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Memories in a Bottle

Posted: Jul 31, 2009 1:34pm ET

Ten years is a long time. It’s almost as long as my second marriage! So I had to throw a going-away dinner for my colleague Jo Cooke, who is leaving the magazine to open his own English school in Grosseto, a coastal town in Tuscany.

Jo traveled with me to just about every wine-producing region in Italy as well as France over the last decade organizing my tastings, so he is going to be missed.  He is a great organizer and a loyal friend and co-worker. He’s a damned good taster too!

So I pulled out a number of bottles last night for a family barbecue including two 100-pointers under his reign: 2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Madonna del Piano Riserva and 2000 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva. Both were still perfect wines, although we all agreed that the Giacosa had the edge last night. It was so balanced and complex while the Valdicava needed another five or six years of bottle age.

I also pulled out my last bottle of 1985 Vieux-Château-Certan Pomerol. That wine had gone around Europe with me, beginning when I lived in Paris then to London (three houses) and finally Italy.  It was sad to see it go last night, but it seemed to be the best bottle ever from that long-lasting wooden case. It showed aromas of hot sand with black olives and green olives and blackberries with blueberry jam.  Jo’s wife, Di, described the nose as seaside clay, salty clay.  It was full to medium body, with soft and velvety tannins and a long rich finish. Tar, blackberry and dried dark fruits as well. 94 points, non-blind.

As we drank the VCC, I asked Jo for his top 10 wines he tasted over 10 years working for the Wine Spectator. Here are his choices:

1998 Château Le Pin Pomerol
1997 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli
1998 Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra
2000 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc
1999 Eredi Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
1997 Fattoria Le Pupille Maremma Toscana Saffredi
2000 Château Latour Pauillac
2005 Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien
2001 Château Hosanna Pomerol
1985 Vieux-Château-Certan Pomerol

I am always going to remember that bottle of 1985 VCC for as long as I live. It was my last one, but sharing it with a great friend and colleague made it even more memorable, and that’s what great bottles of wine are all about.

Rodger Callo
July 31, 2009 3:52pm ET
So do you need to find a replacement for Mr. Cooke? I'm available. Travel around France and Italy drinking wine, sounds like a job that I wouldn't hate.
Matt Scott
Honolulu HI —  July 31, 2009 4:33pm ET
Joe has great taste and I'm sure he will be missed. Do I send my resume now?
Tom J Wilson
Canada —  July 31, 2009 5:26pm ET
James;No video this time ?Top 10, 50% Italy, 50% France, what a score !By the way, all the best to Jo Cooke ,I did like a lot his Valpolicella tasting notes....
Thomas Matthews
August 1, 2009 4:25pm ET
James - a nice gesture to a great guy. Jo - we will all miss you. Thanks for all your contributions to Wine Spectator.
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  August 3, 2009 4:02pm ET
Jo - Great to see you went out in style. Good luck with the new venture!
Beverley Reordan
La Quinta, Ca. —  August 3, 2009 4:32pm ET
My very best to you and Di. Thank you for all the great dinners and wine with you and your family in Italy. Bev Reordan
Peter Vangsness
Springfield, MA —  August 3, 2009 4:37pm ET
Any wine I have enjoyed occurred while sharing it with my wife or good friends. A lesson for life.
Maryann Worobiec
Napa, CA —  August 3, 2009 5:48pm ET
Jo--I will definitely miss working with you! Best of luck to you and best wishes to your family.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  August 3, 2009 7:30pm ET
Folks like Jo show up in some of the credits but never seem to get enough credit. Kudos to both of you for working as a team and giving him a fantastic (if not enviable) send-off! I was glad to see we have a favorite in common: 2000 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric d¿Fiasc. Good work, Jo. All my best to you and yours in your new adventure!
Jim Mccusker
Okemos, MI —  August 4, 2009 1:50am ET
You're a class act, James. Bravo.
Franco Ziliani
Italy —  August 4, 2009 2:16am ET
good luck Jo, and stay in touch!Franco
Kevin Callahan
Montreal, QC —  August 5, 2009 9:50am ET
All the best to you, Jo Cooke, and your new direction.
Well done. A past to be proud of and a future to embrace. Awesome!

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