barolo from this storied vineyard. This mini-vertical of Altare’s Barolo Brunate was very insightful in gaining a better of sense of the characteristics of the 1999-2001 vintages. While all the wines are outstanding, the 1999 is truly special. Of his 1999, Altare says it is “probably the best I have made so far.”

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Exploring Brunate: The 2000 Brunate Barolos

Italy

Dec 2004

Exploring Brunate is the first in a series of articles in which I will take an in-depth look at the historically famous vineyards in the Barolo and Barbaresco production zones. I chose Brunate because it is a vineyard that is owned by many producers, so it is possible to taste several interpretations of this site. I was curious to learn if the wines shared any common traits or if the producers’ styles and/or vintage might overwhelm the specific qualities of the vineyard.

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Barolos of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s

Italy

Dec 2004

A recent gathering with friends provided the perfect occasion to open a few special bottles of our favorite wines. The theme was aged, traditionally made Barolos. The setting was a beautiful country home set high in the Appenine mountains, on the border between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. The estate was gorgeous and peaceful, the only sounds to be heard were the barks of the playful dogs and the gentle trot of the horse. The weather was chilly so we lit the fireplace. First we tasted the wines, then we enjoyed them alongside a traditional Emilian menu of tortellini in brodo and bollito misto. While it is fun to taste wines like this side-by-side, doing so inevitably leads to comparisons of the wines. These Barolos are such idiosyncratic, highly individual wines, that they are probably best enjoyed on their own, without the presence of other wines.