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“There is no such thing as Round Hill”: 1974 Round Hill, 1970 LMHB, and 1978 Mastantuono

January 4, 2019 2 comments


Sickness and scheduling issues meant I was never able to host any tastings this holiday break. I did manage to meet up at Lou’s house for an impromptu tasting of mature wine.  I was given several bottles of 1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves from that odd DC cellar years back.  With ratty labels (the 1970 is still visible though) and good fill, the cork came out in good shape.  Just a brief bit of bottle stink soon blew off to reveal deep aromas.  It is deep flavored as well, yet also lifted, quickly showing fully mature flavors.  Equally good, the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley lived up to my hopes.

It is due to these two wines that I stayed at Lou’s for nearly five hours as we finished off both bottles.  Two years ago I mentioned Round Hill in the context of some old Ernie’s bottles I had opened.  Ernie Van Asperen ran a chain of more than 80 liquor stores in California.  He also operated a negocient business, purchasing up extra wine from wineries who bottled it for him under the Round Hill and Ernie’s labels.  Round Hill wines could be highly regarded and won medals at the Los Angeles County Fair.  Frank J. Prial, a judge at the fair, wrote in The New York Times that he found this “amusing because there is no Round Hill.”

As for what was in our bottle we do have some clues.  In 1980, the Underground Wine Journal wrote that the 1974 Ernie’s “Special Selection” Cabernet came from old Souverain stocks that were sold off in the 1970s.  In 1974, Souverain was sold by J. Leland Steward to a group of investors.  They in turn sold Souverain to Pillsbury Co. under which the new winery was constructed in Alexander Valley.  It was not a profitable deal, for Pillsbury sold off the Souverain winery and its assets in 1976.  Round Hill was founded in 1977.  That same year Frank J. Prial noted that wine from Sonoma Vineyard and Souverain were bottled under the Round Hill label.

There is a strong chance, then, that the 1974 Round Hill is actually Souverain.  Whatever it is, Ernie knew what he was doing for it is an excellent wine at the height of maturity.

I do love a good surprise and the 1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County represents just that.  I refrained from any prior research so was quite impressed with the savory and saline profile of this full-bodied, red fruited wine.  Founded in 1976, Mastantuono is the fifth oldest winery in Paso Robles.  The Dusi Vineyard was planted in 1923 so even at the time, the Mastantuono was made from old vines.  The 1978 vintage was a hot year producing “intensely flavored” Zinfandel according to Robert Parker Jr. in The Washington Post during 1981.  This bottle is intense yet savory, lending interest as it reflects both the vintage and vineyard.  It lasted about two hours in a decanter before it started to fade.

The wines that evening were a treat!

1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Deep flavored with ripe hints and goof lift.  Additional notes of low-lying leather and minerals adds complexity.  The watering acidity weaves through the palate as the wine grips the sides of the gums, turning redder in flavor.  With air it offers up deep flavors of cranberries and other bright fruit.  **** Now but will last

1974 Round Hill Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  A deep, black cherry color offers more pigment than the LMHB.  Immediately striking as medium-bodied with good fruit weight and rounded nature.  This wine is rich in flavor with no hard edges due to fully integrated structure.  It is dense and gravelly with minerals and grip by the middle.  It took half an hour to open up in the decanter, eventually offering big mouth feel and flavor for hours.  A touch of structure comes out in the end. **** Now but will last.

1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
Alcohol 12.5%. A fresh nose with an herbaceous hint.  A savory, salty start soon yields bright red fruit that is deep in flavor.  This is a medium to full-bodied wine with quite the weight to the fruit.  Flavors of candied berry and old leather mix with good watering acidity, actually zippy acidity.  A very solid wine.  The savory personality makes it stand out.  *** Now but will last.

