Barolo Villero by Brovia (New York Stories I; @saignee wish you were here)

“My mother was disappointed that I didn’t become an architect,” said Victor Pinkston as he opened and poured me and my good friend Jeff a bottle of 1999 Barolo Villero by Brovia on Thursday night in Manhattan at Otto. “But then I showed her the watch that she gave me [above] when I was a kid and told her that ‘it was meant to be.'”

Victor’s done pretty well for himself: after five years as a company man in the Bastianich-Batali dynasty, he’s landed the job as wine buyer and head sommelier at the empire’s pizza joint.

And while he and I may disagree on the finer points of the modern vs. traditional dialectic, the dude definitely knows his shit.

When I lived in the City, Otto was one of my best-kept secrets: although not a fan of the university and tourist crowd that hangs there (Otto is, after all, “Molto Mario Light,” if such a thing can exist in the rational and sensual world), I knew I could always find some older Nebbiolo there at reasonable prices. Back in the day, I practically depleted an allocation of 1993 Barbaresco Nervo by Pertinace at $75 a pop (there are still some bottles left although at a higher price). And when I asked Victor what trick he had up his sleeve, he suggested no fewer than five labels from the 90s under $150, including an Oddero Barolo (classic) 1996 (wow!).

But it was the 1999 Barolo Villero by Brovia at $140 that spoke to me. (Remember this post by Saignée on our visit to Brovia a few years ago?)

I am no fetishizer of old wine and you’ll never hear me cry infanticide when a great one is opened before its time. But I must admit that this bottling was going through an extremely tight phase.

It was dense and deliciously chewy, with mushroom and earth dominating the fruit. But as Jeff and I slowly nursed this spectacular bottle, the berry fruit began to emerge, as did a delicate eucalyptus note, with the zinging acidity — the nervy backbone, as the Italians say — plucking on the strings of fruit and earth like Jimi Hendrix playing the first notes of “Little Wing.”

That’s me and Cory aka Saignée (left) with Giacinto Brovia back in March 2009 (photo by Brunellos Have More Fun). And here’s what Saignée had to say about our visit there.

Let’s just hope that Victor saves a bottle of this truly thrilling wine for us to taste next year.

Stay tuned for New York Stories II: Alice and I visit Maialino… or “two Jews walk into a Jew-owned bar named ‘suckling pig'”…

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