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1985 and 1988 Brunello di Montalcino tasting

November 12, 2018 1 comment

This past month I hosted a Brunello di Montalcino tasting focused on the great 1985 and 1988 vintages from five producers.  Though these vintages are only three years apart, they are at significantly different stages of life.  The 1988s are generally less evolved on the nose, with a core of fruit in the mouth and significant tannic structure.  The 1985s are more aromatic, mature, and softer in edge.  Such were the qualities of the fruit from the 1988s and the aroma of the 1985s that several guests blended their Ciacci’s to strong success.  I even joined in on the fun and rated my blend a check plus!

As for the unblended wines our pair of Biondi-Santi were outliers.  The 1988 was a bad bottle and the 1985 was uninspiring.  The other eight bottles spanned a range of drinking states and qualities.  The 1988 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and 1985 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva are my favorites from this evening.  Both vintages bear aromas that I love with the 1985 drinking at a sweet spot.  After several hours the 1985 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino began to open up, revealing an inky core of fruit, both elegant and tense.  A determined wine that will continue to develop.  The 1988 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino is even less evolved but worth following.  The 1988 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino, Pianrosso is quite good too, showing floral notes on the nose and in the mouth.  The 1985 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino takes on perfume as well.  Though others surely disagree, I found the 1988 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva too young and clean for my liking and the 1985 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino too soft.

At 30+ years of age Brunello di Montalcino can remain clearly structured, tough to drink, and barely evolved in flavor.  Yet our best bottles are expressive, complex, and will drink in such a fine state for many years to come.

Please find my tasting notes below.  All of the wines were double-decanted one hour prior to tasting then followed over several hours.  I must once again thank Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., for opening up his inventory to me.

1988 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino, Pianrosso
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. A finely articulated nose of mixed florals, incense, and wet wood. In the mouth it is finely veined with a core of deep fruit supported by strong and drying tannins. With air the wine remains tight with its floral, fruit vein. **** Now – 2028.

1985 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Quite aromatic. A softer edge though there is power from the strong and drying tannins. There mature flavors with a soft edge becoming black fruited and perfumed in the nose. ***(*) Now – 2028.

1988 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Good nose. In the mouth is fine grained flavor, focused around a core of red and black fruit. The profile is a little tart and certainly drying from the tannins. With air remains great focus and balance with complexity from Christmas baking spices and the inky finish. **** Now – 2033.

1985 Livio Sassetti, Pertimali, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. A love nose that is meaty, bloody, wild and evocative of wood box. This remained the most aromatically interesting wine from the first pour to the end of the evening. In the mouth, tart red fruit mixes with citric tannins providing engaging grip. Mature flavors from bottle age, earth, and wood box effectively mix together. “Sauvage” as one guest commented. A lovely wine of medium body which expands in the mouth leaving very fine, drying tannins on the gums in the end. ****(*) Now – 2028.

1988 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. The deeper aromas are closely played but reveal berries and are of more interest than the 1985 sibling. It is a slowly evolving wine with cherry, watering acidity, and a vein of structure. Still young, not yet in mid-age with clean and elegant fruit. *** Now – 2023-2033.

1985 Poggio Antico, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Sour, clean fruit with watering acidity, and an incensed finish. There is a rounder start with more body and citric tannins on the sides of the gums. However, the flavors do not have the life giving energy. ** Now.

1988 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Some roast on the nose, balsamic. A core of sweet fruit develops and a pure, forward note of oregano. Needs time. **(**) 2023-2033.

1985 La Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. A fine nose develops after a few hours. With maturing fruit, and some sorry cherry this wine continued to evolve over the evening. The acidity creates tension between the inky, fine core of fruit, and supportive component. Red and black fruit mix convincingly, sporting elegant weight as textured tannins are left on the gums. ***(**) 2020-2035.

1988 Il Greppo, Biondi-Santi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. A bad bottle! Not Rated.

1985 Il Greppo, Biondi-Santi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Scented on the nose but a bit thin in flavor. Perhaps elegant, I only note tartness and acidity with an eventual leather note.  ** Now.

