1990, 1985, 1982 & 1978 Nebbiolo Dinner

Notes from a Winter, 2009 Wine Dinner at my former location of Mount Nebbiolo. This was a lovely evening, with wine and food passionate friends.

Flight #1 – 1990s

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

1990 Marcarini, Barolo, Brunate (RT94) Slow O’d for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. 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 with time in the glass it fleshed out in a big way. Seriously lovely bottle that just now is coming into its prime. This showing almost makes me drool to think how much fun we’re going to have with the ‘96s in another 5-6 years. I liked this more than the Bartolo, others felt the other way.

1990 Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo (RT93) Also Slow O’d for the day, but a bit jostled around on the trip to my place and unfortunately, the ultrafine grained sediment got stirred up resulting in cloudy muddledness……but notwithstanding that picayune detail, a perfectly wonderful showing for this guy’s guy. 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 in the form of a slap of firm tannin and a zip of fresh acidity.

Flight 2 – 1985s

1985 Produttori del Babaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Montefico (RT92) Last bottle of ’85 Produttori I had was the Rabaja from magnum two year ago and this was significantly less evolved, not to mention fresher. In fact, fresher than the vast majority of ’85 Barbaresco’s one can find at this time and certainly more so than the ’85 Giacosa SSR 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 (RT95) Slow O’d 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 mouth-coating with super ripe tannin and soft, structurally supporting acidity. I’m pretty sure everyone loved this. My third favorite wine of the night.

Flight 3 – 1982s

1982 Bartolo Mascarello, Barolo (RT96) Slow O’d for the day, decanted into a narrow vessel an hour prior to serving. Deeply hued and like the ’90 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. Showed exceptionally well tonight, a long, great future lies ahead. More complex, fresher, vibrant and firmer than the ’90. An outstanding treat, my number two of the evening.

1982 Azelia, Barolo Riserva, Bricco Punta (RT97) Slow O’d 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 (RT95) Slow O’d 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 the corner toward early maturity, but it could still use more time. As such, it didn’t have a chance against the other ‘82s (despite its superb quality), but this was one of the few bottles of which there was something left. Two days later it had really popped to another dimension. A great vintage for this go-to Barbaresco.

1982 Ceretto, Barolo, Prapo (RT93) Slow O’d for the day, decanted an hour prior to serving. Another lovely showing for the ’82 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, goudron 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

1978 Produttori del Babaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Montefico (RT Not Rated) Slow O’d 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 (RT94) Slow O’d 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.

1978 Produttori del Babaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Ovello (RT95) Slow O’d 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 an ’82 than a wine 5 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.