Rare Monfortino Vertical: 1934—1968
at New York Vintners, NYC (4/29/2017)

I co-hosted this Giacomo Conterno Monfortino vertical with Paul Robinson of New York Vintners. NY Vintners' owner Shane Benson had obtained these bottles from cellars in Italy through two of their most reliable sources. The wines were the 1934, 1939, 1941, 1952, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1964, and 1968 Monfortinos, as well as a Champagne starter and a Tuscan dessert wine. The 1952 and 1968 were from one source, the rest from another. Here is the ad for this dinner.

The adjective "rare" is certainly appropriate here. All but three of these wines were made before Bruno Giacosa ever bottled a wine and before anyone had ever produced a single-vineyard Barolo. At the time of this tasting, CellarTracker, a very popular website for cellar management, contained about 6 million tasting notes, but not a single one for any 1939 Barolo, and the only ones for 1934 and 1941 Barolo were for Monfortino. Only one and six notes respectively. Even for 1952, only six producers have more than one note. Of course, with wines of this age, the old adage applies: "There are no great wines, only great bottles." And we had some glorious ones tonight.

For much more background on Monfortino and the Giacomo Conterno winery, see the Fine Wine Geek's G. Conterno page, including the history notes at the bottom.

Opening the Wines

Paul and I met at 3pm. We went down to the cellar, and from 3 to 4pm, we opened and tasted each wine starting with the 1968 and working backward through the vintages. Based on this, we decided to put the 2 oldest vintages (1934 and 1939) at the end of the dinner with a cheese course. Otherwise, we went from oldest (1941) to youngest (1968). This way we ended up with youngest wines (from the `60s) with the meat course.

My notes from this part are included with the dinner tasting notes below. From 4pm until the dinner, the wines stood in the basement with their corks stuck back in loosely.

Click on a photo with a border for a larger view.

From 4:30 to 6:30, I wandered down to the new World Trade Center area:


The dinner was set up in the back of the main floor near the kitchen where all the food was prepared.

The food was excellent. Executive Chef Narisa Gaffoor did a great job with these authentic
Piemontese foods which were customized to match the wines. Here she is prepping the apps:

The apps being readied:

The table being set by Kathryn "Kate" Phelan, who makes sure it is just right:

Station: Grissini, Focaccia, Salumi, Formaggio, Tardivo, Vegetables, Olives, Honey.
Passed canapes: Mushroom Crostini, Tuna Tartare on Cucumber, Arancini.
All good, but I talked too much to taste everything.

The Monfortinos Flights

Paul sets up to decant the wines.
He will decant each one just before serving:

Flight 1: 1941 and 1952 Monfortino
Carne Cruda di Fassone Piemontese Battuta: Hand-Chopped Raw Weal Tenderloin, Black Truffles, Mâche Salad, Crostini.
This was exquisite. As good as any Carne Cruda I've ever had.

Paul Robinson tells us about the next two Monfortinos:

Flight 2: 1955 and 1958 Monfortino
House-made Agnolotti: Agnolotti Filled with Toma Cheese, Black Truffle Butter. A touch salty, but very tasty.

Paul decants the third flight:

Flight 3: 1961, 1964, and 1968 Monfortino
Le Costolette Brasate di Barolo: Short Ribs Braised In Barolo Wine, Parsnip-Potato Puree, King Oyster Mushroom.
The wine used for this dish was the 2011 Vajra Ravera! Maybe that's why it was so great.

Flight 4: 1934 and 1939 Monfortino
Camembert, Toma, and a soft goat cheese.

Torta di Almonde: Almond Cake with Candied Hazelnuts and Mascarpone Cream.


I have been fortunate to taste Monfortino from the 1950s and 60s before, but never bottles from the 1930s or 40s. The 1958 and 1964 were disappointing, but the beautiful 1941 and 1968 and the truly great bottles of 1952, 1955, and 1961 made this a very special and unique tastings. The terrific and well-matched food didn't hurt either.

Notes posted from CellarTracker.

People Photos

Click on a photo with a border for a larger view.

NY Vintners owner Shane Benson chats with two of the attendees:
Around the rest of the table:




All original content © Ken Vastola