A mixture of wines young and old

I met up with Lou and another friend for a casual after-work tasting of wines.  We started with a pair of bottles from the Finger Lakes of New York.  I have now enjoyed the 2016 Red Tail Ridge Winery, Sparkling Riesling Petillant Naturel, Finger Lakes on three different occasions.  This bottle was particularly frothy with a core of fruit and vein of bubbles that make it delicious to drink right now.  Also made from Riesling, but smelling like there is Sauvignon Blanc as well, is the 2016 Heart & Hands, Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes.  It is a solid wine of tart citrus and chalk flavor.

The pair of 2014 White Burgundy yielded a generous, rapidly maturing 2014 Gautier Thevenet, Domaine Emilian Gillet, Quintaine, Vire-Clesse.  Of good value I would say.  In comparison, the 2014 Jean-Marc Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet is less fruity and the better wine.  With a core of lemon and ripe apple, there is an acidic spine, all of which lasts with good length.

Made from the youngest vines, 2017 Pierre-Marie Chermette, Griottes, Beaujolais is a well-made, enjoyable, grapey wine.  It is pure, fresh, and acted as our gateway to a trio of mystery wines.

I admit to being confused.  I had settled in on the wines being from the 1960s and 1970s, with origins in Italy or California, and at least one Cabernet Sauvignon.  Mystery #1 – 1974 Croce di Fralupaia, Chianti was younger than I thought but not worth drinking.  Mystery #2 – 1991 Tenuta Caparzo, Brunello di Montalcino was also younger than I thought but sound, which gives you an ideal of its maturity curve.  With air it took on body and flavor to become rather enjoyable.  The final bottle is the modest Mystery #3 – 1984 Steltzner Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.

2016 Red Tail Ridge Winery, Sparkling Riesling Petillant Naturel, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 13%.  Very frothy at first but the body soon develops.  There is a focused fruit core with the fine bubble vein.  With air and warmth the Riesling origins come out.  Easy to drink.  *** Now – 2020.

2016 Heart & Hands, Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 11.5%.  A very light straw color.  A good nose, aromatic with both grassy and petrol aromas.  A soft frame exists for the whole fruit Riesling flavor.  There is some chalk and a slightly, tart citrus flavor in the end.  The acidity is balanced by the sugar such that it does not come across as lively.  Some engaging grip develops.  ** Now.

2014 Gautier Thevenet, Domaine Emilian Gillet, Quintaine, Vire-Clesse
Imported by Simon N Cellars. Alcohol 14%.  A very light yellow.  A rounded edge with with ripe lemon flavors, stones in the middle, and some fat in the finish.  It is easy to drink and will mature rapidly.  **(*) Now – 2020.

2014 Jean-Marc Pillot, Chassagne-Montrachet
Alcohol 13%.  A very light green yellow color.  There is a focused fruit impression at first but this wine is not all about the fruit.  It is dense and focused with a good, acidic spine.  There are hints of yeast and wood.  With air the flavors settle on lemon with a ripe, apple core.  Good length.  *** Now – 2023.

2017 Pierre-Marie Chermette, Griottes, Beaujolais
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. Alcohol 12.5%.  A purple, red cranberry color.  Grapey and bright on the nose.  The flavors are evocative of young, grape juicy being light, very pure, and fresh.  Tart berries and grip are closed by a round, verve finish.  ** Now.

Mystery #1 – 1974 Croce di Fralupaia, Chianti
Imported by T. Elenteny. Alcohol 12%.  Past prime on the nose with a banana aroma.  In the mouth it is falling apart with some leather, animale, and a hint of freshness.  There is a touch of fat-edged flavor and body but it soon turns acidic with green apple flavors.  Past prime.  Not Rated.

Mystery #2 – 1991 Tenuta Caparzo, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by Palace Brands. Alcohol 13%. A garnet, brick color.  It tasted quite mature at first with bottle aged flavors, citric acidity, and citric pithe on the gums.  But magically, with air, it develops both body and flavor.  It even takes on a luxurious, marshmallow mouth feel.  *** Now.

Mystery #3 – 1984 Steltzner Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Earthy fruit with red cranberry flavors, a grippy nature, and clearly the most acidic of all the wines tasted.  Vibrant but a bit thin in flavor with a slight green edge.  ** Now.

