The King of Wines, and the Wine of Kings

One Tree Hill VineyardBarolo has affectionately been referred to as the “King of Wines, and the Wine of Kings.”  In a fine vintage and in the hands of a skilled winemaker, Barolo is unquestionably a noble wine fit for a king and the rest of us commoners, too.  For savvy consumers who are patient enough to afford Barolo the royal treatment or even just a little extra care, no other fine wine on the market offers more quality for the money as Barolo.

Barolo is born on the Langhe Hills of Italy’s Piedmont, on steep craggy Alpine foothills as they tumble out of nearby Switzerland and France.  Barolo is the most masculine of Piedmont’s great Nebbiolo based wines and the focal point in the region’s viticultural tiara.  Barolo’s lineage dates back to the Middle Ages, but it wasn’t until the mid 18th century that Barolo began to evolve into its present form in the vicinity of Alba, a distinct Old World city that serves as the white truffle capital of Italy as well as Piedmont’s premier wine town.

Today, the limited production of Barolo generates from the huddled hills of two valleys, Serralunga and Barolo, and their five principal communities, all of which lie to the southwest of the city of Alba and are reputed to impart distinctive characteristics and traits to their respective progeny.  The townships of Serralunga, Castiglione Falletto, and Monforte are situated in the Serralunga Valley and are reputed to produce the region’s most masculine, longest-lived Baroli.  Meanwhile, Barolo and La Morra, from which the more “delicate” wines of the zone are said to flow, are part of the Barolo Valley.  However, there are many exceptions, styles, and innumerable variations in Barolo on the same theme, and this only touches upon the decades old debate in Barolo over the relative merits of the modern versus traditional styles of Barolo, which have as much to do with individual winemaking techniques as they do the amount and kind of barrel aging the wines receive.  Happily, in the end, there is great Barolo fashioned in all five of the major townships, in both modern and traditional styles.  However, there is one caveat.  Barolo needs time in bottle; and whether it is young or mature, Barolo needs to breathe.  Decant a Barolo two hours or more before serving and the magic will soon appear in your glass.


Don’s March Premier Series Top Picks

edgebaston-the-berry-box-stellenbosch-2010This month’s first Top Pick goes to Pietra Santa’s 2009 Sassolino.  Winemaker Allesio Carli has fashioned an exemplary Super Tuscan style red in California from Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that should absolutely not be missed.  And although this year’s Sassolino could be labeled as Sangiovese (as it contains 80% of that varietal), Pietra Santa has wisely stuck with Sassolino, the wine’s proprietary name.  Sassolino is its own wine.  The 2009 Sassolino comes across as rich, powerful, and beautifully polished.  It’s a pleasure to drink now, and if previous vintages of Sassolino are any indication, Pietra Santa’s 2009 Sassolino will evolve over the next five or more years and provide even greater joy with each passing year.  My other Top Pick causes me a bit of anxiety because Nidia’s 2011 Verdejo and Edgebaston’s Honey Pot drink beautifully in their respective categories and have garnered a lot of friends.  Nonetheless, I have to go with Edgebaston’s 2010 The Berry Box as my second Top Pick: it’s an artful blend of grapes that expresses everything good about blending multiple grape varieties and the work that David Finlayson is doing on the Cape of South Africa.  Juicy, tasty, and downright delicious is how I describe it.  A votre santé.


Chicken, Sausage and Peppers Dinner

A great, super simple, and fast Friday night dinner!

Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients:  FNM030111_076

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 Italian green frying peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 jarred pickled cherry peppers, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons liquid from the jar


Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausage until golden, about 2 minutes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then toss with the flour in a bowl; add to the skillet and cook until browned but not cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Add the onion, peppers, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste and cook 3 minutes. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits; bring to a boil and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook until the sausage and chicken are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the chicken, sausage and vegetables to a platter with a slotted spoon. Increase the heat to high and stir the parsley and cherry peppers and their liquid into the skillet; boil until reduced by one-third, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Pour the sauce over the chicken mixture.

Per serving: Calories 335; Fat 14 g (Saturated 7 g); Cholesterol 95 mg; Sodium 891 mg; Carbohydrate 10 g; Fiber 2 g; Protein 36 g

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Magazine.

Don’s February Collector’s Series Top Picks

I really like the variety as well as the quality of this month’s features, so I may as well throw a dart at the labels of this month’s offerings and whatever labels the first two darts land upon get to be Top Picks.  All right, I suppose that won’t do.  Consequently, it would be a crime to leave out Querciola’s 2008 Barolo.  Barolo is one of Italy’s top two wines.  Among Italian wines, only Brunello di Montalcino can compete in price, quality, and overall regard with Barolo.  Secondly, 2008 is an excellent vintage in Barolo and should not to be missed by serious wine lovers.  And most importantly, Querciola fashions beautiful, elegant Barolo.  So, Querciola’s 2008 Barolo merits the honor of this month’s first Top Pick.  Now, it gets more complicated.  Morgadio’s 2011 Albarino could easily serve as the poster child for Albarino, Spain’s top white grape variety.  But Losada’s 2009 Bierzo Mencia is simply knock out gorgeous.  Our tasting panels couldn’t get enough of this Mencia, made from the ancient Mencia grape variety that has really come into its own in the last decade.  So, if I have to choose, Losada’s 2009 Mencia gets my other vote for Top Pick.  It is one of a hand full of wonderful Mencia wines that have convinced me of the greatness of the varietal.   A votre santé.


Don’s March Collector’s Series Top Picks

Valenciso Reserva Rioja 2006This month’s two Top Picks have earned a place at my table, and from the recent reviews of these wines quite a few folks will wish they had discovered these beauties when we did, before their reviews came out in the international press.  For starters, the 2006 Valenciso Reseva Rioja earns this month’s first Top Pick.  A worthy successor to Valenciso’s outstanding 2005 Reserva Rioja, one would be hard pressed to find better Rioja than Luis Valentin’s suave, complex, age worthy 2006 Reserva.  It’s almost a shame to drink this newly released Reserva now, as it has such a great life ahead of it, but better now than never.  For members who are patient enough to give this collectable wine a bit more time in bottle, the word sublime will be more than fitting.  My second Top Pick goes to Silvio Grasso’s elegant, regal 2008 Barolo.  Wow!  One gets a lot of bang for the buck from this wine.  Grasso’s style of Barolo weds power to finesse, and in doing so Federico Grasso captures in this wine the ultimate expression of La Morra, traditionally the most elegant of Barolo wines.  I truly enjoyed this beautiful Barolo just recently, even at such a tender age.  But I also want some of Silvio Grasso’s 2006 Barolo in my cellar so I can enjoy this noble wine as it evolves over the next 5-10 years.  My Top Picks are not meant to detract from the magnificent 2009 Gini La Frosca.  It is a captivating white wine, and at its peak of perfection. So, if you really want to live right, invite a couple of friends over and serve a bottle of the 2009 Gini La Frosca as an opening act to Silvio Grasso’s Barolo.  You’ll be glad you did.  A votre santé.