Below you’ll find reviews of mature wines I’ve had at home – from my own cellar or from a friends’ – or at wine dinners, larger gatherings, etc.
A PAIR OF LEGENDARY PIEDMONT WINES July 2021
A Pair of Legendary Piedmont Wines
2005 Cappellano, Barolo, Piè Rupestris (Not Rated, as requested by the Cappellano Family) Bought on release and stored in my cellar since, I’ve also got magnums of this wine. Showing pale translucent ruby with hints of garnet on the rim, from the first pour this reveals a soft, approachable side of the 2005 vintage. Mentholated cherry leads to soft red berries, balsam and bright minerality, all framed in the transparent, traditional style that is the hallmark of this producer. Yet the mouthfeel comes up short, lacking the energy and spunk I typically associate with an outstanding bottling from a better than average vintage. As I work through the glass it becomes a bit disjointed. The overall persona is pure as the driven snow, but it begs for more energy and fervor. I have doubts this will improve with more cellaring. Drink now-2030+
1996 Gaja, Langhe, Conteisa (RT97) Tonight the 1996 Conteisa is utterly stunning as cellaring has proven a dear friend. Nearly opaque deep ruby, the dollop of Barbera blended in has its affects, but there is an overall garnet cast to it. This profound vintage shows up in spades on the bouquet as powerful brooding red cherry, mineral driven raspberry compote, dried rose petal and hints of herbs reveal a power-driven persona. As this wine approaches 25 years since vintage, it shows a far younger and fresher than the 2005 Cappellano I tasted side-by-side with it. The palate texture evolves in the glass, showing depth and dimension with perfect balance, a magnificent vintage and wine for the team at the Gaja winery. Simply splendid! Drink now-2036+
ASCHERI – CLASSIC SERRALUNGA BAROLO April 2021
1996 Ascheri, Barolo, Sorano (RT93) Dark ruby garnet with medium translucence. Showing dark red fruit, dried cherry, plum, hints of pan iron and minerality build a visual fortress of structure in the cloak of late fall nuance. This is very 1996 and very Serralunga with a rich palate, alluring weightlessness, lovely acidity and firm tannin bringing up the finish. A lovely, hard to find bottle. This has matured gracefully and will continue to drink well for a number of years into the future. Drink now-2030
IMPRESSIVE EVENING WITH A MATURE BAROLO March, 2021
1990 Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco, Camp Gros (RT95) This has been a long time favorite of mine and this bottle did not disappoint, although as it approaches age 31 it has moved toward the completely tertiary side of evolution. Dried cherry, rose petal potpourri, truffle, crisp dried forest floor, and a midge of minerality lead to a soft, perfectly mature mouth texture with soft tannins bringing things to a magnificent finish. This is really in an outstanding place, but I suggest drinking in the next five years for optimal satisfaction.
OUTPERFORMING ITS PLAYING WEIGHT! January 2021
1996 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo, Vigneto Cannubbio (RT 96) “Vigneto Cannubbio” is the formal name of the wine from a by-gone era, today it’s just known as Cannubi. This is a fabulous vintage for these low elevation vineyards, one that I vastly prefer over warm vintages like 1997 and 2000. This wine speaks volumes about the coolness of the vintage and exemplifies the elegance the winery was moving toward at the time, away from their former rusticness. Its medium garnet hue gives way to a magnificent bouquet layered with dried red cherry, orange zest, dehydrated rose petal and hints of balsam sap. Fall is in the air! With time in the glass the complexity multiplies as layers of sweet dried fruit compote, truffle, smoky tones and minerality fill the glass. The palate is weightless with a perfect balance of fruit, acidity, and tannin. This is so 1996, a complete, overachieving virtuoso punching well above its pay grade! Bravo Francesco Rinaldi! Drink now-2036+
THE BRILLIANT 2000 GIACOSA ASILI RISERVA & A CLASSIC 1978 BAROLO October 2020
2000 Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva, Asili (RT99) Showing a light ruby garnet hue, this is highly translucent. The bouquet is amazingly complex, bright, and energized with notes of dried raspberry and cranberry, hints of red cherry, and charcuterie. With time in the glass classic Giacosa notes of marzipan, Christmas spices, and fall forest floor emerge. The palate is super impressive, nearly weightless with such convincing precision. Every detail is finessed, this wine leaves me slack jawed with its stunning overall presentation bordering on perfection. Another fabulous bottle of 2000 Asili Riserva, bravo Bruno Giacosa! Drink now-2040+
1978 Pio Cesare, Barolo(RT94) To appreciate a bottle of this age one must be passionate about completely evolved, tertiary dominant wines. Surprisingly deep, dark garnet with a hint of ruby still present. The bouquet reveals a mesmerizing, ever-changing array of dried fall fruits, scorched earth, and tar. With time fresher dimensions emerge as notes of black cherry, sweet spicy accents, roasted herbs, and soft, dirty truffles add interest to the bouquet. The mouthfeel is gentle, round and inviting with excellent fruit concentration, pillowy acidity and completely resolved tannins. The is why we age Nebbiolo, by all means bathe in its magnificence! Drink now-2030
REVISITING A BRILLIANT 1996 BAROLO RISERVA August, 2020 – a real treat in the midst of Covid
2001 ELIO GRASSO CASE MATE GINESTRA – WOWSAH! March 2020
2001 Elio Grasso – magnificence has arrived!
I’ve been a long-time fan of the Elio Grasso winery going back to the 1980s, the first vintages I tasted. Each year I cellar a six pack of each of their Cru Barolo’s – Ginestra & Gavarini – along with a magnum or two of Rüncot Riserva (their modernist expression) letting them sleep in the cellar for the right time to pull a cork. It seemed at age 18 this was the right time to check in on this 2001. It had received lovely reviews when released, albeit a bit on the conservative side, but I was pleasantly surprised at how magnificently this wine has blossomed in the bottle. Mind blowing in every way!
2001 Elio Grasso, Barolo, Ginestra “Case Mate” (RT 97) Showing a medium ruby garnet, pungent aromatics soar from the glass expressing notes of Morello cherry, rose petal, dried red raspberry and distinct minerality. With time in the glass a head of energy emerges. The palate is exceptionally balanced with classic weightlessness, superb balance and a luxuriously long, extended finish that delivers perfect acidity and sweet ripe tannin. This is now in its peak drinking window and will deliver fabulous drinking for another two or more decades. It has blossomed beyond imagination, showing what this impressive winery is capable of in great vintages. Utterly magnificent! Drink now-2041+
A TRIO OF UTTERLY BADASS NEBBIOLO November 2019
2001 G. Conterno, Barolo, Cascina Francia (RT96) At age 18 the Cascina Francia has moved into its prime, early tertiary drinking window. But make mistake, it remains young. Fully translucent ruby garnet, the bouquet exudes refined classicism with notes of red cherry, balsam, green tea, and a vein of minerality. The palate is sophisticated and luxurious, showing the world class vigneron skills of Roberto Conterno with its superb balance, perfect acidity, and smooth, ripe tannins. This is fleshing out beautifully and has a few decades of fabulous drinking ahead. Drink now-2041+
2000 Giacosa, Barbaresco, Rabaja (RT96) Another marvelous showing for this most wonderful of bottlings and from a relatively warm year. Traditional in every way, the hue has that sparkling, Giacosa garnet color that simply draws you into the glass, it is completely mesmerizing. The bouquet shows the masculinity of this vineyard site with hefty notes of black cherry, spiced plum, lavender, hints of old saddle leather and notes of limestone dust and black olive. The palate is handsomely balanced with delicious, ripe fruit and sweet tannins, as the refreshing acidity draws you back for another sip. Drink now-2035+
1978 Gaja, Barbaresco, Sori San Lorenzo (RT97) Showing the youthful side of the benchmark 1978 vintage, as much as 20 years younger than its age, the rosy garnet hue gravitates one to the palate, which is layered with notes of dried morello cherries, waves of mineral laced cranberries liqueur, and rose petal potpourri. Notes of dried lilacs and smoky tones appear with time in the glass. The palate shows a core of scrumptious red cherry fruit that coats the mouth while maintaining fabulous freshness, gorgeous balance, and succulently soft, sweet tannins. This wine is just gorgeous, an absolute masterpiece of winemaking that few would ever guess is over 40 years of age. Thank you, Angelo Gaja, for leading the way! Drink now-2033+
1996 Altare, Barolo, Vigneto Arborina (RT 97) With more than 20 years of age, the 1996 Altare Arborina retains a dark, ruby hue with only the slightest hints of garnet. Revealing a power-centric bouquet of black cherries, dried raspberries, menthol, balsam sap and hints of sous bois, a bold level of minerality emerges with time in the glass. The mouthfeel is gorgeously endowed showing exceptional finesse and a mouth coating richness, as the vibrant acidity leads to a superbly integrated, silky smooth ripe tannic finish. A modernist wine for the ages, this reveals how magical the best modernist producers’ wines can be. Showing zero oak and boat loads of finesse. Bravo Elio Altare for your dedication to Barolo! Drink now-2036+. You can find the latest vintages for $80s-low $100s.
