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Outstanding Bottles of Giacosa and Conterno

December 2, 2016 Leave a comment

At the end of October I was fortunate to attend an Italian tasting largely focused in on the wines of Bruno Giacosa and Giacomo Conterno.  No tasting of Barolo should be without a mature example and this one began with a very fine 1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo.  Double-decanted midday it continued to slowly develop in the glass.  I can only write that I love the aroma and flavor of this type of wine.  Also with attractive maturity, the 1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti is meatier and earthier but leaves the impression of being tired.

The youthful white-labeled pair of 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive and 1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive did not prepare me for the outstanding red-labels.  At 20 years of age the 1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili is beginning to move past its youthful stage.  It is a powerful, intense wine which never takes away from the beautiful flavors.  Younger in age and profile, the 2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja promises a great future.  There are primary aromas and flavors right now but everything is in place for slow development.

Completely different in nature the 1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino, with moderate concentration and complexity, acted as a segway to the outstanding 2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino.  This is a highly refined, ethereally flavored wine which fills the mouth.  With air it fleshes out to provide seamless pleasure.  What a tasting!

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1980 Stony Hill, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  Looks like a copper-orange wine.  There is a complex nose which is a touch maderized.  In the mouth is focused, driven flavors that are quite lively and even sport some body but the wine is clearly not correct.  Not Rated.

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2010 Domaine Leflaive, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes
Imported by Wilson Daniels. Alcohol 13.5%.  The flint aromas make the nose stand out.  In the mouth the precise, lemon fruit mixes with flint and smoke.  This is a persistent, tart wine with lime flavors and a long, finely textured finish. Impressive now.  **** Now – 2026.

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2005 Domaine des Croix, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
A Becky Wasserman selection imported by Wine Cellars LTD. Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is a touch earthy and lactic.  A significantly rounder body is backed by glycerin.  Flavors of lemon and lime take on subtle baking spices.  It improves with air, filling the mouth with flavors and the sensation of an oily, luxurious body. ***(*) Now – 2021.

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2010 Lucien Le Moine, Corton Blanc Grand Cru
Imported by Barrel One Selections.  This is aromatic with sweet fruit and floral spices.  The tart start is focused yet offers weight.  It is almost puckering with a wood hint, floral flavors throughout, and smoke in the finish.  It is almost spicy. **** Now – 2026.

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2005 Etienne Sauzet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  A slight darker color hints at the inevitable.  Shame!

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1967 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo
Imported by suitcase.  The nose is subtly smokey.  In the mouth are lively, fresh flavors that are initially linear and focused but expand by the finish.  There is bottle aged complexity as this wine is beyond fruit.  I like the blend of old leather and weighty, animale flavors that develop with air. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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1978 Carlo Boffa & Figli, Barbaresco Riserva Vigna Vitalotti
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  The meaty nose is good and opens up a bit with air.  In the mouth this is grippy with tart red fruit, and an animale nature.  It builds subtle ripeness but is ultimately leaner and not as flavorful.  *** Now.

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1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Gallina di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 14%.  The fruitier nose is attractive with complex bitters-like aroma.  This grippy wine starts with dry tannins and  young fruit but it has very attractive grip, long taste, and a haunting personality. ***(*) Now-2031.

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1997 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Santo Stefano di Neive
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 13.5%.  The darker nose is more subtle.  This is a rounder wine with less acidity and tannins, despite its youthful flavor.  It shows more balance at this time.  The complex red and black fruit are supported by some firm, underlying structure. ***(*) Now – 2026.

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2001 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 14%.  The aromas step out of the glass, primarily exuding violets.  This is very young in the mouth, powerful with very fine tannins.  A core of blackberry fruit comes out.  This clearly has a strong future ahead. ****(*) Now – 2036

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1996 Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 14%.  The nose is concentrated and strong with fruity aromas of licorice.  The rounded start is powerful with intense structure and fine, grippy tannins.  The flavor, though, is undeniably beautify with density, and some bacon fat.  The liquidity of the wine is bound with the acidity. ****(*) Now – 2031.