Eclectic by Any Measure, a Dinner with Mannie Berk

November 29, 2016 1 comment

The wax seal of the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

The wax seal of the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

With Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co, in town for the Unveiling of the George Washington Special Reserve Madeira we decided to get together for a small dinner.  The theme was eclectic both in region and particularly in vintage.  I do not know if it is more interesting that there were wines from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s to write the least or that two were from the venerable 1955 vintage and two from 1969.  The quality of the wines in the glass varied but the individual personalities spoke, creating such interest that we stayed up very late that night.

All of the wines were opened at the table to be drunk in any desired order.  I have organized my notes in vintage order first by white then red and finally the sole Madeira.  Finally, I have limited my comments to a handful of wines for brevity.

We kicked things off with the 1985 Laurent Perrier, Grand Siecle, Champagne.  Grand Siecle was conceived in 1955 as top cuvee to be blended from three of the very best vintages.  So our bottle is a particular anomaly being from the single, outstanding 1985 vintage.  The cork was firmly seated, refusing to budge, and ultimately twisted into two pieces which were then dug out.  Perhaps the tightness of the cork ensures an impeccable seal for the quality of the bubbles is outstanding.  This is no recent disgorgement.  At best it is savory, complex, and racy.

The 1955 Chateau Carbonneiux, Graves solicited many remarks as the bottle exuded promise.  The fill was high, the color youthful, and the cork well-seated against the neck.  From the last vintage before the Perrin family purchased the estate, this mostly Sauvignon Blanc based wine was fermented and raised in oak.  The nose did remind me a bit of gasoline before it righted itself.  With clean, floral flavors of lemon and even some weight it is in fascinating shape.  It is a bit simple and short making it more of an academic reference point than quenching old wine.

Inside of the tag for the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

Inside of the tag for the 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva Della Castellana, Barolo

Moving back in time, the oldest red wine came in a squashed 66 cl bottle.  The 1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva della Castellana, Barolo is from one of the greatest Barolo vintages of the 20th century.  The Reserva della Castellana represents a supposed secret stash of top wine secured behind a lock of which there was one key.  Quantities of wine were released each year with the serial numbers recorded in a book.  Bottle #2506 improved in the decanter.  This salty, zippy wine is in the stage beyond fruit of bottle aged flavors.  It is enjoyable, though not remarkable.

I suspect our bottle of 1955 Torres, Gran Coronas, Gran Reserva does not represent the heights this wine can achieve.  A bit of nail-polish and oxidation is present both on the nose and in the mouth.  Beyond that, though, the wine is quite rich and savory.  Time in the decanter broadens the wine.  I would certainly drink this wine again.

The pair of wines from the 1969 vintage were great fun.  The 1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape adds to my recent experience with 1960s Chateauneuf du Pape.  Unlike the examples I have tried from the 1978 vintage, this is an original release.  Mont-Redon from the 1950s and 1960s are praised by Rhone lovers.  John Livingstone-Learmonth found them to have strength and concentration with Robert Parker writing they were amongst the finest wines of France.  During this period the wines were 80% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Syrah.

The back label of the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County

The back label of the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County

The second wine from this vintage came from California.  J. Pedroncelli was founded in 1927 was John Pedroncelli planted 135 acres of vines on hillsides near Dry Creek.  According to Robert Lawrence Balzer, the site reminded him of his native Lombardy.  The vineyard would receive the fog that moved up the Russian River which then receded to provide sunshine.  The coolness and warmth was found to make “grapes richly concentrated with flavor” when Robert L. Balzer first visited in 1975.  According to Charles L. Sullivan, this was the first vineyard to be planted with Pinot Noir in Northern Sonoma after the Repeal of Prohibition.

Robert L. Balzer’s visit was prompted both by his enjoyment of the wines and the fact that they tended to place well in competitions.  Nathan Chroman was chairman of a few competitions who noted the difficulty of growing Pinot Noir in California.  In 1972, when Nathan Chroman tasted through 23 California Pinot Noirs, he found the 1969 Pedroncelli Pinot Noir a wine to lay down.  Robert L. Balzer found the 1972 vintage in need of age as well.  I doubt either of them expected the 1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County to be drinking with full vigor nearly 50 years later.