2001 Montevetrano, Colli di Salerno IGT, Montevetrano (RT 94) SO’d for the afternoon and then followed over the course of two evenings, poured directly from bottle. The complete package here is stunningly delicious. It shows a relatively dark ruby, yet still translucent hue. The bouquet has moved toward an earthy, terroir driven wine that previous bottles have lacked showing notes of dark red fruits, sous bois and volcanic ash. With time in the glass it opens-up beautifully with hints of spicy truffle, underbrush and a light floral. This wine truly shines on the palate with its alluring richness and balance beaming through. Superb acidity and gorgeously polished, ultra-fine tannins punctuate a grand finish. I had a hard time putting down the glass this was so captivating. Seriously impressive, a profoundly enjoyable wine. While I’m not generally a fan of International varieties from this part of Italy, here the modest addition of Aglianico makes a significant difference and the package comes together in a stylish, classy way. Now in its prime drinking window, I see no upside to continuing to hold. Enjoy now – 2025+. You can pick up the latest vintages for $45-70.
MORE FROM THE CELLAR June 2019
1990 Mascarello, Barolo, Monprivato (RT 97) Throwing virtually no sediment at age 29. Brilliant translucent garnet, paling at the rim. The bouquet presents classic Nebbiolo nuances with waves of red cherry, kirsch, tobacco and smoky creosote, then on the back end dried roses and a hints of aged saddle leather. A gentle giant. The mouthfeel is powerful and precise, showing itself in layers of fruit, the finish is long as lush, ripe tannins round things out magnificently. Drink now-2030+
1998 Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva, Santo Stefano (RT96) At 20 years of age the 1998 Santo Stefano Riserva has blossomed magnificently over the last decade and today shows the magic commonly associated with Giacosa’s Riserva’s. That said, it has been a sleeper not initially rising to the standards of other “red labels”, perhaps the greatest sleeper Giacosa Riserva ever. Today it shows a classic traditional Nebbiolo hue checking in on the lighter side of garnet but remains brutally powerful and tannic. Notes of dried cherry & strawberry, mentholated balsam, dried roses and hints of marzipan emerge with fervor. The mouthfeel is beautifully pure and focused in a linear fashion, with an impeccable balance of relatively lean fruit, acid and ripe, but still grippy tannins. This wine will continue to move upward as it matures. It is an excellent, but not top shelf Santo Stefano. This was the last vintage Giacosa produced a Santo Stefano Riserva. Drink now-2038+ This was available in the high $100s on release, but now trades in the $400-ish range.
May 17, 2019
On this evening I gathered a hard-core group of Italian aficionados for a flight of stunning wines paired with a simple, but delicious dinner prepared in my kitchen: grilled rare prime rib eyes, creamy Anson Mills blue corn polenta with bacon bits & grilled fresh Asparagus. The meal proved an amazing pairing with the wines, which by any measure were world class in every way! A fabulous selection of charcuterie and cheeses accompanied the bubbles, and dessert was a serving of Tiramisu and Tiramisu Crepe Cake, both of which were exceptional.
2002 Pierre Peters, Champagne Cuvée Spéciale Blanc des Blancs, Brut, Grand Cru, Les Chétillons (RT 95) It’s been a number of years since I pulled the cork on this fabulous wine, and tonight it lived up to expectations. With fruit coming exclusively from the legendary Les Mesnil cru, it shows a deeper, richer side of Champagne. The hue remains relatively light, but the bouquet reveals hints of lemon, yellow stone fruits, chamomile and brioche, with punctuation notes of hazelnut and almond rounding things out. The palate is rich, luxurious and harmonious with excellent bright acidity that provides the level of verve and laser focus this Tête de Cuvée is known for. Drink now-2032+
2001 Giuseppe Rinaldi, Barolo, Brunate-Le Coste (magnum) (RT 96+) SO’d for 24 hours in advance of serving and poured directly from bottle, which proved a prefect strategy for such a firmly built wine from the highly structured 2001 vintage and no less from magnum. It reveals a deep, ruby garnet-tinged hue, as floral driven notes of mentholated red cherry, violets, fresh rose petals, hibiscus and white flowers dominate the bouquet. With time in the glass the intensity builds. The palate is bright, fresh and alluring, with a captivating balance of fruit, acid and ripe, but firm tannin. A beautiful showing for this wine. Drink now-2036+, even longer from magnum.
1999 Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo, Monprivato (RT 96) I’ve featured this bottling a couple different times on this website, and this bottle was consistent with previous experiences. SO’d for day and served directly from bottle. Showing gorgeously right out of the starting gate, while it reveals a paler shade of ruby garnet, there is no lack of intensity or depth. Notes of classic geranium, dried rose petal, morello cherry and hints of sous bois and terroir-driven minerality lead to a fabulous palate of sweet Nebbiolo fruit, beautiful acidity and firm, but ripe tannin, which I consider a hall mark of the 1999 vintage. The finish is long and alluring. Drink now-2034+
1999 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo, Cascina Francia (RT 97) It’s been a few years since I opened a bottle of this stunning wine. SO’d for the day and served directly from bottle, the Cascina Francia was the slowest of the wines to unwind this evening and took a good hour to really start to strut its stuff. Slightly darker and deeper than the other three, but still turning toward a garnet hue, notes of soaring Bing cherry, a bunch of roses, hints of Serralunga minerality, dried cranberry and hints of green tea and anise lead to a magnificently balanced mouthfeel. With time in the glass it keeps delivering more and more, its freshness impresses. An exceptional balance of fruit, acid and perfectly ripe, sweet tannin provides an enduring finish. Very Impressive! Drink now-2034+
1999 Bruno Giacosa, Barolo, Le Rocche del Falletto (RT 98) SO’d for the day, there was significant sediment, so I gave it a quick splash decant and it was served directly from the narrow decanter. The immediate impression of world class wine making presents itself in spades. The most garnet tinged and lightest hue of this evening’s wines, notes of classic dried black cherry, brown sugar, Christmas spice and dried rose petal attack in waves. The intensity builds as it opens, showing a captivating mouth feel with sweet Nebbiolo fruit, beautiful acidity and a long, sweet, finely managed tannic finish that goes on and on. Despite its power, it presents a weightlessness that is mind boggling. A wine of extraordinary beauty! This was crafted during Bruno Giacosa’s peak and in my mind is perhaps his greatest Normale’ bottling (non Riserva) ever. Drink now-2034+
2008 I Veroni, Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina, Occhio di Pernice (RT 92) Popped and poured, this was deeper and darker than the two Felsina Vin Santo’s, which is no surprise given it’s crafted from 100% Sangiovese. Classic autumnal notes emerge of darker dried stone fruit, caramel, raisin and fig, but the notes are somewhat muddled in their presentation and precision. Still, a lovely dessert wine. Drink now-2028+
2006 Felsina, Vin Santo del Chianti Cassico (RT 96) Also popped and poured. As I recently reviewed the 2007 for an upcoming article that will feature all the current releases from Felsina, this proved a perfect side-by-side comparison of the two. A blend of Trebbiano, Malvasia and Sangiovese. Felsina makes one of the finest Vin Santo’s in the market today, and this 2006 proved quite a structured rendition of this magical wine. It differs from the 2007 in that it reveals a bit more focus and underlying precision. Notes of dried apricot, orange and lemon peel, toasted hazelnut and dried fig dominate the wine. The palate shows a fine focus with beautiful fruit that takes on an almost liqueur-like quality with pin point acidity and a lovely, extended finish. Drink now-2036
2007 Felsina, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico (RT 95) While I won’t steal my complete reviews’ thunder, suffice to say this was very close in quality to the 2006 and very similar in style, polish and presentation. Stay tuned for my complete run down which will be released sometime in the next few weeks.
