The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Making Merry as the Clients Do

Posted on | November 18, 2010 | Written by Josh Rubenstein | No Comments

I’ve returned to New York from Hong Kong for a few months and was fortunate to take part in a team wine exploration dinner on Monday night, the purpose of which was to see an IWM event in same way that our clients do when they attend an evening in our Studio del Gusto or Vintage Room.

I found it a perfect way to get reacquainted with the team in NY, our Chef Kevin “Macho” Sippel, and some old friends named Giacosa, Gaja and Fiorano. Kevin made his presence felt with an antipasto selection of meats from our Salumeria and assorted Crudo, followed by two rounds of hand-made pastas.  I quickly realized that the next few months will come with a few added pounds. I should probably schedule a series of strenuous hikes now for my return to Hong Kong.

The wines started off with a duo of Gravner Anfora wines, the 2003 Ribolla and 2003 Breg, a blend of Ribolla, Pinot Grigio and Riesling Italico, which I haven’t tasted in years. In Hong Kong, we feature Gravner’s Ribolla at Chinese dinners often because of the wine’s incredible ability to evolve in the glass and adapt to nearly any food. To enjoy these wines again with true Italian cuisine reminded me of the way that I’d first learned to appreciate them.

We moved into a selection of reds starting with Valdicava’s new 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “Madonna del Piano” and Mastroberardino’s 2005 Taurasi Radici. Both of these wines were a pleasant shock to my system as I’ve been enjoying traditionally styled wines of Piemonte almost exclusively of late.  When it comes to the modern style of Brunello, I believe Valdicava is as good as it gets, particularly for how well these wines age. A 1997 Madonna we opened in HK was an absolute showstopper, and this 2004 is clearly headed for similar greatness. The 2005 Radici was the first Taurasi I’ve had in over a year. It took only a whiff to bring a smile to my face as I remembered the brief love affair I’d enjoyed with the 2003 Radici years ago.

Next, we moved into a powerhouse Piemonte lineup starting with Gaja’s 2005 Costa Russi, the more approachable of Angelo’s cru Barbarescos; it was shown straight from bottle and also after hours of decanting side by side. Our group was split over which was more enjoyable; however everyone agreed that the Costa Russi was beautiful in one form or another. Having recently tasted a series of older Gaja wines, I am very confident that these 2005’s will be something truly special for anyone with the will power, or off-site cellar, to hold them for 15 years.

Our move to traditionally-styled Barolos featured Bruno Giacosa’s 2004 Croera di La Morra, a wine I’d not tasted in two years, and a 2005 Bartolo Mascarello that was new to me. The Giacosa is really coming along very nicely; it’ll be interesting to see how a La Morra Barolo from Giacosa will show in ten years and how it will contrast wines like Rocchefalletto Riserva, which is much bigger. The ’04 promises to be one of La Morra’s premier cellar-worthy Barolos, and the Mascarello was a bit of a surprise because of its approachability at such a young age. Further, the nose reminded me so much of another wine I’d had last month, the 1967 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo.

Before moving on to the Fioranos, we put Dal Forno’s 2003 Valpolicella and Quintarelli’s 2000 Amarone side by side. Placing masters of contrasting styles next to each other can sometimes seem like a Presidential debate, with voters feeling a need to choose one party or the other. In what should be a model for decision-making, we found a myriad of positives in each. Why should one be forced to choose Dal Forno or Quintarelli when both are so phenomenal?

Finally, we came to the Fioranos, and in a way that put us even more in touch with the individual nuances of these wines. We tried two 1994 Fiorano Biancos, but from different casks (Botti), #44 and #26. The #44 stands out even among other Fiorano wines in that it has a relatively sweet nose, reminiscent of a Friulano Ramandolo, while showing a more “typical” Fiorano taste and oxidation.  I have to note how well these wines showed given that they had just followed Dal Forno and Quintarelli powerhouses. These whites had no problem showing their intricacies at the end of the night. While these wines are surely not for everyone, they are for anyone with an inquisitive approach and an appreciation for wines that have a story to tell.

What a night! Would you believe it all happened in about two hours? Rest assured I was the happiest passenger on NJ Transit that night. I doubted anyone on my train had had an experience like mine. Then again, I’m back in NY so anything is possible. It’s good to be home.

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