Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/18/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of lovely white Burgundies from Domaine de Bellene, a project by Nicolas Potel that began when a bunch of the growers he was working with decided to stop producing wines and offered to let him take over their vineyards. Potel also established Roche de Bellene, which is a négociant label under which Potel makes wines from fruit that he does not farm directly.

The first of the two wines is a Savigny-Les-Beaune blanc, made from Chardonnay sourced in the vineyards of three different villages within the SLB appellation: Les Planchots, Aux Champs des Pruniers and Dessus de Vermots that are farmed organically. It is quite pretty and has a warm richness to it.

The Saint-Aubin, which is made from sustainably grown purchased fruit under the Maison Roche de Bellene label, has a wonderfully sappy, tangy quality that resembles more expensive white Burgundies. The vines used for this wine are 48 years old, which would technically allow this wine to be called “vielles vignes” if the producer so desired. Saint-Aubin used to be the cheap seats when it came to excellent white Burgundy, but prices have climbed in recent years. Still, at $50, this is an excellent value for the region.

One more white wine before we head to Italy for some reds, I’ve got the latest release from the ambitious Eden Rift project in the Cienega Valley south of Gilroy in California. Their estate Chardonnay is an excellent value, and continues to improve in balance and complexity.

Only a few people grow Pinot Noir in Italy’s Piedmont Region, but Gian Luca Colombo, a consulting winemaker who started his own project in 2011 is one of them. His organic farm is working towards becoming fully biodynamic, and he produces a number of interesting wines, including this Pinot Noir, and a muscular Barolo, which I’ve also reviewed this week.

Good Barbera can sometimes be tricky to find, but when you do it is almost always affordable. This is no mean feat in a region whose wine prices have climbed to stratospheric levels in recent years. The Gaudio interpretation, from the higher-altitude Monferrato area of Piedmont, offers textbook Barbera flavors and character, and for twenty bucks, it’s a complete steal.

Rocche Costamagna has been the life’s work of the Costamagna family since 1841 when their ancestor, Luigi Costamagna was granted official permission to make wine in La Morra. The family’s last name has changed several times as the estate was handed down through the female side of the family, each taking the last name of their new husband. It is currently in the hands of Allesandro Locatelli, the 5th generation, who has been managing the estate since the mid-1980s and has both replanted the vineyards and moved to farm them more sustainably, avoiding pesticides and herbicides as much as possible.

The family farms plots in the famous Rocche dell’Annunziata area, and I’ve got two wines from those plots to share this week. The first is their standard Barolo, which has a classic character with lots of dried herbs, and the second is their Riserva bottling, which has a surprising mineral freshness to it, even as the fruit is moving towards its secondary characteristics.

Lastly, I have two wines from Reva, a small, certified organic producer in Monforte de Alba whose wines have consistently impressed me. At $30 their Nebbiolo d’Alba is outstanding and their Barolo is positively fantastic, brimming with energy and vibrancy. I highly recommend both.

Tasting Notes

2018 Domaine de Bellene Savigny-Les-Beaune Blanc, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of citrus pith and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, citrus pith, lemon curd, and white flowers have a nice snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a hint of butterscotch in the finish. Made from 40-year-old vines. Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 30% new French oak. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $54. click to buy.

2018 Maison Roche de Bellene Saint-Aubin Blanc, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy, France
Light gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, wet pavement, and a hint of resinous sappiness. In the mouth, that sappy quality ramps up with tangy lemon oil, lemon pith, and citrus peel flavors made wonderfully juicy by excellent acidity. A faint struck match note lingers in the finish. Excellent. Made from 48-year-old vines, which would technically qualify this wine to be labeled “vielles vignes.” Fermented with native yeasts and aged in 10% new French oak. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2018 Eden Rift “Estate” Chardonnay, Cienega Valley, Central Coast, California
Yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of pineapple and lemon curd. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd and a touch of pineapple mix with sweet cream and white flowers. Decent acidity but could use a bit more to give it some zing. 13.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2018 Segni di Langa Pinot Noir, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color with just a hint of garnet, this wine smells of cedar and raspberries and a hint of animal musk. In the mouth, juicy acidity makes flavors of redcurrant and sour cherry bright and mouthwatering, as a lightly bitter cedar and earth quality emerges in the citrus-bright finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2017 Gaudio Barbera del Monferrato Superiore, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberry and orange peel. In the mouth, boysenberry and black cherry flavors are shot through with potting soil and orange peel. Excellent acidity makes the mouth water and lasts through a long leathery finish with hints of licorice root. Contains 15% Freisa. 14% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2016 Rocche Costamagna “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in the glass with hints of orange, this wine smells of strawberries, dried sage, and lovely dried floral notes. In the mouth, intense strawberry, orange peel, and dried herb notes are mouthwatering thanks to juicy acidity. Faint, fleecy tannins drape like a blanket over the palate as the dried sage and road dust lingers in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/18/21

2013 Rocche Costamagna “Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva Bricco Francesco” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
A bright carnelian red in color, this wine smells of dried flowers and dried strawberry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully savory notes of dried herbs and dried flowers mix with redcurrant and strawberry fruit that is fading towards the dried end of the spectrum. Muscular tannins grip the edges of the palate as orange peel and a hint of smokiness linger in the finish. There’s a wonderful mineral freshness to this wine that is compelling. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2017 Gian Luca Colombo Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with a bit of brick emerging, this wine smells of cherry, strawberry and dried herbs. In the mouth, tight muscular tannins wrap around a core of strawberry and cherry fruit shot through with dried sage, dried oregano, and dusty earth. Faintly bitter in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2018 Réva Nebbiolo d’Alba, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of smoky, dusty earth and rose petals. In the mouth, strawberry and redcurrant and raspberry fruit are positively bursting with acidity. Citrus and berry notes linger in the finish along with dusty dried oregano and thyme. Wonderfully fine-grained tannins linger with the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2016 Réva Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry, incense, and lavender. In the mouth, phenomenally juicy flavors of strawberry and sour cherry mix with dried herbs de provence. Gorgeous muscular tannins are very fine-grained and linger, flexing their muscles in the finish. Beautiful, powerful, and elegant. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/11/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This is another heavily Piedmont-driven week, as I share notes on a boatload of Piedmont wines that showed up recently thanks to a consortium of wineries interested in showing off some of the lesser-known wines of the region. I spent some time last week talking a bit about the white wines from Piedmont and telling the stories of some of the more obscure varieties that are making a comeback thanks to the concerted efforts of dedicated winegrowers. Interestingly, some of these winemakers believe that these rarified native varieties may be less susceptible to the stresses and volatility of climate change.

