Niagara’s cool for chards

 

Niagara chardonnay, cornerstone of an industry, another one of nature’s mysterious constants, long-time member of both local and globally recognized greatness. A pandemic be damned the time had finally come to glide on down the QEW, inch by inch, to arrive in Niagara’s wine-lands and taste recently bottled vineyard bounty, plus some older surprises. At the behest, felicitations and facilitations of WMAO we the crü at WineAlign abided by the invitation. The visits included Le Clos Jordanne, On Seven Estate Winery, Stratus Vineyards, Trius Winery and Restaurant, Hidden Bench Estate Winery, Tawse Winery, Redstone Winery and Restaurant and the Bat Caves at Bachelder Wines. The next trip will take in at least seven more and after that, no less than seven again. And so on. Niagara is not conquered in a day, or a weekend.

And everybody tells me that it’s cool to be a cat
Cool for cats (cool for cats)

Related – A Chardonnay toast to Cool and the gang

The steamy and canicular July varietal sally coincided with the physical return, if only in part and to limited display, of the region’s annual i4c Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration. Ontario’s most famous annual gathering inclusive of international winemaking stars is one that so many media, sommeliers, producers, importers, marketers and consumers have come to know, embrace and love. With a commitment for more arms to get jabbed and further progress towards community safety be made in these next 11 months, there should be every reason for optimism that i4c 2022 will return in full force next July.

Thomas Bachelder between Hanck East and West

Related – David Lawrason’s Canadian Wine Insider – Niagara’s Regeneration

In addition to chardonnay (that cool refreshing drink) there too were touring pours of sparkling wines, riesling, pinot gris, skin contact whites, rosé, pinot noir, cabernet franc and gamay. Those tasting notes are included in this report because quite frankly Niagara’s varietal diversity and inclusivity on full display should be duly noted. The festivities concluded on Sunday afternoon with not one but two Bat Cave barrel tastings with the stupefied, hyper-hypnotized and monkified winemaking tour de force himself, the other tall and thin white duke, Thomas Bachelder. No I did not make any formal notes on the dozens of chardonnay and gamay thieved from his barrels because frenetics and focus do not jive, not when Bachelder, barrels and argumentative discourse are involved. Bachelder began with some re-visits of finished “Villages” wines in the guise of Mineralité de Niagara and L’Ardoise, same same but for different markets (Ontario and Québec), both from the 2019 vintage. Then the surprise of the tasting emerged, two unmarked magnums, as of that very moment yet untasted and very special. “From the Heart Cuvée Number 1” is a project with fellow enlightened, philanthropic aiding and abetting abbot Steven Campbell. Their chardonnay crushes the concept with its dynamic and lush configuration. Why because of the very notion of being figuratively layered, blessed with a frictional vitality burnished into its collective heart and chardonnay soul. I had to stop after each sip to reassemble my nervous system and scrape my mind of the cosmos, not to mention the universe, galaxies and stars.

Crazy eyes in the throes of a four-hour Bachelder barrel tasting

The concept began as an annual Canadian Charity Wine Auction in support of the battle against climate change and then further developed into the Rescue the Grapes auction in NYC in partnership with Christie’s. Campbell and Bachelder convinced dozens of winemakers to donate small-ish lots of unfinished wines to be gathered and vinified as a single wine, an Ontario supergroup-cuvée if you will and finished by Thomas, acting as lead singer and songwriter. In Canada he and Steven are asking wineries to sponsor winemakers dinners in their home province and if they do host a dinner also support our auctions in the other two provinces. For the other province they donate a six pack of wine and will include  VIP “Passport” to the winery to promote interprovincial wine tourism. So far in Ontario Trail Estate, Malivoire, Southbrook, The Farm, Trius, Cave Spring, Pearl Morissette, Bachelder, Henry of Pehlam, Tawse and Rosehall run have all stepped up with a few more in the wings. In British Columbia Black Hills, Stag Hollow, Burrowing Owl, Okanagan Crush Pad, Tin Horn Creek, Tantalus, Quails Gate, Mission Hill and an Arterra winery are in with more to come.

The Bachelder Vineyard Map

The chardonnays were pulled from Willms Vineyard, Wismer-Wingfield est and ouest, Wismer-Foxcroft, Saunders Organic and Bio and Grimsby Hillside Escarpment Red Clay Barn Block. The gamay barrels tasted were Bator, Jackson-Bai “Bai Xu,” Wismer-Parke, Hanck est and ouest. Thomas did reveal the first ever bottle of Grimsby Hillside Chardonnay. The personal connection to that storied plot along the Lincoln Lakeshore in Winona will be investigated to the fullest extent of Godello law in a report coming soon.

Godello with Hidden Bench winemaker Jay Johnston

Has one really taken full advantage of a cool chardonnay weekend if one has not gone nose, palate, heart and mind deep into a seven year Hidden Bench Marlize Beyers to Jay Johnston Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay vertical? Methinks not. Not to mention a viticultural tour with J.J. and Joel Williams, Brut 2014, Rachis & Derma skin-contact and of course, Gamay. Thanks to proprietor Harald Thiel and congrats on being bestowed with the honour of “Champion Chardonnay of the year!” Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving and industry leading partner. 👏 👏 👏

Hidden Bench Winemaker Jay Johnston and Viticulturist Joel Williams

New to the Niagara Peninsula scene is On Seven Estate Winery, headed up by Vittorio de Stefano and with the charge in the hands of Canada’s most accomplished consulting winemaker Peter Gamble. Just as he has made giant viticultural and vinicultural strides with the likes of Stratus, Benjamin Bridge and Lightfoot & Wolfville, in typical, ambitious and big picture defining fashion it is Gamble who sees unlimited qualitative potential in the mineral-rich soils of OSEW’s Niagara-on-the-Lake soils. 

The sit-down at Stratus Vineyards titled “To lees or not to lees? That is the tasting” explained from the word go about the new direction concerns all things lees. To see two winemakers, they being J.L. Groux and Dean Stoyka existing on the same mad scientist solids page is something all Ontario wine pursuers should choose to follow. The pursuit is being played out in chardonnays and multifarious sparkling wines, in Blanc de Blancs, Brut Nature Zero Dosage and “Field Blend” Ancestral. For Ontario this means serious sparkling wine business.

Panko-Crusted Pork Rilette, poached plum & charred fennel salad, toasted hazelnuts, honey dressing, pickled mustard seeds – Executive Chef Steve Sperling, Tide and Vine Oyster House

“Lunch and Launch in Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard” moved us in many ways, first through distant Upper and immediate Lower Jordan Bench views, of Le Clos, Talon Ridge and Claystone Terrace. Tide and Vine Oyster House was responsible for feeding us to the breaking point, by oysters, yellow fin tuna tartar, cold smoked salmon, vichyssoise, pork rillete, surf & turf and olive oil cake. The chardonnay flowed, with Village and Grand Clos examples by hosts LCJ, but also international stars; Tasmania, Australia’s Dalrymple, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa’s Hamilton Russell and Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California’s Gary Farrell. Here are my notes on those three wines.

