A Holiday Lunch

December 2006

This Christmas morning started out somewhat unusually. It was a bright, sunny day so I decided to go out for a run with my son. While the sight of mothers and fathers jogging with their babies in strollers may be a common sight in Central Park, it is apparently anything but that in the small Friuli town of San Lorenzo Isontino, judging by the many bewildered stares I received. Back home we started lunch with smoked salmon crostini and a festive 3-liter bottle of Bruno Giacosa’s 2003 Spumante Extra Brut. It presented attractive notes of flowers and white peaches with excellent length and a slightly weightier personality than is normally the case, no doubt owing to the heat of the vintage. The 3-liter format seems to have helped keep this wine surprisingly fresh.

It is always a treat to eat my sister-in-law’s cooking, all she asks is for a few good bottles of Barolo, a trade that I will take any time. Her spinach-filled tortelli topped with butter and sage were sublime. Aldo Conterno’s 1995 Barolo Riserva Granbussia displayed delicately perfumed aromatics along with attractive notes of black cherries, prunes, tobacco, cocoa, cedar and leather with a medium-bodied, slightly compact frame that is typical of this vintage. It showed enough underlying structure to make me think it will drink well for at least another five to seven years although it will never rival the best vintages of this wine.

The mushroom-filled tortelli that followed were even more delicious. There is simply nothing better than homemade pasta. Massolino’s 1995 Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda presented a livelier color than the Granbussia, with more overall freshness in its fruit, along with suggestions of beef bouillon, leather and the distinct note of iron that is often present in Serralunga Barolos. Despite those admirable qualities it was less complex than the Granbussia in its overall balance. Giuseppe Mascarello’s 1995 Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’ Morissio was stunning. A bright dark red, it was by far the youngest of these three 1995 Barolos, and is easily one of the two or three least-evolved wines of the vintage. It presented notes of flowers, spices, red fruits and minerals, all considered to be hallmarks of the Monprivato vineyard, but with more intensity and power, showing an attractive sweetness and fullness on the palate, great length and plenty of structure. It was the unanimous favorite among these 1995s, the only problem is that it was opened a decade or two too soon. I can only recommend patience to those fortunate enough to own one of the 1,700 bottles made in this vintage.

I had been looking forward to the roasted pork for several days and I was not disappointed. Moist, fully-flavored and just plain delicious, it was a succulent main course suitable for the occasion. Unfortunately the Pianpolvere Soprano 1999 Barolo Bussia was corked, but we had better luck with a stunning bottle of Domenico Clerico’s 1999 Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra. 1999 remains an underappreciated vintage and it is one Clerico’s finest. The Ciabot was simply phenomenal. It offered an exotic array of ripe fruit, menthol, toasted oak and mineral notes with superb concentration on the palate and plenty of style. It remains a fresh, vibrant and structured Barolo in need of at least several years of cellaring, but it nevertheless provided much pleasure on this day. While others moved into cheese and dessert, I was quite content to relax by the fireplace with a glass of this very fine Barolo.


Smoked salmon crostini

Tortelli filled with spinach

Tortelli filled with mushrooms

Oven-roasted suckling pig with crispy rosemary-scented potatoes




Bruno Giacosa Spumante Extra Brut (3-liter)



Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia



Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda



G. Mascarello Barolo Riserva Ca’ d’Morissio



Pianpolvere Soprano Barolo Bussia



Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra


--Antonio Galloni