Birthday-anniversary week part I: 99 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano

NEWS FLASH This just in: we’ve posted the list of wines we’ll be pouring at the first-ever San Diego Natural Wine Summit on August 9 at Jaynes Gastropub. On Weds. and Thurs. next week, I am the guest sommelier at Jaynes. Please come out to see me and taste together if you’re in town!

Above: My favorite way to enjoy great Nebbiolo is with cheese. At Central Market, a block from my apartment, I found Robiola, Toma, and Castelmagno (each from Piedmont) and a Val d’Aosta Fontina. The Castelmagno hadn’t been handled properly but the others were good, especially the Robiola. It’s remarkable to think that these moldy creations find their way to central Texas.

Tuesday night’s birthday celebration centered around a gift of 1999 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano (white label) that my true love gave to me for the occasion. She saw me eyeing the bottle a few weeks ago in a San Antonio fine wine shop. I hate to give away one of our best-kept secrets down here in Texas but, as Italian Wine Guy noted the other day, there are lots of shops here and in the Midwest where wine connoisseurs have collected great European wines without the inflated New York, Los Angeles, and Napa/Sonoma/San Francisco prices (I actually know a great place in San Diego, too, but I’m going to keep that best-kept secret to myself!). At this particular retailer in San Antonio, you can find a lot of older Nebbiolo at prices only marked up slightly from the release price (like a 2001 Faset by Castello di Verduno, one of my favorite producers, picked up for a song). The other element that makes things interesting is that few — if any — of these shops put their inventory online (in part because — and I don’t mean this in a disparaging way — they are Luddites when it comes to anything intraweb-related and in part because anachronistic blue laws prevent/impede them from selling their products online or via email). As a result, the inventories are not picked over by internet surfers: you have to visit the store in situ to peruse the wines.

The day that Tracie B and I happened to visit the store in question, everything in the store was 20% off (in fact, the owner gives 20% off on the entire stock every Friday and Saturday). I’m not saying this to attenuate the value of the wonderful gift she gave me but let’s just say — moral of the story — that we didn’t have to break the bank to enjoy a truly extraordinary bottle of wine.

Tracie B made me a blueberry pie with fresh blueberries for my birthday, a tradition started a long time ago by mama Parzen.

I have always detested the Mao Squires/Parker disciples who squeal and scream that opening a bottle like this is “infanticide.” That’s just hogwash. It’s always interesting to open great Nebbiolo and see where it is in its evolution and it’s ridiculous to think that we all have to be like them and drink wine in freezing wine bunkers (the way they do, hence their blue blood) and wait for every single bottle to be at its peak when we drink it. This 10-year-old beauty (made in a vintage when Giacosa didn’t make a Santo Stefano reserve) was stunning. It was one of those wines that left both of us speechless, with gorgeous fruit and earthy flavors. (Btw, Ken Vastola authors an excellent registry of the wines of Giacosa here).

It’s been such a special week for me and for me and Tracie B — with all the well wishes and congratulations. Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart…

@Trace B thanks for sharing such an incredible bottle of wine for my birthday. I already felt like the luckiest guy in the world… :-)

On deck: Part II, 1991 Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant… amazing wine and a crazy story of how we got it… stay tuned…

7 thoughts on “Birthday-anniversary week part I: 99 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano

  1. Barbaresco AND blueberry pie? You are one lucky boy, JP. And no matter how exquisite ancient Nebbiolo can be, there’s never anything wrong with drinking them young, whether simple or profound.

  2. yo JP! hearty congratulations on your bday and anniversary; i hope your celebrations are all wonderful.

    one question and some comments.

    is it really correct to say that it’s squires/parker disciples who scream infanticide? in my experience, this kind of attitude predates parker, and in fact most people i know who are against drinking “vins de garde” in their youth are old-schoolers who have had the opportunity to cellar and/or taste many older wines and chart their development. most of these people (the ones i know personally) are not point-chasers or lovers of the kind of wines parker has been criticized for espousing; in fact, in my experience, these people tend to be anti-parker types and non-wine-board-members.

    while i certainly have zero interest in defending parker or squires, as far as parker is concerned, specifically, i do feel sometimes that he is singled-out for having viewpoints that he probably doesn’t have. to take the example from your blog, i actually think he would have no problem with you quaffing that beautiful ten-year-old barbaresco if that’s how you’d want to spend your anniversary!

    as for me, i’m long gone from the squires board… it’s been around 5 years since i realized that spending any time posting there was not how i wanted to spend any of my time… and it’s probably been longer since i happily let my WA subscription lapse. you probably have sensed from our limited interactions that for me, wine is “at its peak” when it serves as a route to one’s best experiencing of oneself in the context of some of the things in life that matter most. though opinions differ regarding what matters, i’m certain not one of these things is a score, or anybody ‘s opinion about what we should be drinking and when.

    and finally, if you wanted blueberry pie, i could have recommended some wonderful parkerized OZ shiraz and CA syrahs and zins! it would have been no more work for tracie b than the pulling of a cork, or even the unscrewing of a cap! (if she put in all that work, she must really love you!)


  3. thanks, everyone, for the bday wishes and for stopping by. The pie was fantastic (I finished it off yesterday afternoon).

    @aw you’re entirely right that that attitude predates the Mao board. And you’re right, too, that it’s facile to generalize about the Parker-universe. I recently had an exchange about this very subject from a writer whose opinion, skill, and palate I admire greatly and you did the right thing to remind me not to so easily fall back into that bad habit. :-) Looking forward to seeing you next month and drinking something great together!

    @tracie b thanks for the delicious pie, my lovely lady! Just when I ALREADY felt like the luckiest guy in the world… :-)

  4. Il formaggio dal Piemonte rende il mio cuore batte più veloce!

    I love, love, love Piemontese cheese. But agreed on the Castelmagno…. I’ve yet to find a good one on this side of the ocean. However, I did find a nice cheese recently at the Central Market in San Antonio: Bonrus from the Caseificio dell’Alta Langa Company. It’s a mixed milk, so creamy, bloomy, and if I close my eyes, I can see happy cows and sheep grazing on that perfumey, green grass of the Langhe! Also the Cravanzina and Rocchetta are very good, but the Bonrus was a tender little surprise. I found bliss the other night all by myself with this cheese and a nice Pinot Nero/Barbera blend from Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta.

    The blueberry pie looks delicious, and tradition is what it’s all about on birthdays and holidays. On the wine side, I think Paso Robles cabs when it comes to blueberry pie.

    Congratulations you two….your happiness inspires!

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