Posts Tagged ‘Barbaresco’

Outstanding Bottles of Giacosa and Conterno

December 2, 2016 Leave a comment

At the end of October I was fortunate to attend an Italian tasting largely focused in on the wines of Bruno Giacosa and Giacomo Conterno.  No tasting of Barolo should be without a mature example and this one began with a very fine 1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo.  Double-decanted midday it continued to slowly develop in the glass.  I can only write that I love the aroma and flavor of this type of wine.  Also with attractive maturity, the 1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti is meatier and earthier but leaves the impression of being tired.

The youthful white-labeled pair of 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive and 1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive did not prepare me for the outstanding red-labels.  At 20 years of age the 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili is beginning to move past its youthful stage.  It is a powerful, intense wine which never takes away from the beautiful flavors.  Younger in age and profile, the 2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja promises a great future.  There are primary aromas and flavors right now but everything is in place for slow development.

Completely different in nature the 1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino, with moderate concentration and complexity, acted as a segway to the outstanding 2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino.  This is a highly refined, ethereally flavored wine which fills the mouth.  With air it fleshes out to provide seamless pleasure.  What a tasting!


1980 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  Looks like a copper-orange wine.  There is a complex nose which is a touch maderized.  In the mouth is focused, driven flavors that are quite lively and even sport some body but the wine is clearly not correct.  Not Rated.


2010 Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes
Imported by Wilson Daniels. Alcohol 13.5%.  The flint aromas make the nose stand out.  In the mouth the precise, lemon fruit mixes with flint and smoke.  This is a persistent, tart wine with lime flavors and a long, finely textured finish. Impressive now.  **** Now – 2026.


2005 Domaine des Croix, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is a touch earthy and lactic.  A significantly rounder body is backed by glycerin.  Flavors of lemon and lime take on subtle baking spices.  It improves with air, filling the mouth with flavors and the sensation of an oily, luxurious body. ***(*) Now – 2021.


2010 Lucien Le Moine, Corton Blanc Grand Cru
Imported by Barrel One Selections.  This is aromatic with sweet fruit and floral spices.  The tart start is focused yet offers weight.  It is almost puckering with a wood hint, floral flavors throughout, and smoke in the finish.  It is almost spicy. **** Now – 2026.


2005 Etienne Sauzet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  A slight darker color hints at the inevitable.  Shame!


1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo
Imported by suitcase.  The nose is subtly smokey.  In the mouth are lively, fresh flavors that are initially linear and focused but expand by the finish.  There is bottle aged complexity as this wine is beyond fruit.  I like the blend of old leather and weighty, animale flavors that develop with air. ****(*) Now – 2026.


1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  The meaty nose is good and opens up a bit with air.  In the mouth this is grippy with tart red fruit, and an animale nature.  It builds subtle ripeness but is ultimately leaner and not as flavorful.  *** Now.


1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 14%.  The fruitier nose is attractive with complex bitters-like aroma.  This grippy wine starts with dry tannins and  young fruit but it has very attractive grip, long taste, and a haunting personality. ***(*) Now-2031.


1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 13.5%.  The darker nose is more subtle.  This is a rounder wine with less acidity and tannins, despite its youthful flavor.  It shows more balance at this time.  The complex red and black fruit are supported by some firm, underlying structure. ***(*) Now – 2026.


2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 14%.  The aromas step out of the glass, primarily exuding violets.  This is very young in the mouth, powerful with very fine tannins.  A core of blackberry fruit comes out.  This clearly has a strong future ahead. ****(*) Now – 2036


1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 14%.  The nose is concentrated and strong with fruity aromas of licorice.  The rounded start is powerful with intense structure and fine, grippy tannins.  The flavor, though, is undeniably beautify with density, and some bacon fat.  The liquidity of the wine is bound with the acidity. ****(*) Now – 2031.


1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%.  The flavors are of lighter berries and almost roast earth.  The wine remains firm with fine, strong tannins.  There is structure to last but the flavor concentration does not seem to be there. **** Now – 2026.


2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by Vieux Vins. Alcohol 14%.  The young grapey nose makes way to a smooth entry of mouth filling, black, ethereal flavors.  The power of this wine builds with time becoming fleshier too.  Lovely and very classy. ****(*) Now – 2026.


2012 Donnhoff, Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein, Nahe
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 7.5%.  This, bright, electric wine is noticeable for its residual sugar and almost effervescent sensation on the tongue.  The spices soon mix with sweet grapefruit and sugar.  Young and a bit hard to drink at this stage. **** 2026-2046.


2002 Alois Kracher, Scheurebe Trockenbeeren Auslese #6 Zwischen den Seen, Neusiedlersee
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 8.5%.  Like liquid amber, this aromatic wine is lovely with an apricot hint that is more fresh than dried.  It adds baking spices and cinnamon.  Weighty with good integration of sweetness.  **** Now – 2026.

The Majesty of Malvasia Dinner: Tasting vintages from 1926 through 2002

June 29, 2015 1 comment

It took quite some time for the 20 bottles of Madeira to be equally poured into some 400 wine glasses.  With each pour the room became incrementally more aromatic until everyone was collectively talking about the beautiful aromas.  The doors to our private room were even shut at one point so as to infuse all of us.  During this waiting period I was able to meet the other attendees.  While there were mostly new introductions, there were a few people I had read about passionate Madeira lovers whose names are synonymous with old Madeira.