I’ve got a few more examples of these wines to share this week, including an Arneis from Agricola Morrone, a lovely example of the rare Nascetta grape from Daniele Conterno, and two very interesting and very different renditions of Cortese from producer La Mesma. Their “Indi” bottling is a single-vineyard parcel that is literally right outside the window of Paola Rosina’s window. Its nutrient-poor, limestone-rich soils give a different character to the wine (what I might characterize as a tension). It is made using the pied-de-cuve method of fermentation, in which a bucket of grapes is crushed in the vineyard and allowed to start fermenting spontaneously with ambient yeasts, and then this bucket of frothing ferment is added to a larger vat in the winery.

Light-bodied red wines are having something of a “moment” in the wine world today. Easily mistaken for darker-than-usual rosés, these wines tend to feature high acidity and can sometimes benefit from a slight chilling before drinking.

Words like crunchy, smashable, and glou-glou all get applied to such wines these days, and all three would describe a well-made Grignolino, such as the one I’ve got notes on below from Gaudio Bricco Mondalino. The Gaudio family has been farming in the Monferrato region for many generations, with 45 prime, hilltop acres that give the winery its name (bricco meaning hilltop in the local Piemontese dialect). Dedicated to native grape varieties as well as working almost exclusively by hand, the family eschews the use of mechanized farm equipment, an environmentally-focused philosophy that has developed since the winery formally incorporated in 1973. Their top-tier Grignolino from the crest of their hill is among the very best interpretations of the variety I’ve had.

A couple of months ago, I got my first taste of the grape Ruché, an extremely aromatic red variety from the Monferrato region of Piedmont thanks to some rather random samples. I received a couple more bottles as part of this big tranche of Piedmont wines, including this week’s bottle from Scarpa winery. In order to label a wine as Ruché di Monferrato the wine must be grown within the specific appellation boundaries surrounding the town of Castagnole Monferrato. If the grapes are grown outside those boundaries, the wine cannot carry the Ruché name (even though that is the name of the grape) and must instead be labeled Monferrato Rosso, as is the case with this wine. But rest assured, this wine still has the soaring floral aromatics that the grape delivers while also having admirably restrained alcohol levels (Ruché can easily get into the high 15% range when it gets fully ripe).

A bunch of samples from Piedmont wouldn’t be complete, of course, without a few Barolos* thrown into the mix, and I’ve got two to offer you this week, one from Marrone, with somewhat typical tarry notes, and the other from Daniele Conterno, which needs a couple more years of bottle age before it will truly show its stuff. (*As an aside, I think the Piedmontese would say the plural of Barolo is “Barolo,” not unlike Bordeaux).

Lastly, I’ve got three more wines from field-blend specialist Acorn Winery to recommend. Their Zinfandel is a wonderfully honest and jubilant interpretation of the form, and their Cab Franc and Syrah both satisfy as well.

Notes on all these below.

Tasting Notes

2019 Agricola Gianpiero Marrone “Tre Fie” Arneis, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of wet pavement, white flowers, and star fruit. In the mouth, flavors of star fruit, green apple, and white flowers have a silky texture and decent, but not particularly brisk acidity. Pleasurable, but missing some zing. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2020 Daniele Conterno Nascetta, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers, cut green grass, and a touch of green melon. In the mouth, finger lime and star fruit flavors mix with white flowers and a faint saline quality that helps with the mouthwatering quality to the wine. Very distinctive and quite interesting. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2017 La Mesma “Riserva” Cortese, Gavi, Piedmont, Italy
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lime zest, chopped herbs, and a hint of pine resin. In the mouth, brisk lime and herb flavors mix with a lightly bitter lime pith and dusty earth quality. With two more years in the bottle, this wine is much more savory than the standard bottling, with more of a mineral undertone. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $19.

2019 La Mesma “Indi” Cortese, Gavi del Comune di Gavi, Piedmont, Italy
Palest gold in the glass, nearly colorless, this wine smells of green apples and dried herbs. In the mouth, electrically bright green apple and dried sage flavors have a wonderful salinity to them that makes the mouth positively water. Quite juicy and fresh. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2018 Gaudio Bricco Mondalino Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Pale ruby in color with orange highlights, this wine smells of strawberry jam and fresh flowers. In the mouth, gorgeously bright strawberry and herbal notes are boisterous and zippy thanks to excellent acidity. Wonderful chopped herbs and berry notes linger for a long time in the finish with the barest wisp of tannins. Fantastically refreshing. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2017 Scarpa “Rouchet” Monferrato Rosso, Piedmont, Italy
A brilliant light garnet in color, this wine smells of grape soda, roses, and other flowers. In the mouth, the wine is bright and juicy with a sour cherry and grape SweetTart brightness, all suffused with floral notes. Excellent, even a little sharp, acidity. Faintest of tannins. Made from the Ruché grape, but since this vineyard lies outside the Ruche di Monferrato region, it must simply be labeled as a Monferrato Rosso. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $44.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/11/21

2015 Agricola Gianpiero Marrone Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of road tar and salted licorice. In the mouth, dried cherry and dried strawberry fruit is wrapped in a thick fleecy blanket of tannins. Good acidity with notes of herbs and dusty earth lingering in the finish as the tannins gain heft and strength. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $59. click to buy.