Dalrymple Cave Block Chardonnay 2018, Tasmania, Australia ($70.95, Noble Estates)

A steely year with the vineyard’s hallmark acidity in a cracker Tazzy chardonnay with lip-smacking energy, intensity and drive. Soil, site and place in relentless pursuit of a focus at the head of body and game. Crunchy, crisp, indelibly fresh and piqued with the finest wisp of white peppery kicks. Nuts, complexity, bolts and length. All in. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Hamilton Russel Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($47.95, Noble Estates)

From the air-conditioned, cool breeze motivated vineyards (52 hectares) 100 miles from the ocean. Wet vintage, cool and long-hanging. Concentrated flavours in chardonnay that draws from all parcels which is more than just the Hamilton Russell way but in fact the only way. No fruit is wasted, all parts commit and contribute to the whole. A vintage like this is special, restrained, understated and one should not be misled by the shadowy depth and layering. Fruit is but a conduit for all else happening in this streamlined chardonnay. The alcohol and opulence are subtle, the pleasure calming, the capitulations promising. Methinks time will be long, slow and kind to HRV ’18. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Garry Farrell Chardonnay Olivet Lane 2018, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California ($69.00, Noble Estates)

Pellegrini’s 1975 planted Olivet Lane Vineyard sits on 65 acres of sloping benchland in the Santa Rosa Plain, in between the warmer Westside Road region and the cooler Green Valley. If taking a step up from Gary Farrell’s estate label is even a possibility then yes Olivet Lane is just such an animal. Threefold (or ten times) more expressive, from jump started to flying ahead, in freshness, vitality and tightly wound intensity. Flesh and opulence submit to energy, motion and emotion. Captivated and caught up in a bold embrace. Forget bracing but surely feel the fineness and the purpose towards effecting satisfaction. Top, right, fine. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Tres Cool Chardonnay

We’ve called on many estates over the last 10 years but truth is the visits were epic this time around, with thanks to the talent involved; Thomas Bachelder, Elsa MacDonald MW, Eugene Mlynczyk MW and the Arterra Wines Canada crew; Tide and Vine’s Mike Langley, Chef Steve Sperling and team; On Seven Estate Winery’s Vittorio de Stefano and Consulting Winemaker Peter Gamble; Stratus Vineyards Assistant Winemaker Dean Stoyka and Estate Director Suzanne Janke; Trius Winery and Restaurant’s Executive Chef Frank Dodd and team; Hidden Bench Estate Winery’s Winemaker Jay Johnston and Viticulturalist Joel Williams; Tawse Winery Winemakers Paul Pender and Jessica Otting; The Restaurant at Redstone Executive Chef Dave Sider and team; Thomas Bachelder and Mary Delaney. These are the 40 finished wines tasted over a near 30-hour period on July 24th and 25th, 2021.

Felseck Vertical

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench ($42.20)

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. No stirring, “I don’t like bâtonnage,” tells winemaker Jay Johnston, “unless I’m trying to get a wine to dry.” Never mind the lees aeration or the emulsification because texture in this ’19 is extraordinary to behold, gliding across the palate with Bench orchard fruit cleverness, penetrating perspicacity and juices running through unblemished flesh. Tighter and taut than ’18, while seemingly improbable but here yet unwound, far from the pinnacle at which point full expression will surely ache to be. The ’18 may be a beautiful thing but the ’19 is structured, manifold in destiny and ideal for those who know, or at least think they do. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench

First a walk through the Felseck Vineyard and then a tasting with winemaker Jay Johnston and viticulturist Joel Williams as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical retrospective. Very warm season, much like 2016 though not quite as scorching and sun-filled. Would not call this stoic but would say that concentration, grace and all things stretched are in optimum balance this time around. Pretty quick turn around for Johnston to exact an ideal Felseck chardonnay just a year and a bit into his tenure at Hidden Bench. Just crunchy enough, more than ample and most importantly understated within the context of a great richness inherent in its varietal meets plantation DNA. There is no denying how enticing, invigorating and attractive this chardonnay is and will be to many who showed buyer’s foresight, but also those now lucky enough to come across its terroir-motivated beauty. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. A vintage of survival, saved by a glorious September and into October. Looks like the richness made it with thanks to the fall weather and yet the elongation, length, elasticity and texture are all what matters to speak, walk, talk and tow the Felseck line. Solid, mid-weight, mid-acid and structure chardonnay that acts with perfectly middling emotion between the warm ’16 and ’18.  Last tasted July 2021

Felseck gifts what chardonnay needs with fruit equipped to start out subtle, gain traction and then commit to gliding into grace. That state of delicasse is now, with a natural orchard-stone-melon sweetness and an integration seamless, layered and eternal. Drinking this now makes great sense and the honey notes that may follow will only add to the mystique. The Ontario epitome of intelligent and refined chardonnay. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2020

Felseck Vineyard

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. Smoking hot season, much like 2018. No other vintage will impress and woo a more general if elevated palate than this ’16 (save perhaps the high award winning ’18) because both concentration and grace reside in the arena of the beautiful, together, side by side. Not the tightest grain in the vertical retrospective Felseck ship. Can’t say this will live as long as the ’13 and ’14 but there is plenty of life in this gorgeous and not so alone 2016. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. A short crop year, “we got slammed,” says winemaker Jay Johnstone, “but a wine of definite concentration.” Showing evolution and age in tones, developed richesse and caramelization well beyond both that of ’13 and ’14. No corn however, despite what the initial nose might have indicated. A faux creamed presentation that ended up more peach to apricot in drupe, not niblet. Nutty too, again idiosyncratic and a unique Felseck as such.  Last tasted July 2021

Sometimes I’m “walking down the street, minding my own business” when a taste of a chardonnay makes my eyes go wide. Like this lovely thing of really compelling and nuanced aromatics, diverting, bright and effusive. Intoxicating really, “must have been the sun beating down on me.” A soulful chardonnay, Darondo luscious, strutting at you, with golden fruit, layers of slaty under-vein, a bit of ancient bivalve fossil shell, piqued and long. Gets its texture from a pinpointed cru for sure and is very cool-climate Canadian, almost certainly Bench Niagara, more than likely in Beamsville. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. A short crop year but a solid year. Now expressive with croccante and cracker sensibility. Aromatically touched by croissant to brioche biscuit richness, with still pulsing acids and mouthfeel second to none. This is a next era Hidden Bench Felseck and the launch point from off of the work put in through the previous five or six vintages. Tasted blind four years previous to now was a completely different experience. Drink 2021-2026.  Last tasted July 2021

Unction and creaminess, lost in a chardonnay dream because to nose it’s a sweet, floral, demure thing. Lees apparent so you can smell the work in progress and feel the texture. But it’s wound loosely tight with just enough give to make it so readily available. Beautiful little wine though I can’t help but imagine there’s more single-focus structure than a blind taste wants to give. Hope to come across this hard to get beauty again someday soon.  Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench

Tasted with incumbent winemaker Jay Johnston as part of an #14c21 seven year vertical Felseck Vineyard retrospective. The vintage may very well be considered much like 2021 is shaping up to be, wet and humid, culminating in a late season. A short crop year but surely one of the Bench’s best dating back to 2009. Persistently flinty and aromatic, holding the citrus and stone fruit line, still quite tight and yet to evolve with any considerable haste. Not one to think on as a specific Bourguignons terroir per se but definitely Hidden Bench, amphitheatric Beamsville of origin, expression and conclusion. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Chardonnay 2019, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)

The first attempt and rather obvious pronouncement towards creating a Bourguignons Villages wine is this over-delivering for the price chardonnay from Thomas Bachelder and the re-invented spirit of Le Clos Jordanne. Jordan Village as in grapes gathered from the lower and upper Jordan benches. When warmed in the glass and were it drawn from a warmer vintage there might be even more fleshy opulence but with 2019 and this collection of LCJ single vineyards there is fresh magnification and edgy dance moves, shimmer and glitter, not to mention of glimmer of what this commercially viable brand will ultimately bring to the collective entity that is cool climate Ontario chardonnay. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2018, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($44.95)