The Pedroncelli is a fun wine to taste with the Mont Redon.  They both smell of similar age and a traditional style of winemaking.  The Mont-Redon is more round, with sweet fruit whereas the Pedroncelli is vigorous and grippy with the addition of leather and animale flavors.  John Winthrop Haeger offers one possibility for the longevity of the Pedroncelli, in the 1960s the Pinot Noir bottles included a hefty dose of Zinfandel.

The longevity is also, of course, due to the winemaking.  This wine was made by the sons of the founder John Pedroncelli who followed the traditions and styles set by their father.  It was only in 1968 that Pedroncelli purchased their first French oak barrels and began switching their old Redwood tanks to stainless steel.  This was the start of the American wine boom that would see a year after year increase in vineyard acreage and number of Californian wineries.  Thus the Pedroncelli marks the end of a phase and so does the Mont-Redon for the winemaking changed in the 1970s towards producing an early drinking style.  After tasting these two wines I naively wonder why change?

I have become a firm believer that when a tasting of old vintages is finished with a dessert wine, it should be of similar or older age.  What a treat then to have a glass of 1934 Cossart Gordon & Cia., Bual, Madeira.  From an excellent vintage, this is a Madeira that excels on the nose.  Old Madeira fills your nose and the air around you, transporting you to a traditional period without the need to actively smell your glass.

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1985 Laurent Perrier, Grand Siecle, Champagne
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  The very fine, lively bubbles are crisp, precise, and vigorous.  With a bright entry, this saline and savory wine mixed baking spiced flavors with a racy body.  With air the bubbles remain undiminished but the complexity comes out and the wine develops even more racy body, wrapping it all up with a mature finish.  Drinking fantastically right now.  **** Now – 2021.

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1955 Chateau Carbonneiux, Graves
Shipped by Alexis Lichine.  Imported by Clairborne Imports.  An excellent looking bottle.  The light amber color defies age and matches the lemon and floral tree flavors.  The wine has weight, drapes the tongue, and almost becomes racy.  I think the Semillon is coming through.  It is, though, a bit simple with a short finish.  ** Now.

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1996 Nicolas Joly, Savennieres Coulee de Serrant
Imported by The Rare Wine co. Alcohol 14%.  This is a round wine with perfumed flavors of apple and mature lemon.  It is round, fairly clear, and mature with a racy vigor in the finish.  It seems to be all about the fabulous texture. **** Now – 2022.

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2004 Domaine Leflaive, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Wilson Daniels.  This somewhat complex wine mixes lemon flavors with unintegrated oak.  It is taut in the middle, leaning towards the acidic side of things before taking on some cream in the end.  It is, perhaps, in need of time.  ***(*) 2020-2025.

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1947 Marchesi di Barolo, Reserva della Castellana, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  The dark core hints at life.  In the mouth this salty wine reveals how it improved with time in decanter.  It is all about bottle aged flavors with tangy acidity giving a zippy personality.  The mouth remains but the flavors ultimately thin out.  *** Now.

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1955 Torres, Gran Coronas, Gran Reserva, Penedas
Imported by Forman Bros. Inc. Alcohol 12.65%.  The color is deep.  The nose offers up barnyard and some not-quite-right aromas of nail polish but is still enjoyable.  Slightly oxidized in the mouth this is clearly from a rich wine.  It is savory with acidity and even improved a touch in the decanter.  But the oxidized hint is there and the finish is short.  It is easy to imagine other examples being very good.  *** Now.

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1969 Domaine de Mont-Redon, Chateauneuf du Pape
From a Belgian cellar.  Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%.  A proper set of aromas which are animale.  There is round, mouth filling sweet fruit with a subtle hint of Kirsch, and wood notes.  The fruit resolves to be sweet strawberries.  This is clearly a beautiful wine in fine shape which tightens with air.  **** Now.

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1969 J. Pedroncelli, Pinot Noir, Private Stock, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  This smells proper and of a wine-making style that no longer exists.  With air this old wine smells of leather.  In the mouth this is a vibrant wine with taut, grippy flavors of complex red fruit, leather, animale, and more sweetness.  It has fine texture and life. Our bottle is in fine shape and capable of drinking at this level for years to come.  **** Now – 2022.

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1988 Fattoria dei Barbi, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  With one of the youngest profiles this wine offers attractive, fruit driven flavors which focus in on violets.  I would say it became younger with air. ***(*) Now – 2026.