The day’s festivities did not end with the Malvasia tasting.  Dinner was to be held after the tasting in the private room next to ours.  We were all asked to bring a bottle or two.  What had not already been shipped was being collected then staged in the dining room.  Several others took a peek at the other wines and returned excited.  Curious as to what could be exciting compared to 20 bottles of very old Madeira, I entered the dining room.  There on two spot lit tables stood bottles and magnums encompassing old vintages of European wine.


It was a cache of vinous treasure.  I was rather stunned to see magnums of Burgundy such as 1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes.  The brace of 1950s Staatsweingut bottles brought pleasure but the bottles of 1929 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, 1928 Frederico Paternina, Gran Reserva Rioja, and 1926 Chateau Latour Haut Brion stopped me cold.  How incredible that there was a trio of red wine from the 1920s!  And I should also mention a 1933 Moulin Touchais Anjou Blanc.


After spending approximately six hours tasting and discussing Madeira, I was both tired and hungry.  As we all moved to the dining room the mostly magnums of Champagne were broached to be accompanied by platter after platter of appetizers. There were such bottles as 1985 Lanson Brut, 1990 Pol Roger Brut, 1996 Philipponnat “Clos des Goisses” Brut, 1999 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne Blancs de Blanc, 2002 Les Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, and a vintage of Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs that escaped me.  It was not a time to take notes but rather to recharge, fortify, and chat with others that I did not sit next to during the tasting.


Suitably recovered I sat down to dinner between Ricardo Freitas of Barbeito Madeira and Mannie Berk.  We were at one gigantic table which fortunately still allowed us to speak with those across the table.  After the sommeliers had performed any requested service, each bottle they were placed on the table in front of each owner for the first taste.  This was handled in the order of Champagne, white wine, red wine, and dessert wine.  The number of bottles opened must have been staggering for the next several hours a new wine came by every three to five minutes.  Indeed, at the end of the dinner there were nearly four dozen bottles and magnums arrayed out for the staff to finish.


This quantity of top-notch wine might seem obscene but it worked for me.  Through everyone’s generosity I knew this would be another unique tasting so I did my best to capture it.  True, I had trouble keeping up with all of the wine, even with just writing the coarsest of notes, while eating dinner and talking away.  I managed to accumulate some five wine glasses which I used to triage what I was going to concentrate on.  For example, I tasted but did not note 1996 Louis Jadot Griots-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1990 Domaine Paul Pernot Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1989 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles, 1973 Berberana Rioja Reserva, and 2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.  No doubt there were other wines I could not even get to.

I must first state that the most revelatory bottle, though not the “best” per se, was the 1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau.  It never even occurred to me that old German Spatburgunder or Pinot Noir could drink so well.  This bottle was still perfumed on the nose and though the residual sugar and short finish were indicating age, it was a pure pleasure to drink.  There must be a few others onto this wine for the 1935 vintage fetched over $2500 at the spring auction held at Kloster Eberbach.  As for young wines, the 1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru was stunningly complex with a killer nose and all the components for long aging.  I can see what all the fuss is about.  At the more mature side of Burgundy, the 1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche showed great from magnum.  Even Berry Bros & Rudd notes on their website that this wine “was superb, still remarkably youthful” when drunk in 2009.  If I had to pick one Italian wine it was, again in magnum, the 1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà.  The nose alone left one satisfied!  There were many other lovely bottles of wine so I encourage you to step through my brief notes.  Thanks again to Mannie and Roy for organizing the dinner as well as to everyone else who pulled from their cellars and excitedly shared their precious bottles.


1953 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Rauenthaler Wulfen Riesling Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
There was a great nose followed by flavors that were not too sweet but of ripe fruit.  The wine still had some richness with a spicy, soft finish.  In great shape.


2002 Domaine Patrick Javillier, Meursault Les Tillets Cuvée Spéciale
This had apple-like flavors with a more austere finish.


1996 Domaine Roulot, Meursault Les Luchets
This tasted young with great acidity that was lively on the tongue.  The flavors had controlled ripeness with both chalk and smoke notes and a citrus pithe finish.  Nice.


1990 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
The nose was very aromatic with red fruit.  In the mouth were racy, black fruit flavors, the whole wine was à point.


1982 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo Bussia Soprana
This was young with dry, firm and linear flavors.  I noted it needs a few more decades of age.


1985 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabajà
There was a beautiful nose followed by lovely, dry fruit, and a tart, linear finish.  With air the fruit became more prominent and the nose, stunning.


1995 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco
There was a rather perfumed nose followed by concentrated flavors of bramble and dry, young fruit.  The wine turned black with drying, grippy tannins that left a very youthful impression.


1958 Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva
After decanting this revealed a good Riscal nose.  There were mushroom flavors in this wine that was still very much alive.  It had dusty, black fruit, dry flavors, and still had structures.  If faulted it was a touch hollow.


1964 Bodegas Riojanas, Monte Real, Rioja Reserva
The nose was slightly medicinal but seemed to clean up.  Compared to the Riscal this bottle had riper, polished fruit that was still supported by structure.  There was more power in the finish with a better sense of completeness.


1928 Frederico Paternina, Rioja Gran Reserva
There was tart, red structured fruit that was brighter and youthful in a sense.  But with air it started to fade.