Le Grand Clos signals the return of the lower Jordan Bench and “I’m very happen it’s back in the (Escarpment) lexicon,” says winemaker Thomas Bachelder for a chardonnay of origins truly different than the upper benches in Beamsville, Vineland and Jordan. A svelte vintage, not lean by any stretch but surely tight and what some might say restrained. That may or may not include fine white caramel, liqueur glazed fennel and a mild sense of grilling. A chardonnay from vines in a season that needed not shut down to either hydric nor heat stress. Funny how both 2018 in Niagara and Hermanus produced similar results. The big “E,” fine-tuning, chiseled features and sneaky structure.  Last tasted July 2021

Thomas Bachelder’s second vintage since the reprise of Le Clos Jordanne’s chardonnay and pinot noir is perhaps the most nurtured (and nurturing) because he and team treated this varietal fruit through all the early stages; newborn, infant, toddler and child. The attention to detail, from choosing cooperage, forests, barrels and in elévage design is both mathematical and surgical. After 22 months the result is just so imperfectly perfect. Unequivocally noted as a high acid vintage and rather then fatten up this fruit the monk chose the direction of vintage seasoning and identity. Drills down into the Clos and where it fits within the Twenty Mile Bench. The exiguity and heretical transparency makes this a great ’18 Le Clos because ambiguity is the enemy of accountability and also progress. As a forward thinking chardonnay it represents itself, the maker and proffers a sense of place. Perfectly easy to drink right now and imperfectly set up for aging, but that’s just not the point. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2020

On Seven Estate Winery The Pursuit On Seven Chardonnay 2018, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($45.00)

Seven acres, thus the name, in the hands of Vittorio de Stefano, “and a project paramount to wanting something sustainable that can compete at the international level and standard.” The vineyard is five acres and the property now 15.5. Planted half each to chardonnay and pinot noir, all organic. Bourgogne is the impetus, Niagara the goal. The genesis of planting decisions dates back to 2009, high vigour rootball SO4 rootstocks and clones finally acquired in 2014. Now at seven years of age the vines are ready to rock. A place of science, with oenological consultant/winemaker Peter Gamble at the fore and wines of minimalist approach starting out in reductive tendency, then finishing with longevity defining acidity. Richness and intensity meet at a general Côte d’Or vortex but in the end Niagara lake-proximate flesh and tension are the true meeting point. There is a distinct flintiness (and unlike other flinty chardonnays) but also a caramelization of high delectability and flavour. Vim and vigour, vivid and 20 per cent new oak over three years to gain such favour. Exotic too, with wood contributing to the extract, but surely essential trace elements; manganese, iron and calcium of causation allowing the minerals to make themselves heard. Intriguing wine if only at the beginning of a long story yet to be told. Only 82 cases made. The goal as the vines mature will be 800. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

On Seven Estate Winery The Pursuit On Seven Chardonnay 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($45.00)

Perhaps not the highest of knowable excellence yet clearly the most intriguing chardonnay that may never be emulated any time soon, certainly not out of 2019 or 2020. Singular stylistic wine, reductive and opulent, more Pouilly-Fuissé (with thanks to 2017) and a warmth that creates such a textural buzz. More fat in spite of that 8 g/L acidity, but such energy and considering the age at this point it almost seems the wine is going a bit backwards. That said the vanilla and caramel comes in wafts and waves, the flavours and textures in layers, long, lingering, forever. Only 108 cases made.  Last tasted July 2021

The newest Peter Gamble consulting joint is this from upstart The Pursuit of Seven. The chardonnay fruit is Niagara-on-the-Lake and the concentration suggest established vines (of at least 15 years-old it would seem) and no holds barred in terms of extraction and wood support. The density and fruit bang for buck are impressive and there is some volatility in distraction. Ambitious to be sure and the acumen employed true to form, not to mention distinctly clear. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted March 2020

Vittorio de Stefano of @onsevenwinery with consulting oenologist Peter Gamble

On Seven Estate Winery The Devotion On Seven Chardonnay 2018, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($65.00)

Imagine the minerals from these Niagara-on-the-Lake soils (manganese, iron and calcium) and the highest intensity fruit getting together in a tiny lot chardonnay case load. Then consider going against the grain with harder (elevated) turbidity in the ferments for more skin feel and purposed pulp for upfront loaded flavour intensity. That’s the direction and hyperbole of pursuit in The Devotion on Seven, an (only) 31 cases made chardonnay. Doubles (or perhaps triples) down on reduction, fulsome flesh and yet the warner vintage has as much to say as the inherent processes involved. Also a tannic chardonnay, in dramatic sensory extract as compared to the Pursuit on Seven ’18, though it can’t help but express more of everything as compared to the Pursuit of Seven. The acidity number of 8 g/L might seem extraordinary when considering the warmth and the ripeness of the vintage, however, and this matters most, ultimately it is the terroir that drives both the texture and the acidity of this special, barrel selection wine. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Peller Estates Signature Series Chardonnay Sur Lie 2019, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Yet another cracker 2019 chardonnay with the coolest of vintages meeting varietal bones and a karst of energy to drive the lees machine. Spent 10 months sur lie to be exact in a fully malolactic confirmed textural tang that benefits from a certain restraint only such a season can affirm. That being particularly cool and elongated for a chardonnay just crunchy enough to support the promise and extend enjoyment for a good, long and fruitful spree. Expect a future filled with a soft and creamy centre, eventuating in some creamed Niagara corn. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Stratus Chardonnay ‘Unfiltered’ & Bottled With Lees 2019, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($49.20)

“It’s not that we’re trying to change something every year,” explains assistant winemaker Dean Stoyka, which means that the R and D projects are in constant motion and take four to five years to come to fruition. The October 18-26 stretch is the latest harvest in quite some time (since 2009), fermented in various clay vessels and French oak, 76 per cent in neutral barrels and (24) in stainless steel. Great naturally developed acidity and just enough ripeness to gain favour with the fully-completely accessed, utilized and kept in the bottle lees. So lemon, so balanced and very fine. There is a combinative effect of mad scientist acumen for a wine that needs to be explained to a consumer mixed with absolute pleasure and amenability. One of the finest chardonnay peaks conquered nut just in Ontario but anywhere cool varietal mountains are meant to be climbed.  Last tasted July 2021

Tight one this 2019 chardonnay, seductively reductive and unwilling to relent this early in life. Knowable richness is optimized by being associated with green orchard fruit bite. Though so youthful and shrink wrapped at this time there are some ways to pair with potential and eek out enough charm. Boy do you feel the lees but the freshness really shines. Prosciutto comes to mind, as does mortadella, especially if it’s from Faenza. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted October 2020

Stratus Chardonnay ‘Unfiltered’ & Bottled With Lees 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Warm and ripe vintage if only because of a gorgeous September into October, more lees than ever before, no new wood and an extended elévage nearing a year in length. Alcohol has risen, as has the pH though neither are what you might call vivid. The palate is actually tightly strung, the texture fulfilling and a cloudiness so perfect for what the winemaking team had long wanted to achieve. Hard not to see 2017 as the teaching wine where lees usage is concerned, the (after the fact) ah-hah moment whereby knowing what to do and how deep to go was learned by how 2017 turned out. In this case fulsome of stone fruit, opaque clarity, an oxymoronic ying-yang of positives in apposite attractions. A Monet vintage, modernized and so very J-L Groux. A Stratus, unlike any other. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Stratus Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

The 2014 vintage was essentially the first year when barrel lees would be left in the bottle and my how conservative this ’15 really was as compared to an evolution that culminates (currently) with the full on lees filed chardonnay vintage. Quite the opulent vintage mixed with aromatics still morphing, developing lees, brash and blushing by 40 per cent new oak, complimented by generous acidity. Showing with controlled drama and though the yields were low (only 88 tonnes) there is something quite special about this emotionally charged, vivid, scarce and remarkable chardonnay.  Last tasted July 2021

