Well, the chef at Alto did, anyway. Levi just organized the whole thing. And lucky for me, he invited me.
Levi is a top shelf wine guy, truly Grand Cru. He is an extremely bright guy with a vast wealth of wine knowledge, and he's relaxed and easy going about it. Sharing a glass with him is a great way to learn about wine, as he is so good as describing in such an accessible manner what he likes and doesn't like about a wine. Plus, he has a razor sharp wit and is simply fun to be around. If this guy invited me to a three hour tasting of Boone's Farm wines, I would go.
So I was excited for Levi's pig roast the other night. The event was hosted by Alto restaurant and was in part a showcase for the Piedmontese wines of Silvia Altare. Many NYC sommeliers and other wine people showed up, some from as far away as Philly. Many wines were shared. I was incredibly lucky to spot, and then basically attach myself to this guy:
SF Joe, as he's known on the wine bulletin boards, is a brilliant and dedicated aficionado of the Loire Valley wines (among others). He was hanging out with a guy named Kirk, another NYC wine guy with a legendary cellar and a generous soul. So my night began with a glass of Kirk's 2002 Nicolas Joly Savennières Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. Nicolas Joly is a controversial figure, as probably the greatest living champion of the biodynamic movement in wine grape farming. And this is a controversial wine. Very expensive, and yet subject to what is apparently is a particularly high degree of bottle variation. Also, there are many who feel that this wine is plagued by problems with oxidation. I have no opinions on these matters, as I've had the wine too few times to understand it. But I will say that this bottle we had was very, very good. Attractive, balanced, absolutely pure, just lovely wine. Made me want to drink it again, although I don't know if I'm ready to plunk down my own $85 yet. I have enough problems with bottle variation already.
Then SF Joe broke out two absolute gems from the fantastic 1989 vintage in the Loire, wines that are pretty rare to come across today. First it was the 1989 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Clos des Briords, a direct refutation of the crazy talk coming from some guy on the left coast about how there's no reason to age Muscadet. This wine was a beautiful thing. No fireworks, nothing fancy, just pure, mellow, perfectly poised, deeply aromatic, and utterly delicious. If it were a house, it would be one of those weathered red-cedar shingle houses on the New England coast.
Then it was the 1989 François Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés. This wine always has a certain richness to it, but at over 20 years old and from a ripe year like '89, this one was infused with honey. It was full and lush but very nicely structured, and like the Muscadet, strikingly pure. I enjoyed how the wine changed from front to back, how the initial taste was so honeyed and floral, and then the finish was more delicate and stony. I decided that it would be with this wine that I needed to indulge in the roast pig.
This photo is terrible, not enough light, but it gives a sense of what was going on with the pig. The chef completely de-boned it and then stuffed it with itself - loin, leg, sausage, and so on. Which by the way, is exactly how I would like to die. Seasoned with rosemary, sea salt, and who knows what else, the pig was ridiculously good. Large portions were served and everyone would say things like "my goodness, there's no way I'm going to be able to eat all that," before slipping into a pig-devouring silence that lingered a little while after the plate was clean.
I loved the way the old Sancerre worked with the pig. I know, it was supposed to be about Silvia Altare's wines, and those were very good too (my favorite was a delicious white Langhe wine made from Pinot Noir). But there was something about the way the floral honey and the rosemary in the Sancerre mingled with the piggy-ness of the pig...
And then, just when I thought it was safe to hang up my glass and head home, Kirk rooted around underneath one of the tables and emerged with a bottle of 1998 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. This is one of those iconic wines that I have very few chances to drink, and it's not easy for me to describe how good it is because I have little context for the wine. But it is one of those wines that just knocks you out immediately, the nose is so gorgeously deep with roses and herbs and tar, impossibly detailed, delicate, and energetic.
What an evening - thanks again for your generosity Levi, Kirk, and SF Joe.