Archive for January, 2012

28th January
written by The Chronicler

It’s cold outside and there is snow on the ground.  After a long day, what better way to relax than sitting by the fireplace with a glass of red wine?  Red wine is perfect for the winter season and the some of the heartier meals we enjoy this time of year.  Here  are two age-worthy Italian red wines to consider.

Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso DOC


Montefalco Rosso is a big-bodied Sangiovese, due to the addition of 15% Sagrantino.  Sagrantino grapes produce powerhouse wines.  Unless this Montefalco Rosso is decanted, your palate will be overwhelmed with oak and tannins.  Sangiovese is typically more subtle and acidic, making it great with food.  But after the bouquet of aromas opens up, Montefalco Rosso’s softer side begins to show.  Its complexity is intriguing, as it is assertive yet easygoing.  It is supple on the tongue with notes of tea, herbs, cherry, generous acidity and a long finish.  Montefalco Rosso is likely to become an even better wine with a few more years of age.  It will pair well with hearty pasta and red sauce or red meat.


Price: $23


Franco Molino Barolo DOCG


Franco Molino is another full bodied wine worth aging.  2006 was a good year for Barolo.  The extreme growing conditions in 2006 resulted in wines that are highly tannic and closed, but are expected to express classic structure with several years of aging.  When I popped open the cork, I expected to find it tightly closed.  I did not, however, expect the wretched taste I experienced upon first sip.  The funk that this wine threw off was so nasty, I figured the bottle had to be corked.  I decanted it anyway.  After a few hours I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wine had transformed from frog to prince.  It has the austerity of Darth Vader, the stealth of Batman, and the finesse of James Bond.  Franco Molino’s expressive notes of black cherry, prune, truffle and a touch of tar come together very nicely.  This is a wine that I would prefer to drink alone, but it could also be paired with dark chocolate or red meat.  I expect that it will age nicely over many more years.


Price: $40 (half bottle)

*Rating Scale: 1 Cork = Bad, 2 Corks = Palatable, 3 Corks = Good, 4 Corks = Excellent, 5 Corks = Classic


16th January
written by The Chronicler

Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida is something to behold—not just because its wine list boasts over 6500 different labels or that it has 8 different dining rooms, including one reserved exclusively for the dessert course.  Upon entering Bern’s, I walked into what appeared to be a hybrid between vampire mansion and old boys club.  The décor of the foyer was gothic with dark red wallpaper and glowing wall sconces, yet our dining room donned the wood paneling typically found in an old boys’ steakhouse and silver haired men talking business while their wives, wearing fur coats and open toe shoes, appeared bored.  However uninviting Bern’s might have seemed at first glance, it did indeed provide us with an excellent wining and dining experience.

Bern's Foyer and Dining Room

The steak was good and service was great, but I came to see the wine cellar.  Bern’s has one of the largest private wine collections in the world that spreads across an on-site cellar and two off-site warehouses.  Onsite, the cellar holds a case of over 7600 different wines.  Still, its onsite cellar represents only 10% of its full wine collection.  What makes Bern’s collection amazing isn’t simply the sheer number of wines but the number of rare and unique finds.  With the guidance of Senior Sommelier Eric Renaud, you may find yourself drinking a 1979 Zinfandel with steak, a 40 year old Portuguese white wine with seafood, or an 1834 Madeira for dessert.

In addition to 150 different wines by the glass, Bern’s has a 183-page wine list that shows a depth of vintages and unique wine labels from around the world to provide even the most discerning wine drinker an opportunity for discovery.  I treated myself to dessert in the Harry Waugh dessert room, where I was presented with an incredible dessert wine list, offering an extensive selection of dessert wines, cognacs and spirits.  Flipping through the pages of the wine list, I felt like a kid in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  To add more cheer, the wines were reasonably priced well below the 400% markup more typical of restaurant wine lists.

1947 Latour and 1834 Terrantez

On a tour of the cellar, I was fascinated by several bottles of Madeira dating as far back as the 1820s, old vintages of Lafite re-corked onsite by the Maître de Chais of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, and rows upon rows of great wines stacked floor to ceiling.  The cellar is kept at 50 degrees with 75 percent humidity.  Interestingly, the walls are insulated with ground newspapers.  The rare wine collection is housed in a gated sub-section of the cellar that I was graciously invited in to view Bern’s two most valuable wine bottles—a 1947 Chateau Latour double magnum valued at $30K and an 1851 Gruaud Larose valued at $10K.  The 1947 Chateau Latour double magnum was unknowingly lost in the cellar, until about a year ago when Eric found it had rolled behind a row of other wines.  Apparently, Bern Laxer, the founder of Bern’s purchased it in the 1960s for around $150.

Bern's Wine Cellar

In addition to its two sommeliers, Bern’s also employs 9 wine stewards who pull and restock wines for service.  On occasion, a server will save the drops of wine left at the end of a rare bottle for the stewards to taste.  The most notable wine tasted by our tour guide and wine steward, DJ, was a Lafite from the 1880s.

What is the rarest or oldest wine you have had the pleasure of drinking?


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