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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Il Pareto Offline...

Thousands of thanks to Leo Frokic and his well connected wife for financing a wonderful evening of debauchery in the cozy midtown establishment, Luna Piena. Congrats to Guy Des Rosiers on his Italian ringer of the night, Lamborghini's Umbrian blend of 50 Merlot/50 Sangiovese, which was an outstanding foil to the Il Pareto vertical!

Last night was an exception to the rule as I shirked my normally studious, wine-geek detail of taking meticulous notes, spitting and being as comprehensively dorky as was just too fun to not go w/ the flow. So I'll simply put together a Hedonist Gazette format synopsis of the wines using my general recollection. First off, this event was inspired by a bottle of Tenuta di Nozzole's 1999 Il Pareto that I received as a Christmas gift this past year:

Secondly- quick background on the property. A Chianti Classico region based producer, their Il Pareto vineyard was planted exclusively to Cabernet Sauvignon in 1981. The vintages that put this estate's Super Tuscan cab on the map were the '88 and '90. The vineyard is roughly 10 acres, planted amidst a pine forest at roughly 900 feet of altitude on galestro rock soils. Hopefully my research on the property will compensate for my lack of substantive tasting notes!

We began w/ the 1990, which unfortunately was corked. The mustiness smothered whatever aromatics the wine had, although the palate still hinted at rich black fruits that struggled to overcome the TCA. After we moved onto the 1995, the wines exponentially improved. The aromatics were remarkably Chateauneuf-like initially, w/ garrigue, earth and exotic spice. Excellent palate presence of red currant, blackberry, rustic tannin and a high altitude acidity that carried the flavors along. The 1996 was more explosive and more polished. Drinking extremely well, the nose was loaded w/ new leather, game, graphite and epitomized a hypothetical blend of Cote Rotie and Bordeaux. Creamy in the palate, w/ roasted coffee, black currant, melted licorice and no rough edges whatsoever. The tannins melted more effortlessly than the more rustic '95 and this certainly got the table up and out of their seats. The 2001 shows the most promise in my opinion. Explosive grilled herb, dark fruit and sweet toast laden nose followed through to a jammy, fat and sweet tannin filled palate that has all the hallmarks of an outstanding ager. I personally enjoyed drinking it as is, but those that enjoy some more maturity shall hold off on imbibing for another 2-3 years. The 2003 showed the lowest acidity of the group, more primal cabernet characteristics that are more evolved than the 2001 one and will probably offer the best drinking in it's youth.

Guy's ringer (an Italian blend that was fashioned in the 21st century) had lovely aromatics of cherry pie filling, blackberry and anise. Finely grained tannins, rich plumb and sweet spice lingered nicely on the palate. I mistook it for a Nero d'Avola from Sicily. If this example is typical of Umbrian sangiovese, I'd classify it is much less acidic and more forward w/ fruit...leaning towards sweeter spice instead of rustic spice. Great selection Guy- the whole table enjoyed it.

The consensus WOTN for drinking now had to be the '96, while I believe the '01 will ultimately be a better wine. My fiance had a soft spot for the '95, and knowing her palate's craving for the southern rhone- it makes total sense. While these wines all exhibited distinctive aromatic profiles, the telltale altitude Cabernet acidity, midpalate tannin structure and finishes all had similar hallmarks of the vineyard.

Wonderful learning experience as well as a hedonistic evening. Leo will certainly get his ass kicked in the future for paying...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Eating my words has never been so much fun....

Pavillon Rouge '03, the second wine of Chateau Margaux, I've had on numerous occasions and never once did it disappoint. Post a 6 hour decant-a-thon, the nose snuck in w/ sensual, soft & alluring Margaux aromatics of fresh flowers enveloped in sweet cherry cordial juice, sweet tobacco & toasty vanilla bean. Palate characterised by seamless integration of acidity, ripe tannin and a lovely, caressing body that coats the palate in pillow-like fashion. The beauty of severe selection in sun-drenched vintages is evident, and will probably survive another 2 decades. 92-93 points. Carruades is still my favorite bench warmer of the vintage.

The Alban Grenache 2001 made me eat yet another humble pie. The days of "I'll never get a cell phone," "corporate jobs are for sell-outs," "only suckers get married" and of course...high alcohol wines can't be balanced, nuanced or versatile w/ food- yikes. Not only did I scarf down that humble pie, but I washed it down w/a 16% alcohol beauty.

Tribeca Grill's wine list has an inordinate volume of southern Rhone, and Rhone-ranger alternatives for very reasonable prices. The deal of the century was John Alban's Edna Valley rendition for a 50 dollar price tag (already pushing 130 plus on wine-searcher), so I couldn't resist. It had been forever, and a tad of a palate revolution, since I'd tried one of John's big boy rhone-a-likes- so it was time to see if the shoe fit my new 'alcohol naive feet.'

Probably one of the darkest (irrespective of the lighting) red wines I'd seen since the likes of Mollydooker's line-up. Black as the sky on a moonless night, w/ no traces of the feared diesel fuel on the nasal approach. Plenty of baked herbs, pork fat, plum pudding and new leather grew stronger and stronger as the young pup sat in the glass. The body was uncompromisingly plush, effortless doses of strawberry preserve, game, wild berry and touches of black pepper glid through the mid-palate to a beautifully balanced crescendo. No heat, and a surprisingly beautifully focused Grenache that was all class all the way. This wine lived up to the hype, and boy did it mesh w/ the duck appetizer (w/ dried currant) and lavender crusted lamb chops! Heaven forbid it's culinary versatility at such an astronomical level of booze...granted I was tipsy at the end of the bottle, but those are the enjoyable spoils from wine aren't they?

Dare I slap on a 94 point score, oh yes, I dare!

Alright alright, I'll quit obsessing over the (mostly incorrect) quantitative alcohol content on the label and just dive right into the juice. We can all swallow our pride as long as it allows enjoyment to walk through the door, right?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Apparently the walls have ears...

A month or so ago I mentioned in passing on the Mark Squires message boards that I had a couple unfortunate experiences w/ corky, off-bottles of Achaval Ferrer Malbec. Low and behold, a few days after my post, I was sent a private message from Santiago Achaval himself, expressing his apologies and insisting that he send me replacement bottles.
2 bottles of 2004 Quimera arrived in the mail this week, w/ an '05 Altamira on it's way once it is bottled (the corked experience I had was w/ the '03 vintage Altamira, a single vineyard that is no longer in stock at the winery so he promised to pass along the '05 once it's bottled). From Mendoza, Argentina, to a Brooklyn storage facility in New York, the wine arrived w/o hesitation, reminder or a hassle for postage. Santiago never asked for proof nor did he ever question my sincerity. I only hope he takes me up on my offer to buy him a drink when he returns to New York, the absolute least I can do.

Santiago's modesty is expressed in his non-interference approach to winemaking, and the pure, racy depth of his high altitude Malbec tells the truth of his philosophy. Much like Bruno Borie of Ducru Beaucaillou, Santiago's dedication and passion extend far beyond the sale of their product.

There are no guarantees in wine, which remain a part of its 'human' beauty. It seems, at least in this case, the human element is not what is wrong about is what's right about it.
This, my friends, is customer service.