Posts Tagged ‘Valtellina’

Diverse Italian wines

I admit to being behind in posting my tasting notes.   In an effort to clear some backlog, you will find nine notes from recent Italian bottles in order of preference.  I would try anything rated *** or **(*).  These selections are priced between $15 and $25 at MacArthur Beverages which is quite an affordable range.

2015 Rainoldi, Inferno, Valtellina Superiore – $25
Imported by Winebow. Alcohol 13%. A darker flavored wine with a ripe vein in it. There is some stemmy, supportive structure but it becomes rounder towards the end. The underlying black fruit picks up the chewy tannins to good effect. Satisfying. *** Now – 2024.

2010 Vigne Marina Coppi, Castellania, Colli Tortonesi – $25
Alcohol 14.5%. This wine has power to the black fruited, slightly puckering flavor. There are some astringent tannins and a sour tilt in the finish but this is thoroughly enjoyable. *** Now – 2029.

2015 Pertimali, La Querciolina, Montecucco Rosso – $17
Imported by Le Storie Wines.  Alcohol 14%.  Dark fruited with some red flavors as the slightly lively acidity comes into play.  There is a crisp edge to the mineral flavor but this is a robust wine with cola-like verve before the drier, baking spiced finish.  **(*) Now – 2029.

2015 Conte Guicciardini, Massi di Mandorlaia, I Massi, Morellino di Scansano – $19
Imported by Michael R. Downey. Alcohol 14.5%. There are dark, floral berry aromas on the nose. Rounded flavors of mixed red and blue berries are almost earthy with a stone note. There is fine structure and watering acidity framing the wine. The fruit focuses in the finish. **(*) Now – 2023.

2014 Tolaini, Al Passo, Tuscany – $18
Imported by Banville Wine Merchants. Alcohol 14.5%.  An herbaceous edge before the ripe, blue and black fruit.  The flavors are carried on a dry, acidic edge which makes it fresh in the middle.  This is attractive in a cooler, tannic way.  **(*) Now – 2024.

2010 Villa S’Anna, Chianti Colli Senesi – $20
A maturing wine with firm aromas of cherry and soil. In the mouth it is focused with firm, black cherry flavor and watering acidity. It is still structured but in an enjoyable, integrated way. It wraps up with dry, earthy soil notes. **(*)  Now – 2024.

2017 Coppo L’Avvocata, Barbera d’Asti – $15
A good nose. In the mouth is lively red fruit, red tart fruit with black fruit underlying it. This is acidity driven with a mineral zip at the end. Flavorful with ripe hints of rolly polly stones and some heat. **(*) Now – 2022.

2016 Benanti, Etna Rosso – $20
Imported by RWK Imports. This wine is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Cappuccio. Alcohol 13.5%. A good nose with floral perfume. Robust nerello flavors greet but they are a bit simple. The wine is clean and while it retains focus it does reveal some weight which becomes integrated with the dry structure and acidity.  ** Now – 2024.

2016 Leone de Castris, Villa Santera, Primitivo di Manduria – $17
Imported by Winebow.  Alcohol 14.5%.  Sweet vanilla and bakery aromas.  In the mouth are blue fruits with a rounded edge.  This is a ripe wine, bordering on sweet but fortunately becomes more mineral and balanced towards the finish. ** Now – 2021.

A wine dinner with aged Chardonnay, Sonoma County oldies, and decades old Spanna

February 24, 2019 1 comment

A mixed group of wine drinkers and wine lovers recently met up at the house for a wine dinner.  We drank the sparkling and white wines while introductions were made and dinner was prepared.  It is with dinner that we tucked into three flights of red wine.  If the first flight of reds was a mixed bag the final two flights, featuring a pair of 1970s Sonoma County reds and a pair of 1960s Italian Spanna were my stars of the night.  Please find my notes below.


NV Ruinart, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Moet Hennessy USA. Alcohol 12.5%.  A copper rose color.  A strong wine with fine, firm bubbles, red fruits, and a biscuit flavor.  Robust in a way.  *** Now – 2024.

2014 Dirty & Rowdy, Sparkling White Wine, El Dorado County
Alcohol 12.4%.  Sweet, floral tree fruits with bubbles.  Solid but not my favorite. ** Now but will last.