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.
MAY 2019 – A LOVELY SAMPLING OF 1996 BAROLOS
1996 Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco, Gaiun (RT 94) SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle, with just a small amount of sediment to deal with. Light in overall hue, showing a lighter garnet core fading to a pale, stonewashed rim. Showing an energized level of fruit aromatics that conveys a sense of the classicism of the vintage, the bouquet delivering notes of red cherry, balsam, cedar, dried rose petal, tar and white flowers. The mouthfeel echoes the vibrancy of the bouquet with a relatively restrained delivery of weightless fruit buttressed by vibrant acidity. The tannins have melded into the overall framework, adding a nice note of punctuation at the close. This is di Gresy’s modern Barbaresco interpretation (the Camp Gros being traditional), but the oak has integrated seamlessly. A gem but I do have a deference for the Camp Gros! Drink now-2030+ Current vintages trade in the $100 range.
1996 Einaudi, Barolo, Costa Grimaldi (RT 91) SO’d for the afternoon, then followed over the course of three nights. Served directly from bottle, recorked and left in the cellar overnight. This shows very 1996 with its garnet hue with some fading at the rim. Its modern roots initially come through, with hints of toasted oak showing through, but within a short time that blows off to reveal notes of balsam, cedar, dried rose petal and mentholated red cherry. With time old leather and sous bois emerge. The balance is excellent, showing full and round in the mouth and with the balance of acidity and tannin rounding things out nicely. Over the course of the next two nights it never faded an iota, becoming impressively muscular and full figured. A good, but not great 1996, I prefer his Nei Cannubi to this bottling. Drink now-2016+ Current vintages trade in the $60-75 range.
1996 Prunotto, Barolo, Bussia (RT 94) SO’d for the day, then poured directly from bottle for dinner. Showing a relatively deep ruby garnet hue, with slight bricking. A bit tight initially, but within an hour in the glass it began to blossom, showing pungent notes of red cherry, balsam, forest floor, truffle and background highlights of dried rose petal. Very 1996 in the bouquet! The mouthfeel is absolutely lovely revealing a beautiful balance of fruit, acid and finely integrated tannin. I slowly sipped on this over the course of the evening as it continued to unravel and develop. An outstanding 1996, the best lies ahead for this impressive bottling. Drink now-2036+ Current vintages trade in the $60-70+ range.
2007 Sportoletti, Umbria IGT, Villa Fidelia Rosso (RT 90) This was SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle as there is virtually no sediment. Followed over the course of three nights. Dark, deep and bordering on opaque, I hardly recognize the classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc. The immediate impression of overwhelming toasted oak emerges, followed by black berry, black cherry, ripe plums and anise. The mouthfeel is rich and generous, with low acids and smooth ripe tannins. By day three the toasted oak had integrated, leaving a far more fruit driven style of wine. While it certainly has its following, this is clearly not my style of Umbrian red. Drink 2020-2030+. Current vintages are available in the $20-25 range.
2008 Montepeloso, Toscana IGT, Nardo (RT 94) Popped and poured, then savored over dinner. At age 10 the 2008 Nardo remains a bit of a brooding beast, dark, rich and massive in all dimensions. With a bit of time in the glass notes of black berry, plums, forest floor and faint notes of leather emerge. Pure and seamless on the palate, the mouthfeel reveals a round richness and low acidity with fine grained, sweet ripe tannins. This is a luxurious blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese and Marsellan, the percentages of which vary from vintage to vintage. It is aged in 2nd, 3rd and 4th passage barrique, with small production of less than 400 cases per vintage. Drink 2022 – 2032+ Nardo is an expensive bottling that typically runs in $100-125+ range. Irrespective of the price, this is world class winemaking from Fabio Chiarelotto.
1996 Marcarini, Barolo, Brunate (RT 95) SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle. Showing a very 1996 character is all respects: taught, a bit stern and starting to show beautiful late Fall tertiary notes. The hue is garnet, with a deep overall cast and the bouquet wafts up notes of dried raspberry and cherry, withered rose petals, notes of minerality and a pungent balsam punctuation mark! The palate is lithe and weightless with a balance that waivers between firm and engaging, as bright, fresh acidity and clean, but notable tannins bring the wine back around again. Very enchanting! On day two it was drinking very well, hardly softening a bit and typical of 1996s. Drink now – 2036+ Marcarini continues to be a terrific value in the Barolo market. The 1996 is currently trading in the $100 range, while recent vintages sell in the $50s–upper 60s.
1999 Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo, Monprivato (RT 96+) SO’d for the day and followed over the course of two nights. First pour was right on track and showing the gloriousness of both the vintage and the wine with its exceptionally pure aromatics layered with perfectly ripe red cherry, wisps of geranium, white flowers and hints of balsam and cedar. On the palate it is equally pure, with exceptional balance, acidity and finely ripe tannins that lead to a long enchanting finish that keeps bring you back for more. Showed every bit as well on the second night. Simply outstanding and undoubtedly among the top Barolos of the 1999 vintage. Drink now – 2039+ Once available for the paltry sum of $55 (on release), this wine has an extreme cult following, which has driven current trading price to $300+ per bottle. Ugh!
1983 Speri, Recioto della Valpolicella, Amarone (RT 95) The nomenclature on the label is a bit confusing: this is Amarone, but prior to the 90s Amarone was labeled as Recioto della Valpolicalla, which is not to be confused with modern day labeling which no longer uses Recioto except when referring to the dessert wine.SO’d in the morning, then, decanted just a few hours before pouring. Served with Wild Boar Tenderloin w/ dried cherry and fois gras reduction sauce which proved an absolutely perfect pairing. Showing a translucent garnet hue, it reveals smoke-induced notes of red cherry, almond extract, spice, fig, dried fruit and another layer of smoke. Complex and rich, yet light on its feet, it is perfectly balanced and finishes with a long, fruit-driven after taste and sublime tannin integration. Absolutely a surprise, it just keeps delivering its magnificence sip after sip. I had one bottle of this, which we drank about 10 years ago, this one came from a friend’s cellar. The last bottle was good, but not nearly as divine as this one! Bravo Speri! Drink now – 2028+ This vintage is not currently available in the after-market, except if you can find some from a cellar that’s being sold. Current vintage trades in the $65-80+ range.
1990 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes (RT 100) Popped and poured from a 375ml. Truly a profound showing this night, it shows up as if it was bottled just a few years ago rather than showing its 28 years of age. Fresh, bright, polished and extremely classy, its light hue hides its age as well. The bouquet delivers astonishingly fresh, vibrant notes of honeyed tropical fruits, pineapple, dried apricots and white peach and botrytis spice in spades. Its palate is layered in complexity and conveys a sense of absolute weightlessness. With each sip something new emerges. A wine a staggering grace, dessert wine simply doesn’t get any better than this! Drink now – 2050+, this is almost immortal. One of the great collectable wines of France, many older vintages are available going back to the late 1800s. This vintage currently trades in the $350-500+ range for a 750ml., current vintages can be found in the $300 and up range.
April 29, 2019
*See Italian Tasting Notes for the review on Miani
1997 Prunotto, Barolo, Bussia (RT 94) SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle. Dark ruby with only hints of garnet at the rim, the 1997 Bussia reveals abundant ripe fruit but is still hanging on to a decided freshness. Classic Bussia notes of black cherry, dried plum, sous bois and mentholated balsam. The mouthfeel is clearly equal to the aromatic profile, where the fruit, tannin and acidity keep things lively and fresh. The balance is very well done for such a hot vintage, Prunotto hit a home run in 1997! Excellent and still showing well for a vintage in which many have lost their edge and are now beginning to fade. Drink now – 2027+ If you can find it in the $70-100 range that’s an excellent value for a fabulous 1997 Barolo.
