Dinner with C & C, and H &T last Friday. I hit the supermarket 55 minutes before everyone arrives and put the menu together. Pork chops marinated in rosemary, olive oil and garlic, seared spinach, and grilled shitakes. I prepare a nice dressing for a mâche salad as well, but forget about it when I serve the meal – typical for me – I find the greens and dressing in the fridge after everyone’s left and I’m cleaning the kitchen. D’oh! C & C bring over some lettuce wraps with avocado and seaweed, which go amazingly well with rosé Champagne. We finish off with a selection of cheese that T has brought over – he is known locally the Cheeseman. As in, “The Cheeseman Cometh.” And boy did he ever. A whole bunch of fine cheeses, all from the Truffle in Denver.
The next morning is difficult, to say the least.
Nv Jean Lallement, Champagne Brut Rosé
Deep red-garnet color. Nice strawberry and cherry nose. Good-looking mousse, with subtle bready aromas and flavors. Surprisingly robust on the palate, the Pinot Noir essence really comes through – I would pair this with whole roasted bass anyday. The finish is long, dry and very cherry. I find the bubbles a touch heavy on the tongue – minor detail, though. (3.0+)
2006 Maculan Vespaiolo, Veneto.
I’ve sung the praises of this wine numerous times in this blog; I won’t bore you with any more. (3.0+) Plus, I have a terrrrrible singing voice.
1997 Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo
Brilliant ruby color. Lovely violets and black cherry on the nose, with a touch of anise & earth. On the palate, this shows the weakness of the 1997 vintage – very hot, with excellent fruit development, but lacks the backbone and structure I expect from Mascarello, who makes on of the most traditional Barolo. The wine is delicious, with loads of dark fruits, mineral, roses and violets, with a soft mouthfeel and finish – not lots of tannins on this wine – though the acids are present and very much help keep the wine in balance. Drink now-2010. (3.5+nb)
1990 Elio Altare, Barolo “Arborina”
The 1990 Altare Arborina Barolo (don’t confuse this with his “Arborina Langhe” bottling, also 100% Nebbiolo) is an amazing wine. The nose shows brilliant fresh and dried black cherry, sweet rose petals, tar, mushrooms and licorice. The palate is similarly styled, with layers of flavor revealing themselves as the wine opens. The tannins on the finish are perfectly integrated, ripe and long – the finish goes on for about 25 seconds. Though it is a balanced, medium-bodied wine, it has considerable power and presence. Classic. This is my last bottle of this wine, and this makes me sad. (4.5nb)
1988 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva, “Santo Stefano di Nieve,” from magnum
The nose explodes – emphatically not what I was expecting – with black cherry of liqueur-like intensity, and violets, truffle, cacao, dried flower petals, black tea and a hint of game. The color is typically light ruby Barolo, not at all what I’d expect given the nose. On the palate, this is one of the finest aged wines I’ve ever tasted – it reveals an interlocking structure of fruit, acid and tannins that is impossible to describe. The tannins are completely integrated into the wine, the finish incredibly long, and the elegance and balance of this wine bring to mind great music – I can’t compare this to other wines. A wine like this makes, to me, one of the most profoundly moving cases for traditionally made wines – is speaks of a culture, place and time in specific and compelling arguments. Again, my last bottle, and I was desperately trying to fix the flavors, aromas and emotions of this bottle in my mind before it disappears. (5.0nb)
1997 Aldo Conterno, Riserva Barolo “Granbussia”
Just like the 1997 Mascarello, this wine shows loads of delicious fruit, but without the clearly defined structure that I expect from the best Barolo. This shows a bit more red fruits than the Mascarello and is bigger-bodied in the mouth, but again, lacks the sculptural quality of Barolo in the best vintages. Good primary fruit, with spice and earth on the palate. This drinks really well now, but I have my doubts that it will last like other Conterno Riservas. This is a big and mouthfilling wine, but lacks something ineffable. (3.5+nb)
nv Jacopo Poli, “Prugna” Brandy
Jacopo gave me a bottle of this at my last visit as I was leaving – something new he’s developing, for “the American market, a bit sweeter than the usual Grappas.” I adore his “usual Grappas,” so I’m immediately worried. As bringing an opened bottle back to the US is well-nigh impossible, we order this to try at a local watering hole in Bassano del Grappa, thinking that if its too sticky-sweet and we don’t like it, we’ll finish it off or give it away before heading back to the states 10 days hence. One sniff and we know that no-one will be leaving this bottle in Italy – it is a prune plum brandy, with a hint of almond extract – one of the most magical and delicious after-dinner drinks I’ve ever tasted. There’s the underlying essence of the plums, coming though as a fried fruit, raisiny caramel essence – just like the best Congnac or Armagnac. Dancing over this is the scent and flavor of fresh and roasted almonds – kind of like marzipan essence on steroids, but without the cloying stickiness (I find this aspect of marzipan an immediate turn-off). Amazing stuff. Apparently he’s having a bear of a time getting this into the US as the BATF wants to know everything about the almond extract – hopefully this will make it in soon, or I may have to bring a bottle of this back after every visit to Italy. (4.5-nb)