1997 Barolo & Barbaresco Ten Years After – Frisco, Colorado

The following notes are from a November 2007 tasting at The Cabin, high in the mountains on the south shore of Lake Dillon near Frisco, Colorado. Most wines tasted remain (as of 2007) substantially unevolved and showed ample acidity, structure, and tannin to age gracefully into the future. Most look like they won’t reach the early stages of nuanced, evolved and tannin resolved maturity for at least another 5 years, some may take longer. Just a few of the wines gave the impression of having 20-30 year aging potential. In contrast with some early naysayer reports, none of the wines were “falling apart”. To the contrary, they showed well within the context of the vintage conditions and were relatively on the young side of the evolutionary equation. This was a bit surprising considering how hot the vintage was. There was a lack of stewed and cooked wines in this bunch, which is not to say there aren’t some out there, but rather such a broad brush portrayal of the vintage is overstated.

Barbaresco Flight #1
1997 Ca’ Rome’, Barbaresco (RT87) Mid-range ruby garnet with enamoring aromatics built on a frame of cherry menthol, dried raspberry, cedar, and a hint of earthiness. Fairly fresh and not showing signs of over-ripe fruit, while the palate is clean and precise, for my taste the core of acidity overpowers the stuffing, leaving an imbalanced impression that suggests there isn’t enough fruit here to make for old bones. A nice example to loosen-up the palate and get the tasting rolling. No perceptible upside to continued cellaring, so it’s about as exciting right now as it’s going to get. Drink now Tasted November 2007

1997 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Rabaja (RT91) Deep ruby garnet, the Rabaja ramps up the overall playing level with greater depth and a richer bouquet showing a nucleus of sweet red berry fruit with bright-floral notes and hints of balsamic spice. As it opens its masculinity begins to emerge and it takes-on weight. The palate presents a full level of density, still a bit compact but powerful, yet there’s an overall impression of simplicity and really, quite classically Produttori in it’s rustic, relatively mono dimensional palate impression. Overall, this remains quite primary, give it some cellar time to unfold its wings. Drink 2012-2027+ Tasted November 2007

1997 Bruno Rocca, Barbaresco, Rabaja (RT91) An initial kick of power hits the senses with a potent punch of oaked-infused fruit, this is bordering on Barolo-like with its masculinity and concentration. Shows a solid core of slightly evolved red fruit with hints of classic Rabaja terroir, while there isn’t any oak-induced vanilla on the bouquet, there is a decided woodiness to the wine as barrique-induced coarse tannins take hold, leaving little doubt this wine remains seriously young and in need of many more years of cellaring. Gives the impression it should reach its peak drinking window in 5-10 years. Drink 2012-2027+ Tasted November 2007

1997 Cortese, Barbaresco, Rabaja (RT92) One of the best value Barbarescos of the vintage, tonight reaffirms that belief. This bottle shows fresher and more vibrant than many recent bottles. Very sexy and complete stuff, if not bordering on the verge of an exotic dancer strutting down the catwalk of the Nebbiolo Fashion Show. Loaded with ripe, full profile fruit, a fine showing for this bottle, which tends toward uber rich and spicy, this was both the most approachable and complete Barbaresco of Flight #1. There’s little upside to continued cellaring unless your bottles are of the finest provenance and have been stored at 55f. since release. Drink now-2022 Tasted November 2007

Barbaresco Flight #2
1997 Albino Rocca, Barbaresco, Bric Ronchi (RT94) Among the very best examples of this wine I’ve had, it was impressive this evening. The bouquet was highly expressive, super ripe and exotic, in many way reminding me of the Cortese Rabaja as potent violets, red raspberry, cherry and hazelnuts with a hint of leather create a complex aromatic profile. Beautifully balanced and quite complete, the tannins have come to the point where they’ve begun to soften and integrate leaving a wonderfully resolved overall feel to the wine. Despite the barrique aging, the oak is well integrated. A most excellent showing and as fine a bottle of this wine as I’ve had. Il Bricco took this flight by the narrowest of margins. Drink 2012-2027 Tasted November 2007

1997 Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco, Camp Gros (RT88) Another wine that I’ve had a few times over the past 3-4 years, tonight a perplexing showing for this wine revealing a dominant wood element that just wouldn’t go away, which is very strange given this is their traditional single plot bottling. This is definitely not consistent with other bottles and gives the impression of a decidedly modernist with the wood all but hiding the fruit and any finesse. The palate feel and texture is much more enjoyable than the bouquet and at least makes up for the imbalance in the aromatics. Still, a rather sizable letdown. Drink 2012-2027+? Tasted November 2007

