Morrell Wine Bar

Archives: January 2016

2010 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva: Worth Waiting For?

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brunello benvenutoThe market has been waiting for the 2010 Brunello Riservas, with hopes that critics will go even further beyond the lofty scores of the regular ’10 Brunellos. However, I for one don’t believe they’ll get their wish.

What do we love about 2010 Brunello? I really do hope that you have chosen to open one of two bottles buy now, because what 2010 has is something that I’ve never seen in such a classic vintage before…they’re drinkable. Young? YES. However, the 2010 Normale Brunellos have a brilliance and purity of fruit that is so intense, while also remaining refined, that it nearly envelopes the tannins. That’s the magic of 2010. Throughout 2015, the 2010s underwent a metamorphosis in the bottle. Frankly, it’s difficult to read many of the critics’ notes from early last year and then compare them to what we taste today—because the wines have gotten even better. I’m completely serious.

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Riserva 2010So what does that mean for the average 2010 Brunello Riserva? It means that the same brilliant fruit that I love about the vintage spent another year in oak—absorbing tannin and concentrating further. In my opinion, these wines didn’t require anything more than they already had. The extra year in oak unfortunately dominated much of the purity and drinkability that I found in most 2010s.

There are exceptions, of course. There are a small number of wines that come across as utterly classic, beautiful versions of Brunello Riserva, which deserve a place in our cellars. Great examples are Il Poggione, Stella di Campalto and Tenuta Buon Tempo, which was new producer for me, yet one of the top Riservas of the event.  However, don’t expect to drink the majority of these wines for at least a decade, if not longer.

I’m really looking forward to tasting more of the Riservas, and I’m sure that some critics will disagree with my opinions; but from what’s I’ve tasted so far, the best example of 2010 Brunello Riserva are amazing, while the rest fall below their Brunello Normale counterparts.

On to the tasting notes:

Il Poggione Brunello Riserva 20102010 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli – The nose was dark and intense with ripe red fruits and dark floral tones offset by savory seared meat, smoke and minerals. On the palate, I found tart black cherry and herbs over a firm layer of acidity and tannin, which gave way to a long and structured finish full of inner floral tones and bitter cherry. This wine is classic to the core and one of my favorite ’10 Riservas tasted to date. Bury it in the cellar and good things will come. (96 points)

2010 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Madonna del Piano – The nose was deep, rich and intense with black cherry, brown spice, balsamic tones and sweet herbs. On the palate, it was as smooth as silk with the weight of velvet, showing rich raspberry, cedar, herbs and classic tannins. The finish was long on red fruit, along with notes of leather and crushed stone. This is so dark and brooding yet seduces the senses on its sheer, balanced mass. (96 points) Find it at Morrell

2010 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – The nose was dark and viral, showing dried cherry, savory spice, moist earth and a hint of grapefruit. On the palate, it was all at once silky, yet intense with tart, acid-driven red fruits, exotic spice citrus and floral tones. Tart cherry, inner floral tones and spiced citrus all came together on the finish displaying the wild side of Sangiovese. It’s an exotic and truly gorgeous wine. (94 points)

Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello 20112010 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Dark and brooding yet full of potential, the 2010 Riserva opened up with a display of ripe strawberry, black cherry, and plum, along with floral perfumes and a hint of pepper. On the palate, it was dense, monolithic and hard to judge, yet there was a core of dark red fruit which seemed determined to one day explode. It finished on dried berries, leather and fine tannin. This is in need of time in the cellar, yet it should one day emerge as something truly special. (94 points) Find it at Morrell

2010 Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – The nose was intense and layered, leading with dried earth and undergrowth, yet quickly switching gears to reveal ripe strawberry, cherry and fresh herbal tones. On the palate, silky textures gave way to minerals and fine tannin, as dark red fruits, spice and hints of leather permeated the senses. The finish was tight, youthfully so, yet concentrated, refined—classic. This is one of my favorite 2010 Riservas to date. (94 points) Find it at Morrell