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1990 Chateau de Fonsalette, Syrah, Reservee, Cotes du Rhone
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines Ltd. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 14%.  Ah, there is some of that Rayas character on the nose!  This is a mature wine with youthful vigor.  It is a little round but still possesses tannic grip.  With air this exhibits spectacular body with articulate and textured flavor.  The acidity is spot on as this wine enters its second, mature phase of life.  After a few hours of air this is lovely.  **** Now – 2022.

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1934 Cossart Gordon & Cia., Bual, Madeira
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines. Imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 20%.  A lovely nose of moderately pungent aromas of caramel, orange, damp campfire, and hints of sweet leather.  Flavors of leather mix with a focused, weighty body but the acidity builds until the finish where it becomes prominent and almost searing in the aftertaste.  The aftertaste is of citric flavors and a persistent sweetness. ***(*) Now – whenever.

A Bottle of Mature Brunello

September 8, 2016 Leave a comment

It is a sad fact that I have not drunk much Brunello di Montalcino lately, let alone ever.  Lou corrected this aberration by bringing over an interesting bottle on Labor Day.  The Brunello DOCG was granted in 1980, making his bottle of 1981 Il Casello, Brunello di Montalcino an early example produced under the new rules.  The DOCG rules required a major change in winemaking.  Previously, in poor vintages, producers could add up to 10% grapes, must, or wine from outside Brunell to bring up the alcohol level.  The DOCG change allowed the correction to only be done with an old vintage of Brunello up to 15%.

Whether any old vintage is a part of this bottle is unknown.  It was a moderate vintage.  The Wassermans described it as “good, though a trifle light” with a rating of “*-” out of four stars.  Not exactly a glowing vintage review being in the second worst grouping.  The wine itself was described more favorably with “Lovely nose, tobacco component; loads of nice fruit, moderate tannins, medium to full body, fairly well balanced. **(+)”.

The fruit persists even today as do the tannins.  In fact, the wine showed best after several hours of air when the fruit sweetened up.  It is a very pleasant wine no doubt because it was made by the owners of Tenuta Il Poggione, the Franchesci  family.  The Franchesci family have a long history making Brunello as they  purchased the Il Poggione estate in 1900.  There was only one wine produced at Il Casello, this Brunello, and it was made by the Il Poggione winemaker.  It is not a complex wine by any stretch, rather one of former strength tempered by old wood flavors.  It is beginning to lose balance in the aftertaste so I would drink it up.

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1981 Il Casello, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by Corinthian Wine Merchants.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The almost tawny color does not prepare you for the rounded core of fruit.  The fruit sweetens up with air, mixing with old wood notes, and fine tannins throughout.  There are more mature notes of wood and hints of tobacco.  The level of fruit sweetness is most apparent in the finish before there is a little sharpness in the aftertaste.  **(*) Now.

A Brunello that Won’t Break the Bank

Life is returning to normal after the long holiday weekend.  David Bloch kicks things off with a bottle of Brunello.

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2001 La Poderina, Brunello di Montalcino

There are many, many producers of Brunello.  Indeed, there has been an explosion of producers which may have “devalued” Brunello as a special wine.  La Poderina is not a newcomer.  I began to drink Brunello about 20 vintages ago.  There have been some really poor vintages, and many good and some great ones.  2001 is widely regarded as a great vintage.  Is this a great wine – no.  But what La Poderina produces is a real value play in a region with some really overpriced wines.  This 2001 provides all that one wants from an aged Brunello:  notes of sweet fruit and tobacco on the nose; followed by tart sweet cherries, some smoke and leather in the mouth, with a persistent finish.   At under $40 at release, this provides a very authentic Brunello experience.  The wine is now entering its middle age and will easily hold in a cold cellar for another 5 years+.

A casual tasting from a 1975 Spanna to a 2012 Favorita

March 15, 2016 1 comment

A last minute offering to host some friends at the house resulted in four of us tasting through some excellent wines.  With a little bit of back and forth Lou, David, and Bill settled down in my living room with variety as our theme.  We began with a Piedmontese white wine which is something I have never tried before.  The 2012 Vigne Marina Coppi, Marine, Colli Tortonesi is made from Favorita which is a relative of Vermentino.  Tim (MacArthur Beverages) pointed this wine out to me and I am glad he did.  I was surprised by the floral aromas and even more so by the waxy, sweet lemon fruit, and substantial mouth feel.  It turns out the grapes are harvested ten days after maximum ripeness so as step everything up.  There were comparisons to Loire Chenin Blanc so if this sounds remotely interesting then you must grab a few bottles.