2001 Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Bussia (RT 94) Of all the surprises of the weekend, this took honors, showing a level of excellence I simply didn’t expect. SO’d for the day, then decanted right before serving. Showing a marvelously developed, mature bouquet with notes of bright red raspberry, sous bois, hints of leather and a classic dried white floral aspect. The palate was rich and lovely, very well fruited and showing excellent balance and beautifully sweet tannins on the finish providing the exclamation mark. I quite honestly never expected a showing of this caliber from Conterno’s normale’ bottling. A stand out bottle, reminding me of the greatness of this vintage and of this producer. Wow! Drink now – 2031. This vintage is currently available in the $100+ range, current vintages (2013 & 2014) are available in the mid-$60s to upper $80s.
2001 Bussola, Recioto della Amarone, TB (rating 97) An impressive dessert wine crafted from a diverse blend of 60% Corvina & Corvinone, 10% Rondinella, 15% Cabernet Franc, 7% Dindarella, 3% Croatina and a smattering of different indigenous varieties. SO’d in the afternoon, then served directly from bottle, it paired magnificently with a decadent chocolate cake. And while the cake was magical, the Bussola completely defied imagination. Deeply pigmented and bordering on pitch black, it shows an incredibly pungent bouquet of red raspberries, blueberries, dark chocolate, figs, raisins and classic Valpolicella smoke. The palate was equally marvelous with exquisite richness, fantastic balance and perfectly offsetting acidity and tannin. Simply stunning! Drink now – 2040+ This vintage is available in the $100-range (for a 500 ml bottle), but in more recent vintages Bussola has added a basic Recioto Classico (different label than the brown label TB) which retails in the $35-60 range. With the introduction of this lesser Classico bottling the TB version has become increasingly difficult to source.
APRIL 2019 – COMPARE 7 CONTRAST TWO VINTAGES OF G. CONTERNO BARBERA CASCINA FRANCIA
2005 Giacomo Conterno, Barbera d’Alba, Cascina Francia (RT 89) Another less than elegant showing for this iconic bottling. This was my last bottle of the 2005 vintage and was followed over the course of two days. Bought on release and stored in my cellar since. Still hanging on to its core purplish hue, with a slight amount of bricking at the rim. Shows a bit more mature on the nose than on the palate where it delivers notes of violets and blue fruits with hints of minerality and smoke. On the palate it reveals an array of fresher, fruit driven characteristics with good acidity, but is mostly monolithic in its profile. Solid acidity, but its tannins still hold a sharp, unfocused edge and its fruit notes remain a bit unfocused and has not integrated as one would expect. For my palate a less than average bottling, drink this earlier than more age-worthy vintages, as I don’t see this going anywhere spectacular. Drink now – 2020+
2006 Giacomo Conterno, Barbera d’Alba, Cascina Francia (RT 93) Bought on release, this is the second bottle I’ve opened. SO’d for the day, then poured and followed over the course of two days. What was lacking in the 2005 is present in spades in this fantastic 2006. Intoxicating freshness with perfectly ripe fruit and a beautifully balanced palate texture. Loads of red fruit, saddle leather, white flowers and violets with citrus zest create and aromatic display that is to die for. With time in the glass green tea notes, which I often associate with the Cascina Francia cru, emerge. On the palate the freshness and connectedness of the fruit makes you yearn for another sip. The balance of ripe fruit and acidity creates a beautifully layered package. Now in its peak drinking window, pull those corks! Drink now – 2026+
In researching the current trading price for the 2005 and 2006 it appears high demand and modest production has at least temporarily cleaned out the market. I found no 2005 available stateside and one source for the 2006, which was priced at the chokingly high cost of $180 a bottle. At that price it’s a no brainer PASS! Current vintages (2014, 2015, 2016) are available in the $60-70 range, and even at that price I question if this wine is worth buying any longer. It certainly was when it was releasing in the low-to-upper $40s.
1996 Cantina Vignaioli “Elvio Pertinace”, Barbaresco, Vigneto Nervo (RT 88) This bottle has been in the US market for many years now and is still available at a few retail locations due to the large inventory brought in by the importer: Vinifera. Bought many years ago and stored in my cellar since. Unfortunately, good cellaring conditions won’t heal a patently mediocre bottling flawed by poor winemaking. Showing a deep russet hue, the bouquet remains compact and unexpressive with notes of dark cherry, wet forest floor, and mushroom. The palate is where it really doesn’t rise to the occasion as it displays a flat, one dimensional character. Time in the glass does little to prompt this wine to express its Cru terroir as it reveals imbalanced acidity and little fruit. A fine example of old-style wine making. I’m not a fan, this is an easy pass and not recommended. Drink now. Available in the market at $70-ish, current vintages – 2011 & 2012 – also available in the same price range.
2001 Tormaresca, Castel del Monte, Bocca di Lupo (RT 92) Those who were around when this was released will recall the hype surrounding it and the glowing score it received. Since then its market presence has faded. Comprised of 100% Aglianico grown in Castel del Monte, Apulia – a hot, dry appellation in southern Italy. I bought a six pack on release, this was the third bottle I’ve checked in on. All aspects have come together quite nicely for it, as it reveals a deep hued, almost opaque visual quality. Showing a deeply fruited, masculine profile built on a core of black and blue fruits, it differs from Campanian and Vulture grown Aglianico, which delivers a red berried-leaning core and brighter, fresher acidity. On the nose the new toasted oak has integrated nicely, and it reveals an elegant bouquet; soft, round and well balanced. Like the bouquet, the palate also shows a very different side of Aglianico, with notes of black berries, balsam and coffee. The oak has integrated nicely as it approaches age 20. I’m convinced there’s no upside for cellaring it longer, so for those sitting on some it is ready to drink. Drink now – 2024. The oldest vintage currently available stateside runs $40-50, while the most recent vintages – 2013 & 2014 – are in the $60-70+ range.
APRIL 2019 – A PAIR OF RECENT GEMS
1996 Gaja~Langhe~Sperss (RT 97) The second bottle I’ve checked in on in the past few years. Popped and poured – a mistake no one opening a bottle of Gaja, especially one of his big guns, should ever make – it was begging for air and was initially wound up tight as a drum. But with time in the glass it began to show its inner beauty with classic Barolo notes of dried rose petal, balsam, truffle and hints of tar. With more time in the glass a stunning aromatic cornucopia emerges displaying its Serralunga roots and deeply engrained minerality. The mouthfeel is even more impressive, showing a decided weightlessness that captures the imagination, gorgeous in its complete package and equally as impressive in its enduring finish. An incredible showing for the 1996 Sperss, this should continue to drink well for another two or more decades. Highly recommended with ample air! Drink now – 2039+
1999 Conterno~Barolo~Cascina Francia (RT 97) On release I bought a case, this was the fourth bottle opened. Revealing a more translucent ruby garnet hue than the Sperss, it’s aromatics were initially compact, but it opened up quickly in the glass, revealing sweet, ripe character I commonly associate with the 1999 vintage. It reveals a classic ruby garnet hue, as wisps of ripe black cherry, sweet licorice, eucalyptus and crowned with hints of fresh rose and a resinous, mentholated quality soar from the glass. Over time a green tea note emerges, something I commonly associate with Cascina Francia. On the palate it displays impeccable balance and finesse, with perfect acidity and ripe tannin to create a masterpiece. This is one of the most exceptional Barolos you can open today, and it will continue to show well for another two-plus decades. Outstanding stuff and highly recommended for the connoisseur! Drink now – 2039+
2000 Giacosa~Barbaresco Riserva~Asili (RT 98) I bought nearly a case of this on release, back in the days when a purchase from the now defunct Premier Cru meant you were getting it at the lowest imaginable price. In this case $130/btl. Today this wine trades on average at $600-plus/btl. The price being driven by the combination of small production, stunning quality and the reputation of Bruno Giacosa as a brand to own by worldwide collectors. SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle. This beauty has turned the corner and is now showing superbly, with an eye-catching ruby garnet hue. Scents of classic dried red berry, marzipan, spicy brown sugar and an array of dried florals emerge as the bouquet morphs continuously, showing multiple dimensions. The palate is exquisite, with a mouth coating richness, perfectly measured acid and impeccably ripe, sweet tannin that combine to create a kaleidoscope of perfection. A superb example of what makes the wines of Bruno Giacosa so captivating and arguably worth every penny they trade for. You are sorely missed Bruno, RIP brother! Drink now – 2035+
2001 Giacomo Borgogno, Barolo, Storico-Liste (RT 94) I’ve passionately followed this wine over many vintages since it was first released in the mid-1990s. In my view this is Borgogno’s most expressive and outstanding bottling. For the first decade+ of production this wine was aged in small barrels, but today it is aged for 4 years in 45 HL Slavonian oak casks, giving it a more classic profile. This is a small production bottling with approximately 4,000 bottles produced each vintage, making it relatively rare and hard to source in the US market. In recent vintages the label has changed from black to white and it is currently marketed at “Liste” (sans Storico, which used to only appear on the back label). SO’d for the day and served directly from bottle, the presentation is archetypal Nebbiolo showing a russet/garnet hue to the core. On the bouquet a marked florally driven profile showing violets and rose petal wrapped around a red cherry core, with mineral accents. The mouthfeel is fabulous and fresh, with beautiful balance between the acidity and clean, ripe tannin. Seriously structured, this wine has the backbone to age for another 20+ years with style and grace. Drink now – 2041+ Depending on where you buy it the price can range from the $70s to north of $100.
