Wine Notes – Uncle Leo’s Boat

or … When Does Wine Collecting Go Too Far?

My Uncle Leo will tell you, “A boat is nothing but a hole in the water you throw money into.” He gave up his passion for cruising across Lake Winnisquam, and I’m hoping my passion for wine doesn’t go in the same direction. Lately, I’m beginning to think that my wine cellar is nothing but a hole under my house that I throw money into. Friends see my basement wine collection and generally chuckle as they pass by the 200-plus bottles stacked onto a couple of large retail wine racks. “Why do you need so much wine?” is generally the question that pops up. I respond with, “The wife is very thirsty.”

There is a short window of opportunity to purchase exceptional wine from certain vintages. Limited-production wines may be available for only a couple of weeks before they are sold out. I feel compelled to obtain my share when I come upon something that excites me. I am especially fond of great bargains and always looking for a case of underpriced wine, but I already have enough of those. We are now paying more attention to higher quality wines. When I first began my wine obsession, a friend explained to me that my palate would change and I would learn to enjoy different wines as I progressed through the various flavors and experiences. “Enjoy the journey,” he said.

My journey has been leading me toward Italia. I find that good Italian wines go better with food because of their higher acid and tannins content. There is no better time to explore Italian wine in New Hampshire than during New Hampshire Wine Week. Every January in Manchester, the state’s liquor commission sponsors a huge wine tasting that benefits Easterseals New Hampshire. Lots of Italian winemakers and producers visit the area and host tastings and wine dinners during the week leading up to this big event.

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During this year’s Wine Week, I stopped by The Wine Steward in Hampstead for their Thursday night tasting. They were hosting a winemaker from the Viberti winery of Piedmont, the most northeastern wine region in Italy. He poured and, with great passion, described each wine they were featuring. The last offering was a single vineyard Barolo Riserva — 100 percent nebbiolo grapes, hand harvested from “La Volta” vineyard, aged for 46 months in 1,300 gallon oak “botti,” further aged in stainless steel for three months, plus 12 more months in the bottle before it can be released. Barolo is one of the Italian “Killer B’s” — Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. It’s no surprise that this wine would be outstanding. There were only a few people in the room at the time, but they seemed to watch as I swirled the wine and plunged “il naso grande” deep into my glass to detect the over-the-top bouquet. I was astounded by its quality and complexity, and immediately exclaimed that I could offer this wine to any connoisseur and tell them this might be the best wine they will ever taste. It was bold and structured, with silky tannins and the expected tartness from the acid associated with Italian wine. There were hints of preserved fruit, herbs and black cherry, with a complex finish that kept changing flavors as I swallowed. I was notably passionate about the flavor sensations this wine delivered. The assembled group consisted mostly of wine professionals who agreed, saying I wasn’t the first person to describe this wine in that fashion. So then arrives the moment of truth: How much is he going to buy?

As you can imagine, bargains and Barolo Riserva are not often mentioned in the same sentence. My friend who told me to enjoy the journey didn’t tell me that the journey would lead to wine that costs $100 per bottle, but here I am, reaching for my credit card. Fine wine comes in cases of six. This wine also features a wooden box to keep as a symbol of the exorbitant price tag. I had to have it.

So about that boat. … I can’t afford a boat because I have a hole in my basement that I keep throwing money into. My wine journey still has a long way to go. As I write this, Andover Classic Wines is selling the La Volta Barola Riserva. They also stock the E. Guigal 2012 “La La” wines — La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque, at $529 a bottle. Maybe I could go for their Penfolds 2010 Bin 707 cabernet sauvignon at $349 or I might take home their Graham 1970 Vintage Port for $259 as a birthday present. Surely someone I know was born in that year. Who knows? Maybe they’ll return the favor.


Andover Classic Wines
Andover, Mass.
(978) 470-0500

The Wine Steward
Hampstead, N.H.
(603) 329-4634


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