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1997 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 14%.  The flavors are of lighter berries and almost roast earth.  The wine remains firm with fine, strong tannins.  There is structure to last but the flavor concentration does not seem to be there. **** Now – 2026.

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2000 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo Riserva Monfortino
Imported by Vieux Vins. Alcohol 14%.  The young grapey nose makes way to a smooth entry of mouth filling, black, ethereal flavors.  The power of this wine builds with time becoming fleshier too.  Lovely and very classy. ****(*) Now – 2026.

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2012 Donnhoff, Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein, Nahe
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 7.5%.  This, bright, electric wine is noticeable for its residual sugar and almost effervescent sensation on the tongue.  The spices soon mix with sweet grapefruit and sugar.  Young and a bit hard to drink at this stage. **** 2026-2046.

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2002 Alois Kracher, Scheurebe Trockenbeeren Auslese #6 Zwischen den Seen, Neusiedlersee
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports. Alcohol 8.5%.  Like liquid amber, this aromatic wine is lovely with an apricot hint that is more fresh than dried.  It adds baking spices and cinnamon.  Weighty with good integration of sweetness.  **** Now – 2026.

A bit too old, Monte Antico and Pio Cesare from 1979

November 9, 2016 3 comments

My friend Sudip is a gambling man who is all for trying any old vintage of wine.  A gamble and a bit of recklessness was all that was required to try the 1979 Castello di Monte Antico, Tuscany.  Neil and Maria Empson started Monte Antico in 1977, some five years after founding their wine importing company.  Monte Antico is a super-Tuscan wine, meaning it is a blend of Sangiovese with international varieties, in this case Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Super-Tuscans grew in popularity during 1970s.  This particular wine is one I drank with some occurrence during my university years in the 1990s because it was affordable.  I had no expectation it would be a decent drink or even palatable, being a budget wine, but the bottle looked good, the price was cheap, and it reminded me of times past.  The color was in the autumnal brown spectrum and the nose was advanced, as in roasted earth.  But in the mouth it was surprisingly round with hints of sweet fruit that developed into licorice.  But for the nose it would rate higher.

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Two wines from the same vintage makes for more fun.  I expected the 1979 Pio Cesare, Barolo Riserva to be better than the Monte Antico and it was.  This was another cheap purchase made years ago.  After an hour of air, I simply pulled the cork.  The wine gave all that it could.  The fruit has departed leaving leather and mushroom but the lively, tense acidity still remains.  It fades soon in the glass.  Neither bottle was finished but other young wines were.  Sudip had fun.

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1979 Castello di Monte Antico, Tuscany
Shipped by Neil Empson.  Imported by Wine Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose initially smelled of roasted earth then celery.  It is much better in the mouth, round with hints of sweet fruit.  Certainly old but bits of fruit and licorice come out.  Two stars for flavor but overall  * Now.

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1979 Pio Cesare, Barolo Riserva
Imported by Paterno Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Though an advanced color it had a lively tension.  It is simple at first and surprisingly closed.  After an hour of air it opened up.  All fruit gone having left just bottle aged flavors of leather, mushroom, and a very fine texture.  ** Now.

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Drinks from the holiday weekend

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There was no shortage of grilled food and wine this Memorial Day weekend.  Thanks to many generous people I got to try decades worth of wine.  An inexpensive bottle of NV L.A. Cetto Vino Espumoso from Baja California enlivened a lunchtime sangria.   The first serious wine is a magnum of 2006 Macarico, Aglianico del Vulture which smelled and tasted great from the very first pour.  It still has strength but the tannic edges are receding such that you notice the dark fruit and minerals.  I wish I could age more of these wines.  The 1998 Chapoutier, Hermitage Monier de La Sizeranne showed much better oak integration than when tasted last summer.  It is a substantial wine with a long future.  The 1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba held up for several hours after double-decanting.  It was sweaty on the nose, in an attractive old-school way to me, but better in the mouth with lively acidity and a core of flavor.

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The 1971 M. Mascarello helped show how a 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape was even fruitier with notes of old wood.  It made for a perfectly good drink.  I will follow this post with a real tasting note.  The magnum of 2007 Domaine Ponsot, Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Cuvee des Alouettes showed on the elegant side of the spectrum with very clean fruit.  Other drinks include a 2003 Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape that is youthful and packs quite a lot of forward fruit.