White Wines

The white wines were of more interest.  On their own the 2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley and 2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley are quite different.  The 2009 is the bigger, rounder yet also a softer wine.  The 2008 is mature in flavor yet young in delivery.  If you could merge the two of them the results might be quite good.  The 2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot was the first bottle of white finished.  The nose is its strength yet while the flavors do not quite match, the balance and youthful delivery are admirable.  This wine should develop slowly for some years to come.  Almost everyone was drawn to this wine.

2009 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Drake Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.4%.  Verging on full-bodied, certainly rounded, with good mouth feel.  Youthful flavor but leaves an impression of softness due to the lower acidity.  *** Now.

2008 Williams Selyem, Chardonnay, Hawk Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  Mature in flavor but young in delivery.  Nearly crisp acidity, bright.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

2002 Maison Louis Latour, Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot
Imported by Louis Latour Inc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A lovely nose which is not quite matched by the flavor.  Balanced all around, this is surprisingly young in profile and remains that way throughout the evening.  Is it evolving at a glacial pace?  **** Now – 2029.

A Variety of Reds

This first flight of red wines was a bit of a mixed bag.  The 1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale seems like it is locked down but of solid material.  The nose of the 1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek was sadly reminiscent of dust.  Though better in the mouth, I was too distracted.  The magnum of 1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape should have been drunk promptly after double-decanting.  At that point it is a solid, mature Rhone red but after a few hours it is too bloody.

1996 Faiveley, Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale
Imported by Wilson Daniels LTD.  Alcohol 12%.  Bright red fruit, slightly spiced then black fruit flavors in the finely textured finish.  Firm flavor with a spine of acidity and taut structure.  It has yet to open up but will be greatly improved if it does.  *** Now – 2029.

1997 Ridge, Zinfandel, York Creek
Alcohol 15%. An herbaceous nose mixes with dust.  In the mouth the cherry flavors are rounded with controlled ripeness.  There is a hint of Kirsch.  The fruit is balanced by the acidity and the structure is resolving.  The nose never cleans up with the dustiness becoming more dirty. An off bottle.  Not Rated.

1998 Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape en magnum
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 15%.  A modest, mature mix of blue and red fruits, garrigue, and spice.  But after an hour or so it picks up hints of blood and iron until it becomes evocative of liquid meat.  A solid wine if drunk upon opening when it is ripe and big bodied.  At best a ** Now.

Sonoma County Oldies

My first experience with the 1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County was with a regular bottle. It was a bit dirty but underneath lurked some interesting material.  This magnum improved over several hours, until there was no more left, and captured the attention of more than a few people.  I have had good luck with Ernie’s lately.  This magnum and the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon highlight the quality of wine he purchased.  The 1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County is infinitely better than the bottle of 1974 that I tried several weeks back.    It delivers ample flavor from the very first glass.  It does not have the complexity of the Ernie’s but it is more hedonistic.  On the following evening, the remains were nearly as pleasurable.

1977 Ernie’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Select, Zellerbach Vineyard, Sonoma County en magnum
Alcohol 13%.  Aromatic with eucalyptus and bright fruit but then it turns deeper and a touch darker.  In the mouth is good body with cool flavored fruit, a spine of acidity and a finish of leather.  This is a good, clean, fresh example that after several hours reveals its complexity.  Notes of fat and oily whole nuts add to the attractiveness.  **** Now – 2029+.

1978 Louis J. Foppiano, Zinfandel, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12.5%.  Some animale notes mix with cherry-berry aromas.  Beautiful berry fruit greets and with that ripe fruit comes a hint of raisin.  However, this zippy wine is in great shape, effortlessly delivering waves of flavor.  With air it develops baking spices and comforting notes of sweaty, old leather evocative of old Californian wines. Pure pleasure.  ***(*)  Now – 2024.