Le Ripi Lupie Sirene Riserva 20102010 Podere Le Ripi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Lupi e Sirene – The Le Ripi was one of the more interesting and unique Brunello presented this year. Here I found a bouquet of dark earth and minerals up front, which opened to reveal plum, tart cherry, menthol and hints of herbs. On the palate, it was silky with a fine acid-tannin balance, dark cherry, and deep minerality. The finish was long with an almost salty display of bitters, cherry, minerals and herbs. I had to ask myself if I really liked this, yet the answer ended up being a resounding YES—and having watched it evolve in the glass, I believe the best is yet to come. (93 points)

2010 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Poggio All’Oro – The nose was dark and brooding, showing medicinal cherry, menthol and dark chocolate. On the palate, weighty textures flowed across the senses like heavy silk along with bitter black cherry and fine grained tannins. The long finish showed dark chocolate, black cherry, plum and herbal notes. The oak is quite present in this wine today, but it’s easy to see where it’s going and it reminds me quite a bit of the ’99 tasted earlier this year. (92 points)

2010 Azienda Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – On the nose, I found a powerful display of dark red fruits, earth and forest floor. Silky textures contrasted by grippy tannin saturated the senses with intense dark fruits and spice on the palate. It finished long, as tannin coated the senses, along with dried red fruits, leather and hints of herbs. (92 points)

Val di Suga Brunello 20102010 Val di Suga (Angelini) Brunello di Montalcino Poggio al granchio – The nose was dark, perfumed and refined with classic dark red fruits, earth and hints of leather. On the palate, silky textures were firmed up by fine tannin, giving way to bitter dark fruits, earth and inner floral tones. The finish was structured with medium length, showing dried berries and herbs. (92 points)

2010 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – The nose was restrained, showing dark red fruits and floral perfumes. On the palate, I found soft textures followed by dark bitter cherry and tannin which swept across the senses and firmly took hold. It finished on inner floral tones and dried cherry. It was very hard to read in this youthful state, but my fear is that some of the brilliance of 2010 fruit may have been lost in this wine’s élevage. (91 points)

Il Palazzone Brunello Riserva 20102010 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – The nose displayed a dark, rich character with black cherry out front followed by chalky minerality. On the palate, it was soft with ripe red fruits, cedar and hints of spice, and it finished with dark inner floral tones. This is one of the softer and easier-to-like examples of 2010 Brunello that I’ve tasted, and it makes for a good option for early drinking. (91 points)

2010 Palazzina Le Macioche Brunello di Montalcino Le Macioche – The nose showed tart red fruits, plum, undergrowth and herbal tones. On the palate, silky textures were offset by brisk acidity with gripping tannin, tart red fruit and stems. The finish was medium-long with notes of dried red fruits. (90 points)

2010 Pian Delle Vigne (Antinori) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Ferrovia – The nose was dark and brooding with minerals and spice up front, followed by violet floral tones and crushed raspberry fruit. On the palate I found silky textures, which were quickly firmed up by the wine’s tannic structure, showing small red and blackberry fruit, spice and cedar. The finish was tight and restrained, with remnants of dried cherry and inner florals. I wanted to like this wine more, but I have to wonder if the fruit will outlast its imposing structure. (90 points)

2010 Piccini Brunello di Montalcino Villa Al Cortile Riserva – The nose was restrained and slightly reductive, showing notes of ripe cherry and rubber, with hints of sweet florals and herbs. On the palate, light red fruits with a bump of brisk acidity made themselves known, leading into a medium-long finish defined by mouth-coating tannins. (89 points)

2010 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – The nose was restrained, giving little more than dried berries, hints of spice and minerals. On the palate, I found ripe red fruits and inner floral tones on a feminine frame. It finished reserve with notes of strawberry and herbs. Frankly, I was a little confused here, as I would have thought this to be a Rosso or Brunello from a much cooler vintage. (89 points)

Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

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Following The Vintage of A Lifetime: 2011 Brunello and Beyond

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Benvenuto BRunello bannerBenvenuto Brunello is always one of the events I look forward to each year. With both an in-depth seated tasting and a walk-around session, it is the best way to get a read on the newest vintage without visiting Montalcino in person. At this day long tasting, producers pouring the previous vintage’s Riserva, the current Brunello and their young Rosso di Montalcino, are there to talk up the vintage and answer all of our questions.

