Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

“Born in 1934, Renato Ratti was a larger-than-life figure in Barolo who did much to shape the modern framework of the appellation. He started his career working for Cinzano in Brazil and moved back to Italy in 1965. He immediately founded a winery in the Abbazia di San Martino di Marcenasco. He produced his first vintage of Barolo that same year. Renato Ratti was one of the first to map the vineyards of Barolo and he penned the region’s most elaborate vintage chart. Mostly importantly, he created the Albeisa growers’ association with its distinctly branded bottle in 1973. Renato Ratti died in 1988 and the estate is run by his similarly active and engaged son Pietro. Pietro Ratti completed construction on the new winery in 2005.” Monica Larner, Wine Advocate 

Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

“Quality, research, passion, respect for our history and our land with a window ever open on the future, are the underlying principles of our philosophy and the expression of our wines.” Pietro Ratti, 2003

Our wine Buyer Jeff recently had the opportunity to have lunch with Pietro Ratti, son of Renato Ratti.

I recently attended a lunch with Renato Ratti an old and brilliant winery in Piedmont established in 1965 by my Fathers host Pietro Ratti at Carmines IL Terrazzo in pioneer square. Renato Rati is hailed as the bench mark of the classic La Morra Barolo Let’s jump in and see what I found, shall we.

Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti#1 we started with the 2015 Barbera d’Asti DOCG. WOW! I really like this wine with its black cherry spice and bight acidity. There is a great energy to this wine with layers and perfect balance not to mention lots of fruit.

#2 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo ‘Ochetti’ DOC. If you can’t afford Barolo then don’t miss this wine. Grown above the Tanaro River @ 800 feet with a southwester exposure ideal for Nebbiolo.  The wine has delicate lasting red fruit aromas and is filled with classic strawberry and raspberry followed by pleasant savory and earthly notes.

#3 2013 Marcenasco, Barolo, DOCG. Marcenasco is the site were Renato created La Morra’s first single vineyard in 1965 and historical documents show that the cultivation of Nebbiolo dates back to the 12th century. Today, the Marcenasco a blend of vineyards in the Annunziata subzone. A combination that yields a Barolo of structure and elegance, with those classic markers of dark red fruits rich and full- bodied. 93 WA

#4 2014 Rocche dell’ Annunizata, Barolo DOCG. The Rocche dell ’Annunizata vineyard on a steep hillside is considered one of the most important in all of Barolo. Pietro considers the site a “grand cru” of La Morra for its supreme elegance and aromatics imparted by the rare soil of blue marl with steaks of white sand. This is a slow ripening site which makes for a very complex wine of red fruits darker in color and denser in body. 95 WA

# 5 Conca, Barolo, DOCG 2014. The small Conca vineyard is in one of the oldest sub-zones in Barolo. It is less than two acres and is in the hollow of the Abbey of Annunizata where Benedictine Monks made wine as far back as the 12th century. The name Conca in Italian means basin or dell and the vineyard is a shell-shaped basin sitting with a southwest exposure. The wine is more elegant and dialed back. 94 WA 

“The pedigree of origin of a determined sub-zone and the delimitation of its area, the classification of the characteristics pertaining to the various vintages and the process of bottle refinement to both propitiate and maintain distinction, smoothness, elegance and longevity, are three crucial moments to be lived in the first person, concepts that I consider both as matters of substance and style.” – Renato Ratti, 1971

This is something that isn’t seen every year here in Seattle the distributor gets very little so if you would like some contact me Jeff@esquin.Com or call (206) 682-7374 ask for Jeff. There are no guarantees on this particular wines availability.

Thanks for reading.

Jeff Fournier, Esquin Buyer

Tasting Barolo with Pietro Ratti of Renato Ratti

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White Wine With Steak Why Not Go For It, Especially at Lunch?

Got the chance to have lunch at a legendary New York City spot, Keens Steakhouse, established in 1885. It provided me with the perfect opportunity to subvert the “Cab and a slab” classic pairing and have white wine with steak.

