Piedmont Icons at
517 W 38th St.
New York, NY 10018
BY ANTONIO GALLONI | FEBRUARY 21, 2020
Pulled Mozzarella; Cherry Tomato, Chanterelles, Basil
Roasted Octopus; Charred Eggplant, Baby Corn, Chile
Corn, Lobster Mushrooms, Parmigiano
Grilled Salmon; Corn, Little Neck Clams, Lovage
Giovanni Canonica Barolo Paiagallo
|2000 Giovanni Canonica Barolo
|1996 Giovanni Canonica Barolo
|2004 Vietti Barolo Rocche
|1999 Vietti Barolo Rocche
|1998 Vietti Barolo Rocche
|2007 Giuseppe Mascarello e
Figlio Barolo Monprivato
|2004 Giuseppe Mascarello e
Figlio Barolo Monprivato
|2001 Giuseppe Mascarello e
Figlio Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’ Morissio
|2009 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo
Brunate Le Coste
|2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo
Brunate Le Coste
|2010 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo
|2004 Giacomo Conterno Barolo
|1999 Giacomo Conterno Barolo
|2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo
There are few things I enjoy more than hosting
small dinners for Vinous readers. The conversation and company are always just
as good as the wine and food, while the intimate format allows for deeper
conversations than at larger events. That was certainly the case at this recent
dinner we held Legacy Records featuring wines from a handful of benchmark Barolo
The dining room is set.
Legacy Records is part of a burgeoning empire run
by Delicious Hospitality Group that includes Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones.
All three share the same general themes: simple, ingredient-driven cuisine and serious
wine paired with a fun, informal vibe that does not sacrifice attention to detail. At Legacy Records, I especially like the private dining spaces, which are among the most attractive
in all of New York City.
Classics never go out of style. The complete
lineup makes a statement next to an iconic portrait of Mick Jagger.
The theme tonight is Barolo, with a focus on wines
that most people (including me) don’t get a chance to drink often, either
because of scarcity, price, or both. The format of flights across a number of
properties is one Vinous readers have enjoyed before, so, as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I chose mostly vintages I thought would be ready to drink with some that clearly aren’t, but that are special for various reasons. We opened the wines a few hours before service and double decanted to remove any sediment. Wine Director Arvid Rosengren did a masterful job with the wines, which is never easy with our tastings considering the glassware involved (a separate glass for each wine) and my obsession with service temperature. I thought the wines showed very well, with one exception, but I did cherry pick the vintages, after all. The reality is that any one of these wines would have been the pinnacle of almost any dinner.
Legacy Records’ Test Kitchen just before dinner gets started.
I thought the food was terrific on
this night. It’s not always easy to pair food with a group of single-theme
wines, but it all turned out brilliantly. The wood roasted octopus and caramelle pasta were especially divine, with just the right combination of enough complexity to be intriguing, but not so much as to compete with the wines. Grilled salmon and slow roasted short ribs were the options for the main course. I very much enjoyed the salmon, and heard raves about the ribs.
Hand Pulled Mozzarella; Cherry Tomato,
Hand Pulled Mozzarella; Cherry Tomato,
Giovanni Canonica Barolo Paiagallo 2007, 2000
Giovanni Canonica plies his trade in a tiny, cramped cellar
in the middle of the town of Barolo. After negotiating through a maze of
tightly spaced casks and tanks, readers lucky enough to visit will be treated
to Barolos of uncanny perfume and nuance. Quiet and unassuming, Canonica
prefers to let the wines do the talking.
The approach in the vineyards and in the cellar is as old-school as it gets. Non-interventionist farming and aging in cask are the
rule. The signature wine is the Barolo Paiagallo, which emerges from a parcel
in Barolo. There are just a few thousand bottles each year, most of it destined
to export markets that were early supporters of the domaine. The tiny scale of
the makes these some of the rarest wines in all of Piedmont.
Canonica’s 2007 Barolo Paiagallo is a perfect wine with
which to kick off dinner. Elegant, silky and totally finessed, the 2007 is
utterly captivating tonight. Hints of tobacco, leather and cedar add striking
nuance throughout. The warm vintage yielded a Barolo that is ready to drink
relatively early, but that will also develop well for years to come. The 2000
Barolo Paiagallo, also from a warm vintage, is one of the most surprising wines
of the night, as it is so vibrant and fresh. Firm tannins add to the impression
of a wine that still has many years of exceptional drinking ahead of it.
Licorice, spice and leather overtones develop with a bit of air, but it is the
wine’s vibrancy that is most impressive. The 1996 Barolo Paiagallo, from one of
the all-time great Piedmont vintages, brings this flight to a rousing finish.