Brunello 2016 CorksThis year, it was 2011 Brunello and the highly anticipated 2010 Riserva category, which brought the crowd. I myself was quite excited going in, and what I left with were over eighty tasting notes, just as many photos and a whole lot of insights on both vintages. Being a huge fan of Brunello, I will say that I take this very serious, and I hope it provides my readers with all they need to make some smart purchasing decisions.

Today we’ll talk about 2011 Brunello and 2013 & 2014 Rosso di Montalcino. Later in the week, I’ll post the 2010 Brunello Riserva write up and notes. Enjoy!

2011 Brunello di Montalcino: Shop Smartly

They’ll tell you that these are the wines to drink while you wait for your 2010s to mature in the cellar, and to a small degree, that’s a very a good point. However, I have a slightly different outlook on 2011 Brunello di Montalcino, and while these are wines that will give the most satisfaction over the course of the next five years, the quality level is nowhere near as it was in 2010.

Brunello in glass 2The 2011 vintage was the result of an early bud break and relatively cool spring and summer. This, coupled with large water reserves from the rain and snow during the winter, gave growers a lot of hope for a long, cool growing season. Unfortunately, temperatures soared in the end of August, and with it, the fruit ripened at a fast pace. With that said, you can’t look at 2011 across all producers as a ripe and early drinking vintage that you can buy broadly throughout. While some properties managed the temperature swing and turned out gorgeous wines that take advantage of the vintage’s ripe fruit–while also providing varietal character and the balance to remain enjoyable–others are simple, hedonistic versions of Sangiovese.

A Vintage Standout! 2011 Canalicchio di Sopra

A Vintage Standout! 2011 Canalicchio di Sopra

The bouquet on nearly all the 2011s I’ve tasted have been attractive, highly-perfumed and with a ripe fruitiness that can seduce the senses. It’s on the palate where most of these wines fall short. The intense, ripe fruit hits the senses in a silky wave (does that sound like Sangiovese?). This would be all well and good IF that burst of fruit was followed by vibrant acidity, minerality or depth in any form—but in many cases, it isn’t. In fact, the tooth-aching sweetness found in a number of these wines was unbelievable and unwelcomed.

Here’s the rub. There are a small number of 2011s that do take the ripeness of the vintage and contrast it with that balanced acid and depth, which forms a towering example of Brunello that critics will call “very good for the vintage.”

Very good to be sure, because what I’ve found is that most of the 2011s are either forgettable or highly memorable, and there’s very little in between.

So should you buy 2011? My answer is, a hesitant, yes. However, you must pick and choose. I’ve already found a few of my usual suspects that didn’t live up to expectations, while others have happily surprised me.

So, while 2011 may be the vintage to drink while the 2010s mature; just make sure you’re drinking the right wine. In the end, the best of 2011 can be put on your table tonight and will please a broad audience.

On to the tasting notes:

Il Poggione Brunello 20112011 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino – One of the standouts of my recent tastings, the 2011 Il Poggione Brunello brings together the ripeness of the year while still maintaining a classic feel and vibrancy on the palate. The nose showed deep, dark red fruits, with hints of undergrowth, leather and charred meat. On the palate, I found a balanced display of silky textures, brisk acidity and fine tannin, with notes of ripe strawberry, bitter cherry and minerals. It finished long on dried red fruits and inner floral tones, with a coating of fine tannin. Very nice! (93 points) Find it at Morrell

2011 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was gorgeous, showing rich, dark red fruits, sweet floral tones and a hint of cedar. On the palate, I found ripe red fruits, which were perfectly balanced by a core of vibrant acidity, followed by spice and a coating of fine tannin. The finish was long on black cherry and plum along with a boost of mouthwatering acidity which kept the experience wonderfully fresh. (93 points) Find it at Morrell