One of the things that helped this pairing is the salad. Greens, radishes, and a creamy dressing really bring this into white wine territory. And the wine was a Sauvignon Blanc from Austria that had a few years of age and saw some time in oak. (I wish I had written down the vintage and producer; emailed the resto but haven’t heard back. I’d like to applaud Keens for having some really cool whites by the glass. They were also pouring a blend from South Africa’s Mullineux and a white wine from the uber-trendy Jura region of France.)

White wines with a little richness can handle almost any meat. BTW, this was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. Perfectly cooked. Started with a great cocktail, too, a Paper Plane.

The other thing that made this pairing work? I wanted a white wine. Plain and simple. Why “force” yourself to drink something you don’t want just because it is supposed to “work” better?

White Wine With Steak Why Not Go For It, Especially at Lunch?

Final note on Keens. It has (per their website) “the largest collection of churchwarden pipes in the world.” They adorn the ceiling(s), as you can see in this photo. Read more about these pipes. Perhaps contemplate them the next time you’re there, naturally savoring a white wine with steak.

I’ve also recommended steak in raw form with a white. Check out my pairing for tartare. And I’ve been touting steak and Champagne since 2006. It was at a Nicolas Feuillatte dinner where I was blown away by how well their top wine, Palmes d’Or, was with a steak at Crush in Seattle.

The post White Wine With Steak Why Not Go For It, Especially at Lunch? appeared first on Jameson Fink.

Restaurant Wine List Confidential

Navigating a big restaurant wine list is daunting. Possibly scary. For a geek like me, it can also be hella fun.

I was reminded of this when I was at Nice Matin, a French restaurant in New York City’s Upper West Side. The wine list there is excellent. (Not the one pictured above, BTW.)

And it is big. And leather-bound. And full of French wine. It has true heft. If you dropped it from a foot above your table, it would land with a resounding thump/thwack.

But it reminded me of a a strategy to deal with the large restaurant wine list, deep in verticals and back vintages.

I relate this advice and my (excellent) experience at Nice Matin on today’s episode of Snacky Tunes, which you can hear from 4:30pm-5:3opm EST.

But here’s the gist:

A huge list is either going to panic a novice, who doesn’t know where to begin, or send an expert down the rabbit hole for a stupefying amount of time. Neither are good for you, especially if you are dining with one person or more. (Of course, the first point I should make is ask for help from a sommelier, wine director, or knowledgable employee. But here’s how to focus in on the hidden gems.)

In this case, I glossed over the numerous selections of Burgundy and Bordeaux to zip to a section called (something along the lines of) “Other White Wines.” It’s a hodgepodge of things that don’t fit into a larger category. And it’s often where you can find some interesting bottles and bargains. Also, it’s A LOT shorter selection. Consider it a mini-oasis within an ocean of wine. (Wait, an oasis is in the desert. Well, you know what I mean.)

(If white wine isn’t your thing, look for an “Other Red Wines” counterpart.)

The bottle I found?

Restaurant Wine List Gem: Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (Claire Valley, Australia) 2010

Restaurant Wine List ConfidentialIt was $81 on the list. Wine Searcher has the average retail price for the 2017 at $50. So to get a vintage that’s eight years old for that price is a good deal.

(Yes, if I had a brain I would have purchased the wine right on release, cellared it for years, and opened it at home with some fish tacos.)

But, dang! This is an iconic Australian wine and it’s DRY, DRY, DRY, folks. If you ever see an Aussie Riesling on a wine list and you like dry whites, buy it. They are always very limey and they can age forever. This Grosset from the famous Polish Hill vineyard was killer, super-fresh and very interesting. And fun to drink

I’d also like to note that it didn’t come to the table (ok, bar) ice-cold. It was slightly cool and even at that temperature was excellent. When a white wine doesn’t need to be arctic to be enjoyed (like a cheap beer), you know you’ve got something good. (The bottle was subsequently put on ice.)