1979 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
This was classic with bell pepper notes, black fruit, grippy tannins, and a fresh personality.


1976 Georges Lignier, Clos de la Roche
The nose bore mature aromas that mixed with campfire notes.  In the mouth the wine was straight up beautiful with youthful grip to the fruit and noticeable structure.


1970 Domaine Dujac, Aux Combottes
The beautiful nose set up the wine with its structure that supported ethereal flavors, turkey stuffing notes…simply put, a lovely wine to drink.


1979 Dupont-Tisserandot, Charmes-Chambertin
The nose was of roast earth and mushroom.  In the mouth earthy red fruit, acidity, grip, structure, that made for a lovely, overall experience.


1995 Joseph Roty, Cuvee de “tres vieilles vignes”, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
There were beautiful flavors of deep orange and red fruit that was clearly the youngest tasted thus far.  It took on some lovely cranberry red fruit and showed a lot of potential.


1979 Mugneret-Gouachon, Echezaux
The nose was stink with tart fruit and eventually cleaned up a bit.  The flavors followed in the mouth but not so much.  Still had some body.


1959 Staatsweingut, Domaine Kloster Eberbach, Assmannshauser Hollenberg, Spatburgunder Auslese, Cabinet, Rheingau
This wine was surprisingly lively with old perfume, some sweetness, and fruit.  The finish was a bit sharp and short with noticeable residual sugar.  Still, an old wine that was a treat to drink.


1995 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue, Musigny Grand Cru
Wow, there was a killer, young nose of lipstick and perfume.  In the mouth there was incredible complexity despite this young wine having tart, cranberry, red, and black fruit that was structured.  This left an impression.


1966 Graham, Vintage Port (bottled by Justerini & Brooks)
Beautiful.  This bottle left me wanting for more.

Traditional wines from Cavallotto, Produttori del Barbaresco, and Selbach-Oster

February 19, 2015 Leave a comment

This past Friday I found myself as Phil’s guest at his monthly wine-tasting group.  We sipped on the perfectly agreeable NV Jean Richecourt, Cuvee Speciale, Brut, Champagne as we waited for everyone to show up.  I found the citrus flavors and gentle effervescence whet my appetite for some serious wine.  The tasting of the red wines was conducted blind.  The nose alone of the 2011 Cavallotto, Nebbiolo, Langhe was a great start.  It was surprisingly serious for such a wine which, in retrospect, is explained by it being made from declassified Barolo Bricco Boschis fruit.  It was a good thing then that the remaining wines were all Cavallotto, Barolo Bricco Boschis.  Bricco Boschis is a cru solely owned by the Cavallotto family since 1929.  These wines are traditionally made with long aging in Slavonian oak.  Though they could exhibit a strong structure they all remained approachable.

Unfortunately the 2010 vintage was corked and the 2006 was believed heat damage, it was “old”, but still tasty in a way.  The 2008 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis was expectedly young but the minerally, racy black fruit was very attractive.  There is good potential here but I would wait several more years before opening another bottle.  The  2007 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis sported a good amount of concentrated fruit in a manner that came across as young.  It developed an interesting animale flavor in the finish.  I would try this again with the 2008.  The 2001 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis was easily in a place of its own.  The fruit was beautiful as well as the balance with the acidity and structure.  This was a serious yet enjoyable wine that was the first to be finished.  The 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco proved a nice change at the end with its dark, dense fruit.  I did not spend much time with my glass but I should have.

We were very fortunate to finish with another excellent wine from the 2001 vintage.  This time in the form of the German 2001 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Auslese *, Mosel Saar Ruwer.  It was everything I love in a German Riesling with its incredible aromatic nose, weighty mature flavors, and vibrant acidity.  I would have drunk the whole bottle if it were not impolite.  Thanks again to Phil for inviting me and for preparing the satisfying dinner of lamb shanks.


NV Jean Richecourt, Cuvee Speciale, Brut, Champagne
Imported by The Lexington Import Group.  Alcohol 12%.  There were light lemon flavors with spiced, yeast notes, and gentle effervescence.  This fresh wine made for an easy start.  ** Now.


2011 Cavallotto, Nebbiolo, Langhe
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo that was aged for 15-24 months in oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a light to medium garnet cherry.  The nose was aromatic with exotic potpourri.  In the mouth the black fruit developed a little heat but there was good flavor to the ripe fruit.  The acidity was there with drier flavors in the finish and persistent aftertaste with mineral notes.  Drinking well now but should continue to do so.  *** Now-2020.


2010 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14%.  Corked.


2008 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  It had a light to medium color with more garnet.  The nose was less exotic than the introductory Nebbiolo but there were similar cherry scents.  The red fruit in the start had more focus before minerally, racy black fruit came out.  There were very fine, powerful tannins with integrated acidity.  This strong wine was bright with acidity, a leather hint, and citric tannins.  ***(*) Now-2030.


2007 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14%.  This was a garnet color that looked younger than the 2006.  The nose was subtle with dark aromas.  There was more fruit that was concentrated and tasted young.  There was an attractive animale note in the finish.  The wine tastes young and was matched by very fine, drying tannins.  It clearly needs more time.  ***(*) 2018-2028.


2006 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by deGrazia Imports.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was an older looking garnet wood.  The nose was piercing with older (not in the prime of maturity) aromas.  In the mouth there was still some fruit concentration, old wood notes, and other ethereal flavors.  It was interesting but rough and coarse with plenty of dry tannins.  (I agreed with Roland in that I thought it a mature Rioja.) *** Now.