1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco, Santo Stefano (RT92) Tonight just wasn’t Santo Stefano’s night. Rather classic Giacosa in its hue, if not a couple shades darker than typical SS, showing classically succulent fruit with those sweet, ripe tannins that to my palate epitomize Giacosa’s winemaking style. Yet the overall impression is a bit simplistic and lacking the depth and dimension of its ’97 sisters Rabaja and Asili. With time in the glass, it rounds-out and plumps-up a bit, making it more complete, but it still isn’t firing at the level expected. The leftovers showed a bit better the next day, but all things considered it doesn’t strike me that the Santo Stefano vineyard did exceedingly well in the vintage. Drink 2012-2030 Tasted November 2007

1997 Pio Cesare, Barbaresco, Il Bricco (RT95) A bit more deeply hued than the other wines in the flight, the immediate impression is one of both stature and grand class. Everything about this wine is striking with its classic Nebbiolo bouquet that serves up a full throttle dose of black and red cherries, violets, and just a hint of tar. Overall, the bouquet remains relatively unevolved. The palate texture and weight is absolutely terrific, yet with ample acidity to keep it fresh while providing laser-like clarity and definition. Excellent integration of the barrique, there is barely the slightest impression of oak on the wine. Bravo! Wine of the Flight and Barbaresco of the Night. Drink 2012-2032+ Tasted November 2007

Barolo Flight #1
1997 Ca’ Rome’, Barolo, Vigna Rapet (RT87) Leaning a bit toward the garnet side and showing a persona built on bright, young red cherry. Quite fresh and vivid for the vintage, yet the most mature of the wines in this flight, this proved a bit imbalanced to my palate with a big core of acidity overpowering the fruit, which leads to a clean, precise finish. Still, it was left in the shadows by a couple of the other wines in this fight. I’m not convinced this was a representative bottle and suspect other bottles may show better. Drink 2012-2022 Tasted November 2007

1997 Cavallotto, Barolo, Bricco Boschis (RT92) Deep ruby garnet, the structured and young Bricco Boschis is relatively compact and four-square upon pouring and only with time in the glass does it begin to unwind and reveal some of its inner secrets. Packed with perfectly ripe red fruit, this is a rock solid showing for this nicely balanced wine. A big hit of tannin brings up the rear. With so much potential here this is a definite wine to cellar further. Makes one wish we were tasting the San Giuseppe Riserva tonight! Showed much more expressively on the second day. Drink 2012-2027 Tasted November 2007

1997 Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Colonnello (RT Not Rated, flawed) Yet another with a rather dark ruby garnet hue, upon pouring the Colonnello displays a funky, barnyard, earth-driven nuance which dominates. Brett combined with heat? Who knows, but by all accounts it was not a representative bottle. Tasted November 2007

1997 Pio Cesare, Barolo (RT94) The Cesare classico Barolo kicks-up a serious stir this evening! Dark ruby and barely evolved in hue since bottling, a masculine profile of Serralunga, Castiglione and Monforte fruit makes a bold showing with its powerful aromatics, and deeply nuanced and rich black fruit and violets buttressed with ample earthiness, spice and a hint of tar. A very complete wine that remains young, relatively unevolved and shows terrific potential down the road. If you’ve got this in your cellar continue to hold. Drink 2012-2027+ Tasted November 2007

Barolo Flight #2
1997 Conterno Fantino, Barolo, Sori Ginestra (RT93+) Ruby garnet with some oranging at the rim, this wine really shows its terroir-driven roots with a powerfully classic Monforte bouquet packed with intense red current fruit and ethereal minerals. It reeks of Ginestra with loads of balsam coming through on the finish. Showing a terrific level of freshness and reasonably well integrated oak, everything is working here, a gem in the making that will only get better with additional age. Perhaps the most evolved of this Flight. With time in the glass more complexity emerges as hints of dried fruits and hazelnut make an appearance. Drink 2012-2027 Tasted November 2007

1997 Azelia, Barolo, San Rocco (RT Not rated, flawed) CORKED! I was greatly looking forward to seeing how this Serralung-er is coming along, but not tonight. Tasted November 2007