Romitorio Brunello 20112011 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was dark and youthfully restrained, showing fresh floral tones up front, followed by red fruits and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, it displayed medium-bodied textures in a refined expression of dark red fruits, balanced acidity and fine tannins. The finish showed inner floral tones and dried berries. The resulting experience was one of a classic Brunello, even in this warm vintage. (93 points)

2011 Tenuta di Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was layered and highly expressive with notes of ripe cherry, undergrowth and funk, opening to reveal floral tones and dusty spice in a ripe yet beautifully perfumed expression of Brunello. On the palate, I found ripe cherry balanced by brisk acidity with a tooth-coating minerality, which ultimately came across as fleshy yet balanced. It finished on dried cherry, minerals and gorgeous inner floral tones. The Collosorbo was a real standout. (93 points)

Belpoggio Brunello 20112011 Belpoggio Brunello di Montalcino – This property is new to me, and the 2011 is a great introduction. The nose showed a classically expressive mix of strawberry, dusty earth, fresh floral tones and hints of cedar. On the palate, I found rich and silky textures in an elegant expression of palate-coating cherry, spice and dried fruits. A bump of acidity cleansed the senses, making way for its slightly tannic finish with notes of strawberry and leather. (93 points)

2011 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino – Outclassing its cousin Uccelliera in 2011, the Voliero showed dark black cherry, cranberry and mulling spice on the nose, which continued to evolve, revealing dark and savory tones of roasted meat. On the palate, it was juicy and full of energy, displaying focused red fruits and hints of exotic spice offset by zesty acidity. Inner floral tones, tart cherry and herbs lingered on the finish. (92 points)

Armilla Brunello 20112011 Armilla Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was highly expressive and refined, showing pretty floral tones, spicy red fruits and minerals. It was intense on the palate, yet perfectly balanced with brisk acidity giving way to pure cherry fruit, spice and leather. The finish showed saline-infused red fruit and spice with hints of fine tannin. This is a very classic expression for the 2011 vintage and worth checking out. But be warned, production is only 6800 bottles. (92 points)

2011 Tenuta Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed deep red fruits and sweet floral tones with hints of exotic spice. On the palate, I found broad, silky textures ushering in rich red fruit with a perfect balance of zesty acidity and fine tannin. The finish turned to bitter cherry in a grippy display of structure and refinement. The 2011 Col D’Orcia was quite classic. (92 points)

Castello Tricerchi Brunello 20112011 Castello Tricerchi Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed dark, rich fruit contrasted by moist earth and mentholated freshness. It was dense on the palate, yet ultimately balanced, with brooding textures giving way to ripe strawberry, plum and spice. Dark red fruit coated the senses throughout the long finish, with hints of herbs and spice providing depth. (91 points)

2011 Palazzina Le Macioche Brunello di Montalcino Le Macioche – The nose displayed focused fruits with strawberry and plum, leading to earth tones and sweet florals. On the palate, it displayed silky textures contrasted by a zing of welcomed acidity and notes of young cherry, leather and herbs. The finish was long with fine tannin, cherry and autumnal spice. (91 points)

2011 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed fresh red berry fruit, floral tones and a medicinal note of hard red candy. On the palate, I found silky textures contrasted by balanced acidity, as ripe strawberry and cherry fruits coated the senses. It finished on bitter cherry and dark inner floral tones, along with a coating of fine tannin. (91 points)

Antonori Pian delle Vigne Brunello 2011 22011 Pian Delle Vigne (Antinori) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed pretty floral tones, along with ripe black cherry and chalky minerality. On the palate, I found intense and fleshy ripe cherry and spice notes. The finish was long with hints of mocha and dried berries. The Pain della Vigna was ripe to be sure yet not overdone in any way. (91 points)

2011 Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was wonderfully expressive and perfumed, showing fresh cherry and undergrowth with hints of herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures with a perfect acid-to-tannin balance, giving way to flavors of ripe strawberry, black cherry and minerals. It was slightly linear yet so easy to like, finishing on fine tannin and dried fruit. (91 points)