A Blind Janasse Vertical: 1999-2016

December 30, 2018 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago I tasted through twelve wines blind. That they turned out to be all largely excellent was of no surprise for Roland was the host. The first two wines clearly (and with great comfort) pointed to the Southern Rhone with a level of complexity that indicated Chateauneuf du Pape. While a couple of people narrowed it down to a Janasse vertical by the third wine, I could not achieve such specificity by the final wine. I did, however, achieve confusion for amongst the chronological ordering, waves of similar and dissimilar wines kept me guessing. That we tasted a vertical of three cuvees, Tradition, Chaupin, and Vieilles Vignes from 1999 through 2016 made perfect sense in the end.

The Tradition is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre fermented in tank then aged in foudre and a small proportion of new oak barrels.  The Chaupin is pure Grenache sourced from 100+ year old vines.  It is fermented in tank then aged in foudre and various sized barrels.  The Vieilles Vignes is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and other varieties sourced from 60-110+ year old vines.  It is fermented in tank then aged for 18 months in different sized barrels.

I thought the eldest vintages were 1998 and 2000 but to find them as 1999 and 2003 is a good experience. There has been a loose thread over these various tastings that 2003 produced successful wines in the Rhone which are developing in a satisfying manner. A new thread on the dissatisfaction of the 2007 vintage has appeared.

For current drinking, I recommend the three oldest vintages of Vieilles Vignes.  Of this trio I preferred the 2003 followed by the 2005 and 1999.  The 2010s and 2012s are very good in general but it is the 2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes I would lay down for the future.  Not only does it smell great but it has the essential components of fruit, garrigue, and minerals.  If you cannot find that vintage the 2010 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is right on its heels.  And if you cannot find that vintage then the 2015 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes is probably a safe bet.  I think it has great potential so check on it in 2-3 years.

While I have recommended the Vieilles Vignes wines in specific, the quality of all of the wines we tasted (except the 2007) was very high across the board.    It is one of the most satisfying tastings I have attended in recent memory.

1999 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
Medium garnet in color. Moderate mature aromas with more smoke than the 2003. In the mouth, this mature wine offers up leather, minerals, and structure. The wine is in good shape, showing more focus and structure. There is a sense of levity that matches the flavors which bear moderate ripe weight. Overall, an elegant wine of sweet, ripe fruit, wood block, leather, and structure. **** Now – 2025.

2003 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
Medium garnet. A touch of earthy cheese on the nose. Flavorful and rounder with noticeably more fruit. Clearly a riper vintage than the 1999 but still shows a similar level of maturity. The fruit comes through at the end where it grips the mouth. Tasty. **** Now – 2023.

2005 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
The younger color is matched by the youngest flavors of the first three wines. In the mouth it is dense with young blue fruit. It packs more in including an eventual mature note. It comes across as in mid-life. It is great now with weight and though a bit intense, I wonder how long it will last. **** Now – 2023.

2007 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
Almost spritzy to start with blue fruit, plums, and lower acidity. Upon revisiting, clearly the weakest of all the wines tasted.  What’s going on here? * Drink up.

2009 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
More berries on the nose and young in the mouth. There are berry flavors in the round start with ripe tannins and some fat soon coming out. It is a little tense with waves of mouthfilling ripe, spiced fruit and licorice. It has concentration for age. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2010 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
A hint of meat on the nose. Coming into mid-life with pure blue fruit, it has all of the components for further development. Dense, though with less oomp than the 2009, it is a balanced, elegant wine with lovely, round sweet, weighted flavors. **** Now – 2025.

2010 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
A young ruby, black cherry color. A nose of berries and grapes. In the mouth it is rather youthful with ripe spices, fruit, and ripe tannins. In the first third of its life, it is lovely to revisit for the clear berry flavor. ****(*) Now – 2028.

2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape
An interesting nose of tobacco and red, berry fruit. Light and linear in the mouth, watering acidity and ripe tannins move into the drier finish. There is structure in the finish and the sense of dryness remains. *** Now – 2023.

2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin
An interesting nose of elegant red fruit. Excellent, with cooler flavors, fresh and floral. The redder fruit is pretty, balanced by grip and structure. It becomes younger with air. **** Now – 2030.

