Sipping, sighing and falling in love with a ruby-lipped beauty.
Thursday, January 11, 2001
Seated across from me and a sea of Piedmontese wines, Marchesi di Barolo''s Paolo Abbona leaned over and said, "The year 1970 wasn''t exceptional for Barolo." How could Barolo''s "Wines Proprietor" say something like that? How could a wine so positively breathtaking, so enchanting, so mysterious, so full of personality at 30 years old (this, in a wine''s life, is really, really old) come from anything but an exceptional year?
This Marchesi di Barolo Riserva 1970--still a brilliant ruby--had bottle stink at first (naturally, after being cooped up so long). But it soon started to show Bordeaux-like tobacco and earth characters. After a few more twirls, pepper, black truffle shavings, orange zest and licorice came out.
A few minutes later, I thought I had my nose in a sexy, spicy Bonnes-Mares from Burgundy. All this nuance is delivered in a medium-bodied, beautifully balanced package for a reasonable price ($120 retail, about the same as a California cult cabernet).
Was I dreaming?
Recalling that luncheon at Manhattan''s Four Seasons late last year, I can''t help but wonder if the combination of exquisite food, service and ambiance turned my lenses rosy. Sometimes it is so hard to separate out one element of a pleasurable experience. But in this case, I know it was the wine.
I work in the wine biz. I don''t have the kind of disposable income that allows me to pull bottles like this out of my cellar or even to order them in a restaurant. So when I come across gems like this, I can''t get them out of my mind.
Such a beautiful, exquisite, well-aged wine that is so truly reflective of its origin and is a relative bargain inspires in me a selfish desire to snap up any remaining inventory. But then what fun would that be for you?
I take great pleasure in wine. Wine tastes better when shared with others (usually, depending on the company), so I simply cannot go boarding--I mean, hoarding.
If your favorite wine merchants don''t have this Marchesi di Barolo Riserva 1970 available, they may be able to track it down from Palm Bay Imports (www.palmbayimports.com) or the distributor, Young''s Market Company.
Joullian''s Winter Wine Series
Renowned wine maker Ridge Watson will host a three-part wine series at Joullian''s Village Tasting Room in Carmel Valley to welcome the new millennium. The first, on Friday, Jan. 19, concerns "Wine Basics: Component Tasting and Sensory Evaluation 101."
On Friday, Feb. 9, one can enjoy "Retrospective Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting" (10 Vintages).
And finally, on Friday, March 16, set your lips for a "Retrospective Estate Zinfandel and Monterey Chardonnay Tasting" (five vintages each).
The tab is $25 per reservation or $65 for all three classes. To reserve a spot or for more info, call 659-8100 or toll free 877/659-2800.
Glen Ellen Chardonnay Reserve California 1998
Medium in body. Buttery and rich with apples and cream. Silky texture. Balanced with underlying acidic prickle. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality in this bottle, especially given the mass-market reputation of the label. ($8)
Paraiso Springs Riesling Central Coast California 1999
I love Riesling because it is so refreshing, lively, exotic and pure. I also like it because it is the wine world''s underdog varietal and that means it is priced way below its true value. Did you know that German Riesling once garnered higher prices than first-growth Bordeaux? This version, made mostly with local fruit, has floral, hay and musky aromas, a soft, juicy, pineapple center, and an unctuous texture. Try it with sashimi or a fruit tart. ($12)
Ramos Pinto Ruby Porto
Looking for something to sip by a roaring fire? Try this port in any storm. It has a ripe, sexy nose of sandalwood, mocha, nutmeg and cinnamon with dark berry fruits, some black pepper spice, and a long, roasted coffee bean finish. Soft, luscious texture. This is a sweet, fortified wine (about 18 percent alcohol as compared to 12 or 14 percent of the average dry wine plus the sugar). Trust me, you do not want a port hangover, so take little sips. ($24)