Carpineto Brunello 20112011 Carpineto Brunello di Montalcino – The Carpineto explodes from the glass with a vibrant and pretty bouquet of perfumed red fruits and cherry followed by hints of mulling spice and wild herbs. On the palate, it was rich and dense, with concentrated textures revealing ripe cherry and dark spice with medicinal tones. Saturating red fruit resonated throughout finish with hints of cedar and ending on sour cherry. It’s a big wine, but there’s no denying its balance. (91 points)

2011 San Giorgio Brunello di Montalcino Ugolforte – The nose was more restrained than most of the ‘11s I had tasted, showing floral perfumes with small red berries and hints of menthol. It came to life on the palate, with sweet cherry, spice and herbs in a finessed and feminine performance with an excellent balance of fine tannin and zesty acidity. The finish showed cranberry and plum, which slowly turned to inner floral tones and hints of spice. It will be interesting to see if this evolves over the coming months into a more expressive wine. Until then… (90 points)

Uccelliera Brunello 20112011 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was restrained, requiring quite a bit of coaxing to reveal it notes of cherry, spice, herbs and earth tones. On the palate, I found ripe red fruits on a balanced frame, but very little in the way of depth. The finish was long with palate-staining red fruits and spice. (90 points)

2011 Val di Suga (Angelini) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was ripe and intense with a mix of red fruits offset by hints of dried spice. On the palate, I found soft textures along with juicy acidity with a drink-me-now persona, as fresh cherry notes lingered into the medium-length finish. (89 points)

Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello 20112011 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed intense dark red fruits, spice, cedar, and hints of mocha. With time in the glass, dark floral tones came forward, along with a hint of oak. On the palate, a rush of ripe red fruit was contrasted by zesty acidity and spice over a veil of silky textures. It finished on tart cherry and a lingering note of crushed flowers. (89 points)

2011 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta – The nose showed cherry, floral tones and dusty spice. On the palate, I found tart cherry and inner floral tones, yet the fruit seemed to have suffered here from its time in wood, coming across and dried-out and astringent. The short finish showed dried red fruit and gripping tannin. (89 points)

2011 Piccini Brunello di Montalcino Villa Al Cortile – The nose showed rich red fruits, savory charred meat and hints of menthol. On the palate, silky textures and soft fruit tones prevailed with notes of cherry and spice, yet I craved some much-needed acidity. The finish was light and slightly short with hints of dried cherry. (88 points)

2011 Castello di Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed sweet red fruits with perfumed floral tones and a hint of toasty oak. On the palate, I found tart red berry fruit on a wiry frame, yet little depth to contend with the wine’s acidity. It finished tart and floral. (88 points)

Rosso di Montalcino 2013 & 2014: The Future is Bright

Both 2013 and 2014 are presenting a lot to like from the Rosso category. The ‘13s are showing classic, cool fruit and wonderful acidity; some even seem to be begging for a little time in the cellar. Meanwhile, the ‘14s have attractive fruit, fine tannins, and juicy acidity, making them fun to drink now. I personally believe that too many people pass up on this category in favor of Chianti at a similar price. Yet I feel that these are a great way to get a glimpse into the future of our favorite Brunello producers.

Il Poggione Rosso 20132013 will no doubt be a very good vintage in Brunello, and 2014 seems to be coming together quite nicely, but only time will tell.

2013 Rosso di Montalcino

2013 Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino – The Pacenti Rosso was quite beautiful today and showed potential for the cellar. The nose was intense and forward with tart cherry, pine nettle, minerals and floral notes. On the palate lean red fruits gave way to dried spices and herbs, showing refined tannin and excellent balance. Notes of tart cherries and herbs lingered long on the structured finish. This is a Rosso that had wished to be a Brunello; it’s quite impressive. (92 points)

2013 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Rosso di Montalcino – The bouquet was gorgeous and incredibly fresh, showing crushed cherry, dusty floral tones, spice, sandalwood, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found saturating, tart red fruits with hints of herbs and zesty acidity. Notes of cranberry, rose and bakers chocolate lingered on the finish. (91 points) Find it at Morrell