2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
A lovely nose. This wine packs it in with watering acidity, mineral, garrigue, and more black fruit. Youthful. ****(*) Now – 2033.

2015 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
Grenache on the nose. In the mouth, this is young, ripe, and tense. Fresh acidity carries the primary and grapey flavors which are balanced. This has great potential, the weight of the black fruit and dry baking spices will carry it for some time. ***(**) 2021-2031.

2016 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf du Pape
Sweet, ripe fruit is cool and elegant. It oscillates in nature, clearly still primary. A lovely wine with power but it is not overdone. ***(*) 2021-2028.

Mature Gigondas for Christmas Eve

December 29, 2018 Leave a comment

I am indebted to Phil at MacArthur Beverages for selling me a few bottles of mature Gigondas.  The labels look a bit ratty as the Santa Duc was leaked upon and the Brusset is ripped but they came from a good cellar.  The fills and corks were spot on. I opened the bottles for our Christmas Eve dinner which included venison backstrap from two deer my brother-in-law hunted in Nebraska.

The 1989 and 1990 vintages in Gigondas, indeed in the Southern Rhone in general, produced excellent wines.  These wines are in fine shape, clearly mature, yet nowhere near declining.    They are evocative of fruit from cooler vineyard sites and rustic tannins compared to Chateauneuf du Pape from the same vintages.  The 1989 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas is my favorite of the pair.  It offers more fruit and fruit weight, which, when combined with the fat, earth, and leather, balances out the rustic tannins.  The 1990 Domaine Brusset, Les Hauts de Montmirail, Gigondas is fresher and brighter but does not have the depth of fruit nor complexity.  Both provided many hours of enjoyment, out of decanter, until the wee hours of Christmas Day.  It is a new reference point for mature Gigondas.

1989 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This is a blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre source from vines averaging 40 years of age.  It spent 12 months in old oak casks.  Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with earth and leather.  In the mouth are clean flavors of red and blue fruit made attractive by hints of round fat.  There are still fine and ripe tannins which lend to the rustic, Gigondas personality.  With air it becomes more blue fruited in flavor.  In fine shape with plenty of drinkable fruit and complexity.  **** Now – 2028.

1990 Domaine Brusset, Les Hauts de Montmirail, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections. This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, and 5% Cinsault sourced from 25 year old vines.  It was raised for 12 months in 100% new French oak.  Alcohol 13%.  Fresh and bright with an edge of cranberry flavor.  There is lively acidity with the regional gravelly tannins in the end.  Tons of grip with minerals.  ***(*) Now but will last for many years.

“How long will our reds last? I don’t know.”: 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling plus some table wine

December 11, 2018 1 comment

The label of the 1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County magnum was only slightly soiled. The fill was excellent and underneath the plastic capsule, the firmly seated cork was pristine. After double-decanting, to remove the sediment, the wine bore deep aromas proper for a good Californian wine from the 1970s.

Grapes have been grown in Mendocino County since the 19th century when there were a few dozen growers. Located north of Sonoma, the slow arrival of rail lines meant this was a region of smaller enterprises rather than ones on a commercial scale. During Prohibition grapes were grown for home winemaking in San Francisco and bootlegging on the East Coast. By 1938, the number of bonded wines hit eight with Parducci the largest of them all. Most of the Parducci wine was sold off to other major wineries but eventually a new generation sought to bottle under their own label during the wine boom. It is in 1973 that Nathan Chroman, writing for the Los Angeles Times, found Parducci was just beginning to establish their identity.

Like Robert Mondavi, John Parducci advocated unfined and unfiltered wine. He did differ from Mondavi in these early years by avoiding any contact with oak. Parducci also felt strongly about growing the best grapes for the site rather than what was in demand. Articles from the 1970s share a common theme of Parducci’s unique style, affordable price, and drinkable red wines. If there was preference for fresh, fruit flavored red wines, there was also an economic side to it. The French and Yugoslavian oak barrels were too expensive for the family. That is not to say no wood was used, the Cabernet was aged in tall, thin redwood vats.

