1971 and 1974

It was about 8 o’clock in the evening, end of May, with the Manhattan moon rising above midtown and a look of hard wet rain in the distance of New Jersey. I was wearing my pinstripe blue suit, with a light checkered shirt and an orange square tie. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed sommelier ought to be. I was about to pour an 1971 Produttori del Barbaresco.

Words cannot begin to describe the sensations Tracie P and I experienced a few weeks ago in New York, when our dear friend Mary Anne treated us to dinner at Alto in midtown Manhattan, where Levi Dalton — the Philip Marlowe of the New York wine scene — had created a special flight just for us.

There a lot of talented wine professionals in New York but none is sharper than Levi, and man, he’s at the top of his game right now, really and truly in the zone. And I’m sure that anyone who knows Levi will concur: the dude’s dry wit and deftness at wordplay are matched only by the acuity of his palate. Raymond Chandler couldn’t have written a more perfect Philip Marlowe of wine.

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a wine key and a serviette.

Like a mind-reader, Levi couldn’t have thrilled us more than by opening the flight with this Saignée de Sorbée by Vouette et Sorbée. Incredible freshness, sumptuous aroma, sexy but not overly generous fruit flavor.

Next came the 2005 Arbois Pupillon by Overnoy. I’d only ever tasted this wine in Québec, where it seems to be easier to find. To me, wines like this are the “unbearable lightness of being.” They are so light in body yet so rich in mouthfeel, delicately fragrant on the nose yet muscular in the palate. Perhaps only in Barbaresco do I find that same counter-intuitive, ineffable sensory experience. The same equine metaphors apply.

The whole restaurant turned around to see what the fuss was about when Tracie P and I gasped in delight at the appearance of this wine. 1974 not the greatest vintage for this wine but showing admirably. Little did we know what was about to come…

Dreams do come true. Awesome vintage (older than Tracie P!), beautifully cellared bottle. One of the great wine experiences of my lifetime (up there with 1989 Barbaresco Santo Stefano by Bruno Giacosa).

Angiolino Maule’s wines were a discovery for me on this recent trip to New York. Later in the trip, I tasted his declassified Soave. Fantastic wines. Great acidity even in this recioto di Soave. A true connoisseur’s wine.

And not to be outdone in the brandy department… The above photo needs no caption.

“How do you like your brandy?” asked General Sternwood. “In a glass,” said Marlowe.

From Levi Dalton to Romano Levi… what a night! What an amazing flight of wines.

Thanks again, Mary Anne for treating me and Tracie P to such an unforgettable evening in celebration of our wedding. And thanks, Levi, for being such a great friend (however from afar) and for creating such a special flight of wines just for us. I’ll never forget it.

—Jeremy Parzen

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