2013 Palazzina Le Macioche Rosso di Montalcino Le Macioche – Pretty red fruit and floral tones on the nose lead to a savory palate with wild berry fruit. The finish was refreshed by a bump of acidity and lingering red berries. (91 points)

2014 Rosso di Montalcino

2014 Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino – On the nose, I found fresh red floral notes offset by sweet strawberry and minerals. It was lifted and focused on the palate with pure red fruits, beautiful mouthwatering acidity and spicy grip. The finish was long, showing red berries, herbs and mineral tones. (91 points)

Voliero Rosso di Montalcino 20132014 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Rosso di Montalcino – The nose was pretty with sweet red fruits, floral tones and herbs. On the palate, I found feminine textures with an engaging bump of acidity giving way to focused and deep red fruits. It finished on inner floral tones and cherry skins. Yum! (91 points)

2014 Voliero Rosso di Montalcino – The highly expressive nose showed spicy red fruits with exotic floral tones in a perfect balance of ripeness and refinement. It was fresh on the palate, with balanced acidity giving way to cherry, spice and inner floral tones. The finish provided just enough grip to keep thing real, while also leaving a delectable note of crushed red fruits. (91 points)

2014 Armilla Rosso di Montalcino – The nose was remarkably fresh with notes of pure cherry fruit and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, it was focused and pure, showing cherry and spice. It was a bit one-dimensional yet so easy to like. The finish was staying with a display of tart berry and dried flowers. (90 points)

2014 Belpoggio Rosso di Montalcino – The nose showed crushed red berries and floral tones with hints of leather. On the palate, I found finessed, acid-driven textures and a display of vibrant cherry and herbs. It finished fresh, juicy and quite satisfying. (90 points)

Article and tasting notes by: Eric Guido

From The Italian-American Kitchen: Eggplant Parmigiana

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eggplantparmsmIf you were to ask any of my friends or past clients about my specialty, they would quickly inform you that it’s risotto. However, it wasn’t always so. Long before my professional career and formal training, I was a cook that depended on what I learned as a child. The rich Italian-American cooking of my family was my strong suit and, more than anything else, it was my grandmother’s Eggplant Parmigiana that was requested over and over again. It’s serious comfort food and one of those dishes that incites applause and smiles all around.

The secret behind this dish is more in the preparation and attention to details than anything else. It starts with the care taken when preparing and dredging the eggplant. The breadcrumbs should be fresh and freshly seasoned by your own hand. Next, the oil should be light olive oil at a medium temperature because extra virgin burns over anything other than a low flame.

eggplantprep4And speaking of the flame, the herbs you add to the breadcrumbs will not burn in this recipe (as they do when most people fry) because the flame stays at a consistent medium and the eggplant is only in the pan long enough to slightly brown. I fondly remember my grandmother saying, “No, no, no, you don’t cook the eggplant in the oil. You cook it in the oven. The oil is only to brown the bread crumbs.” Lastly, the fried eggplant should be dried before being added to the baking dish so that the crust is firm and crisp.

As for wine, a household favorite is Barbera d’Alba, which tends to counter the rich and vibrant flavors of the eggplant parm with its own richness and vibrant acidity. Keep in mind that, although this is a dish centered around a vegetable, it is still a formidable dish that will hold up to any number of big red wines. (see the bottom of this article for a favorite Barbera d’Alba that pairs perfectly with this recipe)

eggplantprep3Classic Eggplant Parmigiana

  • 2 medium-size eggplants
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (go to a local bakery for these if not available in your supermarket)
  • 1/2 tsp cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Light olive oil (enough for frying; be prepared to change the oil at least once)
  • 8 ounces of Parmigiano Reggiano (grated)
  • 16 ounces of mozzarella (shredded)
  • 6 cups tomato sauce (a simply tomato sauce will do; I like to go for a chunky style with a little basil)

eggplantprep1Peel and slice the eggplant. (Each slice should be about 1/8 of an inch.) Lay the slices out on a rack or sheet pan lined with paper towels and sprinkle heavily with salt. Then flip the slices and sprinkle the other side with salt as well. Allow the eggplant to sit like this for one hour. The salt will pull bitter juices out of the eggplant. When one hour has passed, quickly rinse each slice of eggplant under cold water and set out on a towel to dry.

