Sunday, March 25, 2007

Adventures in Wine Buying...The Final Chapter

And we return to Deetrane's dark tale of intrigue, wading through the swamp of the secondary market. Prepare yourself, dear reader, for this..the final chapter (cue: scary music, rain thrashing down outside your window, lightning, etc.).

At the end of the last installment Deetrane, instead of getting to work on time, was sitting in a police lockup wondering if Konstantin would learn of his complicity in the sting, but far more concerned about the fate of several of his cheaply (and illegally) obtained Barbaresco.

Will Deetrane get to keep the wine? Will Konstantin disembowel Deetrane, and feast upon his wine-ravaged liver? Read on, friend, as Deetrane, guest poster and pal extraordinare concludes this grisly tale of Adventures in Wine Buying.

So now that the guts of the story have been told, I can be a bit more introspective and get some things off of my chest. First of all, have this nagging guilt for turning Konstantin in. I know what he did was wrong, but I was profiting from it, too. The restaurant’s take was that if I hadn’t happened to pop in, the theft could have continued indefinitely. So they were grateful. But that thing he said to me in the car, with such a look of complete despair, ruin even, still sort of haunts me. So I don’t want anyone to think I am gloating. This story is really kind of sad.

Anyway, on to the conclusion. Apparently they made Konstantin stew inside an interrogation room for hours. He was sending text messages to Simon at Esca – desperate, pathetic messages, like “I’m so sorry. Please help me. I have no one.”

Meanwhile, the seven bottles I purchased for $150 in the sting were not enough to warrant grand larceny charges, unless they tied in testimony from me about the other 30+ bottles I had already purchased. But with all of the other criminal activity that takes place in the city, I guess the cops just didn’t have enough to book him then and there. So after a good couple days in the lockup, they gave him what is known as a “desk appearance ticket”, or a DAT. This means that they let you go, without arresting you, and tell you that you’ll need to come back later to be formally arrested. Meanwhile, the 1996 Roagna Barbaresco Paje did in fact simmer in the non-air conditioned 10th precinct until it was probably added to someone’s labor day sangria.

Konstantin was never heard from again. The scuttlebutt was that he jumped the first Aeroflot flight back to Russia. I, however, collected the following bottles, most of which I have not yet touched, and for which I am supplying whatever tasting notes I can find, if any (e.g. Wine Spadvocator).

Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2000 x 3

WS: Silky and tight wine with pretty fresh rose and strawberry aromas and flavors. Medium- to full-bodied, with fine tannins and a refreshing, citric aftertaste. Clean and fresh style. Best after 2006. 300 cases made. –JS Score: 90, July 04 - Release Price: $50

Luigi Pira Barolo Marenca 2001 x 3

WS: Intense aromas of blackberries, lightly toasted oak and plums. Very intense. Full-bodied, with big velvety tannins and a long, caressing finish. Serious wine. Best after 2008. 1,000 cases made. –JS Score: 92, Oct 05

Varaldo Barbaresco Sori Loreto 1999 x 3

Paolo Conerno Barolo Ginestra 1999 x 3

Marziano & Enrico Abbona Barolo Pressenda 2000 x6

WS: Fantastic aromas of crushed flowers, licorice, raspberries and strawberries. Full-bodied, with a solid core of ripe fruit and supersilky tannins. Long. Fantastic for this producer. Best I have ever had from here. Best after 2009. 1,220 cases made. –JS Score: 94, July, 2004 – Release Price: $52

Paitin Barbaresco Sorì Paitin Vecchie Vigne 2001 x 3

WS: Rich and decadent, with mushroom, berry and cherry aromas and flavors. Full-bodied, with chewy tannins and a long, ripe fruit aftertaste. Big wine. This is always impressive. Much better than the 2000. Best after 2008. 400 cases made. –JS Score: 93, Dec 2004 – Release Price: $75

Azelia Barolo Bricco Fiasco 2001 x 3

WS: A soft and ripe red with plum and berry character and just a hint of meat. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long finish. Best after 2008. 1,020 cases made. –JS Score: 93, Oct 2005, Release Price: $78

Piero Busso Barbaresco Borgese 1999 x 3

WS: Refined red. Aromas of berries and fresh herbs follow through to a medium-bodied palate, with refined tannins and a pretty, fruity finish. Best after 2006. 500 cases made. –JS, Score: 90, Nov 2002, Release Price: $52

Guido Porro Barolo Vigna S. Caterina 2001 x 3

WS: Extremely attractive aromas of roses, spices and light wood follow through to a medium-to-full body, with fine tannins and a pretty finish. Balanced and refined. Best after 2007. 280 cases made. –JS, Score: 90, Release Price $40

Tua Rita Toscana Giusto di Notri 2002 x 2

WS: This shows beautiful vanilla, violet and berry character on the nose. Medium- to full-bodied, with well-integrated tannins and a subtly complex finish. Fine wine. Very well done for the vintage. More balanced and refined than the 2001. Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Best after 2005. 2,450 cases made. –JS, Score: 90, Oct 2004, Release Price: $85

Cascina Ebreo Segreto 1999 x

WS: A traditionally-made (no filtration, wines aged at least two years in oak and another in bottle before release) blend of Barbera (85-90%) and Nebbiolo, made by two Swiss winemakers who bought the derelict estate in 1991. Apparently a well-kept Piedmontese secret.