2016 Daniele Conterno “Panerole” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of strawberries and potting soil and a touch of smoke. In the mouth, muscular tannins grasp a core of strawberry and smoke, earth and dried herbs quite tightly, gripping the palate for a long while as notes of dried flowers linger in the finish. Needs 5 years easily. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

2017 Acorn Winery “Heritage Vines” Zinfandel, Russian River Valley Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry pie and freshly ground black pepper. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and licorice flavors have excellent bounce thanks to great acidity. Licorice and berry pie linger in the finish along with barely perceptible tannins. 14.4% alcohol. 224 cases made Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2017 Acorn Winery “Alegria Vineyards” Cabernet Franc, Russian River Valley Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, plum, and a hint of green herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully savory flavors of black plum and sour cherry have a hint of leather, black olive, and licorice to them. Faint dusty tannins wrap around the core of the wine which has a mouthwatering tang, thanks to excellent acidity. A deep wet-earth quality lingers in the finish. Despite being labeled Cabernet Franc, this is actually a field blend of 92% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat. Ages for 18 months in old oak barrels. The Cabernet Franc was planted in 1991, back when few were producing the grape in California. 13.3% alcohol. 219 cases made Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Acorn Winery “Axiom – Alegria Vineyards” Syrah, Russian River Valley Sonoma, California
Dark garnet with bright purple highlights, this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors are smooth and stony, with a gauzy tannic texture to them. Excellent acidity keeps the wine quite fresh, while dark, earthy savory notes blend perfectly with the blackberry fruit and a hint of wet chalkboard. Contains 2% co-fermented Viognier. Ages for 15 months in a combination of French and Hungarian oak. 14.2% alcohol. 229 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/4/21

Hello and welcome to my weekly dig through the pile of wine samples that show up asking to be tasted. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

Let’s start this week with what wine writer Matt Kramer has called the most reliable wine in the world: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I agree with him. If you pay $15 to $25 for a New Zealand “Savvy,” 99% of the time you are going to get a delicious wine that tastes the way you expect it to. It’s hard to say that about any other single “type” of wine in the world. The stuff ain’t profound, but it’s damn tasty. This week I’ve got a pitch-perfect rendition of the form from Allan Scott. At $12 a bottle, what’s not to love?

And now we can move into the slightly more unexpected realm of white wines with the 4 pale crown jewels in Piedmont’s ruby-studded reputation. Yes, there are white wines made in Piedmont, and some of them are damn special. Piedmont has been going through something of a white wine renaissance in recent years, as producers work hard to revive traditions that very nearly were lost forever.

Our first wine serves as the prime example. At one point there were a mere dozen or so rows of Nascetta in a single vineyard, but winegrower Elvio Cogno rediscovered the variety 20 years ago and began to expand plantings with the goal of finding out the potential of this all-but-unknown variety. Now 12 producers in Piedmont make it, including Gregorio Gitti, who has decided to try planting the grape at higher elevations in order to retain a bit more acidity, which apparently can disappear fast under the wrong conditions. While Gitti and his Castello di Perno bottling may not have yet reached the apogee of what Nascetta has to offer, the wine is very good, and the opportunity to drink a bit of forgotten history should not be missed.

In some ways, Nascetta is about 10 years behind Timorasso, which has a similar tale of rediscovery, but now is a somewhat poorly kept secret in Piedmont. The best examples of this semi-aromatic variety can be truly delicious and distinctive, and two of the best examples come from La Colombera, often called the “Queen of Timorasso” thanks to Elisa Semino who has spent 20 years dedicated to the grape along with her father Piercarlo. The one I have for you today is their single-vineyard “Il Montino” Timorasso, which grows at about 900 feet of elevation and is full of tropical fruits and brisk with bright acidity and salinity.

The two better-known white grapes of Piedmont are Cortese (made famous by the town of Gavi whose name has become almost shorthand for the wine), and Arneis, which has been made for a long time by a lot of Barbaresco producers in Roero. La Colombera also makes a really lovely Cortese and producer Malvirá has one of the better interpretations of Roero Arneis I have had in some time. Arneis can sometimes be an austere grape, so it’s fantastic when someone makes it as wonderfully balanced as this one is.

So while we’re in Piedmont let’s dally a bit with some reds as well, shall we? I’ve got four extremely different incarnations of Nebbiolo to share with you, all of which are distinctive and worthy of attention.

Let’s start with some northerly interpretations of Nebbiolo from Travaglini, which is the most prominent name in the northern parts of Piedmont. The family has been farming wine grapes in this region for four generations, and have been landholders since the 9th century. They farm 149 acres of vineyards in the foothills of the rocky Monte Rosa mountains. Their bottling of Gattinara is famous for both its quality and its distinctive curvy, asymmetrical glass bottle, which is molded from a 1958 design created by third-generation proprietor Giancarlo Travaglini.

Travaglini also makes some wine from one of the newer sub-regions of Piedmont, the Costa della Sesia, which is in the northwest of the region and shares some of the crunchy, more mineral qualities that can be found in the Gattinara bottling.

In addition to these two worthies, I have notes on a Barolo from Gregorio Gitti and a reserve Nebbiolo from Malvirá, both of which will please anyone looking for the classical complexities of the grape.

After spending a while dallying in Piedmont, I couldn’t think of a better transition back to California than the wonderfully brisk interpretation of Dolcetto from Acorn Winery just south of Healdsburg in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. This tiny producer run by husband-and-wife team Bill and Betsy Nachbauer has long focused on heritage field blends that resemble the wines that were made in California more than a century ago by the immigrants who first planted grapes in California. Their Dolcetto is brisk and crunchy and offers a lovely balance between savory notes and bright fresh fruit.

The real stars of the Acorn portfolio, however, are its old-vine heritage bottlings, of which the Medley and Acorn Hill are both excellent examples. The Medley is a full-on “Mixed Blacks” field blend with several dozen grape varieties all planted together and fermented together. The Acorn Hill is a bottling from a specific hillside right behind the winery, and while it has fewer grape varieties than the Medley, has a poise and balance that is just remarkable. These are unique wines of a type that few make any longer, and are very worthy of your attention. Bill and Betsy are also the kind of tiny family-run operation that, too, has become scarce in Sonoma County.