To prepare your dredging station, set up a plate, followed by a bowl, followed by another plate. On the first plate, place your two cups of flour. In the bowl, crack four eggs and whip them to consistency. In a small mixing bowl, pour two cups of breadcrumbs, two tsp dried oregano, two tsp dried basil, one tsp garlic granules, a 1/2 tsp cracked pepper and a 1/2 tsp salt. Mix the contents of the bowl together and pour onto the last plate.

Preheat your oven to 325 F.

eggplantprep4To dredge, set up a rack for the breaded eggplant to rest on before being fried. Begin the dredging process by lightly seasoning each piece of eggplant with salt and pepper. Then dip a piece of eggplant into the flour and coat completely. Shake off any loose flour and drop the eggplant slice into the eggs. Then, using a fork, lift the eggplant from the eggs and allow any excess egg to drip off. Now place into the breadcrumbs and coat completely. When coated, move the slice of eggplant to the rack. Do this for all slices of eggplant.

In a pan (I like to use a large cast-iron pan), pour enough light olive oil into the pan to cover the entire bottom with about 1/8 inch of oil. Bring the flame up to medium-low and allow the olive oil to come up in temperature.

eggplantprep5Near your frying oil, set up the following: a plate or sheet pan lined with paper towel; a glass Pyrex, CorningWare or chafing dish for the eggplant, the shredded mozzarella and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and the sauce in a pot over a low flame. Ladle a small amount of sauce into the bottom of the dish and spread it out across the entire bottom to create a light layer of sauce.

Begin to fry the eggplant by adding it to the fry oil (do not overcrowd the pan), allow the first side to brown lightly and then flip the eggplant. (Like my grandmother said, the eggplant cooks in the oven.) Once the second side is lightly browned, move the eggplant to a towel to drain. Add more eggplant to the fry oil to continue the process. Once the pieces on the towel are drained of any excess oil, move them to the Pyrex or chafing dish, cover with a large pinch of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, then a large pinch of mozzarella and a small ladle of sauce. Continue this process until all the eggplant has been fried, but remember that you will likely need to change out the oil in your pan at least once during this process.

eggplantprep7The end result should be neatly stacked pieces of eggplant, three to four pieces high, with both cheeses and a small ladle of sauce between each stack. Once you have assembled all stacks, add a generous sprinkle of mozzarella across the top and place in the oven for 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven when done, let cool for 10-15 minutes and then serve family-style.

Now on to the wine pairing.

Why Barbera? Barbera is a high acidity grape that use to be planted in the lesser exposed or lower altitude positions in the vineyard. Essentially it was the second child to most growers Nebbiolo, and the wine they would drink for any easy quaff. However, due to the hard work and visionary foresight of a number of today’s growers, Barbera has now seen a massive surge in popularity. These growers are giving the vine the locations and attention they deserve, and treating it as a noble variety in the winery as well. The result is a new tier of fine wine in Piedmont, the top shelf Barbera, which is still a remarkable deal compared to Barolo and Barbaresco.

2013BarberaThe intense fruit and elevated acidity of Barbera cuts right through the richness of Eggplant Parmigiana. It accentuates the tomato flavors in the sauce and adds an attractive woodsy character that’s to die for. While the Giacomo Conterno Cerretta is one of the most expensive examples out there, you should also look to Vajra, Bartolo Mascarello, Roagna, and Vietti for more affordable, yet just as enjoyable, Barbera.