2001 Cavallotto, Barolo Brico Boschis
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from calcareous and clay soils that was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 3.5 years in Slavonian oak casks.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This was a medium+ dark garnet color.  The nose was great and eventually piercing.  In the mouth were ripe, concentrated fruit flavors that had power but were balanced against the tannic structure.  The tannins had a citric edge with good weight that continued to complement the cool tasting red and blue fruit.  **** Now-2030.


2005 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco
Imported by Vias Imports.  Alcohol 14%.  There were slight aromas of polished wood notes and I must agree, fennel.  This fruity wine was dense with strength to the very focused black flavors.  *** Now-2025.


2001 Selbach-Oster, Zeltinger Himmelreich, Riesling Auslese *, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Michael Skurnik Wine.  Alcohol 8%.  This was a medium golden amber.  The nose was incredibly aromatic with a little honied note.  In the mouth were maturing flavors that were taking on a soft edge.  The wine had a weighty middle with ripeness and lovely, lively acidity.  The flavors were vibrant and clean.  **** Now-2030.

Drinking Wine at Tuxedo Park

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment


We continued our New York adventure by caravaning up to William’s home in Tuxedo Park. I was very excited. Not only would we get to see William’s recently renovated home but we would attend the Traditional Christmas Dinner at The Tuxedo Club. It was a particularly foggy day, so thick that we could only see a few dozen feet into the trees lining the highway. This lent an air of mystery all of the way to Tuxedo. The turn from Tuxedo into Tuxedo Park is initially unassuming until the gentle curve uphill is complete. There you are faced with the megalithic architecture of Tuxedo Park’s Gate Lodge and Keep. The gatekeeper grants admission only to owners and their guests. It is a fantastical entrance to a place the likes of which I have never seen before.


You might not have heard of Tuxedo Park but if you know what a tuxedo is then you have some awareness of the park’s interesting history. You may read about the origins of the tuxedo in The Wall Street Journal here. Tuxedo Park’s history is a long and quiet. It is located about one hour north of New York City in Orange County. Some 13,000 acres of land was originally acquired in 1814 by Pierre Lorillard II. The land remained unused until the completion of the Erie Railroad in the mid 1880s. In 1885 Pierre Lorillard IV succeeded in obtaining control of 7,000 acres. He originally envisioned Tuxedo Park as an exclusive hunting and fishing preserve for his friends. He planned to stock the land with game, surrounded by a game fence to keep them in, and stock the lakes and pond with fish. His plan quickly expanded to include cottages, stores, schoolhouses, churches, a library, and a hospital. To help develop the property he brought in architect Bruce Price and landscape engineer Ernest Bowditch. In 1886 the Tuxedo Park Association was incorporated to oversee the park and screen applicants. Only the wealthiest families with the highest social standing were allowed access. The first phase of construction lasted from 1886 to the mid 1890s. It included thirteen cottages designed in the Shingle Style. These were meant to be temporary residences thus were small and neither insulated nor heated. A second phase of construction begin at the turn of the century and lasted through several decades into the 1930s. These houses were much larger and designed for year round occupation with heating, plumbing, and electricity. A wide range of architects designed these houses which richly featured such revival styles as Tudor, Jacobean, and Dutch Colonial. As with the lexicon of Bruce Price’s architecture, the new architects were encouraged to subordinate their designs to the natural surrounding of the land.


Tuxedo Park garnered renewed interest in the 1970s. For several years houses were demolished, lots split, and new houses built which were incongruous to the park. In 1978 Tuxedo Park was nominated as a historic development which was notable for its social and architectural experimentation. The application notes that of the 286 structures surveyed 42% were constructed in the nineteenth century and another 35% prior to World War II. At the time the buildings were still in “unusually good” condition and “beautifully maintained.” In 1979 Tuxedo Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is now a Board of Architectural Review which reviews all aspects of renovation and construction.


We drove past the Lodge and Keep following several windy roads. These megalithic buildings were completed in 1886 to house the gatekeeper in the Lodge and trespassers in the Keep. Today Tuxedo Park is classified a village thus it maintains its own roads and police force. The gate is now home to the Tuxedo Park Police. Tuxedo Park is set between Cairn Mountain and Eagle Mountain. The land is heavily forested, rather hilly, and full of boulders. Nestled throughout are homes of every description and size. At one point we drove alongside Tuxedo Lake and could easily see beautiful houses dotting the hills and rocky outcroppings of the far shore. During a drive that weekend through the various roads meandering from and surrounding Lake Tuxedo I was primarily struck by the beauty of the rugged hills, the consistency of the forest all the way to the lake shore, and the frequent outcroppings of rock and boulder. Only after taking in the terrain did I notice that the roads simply follow the contours of the land and that the houses, regardless of their size, are placed within the landscape. Many older houses, and at least one notable new house, feature rustic stone walls and terraces on the lower levels binding them to the land as if they were simply the organized rearrangement of materials available at foot. We eventually turned past the Tuxedo Park Club and up a hill to park alongside the Cottswald Cottages.


We unloaded our car as William promptly made a warming fire in the living room. Once settled in the first order of business was to make a plate of cheese, crackers, and caramel puffs then open some wine.