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Roland opened a slew of bottles including 1990 Alain Graillot, La Guiraude, Crozes-Hermitage.  This wine is made from a selection of the best barrels and is certainly the oldest Crozes-Hermitage that I have tasted.  This was still clean and fresh with that sense of lightness a Crozes can offer.  It was almost suspended in time.

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The 2007 Henri Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape was quite tight right after double-decanting.  Nevertheless a few minutes of swirling coaxed an elegant wine.  It has quite a bit of focus and certainly more heft than the ethereal Marie Beurrier can have.  The 2001 Domaine Bois De Bourson, Chateauneuf du Pape showed great right out of the decanter.  It is drinking near peak with earthy flavors and garrigue delivered with grip.  A pour from the end of the 1990 Jamet, Cote Rotie provided a really good glass.  There was an aspect of elegance to the maturing and complex flavors.

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The 1994 Chateau de Fonsalette, Cotes du Rhone drank quite well.  This is a generous Rayas wine made from Syrah.  It is floral with dark blue fruit, wood notes, and good complexity.

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I also tried a surprisingly savory, dense, and fruity bottle of 1996 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot Reserve, Columbia Valley.  This came from a mediocre vintage and if this took a toll on the wine it was only that the finish was a bit short.  This wine was made under David Lake MW which probably explains why it is still balanced and lively.  There is not much Charbono around so you should try whatever you can.  The 2011 Calder Wine Company, Charbono, Meyer Vineyard, Napa Valley is still not up to the quality of the 2009 vintage but it reveals vintage perfume unique to the grape.

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As for dessert wines the half-bottle of 1983 Zilliken, Saarburger Rausch Riesling Eiswein contained only 7% alcohol.  The undoubtedly high levels of residual sugar were perfectly balanced by the acidity.   It is really easy to drink and is entering the middle of life.  Finally, a double-decanted 1977 Warre’s, Vintage Port needed just a little air before showing dense flavors of dark blue, racy fruit. Good stuff!  There were some other wines I tried but I did not get a look at the bottles.

If you hate Altare read this post

May 11, 2016 1 comment

David Bloch is surprised by a bottle of Altare.

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2001 Elio Altare, Barolo (normale)
Let me say up front that my favorite Piedmonte producers include both Mascarellos, both Conternos, Vietti, Vajra, Rinaldi and Giacosa.  So it may come as a surprise to read that I thought this was a really good Barolo.  Yeah, open top roto-fermenters, micro oxygenation, etc. etc. etc.  The bottom line is that this is a complete Nebbiolo that smelled of roses and violets, tasted like dark berries and earth, and has some really, really fine grained tannins still left unresolved.  Bricking at the edge, the wine was delicate yet persistent all the way through.  The wine was paired with grilled 35-day dry aged ribeye and baked Cavatappi with Taleggio, Gruyère and Provolone Piccante, topped with bacon crumbles.  The Barolo was a perfect foil for this quiet Mother’s Day meal at home.

Notes from the dump bin: 1999 Corino, L’Insieme

February 22, 2016 Leave a comment

L’Insieme or “together” is a charity project spearheaded by Elio Altare.  Eight winemakers from Piedmont formed a group where each made a wine called L’Insieme based on their own particular blend.  In my case I tasted the blend from Giovanni Corino.  After double-decanting the wine, I found it was firm so we let it sit for a few more hours.  The wine morphed from tasting just past prime maturity to a mouthfilling wine with interesting perfumed and floral notes.  Even Jenn found it rather good.  If I were to try another bottle I would double-decant it four hours ahead of time.  This wine was purchased from the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages.