Stratus Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Tasting with assistant winemaker Dean Stoyka as part of a vertical exercise in “to lees or not to lees.” Neither hue nor aromatics suggest much evolution though the low-ish acidity and tropical fruit tell an emerging secondary story. Creamy and centred, gregarious of flavour, nothing left unsaid, hidden or kept hidden away. Up front and talking vintage warmth, opulence and ripeness. Was housed in only 18 per cent new wood. For a good time, drink up.  Last tasted July 2021

As per the house promulgation, in chardonnay, “still an assemblage process,” insists Groux, “no matter what we do.” Some grapes grown for Sparkling were added back in, for acidity, complexity and ultimately balance. That and though notably barrel burdened (a good, hard burden to bare) leading to a bargain, “the best I ever had.” Major key of whose who of Niagara fruit, power acoustic chords and 12-string harmonics. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted June 2015

A change in direction is duly noted with J-L Groux’s 2012 chardonnay, from fruit picked six weeks earlier than in 2010. The program is scaled back and the wine is more “typical” of the region, in weight, in barrel effect and in alcohol. Still quite defined by natural yeasts that “sometimes go a bit wild, but I’m getting better at it,” concedes the clinician of vinous letters. Those feisty microbes are difficult to work with, like dealing with a wine that lacks natural clarity. “You have to shut down the bacteria, teach the yeast to stop stealing the lees. In 2013 I really got it.” The ’12’s altered course is welcome and encouraged and the world should wait with bated breath for what ’13 will bring. Here the complexity of aromatics is matched only by the intensity of tropical fruit. Has balance and a soft, round feel. Again, more texture and aromatics than natural acidity. Classic J-L style. “It’s not about trying to imitate anyone. It’s about making the most interesting and most complex chardonnay in Niagara.”  Tasted March 2014

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road 2018, VQA Vinemount Ridge ($35.95)

Definitely a warm vintage, picked on the early side, bite still clamped down, a bit of pesto and far from reductive as noted in Quarry Roads of the recent past (i.e 2011 and 2013). Pine nut pronunciation, no malic residual transformations (there will never me) and just bloody good freshness. Last tasted July 2021

No shocker that Quarry Road always finds a way to morph and change gears, meaning every so often, a year and up to two years later there will be some significant movement in this wine. Something about the Vinemount Ridge and how its players are in constant flux, adjusting sentiments and character to keep things curious, interesting and alive. Still the unencumbered and free-flowing expression it set out to be, free to be Quarry Road and as for me, I am always enamoured by how it marries personality with age. Natural (not unlike the Natural version of itself), enigmatic and very personal. Let it be. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2021

Tawse winemakers Paul Pender and Jessica Otting

Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2011, VQA Vinemount Ridge

Fantastic ten years after flinty reduction from arguably the most cracking vintage of the previous decade. As it is said, “you’ve got to feed the beauty, it doth not come cheap.” And that is what Paul Pender went for in 2011. At 10 Quarry is light on its feet, fresh, spirited jumping rope and spinning in concentric chardonnay circles. It simply reeks of beautiful Vinemount Ridge stone.  Last tasted July 2021

The pinpoint accuracy and gemstone capture of the Quarry is exaggerated in ’11, amplified and fully plugged in. From my earlier, October 2013 note: “Carries that classic Paul Pender perfume; rocks and stones, flaxen, refulgent toast and the verdure Vinemount terroir. A free flying, linear, atmospheric smear of thermal fortitude and backbone. A polemic Bowie Chardonnay to make you believe “the strangest things, loving the alien.”  Tasted May 2014

Resides on the mineral, slate and lime side of the tracks. The calcareous quality imparted by its eponymous SV terroir makes it the antithesis of David. Creamy, 24-karat fruit.  Tasted March 2012 (barrel sample)

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench ($34.95)

Prick, punch and torque from the conceptual vintage get-go, a classic 2019 in the making, if by so many yet to be understood standards. A chardonnay so cool it causes a brain freeze while simultaneously moving the soul. In fact put on some vinyl Gaye, get in on, or even disco foreshadowing Temptations, echoing the chardonnay law of the land. Don’t sleep on the high level fruit, not quite fleshy but surely potent and dynamic to match the season’s verve in acidity. Fine lees, better texture and all-around vitality so essential to chardonnay. Will improve with six more months in bottle. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore ($36.75)

A single-vineyard chardonnay once labelled Oliveira and then watching Tree Vineyard but no longer, though the source remains the same. Embraces a cool 2019 vintage played out through rewards in the guise of reduction, toast, flint and drive. In cool climate varietal terms this ’19 reminds of 2011 though to be clear and certain there is more focus where by the quantity and quality of ripenesses meet at the essential points of acidity and tannin. Here is a vintage to end a decade in the most poised and poignant way. Spot on, striking and graceful chardonnay. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted July 2021

Remarkable finesse, flavours and design @triuswines and Restaurant by Chef Frank Dodd with @coolchardonnay accompaniments.

Beyond Chardonnay

Hidden Bench Blanc De Blanc Zero Dosage 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench ($48.00)

Second vintage from a tightly contested and smaller crop, initiated by then winemaker Marlize Beyers and subsequently disgorged by Jay Johnston, following five years on the lees. Moves from the practice of poetics to the anticipatory embracing of tomorrow’s science. Full disclosure this was tasted while walking the Hidden Bench chardonnay vineyards with a traditional method sparkling wine in hand first disgorged in the summer of 2019, when the yeasts were removed and the bottle was topped with the same wine. This tasting featured a January 2021 disgorgement and the term “Brut Nature Zero Dosage used when no sugar is added to the finished wine, which provides the most authentic expression of (the Hidden Bench) terroir.” Truth and synchronicity, grace, striking engagement, pure citrus and pleasure. Who could not anticipate and wait on subsequent vintages of this wine? The best is yet to come. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Stratus Brut Nature Zero Dosage 2013, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($100.00)

Comes across a bit cloudy, at least as compared to the B de B with thanks to the natural, lees left intact style. The citrus component is so pronounced, as is the taut, direct, lean and intense manifold destiny of what is truly a singular Sparkling wine. That being a living, breathing, inhaling and exhaling wine, slowly releasing proteins, acids and realizing its B de B Nature dream. Just amazing what lees can do for sparkling wine.  Last tasted July 2021

Released side by each with the Stratus Blanc de Blanc 2013 and while vintage and grape are the same, the similarities almost seemingly, ostensibly and allegedly end there. Yes in fact this 100 per cent chardonnay is a child of the most excellent varietal vintage and like the B de B spent six years on the lees. Comparisons cast aside it is the very fact that because much of the lees were transferred to bottle by a minimalist’s disgorging that this cloudy bubble with a Canadian artist’s series set of labels can’t help but elicit another memory. The Lilies of Monet and their clouds represent neither the horizon, nor the top or the bottom. Nor does a bottle of this Zéro Dosage Brut. The elements of water, air, sky and earth become intertwined in a composition without perspective, or so it goes in this hazy, opaque and dry as the desert sparkling wine. So many layers of lemon can be peeled, juiced and scraped away. If a Stratus wine could be a a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma then here it is. The texture here is palpable and the intrigue factor surely high, so it should be imagined that longevity will be this wine’s calling card. It’s more austere than the Blanc de Blanc but I think in fact it will. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted November 2020

Stratus Blanc De Blancs 2013, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($75.00)

One gram of dosage, disgorged in January 2020. Nearly six years on the lees based on the first R & D trials done in 2006 and 2007. High level autolytic entity, a toasted affair and an idea long time coming for the Stratus team. Fine tonic and bitters. With 15 minutes of air the blooming happens, floral, expressive and complex. This wine has really developed more layers, emotions and complexity.  Last tasted July 2021

