On Almost Any Given Sunday, Part I

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On almost any given Sunday, you’ll find me and my brothers, our wives and children, around our dinner table replicating the Sundays of our youth. Those long gone afternoons found us visiting our grandparents. The journeys were not distant. One set lived downstairs from us in the West Bergen section of Jersey City, OLV Parish. The other required a short drive to the Marion Section of Jersey City, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Italian Parish. It usually took less time to get there than to find a parking space.

We were obliged to eat at both places. The food was fresh and outstanding, making our task very palatable. The wine was awful, always homemade red, just a step, one side or another, from vinegar. We were compelled to have some in a jelly glass diluted with 7-UP.

Today the wines are better. One a recent Sunday, we tasted and enjoyed three Grandi Signori. I selected wines that had similarities of vintage, all 2008’s; cost, about $40; grand reds, held back at the wineries for three years or more before release.

I brought the wines upstairs from my cellar to the dining room on Saturday evening. I opened them at 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning and decanted them. They were clean, without sentiment. Although already five years old, they were babies with great potential for aging.

Wine #1: Ratti Barolo “Marcenasco” 2008 DOCG

Pietro Ratti ably continues the work of his father, Renato Ratti, in Annunziata La Morra. I have always said that, if I could buy only one Barolo, it would be “Marcenasco,” due to its excellence, typicity, and value. We found it the most fragrant of the three, with more than ample color and an elegant, majestic taste with nuances of violets, dried roses, a Burgundian tarriness, floral with notes of cherries, not harsh at all. The historic vineyards date back to 1162.   Our rating: 95 points. Hold for five years.

Wine #2: Casanova di Neri “Etichetta Bianca” Brunello di Montalcino 2008 DOCG

Giacomo Neri gets more from his vines than anyone else in Montalcino. Quite frankly, I don’t know how he fashions his “White Label” with such a reasonable price to the consumer. Concentrated, rich, fruity with touches of cherries, currants, even plums. The color is a brilliant ruby.   Our rating: 94 points. Hold for five to seven years. 2008 marks the 30th Anniversary of Casanova di Neri.

Wine #3:  2008 Dao DOC (Portugal)

This was a surprise hit, most due to the unknown aspect of Portuguese wines. Most of my guests were familiar enough with Dao, but not at the $40 price level, more the $8 to $15 category. Touriga Nacional is an important grape, generally known and appreciated as a component in Port, Douro, and Dao wines. Quinta de Lemos T.N. is 100% varietal with dark fruit, black currants, bright tones of Bergamot, and the fragrance of violets. It is the deepest colored of the three, but radiant, without being inky or jammy. It is solid, densely textured with a structure that insures development with prolonged cellaring.   Our rating: 95 points. Hold for 10 years or more. Celso de Lemos created his estate in 1997. His wines will soon be available in the U.S.

With each of these three fine wines, the last glass was the best of all. We all agreed on that.

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