NK RicoFest Barolothon
at Berta's Chateau, Wanaque, NJ (8/11/2005)

Pictures from this evening can be found here.

The Event
What can I say? Certainly one of the greatest tasting dinners of my life. The wines, the food, the company, and the environment were perfect.

The Attendees
Rico Thompson, Kelly Walker, Bob Hughes, Victor Marcantonio, Tom Maskell, Mark Golodetz, and your humble scribe. Sadly, Gregory Dal Piaz had to cancel at the last minute.

The Menu
Berta's Chateau in Wanaque, NJ, is the ideal place for a tasting like this. Peter Bernstein (yes, he really is Italian) is the chef and owner, and few Americans know more about Piedmontese wines than Peter. His food and his winelist are great. (20 vintages of Sandrone Cannubi-Boschis!) I have eaten here several times in the past, so when I asked Peter about the menu and he replied I am keeping the menu simple with an emphasis on the best ingredients to allow the wines to shine. I don't like food that appears to have been touched by too many hands. I knew to trust him. The food was exactly this. Every dish was excellent and paired very well with the wines. Wanaque (pronounced WANA-q) is out of the way, off I-287 in northwestern New Jersey, but Berta's is well worth the trip for anyone who loves Italian food and wine!

Bresaola with a mild EVOO and Parmigiano-Reggiano Dressing
Delicate slices of fabulous sweet smoky beef.

Tajarin with a light Heirloom Tomato sauce
So tasty, but the perfect tomato sauce to go with the wines.

Agnolotti (Ravioli) di 3 Carne, Sugo di Arrosto
The dish of the night for me and Rico and probably others. The filling is 40% veal, 40% pork and 20% rabbit. The taste is just great. Complexity to equal the wines, but subtly to match beautifully with them.

Marinated and Roasted Free Range Amish Chicken, Pan Juices
Just yum! Subtly marinated to go beautifully with Barolo.

Herbed Piedmontese Filet (US raised Piedmontese beef) with Nebbiolo Reduction and Gold Bar Pesto Tart with Salad
The herbs were a little strong on this, but the meat was exquisite and the perfect accompaniment to the Monfortinos and 78 Rionda.

Aged Piave Cheese



Flight 1

1974 Giacosa Barbaresco San Cristoforo di Neive
Cork is not in good shape. Wine looks like light caramel syrup. Sweet caramel and turpentine in the nose and mouth. Not awful, but way over the hill. Nice to have the chance to try this. I wonder if any bottles of this are still good? Not rated.

1985 Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba Riserva
Tight woodsy nose. Stunning and expansive in the mouth. Great depth. Better in 5 years?
Open 1 hour: Showing less well now, even with the agnolotti. Hard to figure. Is this wine a little cooked or corked? Just not showing as it should now. Not rated.

1985 G. Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia, Serralunga d'Alba
Big smoky nose. Sweet, tasty, delicious wine. Still a little tight, but great sweet fruit.
Open 1 hour: Much more complex now. Great with the agnolotti. This is a wonderful wine. Hands down WOTF. 96 points.

Flight 2 (single blind)

1990 Rocche dei Manzoni di Valentino Barolo Vigna d' la Roul Riserva
Big smoky nose. Tannic and tarry. Vanilla. Complex and sweet fruit. Excellent length. Still tight. Needs 5 years. 93-95 points.

1990 Manzone Barolo Le Gramolere Riserva de Grazia Cuvée
Cloudy with fine sediment. Woody, nasty nose. Sweet tar in the mouth. Turpentine. Not a good bottle. Not rated.

1990 Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc
[Double decanted at 1pm.] Stunning black cherry and smoke nose. Complex, expansive, sweet, great! So young, smooth and complex. I love it! I guessed this wine correctly, but I had smelled it at 1pm when I decanted it. 96 points.

1989 Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc
Tight nose of smoke and roses. A little tight in the mouth, but tasty with a long licorice finish. Dry, tannic and tarry. Needs a few more years. I thought this might be the 89 Fiasc. 94 points.

1989 Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra
Big smoky cherry nose. Great nose! Young fruity and tannic in the mouth. Love this. Expansive. Ready and terrific. Classic stuff. No sign of any barrique or other modernness now. 95 points.

Flight 3

1990 Giacosa Barbaresco Asili di Barbaresco Riserva
[Double decanted at 1pm.] Stunning floral tarry nose explodes from the glass. Complex, tannic. Won't peak for 10 years, but ringing now. Wow! A glory with the beef dish. 98-100 points.

1990 Giacosa Barolo Villero di Castiglione Falletto
Tarry nose. A little cloudy. Very dry tannins. Complex. Needs 10 years. Excellent even though it's bringing up the rear in this flight. 93-95 points.

1990 G. Mascarello Barolo Monprivato
Fabulous nose, complex floral and tar. Thick, silky, tarry, complex with a touch of orange peel. Very impressive stuff! 96 points.

Flight 4
Note: Most of us kept all of Flight 3 throughout Flight 4. So these two great flights somewhat merged.

1987 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva
Big meaty nose. Huge tannic. Amazing wine for the vintage. 95 points.

1978 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva Speciale
Stunning complex nose of tar, grilled meat and anise. Great! Great! Great! Tannic, youthful. Huge complex black fruit. Tart and tannic, but whole in some great way. A monumental wine that won't peak for 10-20 years, but great tonight, especially with beef. Mark says a 100 point wine should give you a hard on. Maybe it's the company, but tonight only 99 points.

Additions to Flight 4

So, we're sitting there, praising the tasting, and especially the 78 Monfortino, when Victor says You know, I did bring a couple of other wines.
Oh what, pray tell? says I.
Oh, the 1978 Giacosa Rionda and . . . blah blah blah. I don't know. I didn't hear anything after the word Rionda.
I said I want you to know that I'm going to take you seriously and open that bottle.
Victor says Please do. I want to share it with you guys.
I resisted the urge to kiss Victor and instead decanted the Rionda.

1978 Giacosa Barolo Collina Rionda di Serralunga d'Alba Riserva Speciale
Upon opening: Huge tarry complex red fruit nose. Huge in the mouth, tart and tannic. Somewhat monolithic.
Open 1 hour: Still tarry, but now glorious meat and flowers nose. A 100 point nose!!! Rich meaty and tannic. Needs 5-10 years! An amazing wine. A butterfly on steroids. Knocks me over! 97-100 points. Surely 100 points when it peaks. Thank you, Victor!

Peter (who as I said above knows a hell of a lot about Piedmontese wines) has been discussing the wines with us throughout. At this point, we are discussing the whole idea of categorizing whole vintages as good or bad. Clearly the `87 Monfortino is an example of a superb wine in a vintage that is perceived as mediocre. Peter says the trick with 1987 was the rain. Those who picked early did better. For example, Sandrone picked early because he had a funeral to go to! Peter then goes in his cellar to get us a bottle.

1987 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis
Classic Barolo nose of tar and roses. Medium body, complex, ready. Impressive stuff. This may be the only wine tonight which is right at its peak. Many thanks, Peter! 93 points.


1977 Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto di Tre Tarra
Fascinating nose of candied cherries, apricots, and oranges. Complex, balanced and delicious. Wow! What a great, harmonious wine. Only mildly sweet, not at all like port. Ready now, but fresh and youthful. Great with biscotti. 97 points.




All original content © Ken Vastola