It must be remembered that 1976 and 1977 were drought years in California. The 1978 vintage yielded large numbers of healthy, sugar-filled grapes. Excitement was widespread with John Parducci commenting on the new wines, “Some of the most fantastic wines California has ever seen.” The principal vineyards of Parducci were Talmage, Largo, and Home Ranch. This is not where the fruit came from for the 1978 Merlot Special Bottling. The back label states the “grapes were grown by small growers on the slopes of Mendocino County”.

In 1974, the Special Bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon sold for $7.99 per bottle in Washington, DC. That put this Special Bottling in the range of Chappellet and Clos du Val pricing.  The nose is generous and in Parducci style, the wine offers up berries, freshness, and levity.  The alcohol level is noticeably low.  Together these traits make it a highly drinkable wine.  In fact, the magnum drank very well for several hours at which time it started to fade. To answer the title question, this magnum lasted 40 years with ease.

I wish I could write more about the 1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.  Founded in the 19th century, very little was written about it save short mention of the periodically medal-winning Cabernet Sauvignon.  William Rice of The Washington Post found the 1972 Foppiano , Zinfandel as “very fruity” and though pleasantly aromatic, it lacked in tannin.  Ours, though, was from a better vintage but my gut-feeling is that the regular 1974s are fading away which did not help this wine.  The flavors are beginning to turn with no supporting structure left.

We tried two other wines that night from California. The magnums of 1984 and 1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red were found in the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages. Priced at $3 each I had to try them for the historic note. A closer look at the label reveals these were made at the Woodbridge Winery. Created in 1979, the Woodbridge Winery was destined to produce large volumes of affordable, oak aged wines. A basic non-vintage table wine had been made at Mondavi since 1976 but quality had slipped.  The Woodbridge Winery was one of multiple prongs designed to improve the table wine quality.

The new Mondavi Red was primarily a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Gamay, Petite Sirah, and Merlot aged in small oak barrels. Carignan, Thomson Seedless (!!!), and Columbard were largely jettisoned as they were considered in the territory of jug wine.  Mondavi believed in long aging in oak but $300 French oak barres were to expensive for use at Woodbridge. Instead, he “retired” his older French oak barrels used in his premium wines to Woodbridge.  He then employed American coopers to use American oak to form new barrels using the French method of charing rather than steaming. Unlike other inexpensive table wines these were new table wines based at Woodbridge winery were regarded as more complex and capable of some aging.

As for the wines, the 1984 was green, herbaceous and way past prime.  Not really surprising.  I was hoping to pull a rabbit out of a hat and the 1985 almost obliged. The nose was good but the flavors too herbaceous.  I suspect it would have drunk fine a decade ago.

1978 Parducci, Merlot Special Bottling, Mendocino County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Definitely a brick-brown color.  Deep, comforting aromas are evocative of the period.  In the mouth fresh acidity bearing mixed flavors of wood box, deep berries, and maturity.  A lighter bodied wine of moderate length it is fresh and very drinkable.  It fleshes out a bit with air becoming more saline.  It has good staying power.  *** Now but will last

1974 Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  The cork smelled balsamic but none of that transferred to the wine.  A slight hint of roast indicates its past prime.  In the mouth this is a fully mature wine, aging fruit is a touch sour but it remains supple.  A lighter style of Zinfandel that was likely elegant to begin with the structure entirely integrated.  *(*) Drink Up.

1984 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Green veggies and other herbaceous aromas.  An herbaceous edge to the bright and tart red fruit.  Short, simple, and not of interest. Past Prime.

1985 Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Red
Alcohol 12%.  Some depth to the nose, dark fruit, wood box, and spices.  A certain hint of that carries into the mouth but herbaceousness comes out as well.  In much better poise than the 1984. * Now but drink up.