Old Spanna

Surely one of the coolest labels I have seem in some time is on the 1967 Cantina Cooperative Villa Bianzone, Valtellina. The graphic drawing of Dionysus with hair of vines with leaves and beard of grapes is reason alone to purchase the wine.  There is little background information on this cooperative in the Wasserman’s book.  Despite other negative reviews of the 1967 they felt it is a “very fine vintage”. For being a basic Valtellina DOC wine it is actually quite good.  Moving west of Valtellina to the Novara-Vercelli Hills, the 1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva stems east of Gattinara.  According to the detailed Wasserman’s, this is a blend of Bonarda, Croatina, Spanna, and Vespolina, the later of which is sourced from Ghemme.  This is quite good as well.  I found my preference oscillating between the two wines as the developed in my glasses.  In the end, I would say the Bianzone has the more complex nose with brighter, controlled flavors.  The Brugo delivers that sweaty, old-school character with more grip.  I was happy to have separate glasses of each!

1967 Cantina Cooperativa Villa Bianzone, Valtellina
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Aromas of dried, old leather with balsamic notes make for a complex nose.  It is a cool nose that reminds me of the inside of the Air & Space Museum in DC.  In the mouth are very bright flavors with an earthy/leather note that cuts through.  Beautiful in the mouth. ***(*) Now but will last.

1964 A. Brugo, Romagnano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Deep and slightly sweaty red fruits on the nose…smells old-school.  In the mouth are sweaty flavors of red, grippy fruit and bright acidity.  In great condition with watering acidity carrying through to the still-structured finish.  ***(*) Now but will last.

The must-try 2011 Nino Negri, Inferno Valtellina Superiore

Nino Negro has produced wine in Valtellina since the late 19th century.  Located in northern Italy, the vineyards for the 2011 Nino Negri, Inferno Valtellina Superiore are located on the Alps which form the border with Switzerland.  The rocky Inferno sub-region is regarded as the hottest in the area.  So steep and treacherous are the vineyards that Negri transports the grapes to the winery by helicopter.  This wine offers an aromatic showing right out of the bottle with improved flavor after double-decanting.  It is a compelling wine with a proper nose and dry, expansive flavors.  It has benefited from bottle age and while enjoyable now, should continue to improve over the next few years.  My thanks to Tim for recommending it at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Nino Negri, Inferno Valtellina Superiore – $23
Imported by Frederick Wildman.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo fermented in stainless steel then aged for 24 months in a mixture of Slavonian and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  A proper nose, already engaging due to some bottle age.  In the mouth are brighter flavors in this lighter weight wine.  Dry flavors of tart cherry and leather give sappy complexity, blending with spot-on acidity.  A compelling wine with expansive, ethereal flavors and a slightly, baking spiced finish.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

“There is a Sort of Wine here…that is called Aromatick Wine”

May 23, 2012 1 comment

Vineyard In Valtellina, Image from Original Lou (flickr)

Conti Sertoli Salis is a young winery with an old history in an ancient wine growing area.  The winery is located in the Valtellina area found in Lombardy which is in the north central portion of Italy.  Located south of the Swiss Alps and just north of Lake Como, this region has been cultivated with vines beginning with the Romans.  Over the centuries the steep land has been terraced on both side of the Adda River valley.  The majority of the terracing took place during the 18th century when population increases led to increased demand for wine.  Today there are over 50 km of terraced vineyards.

Palazzo Salis, Image from giacomoraffo (flickr)

Conti Sertoli Salis was created in 1989 and located at Palazzo Salis, Tirano.  Today the 16th century wine cellars beneath the palazzo have been renovated and a modern winery has been built nearby.  The original winery consists of three parts: the tinera which is the room containing the vats for fermentation, the involt which are the vaulted cellars where the carats (small casks) are aged, and the nevera which is the cold storage room.  The nevera was used for the storage of food and wine.  Today it is used to store bottles of wine for there is a natural temperature of 46 Farenheit!

Bishop Burnet, Engraved by Robert Graves, 1837, Image from Andy Brii (flickr)

The wines of this region have been praised for ages including by Virgil and Pliny.  More recently this region and indeed the wines of Madam Salis were detailed by Bishop Gilbert Burnet.  In 1685 and 1686 Bishop Burnet traveled through France, Switzerland, and Germany.  Both a respected theologian and historian his detailed account provides not just an interesting perspective on the region but on the production and taste of its wines.  As we see in this passage, the nevera still in use at Palazzo Salis, were quite common in the 17th century.