Fresh and pure to its core, the 1996 is an archetype of what traditionally made
Barolo is. Dark blue fruit, licorice, dried herbs, mint and lavender are
all signatures. Although perhaps not as epic as it has been, the 1996 is still
a Barolo to die for.
A flight of very hard to find wines from Giovanni
Wood Roasted Octopus; Charred Eggplant, Baby
Corn, Chile Aioli
Vietti Barolo Rocche 2004, 1999 & 1998
Vietti is one of the most historic wineries in Italy. Husband and wife team Alfredo Currado and Luciana Vietti were among
the first producers to bottle single-vineyard Barolo with their 1961 Barolo
Rocche. Currado is widely credited for rescuing Arneis from total obscurity in
the 1960s, while Vietti was one of the early pioneers in exporting Barolo to
the United States.
Today, winemaker Luca Currado, and his wife Elena Penna, run
the estate with the same passion they always have. Under their stewardship, the wines have
entered the realm of Piedmont royalty, while vineyard holdings have expanded to
include parcels in Cerequio, Monvigliero and other highly regarded crus. The
flagship remains the Barolo Rocche (now known as Rocche di Castiglione), which
is distinguished by its intense perfume, silky tannins, and a sweetness to the
fruit that makes the wine accessible at a relatively early age. Fermentation
takes place in stainless steel, after which the wine is racked into cask for
malolactic fermentation and aging.
I have vivid memories of tasting the 2004 Barolo Rocche from
cask prior to bottling. Now, all these years later, it is every bit as
memorable. Silky and finessed, with soaring aromatics and tons of energy, the
2004 is simply magnificent. It is also aging along a very graceful and gradual
curve. What a wine! The 1999 Barolo Rocche takes us back to a slightly earlier
period in Vietti’s history when the wines were more extracted and also noticeably marked by French oak signatures. There is still plenty of energy and verticality,
but the 1999 is a decidedly dense, modern Rocche. The 1998 Barolo Rocche is a
very pretty wine, but it is also a bit two-dimensional next to the other
Barolos in this flight. The warm vintage yielded a fairly supple, racy Barolo
that is peaking today. Dark cherry, plum, tobacco and smoke all meld together
effortlessly with a bit of coaxing.
The wood-fired octopus is a fabulous
wine-friendly course on this menu.
Caramelle; Corn, Lobster Mushrooms, Parmigiano
Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Barolo Monprivato
2007, 2004 & Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’ Morissio 2001
Mauro Mascarello is one of the few remaining old-timers in
Piedmont. Since his first full vintage, in 1970, Mascarello has crafted a
number of truly iconic wines. Today, Mauro runs the estate with his wife, Maria
Teresa, and their two children, Elena and Giuseppe.
The Mascarello family’s crown jewel is the Monprivato
vineyard, a site in Castiglione Falletto that is capable of producing wines of
both extreme sensuality and ageworthiness. The flagship wine is the Barolo
Monprivato, but since 1993, the Mascarellos have also bottled a small amount of
their Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’ Morissio from a small plot planted with the rare
Michet clone. Readers probably know that I have been critical of some of the
estate’s recent releases. These three wines, though, all emerge from a time
when the estate was at the top of the pack.
Caramelle; Corn, Lobster Mushrooms, Parmigiano.
The 2007 Barolo Monprivato is just dazzling. Gloriously
rich, the 2007 is radiant and explosive from start to finish. All of the
natural intensity of the year comes through so effortlessly. The floral and red
fruit signatures of Monprivato are all present, but kicked up a few notches by
the heat of the growing season. It may be hard to believe, but the 2004 Barolo
Monprivato is even better. Wow! Rich, deep and beautifully layered in the
glass, the 2004 has it all. Rose petal, mint, spice, and red fruit are all
finely sketched in a Barolo of unreal purity and finesse. I have always adored
the 2004, but on this night I especially adore it. Now nearly twenty, the 2001
Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’ Morissio is in the zone. A rush of dark cherry, plum,
lavender, gravel, spice and menthol builds as this virile, imposing Barolo
shows off its pure breeding. The 2001 is a towering, majestic Barolo of the very
highest level. Readers lucky enough to own it should be thrilled.
Three fabulous Barolos from Mauro Mascarello.
Charcoal Grilled Salmon; Corn, Little Neck Clams,
Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste 2009,
2004 & Barolo Brunate 2010
“Barolo must be an austere, powerful wine, without fruit,”
Beppe Rinaldi often told me. In his hands, the wines were often just that. But
to talk about wine is almost superfluous in looking back at the remarkable life
of a man who was first and foremost a cultural and intellectual icon, and a
winemaker a close second. Originally trained as a veterinarian, Rinaldi took
over the family estate only upon the passing of his father, Battista, in 1992.
