1996 Clerico, Barolo, Pajana (RT 93) Popped and poured and then served directly from bottle and followed over the course of two days. It showed extremely expressive and forthcoming with a beautiful, translucent ruby garnet hue and a bouquet of red cherry, balsam, hints of goudron and dried flowers telling of its age. While the bouquet exudes a highly 1996 style, the palate makes a sharp right turn showing a seamless tannin integration and slightly less acidity than might be expected for the vintage. Overall, this is a large scaled Barolo showing the power of Monforte d’Alba, but the palate doesn’t seem to match up to the bouquet. This said, the new oak integration is well managed with nary a shred of it showing through. This is now in its early stages of tertiary maturity but will continue to evolve in a positive direction in the coming years. Good, but not great, drink now – 2030+ While none of the 1996 is currently available in the market, like most 1996s the demand is high, pushing the current trading price toward $150 and up. Current vintages trade in the $80-90 range.

1997 Castello di Neive, Barbaresco, Santo Stefano (RT 93) SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle with slow, careful pours as there was a good bit of sediment. If you’ve got probably best to decant it prior to serving. Showing a relatively dark garnet hue, the bouquet delivers notes of ripe black cherry, fall forest floor, hints of spice, dried rose petal and hints of plum. Dark and structured, it shows a surprising level of freshness, far better timed at harvest than many of the 1997s, revealing brightness and a sense of vinbrancy. On the palate it reveals excellent balance and perfectly resolved tannins and integrated acidity. I first followed this over the course of a few days, and it held up incredibly well for a 1997, coming back to the last glass just last night, a week after first opening the bottle. I was impressed with how well it had held up!  Why I didn’t buy more when it was on the shelves of a local retailer is beyond me! A well-done effort by the Stupino family! Drink now-2025. Current vintages are trading in mid-$40-mid $60s.

2001 Giuseppe Cortese, Barbaresco, Rabaja (RT 91) Bought on release and stored in my cellar since, I’m a fan of Cortese finding their wines consistently offer top value and honest, traditional winemaking. Relatively dark garnet in color, it embodies all the classic bouquet elements that define the Rabaja cru: black cherry, sous bois, tar, anise and brushy notes, with accents of spice and balsam. In the mouth is has a wonderful richness that balances beautifully with its tannin and acid aspects. The finish is fresh, bright and a bit lean, but hangs on for some time. Now in its early tertiary mature drinking window, this should hold on for at least another 10-15 years in prime drinking form. Another great value from Cortese, Bravo! Drink now-2026+ This vintage is currently trading in the $100 range, but current vintages should be had between $40-50.