The first (commercial) J-L Groux foray into traditional method Sparkling wine has been six plus years in the making, or in this case, senescence as the lees fly and his Blanc de Blanc has finally arrived. A notable moment in the Stratus continuum as they too now own a program of development, time, investment, research and acumen. The nose on this bubble tells a pensive story, or as fantasy goes like dipping your face into a tale-spun pensieve as it takes you back in time. In 2013 chardonnay excelled on the Niagara Peninsula and still today in 2020 we are drinking vintage examples persistent in their freshness and durability of construct. That this reeks of varietal lore is a hallmark moment, that and a conscientious adherence to reverence for solids and the focus on rotational detail. Speaks a Blanc de Blanc vernacular as a chardonnay should, with a bite out of a sharp fall apple, a pesto of verdant aromatics and a crunch of texture before drifting saline, briny and fine. Pretty good work J-L. Kudos for getting from there to here with intelligence and humility. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2020

Stratus Vineyards “Field Blend” Ancestral 2020, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($35.00)

The inaugural Stratus commercially labelled release is what winemaker Dean Stoyka refers to as “in the mindset of monks.” A field blend of sémillon, chardonnay, riesling and viognier. Pressed all together, fermented dry and then re-fermented in the bottle with no sugar added. Dry enough, or so it seems, non-disgorged, under crown cap and so very fruity. Floral, allspice and spiciness overtop apricot, pear and black walnuts conceptually turning into Vin de Noix or Nocino. A natural testament to assemblage and a great use of varieties without a home. 100 cases produced. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Spark Laundry Vineyard Blanc De Noirs 2013, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

Actually quite shocked I’ve never tasted this wine before, a Spark about which winemaker Paul Pender exults by saying “2013 is my favourite vintage for all our sparklings.” Traditional method, pinot noir from Heather Laundry’s double L vineyard and a fizz that fits and sparks. Gingered and toasty, crunchy, wave cresting and fulsome by six years on the lees. The dosage was five to six g/L, in that Pender sweet spot all around, just right, so well and good. A little romanticism goes a long way where science is concerned, especially in this medium and in Spark Blanc De Noirs 2013 one is simply good for the other. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse David’s Block Estate Vineyard Spark 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Tasted side by side with the 2013 Blanc de Noirs, making for a striking if surprisingly antithetical contrasting contract with this Blanc de Blancs. Aged three years on the lees and finished with the same 5-6 g/L of dosage yet here so upfront, centred and personal. More immediate richness than what pinot seems to do from Laundry Vineyard and so even in sparkling it is David’s Block and chardonnay that gift quicker satisfaction. Likely vintage driven (again, even in sparkling), very pear and shortbread, a savoury dessert of a sparkling wine. Like olive oil cake, all about the simple pleasures. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Trius Showcase Brut Nature NV Méthode Traditionelle, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($55.00)

The dry as the desert Brut nature initiates with a yeasty faradism of excitement from what strikes as a minimum four to five years spent sitting on those fascinating lees. While the wine does not exactly smoulder with a toasty salutation that is no matter because textural acidity and blooming aromatics also arrive to an applause of immediate gratification. There is an exceptional level of “croccante” satisfaction that parlays that “texture” into a lasting display of bits and bites. The make up is 50 per cent chardonnay and (45) pinot noir with (5) pinot meunier and 2014 being the primary vintage source, though there is some 2013 involved. Zero dosage, top tier, notch and drop. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Rosé Limestone Vineyard 2020, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($27.95)

Tawse began crafting Rosé from (Vinemount Ridge) Quarry Road Vineyard fruit in 2017 and now here they come with Twenty Mile Bench pinot noir. From Limestone Vineyard this represents a heads and tails Rosé, meaning 40 per cent is used for Spark traditional method bubbles and the bookends is destined for this salty, straight-shooting and crisp-freckled single-vineyard blush. Double-redheaded wow! Grape, place and style all on side for so many good reasons. 1000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Pinot Gris Lawrie Vineyard 2019, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake ($27.15)

Not to be confused with the Lowrey Vineyard on St. David’s Bench and a best varietal vintage for Paul Pender. Far from being a “Miller-Lite or Corona” pinot gris, instead creamy, fulsome, well-versed and elastic. The furthest away from metallic and/or turbid, low on phenols, no bitters, nor tonics neither.  Last tasted July 2021

Fresh and while this young is full of its original fruit, which is the biggest plus for pinot gris because dry varietal wines have a hard time after enough time has passed on by. Sulphur is not really an issue so this delivers the varietal and stylistic goods with fruit at the lead. Good acids, persistence and balance. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted October 2020

Tawse Winery Carly’s Block Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

A sleeper vintage, not necessarily exacting out of the blocks, not heavy cropped, middle of the road in so many respects. If I tasted this before memory fails to draw any retrospective conclusions) but Carly’s ’15 has already turned towards the petrol sun, “let the shadows fall behind you, don’t look back, just carry on.” This perhaps began more than a year or two ago and today acts Rihanna outspokenly so. Lime and almost cordial by now, warm and friendly as a riesling liqueur. Quite stable, animated, holding its patterning, likely to do so for an additional three or fours years. Drink before it returns home. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Limestone Ridge Riesling 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Unlike the Carly’s ’15 (tasted at the same time) this Limestone ’12 has not moved forward with any vehement haste. The lack of advancing towards petrol is curious but the softening is surely comforting. Still resplendent with a particular 2012 meets Twenty Mile Bench acidity, now oscillating while integrating with waning fruit. Drinking beautifully.  Last tasted July 2021

From the newest estate vineyard, the single-vineyard Limestone Ridge exteriorizes its name in a rubric of pressed rock, struck flint and chalky density. Paul Pender has coaxed a multiplicity oft linear character, with major notes of lime zest and juice, persistent from start to finish. A mid-pause of oozing, residual sinensis is the determinant towards the wine’s matrix of longevity. A longer, leaner, meaner and mightier Riesling charged by a different sort of power. Kinetic, frenetic and electric.  Tasted twice, April and May 2014

Hidden Bench Rachis & Derma Aromatiq! Skin Fermented White 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($35.00)

Whole cluster sauvignon blanc, viognier and riesling, layered atop one another, full on hilt in spice, a hit of gingerbread, light in talc and salve. Good-natured and textured when well chilled, oxidative for sure, drinkable, pleasurable, done in one puncheon. Simple really. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Rachis & Derma Chardonnay Skin Fermented White 2020, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($35.00)

Whole cluster chardonnay, more spirited than the Aromatiq!, crunchy even, definitely with more spice and plenty of bite. More tannin too, structurally sound to allow more secondary character and time spent developing cooler, more energetic waves of spirit. Wild ride yet just sound and subtle enough to attract the right kind of attention. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Hidden Bench Gamay Unfiltered 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore ($29.95)

The inaugural gamay release from Hidden Bench is eight years in the planning and making, from 2013 through planting in 2017 and with third leaf fruit for this game changing 2019. That is because the grape and the maker were made for each other so the question begs, what took so long to take the plunge? No matter because such an auspicious start can never come too late. A wine of native yeasts, a properly prolonged, 24-day maceration, an eighth of new wood and the Lincoln Lakeshore being the ideal appellation for what wants and surely needs. More than impressive for such young vine fruit, of a light smoulder lending an essence of jasmine and by argan to red, red fruit, tightly winding acids and such gamay crunch, the likes of which are attributed to expectation, hopes and dreams. When the vineyard grows up there will be further anticipations, exegeses further afield to include cru and reserve concepts. That is a countable fact based on current evidence and credible speculation.  Drink 2021-2023. Tasted April and July 2021

