From The Cellar

The place where wine evolves, grows, morphs and prospers!

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.

June 27, 2019

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 31, 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.

May 4, 2019

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

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 25, 2019 – Compare and contrast a pair of 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.

April 21, 2019

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.

April 18, 2019

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 5, 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+

April 1, 2019

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+

June 2016

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+

February 2005

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.

January 2010

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

April 2014

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.

September 2015

2010 Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo, Le Brunate (RT 95) This was popped and poured, then followed over the course of three days. Showing a translucent, medium ruby hue, it is forthcoming on the bouquet showing perfectly ripe fruit with notes of dark ripe cherry, sous bois, liquorice and hints of violets. The mouthfeel is utterly sublime, coating your taste buds with exquisitely ripe fruits, perfectly balanced acid and soft, sublimely ripe tannin leading to a rich, long finish. Over the following days it never closed in on itself or shut down, continuing to exemplify the character of perfectly ripe fruit and tannins, so magnificently conveyed in this superb vintage. Rinaldi’s 2010 Le Brunate may just be his best-ever effort from this legendary vineyard, bravo! Back up the truck!

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.