Tasting Chianti Blind at Lou’s

November 21, 2018 Leave a comment

After an unbelievably youthful and glacially evolving 2007 Domaine Vrignaud, Chablies Premier Cru Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes it was time to tuck into some red wines.  Thus a handful of us stood in Lou’s tasting room to work our way through four brown-bagged wines.  The first, clearly past prime, had me guess 1970s.  I was a good decade off.  For the other three wines, I oscillated between mid-2000 petit Bordeaux or a northern Italian Bordeaux blend also of the same age.  I had the general age correct but not the grape nor the region!

Of the trio of Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva, the 2006 has the greatest potential.  It is crisp with a promising future.  The 2007 has good, deep flavors but it didn’t exhibit the same potential as the others.  The 2008 is the most forward and generous. It is the vintage to drink while the 2006 ages.

With dinner Lou opened the 2012 Red Newt Cellars, Viridescens, Finger Lakes.  This generous wine drinks at its peak immediatley upon opening.  It does benefit from a touch of air as it took on bacon fat and smoke.  I like the Finger Lakes wines Lou opens.  Those with just a few years of age seem to be at peak.

2007 Domaine Vrignaud, Chablies Premier Cru Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes
Imported by KV Imports. Alcohol 13%.  A light, golden-tinged yellow-straw (phew!).  Fresh, surprisingly so, with moderate body and focused, clean flavors.  Round with hints of sweetness, nuts, and flint in the middle.  There is a touch of fat in the end.  Should continue to slowly develop.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

Blind Wine #1 – 1962 Fattoria Grande di Montagnana Chianti
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Past prime, drinkable but just barely! Not Rated.

Blind Wine #2 – 2006 Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva
Alcohol 13.5%.  Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Firm with sweet cherry flavors.  The wine is focused and tense with crisp, structure in the end.  Additional red fruits and polished wood come out.  More promising development to come.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

Blind Wine #3 – 2007 Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva
Alcohol 13.5%.  Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Lower lying, deep notes to the flavor. A polished edge remains a big closed and is still structured.  *** Now – 2023.

Blind Wine #4 – 2008 Felsina Berardenga, Chianti Classico Riserva
Alcohol 13.5%.  Imported by Bacchus Importers.  An articulate nose of cherries and other berries.  Deep, brambly red and black fruit is still youthful.  Round in the start with tense, citric acidity, ripe and sweet tannins.  A good drink that will come round faster than the 2006. Perhaps in the next year!  ***(*) Now – 2023.

2012 Red Newt Cellars, Viridescens, Finger Lakes
This wine is a blend of 67% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.8%.  First impressions of it are that its quite rounded and definitely new world.    Surprisingly ripe with generous flavors and some smoke around the good core of fruit.  It drinks as if its at its peak.  With air, the smoke morphs into bacon fat and smoke, as if from a Northern Rhone wine.  Great showing.  ***(*) Now.

An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 2 Old Cali

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

After four largely good bottles of old Nebbiolo, the three of us needed more wine to taste so out came several bottles of old Californian wine.  The 1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, by way of Reid Wines of Bristol, was a mess of herbaceous, evergreen notes.  The pair of 1975 Harbor Winery bottles proved more interesting with the 1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley a clear favorite of this grouping.

Harbor Winery was founded in 1972 by Charles Myers of Sacramento with a goal “of bottling wine from a particular terrain”.  Myers was an amateur winemaker and English instructor at Sacramento City College.  His first 1,000 gallons of commercial wines were released in 1973 and by 1980, output hit 3,000 gallons.

Myers first produced a “terrible” zinfandel in 1954 but two years later, when he had moved to Sacramento, he was making 200 gallons of drinkable wine on an annual basis.  The Corti Brothers encouraged Myers to go commercial and they even advertised the sale of his first wine in 1974.  Harbor Winery, being the only small commercial winery in Sacramento, attracted frequent coverage in the Sacramento Bee from which this brief history stems. The Harbor Winery selections were soon sold not just locally, but in Los Angeles and San Francisco with a rare appearance at The Ritz London.