Braida Barbera D’Asti Ai Suma 2001 x 3

Jammy, new world-style wine – tasted to me like an Amarone. Not quite to my style

Braida Barbera D’Asti Bricco del Uccellone 2001 x 3

Big, leathery, huge monster wine. More to my palate, but could definitely mellow for a few more years.

So we are not quite yet at the end of the saga. I still ahve to drink all of the stuff. And I still wonder if I will find an angry Konstantin lurking one day outside my house. Thanks for reading, you all, but I have to go now, because there's a guy from Craig's List waiting outside with a few cases of Riedel glasses in his trunk...


Sonadora said...

Thanks for the ending! I've been looking forward to reading it. My overall thought was, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Glad you are currently unscathed! Any plans to consume any of your "deals" any time soon?

sanspotash said...

Really great story, enjoyed it a lot. Can't wait to read your tasting notes when you get to taste these wines.

Anonymous said...

Sonadora - Its hard to say when I'll be cracking what. I'm not a huge fan of big, young wines. I like them on he mellow side, so I will probably try to forget about most of these for at least three or four years. If anyone out there has tasted anything on this list and thinks that's a mistake, please let me know!

Brooklynguy said...

And I can vouch for the fact that the Riedel glasses arrived intact, and that no one went to jail or was deported (yet) as a result of Deetrane acquiring them.

Anonymous said...

"First of all, have this nagging guilt for turning Konstantin in. I know what he did was wrong, but I was profiting from it, too. The restaurant’s take was that if I hadn’t happened to pop in, the theft could have continued indefinitely. So they were grateful."

The thing that's nagging me and I bet a few other readers is this whole third post. Like, where's the part where you feel guilty about purchasing stolen goods? And where's the part where you return the wine to the restaurant?

And, I can't even guess why you are listing the wines, quantity still not returned to the restaurant, and, most bizarrely, tasting notes from the WS for them.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Jack, thanks for the comments, I will try to address them.

This was an awkward subject to write about. My original desire was to relate the strange twists and turns in my hunt for the ultimate wine bargain, but I also wanted to convey some of ambivalence, guilt, etc.
that arose during the whole experience. The story ultimately had a sad ending for Konstantin, a happy ending for the restaurant, and an even happier ending for me. Which is why I feel guilty.

I offered several times to return the wine to the restaurant, right
when I discovered the theft, as well as after the sting took place.
Not only did they refuse, but they hosted me and my wife for dinner
twice after the incident. Their response regarding the wine was
"that's very kind of you, but consider the wine our way of thanking you" for bringing the whole situation to light. I offered to testify in front of a grand jury as well, but no charges were ever filed.

What is clear is that Esca operates with incredibly high class, even in an adverse situation like this. Clearly the same cannot be said for me. Either way, after relating this whole ordeal, many readers asked what wines were involved, and whether or not I got to keep them.
So I shared this in the interest of not leaving everyone in suspense.

Last note - the former sommelier at Esca, who is mentioned in the
story, came for dinner at my house a few weeks back and I opened one of my most prized Italian wines - a 1990 Campogiovanni Brunello di
Montalcino. Which was my way of compensating him for the angst that this incident no doubt caused him.

Brooklynguy said...

Seems to me that offering to help the restaurant put a stop to what was going on as soon as you discovered that you were buying hot wine is classy, and so is offering to return the wine once you knew it was purchased illegally. I also think it's classy to accept the restaurant's gift to you, once they offered it. Konstantin... definitely not classy.

Jack - interesting points and questions, but why the holier-than-thou tone? :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I sounded harsh, but their was a gap in story: I just could not understand why the wines hadn't been returned. Until the comment above, there was no explanation. I think it was great the Deetrane helped the restaurant out and am glad to see he now explains such.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Jack,
Yes, gap there was. I can't help it, I get defensive of my pals. I'm from Brooklyn! No harm, no foul. said...

Niece series. It reads like fun detective noir. Also makes me fondly remember my years on the east coast....

Brooklynguy said...

Thanks for stopping in buzz. I was trying for the noir thing on the intros (I can't get enough James Ellroy lately). Come on back east!Take it easy.

Anonymous said...

Not to beat a dead horse, but in the next to last paragraph of the first post, I mentioned that I did offer to give the wine back (if only half-heartedly). said...

Brooklynguy: Alas - I am tied to the west coast in more than one way. (besides it's easier to hit wine country several times a month - which works out well for the website).
My fondest momories of the city are Pick a bagel bialys and Connecticut beaches. But I'll have to pass on the snow and humidity.
Look me up if youre in So.Cal.

deetrane - It's all good, I saw the attempt to return the wine. Don't blame you for feeling any pain when you made the offer.

Brooklynguy said...

well alright then redwinebuzz. for now you can visit here every now and then, and i will do the same for my southern cal kicks. take it easy.

Deetrane said...

UPDATE 12/6/07:

An IM conversation just now with the former Esca sommelier, "Frank":

"Deetrane.....Frank here. that psycho Kosta texted me like a month ago. he wrote that he was sorry for what happened and that he got married and moved to Hawaii! he wanted to let me know i should come and visit him!! WHACK-O!!. Hope you are well......"

God, this guy is such a dipshi8t!