The charismatic Tuscan Countryside.
APRIL 2019 – FELSINA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVAS FROM 2006 & 2009
2006 Felsina~Chianti Classico Riserva (RT 93) Bought on release and stored in my cellar since, this is the second bottle from a case. Cork pulled mid-afternoon and SO’d until the first pour a few hours later. Showing a deep, ruby-russet hue with the slightest hints of bricking at the rim. Pungent aromatics emerge from the glass, centered on clean, bright aspects that punctuate this fresh, structured vintage. Dark cherry, hints of underbrush buttressed with an energized floral element lead the charge to a clean and highly focused palate feel. The impression of premium quality winemaking emerges, crafted on firm, perfectly ripe and tannin. The acidity is refreshing, while the tannins have begun to integrate. This is a superb Chianti Classico Riserva from an outstanding vintage, bravo to team at Felsina for their outstanding practice of the craft focused on Sangiovese. At age 12 this is showing extremely well. Drink 2019 – 2029+. This vintage can be acquired in the US market in the +/- $40 range, the price being mostly driven (escalated) by the demand for this fabulous vintage.
2009 Felsina~Chianti Classico Riserva (RT 90+) Following on the heels on the 2006, coming from a lesser vintage, the 2009 didn’t rise to the lofty standards of the mighty 2006, yet still proved a solid performer in terms of delivering drinking satisfaction. Not showing the lifted, energized aromatics of its 2006 brethren, it reveals a dark, brooding hue, typical of this bottling. The bouquet still needs some time to come together, as does the palate feel, both of which are currently revealing some fragmented elements. Give this another few years to come together and drink from 2022-2032+ This vintage can be found in the $25-30 range.
1998 Conterno, Barolo, Cascina Francia (RT 93) Not the best showing for this iconic wine, but it still out performed the majority of 1998 Barolos. Now at age 20, it continues to show a dark ruby garnet as tertiary notes of black cherry, anise, balsam and hints of lilac and minerality playing in the background. Autumnal notes of truffle and forest floor are just beginning to emerge. The palate shows a classic weightless character with a generous, round mouthfeel. Lovely acidity and beautifully integrated, super fine tannins create an extended finish that sweetens the overall package. With time in the glass it opens broadly displaying its world class winemaking and capturing the classic ambiance this elegant bottling is known for. An excellent effort given the warm vintage, one of the better wines crafted in 1998. Drink now – 2028+ Market forces have dramatically affected the cost of this wine with it now trading in the $280-300+ range. For that price it’s an easy pass for me.
2005 Giacosa, Barolo, Falletto di Serralunga d’Alba (RT 96) A superb showing for the 2005 Falletto, this was double decanted in the morning due to problems getting the cork out cleanly. Light ruby with an overall garnet hue, it immediately shows the laser focus Giacosa nebbiolos are known for with its bouquet built on Morello cherry, black tea, Serralunga ferrous and hints of marzipan. The mouthfeel is refined with the balance only the greatest of winemakers can craft with perfectly ripe fruit, bright reinvigorating acidity and superbly managed, sweet tannins. As it opens in the glass classic spicy brown sugar notes emerge. A surprising showing from a vintage that’s been swept into the shadows between the benchmark 2004 and 2006 vintages. While the market price of Giacosa Barolos and Barbarescos has continued to spiral upward, they remain a rock-solid overall value. Drink 2022-2040+ Current trading price for this vintage ranges from the low-to-upper $200s.
2008 Elena Fucci, Aglianico del Vulture, Titolo (RT 93+) Elena Fucci is a relative newcomer to the world of wine and crafts but one bottling: Titolo. Produced entirely from estate grown fruit from 55-60-year-old vines, this winery sits on the west side of highway SS658, a stone’s throw from the Paternoster winery. She is rapidly rising toward the top of the Aglianico del Vulture producer list. Elena used 100% new French oak barriques for aging this vintage, but the barrel quality is very high and I got no notes of toast, a really pleasant surprise. Purchased on release and cellared since, this bottle was SO’d for the day and followed for three nights. Showing a dark ruby hue with no hints of garnet, notes of black fruits, spice, anise and hints of leather are framed on a mineral-built spine. Quite masculine as one expects from Vulture grown Aglianico, its well-balanced in its mouthfeel and shows a fine combination of fruit, acid and tannin. At its current age of 10 its coming together nicely. Outstanding stuff, drink from now-2030+ This is a well-priced bottling that offers terrific value, a bona fide Hot Pick! You can pick up current vintages (2013, 2014, 2015) in the $30-40 range.
2007 Paternoster, Aglianico del Vulture, Don Anselmo (RT 96) Don Anselmo is Paternoster’s flagship bottling, and in my eyes represents the most outstanding and elegant Aglianico del Vulture produced in the appellation. The soil for this wine is volcanic with significant amounts of lava and ash. Aged 50% in large Slavonian oak barrels and 50% in French barriques. SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle. Showing a dark, deeply hued russet cast with a slight hint of a garnet rim. The bouquet that emerges shows equally dark notes of black cherry, plum, layered notes of forest floor, underbrush, hints of balsam and spice. In the mouth it reveals a sense of finesse, elegance and balance, all aspects showing in perfect harmony. Very impressive, the finish lingers, while the balance of acid and fruit is a thing of beauty. The elegance of tannin is equally masterful, showing perfect ripeness and punctuating its long finish. Drink 2020-2040. Utterly superb and living beyond its reputation! Due to very limited import levels and low production, this can be a difficult bottle to source in the market. Current vintages range from $55-65.
2004 Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Romirasco (RT 96+) As the 2004s approach 15 years of age, last evening was another stunning showing for this superb bottling. It was double decanted about two hours prior to serving to give it the air often needed for young Barolo, which proved an excellent strategy. Revealing a deep ruby hue fading to garnet at the rim, the masculine, penetrating bouquet reveals notes of black cherry, lilac, sous bois and hints of eucalyptus – in many ways a classic Bussia expression. But what sets this cru apart is the intensity of its aromatics. With time in the glass it builds momentum showing what a fabulous cru, from one of the most age-worthy vintages of the first decade of the 2000s can provide. The mouthfeel and balance are fabulous, framed with deep, dark fruit, lovely fresh acidity, and a fine grained, polished tannic finish. Exquisite, and highly recommended with consistent notes from the previous bottle! With a single decant or double decant drink now – 2040+ Current vintages range from $175-225+/btl., you can find an occasional bottle available of the 2004 vintage for a similar price.
2004 Benanti, Etna Rosso, Serra della Contessa (RT 94) I’ve got a few bottles of this scattered through my cellar and stumbled onto to one when I was reorganizing a few cases last week. When push came to shove I pulled the cork, BAM! SO’d for the day, it burst from the glass with bright, fresh, clean notes of maraschino cherry, white flowers, anise and volcanic ash which lent an element of structure to the bouquet. The palate is equally fresh and vivid, showing stunning balance that centers on its vibrant persistence with beautiful fruit concentration, fine grained sophisticated tannin, and upbeat acidity that keeps every sip fresh and entertaining. An impressive and beautiful showing for this Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappuccio blend, crafted from 100+ year old vines. Benanti is one of the old guard Mount Etna producers and they craft highly reliable wines. This is very close to its tertiary peak drinking window. Recommended! Drink now-2030+ Current vintages (2012, 2013) range from $45-65.
