2001 Elio Grasso 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+
June 10, 2019
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.
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.
May 16, 2019
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 5, 2019
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.
April 29, 2019
2015 Miani, Friuli Colli Orientali, Sauvignon (RT 94) Miani is a cult producer with limited production, so sourcing the wines can be tricky. This was popped and poured, then followed over two days. It was another stunning showing for Miani Sauvignon revealing a deep yellowish straw hue. The pungent bouquet wafts up notes of classic gooseberry, yellow stone fruits, jasmine and hints of herbs. The mouth feel is generous and broad showing the ripeness of the vintage and the balance between fruit and acidity is a thing of beauty. A truly magnificent wine, this will mature gracefully for many years to come. Drink now – 2035+. Currently trading in the $80-90 range.
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.
April 23, 2019
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.
April 21, 2019 – A pair of Antoniolo Gattinaras from the benchmark 2010 vintage!
2010 Antoniolo, Gattinara (RT 91) This is the second bottle I’ve had, the first showed very well as a pop n’ pour (with decant) at a Boulder, Colorado restaurant. This bottle was also decanted and followed over a couple evenings. I love the wines of Gattinara for their early drinking potential given their clean, polished tannins, especially from a top-class winery like Antoniolo. That said, don’t underestimate their cellaring potential; they can age for decades, especially from a solid vintage. Showing a pale ruby garnet hue, the bouquet is bright and focused with notes of red berries, morello cheery, rose petal and high toned minerality. The palate is elegant and focused, with beautiful acidity and elegant, ripe tannin. Compared to the Produttori del Barbaresco’s normale’ bottling, which is similarly priced, I prefer this wine. Drink now – 2030+. The 2010 is available in just a few shops nationally in the low $30s, the current vintages – 2012 & 2013 – are trading in the mid $30s-mid $40s.
2010 Antoniolo, Gattinara, Le Castelle (RT 94+) One of three single vineyard bottlings from Antoniolo, the other two being San Francesco & Osso San Grato. SO’d for the day prior to pouring the first glass, it initially showed a lighter shade of Nebbiolo, but with time in the glass darkened considerably. The bouquet started out fresh, bright and highly floral, layered with red cherry, balsam, anise and smoke. On the palate the balance is extraordinarily focused and linear, showing a degree of elegance not often experienced in Alto Piedmont nebbiolo. I followed this over the course of the next 2 days and while it darkened and became more brooding, its focus and clarity never budged an iota, yet the tannins remained clean, elegant and perfectly ripe, buttressed with bright fresh acidity. A fabulous showing for a winery which in my view is the finest Gattinara producer today. Drink 2020 – 2035+. Current vintages range from the mid $40s – 60.
April 17, 2019 – A pair of Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva’s to compare and contrast.
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.
April 14, 2019
2002 Huet, Vouvray, Petillant Reserve (RT 93) Now in its mid-teens, this bottle showed exceptionally well, revealing its Loire Valley origins with commanding limestone minerality and focused acidity. The bouquet reveals classic Chenin Blanc notes of green apple, quince and green fig, but with time in the glass notes of hazelnut and earth emerge. The palate is fresh and packed with zippy energy as it opens in the glass, the finish punctuated with a crisp, lifted twang! I’m a huge fan of this wine because it offers the classicism of Champagne at a significantly lower price point. Drink now – 2027+ Market price for current vintages range from mid-$20s to mid $30s. Keep in mind the Reserve is a special bottling not produced in every vintage, but the normale’ is quite a fabulous value. Price for the most recent Reserve – 2009 – is high $30s to mid-40s.
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.
April 8, 2019
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.
April 6, 2019
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.
April 4, 2019
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+
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+?
March 23, 2019
2006 Taittinger, Champagne, Blanc de Blancs, Comtes de Champagne (RT 96+) An epic bottle, I cellared well over a case on release and this is the third bottle I’ve check in on. All three have showed enormous consistency and prowess, but tonight’s is now beginning to show this wine coming together magnificently. Larger sized bubbles still dominate showing the wines’ youth, but with time in the glass the bubbles become finer. Showing sublime notes of lemon peel, almond, chalk dust and hints of green berry, the palate is seamless, and an element of brioche emerges as time goes by. Finishes crisp and fresh, it’s weightless in its mouthfeel. This is a monumental champagne that will continue to deliver exceptional drinking for many years. Highly recommended, this is one of the finest values in tête de cuvée’s. Drink now – 2040+
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
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+
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
2011 Podere Il Palazzino, Toscana IGT, Stagi (RT 93) Third bottle from a case bought on release, this bottle was in terrific condition with a perfect cork. An unusual bottling comprised of 100% Colorino, which is typically a blending grape in Tuscany and mostly used in small quantities. Here the pure expression of the variety is revealed in a dense, nearly opaque deep ruby hue. At age seven the wine has barely evolved, showing a youthful expression of fresh red raspberries and blackberry, hints of currants and florals, with a liqueur-like profile. Mouth filling and broad shouldered, it is nicely figured, offering a satisfying mouthfeel with good balance and fine tannins. There’s a bright, long future for this wine, but I think it won’t turn the corner toward tertiary maturity until the 2022 or beyond. Drink now – 2030+. A top value and highly recommended.
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?
A Stellar Night of Barolo & Barbaresco – summer, 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.