Tasting Notes

2020 Allan Scott Family Winemakers Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Pale gold with a hint of green, this wine smells of cut grass, gooseberries and green apple. In the mouth, zippy green apple and gooseberry flavors have a nice electric green acidity to them, with margarita lime and passionfruit flavors lingering in a mouthwatering finish. Classic New Zealand “Savvy” profile. Crisp, delicious, and what you expect. 12.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2018 Gregorio Gitti Castello di Perno Nascetta, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light greenish-gold
in color, this wine smells of struck match and candied lime. In the mouth, slightly sappy green apple and star fruit flavors mix with lime zest and a touch of pomelo. There’s a slightly oxidative quality to this wine. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2018 La Colombera “Il Montino” Timorasso, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of struck match, unripe mango, and a sort of resinous floral note that is hard to pin down. In the mouth, bright lemony papaya and saffron and a hint of melon flavors are juicy with fantastic acidity, especially for this variety. A silky texture gives way to a lightly mineral dustiness in the finish. Quite compelling. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2019 La Colombera “Bricco Bartolomeo” Cortese, Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of grapefruit pith and lemonade. In the mouth, silky flavors of lemon curd and grapefruit have a bright freshness thanks to excellent acidity. There’s a hint of toasty nuttiness to this wine and a wonderfully saline finish. Quite tasty. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2019 Malivirà “Renesio” Roero Arneis, Roero, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cream, white flowers, and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, wonderfully bright lemon pith mixes with white flowers and a deep stony minerality. Gorgeous acidity makes the mouth water as a faint saline and green apple note lingers with the margarita lime in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/4/21

2017 Travaglini Gattinara, Northern Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of smoky dried flowers and strawberries. In the mouth, bright strawberry, rhubarb, and earth flavors have a wonderfully bright juiciness. Powdery tannins flex their muscles as the wine moves across the palate, but there’s a really nice suppleness to this wine and a freshness thanks to excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $28. click to buy.

2018 Travaglini Nebbiolo, Coste Della Sesia, Northern Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby in color, this wine smells of strawberries, wet pavement, and citrus peel. In the mouth, fresh and bright strawberry fruit mixes with chopped herbs and a touch of licorice. Faint tacky tannins back up the very fresh juicy acidity. Easy to drink and quite delicious. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2016 Gregorio Gitti Castello di Perno “Castelletto” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass with orange highlights, this wine smells of strawberry and cherry fruit, a touch of woodsmoke, and crushed dried sage and other herbs. In the mouth, bright raspberry and sour cherry flavors are juicy and mouthwatering thanks to excellent acidity. Burnt orange peel and dried herbs emerge towards the finish, as lightly muscular tannins flex and squeeze. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2009 Malivirà “Riserva Trinità” Nebbiolo, Roero, Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Light ruby with significant brick color encroaching from the edges, this wine smells of strawberry jam and bacon fat. In the mouth, strawberry fruit still has some primary character, but notes of dried strawberry, as well as mixed dried herbs, are the dominant quality on the palate. Excellent acidity keeps the wine fresh as thyme and oregano linger in the finish. Fleecy tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.  

2017 Acorn Winery “Alegria Vineyards” Dolcetto, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberries and leather with a hint of citrus peel. In the mouth, smooth, fresh flavors of boysenberry, black cherry, cola and citrus peel are wrapped in a very soft suede blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity keeps this wine quite brisk and delicious, adding an herbal tinge to the dark fruit. Contains 3% Barbera and 3% Freisa. Ages for 18 months in a combination of French and Hungarian barrels, mostly used. 13.5% alcohol. 153 cases made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/4/21

2017 Acorn Winery “Medley – Alegria Vineyards” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberries, woodsmoke, cherries, and cedar. In the mouth, juicy blackberry, cherry, and strawberry flavors swirl under a fleecy blanket of tannins. There’s a hint of cedar and incense that lingers in the finish along with a touch of oak. Excellent acidity and wonderful balance. Very compelling. A dizzying field blend of more than 60 varieties including 18% Syrah, 14% Zinfandel, 4% Dolcetto, 20% Cinsault, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Sangiovese, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 2% Petite Sirah, 1% Mourvedre, 20% various Muscats, and the remaining 12% includes dozens of other grape varieties including Einset, Blue Portuguese, Viognier and more. Ages for 15 months in a combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels, mostly used. 14.4% alcohol. 119 cases made Score: around 9. Cost: $50 . click to buy.

2015 Acorn Winery “Acorn Hill – Alegria Vineyards” Red Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberries, black cherry, and exotic flowers. In the mouth, gorgeous bright fruit flavors of boysenberry, cherry, and black currant are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. There’s a cedar note that creeps into the fruit, along with some grace notes of flowers, while a citrus peel quality lingers in the finish. Unique and boisterous in personality, this wine beautifully showcases the joy of old-school mixed-black wines. An unusual field blend of 49% Syrah, 49% Sangiovese, 1% Viognier, .5% Canaiolo, and .5% Mammolo grown on the prominent hill just behind the winery. 13.9% alcohol. Ages in 42% new French oak for 18 months. 132 cases made. Score: around 9. Cost: $48. click to buy.

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Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive

If Italy’s northwestern region of Piedmont is known for one thing, it’s being known for many things.

So many wine regions overlap in Piedmont that it’s not uncommon for the skills being used to produce, say, Barolo also being employed to produce Barbera, Moscato, or – in today’s case – Roero. I recently hopped on a samples tasting with several Roero producers, organized by the Consorzio Tutela Roero, to take part in a bit of a deep dive of both Roero Arneis and the tragically less well known Roero DOCG red category (crafted from Nebbiolo).

Roero DOCG producers generally pride themselves on a completely different expression of Nebbiolo than found on the other side of the Tanaro river in Piedmont: easier to access earlier, very fresh, with its own identity (due to their unique soils), and focusing on elegance and linearity. They have some enviable history to backup their regional pride, too – Roero was the name of a noble Asti banking family from the 13th century, and the wine is mentioned as far back as 1303 (as part of payment used for rent). Soils there are sedimentary, from ancient seabeds and beaches, with differences in texture based on the depth. About 7 milleion years ago, a closed lake in the area evaporated quickly, concentrating mineral salts, followed by the seabed becoming uplifted, creating the sandy deposits on which their vines grow today, with steep slopes/cliffs (due to erosion and diversion of the Tanaro river about 250K years ago).