2013 Giacomo Conterno Barbera d’Alba Cerretta – The 2013 comes across as more lifted and refined than past vintages, with soaring dark fruit, floral tones, minerals and a hint of orange peel on the nose. Vibrant with intense red fruit and minerals on the palate–tense yet full of energy. It will be interesting to taste this again in a year or two, to see how it may evolve in the bottle. Today, it is highly enjoyable on it’s energy and verve. (93 points) Find it @Morrell

A recipe and wine pairing by Eric Guido

Once It Has You, There’s No Going Back: White Burgundy

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dauvissat mixSomehow, among my friends, I’ve become the guy that always brings White Burgundy to tastings.  What can I say, there is simply something about white Burgs that once they have you, there’s no going back. Possibly it’s the depth and layers found in the bouquet and how you can spend minutes simply admiring and working your way through each and every detail. Or maybe it’s how they convey such a presence on the palate, being one of the few white wines that can be both rich, yet lithe—intense, yet finessed. However, in the end, the best thing about white Burgundy is that some of the greatest examples are still quite affordable, and I’m happy to share one with you that I have grown to love.

The Dauvissat family has been bottling Chablis since 1931. Renowned as one of the great traditional producers of the region, often compared to Francois Raveneau, and with highly-respected holdings in a number of both Grand and Premier Crus.

burg barrelThe steady incline in quality since the 1970’s has more to do with Vincent Dauvissat’s belief in natural farming than anything else. In fact, little else has changed here. Vincent continues to age all wines in barrel, along with a malolactic fermentation, which occurs and stops naturally. Since taking on the responsibilities of the vineyard and winemaking, Vincent has worked to uphold a completely natural approach, with a mentality that terroir is everything and that the wine should make itself.

KimmeridgianAs for the Dauvissat vineyard holdings, the Grand Crus of Les Clos and Les Preuses receive the most attention, yet the Burgundy insider knows better, and that it is that the Premier Cru La Forest which is the real gem of the collection. The reason for this has much to do with the price, often being less than half that of the Grand Crus, yet so near in quality that it can sometimes outshine its Grand Cru brethren. The southern exposure of La Forest coupled with Kimmeridgian soils rich in clay, very closely resembling that of Les Clos, which produce a wine of round textures contrasted by vibrant minerality, and most of all—balance. In warmer years, La Forest still excels because of the cooling influences of the clay soils. In a vintage like 2012, it produces a wine of layered intensity and understated power, which can take a decade to truly reveal its charms.

Granted, prices have risen steadily over the last decade, and I’m often told stories of the bargains that collectors were able to take advantage of many years ago. However, in the grand scheme of things, and at the price of Burgundy today, La Forest remains a tremendous bargain.

On to the tasting notes:

Dauvissat Lea Forest2012 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru La Forest – The nose was tight, taut and lithe at first, with seashore inflected mineral tones out front, followed by green apple and hints of lime, yet with time it began to blossom as floral tones arose, along with pear and crushed stone. On the palate, it was a bundle of energy, yet wrapped tight and angular in its youthful state, showing inner floral tones, lemon, apple and saline-minerality. The finish was fresh with vibrancy lending a last mouthwatering burst of green apple. This was a tremendous experience, having followed the 2012 for an entire day; it simply continued to steadily open more and more. (95 points) Find it @Morrell

2008 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru La Forest – The ’08 La Forest showed brilliantly last night, with a savory and mineral laden bouquet of crushed stone, savory herbs, rye, yellow flowers, undergrowth, ripe brie and young peach. On the palate, rich stone fruit weighed heavily on the senses, which was quickly met by vibrant acidity providing an implosive sensation that resulted in a coating a minerals and spice. Lemon pith and saline minerality linger through the finish as hints of stone fruit lined the palate. The consensus around the table was, Wow! (94 points) Find it @Morrell

Dauvissat Les ClosI truly don’t mean to take anything away from the amazing Grand Crus of Dauvissat, but I felt compelled to share my opinions on La Forest. That said, I’ve been known to love Les Clos as well. In the end, they are all worth the hunt.

2007 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – Initially this was closed on the nose, yet it began to blossom and expand in the glass with mineral notes up front, followed by sour apple, apricot, wet slate and blanched almond. On the palate, it was soft, supple and waxy with flavors of peach skins and mineral-laden stone. A core of brisk acidity added balance and verve. Tart apple lingered on the finish, maintaining that satisfying waxy tone. It is youthful and fun with so much potential. (93 points)

Article and tasting notes by: Eric Guido