No Monfortino,no interest,eh?
So, Friday night I found myself in a lovely Italian restaurant,Cinghiale,in Baltimore’s inner harbor district with Tom M…..and there was Henry K sitting at the bar with a cryptic smile, waiting with anticipation for the fun to begin. All wines were in place, Kevin S arrived with a bag of wine and we sat down to another evening with 3 Knights, Kevin and a bevy of fine Barolo bottles.
We began with the 75 Ruinart with a soft shell crab dish. Small finely packed bubbles with good mousse and an attractive honeyed complexion that served the crab well…….but we were more than ready to see what these Baroli had to offer. Slow Oed since late morning by Tom, they were well prepared and ready to go. The 1st flight offered surprise, satisfaction, and disappointment.
The 74 Valentino was pure pleasure, exceedingly fresh,spicy.redolent of tar and violets with good underpinning that would carry it through the night as long as we would have liked,but it didn’t last that long.Plenty of nuance and fruit,it was a delight to drink.It was an exciting companion to the
71 Gattinara Travaglini, which really suited,with its ample sweetness, a truffled risotto that must have had at least a ¼ lb. of butter in each serving.It wasn’t an arrogant Nebbiolo,it didn’t claim to possess more than it did,it was just a lovely, at peak expression of its character from a superb vintage that was appreciated by all. The 1st disappointment of the evening was revealed in the
71 Bartolo Mascarello in that it was corked.’Nuff said. Next we went on to another group of the
71 Giacosa Arione which was horribly corked.A dagger in my heart, but also present was the
71 Massolino Rionda which was shot,DOA,………another knife wound,but a real gem was to be enjoyed and surprise us, the
71 G Conterno “normale,” which,if inserted in a lineup with the 71 Monfortino,would fool many an experienced palate. Full on blood and iron,with the requisite Conterno leatherosity and attractive tannins,but with an evolved sweetness……it continued to improve in the glass and I held on to it got most of the night. Exceptional “normale” from Conterno drinking at peak.Having had a few hiccups, Tom pulled a couple of 88s out of his bag of tricks as backup,and the 1st was, for us all I believe, to be the WOTN,the
88 Bartolo Mascarello,because it was singing like a Coloratura…… high toned, on pitch, with complexities in its high and low register…….. a beautiful Bartolo.Tar,licorice with cinnamon spice throughout, it was simply ,as Kevin would say with a satisfied smile, a compelling Barolo,worthy of being mistaken for a GC Burgundy. Drinking old Bartolo is a high wire act, always walking the razor’s edge, but this 88 had Everything you would want from this most iconic and singular wine.
Another 88 from Tom’s backup, was the
88 Gaja Costa Russi,which for me, was just too woody.It leveled off a bit a bit during the evening, just not my cup of Barolo……..though it was a big hit with our chef and another restaurant companion who sidled over when he saw what was on the table.
All said,another great gathering of a few members of the Knights,great wines,a few disappointements,but as always,wonderfull simpatico and camaraderie that continues to add to our enjoyment and some superb Baroli that carried us on to the next night.
I believe our top 3 were easily agreed upon as being the 88 Bartolo,74 Valentino and 71 Conterno………and then,
Tom picked me up in the late morning,after a few minutes of kibbitzing with a few guys in Baltimore’s best wine store,we walked into nearby breakfast nook and sat down to a brunch of potato and leek soup and a very sustaining and delicious omelot…….and what does one drink with these dishes?Why of course,a Billecart-Salmon Rose, not to mention the
1990 Pergole Torte,which I wouldn’t touch until I had at least 3 forkfuls of the omelot.A big favorite of Tom and I,it didn’t disappoint with it’s singular,quirky PT palate presence,always deceiving in its longevity,and a good beginning for what was to come that night…..
……which was to be a very relaxed evening Chez K with the aforementioned Knights and 2 of their lovely wives. No wine hiccups on this night were to be found, only sublime old Baroli performing at or near peak with a few interesting and prepossessing Rieslings.