Darrell Corti felt the local Sacramento grapes were no good, a sentiment shared by Myers.  Myers first turned to Amador County in 1964 when he was looking for Muscat and in the process was introduced to the Zinfandels.  It was one decade later, in 1974, that Myers first purchased Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from the Deaver Ranch in Amador County. The 1975 we drank would then be Myers’ second commercial vintage of this wine.  He felt the future of the 1974 looked “very good” at the time and this must have extended to the 1975.  I found it deep fruited with tension from acidity.  There is still the coarseness or absence of “subtlety and elegance” Myers attributed to Amador County.

The 1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley is not as good as the Cabernet Sauvignon.  As I have described in other posts, Amador County Zinfandel was “discovered” during the wine boom. Myers utilized carbonic maceration to make a Zinfandel for immediate drinking which is the opposite of what Sutter Home and Montevina were releasing at the time.  I found our bottle hollow.

We finished up with a soft, simple 1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  It is a little wine where the volume is fading.

1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Imported by Peter Eckes. Alcohol 12%.  Tons of herbaceous, evergreen aromas and flavors.  Ugh.  Not Rated.

1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Scented on the nose.  In the mouth, deep fruited, fresh, with a soda-like tension.  The nice acidity keeps the edges sharp to the sweet, lifted, fruit.  There is even a note of cedar.  There is a sense of coarseness but the settles down and lies low.  *** Now.

1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Red berries on the nose.  Wood notes with black fruit greet but the middle is hollow followed by a cola-like finish.  There is grip and a lipsticky finish.  too bad.  Drinkable but only of minor interest.  *(*) Now.

1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12%.  A soft, gentle wine in need of more acidity.  Flavors of leather, gentle red fruit, and cedar fade towards the finish.  Simple but not flawed.  The nearly full bottle tasted exactly the same on the second day.  ** Now drink up.

After Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 1 Nebbiolo

November 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Sudip, Lou, and I recently spent an afternoon following several bottles of mature wine.  The quartet of “little” Nebbiolo from Chambers St Wines proved the most interesting that day.  All of the wines were double-decanted to seperate off the sediment and even the minor wines benefited from air.

The youngest wine, 1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo, is from a rather weak vintage in Barolo.  It is the biggest surprise for me, medium weight flavors, zippy acidity, rounded luxury, and some fruit.  It is also the most alcoholic wine tasted which, perhaps, contributes to the weight it imparted.  The 1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo was simple at best, with its citric, tart & sweet cherry flavor.  The inexpensive, cooperative bottle of 1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme held on for hours worth of drinking.  It is a subtle, old-school flavored wine of moderate flesh which is a good foil for better wines to follow.  The 1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara is another surprise.  I like the red fruit, earth, and leather but it is the quality of the acidity which caught my attention.  This is clearly from an excellent vintage but also an older wine.  Whereas the 1964 chugged along the 1952 had a peak then declined.  Good fun while it lasted!

1973 Crissante Alessandria, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 13.8%.  Fruity and floral with a wood-polish note.  In the mouth it is tense with sharp acidity and moderately round body with an ethereal, oil quality for luxury.  A spiced edge is ripe with a zippy, baking spiced finish.  This medium weight wine is full of life!  ***(*) Now but will last.

1967 Franco Fiorina, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12%.  A touch of roast on the nose.  There is good mouth-feel with sweet baking spices and a fresher aspect.  Flavors of tart and sweet cherries have a citric presence in the mouth.  There is a round mouthfeel and some fat but overall a simple wine.  ** Now drink up.

1964 Cantina Sociale Vini Sizzano & Ghemme, Ghemme
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Old leather with old-school flavors immediately greet.  With a modest amount of air the body fleshes out and takes on nut flavors.  There is even some structure.  The entire wine remains in balance.  A subtle wine which provides a solid experience for hours.  **(*) Now.

1952 Cantine Diver, Tipico Spanna, Gattinara
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Hints of leather on the nose.  In the mouth crisp, red fruit, and a touch both of earth and leather.  There is a spine of acidity and an herbal-oil hint throughout.  The ripe, citric acidity mixes with compelling baking spices.  Quite good, clearly an excellent vintage, but of a shorter life-span once opened.  ***(*) Now but will last.