Rinaldi championed all of the tenets of the traditional school of Barolo, chief
among them the steadfast belief that Barolo should be made from the blending of
multiple vineyards, a view shared by his cousin, Bartolo Mascarello.
Even now, after a period that has seen the Rinaldi winery
gain much visibility, the estate preserves many aspects of times past. Among
other things, Rinaldi maintains an active list of private clients who have
faithfully bought the wines for many years. For this reason, large parcels of
Rinaldi Barolos rarely, if ever, appear in auction markets. Sadly, Beppe
Rinaldi lost his battle with illness in 2018. Today, his wife Annalisa and
daughters Marta and Carlotta carry on the traditions that have made their
family’s Barolos some of the most highly coveted wines in the world.
Rinaldi’s 2009 Barolo Brunate Le Coste is a fantastic wine
for current drinking. Sure, it is not exactly classic in the way Beppe Rinaldi
would have liked, but so what? Racy, luscious and wonderfully inviting, the
2009 is the sort of wine you can’t just have one glass of. Ripe red cherry,
kirsch, new leather and spice add character to this bold, alluring Barolo from
the Rinaldi family. The 2004 Barolo Brunate Le Coste is a wine I loved on
release and love today. Explosive and deep, with a real sense of vertical
thrust, the 2004 dazzles with its power and overall intensity. It is a vintage
I bought heavily on release and have never been disappointed with. I chose to
open the 2010 Barolo Brunate because I know it is next to impossible to find
and very expensive, and I wanted Vinous readers to have a chance to experience
it. Yes, it is too young to be at its best. No matter. Its pedigree and
stunning beauty are so evident. Dark, spherical in feel and potent, the 2010 is
going to age effortlessly for decades. The 2010 is the first vintage in which
vineyard naming conventions changed in Barolo that eliminated the ability for
growers to list more than one vineyard name on a label. But as it is Italy,
regulations always have some wiggle room. In this case, a single-vineyard
Barolo can contain up to 15% wine from another site, so the 2010 Barolo Brunate
is 85% Brunate and 15% Le Coste.
A flight from Giacomo Conterno rounds out the evening.
Selection of Cheeses
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2004,
1999 & Barolo Riserva Monfortino 2001
In the 1970s, Giovanni Conterno understood the fundamental
shift taking place in Piedmont and around the world; namely that the supply of
high-quality grapes was shrinking as growers became bottlers, which in turn was
driving land prices higher. That meant the only way to ensure quality over the
long term was to own vineyards. In 1974, the Conterno family purchased Cascina
Francia, a 14-hectare plot in Serralunga. The spectacular 1978 vintage rewarded
Giovanni and Yvonne Conterno with their first Monfortino from Cascina Francia,
a wine that is still one of the greatest Barolos ever made.
Today, Roberto Conterno continues the rich legacy of
vineyard work and winemaking established by his father Giovanni and grandfather
Giacomo before him. In recent years, the Conterno family has augmented their
estate holdings with purchases in the Cerretta and Arione crus. Monfortino
remains the flagship Barolo and is bottled only in the very best years. Winemaking is rooted in tradition, but also clearly in the present.
Conterno's 2004 Barolo Cascina Francia is a monumental wine.
Exquisite aromatics meld into a core of dark fruit in a rich, explosive Barolo
that captures all the best this long growing season had to offer. On the
palate, the 2004 is ample and expansive, yet retains laser-like focus. A Barolo
of epic, towering grandeur, Cascina Francia really soars out of the glass. It is so fascinating
to taste the Conterno next to the 2004s from Beppe Rinaldi and Mauro Mascarello. All three
wines are truly magnificent. The 1999 Barolo Cascina Francia is a powerful,
weighty wine that melds together striking inner perfume and the massive
structure that is such a signature of the vintage. Rose petal, kirsch, spice,
licorice and dark fruit infuse the 1999 with so much character. I imagine the
1999 will still be a special wine in another twenty years. If anything, it
comes across as quite young today. In any tasting like this one, there is a
bound to be a wine or two that shows less well than the others. On this night,
it is the 2001 Barolo Riserva Monfortino. We opened three bottles (all from the
same source, purchased on release in the US), none of which I truly loved. It’s
hard to say if the wine is going through a stubborn phase or if it might be developing
a bit faster than some of the surrounding vintages. Having just tasted 22
vintages from magnum for our recent Monfortino Vertical, the likelihood is
far greater that it is the former rather than the latter. I also found the 2001
from magnum more expressive than the bottles, so we will just have to see, as
Monfortino is not exactly the kind of wine I get to taste every day.
In closing, I would like to thank our readers, many of whom
traveled from afar, for being such an integral part of this night. It is
always such a pleasure to share bottles like these with consumers that have
such a deep passion for the wines and the families that make them.