1999 Cavallotto, Barolo Riserva, Vigna San Giuseppe (RT 96) Bought a case on release, stored in my cellar since, this is the fourth bottle I’ve opened. SO’d for five hours, followed over the course of two days and served directly from bottle. The 1999 San Giuseppe shows a dark, sparkling ruby hue with no signs of bricking. The enormity of the vintage shines through in spades as vibrant masculine notes of black cherry and ripe plum, anise and Asian spices rise from the glass. Incredible focus and depth of fruit is the name of the game. With time in the glass the notes deepen and begin to enunciate with great fervor. This is a powerful Barolo with booming vibrato, echoing the precise, perfectly ripe nature of the vintage. The mouthfeel dials up the aromatics as its richness coats the mouth with perfectly ripe tannin that’s sweet and integrated beautifully, this gem shows the 1999 vintage in spades. A fabulous incarnation of the Piedmont’s most prized variety, on night two it hadn’t lost an iota of precision and depth. Hang on to any you’ve got if you can, this is a stellar bottling. Drink now – 2030+
2001 Fontodi, Colli Toscana Centrale IGT, Flaccianello della Pieve (RT 97) Bought a case on release for the paltry sum of $75/btl. Unfortunately the price has risen considerably since this vintage, but this remains worth every penny. Followed over the course of three nights, the wine never wavered an iota and showed just as superbly on night three as it did on the first. This bottle shows a significant lightening in hue from previous bottles and is now a translucent ruby garnet hue. Despite the color integration, there is very little sediment, allowing me to pour directly from bottle. The bouquet is intoxicating, revealing perfectly ripe fruit built on dark black and red cherries, small Tuscan berries and floral notes pinned by a faint smokiness and a captivating herbal-ness. The palate is even more extraordinary, showing a notable weightlessness with perfectly ripe fruit balanced with silky tannin and artfully integrated acidity. Wow, an absolutely stellar showing, this is now in its drinking window and is a benchmark example of truly profound winemaking. Drink now – 2026+
1998 Giacosa, Barolo, Falletto (RT 94) SO’d for the better part of the day and served directly from bottle. Tight and wound up on first pour and showing some expected bottle funk. Light garnet in color, a trade mark of Giacosa. Once the bottle funk blew off and the fruit surfaced this showed gloriously well and kept improving through the night. Lifted aromatics revealing dried red cherry, sous bois, goudron and layered with cedar and white flowers. On the palate it showed true elegance with a beautiful balance of fruit, acid and fine tannin, creating an almost weightlessness. Over time the palate became fuller, rounder and richer, but it never lost its classic balance. An outstanding bottle that embodies all the things traditional Barolo should be. Drink now – 2030+
1999 Pio Cesare, Barolo, Ornato (RT 94+) SO’d for the same length of time as the Giacosa and also served directly from bottle. Here the wine shows a level of beauty that balances fruit and structure in an artful, majestic way. Darkly hued ruby with barely hints of garnet on the rim, it wafts up notes of black cherry, menthol, anise and lavender, creating an overall brooding character. On the palate its firm structure shows incredible potential for aging for many years to come, while the acidity and tannin show a polished character, smooth and silky. With time in the glass it firms up, showing the masculine structure that gives it a powerful overall feel. This is a finely crafted bottle of Cru Barolo. Bravo Pio Boffa, the man behind this fabulous winery! Still on its uphill climb! Drink now – 2039+
2004 Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Romirasco (RT 96+) This was opened the evening prior to this tasting and took a full day to unwind and show its inner beauty, a reminder how long some Nebbiolo’s can take. Revealing a pale ruby garnet, the bouquet shows mentholated rose petal, black cherry, goudron and forest floor built on an incredibly powerful frame. Clearly the fruit for this beast comes from Grand Cru terroir. On the palate it was equally super charged, with red berry fruit filling your mouth, underpinned with incredibly well integrated acidity and perfectly ripe, sweet tannin. As the night progressed it continued to morph like a shape shifter, showing its magic. A thrillingly captivating Barolo of top caliber. Drink now (with a healthy decant) – 2040+
2004 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo, Le Brunate (RT 95) SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle as there was no sediment. Gorgeous, translucent deep ruby hue leads way to a massively endowed, broad shouldered bouquet layered with black cherry, pomegranate, minerals and spice. Brooding with thunderous bass notes, the palate is equally impressive showing enormous depth, balance, acidity and a conclusive tannic finish. This is just now entering its early drinking window, but still hasn’t developed any tertiary elements. Gorgeous wine, Rinaldi continues to offer superb value in a spiraling market of escalating prices. This bottling comes from the highly structured 2004 vintage and will drink well for two-to-three decades. Highly recommended. Drink now – 2034+
2001 Isole e Olena, Toscana IGT, Cepparello (RT 95) SO’d for the day, then served directly from bottle as there was little, if any sediment. A stunning bottle, this was bought on release and cellared since. Showing a glowing ruby garnet hue, here the expression of pure and penetrating Sangiovese is impressive with notes of red cherry, Tuscan scruff, savory herbs and dusty spices. The palate is glorious, revealing superb balance, beautiful freshness and exceptional balance with a caressing, long finish. The tannins have blended into the background wonderfully. While Paolo de Marchi has gained much notoriety in the last decade as a world class winemaker, this wine predates that fame, yet demonstrates how remarkable his skills were back almost 20 years ago. A fabulous showing for the 2001 Cepparello, a wine that has gotten almost no reviews to-date. One of the top Sangiovese IGT bottlings and highly recommended! Drink now – 2030
2004 Enzo Boglietti, Barbera d’Alba, Roscaleto (RT 91) This was bought on release and stored in my cellar since. Proof personified that Barbera is worth cellaring, provided it’s crafted for aging. This bottling is aged for 18 months in barrique and tonneaux, 50% new, and has stood the test of time quite beautifully. Popped and poured, it expresses beautiful mature Barbera character immediately with a round mouthfeel of soft red berries, a hint of saddle leather, and tinges of meat and dried herbs. The mouthfeel is gorgeous with excellent acidity and just the slightest hint of tannin on the tail end of the finish. Wine aficionados looking for a superb value for mid-term cellaring should not hesitate for a moment to buy this wine. Small production with just over 7600 bottles produced, along with some magnums and double mags makes it somewhat tough to find. Drink now – 2024. A top value, recommended.
2000 Einaudi, Barolo, Nei Cannubi (RT 94) Purchased on release and stored in my cellar since, this wine is now smack dab in its prime drinking window. Showing a translucent garnet hue, the bouquet is equally open knit with gorgeous notes of dried rose petal, sous bois, dried white flowers and sous bois. The mouth feel is equally attractive, weightless and magnificently balanced, showing what mature Barolo is all about. Lovely, bright acidity, excellent fruit concentration, and silky fine tannin on the long finish. A truly inspired showing for this bottle, it outperformed all expectations and is a stand out for this hot, generally over-rated vintage. Terrific! Drink now-2025+ to catch it at peak!
2000 Conterno-Fantino, Barolo, Sori Ginestra (RT 90) Also purchased on release and stored in my cellar since, here the wine remains firm, undeveloped and even after being followed for a couple days, never entirely opened-up. The winemaking style shows through with a compact, tannic-dominated profile. While it is true Ginestra Cru is known for its structured wines, the addition of an excess of new French Oak during élevage has created a wine that topples in on itself. Only time will tell whether this eventually opens-up, but for the time being I’m not impressed. A tough lump to swallow. Try again in 5 years? Or will it take 10? Will it ever come around?
1958 Vallana, Spanna, del Piemonte (RT 92) The bottle was in terrific condition with a perfect cork and an excellent bottom of neck fill, almost surprising for a nearly 50-year-old wine. Color was too shabby either. In fact, surprisingly fresh looking and still holding density to the edge. Decanted for sediment, then poured, it threw a pretty rowdy funk for at least an hour. Then, the magic of sweet aged Nebbiolo began to unwind with layers of red cherries, wet stones, mulch, saddle leather and tar. Still showing a well defined finish with a tight edge of tannin – linear & fine grained – and still hangin’ strong. Served blind the seasoned veteran might mistake this for a Barolo of half this Spanna’s age. Wowsah!