The pitch from these producers is straightforward: Roero as an appellation is unique enough to produce high-level white wines, as well as high-level reds. They are also, in the case of my tasting, good for some money quotes:

  • “Roero is a meditation and a party wine” – Chiesa Carlo’s Davide Chiesa
  • “We have four pillars: precision, planning, interpretation, and terroir” – Costa’s Alessandro Costa
  • “The best feature is the massive amount of sand; [it] gives to the wine this elegant side, this sapidity, and this helps to pair it with almost every dish” – Nicolo from Filippo Gallino
  • “If you could define Roero Nebbiolo in a word, I wold say it’s ‘elegance'” – Malabaila’s Lucrezia Malabaila
  • “It’s something beautiful. I go around, and I’m proud to be a farmer [here]” – Giovanni Roagna of Cascina Val del Prete

They happen to produce some vino that’s well worth the money, too…

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive2018 Chiesa Carlo ‘Quin’ Roero Arneis ($22)

An elegant, single vineyard delight, from a spot planted in the 1960s that’s textbook Roero: both sandy and steep. “We try to make wine we want to drink. Wine for our and your party” noted Davide Chiesa. Mission accomplished. This white is textural, sporting both structure and great lift. It’s also pithy and pretty, with lemon rind, toasted citrus peel, and great salinity – both thoughtfully complex, and practically delicious.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive2020 Cantine Fratelli Povero Terre del Conte Roero Arneis ($15)

This one punches well over its fighting weight class. Farmed organically, and priced almost in “total steal” category, this has a metric ton of peach, melon, and tropical tones. Minerality, depth, even hints of spiciness, and a long finish, all for under $20? Sign me up. Actually, sign us all up.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive2019 Costa Stefanino Nino Costa Roero Arneis ($17)

This overachieving number has an absolutely banging nose of white flowers and intense tropical fruits. Salinity, depth, pithiness… it’s all there. This is a wine that’s aggressive, but undeniably very, very good – so you won’t mind the forceful acidity, especially on a warmer day.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive2016 Antica Cascina dei Conti di Roero Vigna Sant’Anna Riserva ($NA)

This Nebbiolo is a treat, and combines tradition with a modern sensibility. As Cascina’s Daniela Olivero explained, their vineyard was planted in 1954 by her grandfather on “very steep” slopes that need to be worked by hand. Natural fermentation is employed (“my husband decided to make this wine like my grandfather”), bringing some extra character to the texture. From its tar, violets, black cherry, black raspberry, and dried herb notes, to its fresh, exciting, structured, mouthfeel, this one is screaming – both in general, and to be paired with osso buco.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive2018 Malabaila di Canale Bric Volta Roero ($23)

These guys can trace their history back to 1362 – almost back to when Roero got itself started- when the family arrived in the area from Asti. Apparently, the Prince of Piedmont was asking for their wines personally in the 15th Century.  Three women now run the business, which is farmed organically (with truffles and hazelnuts also part of their estate offerings. Offering notes of crushed violets and dark cherries, this red is vibrant, with sapidity and transparency all the way through. It has grip, and I imagine will still be pretty a few (or even several) years from now.

 

Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive2016 Mario Pelassa Antaniolo Roero Riserva ($NA)

This single vineyard Nebbiolo hails from the northernmost portion of Roero. As Daniele Pelassa explained, the soil’ “red sand and gravel makes our wines quite special.” In a word, this red is textural. The acidity is focused and pronounced, but has soft, rounder edges. The cherry fruit flavors have staying power, enhanced by wild raspberry and earthiness on a long finish.

Cheers!

Upscale your palate! My new books are now available from Rockridge Press!

Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine In the Time of Coronavirus, Part 32: Roero Deep Dive from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Lorenzo Accomasso

Episode 482 of I’ll Drink to That! features legendary Barolo producer Lorenzo Accomasso, along with a deep lesson in the history of the Piedmont region’s journey from World War II until now.

Italy experienced a civil war in the 20th century, specifically in 1943 through 1945. In those years Fascists backed by Nazi Germany held territory in the north of the country, while Allied troops controlled Sicily and fought to move up the peninsula from the south. At that time, guerrilla warfare was waged by Italian resistance fighters known as Partisans. Italians attacked Italians as well as foreign armies, as Partisans battled the remnants of Benito Mussolini’s Fascists. That period of strife is still within living memory for people such as Lorenzo Accomasso. Accomasso is a vintner in Piemonte’s La Morra area who experienced the Second World War as a child, and the war between the Modern and Traditional Barolo as an adult. Perhaps those two conflicts had more connections than we might first suppose, a thought which occurred to me after listening through episode 482 of the I’ll Drink to That! podcast. That episode contains both a deep dive into the history of the Piemonte in the latter half of the twentieth century and an encounter with the elderly Accomasso, still hard at working making wine each year from his small parcels of vines. Accomasso speaks at length about the changes he has witnessed over the years, sometimes expressing more acceptance of the differences than approval. What wisdom should we take from Accomasso to apply to our own period of massive disruption? “Everyone must stay in their own garden” he tells us, “and I stay in mine.” Accomasso is ready to take responsibility for what he can, leaving us to do the same.

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I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine

The post I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Lorenzo Accomasso appeared first on Vinography.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

It’s a bit hard to comprehend that a year ago I was in a throng of New Yorkers and Piedmontese Italians celebrating the release of the recent vintage from Piedmont. Wandering around a Midtown event center tasting Nebbiolo with a bunch of folks in the wine industry seems like a luxury from a distant reality much more removed than twelve months from today. Had the event occurred even a week or two later, it well could have been a super spreader event. As it is, most of us escaped by the skin of our wine-darkened teeth, and are left with what, for me, are among the last normal memories of the Time-Before-COVID.

And of course, I ended up with some tasting notes for some really excellent wines that I’m long-overdue for sharing with readers. We are now living in the age of the long overdue, it seems.

The event in question was the Barolo and Barbaresco World Opening, a first-of-its-kind marketing premiere of the recent vintages from the region, which also had as a focus telling the story of the region’s MeGA (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive), the term used to indicate single-vineyard bottlings. In conjunction with the event, famed Italian cartographer, Alessandro Masnaghetti released his updated maps and encyclopedia of both regions featuring… wait for it… MeGA detail.

Two Excellent Vintages

For the most part, everyone was pouring the 2015 and 2016 vintages, though there were a few random older wines sprinkled about the room and a few 2017 Barbarescos on offer. Both the 2015 and 2016vintages were excellent and largely untroubled by the hail issues that plagued the region in 2012 and 2014.

