Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tasting top-rated 2010 Brunello di Montalcinos with Antonio Galloni at NYCs Lincoln Ristorante

The Pope was in town. As was every Head of State of every Banana Republic on the planet. This was Papal visit and General Assembly week all rolled into one so a number of crosstown streets were closed in sections to facilitate security (and annoy the hell out of those of us who were otherwise occupied). And it was raining so traffic was doubly bedeviled. These were the conditions I faced as I tried to make my way into the city from Queens in order to attend the Antonio Galloni 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Tasting Dinner held in the East Dining Room of New York's Lincoln Ristorante. I have previously provided an overview of the region, vintage, and wines on which the tasting is focused.  In this post I detail the event.

The design of the event called for a 30-minute cocktail period, beginning at 6:30 pm, to be followed by a sit-down dinner built around four flights of the Brunellos, each flight accompanied by one of Chef Benno's heralded creations. Because of the conditions described above, I got to the event almost at the conclusion of the cocktail period. I had just been poured a glass of the NV Jacquesson et Fils Cuvée No. 738 when the call to take our seats was issued.

The seating order was not readily apparent but we eventually sorted ourselves out and took our respective seats. Antonio then stepped to the center of the room to welcome us and set our expectations for the evening.

According to Antonio, the great weather experienced in Montalcino in 2010 resulted in a magical vintage which was characterized by a dark, translucent color in the wines. The wines being tasted were all 100% Sangiovese Grosso and, Antonio said, were the creme de la creme of the 235 Brunello bottlers (As he said this I could not help but think that two of my favorites -- Poggio di Soto and Soldera -- were nowhere to be found.). Most of the wines we were tasting had been released in January but there were a few that were going to be tasted for the first time in the US.

I had not met Antonio previously and was very impressed with the easy confidence of his demeanor and speaking style. He thanked us again for coming and signaled the start of the evening's raison d'être.

Flight 1
The evening's first flight was comprised of the Costanti and Siro Pacenti 2010 Brunello di Montalcinos and the 2010 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. This flight was accompanied by a course called Verdure Arrosto whose components were Beets, Mixed Cauliflower, Romanesco, Artichokes, Sunchokes, Carrots, and Young Fennel.

The Costanti is a traditionally made Brunello in that it is aged in large barrels. This wine presented bright red fruit, cedar, and cigar box and was fine-boned with a hint of stemminess. Antonio, in his summation at the end of the flight, described it as an elegant, perfumed red with cherry, cedar, and tobacco notes. He saw it as elegant and light with the potential to age for decades.

According to Antonio, this vintage of the Siro Pacenti included fruit from both the north and south of Montalcino and was aged in French oak. The consultant to the winery is Eric Boissenot, the very-well-regarded Bordeaux oenologist. The over-riding impression on this wine was oak, oak which served to mask most of the wine's underlying characteristics.

The Stella di Campalto presented lush, ripe fruit with notes of cigar and cedar. Galloni indicated that the fruit was from the south of Montalcino and described the wine as artisan. He admitted that this was a bigger, riper wine but felt that was fine given the winemaker's style -- a style he referred to as Barolo-like. This was the most "ready-to-drink" of the wines on offer.

For my money, the Costanti was the wine of the flight.

Verdure Arrosta

Antonio Galloni discussing the first flight at his
2010 Brunello di Montalcino tasting dinner

Flight 2
The second flight included wines from Casanova di Neri (Tenuta Nuova), Il Poggione, and Biondi-Santi. This flight was accompanied by an Agnolotti di Polenta Con Ragu di Maiale the components of which were Wild Boar Ragu, Porcini, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The fruit for the Casanova di Neri was sourced form the south of Montalcino and the modern chops of the wine are indicated by its French oak aging. I found it to be jammy. Antonio said this was a good example of a modern style from the south.

The Il Poggione was traditionally made and, again according to Antonio, is the single wine that offers the highest value for money in Montalcino and brings together a lot of things that are characteristic of Italy.

The Biondi-Santi was the best of this flight though. It was uber classic. The winery had lost its direction somewhat in the past but the 2010 was the essence of "classicism." Antonio is more worried about the estate's future, however, than its past given the recent changes that it has undergone.

Agnolotti di Polenta Con Ragu di Maiale

Flight 3
Flight three included the Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, Salicutti, and Pian dell'Orino Vigne del Versante Amiata (As of the tasting date, the latter two had not been released to market.) accompanied by a Bistecca Alla Fiorentina (Sirloin and Tenderloin of Prime Beef, Green Market Tomatoes, Corn, Roasted Potato Torta, Arugula, and Aceto Balsamico).

The Ciacci was a prototypical modern style with the oak too prevalent for my liking. Creaminess and exuberance, generosity, radiance, and intensity of fruit according to Antoinio. More mid-palate intensity than for the Casanova di Neri encountered in the previous flight.

The Salicutti was stunning. An almost Burgundian expresssion of Sangiovese. Powerful, intense, and long without being heavy. Great tannic structure and perfect weight on the palate. Can be drunk now but will also reward patience.

The Pian dell'Orino was also stunning. An explosion of flavor and intensity. This wine was constructed using traditional methods and was the best wine tasted up to that time.

Bistecca Alla Florentina
Contemplation. 2010 Galloni Brunello Tasting Dinner

Flight 4
The final flight included the Il Marroneto Madonne delle Grazie, Salvioni, and Cerbiano 2010 Brunello di Montalcinos and were accompanied by Peccorino Toscano, Canestrato, Chestnut Honey, Fig-Grappa Conserva, Cerignola Olives, Apricot, and Date and Hazelnut Bread.

The Il Marroneto presented fruits, coffee, spice, cedar, and Provencal herbs along with a florality. Aromatic. Complete.

The Salvioni was redolent with red fruit accompanying earth and spice. Youthful with harbinger levels of tannin and acidity and a long, juicy finish.

The Cerbaiona was the best of the wines on display that night endowed as it was with finesse, elegance, layered complexity, and a wonderful balance.

Galloni 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Tasting Dinner


This tasting exceeded the expectations that had been set at the time of the offer. My disappointments were twofold: (i) I did not get there early enough to mingle and so did not have an opportunity to assess the quality and interests of the attendees beyond my table mates (who were fantastic, by the way) and (ii) that Soldera and Poggio di Soto were not among the wines tasted (I did not get any indication as to why they were not. The quality and excellence of the tasting were not diminished by their absence but I just felt that they belonged in this company.)

The culinary creations were somewhat overshadowed by the wines and my sense of the event. I will have to revisit the restaurant at another time to assess the food without the distraction of such a profound vintage and lineup. I am not a dessert guy so I did not partake of the fourth course while the first course did not reach me. The second and third courses showed well but were victims of my distracted eating.

The tasting was over but it provided me with a north star to guide my future acquisition of the amazing 2010 Brunello di Montalcinos.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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