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BaroloCountry

Ruminations on Barolo

In an earlier blog on the Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour wine tasting, I had noted that at that tasting there had been an extraordinary opportunity to taste eight different wineries’ Barolos.  Barolo is at home in Piedmont in northwestern Italy, and its sole or occasionally primary grape is considered by some to be Italy’s most impressive: Nebbiolo.  The origins of Nebbiolo are unclear, but there are those who think it goes back as far as Roman antiquity.  Whatever its past, what one either learned or re-learned from the WS tasting is that Nebbiolo, and Barolo in particular require considerable age before the wines are ready to drink.  The tasting, for the most part, was a reminder of that fact owing to the relative youth of the wines offered … wines that promised great things but were yet too young to have yet met that promise.  Still, one label in particular – a 2009 Damilano – was already a lovely quaff, despite its expected array of tannins.

2009 Damilano Barolo

2009 Damilano Barolo

What does that prove?  When it comes to the aging of wines, you never really know.   One more point, Barolo can be and usually is pretty expensive … and yet … there are Piemonte wines made from Nebbiolo that can be drunk younger than Barolo and thoroughly enjoyed.  Next time you’re buying, try a Babaresco or a Gattinara or a Spanna.

I guess none of these was quite prestigious enough for the WS array, but don’t forget them; they’re delicious.

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ViVido Gelato – Las Vegas, NV

When we’re hanging at the Northwest Las Vegas house – particularly on a hot summer evening – there is one place we ALWAYS go for ice cream.  In a little strip mall on the corner of Rampart and Charleston called Boca Park lies ViVido Gelato.  Now, this is no ordinary gelato parlor – this place sports over 40 flavors a night!  And not foo-foo stuff – real Italian stuff with lots of chocolate, coffee and a great traditional fruits.  This is a hard core gelato place and worth the visit.

And this is just HALF the flavors at ViVido Gelato!

And this is just HALF the flavors at ViVido Gelato!

I always taste a few before I order, and then I always seem to go back to the Espresso Caramel Fudge – damn it makes a store-bought ‘Jamoca Almond Fudge’ seem second rate.

What’s the key to great gelato?…great ingredients and lots of cream!  ViVido deals seriously in both.  This stuff is dense and decadent.

So, the next time you’re hanging in Summerlin with the ‘real housewives’, do yourself a favor and hit ViVido – so good!

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Honey Salt – Las Vegas, NV

As many of you know, Barb and I have had a second home in Las Vegas for years.  It’s in the northwest corner of the Summerlin area – a lesser affluent neighborhood called Lone Mountain.  Anyway, one of the great things about Northwest Las Vegas these days is that we FINALLY have some great restaurants in the neighborhood.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to highlight some of our favorites.  First up – Honey Salt.

Now, Honey Salt has been open about a year and half – and it is NO secret.  Elizabeth Blau is a pretty famous restaurant owner in these parts, most notably for her partnership with rock n’ roll chef superstar Kerry Simon.  With Honey Salt, she created a wonderful fresh new American bistro right in the middle of an affluent suburb thirsty for good food, good wine, craft cocktails and fun.

When we go, my two fav apps are the grilled octopus and the New England Fry – Calamari, Oysters and Shishito Peppers – yummy!  Last Friday night, after the apps, we had a fantastic Spanish Rioja with the Sea Bass, the pasta, the curry and the pork chop.  Always fresh, always delicious.  My mom and dad joined us, and my dad had just hit a video poker royal flush, so dinner was on them – BONUS! With restaurants like Honey Salt in the neighborhood, going to the strip is more to take friends/tourists in town than a necessity for food.  If you’re in Vegas, and you don’t mind a 20 min drive to the Northwest, go to Honey Salt.  But not too often – we locals like to be able to get a table!  They also have amazing desserts…although we often sneak out for Gelato across the street (more to follow on that soon).

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Fried squid, oysters and shishito peppers – mmmmmm!

Next up, my favs down the road in Tivoli Village – The View Wine Bar and Poppy Den…

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Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour 2014, Las Vegas

Just back from attending the annual tasting that the Wine Spectator puts on with such class; this year’s final version was held at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.  It lasted three hours, but it would take many more for anyone to sample all of the 227 wineries that were pouring some of their choicest selections.  The represented wineries included some that are very well-known, e.g. Pio Cesare or Castello Banfi, and some that are rather more arcane, e.g. Caparzo or Tasca Almerita … all from Italy, though the same division was true of, say, Spain and France. The vinous largess was almost too generous to believe: such as eight wineries from Italy’s Piemonte, all pouring their most recently released Barolos.  Across the same aisle, eight more wineries from Toscana, pouring not just Sangiovese, but Sangiovese Grosso, the very finest clone of that grape: Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montipulciano, in mind-boggling abundance and quality.  Same with Spain … not just Tempranillo, but Tempranillo Tinto Fino: the very best.  Ever had a Tempranillo from Muga?  Go for it.

Yes, France was there, but not in such abundance and quality; most of those great Bordeaux having long since been sold to the Chinese market for their prestige value.  For much the same reason, there wasn’t much of Burgundy to be seen either.  Still, Bordeaux’s Ch. Margaux showed up, and, predictably enough, when the doors opened, most of the attendees rushed straight to the Margaux stand.  They were pouring their 2004 vintage, a pleasant but not great year in Bordeaux, but it was still a lovely reminder of what can be done all over the world by the best wineries from the best regions using the best grapes.  Nothing new there, of course, but there are just so many of those wines now compared to, say, twenty years past.  On the one hand, I suppose the sheer abundance of magnificence complicates the business of making an informed choice, but then again, the likelihood of making a bad choice has been dramatically reduced.  If they hadn’t driven us from the tasting at the end of the appointed time, I’d still be there.  Perhaps a few more ruminations are in order at another time.

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After tasting 200+ wines, the photos get a bit blurry!