On Snacky Tunes I mentioned I’d give some more Australian Riesling recos. First, a tip. If it says “Clare Valley” or “Eden Valley” on the label, get it. These are two great areas. Producers to look for besides Grosset include Pewsey Vale, Jim Barry, and Pikes.

Oh, and what if you were walking through Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and passed me while I was talking to someone about Australian Riesling, but thought I said “Austrian”?

GUESS WHAT, YOU’D STILL BE SITTING PRETTY.

Riesling from Austria is equally awesome. Very dry. In general, I’d say a bit richer. Some producers to look out for: Loimer, Prager, Gobelsburger, Brundlemayer.

So when confronted with a massive wine list, look for that rogues’ gallery of wines, the rando reds and whatever whites.

Life update: Last week was my final one at Wine Enthusiast. Grateful for two-plus years of Champagne flute and oaky white wine defending, along with working with a memorable cast of characters. What is next for me? Hmm. I’d be interested in making wine on the West Coast, perhaps in NY, or around the globe. Continuing to live in NYC and getting a writing/editing gig that’s not necessarily food/wine related. Moving to Philly? If you have any advice or leads, send them my way.

Here’s my Linkedin profile.

Wine list pic by Lou Stejskal via Flickr.

The post Restaurant Wine List Confidential appeared first on Jameson Fink.

Restaurant Wine List Confidential

Navigating a big restaurant wine list is daunting. Possibly scary. For a geek like me, it can also be hella fun.

I was reminded of this when I was at Nice Matin, a French restaurant in New York City’s Upper West Side. The wine list there is excellent. (Not the one pictured above, BTW.)

And it is big. And leather-bound. And full of French wine. It has true heft. If you dropped it from a foot above your table, it would land with a resounding thump/thwack.

But it reminded me of a a strategy to deal with the large restaurant wine list, deep in verticals and back vintages.

I relate this advice and my (excellent) experience at Nice Matin on today’s episode of Snacky Tunes, which you can hear Sunday, March 25th, from 4:30pm-5:3opm EST.

But here’s the gist:

A huge list is either going to panic a novice, who doesn’t know where to begin, or send an expert down the rabbit hole for a stupefying amount of time. Neither are good for you, especially if you are dining with one person or more. (Of course, the first point I should make is ask for help from a sommelier, wine director, or knowledgable employee. But here’s how to focus in on the hidden gems.)

In this case, I glossed over the numerous selections of Burgundy and Bordeaux to zip to a section called (something along the lines of) “Other White Wines.” It’s a hodgepodge of things that don’t fit into a larger category. And it’s often where you can find some interesting bottles and bargains. Also, it’s A LOT shorter selection. Consider it a mini-oasis within an ocean of wine. (Wait, an oasis is in the desert. Well, you know what I mean.)

(If white wine isn’t your thing, look for an “Other Red Wines” counterpart.)

The bottle I found?

Restaurant Wine List Gem: Grosset Polish Hill Riesling (Claire Valley, Australia) 2010

Restaurant Wine List ConfidentialIt was $81 on the list. Wine Searcher has the average retail price for the 2017 at $50. So to get a vintage that’s eight years old for that price is a good deal.

(Yes, if I had a brain I would have purchased the wine right on release, cellared it for years, and opened it at home with some fish tacos.)

But, dang! This is an iconic Australian wine and it’s DRY, DRY, DRY, folks. If you ever see an Aussie Riesling on a wine list and you like dry whites, buy it. They are always very limey and they can age forever. This Grosset from the famous Polish Hill vineyard was killer, super-fresh and very interesting. And fun to drink

I’d also like to note that it didn’t come to the table (ok, bar) ice-cold. It was slightly cool and even at that temperature was excellent. When a white wine doesn’t need to be arctic to be enjoyed (like a cheap beer), you know you’ve got something good. (The bottle was subsequently put on ice.)

On Snacky Tunes I mentioned I’d give some more Australian Riesling recos. First, a tip. If it says “Clare Valley” or “Eden Valley” on the label, get it. These are two great areas. Producers to look for besides Grosset include Pewsey Vale, Jim Barry, and Pikes.