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I kicked off the red wines by serving the 1975 Antonio Vallana, Gattinara in a paper bag.  I had double-decanted the bottle two hours prior.  Both then and during the tasting I arrested by the amount of sweet fruit and freshness of the flavors.  Indeed, many guesses settled towards Bordeaux from the 1989 or 1990 vintages.  This wine reflected its outstanding provenance as you would expect from a Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Company) selection.  While it comes across as fresh it has complexity from age.  Spanna is the local name for Nebbiolo.  If you have any interest in Barolo or Barbaresco then this wine must be on your list of bottles to try.

We moved onto younger wines.  The first bottle of 1998 Contratto, Solus Ad, Barbera D’Asti was recently brought back from Rome by Lou. Popped and poured, this bottle offered up coffee infused aromas and flavors.  Its heft was balanced by a certain roundness making it a solid, aged Barbera.  The 2001 Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino continued to offer deep, dark fruit flavors that were an easy match for the substantial structure.  At 15 years of age, I found it hard to resist this bottle since the harshness of youth is all gone.  It will continue to develop.  I want to try more Brunello.

We then moved to the Rhone in the form of another brown-bagged wine.  The fruit in the mouth was substantial, which gave me some doubt as to the origins, but I think we all pinned the floral aromas as being from a Syrah and Viognier blend from the Northern Rhone.  There were even guesses as to Cote Rotie but no one got the vintage correct.  The wine turned out to be the 2003 Duclaux, Cote Rotie.  David picked it in response to a 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape tasting where none of the wines were found to be overripe.  The 2003 vintage was very hot and has its critics.  This bottle of Cote Rotie exhibited the vintage by dialing up the fruit a notch (or two!) without losing any characteristics of the varieties and region.

This was the last good wine we tried.  The bottle of 2007 Bastide St Dominique, Les Hesperides, Chateauneuf du Pape was “troubling” with a consensus that it was heat damaged.  I returned with a brown-bagged 2003 Archery Summit, Pinot Noir, Arcus Estate, Willamette Valley.  David had mentioned the Archery Summit, Arcus in a winter time conversation so I thought this would match with his 2003 theme.  Let’s just say the guesses leaned towards Spanish Grenache.  This massive wine bore no resemblance to Pinot Noir.  While it was not an off bottle, no one drank it.  Why bother when there were so many good wines to return to?

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2012 Vigne Marina Coppi, Marine, Colli Tortonesi – $25
Imported by The Sorting Table.  This wine is 100% Favorita.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose attracted with heavy floral aromas which were rather sexy.  In the mouth the flavors were waxy with sweet fruit and lemons.  There is acidity in the start with some chalk in the finish and an aftertaste that left ripe texture on the gums.  If it is a little expansive in the middle then it reigns it in by the finish.  *** Now.

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1975 Antonio Vallana, Gattinara
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12%.  Bottom-neck fill.  There is a little funk and animale on the complex nose which reminds me of some 1960s Californian wines.  In the mouth there is still sweet fruit, lovely acidity, and a impeccable quality of freshness.  The wine is still structured leaving fine grip on the gums. The fruit mixes with floral notes before taking on a hint of tartness.  **** Now but will last for ages.

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1998 Contratto, Solus AD, Barbera D’Asti
Imported in a suitcase.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose evoked coffee and shoyu.  In the mouth the flavors continued with coffee infused dark fruit.  The wine was rounded with some density but did not overreach into sexiness.  There is a roast note to the fruit, good acidity, and fine, drying tannins in the finish. *** Now – 2021.

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2001 Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino
Imported by Wine Cellars Ltd.  Alcohol 14%.  The deep dark fruit is never ending which acts as a counterpoint to the substantial amount of tannins.  As substantial as the wine is, the acidity is bound in allowing the fruitiness to be enjoyed.  With additional air it takes on hints of wood.  This is still young and will continue to develop for several more years.  **** Now – 2026.

