White Truffle Dinner at Home
This is a combination of two meals, since I bought over a pound of fresh Alba white truffles from Primizie Fine Foods, a fabulous purveyor of high-quality Italian products and seller to most of the top Italian and French restaurants in New York and New Jersey. The best way to have white truffles (and these were top-flight) is simply shaved over something warm. The only exception I make is a dish my wife came up with, which is essentially very finely chopped veal scallopini mixed with olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, shaved Parmigiana cheese and sauteed pine nuts. With that we had one of the classics, simple scrambled, farm-fresh eggs with white truffle and several pastas. (My preference is ravioli, and in this case we had wild mushroom-stuffed ravioli and a seafood stuffing made of shrimp, scallops, and crab.)
The wines were uniformly brilliant. All of them were decanted two to three hours in advance and kept in a closed decanter until time for consumption. One of the youngest wines remains the 1990 Gaia Barbaresco Sori Tilden, a massive, monumental Barbaresco that, at age 20, is still dark plum/ruby, with an extraordinary nose of rose petals, licorice, tobacco leaf, sweet black cherry and blueberry fruit. It is full-bodied and by far the most concentrated wine of this group, although Bruno Giacosa's 1989 Barolo Rionda di Serralunga Riserva has over-the-top levels of extract and richness. That wine has more earthiness, truffle (a figment of my imagination or actually there?), sweet forest floor, black currant, cherry and subtle camphor and smoke. An enormously full-bodied wine that is still youthful at age 21, this is one of the most monumental Baroli ever made in Italy. In contrast, the 1978 Barolo Rionda di Serralunga Riserva, which I have never tasted fully mature, displays the massiveness but still unbelievably gritty, hard tannins of this vintage. These wines could last for 40-50 years, and resemble some of the top vintages from the late 1950s in terms of their glacial evolution. It is nearly the same color as the 1989, with perhaps more lightening at the edge, but exhibits very distinctive notes of licorice, forest floor, black cherry, herbs and spice in an incredibly perfumed style. A big difference is that the 1989 is seamlessly put together, whereas the 1978 still has a boatload of tannin to resolve.
Bruno Giacosa's fully mature 1985 and 1990 Barbaresco Santo Stefano Red Label Riservaare pure seductiveness. The 1985 needs to be drunk up, as it has been holding onto life for a number of years now. I have gone through well over a case of it, and it has plenty of amber to its color, and an extraordinary nose of incense, high-class cigar tobacco, roasted herbs, sweet kirsch and spice box. Medium to full-bodied, silky, round, and just luscious, it should be drunk up. The 1990 Barbaresco Santo Stefano Red Label Riserva seems to be a notch or two more alcoholic, with loads of glycerine, a supple, full-bodied mouthfeel, plenty of licorice, black cherry liqueur, and a sweeter, more expansive mouthfeel. It is both a hedonistic and intellectual fruit bomb that has hit full maturity but should stay there another 5-6 years. Also fully mature, and my next to last bottle, unfortunately, is the 1985 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino. An extraordinary nose of balsamic notes, autumnal vegetation, black cherry liqueur, licorice and spice box is followed by a full-bodied, opulent wine with great acid, wonderful freshness, and an impressive, full-bodied, tactile impression on the palate. It is fully mature but seems capable of lasting at least another 10-15 more years. Lastly, a wine that has always perplexed me, as I keep waiting for more magic to appear, is the 1990 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino. The color is lighter than the 1985, the wine always a bit more angular and less intensely concentrated, but I get the sense that there is lots lurking underneath the surface. At age 20, it is still not close to maturity. I have high hopes it will improve in quality for at least another decade or more, but I don't ever see it attaining the greatness of the 1985.
Given the cost of white truffles, their rarity, and how special they can be (they're not for everybody, but once you're addicted to them, it's a life-long obsession), it was worth raiding my private collection of great Baroli and Barbaresco for these two special meals.