1993 Giacosa, Barolo, Collina Rionda (RT 94) A swingin’ bottle of Barolo, this was the last vintage that Bruno Giacosa crafted Barolo from the legendary Rionda vineyard, perhaps making it a nostalgic bottle. Decanted for six hours prior, then returned to the rinsed bottle. As it turned out it could have used an hour or two more to unwind. Once in the glass it was immediately clear this is quintessential Giacosa with the multidimensional sweet perfume and its multi-faceted layers of strawberries, violets, cedar, menthol and balsam. What a stunning 1993, no doubt the best Giacosa of the vintage I’ve had. In the mouth the concentration, balance and velvety complexity is right where you want it, nothing seems out of proportion, and of course the finish is long and enduring. Showing very young and begging for at least another 5-10 years in the cellar.
2007 Il Borghetto, Toscana IGT, Bilaccio (RT 93+) More recent vintages are labeled IGP: Indicazione Geografica Protetta and production is now hovering around 7,000 bottles, up from 5,000 bottles with the 2007 vintage. Even so, this is a very small production wine and the quality is quite good. This 100% Sangiovese is a serious uplifting surprise for pure Sangiovese fans who love that slightly sweet bent to the fruit and impressively pure aromatics. Knowing that the wine is aged in 100% barrique, I was expecting a far more oaky wine than it turned out to be. Impressively clean and fruit driven, the bouquet is layered ripe red berry fruit, marked minerality and notes of white flowers and herbs. On the palate it is as pure and fresh as the bouquet suggests, delivering excellent balance of fruit, acidity and super ripe tannin. A real beauty, this relatively unknown wine rocks and has a pronounced cellaring upside. Glad I bought a six pack on release.
2002 Galardi, Roccamonfina IGT, Terra di Lavora (RT 93) SO’d around noon with the first glass poured around dinner time, it was followed over the course of two days. Showing a dark and dense russet ruby hue, and a nearly opaque quality to it, the bouquet is characterized by minerality, a wisp of smoke layered with chalky red fruits, dried rose petal and ripe plum. With time in the glass that classic ash note develops (common in the reds of Campania) punctuated by Fall notes of dried raspberry and forest floor with hints of medium roast coffee. On the palate it’s dense and firm, beautifully balanced and long on the finish with fine grained tannins and excellent acidity. Now in the early stages of its peak drinking window, this has a solid 10-15+ years of fine drinking ahead. While there is much to be cautious of in 2002 from Central and Northern Italy, in Campania the weather was much more favorable resulting in some excellent wines being produced including this beauty!
1996 Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco, Camp Gros (RT 95)SO’d in the morning, then poured at dinner and followed over the course of two nights. Medium garnet with sparkling translucence, this fine ’96 delivers a stellar, soaring array of dried flowers and Fall dried fruits, beautiful balsam and cedar, and hints of tar and an herbaceous-ness that draws one’s attention back to the glass time and time again. Its’ cherry liqueur quality grows over time. On the palate it’s powerful and muscular, a bit of a brut really, but with time in the glass it begins to unfurl its structure showing a lightly softer persona. This is now in its early stages of maturity and should hang there for another 20 years plus. Superb, classic stuff!
1995 Luigi Pira, Barolo, Vigneto Margheria (RT 91) Bought on release and stored in my cellar since, SO’d for the day prior to serving, then poured directly from bottle and followed over the course of three nights. Showing a classic translucent garnet hue, the bouquet is fantastic, showing all the classical notes of a fine Serralunga bottling with a core built on ferrous notes, meat, cedar and dried herbs. With time in the glass layers of smokiness emerge, making the bouquet more alluring. The palate is a different story, showing mature finesse, medium palate weight, and fine grained, silky tannins. Anyone holding can open with confidence of a mature Barolo experience, drink now and over the coming decade.
2001 Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore, Ornellaia (RT 94) An impressive, youthful showing for this superb bottling. One of the most impressive Bordeaux blends from the Tuscan Coast, here Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc make up this superb wine. One of the things I love about this region is the way the wines express a level of minerality rarely found in Bordeaux. SO’d for the day, decanted just prior to serving. Tonight, the Orny shows an amazing youthfulness, with notes of red berries, hints of leather and minerality that pens this as a singular wine. Hints of French oak lie mostly as background notes. The mouthfeel reveals a textural richness with a long finish marked by finesse-driven tannin. Surprisingly there is almost no tertiary development as it approaches age 18. A beautiful wine that has become increasingly expensive but represents the very best of Bolgheri. Recommended if it fits in your budget. Drink now – 2030+
2001 Sandrone, Barolo, Le Vigne (RT 95) SO’d for the day, then decanted immediately prior to serving as it had developed some sediment. Blended from four fabulous Cru vineyards: Baudana, Villero, Vignane and Merli. Tonight the 2001 Le Vigne is firing on all cylinders revealing a very youthful, showy fruit profile built on a broad-shouldered frame of dark, ripe red and black cherries, fresh plum, lilacs and hints of tar. The mouthfeel is spectacular with decadent fruit layering, fresh acidity and firm, but magnificently integrated tannin. Sandrone is a master at integrating French oak into his wines in a seamless fashion. This is the third bottle of this wine I’ve opened and far and above the best yet, but it still needs more time to start to show even the most minor of tertiary notes. An impressive and outstanding showing and a reminder of just how fabulous the 2001 vintage is in Barolo. Recommended for the Barolo connoisseur. Drink now – 2036\
A STELLAR NIGHT of BAROLO & BARBARESCO – June 2016
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 (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.
1999 Philippe Delesvaux, Coteaux du Layon, Sélection de Grains Nobles (RT 97) I’ve gone through numerous bottles of this killer dessert wine over the years and while there is expected variability in the bottling, it has never disappointed. Popped and poured, as it approaches age 20 it is now showing a darker, more developed hue with tinges of golden honey and copper tones. The bouquet is marked with spicy noble rot (botrytis), candied ginger, ripe apricot and notes of hazelnut. The palate shows the brightness of Chenin Blanc with a lifted richness that stays fresh and energized due to the incredible acidity that balances beautifully with the richness of the fruit. Another very impressive showing, this is a producer that continually bottles impressive late harvest Chenin. Simply to die for and highly recommended. Drink now – 2040+
NEW YEAR’s WEEKEND 2016
2002 Pierre Peters, Champagne, Blanc de Blanc, Les Chetillons (RT 95) Followed over the course of a few days – closed with the sensational Screw pull champagne stopper, which will keep a bottle fresh for up to a couple weeks in the fridge – this was as magnificent as other recent bottles have been and showing a consistently clean and fresh character built on a frame of crisp green apples, hints of green melon and white flowers. The palate is beautifully balanced with a long, generous mouthfeel and a captivating, clean finish. This will age for many years to come! Highly recommended, but pricey. Drink now – 2027+
2013 Miani, Friuliani, Buri (RT 96) This was followed over the course of four days and never wavered an iota or lost any of its verve! Stored in the cellar each evening with the cork stuck back in the bottle. Pungent and powerful on the nose, it shows an impressively pure fruit and mineral combination as notes of ripe melon, acacia and chalk dust lead to a full bodied wine with incredible stature and a seemingly endless finish. One of the best still whites I’ve had in sometime, this will drink well for the coming decade, perhaps longer. An outstanding Friuliana! My oh my, what a beauty! Highly recommended Drink now-2028+
1996 Massolino, Barolo Riserva, Rionda (RT 97) Bought on release, this was a very difficult wine to source at the time, nearly impossible to find in the stateside market. I stumbled onto a supply and bought everything they had, all 18 bottles worth. This has been a very tight, shy wine until the last couple years, when it has slowly emerged from its long, deep sleep. Undoubtedly the finest bottle I’ve yet opened, the 1996 Rionda Riserva is one of the outstanding wines of the vintage, showing well from the first pour. Followed over the course of three days, the fruit is pure power, showing a deeply ripe, perfectly delineated profile built on sweet, red cherry, balsam and a classic ferrous Serralunga note. The palate moves toward seamlessness with extraordinary balance and a finish that goes on forever. A stunning bottle that is still on the upward climb! Highly recommended Drink now – 2036+
1997 Seghesio, Barolo, La Villa (RT 91) Bought on release, this was my last bottle of 1997 La Villa. Popped and poured, then followed over the course a couple days, this is a well-crafted, modernly styled Barolo packed with ripe black and red cherry fruit and layered with violets, anise and hints of goudron. Full bodied in its mouthfeel and well balanced with excellent acidity and clean, smooth tannins. This has aged nicely, and well stored bottles will continue to drink well for another 5-10 years, perhaps more, but I don’t see this improving from here! Recommended. Drink now – 2022+
2010 Monchiero, Barolo, Rocche de Castiglione Falletto (RT 93) Popped and poured and followed over the course of two days. Young and boisterous from the git-go, Monchiero’s Rocche is a gorgeous wine, built on perfectly ripe fruit and showing all the glory of the impressive 2010 vintage. Relatively dark and brooding in its hue, the bouquet shows delicious, fleshy notes of red cherry punctuated with light floral notes! The mouthfeel is full, coating and beautifully balanced, and the tannins and acidity intertwine with the fruit, creating a gorgeous Barolo. Classic, traditionally vinified Barolo! Highly recommended as it remains a relatively affordable wine buttressed with fine winemaking. Drink 2022-2037
2013 Fontodi, Colli Toscano Centrale IGT, Dino (RT 93) This is one of the new bottlings from Fontodi made with 100% Sangiovese, aged for 12 months in amphora and bottled with no sulfites added and no other production techniques to influence the wine. Part of the trend returning to clay amphora aging. On first pour it showed a decidedly disjointed character, none of the parts seeming to connect. But with time in the glass it began to come together, showing a core of sweet, red cherry fruit, accented with deeply ripe plums, hints of leather and slightest hint of spice. The textural aspect is quite intriguing showing a rich fullness, curiously mouth coating feel, with the tannins barely perceptible. A nice hit of acidity keeps it fresh. This is a curiously intriguing bottle, but time will tell over multiple vintages and cellaring what direction this is truly headed in. Until then, I’ll give it a cautious review. Suggested for the true wine geek who wants to try something unique. Drink now- 2023+?
