Friday, March 26, 2010

Levi's Luncheon

The other day I was lucky enough to attend the luncheon honoring Levi Dalton, the head sommelier at Convivio who is now moving to Alto. Levi is one of those guys who loves to share whatever he has with you, so as the host of the luncheon, he opened some pretty amazing wine. I drank some things I've never had before and I want to share a few thoughts.

Bottles were passed around the tables in a mostly random order, so you helped yourself to a little pour as each bottle made it to the table. The very first wine to hit one of my glasses (I had four, I am proud to say) was the 1986 Mas de Daumas Gassac Vin de Pays de l'Hérault. I've wanted to taste this iconic wine from the Languedoc for a long time now. It is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and there little bits of many other grapes in there too. Here's the thing - if I were served blind, I would have thought it to be a young wine. Perhaps it's because it actually was the youngest wine at the luncheon, but I just don't know. Supposedly it takes forever for one of these to come around. If this is representative of the '86, it has another 20 years to go before it starts to show some secondary notes. Can anyone shed some light on this Mas de Daumas Gassac phenomenon?

We drank some old Nebbiolo, including 1969 Luigi Nervi & Figlio "Riserva del Titolare" Gattinara, 1964 Luigi Nervi & Figlio "Riserva del Titolare - Podere dei Ginepri" Gattinara, and 1964 and 1967 Fratelli Bettini Valtellina Sassella Riserva. I prefer to drink Nebbiolo that is older than these when I have lunch, but this is what Levi had, so it is what it is. These wines were all fascinating to me - I don't know about you , but I don't drink wines like this very often. I think my favorite was the '64 Luigi Nervi. It was remarkably fresh and vibrant for such an old wine, and it played very nicely with Testa, Convivio's house made pork terrine with fried egg.

(photo courtesy of Scott Reiner)

And then there were the two Baroli, the 1982 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva Barolo and the 1978 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio Villero Barolo. Although I left it to rest in one of my glasses for the entire span of the luncheon, the Conterno never really finished unfolding itself (although it's possible and likely that I simply do not understand the wine). It was a striking wine, and I wish I still had it in my glass. The Mascarello was just beautiful. I don't know what else to say about it, except that it was the physical manifestation of what I imagine great Barolo to be.

I loved the 1986 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses too, and the guy I sat next to, David Lillie of Chambers Street Wines thought it smelled great too, but Joe Dressner waved his hand and scoffed at the wine and said it was too green. He imports Raffault's wines, and knows them as well as anyone, so who am I to argue. But I would drink it anyday...There were other great things, including a 1982 Macle Chateau Chalon, but I've said enough about the wine already. The company was great too, an excellent group of people from all over the wine world, all Levi's friends and all happy to be there to congratulate him.

It's funny to be the least experienced person at an event like this one. A group of experienced wine pros like this, and with wines like these - I expected the atmosphere to be one of reverence and quiet contemplation. Not at all, my friends. These folks understand wines like this, they've had them many times before. Serious tasting occurred, of course, but so did catching up about daily life. Some one's basement flooded that morning, and they had to stand there with a bucket. Some one else's huge dogs love her apartment, but she's worried that other people don't love it so much, and she's expecting vignerons as guests - what to do? Some one else is annoyed with how disrespectful and impolite competitors often are at industry tastings. Someone else has to leave early to get back to selling wine. Life doesn't stop for 1964 Luigi Nervi, I guess.

Anyway, congratulations on your achievements Levi, and all the best in your new role. New York is better for having you here.

8 comments:

wine student said...

As a new entry into the Sommelier world (working on level 2) - what you're talking about it almost beyond comprehension... sounds like a phenomenal experience though! If you come to Vancouver BC let me know & I'll show you some of our winebars
:>

Do Bianchi said...

oh my unbelievably Dieu! amazing flight of wines... I cannot conceal my envy...

I love the Mas de Daumas Gassac (and that vintage in particular) and the Raffault... wow...

But the old expressions of Nebbiolo... UNBELIEVABLE! I had to stop reading at 1964 Bettini Sassella...

congrats, Levi... mazel mazel! can't wait to check out your new list...

Anonymous said...

From the back label of the Mas de Daumas Gassac '86:

"Pour 75% - Cabernet Sauvignon
Pour 30% - Malbec - Merlot - Syra - Cabernet Franc - Pinot - Tannat"

it might be the extra 5% of grapes that keeps it so young, it might be the Tannat, or it might be the legendary no "h" Syra.

Thank for coming!

Marty Markowitz was at the restaurant just after you.

Coincidence?

-LD

Joe said...

So heartbroken to miss this. Was sick in bed, and sick at missing catching up with everyone. Thanks for the notes, it is great to hear about it.

Dressner is a hard case on the old wines in his portfolio IME.

SFJoe

Hampers said...

What a wonderful post, beautifully written. It captures these wines so well.

Scott Reiner said...

for me too the 64 Nervi was the wine of the lunch. can't imagine a much better nebbiolo...

Alfonso Cevola said...

Yikes, very impressive. We had the 05 Mas du Daumas Gassac a day or so ago and loved it. Those older vintages seem to be holding up well. Thanks for sharing your impressions

michelecolline said...

Looking back on old notes taken at the winery in 1995, the only note that could apply to the longevity is that the cabernet sauvignon is from very old clones with thick skins. The wine was showing pretty well back then!