Spending the weekend in a historic home certainly deserved a historic wine so we opened 1974 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco. This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from many different vineyards facing south, south-west, and south-east. The 1974 vintage resulted in a large yield with the wines initially highly regarded but then somewhat less so in retrospect. The Wassermans found several of the Produttori del Barbaresco crus to be drinking at or near prime in the mid to later 1980’s. Indeed the initial glass was marked by woodnotes and a thinness of flavor but the wine itself was in great shape. We set the bottle aside to revisit later in the evening. It eventually fleshed out to show a hint of ripeness and a pure bacon flavor. Even the next morning the remains of the uncorked bottle tasted exactly the same. I suspect this wine will continue to live for some time but now it is more a hint of its past.


We managed a quick tour of the house, stable, and grounds. Charles H. Coster was a senior partner at J.P. Morgan and Company who owned a large English manor house in a Middle Ages style designed by William A. Bates in 1894. He subsequently built the Cottswald Cottages and Stables in the late 1890s on a road where stables and carriage houses were built for the larger houses of Tuxedo Park. The property, since divided in two, consists of two cottages flanking the bottom of a T-shaped stable and carriage house. The three buildings consist of rough-hewn blue stone, sandstone casements, leaded windows, and slate roofs. The cottages were originally occupied by the servants and stable help. At some point prior to the 1970s the cottages were converted into private residences. While both of the cottages have been recently renovated the stable and carriage house remains in what looks like its original 19th century condition.


One enters the stable through a gateway in the front wall. Though the gate itself is removed the bolts are still evident. The drive itself consists of a yellow herringbone brickway that extends all the way into the back of the stable. The stable and carriage house is entered through a large sandstone archway flanked by large iron lanterns. The original sliding wood doors still exist inside the building but are resting on the ground off of their rollers. It looks like the carriages were stored in the front portion of the building with the horses stabled in the back.


The majority of the interior consists of rough stone walls but the middle section consists of old plaster and lathe rooms with a stairwell to the hay loft (and amazingly more rooms). The back stable section was enclosed by two massive sliding doors with the top glass section protected by stout horizontal metal bars. The back wall of the building is covered with white subway tiles whereas the rest of the walls are plaster and lathe. Back here the floor switches to simple brick flooring with ring-bolts set into the tile and X-shaped drains in the floor demarcating the original stalls. Throughout the building virtually every single pane of the leaded windows survives intact. In fact the only hints of the 20th century are the occasional runs of armored electrical cables.


With the Produttori del Barbaresco set aside I opened the Frank Cornelissen, Rosso del Contadino 9, Etna. A quick sniff of glass revealed we were in for a treat. Frank Cornilissen is a Belgian who makes wine on Mount Etna. He attempts to observe nature by avoiding all vineyard treatments be they chemical, organic, or biodynamic. He produces wine from some 8.5 hectares of vineyards which he harvested late in October to mid November. The Rosso del Contadino is a blend of local red and white grapes from various vineyards. The fruit is crushed by foot and machine, fermented in polycarbonate containers then aged in terracotta amphoras for roughly 10 months. It is bottled without any sulphur after the lees have been purposefully stirred up. This was a great wine with a confident, complex nose of red fruits, Christmas baking spices, and layers of other aromas. For some time the three of us sat there, noses buried in the glasses, trying to capture what we smelled. Eventually we moved on to pour glass after glass of the wine. In the mouth the delight continued with fresh, juicy, and sappy red fruit, persistent and engaging. The timing was impeccable, upon finishing the bottle it was time to dress for dinner.


We piled in to the car all dressed for dinner then drove down the hill to The Tuxedo Club. The Tuxedo Club opened May 30, 1886 some eight months after Pierre Lorillard IV and Bruce Price picked the location. The club buildings have existed in various forms since then. Today there are facilities for golf, swimming, boating, and racquet sports. The racquet facilities are unique specializing in Court Tennis, Rackets, Lawn Tennis, Paddle Tennis, and Squash. Covered in heavy fog the holiday lights and giant wreaths of the club leant a romantic air. We joined the group in the back room where they were already cocktailing. A quick drink and a few nibbles later the dinner bell was rung and we were seated in the dinning room. Holiday music from a piano greeted us as we promptly sat down.


The club hosts Formal Dinner Service on Friday and Saturday evenings. The dinner we attended was a fixed three course meal of Roulade of Dover Sole with Scallop Mousseline, Beef Wellington with Sweet Corn Puree, and a dessert of Port and Spice Poached Pear. Wine was not included so I took the opportunity to look through the wine list. The diverse wine list was spread over several pages and included such choices as 1998 Chateau Margaux, a 2008 Hecht & Bannier cuvee, and three vintages Vieux Donjon.


Tempted as I was by the Vieux Donjon I opted for the 2009 Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. The bottle was served at the proper temperature which helped show it off. The nose was scented with black and red berries. In the mouth it showed finely textured fruit with just the right amount of acidity. It was thoroughly enjoyable and felt like the perfect choice. I imagine it will benefit from one to two more years in the cellar.


After dinner we slowly drove home through the thickening fog and retired to the living room. The fire had died out but the house was cozy warm. We opted for one more glass of wine so I opened the 1988 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines, Sauternes. This wine is mostly Semillon with some Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle sourced from 30 year old vines. The fruit was fermented and aged for 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels. The nose and flavors were primarily of complex apple supported by acidity but the body itself was rich and weighty. It left the impression of mature flavors with a youthful delivery. I went to bed that night happy to have spent so much time with William and relaxed by the intimate nature of Tuxedo Park. Visiting Manhattan followed by Tuxedo Park was a memorable experience I shall never forget.