July in 2015 proved quite hot, but by all accounts, most growers dealt with the heat well, and near-perfect (read: cooler) harvest conditions gave vintners the opportunity to ensure they showcased their best fruit in their wines from this slightly smaller-than-usual crop.

With a later bud-break and flowering than the year prior, thanks to a cool spring, 2016 thereafter proved to be a Goldilocks of a vintage (barring a small bit of hail damage in a couple of spots) building to a warmer-than-usual harvest season and resultant wines that some are calling the best made since the equally acclaimed 2010 vintage.

I don’t taste Piedmont wines comprehensively or regularly enough to speak very authoritatively about the vintages, beyond characterizing them as I have, but I found many wines to like from both, and feel like Nebbiolo lovers can’t go wrong purchasing either from known producers.

Here are my favorites of the wines I tasted in that other era, when milling about in a crowd was not a particularly foolish thing to do. The wines are listed in descending order by score, and a number of them were tasted blind at a seated tasting earlier that same day (look for the tasting notes with better grammar).

Tasting Notes

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2013 Oddero “Bussia Vigna Mondoca” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine is wonderfully floral and citrusy on the nose, while in the mouth, exceptionally fine-grained tannins flex their athletic muscles to grip wonderfully citrus and bright berry flavors tinged with dried flower petals. Gorgeous, poised, and shimmering on the palate, this wine is entering its prime and will likely develop and improve for the next 5 years at least. Incredibly compelling and delicious. Score: between 9.5 and 10. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2016 Pertinace “Marcarini” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine has a wonderfully floral berry nose, with hints of herbs. In the mouth, strawberry and herbs, and notes of flower petals are draped in a taut blanket of tannins. Notes of incense and leather emerge on the finish leaving a citrus-peel snap in the end. Excellent acidity and length. Outstanding. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2015 Fratelli Alessandria “Monvigliero” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine has an earthy nose of berries and a touch of leather. In the mouth, cherry, earth, and citrus are bound up by tightly wound tannins, which maintain a firm grip through a long, beautifully balanced finish with citrus and incense notes. Fantastic and elegant, and likely to improve over a decade or more. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2013 Fratelli Revello “Conca” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

Medium garnet in color, this wine has an intense nose of smoky red fruit. In the mouth, cherry, smoke, citrus, and dried herbs are beautifully bright thanks to fantastic acidity. Gorgeously balanced with tight tannins that grip the palate through the very long finish. Outstanding and quite ageworthy. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2016 Renato Ratti “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of strawberries and a touch of oak. In the mouth, the wood fades to the background letting gorgeously bright and juicy fruit and remarkably restrained, powdery tannins swirl across the palate. Fantastic acidity and impressive length. Juicy and delicious and surprisingly accessible in its youthful state. Highly recommended. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $120. click to buy.

2017 Giovanni Sordo Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass with a bare hint of orange this wine smells of dried flowers and strawberries. In the mouth, intensely bright juicy strawberry and dried herb flavors have a wonderful dynamism and brightness with gorgeous balance and length, fine tannins, great finesse. Outstanding. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2014 Marchesi di Barolo “Sarmassa” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet strawberry and cherry. In the mouth, plush tannins caress juicy and bright citrus and berry flavors. Fine-grained tannins are wonderfully supple, and sweet berry fruit lingers in the finish. Quite lovely. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2016 Marcarini “La Serra” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass with orange highlights at the rim, this wine smells of sweet floral notes layered on top of berry fruit. In the mouth, plush, almost velvety tannins wrap around a core of juicy berry fruit tinged with herbs and dried flowers. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2013 Paitin “Serraboella Sori’Paitin” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy

Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of berries, herbs, and rose petals. In the mouth, tight, muscular tannins wrap around wonderfully floral and herbal notes of strawberries and cherry. Notes of dried herbs linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2015 Pecchenino “Bussia” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color with orange at the rim, this wine smells of herbs and citrus peel, and red fruits. In the mouth, dried berries and strawberry fruit is wrapped in tight tannins that are gorgeously supple, and excellent acidity lends a stony quality to this wine. Elegant as hell with lovely citrus notes lingering in the finish. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2015 Réva “Ravera” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a slightly shy nose of berries and herbs and dried flowers. Those aromas blossom, though, on the palate with tight citrusy berry fruit and dried herbs tightly wound up with firm tannins. Fantastic acidity, but this wine needs some time to open up. Give it 5 to 10 and watch it sing. Beautiful citrus notes in the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $90. click to buy.

2015 Gaja “Sperss” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red fruit with floral overtones. In the mouth, velvety tannins cushion flavors of cherry and strawberry shot through with dried flower petals. Good acidity and surprisingly supple tannins. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $280. click to buy.

2012 Luciano Sandrone “Cannubi Boschis” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with some purple highlights, this wine has wonderfully floral aromas of strawberries and herbs. In the mouth, plush tannins caress strawberry fruit and wonderfully juicy citrus peel acidity. The tannins tighten over time and linger through a very long finish. Excellent and built for the long haul. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $140. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2015 Produttori del Barbaresco “Ovello” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine has a snappy berry and dried flowers aroma. In the mouth, powdery tannins wrap, tendril-like around a core of beautifully floral berries as notes of leather and citrus emerge in the finish. A classic expression of Nebbiolo, beautifully structured and balanced. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2016 Pietro Rinaldi “San Cristoforo” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and strawberry. In the mouth, the wine is quite stony, with cherry and strawberry fruit crisp and zippy thanks to excellent acidity. A tight fist of tannins gradually squeezes the core of fruit but leaves citrus and strawberries lingering in the long finish. Fantastic, and even more so at this reasonable tariff. Highly recommended. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Tenuta Montanello “Montanello” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of the classic tar and roses notes of Barolo. In the mouth, fantastic acidity lifts flavors of raspberry and cherry to wonderful heights, and notes of dried herbs and dried flowers mix with a touch of aniseed and dried citrus peel in the finish. Excellent tight powdery tannins. A lovely wine. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70.