SundayWines6

2003 Duclaux, Cote Rotie
Imported by Chateau & Estate.  This wine is a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier which were co-fermented in concrete vats then aged for roughly two years in a variety of oak casks.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is meaty with some maturity and a floral aspect pointing to Viognier.  There is a substantial amount of fruit in the mouth with a lot of drying tannins.  This mouth filling wine is slightly sexy.  If the fruit is almost effusive at the start it takes on tart red and black notes which balance everything out.  A pleasure to drink but will persist.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

 

The Empson Barolo, Brunello, and Barbaresco Offerings at MacArthur Beverages

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

For the first time ever I went to MacArthur Beverages and left without purchasing a single bottle of wine. I did not mind as I went there for the 2012 Empson USA Barolo, Brunello, and Barbaresco spring offering. There were over one dozen wines opened for tasting with the bottles spread across two tables. As these wines are not yet available in the States this was a great opportunity to taste a variety of Barolo from the highly acclaimed 2008 vintage. Across the board all of these wines will be long-lived and except for tasting them for the purpose of deciding what to buy, the best should not be tasted again for close on to a decade. My favorite wines had good, deep fruit, and enough acidity to balance the tannins while providing an interesting aftertaste whose flavors captivated me more than the substantial tannins that dried out my mouth.

My favorite wines, in alphabetical order:

  • 2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Pernanno, Barolo
  • 2008 Ca’Rome’, Rapet, Barolo
  • 2008 Ca’Rome’, Vigna Ceretta, Barolo
  • 2007 Conti Costanti, Brunello di Montalcino
  • 2008 Conterno Fantino, Vigna del Gris, Barolo
  • 2008 Conterno Fantino, Mosconi, Barolo

The following were very good as well, with very strong potential, but were quite tight, possibly requiring even greater age:

  • 2008 Ca’Rome’, Maria di Brun, Barbaresco
  • 2008 Conterno Fantino, Sori Ginestra, Barolo

Table 1

I started off at the table which initially had the least number of people standing around. Armed with a proper glass and my little plastic cup doubling as a spittoon, I carved out a tasting space on top of and in between two rows of Australian wines. This table was sampling nine different Barolos from the 2008 vintage. My favorites were the 2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Pernanno, the 2008 Conterno Fantino, Vigna del Gris, and the 2008 Conterno Fantino, Mosconi. I would follow these three with the 2008 Conterno Fantino, Sori Ginestra.

2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Barolo DOCG – $51
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from 4.9 acre vineyard in Castiglione Falletto where the vines are 30 years old on clayey soils. It is aged for 24+ months in French barriques. There was a light nose of delicate red and blue fruit. In the mouth the flavors were of harder red fruit, a darker finish, and fine-grained tannins.

2008 Marcarini, La Serra, Barolo DOCG – $52
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from a single vineyard. It is aged for two years in Slavonian oak. There was a light nose of redder fruit mixed with herbs. In the mouth the up-front red fruit was tight but still retained a bit of ripeness. There were fewer noticeable tannins than the Bongiovanni.

2008 Cascina Bongiovanni, Pernanno, Barolo DOCG – $63
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from a plot within the 4.9 vineyard in Castiglione Falletto. The grapes are left on the vines for several days after the regular Barolo is harvest. It is aged in a mixture of new and used French barriques. The nose was a touch more aromatic with darker aromas of cherry and blue fruit. In the mouth flavors started with ripe fruit which dried out as the flavors became expansive with a good finish and aftertaste which left pervasive dark red notes. Very good.

2008 Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Terlo, Barolo DOCG – $58
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from vineyards at 984 feet with vine up to 50 years of age. It is aged for 30 months in French oak barriques and Slavonian oak barrels. There was a tight nose of red framed aromas. In the mouth the brighter red fruit showed barrel notes with very fine-grained citric tannins. This gave up the least.

2008 Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Nei Cannubi, Barolo DOCG – $75
This is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from plots planted in 1945, 1962, and 1991 at 722 feet. It is aged for 18-20 months in French barriques and 10-12 months in Allier oak barrels. The nose was higher-toned with delicate red fruit and herbs. In the mouth the controlled, ripe fruit dropped off in the finish as very fine, drying tannins came out.

