Flight 1 – 1990s This threesome flight was good, but not great, with the biggest disappointment of the night – the flawed Giacosa – coming right out of the starting gate: A fabulous vintage for ripe, well endowed wines.

1990 Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva, Santo Stefano (RT Not rated, flawed) As luck would have it the Giacosa was corked (TCA). Ever so mildly at first, but within 20 minutes it had blossomed into a wet cardboard-laced wine. Everyone at the table, with perhaps the exception of one, had partaken in this before, so to add insult to injury we all knew how spectacular the wine we were missing was. I shed a tear, perhaps two.

1990 Marcarini, Barolo, Brunate (RT 94) Slow Oxygenated for the day in bottle, then decanted an hour prior to serving to separate off sediment. Right out of the starting gate the bouquet was magnetic: cleanly balanced with ripe linear fruit and buttressed with classic Brunate perfume. Initially a bit short in the mid-palate, but with time in the glass it fleshed out in a robust way. A seriously lovely bottle that is just now coming into its prime as it approaches age 26. This showing almost makes me drool to think how much fun we’re going to have with the 1996s in another 5-6 years.

1990 Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo (RT 93) Also Slow Oxygenated for the day, but a bit jostled around in transport to the tasting and unfortunately, the ultra-fine grained sediment got stirred up resulting in cloudy muddledness. Notwithstanding that picayune detail, a perfectly wonderful showing for this fabulous bottling. Built on a frame of sweet ripe fruit and tannin, this is a seriously delicious Barolo, sneakily seductive, dare I say sexy, yet showing moments of masculinity. Still, the tannin head in me couldn’t help but yearn for just a touch more vigor, a firm slap of tannin and a zip of fresh acidity.

Flight 2 – 1985s While a highly heralded vintage, 1985 has never overly impressed me, but there are some stellar wines as this flight proved.

1985 Produttori del Babaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Montefico (RT 92) Last bottle of 1985 Produttori I had was from the cru Rabaja from magnum two years ago and this was significantly less evolved, not to mention fresher. In fact, fresher than the vast majority of 1985 Barbarescos one can find at this time and certainly more so than the 1985 Giacosa Santo Stefano Riserva everyone seems to have a love affair with. A beautifully endowed Barby with a sweet nugget of fresh Nebbiolo fruit in the center framed with mineral, Peruvian bark and truffle. Perfectly lovely.

1985 Ceretto, Barbaresco, Bricco Asili (RT 95) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. Pale garnet with a perfectly mature-orange-ish Nebbiolo glow, the bouquet draws one deeply in. One of the wines of the night, the palate is every bit as exciting at the bouquet, the mark of a great wine. Layers of smoky red fruit, spice and dried rose petals lead to a perfectly balanced palate-feel, rich and mouthcoating with super ripe tannin and soft, structurally supporting acidity. My third favorite wine of the night.

Flight 3 – 1982s This was the standout flight of the night with each wine performing at an exceptional level that expressed the classic, age-worthy character of the vintage.

1982 Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo (RT 96) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted into a narrow vessel an hour prior to serving. Deeply hued and like the 1990 a study in sweet, ripe fine-grained tannin wrapped around a beautifully proportioned core of complex fruit. Deep and rich in its mouthfeel with layers of complexity. With time in the glass different facets of the diamond are revealed. Showing exceptionally well tonight, a long, great future lies ahead. More complex, fresher, vibrant and firmer than the 1990. An outstanding treat, my number two of the evening.

1982 Azelia, Barolo Riserva, Bricco Punta (RT 96+) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted into a narrow vessel an hour prior to serving. The most pale, ruby garnet of the flight and showing a brilliant translucence. A bit tight when first poured, with each passing moment it gained depth and complexity, building to an impressive, deeply nuanced crescendo. Uber classic, amply structured and quilted with intricacies, it balances a fine line between finesse and power. Azelia delivered the goods this night! My Wine of the Night.

1982 Gaja, Barbaresco (RT 94) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. As usual Gaja has once again delivered the most sturdily structured, underdeveloped (read immature) wine of the night with its fresh, fields of violets signature!. A virtual baby at 27 years of age, just about every aspect of this wine is just now reaching a point where it’s turning to corner toward early maturity, but it could still use more time. As such, it didn’t have a chance against the other 1982s, despite its superb quality. This was one of the few bottles of which there was anything left and the remains were gassed and refrigerated. Two days later it had really popped to another dimension. A great vintage for this go-to Barbaresco.

1982 Ceretto, Barolo, Prapo (RT 93) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. Another lovely showing for the 1982 Prapo this night, a bottle I’ve had on numerous occasions over the past few years. This one was right up to standard showing what Prapo and its Serralunga roots are all about. Deep nuances laced with cherry liqueur, dried rose petal, tar and that expected iron pan terroir expression define this glorious, mature Barolo. Good examples of this bottling have consistently shown peak development with no suggestion to me there’s an upside to continued cellaring.

Flight 4 – 1978s The exclamation mark on the evening came in the form of a Produttori horizontal featuring three Cru bottlings. The contrast between the three was utterly remarkable.

1978 Produttori del Babaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Montefico (RT 88) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. The weak link in the Produttori flight, sadly this bottle was not up to its normal self and showed a core of lean fruit and high acid. Shame, as other recent bottles of this Montefico have proven excellent.

1978 Produttori del Babaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Rabaja (RT 94) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. Great color, terrific bouquet, this was everything one could hope for in a mature Rabaja – spicy and terroir-driven on the bouquet, richly evolved with delicious fruit and perfectly balanced on the palate, and a long, caressing finish marked by firm, but resolved tannin on the finish. This example was perfectly mature and it’s hard for me to imagine an upside to further cellaring.

1978 Produttori del Babaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Ovello (RT 95) Slow Oxygenated for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. Here the structure and freshness take a step up from the Rabaja. While layered with burly terroir-driven fruit, the spice component is replaced with hints of cedar and a smear of tar. Overall the freshness and structure make this feel more like a 1982 than a wine five years older. Glorious showing for Ovello tonight, and while the Rabaja was sexier, the Ovello proved to me to be the more interesting of the two.