2017 Armando Piazzo Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Bright light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of berry fruit and flower petals. In the mouth, juicy bright strawberry and floral flavors have great intensity and length with powdery but muscular tannins. Citrus notes enter the finish. Delicious, fresh thanks to fantastic acidity and quite compelling. Highly recommended. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2015 Marziano Abbona “Ravera” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of a hint of barnyard layered over florals and fruit. In the mouth, cherry and strawberry fruit flavors are juicy and balanced by some nice dried herbal notes. Restrained but muscular tannins put a squeeze on the palate as excellent acidity keeps going through a long finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2015 Aurelio Settimo “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of manure, with notes of citrus and berry. In the mouth, however, the wine is more fruit than barnyard, though there is that leathery quality to the wine along with a deep earthiness. Putty-like tannins and very good acidity. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2012 Punset “San Cristoforo Campo Quadro” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bacon fat and barnyard. In the mouth, earthy and herbal flavors of strawberry and cherry lean towards the savory as dried herbs linger through the finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Ratti “Rocche dell’Annunziata” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bright floral fruit. in the mouth, juicy raspberry and coffee flavors have fine tannins draped over them that flex as the wine finishes with a hint of citrus peel and dried herbs. Solid, with excellent acidity but perhaps slightly over polished for me? Score: around 9. Cost: $112. click to buy.

2016 Roccheviberti “Rocche di Castiglione” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of new oak. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy flavors of berry and herb and earth have excellent acidity and brightness with a citrusy character. A more modern Barolo but with well-managed tannins and very pretty fruit. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2016 Fratelli Giacosa “Vigna Mandorlo Scarrone” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with a hint of brick, this wine smells of rose petals and a touch of asphalt. In the mouth juicy berry and slightly saline flavors of strawberry dried herbs and incense have powdery drying tannins and a wonderful savory character, excellent acidity and length, with a very nice elegance. Score: around 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2016 Livia Fontana “Villero” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Very light in color — a light ruby with bricking on the edges, this wine smells of orange peel and dried berries. In the mouth, delicate flavors of flower petals and berries have a fine-grained, silky tannin and elegant subtlety. Not as intense as it could be but very accessible for its youth. Tasty, but drink sooner than later. Score: around 9. Cost: $136. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2016 Giovanni Rosso “Cerretta” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a nice floral aroma, with bright berries underneath. In the mouth, juicy strawberry and cherry flavors are supple and plush with nicely restrained tannins, but the wine is also missing some acidity to give it a good kick. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2016 Palladino “Parafada” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of berries and herbs with a hint of barnyard. In the mouth, wonderful flavors of citrusy strawberries and cherries are bright with acidity and balanced by a hint of funk. Tight muscular tannins grip the palate. Built for the long haul, but quite tasty now. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2015 Pio Cesare Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of leather and smoky berries. In the mouth, strawberry and cherry flavors are smoky and earthy with lovely dried herb notes that linger in the finish. Very good acidity. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $80 . click to buy.

2015 G.D. Vajra “Bricco delle Viole” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark fruits and smoky earth. In the mouth, cherry and strawberry fruit is juicy and shot through with the scent of leather and a touch of woodsmoke. Leathery tannins, decent acidity. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.

Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages

2016 Fratelli Revello “Gattera” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of nutty incense and dried flowers. In the mouth, cherry and strawberry flavors have a bright generosity to them but less dynamism and complexity as I would like. Less acidity, too. Shorter finish, fine tannins. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2016 Mario Olivero “Bricco Ambrogio” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of darker fruits, black cherry, and cedar. In the mouth, the wine is polished with fine-grained tannins and smoky herb and fruit flavors with great acidity and nice length. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??.

2016 Cavallotto “Bricco Boschis” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of smoky berry and dried flowers. In the mouth, strawberry and cherry flavors are nestled under a fleecy blanket of tannins, with hints of lavender and other cooking herbs that linger in the finish with a touch of citrus peel. Excellent acidity. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.

2017 Vite Colte “La Casa in Collina” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of dusty road and berries and sawdust. In the mouth bright sour cherry and strawberry flavors mix with cedar and earthy dust. Great acidity, fine powdery tannins. Possesses quite admirable savory qualities. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $140. click to buy.

2017 Musso “Bricco Rio Sordo” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of bright strawberry and sour cherry fruit. In the mouth, bright sour cherry, raspberry, and strawberry fruit flavors are wrapped in a tight skein of tannins. Juicy acidity and nice length. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2011 Batasiolo “Boscareto” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color this wine smells of struck match, citrus peel, and raisins. In the mouth, ripe strawberry and raisiny flavors are wrapped in a tight fist of tannins but the fruit has a nice purity and enough acidity to keep the riper flavors from being flat. Long finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Negretti “Bricco Ambrogio” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color with a bit of orange at the rim, this wine smells of exotic woods and incense. In the mouth flavors of oak mix with Chinese herbs and red fruits mixed with a touch of fig and caramel. The oak is a bit too strong for me in this wine, but it is well balanced otherwise. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2016 Cavalier Bartolomeo “Altenasso” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells slightly of struck match smokiness and berries and herbs. In the mouth, drying tannins suck the moisture out of the mouth and make it a little harder to concentrate on berry and herb flavors that take on a slightly saline quality. But for the aggressive wood tannins, this would be a very nice wine. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2016 Rosoretto “Parussi” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of rose petals and herbs with a touch of sulfur and oak. In the mouth, the oak influence makes itself felt in the form of drying tannins and a toasty quality that somewhat obscures some pretty berry fruit and herbal notes. But good acidity and nice fruit underneath it all. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??.

2016 Oddero “Rocche di Castiglione” Barolo, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry and dried flowers. In the mouth, muscular tannins close in a tight fist around flavors of strawberry, cherry, and dried herbs with notes of road dust. Good acidity and length, with a touch of sour cherry in the finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $85. click to buy.

2017 Taliano Michele “Montersino Ad Altiora” Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in color with a hint of brick, this wine smells of berries and flower petals. In the mouth intense berry and incense and floral notes are backed by fine, powdery but drying tannins. Good acidity but slightly hollow on the mid-palate. Still, quite flavorful. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2017 Ricossa Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium ruby with an orange rim, this wine smells of sweet oak and red berries. In the mouth, oak and cherry and strawberry flavors have a drying wood tannin quality. Good flavors and decent acidity but too much new oak for my taste. Decent finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2017 Bera Barbaresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy
Med ruby with a hint of orange, this wine smells of berry and a touch of oak and dusty road. In the mouth, decent acidity enlivens flavors of red berries and a hint of sour cherry. A touch of bitter dry herbs lingers on the finish. Offers a somewhat creamy complexion. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30.