2008 Marcarini, Brunate, Barolo DOCG – $54
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from a single vineyard. It is aged for two years in Slavonian oak. The nose revealed subtle ripe red fruit then a little dark aroma. In the mouth the fruit mixed with light red acidity, herbs, a dry floral note, and a nice wood toned aspect. There were tight, fine, drying tannins.

2008 Conterno Fantino, Vigna del Gris, Barolo DOCG – $73
This is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from the cru Ginestra at 984 feet. It was aged for 24 months in French oak. This sported a lovely finely textured, floral nose. In the mouth the beautiful red fruit mixed with floral flavors in an elegant manner. There were dried herbs and a drying finish with good acidity. Very good.

2008 Conterno Fantino, Mosconi, Barolo DOCG – $78
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced a vineyard at 1312 feet. Some vines date back to 1950 with others replanted in 1999-2000. The nose with riper with a blue notes. The fuller mouth revealed a dry wood note with almost a sweet spice in the finish. This was very pleasing from the start and finished with sweeter tannins. Very good as well.

2008 Conterno Fantino, Sori Ginestra, Barolo DOCG – $83
This is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from the cru Ginestra at 984 feet. It was aged for 24 months in French oak. There was a floral and licorice nose leaning towards black fruit. The mouth followed the nose but surprised with an assertive finish which was compact and tense. The flavors departed with ultra fine drying tannins. A rather interesting wine that will take longer to develop than the Vigna del Gris and Mosconi.

Table 2

Located in the back-left corner Gary Diamond from Empson USA was poured seven wines from Tuscany and Piedmont. I particularly liked the 2007 Conti Costanti, Brunello di Montalcino, the 2008 Ca’Rome, Rapet, Barolo, and the 2008 Ca’Rome’, Vigna Ceretta. I would follow-up these three with the 2008 Ca’Rome’, Maria di Brun, Barbaresco.

2007 Conti Costanti, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – $61
This wine is 100% Sangiovese aged for 18 months in Slavonian oak barrels and 18 months in French tonneaux. This was a good start with a light, delicately fruity nose with some red-blue gritty aromas. In the mouth the flavors were tight yet had a creamy feel with flavors of red fruit, herbs, salivating acidity, and low-lying fine tannins. The flavors were darker in the aftertaste. Very good.

2007 Eredi Fuligni, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – $67
This wine is 100% Sangiovese aged for more than 36 months in Slavonian oak barrels and French tonneaux. The nose was tight. In the mouth the structured black fruit showed some ripeness, an interesting array of flavors, with a shorter aftertaste of ripe black fruit.

2009 Ca’Rome’, Sori Rio Sordo, Barbaresco DOCG – $67
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo Michet planted in 1969. It was aged for 12 months in oak barrels with a small portion in barrique. There was a nice nose of black fruit. In the mouth the flavors were tight with black fruit, a structured aspect, and very fine drying tannins. Good potential but this bottle was closed.

2008 Ca’Rome’, Maria di Brun, Barbaresco DOCG – $74
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo Michet from late-ripening vines made only in the best years. It was aged for 24 months in Slavonian barrels with a small portion in barrique. The light nose revealed herbed red fruit. In the mouth there was ripe red acidity, structure, good weight, and slightly chewy flavors. There were fine+ drying tannins. Good in the mouth.

2008 Ca’Rome, Rapet, Barolo DOCG – $69
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from cru Serralunga which was planted in 1972. It was age for 24 months in 25 hl Slavonian oak with a small portion in barrique. The nose was of dark red and blue fruits. The flavors started with a saline touch, a nice density, well-balanced, and a dark aftertaste. Very good.

2008 Ca’Rome’, Vigna Ceretta, Barolo DOCG – $70
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo Michet and Lampia sourced from a single vineyard which was planted in 1961. It was age for 24 months in 25 hl Slavonian oak with a small portion in barrique. There was a familiar style to the previous wine but the flavors were stepped up with an incense note, dark red fruit, and good mouthfeel. There was a hint of ink and a notch more tannins than the Rapet.

2008 Orma, Bolgheri Rosso – $58
This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20$ Cabernet Franc aged for 14 months in French barriques. Obviously different with more roast on the nose. The riper and richer flavors were more assertive with a chunky, dark earth component. The drying tannins made way to an aftertaste with a wood note.