Hidden Bench Rachis & Derma Gamay 2019, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Naturally refined, welcoming, open-knit and my oh my, juicy as a basket of Niagara plums and peaches blended into rooibos kombucha. Rachis, “main axis or shaft, a stem of a plant, bearing flower stalks at short intervals.” Derma, or Dermis, “the inner layer of the two main layers of the skin.” In R & D the inner workings of gamay are accessed at the natural axis between light to fruity and joyful to dark, before sous serious and after vide structured. Middle ground, believable and exhibiting intrinsic purity. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse Pinot Noir Tintern Vineyard 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge ($50.15)

This July 2021 tasting is my first for Pinot Noir Tintern 2013 in bottle but I did run through two different barrels with Paul Pender back in March of 2014. The vines were only three years old at the time, on a site (next door to John Howard) Pender likens to “reclaiming the swamps,” or “the Golan Heights project.” From the Vosges medium toast the wine was already showing colour, freshness and drive. From the Vosges, medium plus toast it was a bit reductive, with more tannin and more sappy wood. This look back reveals not a vintage of varietal exhilaration but a malic one with credit due the high levels of potassium in the soil. A cherry generosity a la Central Otago by way of the Vinemount Ridge. Almost a volcanic presence, but not and yes a pinot from young vines come about as a result of winemaking. Up front, in motion, drinking really well. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Redstone Restaurant

Tawse Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($49.15)

Another high-toned pinot noir from an inverted vintage, in cherry spirit, a hit of fennel and enough lingering energy while there is a meld and morph towards darker black fruit. Broad shouldered, now tannic, settling in as a pretty big wine.  Last tasted July 2021

As for Cherry Avenue the twain is met, somewhere between Tintern and Quarry, in the middle of vintage and classic Tawse styling. Both firm and bright, the fruit a cherry but a darkening black one and then the grip of place though well within vintage reason. Less structured than Quarry but not as hematic and brooding as Tintern. Solid pinot noir. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted June 2020

Tawse Cabernet Franc Growers Blend 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula

How remarkably fresh, inviting, enticing and that is just the aromatic front. Effusive, the greater good of burgeoning, smelling like Bourgeuil in uncanny resemblance. Nothing leafy here, just the smell of youth, post-adolescence and from a notably warm vintage. A freshness that just may be a foreshadowing of what’s to come from 2021. Heat and water, humidity and rain, yet no vine stress nor disease pressure neither. A product of great agriculture and an example of 2010’s longevity. “On the riper side but not overly ripe,” tells Paul Pender with a pragmatically raised brow. Indeed. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted July 2021

Tawse David’s Block Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Whole-souled, benevolent and keyed up though that’s the vineyard, persistent and in perpetuity. Red to charcoal fruit, quite firm and tannic for the Tawse-varietal relationship and in that sense mostly related to vintage. Was not picked until November 15th and stayed in barrel for 18 months. Not showy really, not the ripest vintage after all but surely one to promote variegation, fruit/acid layers and particularities. Wait long enough (as in seven-plus years) and these things become complexities. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted July 2021

Good to go!

godello

 

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Yearning for the Langhe

Godello in Cherasco

My kingdom for an Albese plate of Tajarin at Osteria dei Sognatori or a platter of Plin at Ristorante La Libera. What a wine writer would not do for a Langhe reprise, a Piedmontese redux, a tasting of any Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Dogliani, Alba or Langhe Barbera and Nebbiolo, Langhe Roero Arneis, Na’Scetta e Favorita. Were things normal and they most certainly are not, but were life being lived now as it was one year ago we would be convening in Alba in two weeks time. What I would not give to break bread with a winemaker, colleague or friend in Piemonte.

Related – Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and Riserva 2004

Mark these words. The two specialized and specific DOCs of Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo will gain prominence and become a two-headed beast in 2021. The world will gather to exult, raise up and drink these fine and vastly underrated examples of classified nebbiolo. Of this I became truly privy to one year ago but also throughout 2020 as more and more nebbiolo came to be assessed across my desk. Yes it was back in January 2020 when I travelled to Alba in Piemonte for Nebbiolo Prima 2020 and Grandi Langhe. I tasted more than 600 nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera, arneis, freisa, chardonnay, pelaverga and even riesling during the eight day work staycation. Grande.

Grandi Langhe 2020

Related – Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005

Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe Trade Fair are a back-to-back cumulative by the work of many, not the least of which are organizations such as Consorzio Albeisa, a.k.a Unione Produttori Vini Albesi, Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani, Consorzio Tutela del Roero and Regione Piemonte. During that trip I tasted and reviewed 230 Barolo: DOCG 2016 (197), Riserva DOCG 2014 (6), DOCG 2006 (20) and Riserva DOCG 2004 (7). For Barbaresco the number was 92: DOCG 2017 (59), DOCG 2015 (15), DOCG 2015, 2007, 2009 and 2005 (18). As for Roero DOCG, 38 notes: DOCG 2017 and 2016 (33) and DOCG 2006 and 2007 (5).

Related – Roero DOCG Previews and Retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2016, 2007 and Riserva 2006

Here’s to hoping for a return at any point in 2021, or in 2022 for the 25th Nebbiolo Prima followed by Grandi Langhe, if that’s how it will be. In the meantime here are 44 further reviews of wines tasted in and around Alba back in January, 2020. Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Barbera d’Alba DOCG, Verduno Pelaverga DOC, Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC, Langhe Favorita DOC, Roero Arneis DOC, Langhe Rosato DOC, Vino Rosso and Birbét. Care Langhe, spero di tornare presto.

Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC

Diego Morra Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2016

F.rom northern facing vineyards that receive no direct sun so essentially a cool Langhe climate. Nebbiolo that sees a short maceration and French wood. Not your everyday or expected nebbiolo in a really light and transparent style. Extremely fresh and refreshing, taut, high-toned and yet this creamy texture. Richer than half-and-half, perhaps like 20 per cent fat though lactose free and not enough to be whipped. So different. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Nebbiolo d’Alba Doc Bric Merli 2017

From the vineyard directly in front of Bric Volta. A lighter, but far from unstructured nebbiolo with a new and certain grace and still unmistakeable Canale DNA. Here you can mark another reference point, not to mention the genetic and torch passing material provided by 650 years of history, information and accumulation in experience. The demeanour is confident and gracious. Who would not want a glass every night? Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Parigi 2017

Comes from the same type of marly soil as the barbera, here out of vineyards located in the villages of Alba and Diano d’Alba. The vines are around 20 years of age and the wine sees one year in (30 per cent new) American 40L and French 30L barrels. The idea is to draw out soft and elegant tannins, especially by the American oak. That much is true in a nebbiolo heading towards that direction though not quite yet there. A return in two to three years should do the trick. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Nebbiolo Langhe DOC

Elvio Cogno Nebbiolo Langhe DOC Montegrilli’ 2018

A name taken from Valter Fissore’s grandfather’s vineyard in the Roero, not Barolo and yes this is a nebbiolo and a wine to drink. Immediately gratifying in so many ways. From vineyards on the other side of Novello, southwest exposure and very sandy soil with just a minor amount of sandstone. Fragolina di bosco and white raspberry, a juicy wine that can quench your thirst. Just a minor grip and chalk of tannin. Hardly causes any confusion and allows you to sip and sip and sip. Grill some fish and Montegrilli’s your friend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2018 ($27.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

From two vineyards, one in La Morra (estate) and one in Roero. Less than a year in old, large barrels and a purposeful one, for early and often drinking enjoyment. Bright fruit, easy, forward and will surely solicit many a happy palate for dual-drawn, doubling down pleasure. Floral, well made and proper. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Bollito Misto, Sinio

