FWG Lunch with Gaia Gaja
@ Ai Fiori Restaurant in the Langham Place Hotel, NYC, 10/19/2018

Gaia Gaja and her father Angelo Gaja were in town for the Wine Spectator's New York Wine Experience. She had limited free time but was able to get together for lunch on Friday, October 19, 2018. Her presence, a great group of friends, and an amazing set of wines turned this into one of the most special wine meals of my life.

Lunch began at 2pm and ended around 4:30. The food and service at Ai Fiori were fabulous. Ai Fiori is one of my favorite restaurants. The combination of elegance and great service that never seems stuffy is remarkable. And the food is consistently superb.

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Some of the wines I was bringing to lunch were at Chambers Street Wines. As a full service store, they had double-decanted all my bottles according to my instructions. All I had to do was swing by the store to pick them up on my way to lunch:

Then I grabbed a cab and headed up the FDR Drive on this beautiful fall day:

The Venue
Ai Fiori is Michelin-starred restaurant on the second floor of the Langham Place Hotel:
The photos above are from a prior event at Ai Fiori, a Vietti dinner with Luca Currado.

The food at Ai Fiori was outstanding. The service was impeccable.
In particular, Sommelier Brady Gorsuch took great care of us.
Here he is topping up our glasses:

The group: Ben, Keith, Michael, Mary, Amanda, Daniel, Gaia, Hisham, Tom:

The Menu: We each picked one from each course:

2004 Gaja Chardonnay
I think the Gaia & Rey Chardonnay is one of Gaja's more under-appreciated wines. Like some of the best white Burgundies, it needs years to really show its full potential. For example, when I visited Gaia at the winery in 2016, she let us taste a 1989 Gaia & Rey Chardonnay that had been open for two days. It was glorious. Given these expectations, the 2004 did not disappoint.
I had Insalata di Astice: Nova Scotia Lobster, Fennel, Chanterelles Mushrooms, Citrus:
Others had Crudo e Caviale: Fluke Crudo, American Sturgeon Caviar, Meyer Lemon:

Amanda caught these photos of me proposing a toast to Gaia and her family:

Amanda & Danny discussing some photos with Gaia:

1960s Gaja Dolcetto and Barbera
Weeks before this lunch, I presented Gaia with several options for wines I could bring. When I mentioned these, she was enthusiastic about trying them. In its own way, this flight was as special as any of the others.
Tasting the 1960s Dolcetto and Barbera.
I think Hisham had just tasted the off bottle of 1967 Dolcetto in the first photo:

Cappelletti: Milk-Braised Veal Parcels, Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Seeds, Pancetta, Pearl Onions:

1960s Gaja Barolo
The Gaja winery made Barolo from purchased grapes until 1964. After 1964,they stopped making Barolo to focus on estate-bottled Barbaresco. One of their suppliers of Barolo grapes was Violante Sobrero of Sobrero Filippo e Figli who, at that time, owned a parcel in Monprivato and a parcel in Villero, both in Castiglione Falletto. (Violante Sobrero eventually sold these parcels in 1985 to Mauro Mascarello of Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio.) The largest of their suppliers was Villadoria from whom they later bought the parcels in the Marenca and Rivette MGAs in Serralung d'Alba used to make their Sperss Barolo since 1988. The 1961 and 1964 Barolos we tasted were likely made from these vineyards. Certainly their taste was consistent with these great vineyards.
1970 Gaja Barbaresco
This was a wonderful flight with three distinct Barbarescos from the same vintage. The base Barbaresco is a blend from most of their Barbaresco vineyards. The Barbaresco Infernot is a selection of the best barrels kept in the deepest part of the cellar, essentially a riserva. The 1970 Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn was the first single-vineyard Barbaresco made from this vineyard in the Roncagliette MGA. 1970 was only the 2nd vintage in which Gaja made single-vineyard wines. The 1967 Sorì San Lorenzo was its only predecessor.

Gaia enjoying the 1970 Sorì Tildìn (Photos by Keith):

Tagliata: Dry-Aged Strip Loin, Pommes Purée, Onions, Bordelaise:

1980s Gaja Barbaresco & Barolo
These wines were certainly more familiar to me and it was a joy to drink them again. The 1988 Sorì San Lorenzo was better than any bottle I had had before. The two 1989s were sublime, but oh so young. I hope I will live to taste these 1989s in full maturity.

A happy group!

Formaggi: Chef's Selection Of Two Cheeses, Seasonal Accompaniments:
By popular demand, I pulled this bottle at the last minute before catching my train to NYC. It really was a great way to finish this glorious meal.
What can I say? One of the most special wine meals I've ever attended. Great food, great service, great wine, great friends, and Gaia Gaja here to share it all and tell us about the wines and history of her family's iconic winery.

Many thanks to all the attendees for their contributions, most of all to Gaia Gaja for accepting my invitation and making room in her busy schedule for this lunch.

All the wines:

Saying goodbye:

The FWG and then Keith posing with Gaia:

My tasting notes posted from CellarTracker.



All original content © Ken Vastola