1997 Vietti, Barolo, Brunate (RT94) Perhaps the greatest surprise of the evening, the deeply hued Brunate comes out of the starting gate like a thoroughbred and paces into the pack with its highly nuanced aromatic profile. No lack of freshness or palate weight, every nook and cranny is filled with detail and dimension, the palate carries a lovely balance, full, complete, and with the fruit just beginning to turn the corner and evolve. A long finish ensues and there is not a hint of oak showing. One of the overachievers of the night and very nicely structured. Even better and showing great depth and dimension the next day. Drink 2012-2030 Tasted November 2007

1997 Corino, Barolo, Vecchie Vigne (RT94) Showing a more evolved ruby garnet hue, the Vecchie Vigne (fruit sourced from the Giachini vineyard in La Morra) is the most evolved, soft and ready to drink Barolo of the night. Rather voluptuous in its aromatics, it displays soft and beautifully nuanced fruit, full of richness and very well balanced. Some might say it lacks the structure for long term aging, but there’s no denying is charismatic persona and high enjoyment factor. Drink now-2022 Tasted November 2007

1997 Clerico, Barolo, Percristina (RT95+) As complete and satisfying as the other wines in this flight were, the Percristina takes things to a higher level with its power-packed aromatics, deeply ripe yet surprisingly fresh fruit, beautiful and thoroughly mouth-coating texture and long finish. There was a time in its youth when it showed an excess of oak, but the massive amount of fruit gives the impression it has absorbed it all, leaving a surprising balance. Waves of red raspberry, rose petal, violets and sous bois keep washing ashore. Even better than a bottle I had a year ago. Like the other large scaled Barolos, this showed better on the second day. There is enough fruit here for this wine to age longer than many other 97s. Drink 2015-2032 Tasted November 2007

Barolo Flight #3
1997 Gaja, Langhe, Conteisa (RT96+) Not quite up to snuff with a bottle opened a year and a half ago, but still showing exceptionally well. Revealing notes of rich, smoky red fruit and minerality, the palate is articulately well balanced with ample acidity which carries the massive fruit while keeping it fresh and lively. This has a long future ahead and my suggestion is to let your bottles sleep for another decade. I’m not convinced this was the best showing bottle, but it revealed the precise wine making style of Gaja and lent an impression that the future holds brightness for this bottling. Drink 2017-2032 Tasted November 2007

1997 Ceretto, Barolo, Bricco Rocche (RT97+) There is an immediate impression of grandeur and completeness. Everything is in balance with every detail accounted for. Like the Corino V.V., this shows gorgeously evolved fruit and was, perhaps, the smokiest and tar-driven of night, yet waves of fresh fruit keep coming back followed by violets, leather and spice. The palate is equally alluring, rich and full, while brightened with excellent acidity and a finish that seems to go on for an eternity. Utterly compelling. I’ve had every vintage of Bricco Rocche going back to the inaugural ’82, and to my palate this is as fine as the very best Bricco Rocche ever made. Drink 2012-2032 Tasted November 2007

Barolo Flight #4
1997 Borgogno, Barolo, Storico-Liste (RT98) When first poured this was as tight as a timbale, but slowly began after time in the glass. One of the freshest wines of the night, a field of black fruits and violets explode out of the glass in an all-out assault on the senses. Very well constructed with the structure of a fortress and finish that goes on and on. Perhaps the most perfect level of acidity of any wine this evening. Exceedingly rare, if not nearly impossible to find stateside. One of the great wines of the vintage. Still needs time to reach its maximum potential. Drink 2017-2032 Tasted November 2007

1997 Sandrone, Barolo, Cannubi Boschis (RT94) The massively proportioned Cannubi Boschis is the ripest and most massively fruited wine this night, achieving nearly decadent levels of richness rarely found in Barolo. Thick, sweet and bordering on extravagant and packed with ripe red raspberry and beef blood, it comes off as if the fruit were dried and concentrated on racks like late harvest Amarone. This is a great effort by Sandrone, but for my palate it is a stylistic anomaly that tracks a wee bit too far outside the boundaries of expected Nebbiolo nuance to make it a classic Barolo. Drink now-2022 Tasted November 2007

1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva, Monfortino (RT97+) Penetrating in its explosive bouquet and built on a massive frame of uber-ripe red fruits, plums, pungent smoke and a framework of steely minerality, the infant Monfortino is the only wine which approaches the Cannubi Boschis in terms of sheer volume of fruit packed into the bottle. Yet the profile is vastly different leaning more toward Barolo as we know it, but still straying a bit outside the defining boundaries of Barolo. Seriously exotic, it will show best a decade down the road. Drink 2022-2042 Tasted November 2007