Azienda Agricola Taverna Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018

Declassified nebbiolo from Barbaresco with mildly candied fruit, slightly oxidative, but charming. Only been in bottle maximum one month. Drink 2020.  Tasted February 2020

Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018 (454017, $32.95, Le Maitre de Chai)

Youngest vines in the Basarin Vineyard at 18 years old grown in sand and clay at the foot of Neive. The Langhe nebbiolo sees 20-30 days on skins (as opposed to 30-40 for the Barbaresco), ferments naturally and at low temperatures. Glaring as a vintage with a big grin on its face, unprecedented concentration, healthy extraction and completed by elevated dry extract. Incredible intensity for the appellation, something already noted in 2015 but bears repeating, like a mantra, for kicks, compliments, giggles and kudos. The Piedmontese maceration brings so much texture and chromatic accents; tangerine, vermillion, sorrel and umber. Longer maceration, less wood (four months) and no love lost for aging, not to mention waxing rhapsodically on. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria dei Sognotori, Alba

Barolo DOCG

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2015

Pichmej is a combination of two vineyards, Bussia and Santa Maria, what Valentina and sister’s Serena and Denise Marrone call “our grandfather’s wine.” Who happened to be Carlo. A nebbiolo that you really can drink now but then again that’s the thing about young Marrone Barolo. They and this ’15 Pichmej display a sense of the ethereal in their youth. Nature in conjunction with nurture, a delicate touch and phenolic regulation to near perfection. If you would like to access the portal into the reality of how nebbiolo needs to be made in modern times then begin right here and know what’s what in 2020. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2015

Compared to Pichmej this nebbiolo from Bussia is a step up in concentration and also structure, the latter being in kinship with Bussia 2016. That said there is absolutely zero compromise to the stylistic execution that makes for a Marrone Barolo. Simulates the phenolic beauty of Pichmej and of ’16 but the fullest, deepest and most complete journey happens here. Enologist Donato Lanati has coaxed the fruit but not the bitters while the sisters Marrone find excellence in completing Bussia and all the rest. Lightness of being is also accrued while the wine clocks in at a hidden 15 per cent alcohol. Magic happens and success follows. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Baudana 2015

From Serralunga d’Alba and the apposite Barolo cru, forceful, grippy, demanding, always mired in posit tension tug. That alone explains no differing opinion but pay attention to the kind of “tensione” Adelaide’s creates. The numbered beats are off, out of time, or at least not understood in fours, yet orchestrated and aligned as they should be. As in five or taking the fifth, with a spoonful of notes, lines, vocalizations and structural arrangements feeling like they are unanswered. A vintage that men are dumbfounded by but girls can tell. Baudana is a hyper real get together of brushy aromas, dedicated flavours and highly functional architecture. This one stretches and creates an elastic musculature, flexible and persistent. Wouldn’t mess with Baudana. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Simone Ortale and Giuliana Drocco, Cascina Adelaide

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Riserva DOCG “Per Elen” 2014

A blend of two cru and says Simone Ortale “we choose the best to make Riserva. It’s our jewel.” The same grandi botti (as per Preda and Cannubi) but here 62 months of aging time. The most mouthfeel, filling and the silkiest chalky liquidity, tannins and layering of multifarious, mille-feuille multiplicity. A nebbiolo for the decades. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo DOCG Gomba 2015

A smooth, elastic, stretched and elongated nebbiolo from the Commune of Barolo and Boschetti’s estate fruit. Drawn off of the higher reaches and also some that is sold to Marchesi di Barolo. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2015

Sernìe is the cru inside the cru, a selection within the selection and a word in Piedmontese dialect that essentially means just that. Surely the richer, more concentrated, fully stretched, entirely elastic and truly elongated nebbiolo. Has the violets, purple fruit, foie gras and decadence. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2012

This older version of the cru within the cru comes from a very select parcel and as an estate flagship nebbiolo is only produced in select vintages. The formidable 2012 season made a request that winemakers (in this case Maurizio Delpero) did not try to extract too much fruit which would also mean an excess of tannin. Yet Boschetti’s Sernìe was subjected to a Piedmontese 40-day maceration (a cappello sommerso), a classic technique that eight years later establishes an exaggeration of nebbiolo riches. Was also a generous vintage that saw to healthy fruit and quantity. Serious Barolo right here. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Crudo – La Libera, Alba

Diego Morra Barolo DOCG 2015

From the river between La Morra and Verduno, two plots with separate soils and expositions to combine for a double cru cause and effect. Balanced and dynamic, a nose of power meeting finesse. No winding or cinching but more a zig-zagging, ying versus yang, AC-DC, nebbiolo going both ways. Lovely spice. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barolo DCOG Monvigliero 2015

From four hectares in the Verduno cru and the three Ms, Mosca, La Morra and Monvigliero. The V in the middle is for Verduno. The 2015 nebbiolo is a really pretty one, floral and understated but of obvious power. Near formidable in its restraint with bursting a real possibility at any near moment. Not quite there yet but it’s coming, it’s real, leaving meaning. “In a room made of stone your future was made.” Wait for it. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG Bricco Pernice 2015

Ages three years in wood, one year further in barrel. One hundred per cent Lampia clone. A little bit more classic in terms of what is Barolo. The partridge is a special hill and a place that gives away these highly specialized nebbioli and 2015 is on the border between a red and a black vintage. More black then red. A vintage that will be so right and so joyous in middle age and ideal for salty (aged) cheese and meat. Splendido nebbiolo. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

With Valter Fissore

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera DOCG Vigna Elena 2014

Rosa clone of Ravera, not quite yet released (will be in three months), dedicated to daughter Elena. A registered menzione geografica named many years ago so the size on the label is set above the DOCG. More of a Bourgogne style. Rose petals and potpourri. Red fruit and red citrus so obviously a red year. Cured like salumi, bresaola maybe or at least eat some alongside. A touch vegetal and that is ’14, sun-dried vegetable and yes, like pinot noir. The first vintage was 1997. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

The quality of the wines gives everyone at Mauro Sebaste every reason to smile

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2015

Less weight and density in 2015, both in Serralunga fruit and also tannin. Much interest here in how it intimates the richesse of ’16 but not the youthful aggression of the tannin. More freshness, linearity and understanding. No hard edges, really easy to like and enjoy and enough grip to see it develop nicely over the next seven plus years. Might even last longer than imagined. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo Riserva DOCG Ghè 2014

Ghè is the Riserva of Cerretta fruit but only the smallest berries are chosen. A mega clonal version per se, a Cerretta of Ceretta. Celebrates and argues the merits of a challenging vintage, spends 36 months in tonneaux and like the Cerretta there is pure and substantial fruit. Acidity and tannin too, more than you might imagine considering the wood. Tension and grace live side by side and this is just beginning to act like it will for its essential and optimum 10 year window. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2016

A true commune Barolo drawn off of a scattering of vineyards, a Serralunga liqueur warming, comforting and reliable, plus a vintage tannin more stringent and yet to crack. Spent two years in grandi botti plus six further months in bottle. Of roses and tar, youthfulness and tension aboard a nicely balanced and upright frame. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Riserva DOCG San Bernardo 2013

The “oriental plot,” from the other side of the Ornato cru and a nebbiolo to speak of extended elévage just as it should. Now into a balsamico cadence and a tartufo lilt. A matter of funghi, acciuga and back to that truffled sensibility. So much umami, the anchovy sitting like a salty and briny slice of maritime butter on toasted crostini with shavings both pencil and earthen nuggets in origin. Oh how the feeling of the block and the greater Piedmontese emanates from one glass of Barolo that only San Bernardo seems capable of gifting. The secondary nature of this nebbiolo is astonishing, if like Christmas come early but why not celebrate now? Should keep developing, morphing, giving again and again. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Marcenasco 2004 (713479, Halpern Enterprises)