The Empson Barolo, Brunello, and Barbaresco Offerings at MacArthur Beverages

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

For the first time ever I went to MacArthur Beverages and left without purchasing a single bottle of wine. I did not mind as I went there for the 2012 Empson USA Barolo, Brunello, and Barbaresco spring offering. There were over one dozen wines opened for tasting with the bottles spread across two tables. As these wines are not yet available in the States this was a great opportunity to taste a variety of Barolo from the highly acclaimed 2008 vintage. Across the board all of these wines will be long-lived and except for tasting them for the purpose of deciding what to buy, the best should not be tasted again for close on to a decade. My favorite wines had good, deep fruit, and enough acidity to balance the tannins while providing an interesting aftertaste whose flavors captivated me more than the substantial tannins that dried out my mouth.

My favorite wines, in alphabetical order:

  • 2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Pernanno, Barolo
  • 2008 Ca’Rome’, Rapet, Barolo
  • 2008 Ca’Rome’, Vigna Ceretta, Barolo
  • 2007 Conti Costanti, Brunello di Montalcino
  • 2008 Conterno Fantino, Vigna del Gris, Barolo
  • 2008 Conterno Fantino, Mosconi, Barolo

The following were very good as well, with very strong potential, but were quite tight, possibly requiring even greater age:

  • 2008 Ca’Rome’, Maria di Brun, Barbaresco
  • 2008 Conterno Fantino, Sori Ginestra, Barolo

Table 1

I started off at the table which initially had the least number of people standing around. Armed with a proper glass and my little plastic cup doubling as a spittoon, I carved out a tasting space on top of and in between two rows of Australian wines. This table was sampling nine different Barolos from the 2008 vintage. My favorites were the 2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Pernanno, the 2008 Conterno Fantino, Vigna del Gris, and the 2008 Conterno Fantino, Mosconi. I would follow these three with the 2008 Conterno Fantino, Sori Ginestra.

2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Barolo DOCG – $51
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from 4.9 acre vineyard in Castiglione Falletto where the vines are 30 years old on clayey soils. It is aged for 24+ months in French barriques. There was a light nose of delicate red and blue fruit. In the mouth the flavors were of harder red fruit, a darker finish, and fine-grained tannins.

2008 Marcarini, La Serra, Barolo DOCG – $52
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from a single vineyard. It is aged for two years in Slavonian oak. There was a light nose of redder fruit mixed with herbs. In the mouth the up-front red fruit was tight but still retained a bit of ripeness. There were fewer noticeable tannins than the Bongiovanni.

2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Pernanno, Barolo DOCG – $63
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from a plot within the 4.9 vineyard in Castiglione Falletto. The grapes are left on the vines for several days after the regular Barolo is harvest. It is aged in a mixture of new and used French barriques. The nose was a touch more aromatic with darker aromas of cherry and blue fruit. In the mouth flavors started with ripe fruit which dried out as the flavors became expansive with a good finish and aftertaste which left pervasive dark red notes. Very good.

2008 Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Terlo, Barolo DOCG – $58
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from vineyards at 984 feet with vine up to 50 years of age. It is aged for 30 months in French oak barriques and Slavonian oak barrels. There was a tight nose of red framed aromas. In the mouth the brighter red fruit showed barrel notes with very fine-grained citric tannins. This gave up the least.

2008 Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Nei Cannubi, Barolo DOCG – $75
This is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from plots planted in 1945, 1962, and 1991 at 722 feet. It is aged for 18-20 months in French barriques and 10-12 months in Allier oak barrels. The nose was higher-toned with delicate red fruit and herbs. In the mouth the controlled, ripe fruit dropped off in the finish as very fine, drying tannins came out.

2008 Marcarini, Brunate, Barolo DOCG – $54
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from a single vineyard. It is aged for two years in Slavonian oak. The nose revealed subtle ripe red fruit then a little dark aroma. In the mouth the fruit mixed with light red acidity, herbs, a dry floral note, and a nice wood toned aspect. There were tight, fine, drying tannins.

2008 Conterno Fantino, Vigna del Gris, Barolo DOCG – $73
This is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from the cru Ginestra at 984 feet. It was aged for 24 months in French oak. This sported a lovely finely textured, floral nose. In the mouth the beautiful red fruit mixed with floral flavors in an elegant manner. There were dried herbs and a drying finish with good acidity. Very good.

2008 Conterno Fantino, Mosconi, Barolo DOCG – $78
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced a vineyard at 1312 feet. Some vines date back to 1950 with others replanted in 1999-2000. The nose with riper with a blue notes. The fuller mouth revealed a dry wood note with almost a sweet spice in the finish. This was very pleasing from the start and finished with sweeter tannins. Very good as well.

2008 Conterno Fantino, Sori Ginestra, Barolo DOCG – $83
This is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from the cru Ginestra at 984 feet. It was aged for 24 months in French oak. There was a floral and licorice nose leaning towards black fruit. The mouth followed the nose but surprised with an assertive finish which was compact and tense. The flavors departed with ultra fine drying tannins. A rather interesting wine that will take longer to develop than the Vigna del Gris and Mosconi.

