In my line of work, not many people are willing to cook for you. It’s a sad result of a profession based on making people happy through food. The funny part is that I’ve been amazed by more home cooks than professional chefs in my life. There’s nothing like being in someone’s home and sampling a dish they made to please their guests, along with all the heart and soul that goes into it. I think people believe I’ll expect a culinary masterpiece, when in reality, my favorite foods consist of burgers, BLTs and a well-seasoned, medium-rare porterhouse steaks.
However, there are a few friends who have no problem putting on the chef hat and inviting me into their homes, and to them I am grateful. Fernando is one of those people. On my most recent visit, I was well fed with masses of food from his Argentine-style assado, which included spicy meatballs that would make my nonna shed a tear. An entire host of salads to whet the palate could be found throughout the table, as well as roasted vegetables and cheeses. Then there was the flan, which is an art I’ll leave to the experts like Fernando, who prepared it perfectly… And then there was the wine.
The tasting table in my cellar
You see, my friend Fernando, has what I would describe as a mature, balanced cellar. Something that I’ve been working very hard to create over the past five years and am only beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel (probably about five more years before I beginn reaping the benefits). What I mean by this is a wine cellar, built over time, where a good selection of whites, reds, early drinkers and bottles to mature are all stored. The best thing about a balanced cellar is that when you have company over, you can pull out a range of wines that would make, even the most experienced tasters, eyes light up. That’s exactly what Fernando did on this night.
The wines below are from a mix of different regions and styles. Each bottle was great in its unique way and most were entering maturity, with some upside potential, but very little baby fat. There are a number of gems in the mix below. Enjoy, and thanks to Fernando for the excellent meal.
On to the wines:
2006 Vie di Romans Friuli Isonzo Flors di Uis – The nose was amazingly fragrant and continued to pick up nuances as it sat in the glass. A bouquet of spring flowers, tart lemon, peach, orange skins and green apple dazzled the senses. On the palate, it showed a medium weight with a citrus zing, more floral notes and stone fruits. The finish was long with sour citrus fruits, yet mouthwatering and begging you to take another sip. (93 points)
2002 Schloss Lieser Niederberg Helden Riesling Auslese – The nose showed bacon fat and white flowers. On the palate, I found fresh cranberry, and pineapple with a soft yet vibrant feel on the tongue. The finish was at first sweet and then sour with hints of grapefruit. (88 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!
1990 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Valbuena 5° – The 1990 Vega-Sicilia wowed me with its rich yet elegant personality. The nose showed cherry preserves and cranberry with hints of clove, vanilla and burnt sugar. However, with how rich and young the nose seemed, there was an underlying earthiness and hint of musky animal fur that truly kept it interesting. On the palate, it was elegant, with a velvety feel on the tongue as flavors of rich red, then black fruits and dusty spices assaulted the senses. The finish was long and turned from juicy to sour as the fruit faded away. (96 points)
1994 Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon – The nose showed vibrant cranberry fruit, red beets and undergrowth in a big yet airy style. On the palate, it was massive and rich, yet still juicy with black fruits and spice. The finish was fresh and clung to the palate. (90 points)
1997 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva – The nose showed cherry, herbs, dusty potpourri and hints of blue cheese. On the palate, this wine was soft and mid-weight with zesty acidity and flavors of sour red fruits and salinity. The finish was slightly drying and still showed a good amount of structure for Chianti with 14 years on it. (89 points)
1997 Cabreo Il Borgo Toscana IGT – The nose showed rich cherry fruit, minerals, dried leaves and floral notes. On the palate, it was velvety smooth with dark chocolate, black currant, spices and hints of licorice. The medium-long finish showed fading dark fruits, broth and a bit of salinity. (93 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!
1998 Fattoria Petrolo Galatrona Toscana IGT – The nose showed black currant, hints of toast and animal musk. On the palate, it was at first silky smooth but turned dry as this wine showed its still youthful structure. Rich, concentrated black fruits and spices attacked the senses and faded into a long finish. This wine came across as still needing a number of years before it could really show its true colors. (90 points)
1998 Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape – The nose showed blue and black fruits with meaty, peppery notes wrapped in shroud of vanilla. On the palate, it was rich with a core of zesty acidity that kept things interesting as dark chocolate, sweet spices and waxy red licorice filled the senses. The finish clung to the palate with dark fruits and spices. This bottle was almost too big for its own good but remained restrained enough to leave me with a very pleasing experience. (92 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!
1999 Bodegas Mauro Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León Terreus Pago de Cueva Baja – The nose showed cranberry and plum sauce, with sweet spices and herbs. On the palate, it was velvety and made its presence known in a mix of full-bodied rich black fruit and spice-laden vibrant acidity. Black cherry, cinnamon and vanilla lingered into the long finish, which turned a little dry, but otherwise showed this wine has many years of life ahead of it. (92 points) Find it: Wine-Searcher!
1990 Chapoutier Cote-Rotie – The nose showed blackberry, citrus rind, minerals and hints of pepper. On the palate, it was soft, with a medium weight showing cherry, herbs and hints of salinity. The finish was medium-long and refreshing. (89 points)