1999 Argiano, Brunello di Montalcino (RT 93) Can’t help but stir up a hint of controversy with the 1999 Argiano Brunello, as this bottling predates the exposure of the Brunellogate scandal with Argiano being one of the initially named culprits. Ultimately Argiano was acquitted of charges, and in my view this bottle reinforces the pure Sangiovese Grosso make up of this wine. Showing a classical translucent faded garnet hue, the bouquet evokes a sense of rural Tuscany with notes of sous bois, hints of spice, dried red berries and a pressed floral element. On the palate it is medium-to-full bodied, that expected weightlessness, excellent acidity and a long, smooth, silky tannin-laced finish. Archetypal in every sense of Brunello. This bottle was SO’d for day and followed for two nights being served directly from bottle. Drink now and over the coming decade.
1999 Fontanabianca, Barbaresco, Sori Burdin (RT 93) Sourced from the Bordini Cru, since roughly 2006 it has been produced under the name Bordini Sori Burdin and since 2010 has been simply called Bordini. SO’d for the day, then followed over the course of two nights and poured directly from bottle. Despite its 16 years of age, it remains tight out of the starting gate and takes a few hours in the glass to truly begin to be expressive. Molded in a classic frame with a modern twist, it shows a deep, dark ruby hue with nary a tinge of ruby on the rim. Revealing a muscular, floral build, ripe red berries, violets and an accent of damp forest floor deliver a big nose. On the palate it is both rich and opulent, while conveying a weightless finish with fine, velvety tannins. On day two it really opened-up showing an even more expressive character. There’s a terrific future ahead for this beauty, drink now and the coming 12-15+ years.
1996 Massolino, Barolo Riserva, Rionda (RT 96+) I’ve followed this wine with great interest since its release, having bought a case and half at the time. It has never been a forward, easy to drink bottling. Rather, as it approaches 19 years of age it remains shy, compact and hard to get it to wriggle out of its structured shell. This was SO’d for half a day before sampling the first glass, where it revealed a lean and hard wine. Recorked and kept standing in the cellar, on day two it began to show its potential revealing a masculine, massively endowed, darkly fruited expression of Serralunga Barolo. It took until its third day to unfurl its inner magic, when it spiraled from the glass showing notes of black cherry, menthol, balsam and a ferrous quality I often associate with Rionda and other nearby Crus. The balance is superb, while maintaining its’ distinctly 1996 character with high acidity, firm but velvety tannins, and a near weightless mouthfeel. If you’re opening this now and over the coming five years I highly recommend a double decant prior to serving, as this is a wine that needs ample oxygen to show its potential.
2003 Scacciadiavoli, Sagrantino de Montefalco (RT 90) Given a short amount of Slow O, this showed an initial flash of charred oak, which vanished in a short time in the glass. Typifying Sagrantino, its dark ruby, opaque hue, leads way to an elixir of mentholated, deep red raspberry liqueur, Tuscan scruff and hints of cedar and dried violets. With time, open notes of late harvest fruit show up, but the heat of the vintage dominates the fruit. Good overall balance, the acidity holds it together, with soft, dry tannins, another sign of the vintage. Surprisingly it has absorbed all of the high toast oak it showed in its youth. I’m impressed, but meh! A surprisingly drinkable Sagrantino, but hardly a good vintage for this bottling.
2006 Montepeloso, Toscana IGT, Eneo (RT 93) SO’d for the day, then followed over the course of three evenings. Showing a deep, dark ruby hue, yet sharply focused and crystal clear near the rim. An initial hit of toasted oak fades in short order to segue to a profile that’s clearly Tuscan in its conveyance of dark, perfectly ripe black cherry, blackberry and dusty fruit, layered with notes of Tuscan spice and brambly underbrush. On the palate it delivers an utterly seamless character, marked by fresh acidity and ripe, dusty tannins. A real gem, the 2006 is just now turning the corner to its early drinking window and has the stuffing to go a long distance down the road. While distinctly crafted with a modern, red blend spin, this is a gorgeous bottling that offers superb value in a market where the top Tuscan blends command a remarkably higher price point! A brilliant performance by a top class Suvereto producer, I can’t wait to try a 2006 Gabbro sometime soon!
1995 Gaja, Barolo, Sperss (RT 94) Bought on release and cellared since, this was the last vintage Gaja declared Sperss a Barolo until 2013, when his kids pulled the Barbera out. From 1996 through 2012 it was declared Langhe given the small amount of Barbera (3-4%) added. SO’d for the afternoon, then followed over the course of 4 days, it was served directly from bottle and kept in the cellar, with the corks simply reinserted after pouring. Showing a dark, brooding ruby hue with few hints of being over 20 years of age, the level of freshness sets this wine apart from its 1995 brethren with notes of violets, tar and deep, black cherry showing. With time in the glass it builds momentum revealing more complexity with notes of dried flowers, minerals and that classic Serralunga ferrous character. On the palate it demonstrates what class is all about, washing the mouth with absolute balance, excellent acidity and a long, finely framed tannic finish. Pleasantly surprised this bottle has risen to the level it has, bravo Angelo! Based on this superb showing, the 1995 Sperss should continue to drink well for another 15-20 years, perhaps longer.
1997 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva, Rio Sordo (RT 92) Bought on release and stored in excellent, temp controlled conditions since. SO’d for just a few short hours, then served for Sunday’s NFL games. Shows a medium ruby garnet hue with tell-tale bricking, it initially gives notes of ripe black cherry, goudron and hints of white flowers. With time in the glass it loses the ripe notes and freshens up, showing notes of violets, red berries, dried roses and a mineral lift. Beautifully balanced in both its palate weight and density, it shows classic, mature Nebbiolo character. The length of finish and punctuation mark left by the firm tannic finish provides a nice way to round out a glass! Followed over the course two nights, it had slipped a touch on day two, but still showed well. If you’re planning on opening any of the Produttori Riserva ‘97s be sure to allow plenty of time for the heavy sediment to settle after standing the bottle up, and have a plan for managing the sediment prior to pouring. This is well developed and in the mid-stages of maturity, and I doubt there’s any upside to continued cellaring, unlike the ‘96s.