Table 2

Located in the back-left corner Gary Diamond from Empson USA was poured seven wines from Tuscany and Piedmont. I particularly liked the 2007 Conti Costanti, Brunello di Montalcino, the 2008 Ca’Rome, Rapet, Barolo, and the 2008 Ca’Rome’, Vigna Ceretta. I would follow-up these three with the 2008 Ca’Rome’, Maria di Brun, Barbaresco.

2007 Conti Costanti, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – $61
This wine is 100% Sangiovese aged for 18 months in Slavonian oak barrels and 18 months in French tonneaux. This was a good start with a light, delicately fruity nose with some red-blue gritty aromas. In the mouth the flavors were tight yet had a creamy feel with flavors of red fruit, herbs, salivating acidity, and low-lying fine tannins. The flavors were darker in the aftertaste. Very good.

2007 Eredi Fuligni, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – $67
This wine is 100% Sangiovese aged for more than 36 months in Slavonian oak barrels and French tonneaux. The nose was tight. In the mouth the structured black fruit showed some ripeness, an interesting array of flavors, with a shorter aftertaste of ripe black fruit.

2009 Ca’Rome’, Sori Rio Sordo, Barbaresco DOCG – $67
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo Michet planted in 1969. It was aged for 12 months in oak barrels with a small portion in barrique. There was a nice nose of black fruit. In the mouth the flavors were tight with black fruit, a structured aspect, and very fine drying tannins. Good potential but this bottle was closed.

2008 Ca’Rome’, Maria di Brun, Barbaresco DOCG – $74
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo Michet from late-ripening vines made only in the best years. It was aged for 24 months in Slavonian barrels with a small portion in barrique. The light nose revealed herbed red fruit. In the mouth there was ripe red acidity, structure, good weight, and slightly chewy flavors. There were fine+ drying tannins. Good in the mouth.

2008 Ca’Rome, Rapet, Barolo DOCG – $69
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from cru Serralunga which was planted in 1972. It was age for 24 months in 25 hl Slavonian oak with a small portion in barrique. The nose was of dark red and blue fruits. The flavors started with a saline touch, a nice density, well-balanced, and a dark aftertaste. Very good.

2008 Ca’Rome’, Vigna Ceretta, Barolo DOCG – $70
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo Michet and Lampia sourced from a single vineyard which was planted in 1961. It was age for 24 months in 25 hl Slavonian oak with a small portion in barrique. There was a familiar style to the previous wine but the flavors were stepped up with an incense note, dark red fruit, and good mouthfeel. There was a hint of ink and a notch more tannins than the Rapet.

2008 Orma, Bolgheri Rosso – $58
This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20$ Cabernet Franc aged for 14 months in French barriques. Obviously different with more roast on the nose. The riper and richer flavors were more assertive with a chunky, dark earth component. The drying tannins made way to an aftertaste with a wood note.

Tasting Notes from the 1999 Dinner


Here are my tasting notes from our 1999 dinner.  I was running around a bit so my notes are a bit casual.  However, Lou will eventually be posting his notes.  He was able to taste the Trimbach and Meulenhof on the second night.

The Whites

1999 Jean Noel Gagnard , Clos de la Maltroye 1er Cru, Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy
This wine had a light nose of yeast, toasted, and reduction.  It was rounder in the mouth, a bit coarse with tannins and some heat.  There was apple-like acidity and some lavender/perfume with air.  This was drinkable but not in the best shape.  Good thing it was a bin-end.  * Now.

1999 Trimbach, Gewurztraminer, Cuvee des Seigneurs Ribeaupierre, Alsace
This showed a light-medium color of straw with touches of gold.  A light to medium nose of tropical fruit.  In the mouth there were steely flavors of mango in this medium bodied wine.  The flavors leaned towards floral highlights.  It was a little flabby towards the finish.  ** Now.

The Reds

1999 Torbreck, The Steading, Barossa (Group 1st, My 1st)
The nose revealed waves of rich fruit and spices galore.  The rich fruit continued into the mouth with a youthful core of black fruits and lovely spices in the aftertaste.  A very well made wine with good complexity.  **** Now-2017.

1999 R.H. Phillips, EXP Viaje, Syrah (Group 2nd)
This had the sweetest nose of the reds.  It came across as a rather young wine with ample red fruit, pepper, and spices in the finish.  There were darker fruit flavors in the aftertaste.  On the second night it was just a softer version as there were gobs of fruit and spice and a dark fruit aftertaste.  ***(*) Now-2019.

1999 Bruno Clair, Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques, 1er Cru (Group 3rd, My 3rd)
This showed softer, more fruit driven flavors.  It had a strong, pure Pinot Noir like profile.  It was a very enjoyable and easy wine to drink.  It is still young and only just starting to show hints of complexity.  My only complaint is that the flavors thinned out a bit in the finish.  **(*) 2015-2022.

1999 Fattoria de Felsina Berardanga, Rancia, Chianti Classico (Group 4th, My 2nd)
This sported a light, lithe nose of blackcurrant.  There were fine tannins that coated the mouth.  Good aftertaste, good wine.  On the second night it had a light, scented nose followed by calm, complex flavors in the mouth.  It was still going strong.  **** Now-2017.

