95 B. Mascarello and Alba truffles, a marriage made in heaven

Within the gentle heart Love shelters him,
As birds within the green shade of the grove.
Before the gentle heart, in Nature’s scheme,
Love was not, nor the gentle heart ere Love.

(the incipit of “The Gentle Heart,” by Guido Guinizelli, 1230-76)

You can keep your DRC, your Bond, your Pétrus… No, those wines are not good enough and do not deserve to touch the lips of the one I love. No, their aromas and flavors are not worthy of her noble nostrils and chaste tastebuds.

No, when I dine with my wife, my signora, my lady, my dame, my donna, my domina… such wines will not suffice.

When I share a special repast with Tracie P, bring me Barolo by Bartolo Mascarello.

Many great wines have been opened, tasted, and drunk in 2010, but perhaps none thrilled us more than the Bartolo Mascarello 1995 Barolo that we shared on Saturday night at Tony’s in Houston. Over these last two years (my first two in Texas), Tony has become a friend and now a client (I write his blog). Over the weekend, he generously treated Tracie P and me to dinner in celebration of our first year as a married couple.

Sometimes a wine is only as good as the person you share it with… Tracie P had never tasted Bartolo Mascarello and it was high time that this travesty in the annals of enological history was rectififed!

Bartolo Mascarello is one of the great icons of Nebbiolo, a steadfast defender of traditional winemaking, producer of one of the greatest wines in the world, and more recently, a founder and promoter of the “real wine” movement in Italy. Like many of the great houses of Langa, the Mascarello legacy began with a grape broker, Bartolo’s father Giulio, who intimately knew the best growing sites for Nebbiolo, as his granddaughter Maria Teresa explained to me the first time I tasted with her at the winery in 2008. Today, their Barolo is still made from grapes grown in four vineyards purchased by Giulio: Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Rué, and Rocche. Extended submerged cap maceration and large-cask aging are still employed at the winery today, a tradition that now spans three generations.

The pairing of great Nebbiolo and shaved Alba white truffles is no cheap date but it’s one of those gastronomic experiences that will literally change your life (and when done correctly, is worth every single penny).

Tony had captain Vinny shave us truffles over a perfectly cooked white risotto by chef de cuisine Grant.

95 was a classic although not great vintage for this wine and at 15 years out, it was drinking stupendously. Bartolo Mascarello has all the hallmarks of great Barolo: the savory tar and earth flavors. But to my palate, its sottobosco flavors, notes of woodsy underbrush, are its signature. Gorgeous acidity and IMHO perfectly evolved tannin for this vintage, although this wine could certainly age for another decade or more.

Regrettably, B. Mascarello is tough to find in this country and Tony is the only restaurateur I know in Texas who features the wines on his list (in a mini-vertical no less!). Thanks to my line of work, I’ve been fortunate to taste a lot of B. Mascarello and I was thrilled to share this bottle with the love of my life.

What else did we eat?

We were disappointed that we missed Tony’s bollito misto (with bollito cart!), but he had reserved a poached capon studded with black truffles just for us. Utterly delicious…

And a night like that just couldn’t end without chef Grant’s soufflé, expertly sliced and served by captain Vinny.

What a night!

Some guys have all the luck and Nebbiolo and truffles are some girls’s best friends. I am one lucky dude to be married to one such lady.

Thanks again, Tony! That was one of the most memorable meals of our life together! We had a blast…