On both Sides of the River, the Town, and the Gardens belonging to it, cover the whole Bottom, that lies between the Hills; and at the Roots of the Mountains they dig create Cellars, and Grottoes, and strike a Hole about a Foot Square, ten or twelve Foot into the Hill, which all Summer long blows a fresh Air into the Cellar; so that the Wine of those Cellars drinks almost as cold as if it were in Ice;

Bishop Burnet’s travel through Switzerland, Italy, some parts of Germany, &c. By Gilbert Burnet (bp. of Salisbury), Published by J. Watts, Dublin, 1725.

The Salis family have a long history producing and bottling wine.  In addition to the physical wine cellar there are 17th century documents on the provision of wine for the Court of Leopoldo I of Hapsburg.  More recently, there are certificates indicating the wines were bottled as early as 1861 with existing bottles in the family cellar bearing the Salis name, dated 1890 and 1891.  Today the winery uses a mixture of modern and traditional methods.  The wine featured in today’s post is produced in a similar manner employed by the Salis family centuries earlier.  Again, Bishop Burnet provides a detailed description.

There is a Sort of Wine here and in the Valteline, which I never heard named any where else, that is called Aromatick Wine, and as the Taste makes one think it must be a Composition (for it tastes like a Strong-water drawn of Spices) so its Strength being equal to a weak Brandy, disposes one to believe that it cannot be a natural Wine, and yet it is the pure Juice of the Grape, without any Mixture.  The Liquor being singular, I informed myself particularly of the Way of preparing it:  The Grapes are red, tho’ the Wine is white; they let the Grapes hang on the Vines till November, that they are extream ripe, then they carry them to their Garrets, and set them upright on their Ends by one another for two or three Months; then they pick all the Grapes, and throw away those in which there is the least Appearance of Rottenness, so that they press none but found Grapes.  After they are pressed, they put the Liquor into an open Vessel, in which it throws up a Scum, which they take off twice a Day, and when no more Scum comes up, which according to the Difference of the Season is sooner or later (for sometimes the Scum comes no more after eight Days, and at other times it continues a Fortnight,) then they put it into a close Vessel.  For the first Year it is extream sweet and luscious; but at the End of the Year, they pierce it a little higher than the Middle of the Vessel, almost two Thirds from the Bottom, and drink it off tillit cometh so low, and then every Year they fill it up anew;  Once a Year in the Month of March it ferments, and cannot be drunk till that is over, which continues a Month, but their other Wine ferments not at that time.  Madam Salis, a Lady of that Country, who entertained us three Days with a Magnificence equal to what can be done in London or Paris, had Wine of this Compoisition, that was forty Years old and was so very strong, that one could hardly drink above a Spoonful, and it tasted high of Spicery, tho’ she assured me there was not one Grain of Spice in it, nor of any other Mixture whatsoever.  Thus the Heat that is in this Wine, becomes a Fire, and distills iit self, throwing up the more spirituous Parts of it to the Top of the Hogshead.

Bishop Burnet’s travel through Switzerland, Italy, some parts of Germany, By Gilbert Burnet (bp. of Salisbury), Published by J. Watts, Dublin, 1725.

Within Valtellina there are eight districts.  This fruit for this wine is sourced from the Sassella and Grumello districts.  Sassella produces the fullest bodied wines which are slow to mature and develop aromas of hazelnuts and spice.  Grumello is known to produce wines with aromas of strawberries and faded roses.  The label for this wine bears Con Rinforzo Di Uve Appassite.  Some of the harvested grapes are left to dry on mantavola (planks of reeds) in lofts for three weeks.  The dried grapes are then added to the fresh must in a process called Rinforzo.  The reinforced wine is then aged for 2 years in small oak casks.  This wine is currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

2004 Conti Sertoli Salis, Corte della Meridiana, Riserva, Valtellina Superiore – $26
Imported by Grappoli Imports.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo.  It is a light garnet color.  The subtle nose revealed tart red fruit and wood notes.  In the mouth there are hard cherry flavors, some ripeness at the front, along with minerals.  There is a straight-through delivery with black and red fruits.  The ripe-ish tannins integrate well with the acidity.  The aftertaste has delicately lifted, sweet spices and lingering acidity.  This is drinking well now for there is a fading quality to the fruit which suggests this will not gain in complexity.  ** Now-2017.