I casually mention to Tom during the day about my affection for crab cakes, and joked about the rivalry between the upper and lower Chesapeake Bay versions,at which he replied,” there is no contest”, of course………and so he graciously decided to throw together a few from his bag of tricks and these were our 1st course of the evening. We arrived at the home of the ever gracious Henry and M, and soon we found a glass in our hands of a Riesling of which I was a aware,but never tasted,the
09 Adam Hofberg Feinherb that was so appealing in its freshness, hints of pineapple, melon and honeysuckle with great balance and verve.It was an ample foil for M’s appetizer. Soon after, we had just a taste of the
09 Adam Hofberg Kabinett which added a pleasing grapefruit component. Both great examples of the enticing 09 vintage, so it was on to dinner and we sat down to a muffin of Tom’s pure, succulent and shining example of blue crab cakes with the
07 Adam Hofberg Kabinett,which was noticeably sweeter, deeper and complete than the 09.Lovely juice which I need to try to source. Thanks Henry for this Riesling revelation.
As M brought to the table her piquant and sustaining Piedmont loaf, there seemed to be 3 new glasses at the table, with the
64 Cappellano which, after I took a whiff, healed the wounds I felt the night before, and all was right in the western world. Perfectly balanced, at peak with rose, light balsam and an ethereal sweetness married to strength, it continued to improve and would not be diminished throughout the night. Really remarkable………which is one notch below staggering. Along side was the
64 G Conterno “normale,” which, like it’s 71 stablemate from the previous night,would,in a blind flight with 64 Monfortino, stymie many a Conterno aficionado. It possessed the same telltale Conterno blood and iron markers, but was maybe a bit more evolved with beguiling sweetness, some little citrus and more leatherosity,but also with satisfying balance and depth. This also I held onto throughout the evening and was neck and neck with the 64 Cappellano……until the
70 G Conterno Barolo "Cascina Francia" This Conterno was fully evolved enough to appreciate the moment when its exotic, spicy nature reveals itself………and we were lucky to capture it in this state on that night.I was so enthralled with it I mentioned it in the same breath as the 82 CF Riserva,at which Tom immediately demurred.......and I preferred it to the 70 Monfortino had back in October.It continued to be a worthy companion to the Cappellanos and Bartolo throughout the night.
[I revise this note with the aviso that it is doubtful this is a "true" Cascina Francia with grapes sourced from the CF vineyard,rather than purchased from Serralunga as had been done previously.Cascina Francia is on the label,but probably was the result of a label added at a later date.At any rate,it was an enticing and exotic Conterno that delighted the senses.]
This was a superb trio, but there was more, the
67 Bartolo Mascarello that Tom had some reservations about earlier in the day, as it looked a bit cloudy and had some worrying associated funk, but with time in the glass, it changed complexion, came around and he was happy to utter finally that this was a wine he would have liked to drink alone.Bartolo just has a color and rosy, licorice laden demeanor, that it frequently just screams Bartolo.The youngster of the evening,the
78 Cappellano was easily the most powerful and darkest in color…….another testament to the splendor and longevity of 78 in Piemonte.For me,it spoke of things to come…..its quality and spice needing more time and air to really show its stuff,and Henry related as much the day after that it still was indefatigable.
In gauging relative subjective quality of these wines, they were all only a point or 2 apart from each other, and so my thoughts were that 1,2,3 went to 64 Cappellano,70 Conterno ,64 Conterno,with 78 Cappellano and Bartolo a step behind, but only because the 78 Cappellano was concealing some of its character because it was only 33 years old….
So, on this night,no Barolo worries, all delivering to us different facets of the shining Nebbiolo diamond.Again,gemutlich ruled the evening which reinforces and confirmed for me that sitting in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere with friends,food and finely tuned, ripe Barolo is the absolute best way to appreciate the pleasures of the table and these bottles.
Thanks to Tom , Henry,and Family for being such gracious hosts.
Until the next one…….
No Monfortino,no interest,eh?
What could be said except "wish I was there" ?
But I am an old Trav Gatt fan from way back, so your '71 was a special interest for me. I however was never smart enough to really stash any away when I was buying them. Just drank them as fast as I found them. But you note has inspired me to take a run at acquiring a pile of 2001/2004/2006 and hoarding a few for myself, just in case I live another 20-30 years.
Insane lineup of wines and notes...thanks for sharing...so which is Baltimore's best wine shop?
Cool, I will have to check that out.
And Cinghiale...worth the hype?
Cinghiale is part of the Charleston group.I don't know to which hype you are referring,but we were treated verrry well there,but I'm sure that's partly due to the local rep of my dinner partners.......They gave us exceptional wine drinking service with our wines,plenty of good stems and the chef treated us right.........and I saw a few italian whites I had never heard of.
hate there was no Monfortino...
It is a Parker hyped up place, because of the Cindy Wolf/Tony Foreman/Charleston connection. Just curious if it is that good. Italian food in Baltimore generally sucks, to put it mildly.
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