The post Barolo and Barbaresco: Highlights from Recent Vintages appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 9/20/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a recent vintage of what I regularly describe as the best Riesling made in Napa (not that it has a lot of competition). Smith-Madrone has been making Riesling on the slopes of Napa’s Spring Mountain for a long time, and the wines are predictably tasty. The 2016 vintage is showing extremely well at this point, and I think it is my favorite in recent memory.

I’ve also got a couple of whites from New Zealand to share this week, including a small-production from Jules Taylor wines, which is a lush Sauvignon Blanc that doesn’t fall into the trap of tasting like the “standard” Kiwi Sav Blanc, but instead forges its own path of deliciousness. Her Pinot Noir is also worth paying attention to.

From slightly farther south, I’ve got the Golden Egg Chardonnay from Tony Bish. As opposed to last week, which was a bottling from a special barrel, this week there’s a bottling from, you guessed it, a special egg. Supposedly the first concrete egg made in New Zealand. I didn’t miss the oak, and neither will you.

While we’re in New Zealand, and in Hawke’s Bay, let’s not leave off without mentioning this really pretty (and first I’ve tasted of the variety from Hawkes Bay, at least that I can recall) Gamay from Easthope Family Wines. It’s delicious and intriguing and makes me want to taste other examples from the region.

And now for something completely different. Let’s go way up into the northern part of Italy’s Piedmont region to the little hill town of Castagnole Monferrato for one of Piedmont’s best-kept secrets: the grape known as Ruchè. Thought to be indigenous to this town and the surrounding communities, it is only grown in dribs and drabs, having been replaced by the much more popular Nebbiolo and Barbera. It’s an incredibly floral, juicy wine that smells like few other grapes, and is bound to turn heads. Given its relative obscurity, if you can find it, you’ll also find it affordable.

Luca Ferraris is the largest producer of Ruchè in the region, and makes several bottling of which I have notes on two this week. The first is their “Clasic” which is fermented in steel and then aged in large oak casks for six to nine months before bottling. It is released young and fruity.

The second bottling is their Vigna Del Parroco, or “Parson’s Vineyard” Ruchè, which comes from a parish vineyard tended by Don Giacomo Cauda, the man given significant credit for keeping Ruchè alive as a tradition. This bottling is a more serious, more savory rendition of the grape, and ages for longer in oak casks before release.

Back closer to home, I’ve got a nice current-release Syrah from the Alder Springs Vineyard up in Northern Mendocino, and three of Nickel & Nickel’s single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa. My favorite of the three was the State Ranch, but all three are worthy, and feature that wonderful acid balance and supple tannin that I think of as a hallmark of Napa’s 2018 vintage.

Tasting Notes

2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Light blonde in color, this wine smells of citrus oil and Asian pear juice. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy tangerine, Asian pear, and lemon pith flavors have a gorgeous honeysuckle edge to them that makes for a perfect balance to the zippy acidity in the wine. Excellent, as usual, but perhaps even better than recent vintages. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2018 Jules Taylor Wines “OTQ – On the Quiet – Meadowbank Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of golden apples and a touch of passionfruit. In the mouth, apple and star fruit flavors turn citrusy and bright as the wine finishes. Crisp and juicy, with a nice silky texture. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $21. click to buy.

2017 Tony Bish “Golden Egg” Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Light greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon curd with a hint of yellow flowers. In the mouth, bright and juicy lemon curd flavors mix with a touch of honeysuckle. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth-watering, and I’m not missing the oak in the slightest. Fermented and aged in a concrete egg which the winery says is the first to have been made locally in New Zealand. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2017 Easthope Family Winegrowers Gamay, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of potting soil and chopped green herbs with a few red berries mashed up alongside. In the mouth, raspberry and strawberry flavors are shot through with thyme and other dried herbs along with a touch of peeled willow bark. Excellent acidity, and nicely savory. 100% whole cluster fermentation, and aged in neutral oak for 9 months before bottling. 13% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2018 Jules Taylor Wines Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of raspberry and pomegranate fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry, cranberry and raspberry fruit is juicy with excellent acidity. Hints of citrus peel enter the finish along with the faint rasp of tannins. Juicy and uncomplicated, with just a touch of herbaceousness. 13.5% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2019 Luca Ferraris “Clàsic” Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam and sage and a hint of exotic camphor wood. In the mouth, juicy and bright strawberry and cedar and herbal notes have a zingy quality thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of flowers linger in the finish with ghostly wisps of tannin. I’d be hard pressed to guess this wine was 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15.

2018 Luca Ferraris “Vigna del Parroco” Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of strawberry jam, dried cherries, and dried flowers. In the mouth, notes of licorice root, strawberry jam, and dried sage have a wonderful brightness and citrusy notes that linger in the finish with the barest hint of gauzy tannins. There’s some heat on the finish as well, but wonderfully savory notes. 15% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “State Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa, California
Very dark purple in color, this wine smells of cassis and black cherry. In the mouth, excellent acidity keeps flavors of cassis, black cherry, and blackberry extremely fresh and bright. Tightly wound tannins are fine-grained and built for the long hall. Excellent, with well-integrated oak that leaves only a hint of mocha on the finish. Supple, faint tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “Martin Stelling Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and earth with lovely floral high notes. In the mouth, black cherry and cassis flavor have a dark savory licorice-root character, but are kept fresh thanks to excellent acidity. Very fine-grained tannins show remarkable restraint. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $185. click to buy.

2018 Nickel & Nickel “C.C. Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa, California
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and black cherry. In the mouth, dark licorice, earth, and black cherry flavors have a brooding savory note to them as faint tannins grab at the edges of the mouth. Excellent acidity keeps it fresh, but a tiny bit of alcoholic heat creeps into the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2016 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah, Mendocino County, California
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of blueberries and blackberries. In the mouth, rich blueberry and blackberry fruit join cassis and a touch of licorice as hints of dried herbs and wet chalkboard, along with excellent acidity, keep the wine fresh. Faint tannins. Grown at 2600 feet on a relatively steep vineyard site. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $44. click to buy.

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