The Bernard Roth Archives
We happy that Bernard, who has sampled so many wines, has shared his notes with us. We do have, or have had for sale a few of the wines Bernard writes about, and we include a link to our stock page whenever it is a producer we carry (but since the stock page is kept up-to-date and the wines are sold, don't expect any but the newest of wines to show up in our stock!). Mostly though, since we specialize in County of Santa Barbara Wine and Central Coast Wine, we don't carry a lot of the wines Bernard writes about. But we think it is important that you be able to have an idea what they're like in case you are planning to buy some somewhere, or have them in your own collection. Enjoy.
Here are Bernard's notes from May 7, 2001:
It all began when I learned Larry, from Santa Fe, would be in Santa Barbara (sans Laura) for just Friday night. He and Laura had just returned from Tuscany with a few bottles purchased there and Larry was excited by the prospect of trying the 95 Casanova di Neri Brunello “Cerretalto”. I stopped by my locker after work and grabbed a few 95 Super-Tuscans to give Larry a choice.
Having had a couple days to think through what
I could make for dinner to go with the Brunello without spending all day
cooking, I had a chance to pick up a few Italian cheeses and take some
meat out of the freezer to defrost.
|Upon Larry’s arrival, we started with a very lovely 99
Dr. Loosen Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese that I had opened the
previous night. This is a succulent riesling, with pure and focused white
fruit flavors and just enough acidity to keep from being flabby. Frankly,
both Larry and I would have preferred slightly sharper acidity to off-set
the nearly Auslese-level sweetness. Nevertheless, the breed of the vineyard
shows through in the bottle. Classy, but a notch below perfection. 91 points.
Larry opened his Brunello, noted an initial oaky attitude in the wine, and at my suggestion I decanted the bottle and set it aside for later in the meal.
For the first course, I served lightly grilled zucchini and asparagus. I had to open a brand new bottle of vintage 2000 Le Boncie extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany. The oil is, simply, superb. In a nod to the French sensibility, I offered hand-harvested Fleur de Sel de Camargue to sprinkle on the veggies. And in a moment of ingenious dementia, I set out a small bowl of ground sumak to put some bite onto the zucchini (but not the asparagus). The oil and salt were adequately mopped up with Our Daily Bread’s ciabatta.
The Riesling carried us through to the next course, Rustichella d’Abruzzo brand linguine tossed with soft fried egg, Alberto Cipolloni’s Umbrian EVOO, a light drizzle of white truffle oil, and grated Reggiano. This is a fabulous way to present long pasta and could only have been better if I had fresh white truffles instead of the oil.
The salad consisted of a classic combination: Sliced Bosc pear, home-grown mixed greens (lettuces, frisee, and arugula) lightly dressed with walnut oil and Champagne vinegar, gorgonzola, and toasted walnuts. I drizzled a little extra-vecchio balsamico over the pears. With this, Larry selected the Super Tuscan…
95 Poggiopiano Rosso di Sera (90% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino) was very forthcoming with its black cherry and black berry aromatics complemented by moderate oak. The wine immediately greets the palate with supple, sweet fruit, nice balance, and nicely sculpted tannins. Over the coarse of the evening, the Sera continued to evolve beautifully, with the initial black fruit stepping back to allow the more typical red sangiovese flavors to unveil. It continued to reward with new layers of interest, all the while keeping its balance. This is a rich and concentrated wine that should age nicely another decade. Having previously tried only the 97 vintage (more tannic and closed up), I was thoroughly satisfied by the 1995’s showing. 92+
The Rosso and Brunello both went well with the next course, venison osso buco with creamy polenta and cavallo nero (black kale). The NZ venison was sublime, falling off the bone. I had browned the meat and cooked it with a simple mirepoix sauté of onion, carrot celery and leeks. I reduced a half-bottle of sangiovese (Folie a Deux) into the osso buco along with rich beef broth, bay leaf, fresh thyme, and a squeeze of Italian tomato paste from a tube. I also added some chunks of turnip that had been separately sautéed until lightly caramelized. The polenta was an Italian import, cooked with just salted water. The kale was sautéed in duck fat with salt and pepper.
95 Casanova di Neri Brunello “Cerretalto” benefited from the two hours in the decanter. The overt oak blew off revealing a remarkably approachable young brunello. The aromatics were fairly restrained, on the black end of the spectrum, but with a hint of high toned perfume set to emerge with a few more years in bottle. At this stage, the wine shows a lot of structure, with good fruit caressing the carefully articulated tannins. There is sufficient acidity to see this through another 10-12 years. Although the wine needs 6 years to blossom, it is very drinkable with decanting. 91 now, 93+ in ten years.
Larry also brought a half-bottle of 99 Qupe Bien Nacido Syrah that he wanted to try. Having previously called this the best Qupe BN syrah in recent years based on my Wine Cask futures sample, I was happy to pull the cork. The nose showed bacon and some reduction and maybe some brett, masking the typical BN terroir I expect from this wine. After the Tuscan gems, the Qupe seemed somewhat simple. Good flavor and balance, but not as structured and complex as the Rosso and brunello. The Qupe could use 2-4 years to turn around its aromatics and develop some complexity. 88+
All the red wines were served with a couple of Italian cheeses—a hard-rind cow’s milk raschera with the texture of assiago fresca, and creamy washed rind artivaggio. The latter was especially delicious, with a little bit of stinky pungency that married nicely with the wines.
Not a bad kitchen performance with only 90 minutes work before Larry’s arrival. Larry left sated and I felt satisfied that each dish came out à point, perfect.
The next night Sam and I joined friends at their place. Eilene is a great baker and offered to make pizza. She provided the dough, sauce, and cheese. I brought various pizza toppings, salad and the leftover red wines from the previous night. To cut to the chase, the Qupe was a bit better, the Brunello had not evolved, and the Rosso was still every bit as succulent and delicious. To accompany the salad, we opened a 95 Hirschprun Contest, a blend of every odd white varietal in the northern Italian repertoire (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, and a couple more). I’d enjoyed this wine once before, about a year and a half ago. This bottle was showing a touch of oxidation, but it has the heft and layers of complexity to reward the palate. Pretty good acidity to go with the salad, golden fruit flavors and a strong mineral character accentuated by the oxidative effects. Drink up if you got it. 88-.
Tonight, we dined with two other couples at Olio e Limone, a high end Santa Barbara Italian restaurant that can turn out expert gourmet dishes, but can suffer subtle problems with execution in rare instances (e.g. over-dressed greens). Overall, the meal was great. My appetizer of warm eggplant timbale served with a classic, refined tomato sauce was exceptional. Hidden inside the timbale was a nugget of meltingly tender goat cheese. Really yummy! With the appetizer, borrowing a page from Tom Hill, I had to try the Argiolas Vermentino (Sardinia).
Both my veal chop and my friend’s rack of lamb were excellent cuts of meat properly done and sauced (veal demi-glace and lamb au jus red wine reduction, respectively). My wife’s pasta and greens was tasty, but I didn’t spend much analytic time with it. The wine I brought was…
95 Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Riserva—Ready to drink. The aromatics are restrained, but typical of Classico. The wine is very harmonious, smooth and supple. Tannins are fully resolved, the acidity is correct, and the black fruit and dark earthy character make for a traditional statement of terroir. Drink over next 2 years. 90 points.
From this outpost of Italy on the west coast, I have to say it’s been a very satisfying weekend.
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