“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.”
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'”…