1999 Chateau Musar, Bekaa Valley (Group tied 5th)
A little bit of nail polish on the night.  Then sweet, round fruit in the mouth, lean finish and flavors turning towards bright blue fruit.  A seriously underperforming bottle and nothing like the one I had last year. * Now.

1999 Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes, Saint-Joseph (Group tied 5th, My 4th)
This had flavors of red fruit with an underlying layer of supportive dark fruit.  It turned towards red fruit in the finish, somewhat tart, but with a nice woodsy character.  ** Now-2015.

1999 Hardys, Shiraz, Eileen Hardy, South Australia (Group 7th)
This had one of the darkest core of color.  It strutted New World Syrah aromas with Eucalyptus notes that reminded me if Jim Barry’s Cover Drive.  The flavors followed the nose.  The long aftertaste persisted with red fruits and herbs.  On the second night it continued to sport Eucalyptus that was very fresh and pure.  ** Now-2017.

1999 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia, Barbaresco (Group 8th)
Very old-looking with a lot of bricking and some garnet.  This had a restrained nose, volatile acidity, and just hints of complex, light fruit.  But in the mouth the fruit was also very learn and overwhelmed by a heavy amount of harsh tannins and coarse aftertaste.  On the second night it still had a wooded nose, lean fruit, and overwhelming tannins. * Now.

1999 E. Pira and Figli, Via Nuova, Barolo (Group 9th)
A light color in the glass.  There was a lifted nose of cedar.  In the mouth there were woodsy flavors of roses, light+ acidity, and coarse but ripe tannins that coated the lips.  It came across as totally shut down.  On the second night it showed more scented roses on the nose.  In the mouth the fruit was gritty and red, with dark red fruit in the aftertaste.  More lip coating tannins. *(**) 2017-2022.

1999 Font de Michelle, Cuvee Etienne Gonnet,Chateauneuf du Pape (Corked)
This wine was corked.  Not Rated.


1999 Meulenhof, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Auslese, Mosel
I was running around at this point so I did not take a note.  But I remember a lovely golden color, good lush flavors there were perfectly supported by the acidity.  There is plenty of life left but so easy to drink.  A bargain at $25 per 500 mL.  *** Now-2022.

Extra Wines

1999 Domaine Les Paillieres, Gigondas
In the glass there is a medium ruby/garnet core.  This wine is still young, shows good dark fruit, minerals, and some inky/glycerine qualities.  The flavors turn towards pepper in the finish followed by good, coarse tannins that coat the mouth.  A very drinkable wine.  *** Now-2015.

1999 Gourt du Mautens, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Rasteau
A very youthful wine with grippy, gritty fruit flavors.  A little bit of freshness, nice mouthfeel, and plenty of fine tannins from wood.  Even less advanced than the Paillieres.  I preferred the Paillieres.  **(*) 2015-2019.

1999 Domaine du Caillou, Chateauneuf du Pape
A lighter, more acidic style of Chateauneuf.  There were medium round blue fruit flavors.  ** Now.

1999 Domaine de la Pinede, Chateauneuf du Pape (Corked)
This wine was corked.  Not Rated.

A 1999 Tasting and Dinner

On Saturday a small group crammed in to our small dinning room for a 1999 themed evening. All of the wines were of the 1999 vintage and all of the dishes were inspired by Gourmet and Bon Appetit recipes from 1999. It was an eclectic group in terms of wine experience.  Many of the bottles still contain leftover wine.  I will retaste the wines tonight then post my notes tomorrow.

White Wines
1999 Jean Noel Gagnard , Clos de la Maltroye 1er Cru, Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy
1999 Trimbach, Gewurztraminer, Cuvee des Seigneurs Ribeaupierre, Alsace

The ten red wines were double-decanted two hours ahead of time then brown bagged.  I have listed the red wines in order of group preference.  The Torbreck is a lovely wine and appeared to be universally liked.  The R.H. Phillips demonstrated its new world style and remains youthful.  The Bruno Clair was easy to drink and is just starting to gain complexity.  The Felsina is a really good wine and is consistently pleasing across vintages.  I personally thought the Musar was underperforming and has issues.  The Tardieu-Laurent pleased with its modern style charms.  The Hardy’s had an Aussie eucalyptus quality to it.  I thought the Paitin was coarse and showing some VA.  the Pira and Figli is quite young and shutdown but will be lovely in the future.

Red Wines
1999 Torbreck, The Steading, Barossa
1999 R.H. Phillips, EXP Viaje, Syrah
1999 Bruno Clair, Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques, 1er Cru
1999 Fattoria de Felsina Berardanga, Rancia, Chianti Classico
1999 Chateau Musar, Bekka Valley
1999 Tardieu-Laurent, Vieilles Vignes, Saint-Joseph
1999 Hardys, Shiraz, Eileen Hardy, South Australia
1999 Paitin di Pasquero-Elia, Barbaresco
1999 E. Pira and Figli, Via Nuova, Barolo
1999 Font de Michelle, Cuvee Etienne Gonnet,Chateauneuf du Pape (Corked)

Sweet Wine
1999 Meulenhof, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Auslese, Mosel

Bonus Wines
1999 Domaine Les Paillieres, Gigondas
1999 Gourt du Mautens, Cotes du Rhone Villages, Rasteau
1999 Domaine du Caillou, Chateauneuf du Pape
1999 Domaine de la Pinede, Chateauneuf du Pape (Corked)