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Vetri Wine Club

“Saying I like Barolo is like saying I like red wine. It is much too broad a statement for such a varied spectrum of processes and quality. You have to know each vineyard, the process they use and the quality of their location.

If you blindly buy a bottle of Barolo you may be really disappointed. You won’t even be able to tell if it’s really good or not. Most of the Barolo you see on the shelf aren’t even ready to drink for another 10 years, the tannins are so heavy. Wait five or ten years, then you can start to tell what the wine will be showing.”

Chef Adam Leonti pours the first round to taste.

Chef Adam Leonti pours the first round to taste.

Chef Adam Leonti of Vetri Restaurant in Philadelphia barks at me as if warning me from danger. I dare not lift another bottle of Barolo in his presence.

For those of you that don’t know, Vetri Restaurant has been nominated for James Beard’s Outstanding Restaurant in 2011, 2012 and is on track again for 2013. Adam has been the Chef de Cuisine since 2011.

We are visiting a local wine shop on 13th and Chestnut to pick up a couple of bottles for his weekly wine club. Every week he convenes with other wine experts and enthusiasts (mostly Vetri Famiglia staff) with the main agenda of experiencing a variety of wine. Often they end up discussing if they are worth buying for the restaurant, home, or at all. Each attendee is responsible for contributing a bottle to sample while one bottle is kept a mystery to all members until after they’ve tasted and discussed it.

This week, we are drinking only wines from Bordeaux.

“Bordeaux. You can’t get a decent Bordeaux for under 50$ and that might be spotty as well. Bordeaux’s reds are always blended. The permitted grapes in this region include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pitit Verdot, Malbec. The wines vary based on where the vineyard location is and who is making it. One of the top 5 is Chateau Margaux. Leonti scanning the labels on the shelf concludes, “You know what? None of these Bordeaux’s are ready to drink anyway; lets get this,” Adam picks up a bottle of Burgundy 2009 grand vin cru les Corbeaux Domain Lucien Boillot & Fils . “This one tastes like pencil lead, in a good way. Big fruit, nice body.”

The rogue Bergundy

The rogue Burgundy

I inquire, “Everyone else will have Bordeaux and we’ll bring Burgundy?” Chef Adam un-phased, “Yeah, this ones ready to drink.”

Max, the wine merchant, comes over to greet us and reminisces on vintages that were memorable and no longer available. They share a nostalgic moment, we pay and shove off.

The tasting begins and Leonti is holding court. He first introduces the region of Bordeaux and each person contributes a relevant fact or story. He leads the tasting as a father might teach his boy to fight. He is relaxed and confortable and encourages everyone to spar. He wants them to defend themselves and constantly improve.

There are four bottles on the table and Jon has made print-outs on each of the wine houses we’ll be tasting: Chateau Dauzac Margaux(60/40, Merlot, Cab), La Croix de Beaucaillou, Saint Julien (70/30 Cab, Merlot), the mystery wine and the rogue Burgundy.

Awaiting judgment

Awaiting judgement

A fine Bordeaux

A fine Bordeaux

Mystery Wine

Mystery Wine

Glasses of Dauzac are poured, sniffed, swirled and slurped. You can tell Leonti hates this delicate part of the process and tries to hold his stemware like a mug and sloshes more than swirls. He sniffs as if he’s breathing in the fresh ocean air, takes a glug and throws his glass down. His decisions are immediate, “Serve that with a big piece of stinky beef. That wine is a statement at the end of a night. “


More glasses are poured and wines discovered and discussed. Everyone has a lot to say and they all interact like old men sitting around chess game in the park though none of them are over 40. They reminisce about wines past and favorite experiences. Chef Adam recalls a Richebourg he had on a trip with his culinary schoolmates to France. “800 Euro a pop and it was the best thing I have ever tasted; food, wine or otherwise.”

Descriptors like: tart, balance, long finish, mineral, voluptuous, and velvety are put down like cards on the table and everyone is flush.



At this time Chef is multitasking by peeling radishes while leading the discussion. No one bats an eye. They are on to the mystery wine. Everyone sniffs while exchanging curious glances to see who seems like they have figured it out. They sip and their minds start working while continuing to read one another.

Leonti goes first, “Smells like Bordeaux… but boozy… very vegetal…Radishes! It all smells like radishes!”

Jon follows, “the radishes are killing me. I can’t taste anything.”

They all share a laugh and decide to call it in and reveal the label, a Portuguese table wine. The radish was their foil.

Mystery Solved: Product of Portugal

Mystery Solved: Product of Portugal

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