Oh, and what if you were walking through Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and passed me while I was talking to someone about Australian Riesling, but thought I said “Austrian”?

GUESS WHAT, YOU’D STILL BE SITTING PRETTY.

Riesling from Austria is equally awesome. Very dry. In general, I’d say a bit richer. Some producers to look out for: Loimer, Prager, Gobelsburger, Brundlemayer.

So when confronted with a massive wine list, look for that rogues’ gallery of wines, the rando reds and whatever whites.

Life update: Last week was my final one at Wine Enthusiast. Grateful for two-plus years of Champagne flute and oaky white wine defending, along with working with a memorable cast of characters. What is next for me? Hmm. I’d be interested in making wine on the West Coast, perhaps in NY, or around the globe. Continuing to live in NYC and getting a writing/editing gig that’s not necessarily food/wine related. Moving to Philly? If you have any advice or leads, send them my way.

Here’s my Linkedin profile.

Wine list pic by Lou Stejskal via Flickr.

The post Restaurant Wine List Confidential appeared first on Jameson Fink.

Uncork the Forks: Local Wines Should Be on Local Menus

(Photo Credit: David Benthal for northforker) Local wine people — both inside and out of the industry proper — have long lamented how few local restaurants support and offer local wine. Short of visiting every restaurant and asking to see their wine lists, it is hard to know precisely who is listing local wine and how much of it. Visiting restaurant websites — many of which aren’t updated very often, rendering them largely useless — does offer some insight, though. The results are still ugly, though there are some exceptions — restaurants doing good things with local wine. Some restaurants,…

Corks of the Forks: The Do’s and Dont’s of a Good Wine Dinner

Winery events abound on the East End, but not all wine events are created equal. They range from the very wine-focused — things like barrel or vertical tastings — to the not-at-all-wine-related. I’m looking at you, vineyard yoga. Among all winery events, the wine dinner reigns supreme. Just about every winery in America hosts them at restaurants or right on their own property. It’s a simple equation: winery plus restaurant equals fun to be had. They are a great way for a wine producer to reach new audiences and build relationships with restaurants. Restaurants benefit, too, often selling these dinners…

A Beer-Themed Lunch

A Beer-Themed LunchThe name of the place is Esquin Wine Merchants, but we do love (and sell) some good beer as well. I recently attended a beer-themed lunch (can’t tell you how much I enjoyed typing “beer-themed lunch”) at Quinn’s that recharged my passion for beer and, delightfully, introduced to some unexpectedly excellent beer and food pairings.

As a wine guy, my brain has been programmed to think Muscadet whenever mussels are involved. It’s not a bad thought–especially when Pepiere is involved–but I was really surprised by how well one of the beers paired with mussels. I figured it would be the lightest-style beer (the lager or the Hefeweisen) but the mussels turned out to be sensational with the Orval Trappist Ale.

A Beer-Themed LunchAnother great pairing was the Samuel Smith Organic Cider with the Duck Terrine. The sweetness and acidity of the cider was a nice counterpoint to the richness of the terrine; duck is a meat that really lends itself to having a fruit component added. In this case, in liquid form.

A Beer-Themed LunchThis veal was served with a trio of beers (Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, their Oatmeal Stout, and the Ayinger Celebrator Bock) that were all complimentary with the dish. Definitely a heartier beer was in store for this very rich meat; I’d have to say the Stout and Bock were better by a hair.

A Beer-Themed LunchFinally desert: an apricot and apple tart. It was served with the Lindemans Framboise, which I have to admit I find too sweet. But the tartness of the fruit seemed to tame the sweetness a bit and bring out the acidity of the Lindemans.

I left Quinn’s very full, and full of respect for how well beer can pair with great food. Am I giving up my Muscadet anytime soon? Um, no. Never! (In fact, I’ve got a bottle in my fridge right now.) But I was reminded that the world of beer has many of the qualities that make wine so compelling. There’s a rich history, full of great stories. And it’s delicious.

Full disclosure: Lunch was provided by the distributor and importer.


A Beer-Themed Lunch