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1999 Giovanni Corino, L’Insieme, Vino da Tavola – $30
A Marc de Grazia selection imported by Bacchus LTD.  This wine is a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Barbera with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose remained firm with Bordeaux like aromas.  In the mouth this maturing wine began with firm, black fruit flavors, polished wood, dry tannins, and an assertive finish.  With air it developed blue, weighty fruit matched by integrated acidity.  Though the structure remained, it took on cinnamon notes and a little coarseness near the end.  This bit of ruggedness did not deny the wine from developing mouth filling flavors that became both perfumed and floral.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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Young Nebbiolo for quaffing and contemplation

We have now lived in the new house for one week and at this point, I have unpacked most of my wine books.  Given that I am also beginning to feel rested means I am making progress on many fronts.  Another mark of progress was mowing all of the lawn.  I was hot and sweaty afterwards so while I tended the grill I gulped some glasses of the 2013 Brezza Giacomo & Figli, Nebbiolo, Langhe.  I never knew that young Nebbiolo could be so forward and refreshing!  While it is true there is structure for the short-term, this wine is best drunk at a cool cellar temperature on the first night.  The second wine in this post is completely different in nature.  Though made from young vines the 2012 Bruno Rocca, Nebbiolo, Fralu, Langhe shows good complexity and depth.  I really liked the flavor of this wine but the bit of oak coming out suggests you should cellar it for the short-term. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Brezza Giacomo & Figli, Nebbiolo, Langhe – $14
Imported by Tenth Harvest. This wine is 100% Nebbiolo that was raised in stainless steel and cement vats.  Alcohol 13%.  There were young grapey aromas from the nose.  In the mouth was a floral, red fruited start which quickly turned into black fruit.  The flavors were a little bitter with present and integrated acidity.  The rather fine tannins covered the gums in the finish.  A lighter, young wine for now. ** Now-2018.

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2012 Bruno Rocca, Nebbiolo, Fralu, Langhe – $26
Imported by Bacchus Importers. This wine is 100% Nebbiolo sourced from vines 6-7 years of age that were fermented in stainless steel then aged for 8-12 months in French oak barriques.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose brought deeper, scented ripe aromas.  In the mouth the fine, drying yet ripe and weighty tannins acted as a foundation from the start.  The wine showed depth of flavor with cool, dense black fruit, some oak notes, and an attractive inky finish. The structure became more evident with air as did a cinnamon note. **(*) 2016- 2020.

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From Frappato to Nebbiolo

This is just a quick post as I have more house sale and moving tasks to attend to today.  My two favorite wines in today’s post are both from the 2009 vintage in Italy.  The 2009 Carminucci, Naumachos, Rosso Piceno Superiore has taken on attractive maturity but still offers ripe fruit, texture, and a hint of minerals.  It drinks great right now and I suspect if you are a fan of the Southern Rhone you will dig this wine.  I will buy more and so should you!  The 2009 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Agamium, Colline Novaresi is an attractive, mature wine made from Nebbiolo.  It is not terribly complex but strikes a good balance between maturity, interest, and price.   I like Frappato and was very much looking forward to the 2013 Paolo Cali, Mandragola, Vittoria Frappato.  It smelled good but I was too distracted by the elevated level of carbon dioxide to enjoy it.   These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2009 Carminucci, Naumachos, Rosso Piceno Superiore – $18
Imported by Verity Wine Partners.  This wine is a blend of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangiovese that was aged in French oak.  Alcohol 14%.  There were aromas of ripe fruit, cedar, and mature notes.  In the mouth were focused flavors of ripe black and blue fruit that had attractive texture and density.  The maturity was evident in the middle.  The texture continued through the wine as a hint of minerals, a little smoke, and creamy blue fruit wrapped things up.  Drinking well.  *** Now-2018.

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2009 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Agamium, Colline Novaresi – $20
Imported by Tenth Harvest.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo.  Alcohol 13%.  There were candied red fruit aromas.  In the mouth the wine fleshed out with some concentrated red fruit supported by very fine and powdery texture.  The drying, tannins persist through the finish where a bit of tart, yet creamy fruit come out.  Mature but will last  **  Now-2018.

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2013 Paolo Cali, Mandragola, Vittoria Frappato – $17
Imported by RWK Imports.  This wine is 100% Frappato that was fermented then aged for 4-6 months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13%.  An attractive nose but one is quickly distracted by the rather frizzante beginning.  There was unique bright and mineral infused blue fruit that was brought forth on assertive grapefruit acidity.  A little odd.  * Now.

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