Has quite obviously rounded into form, now beautifully rich and preserved. Poured from magnum yet showing all of its age, fruit sweetly hanging in the balance and as a whole an elegant nebbiolo worthy of the reference. Drink 2020-2024.  Last tasted January 2020

Of the famiglie Pola e Ferro is polar as compared to the non of the Burdin. AM and D nose “car exhaust.” I am tricked by its charm and think New World Syrah, but am reminded that the colour lacks gloom. Hugely muscular, girded by plastron and decades ahead of itself. “Leave it open all night and it’ll be amazing” says Dr. C.  Tasted April 2012

Cherasco

Barbaresco DOCG

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Comes from one vineyard, the top part of the hill, Gaia Principe it’s called, one of four that make Barbaresco in the MGA. Quick maceration, only seven days, not very Piedmontese and because the house tradition is to make wines to drink and drink now. A very fresh nebbiolo, sweetly perfumed, clear, pure and precise. Drink this most days. No good reason not to. Drink 2020-2025.  Last tasted February 2020

Very ripe and organized, developed and heading forward with great haste. Acids are brighter than some so there is light streaking through the Neive vintage darkness. Another example that speaks to the great variability in 2017. Drink 2020-2024.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Barbera d’Alba DOCG

Cascina Adelaide Vigna Preda Barbera d’Alba 2016

Same vineyard as the nebbiolo for the Preda Barolo but here the barbera fruit is notable deeper and darker. Spends up to 18 months in big barrel and high acidity for Alba with just the right and deft touch of necessary volatile acidity. Rich, luxurious and lovely. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barbera D’alba Superiore Docg Amabilin 2016

Named after the creator himself Amabile Drocco who as a child was called Amabilin. The name chosen for the wine pays homage to the family’s origins. The yields are ridiculously low (half a kilo per vine) from 3,000 kg per hectare that represents half of the consorzio’s disciplanare rule. So concentrated and a true gem in the Adelaide portfolio, in fact this is truly one of the tops in all of what is labeled Superiore. Includes eight to ten per cent Barolo fruit but not that which might end up as DOC Nebbiolo. High acidity again (as with the Preda) and ultra special tannins. Only 2000-2300 bottles are produced. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barbera d’Alba DOCG 2016

Roddi is the source and direct sun exposure provided for a terroir-varietal relationship that is necessary when you consider acidity rates, ripeness measurements and structural assets. Here barbera gets into beneficial bitters, speaks with assuring alacrity and extolls the virtue of a mainly steely exterior. Really spirited, fresh and alive. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Bricco Dei Merli 2017

Single vineyard, aged for one year in wood. The hilltop of the blackbird and a wine nosing succinctly of black cherry. No way this is simply the wine of the osteria or the honky tonk bar. The maturation here is set so high on both fronts, first sugar and then phenolic. Acidity is supportive and there is no burn. There is no jam. What shows is body strength, spirit and a soft finish. Comes from elevation where the wind blows and you can feel the cool breeze running in the veins, like cool water. Picked late September and we are thankful for that. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

The view from Elvio Cogno

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Pre Phylloxera 2018

Pre-Phylloxera because of these barbera vines’ ability to survive with thanks to sandy soil and 500m of elevation. A red soil that was not inhabitable to the louse. The vineyard is rented from Marcarini and Valter likes to farm it to to keep the history of his family’s work alive. Lower acidity, higher concentration and an affinity with northern Rhône syrah. Cool, smooth, silky, crystal clear and the pinnacle of barbera beauty. Incredible texture. Only 2,000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2029.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera d’Alba DOC Giardono 2018

From a single vineyard, eight yearsold and aged in concrete, for a reductive environment and more important a low, natural and slow ferment. A rich deep cherry barbera to be fair, sure and completely honest with a modernity of acidity that belies the reasons why barbera fell out of favour and became hard to sell. This will do the yeoman work to continue the resurrection. A spice market from a time gone by connects Giardino to a loyal and traditional wine. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera D’alba DOC Mezzavilla 2015

From 75 year-old vines in the Mezzavilla Vineyard, located between the villages of Cisterna (towards Asti) and Canale. Just a few percentage points of oak because the fruit demands it and concrete will keep freshness but doesn’t quite do enough for this fruit. Such a soothing acidity and a presence that speaks to the sand and the clay of the land from whence it came. Taste this fruit and you will understand. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barbera d’Alba Doc “Legattere®”‎ 2017 ($24.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

A selection of barbera vineyards of soils calcareous/clayey, maceration of six days, fermented in steel, aged in French oak. Just a classic, pure red fruit, high acid and smooth texture/tannins. Round flavours, big yet somehow understated. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Centobricchi 2016

On the hill just above Alba on the way to Serralunga, of low yields that produce just about one bunch per vine. Spends one year in new French oak to gift spice, savour, silk and palate fineness. High acidity, at times too high but necessary to foil the hedonism. A piqued and plentiful barbera that in the end comes down to farming. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Bricco delle Olive 2017

Big barbera, 15 months in (50 per cent new) tonneaux with violets and spice smothering all else. Despite the enormity of it all this is barbera in a balanced varietal world and Bricco delle Viole is clearly a Superiore terroir from which to approach with great ambition. All assets are encouraged and flaunted  within the grand scale of this particular Alba spectrum. Will improve with some further wood integration. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018

The red fruit juiciest and most succulent Barbera d’Alba with great acids. Make you wish more varietal wines like this would align, draft and glide alongside. Fresh and just lovely. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Verduno Pelaverga DOC

Diego Morra Pelaverga DOC 2018

Diego Morra’s pelaverga ’18 is clear, concise and pure, lying with a varietal heart at its most effusive. Prim as is imaginable while a big expression for a light and silken grape. From a “normal,” manageable and consistent vintage. A wine executed with molecular gastronomy to an end forged by a grape-wine relationship. Social, artistic and technical pelaverga, investigating the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in farming and then, winemaking. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Vino Rosso

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Donna Costanza Cardunaj Vino Rosso 2017

A digestif wine, a Brachetto vinified dry and so curious. A dessert wine with no fizz and just a touch of sweetness. A moment’s Amaro bitters but no sense of liqueur. Odd to be sure. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Pas Dosè Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

A 50-50 nebbiolo and arneis mix, seven years on the lees, from the 2012 vintage and disgorged in October 2019. Yes you read this properly, seven years on lees. The Malabaila connection to the Esterhazy royalty in Austrian indirectly bridges two estates and you can’t help but think about the Blanc de Blancs made in the Burgenland. Zero dosage means lean, direct, sharp and energetic bubbles with remarkable precision. These are Grandi Langhe bubbles from Roero, not to be missed. First vintage was 2010. Can’t be Millesimato because it’s a blend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Rosato DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Rosato DOC 2018

From Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila with perfectly typical Rosato colour for nebbiolo taken from Roero lands. ’Tis a coppery hue, sexy rusty, mimicked in flavours with a note like lemon tisane. Steep in some currants and sweet herbs and you get the picture. Poured from magnum and good thing because a table of six would have otherwise gone very thirsty. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC

Elvio Cogno Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC Anas Cëtta 2019

Cold stabilization and some wood aging but in botti, no longer in barriques. I have yet to put the nose to my glass and the aromatics are coming out. A semi-aromatic grape with here in 2019 from peach, elderflowers and high level acidity. I would imagine it’s most akin to chenin but even that is a stretch. The drinkability meeting complexity is off the charts. Once you go tactile-textile nascetta like this you may never go back. Approximately 16,000 bottles produced. One of now 30-plus producers in the Langhe. Barrel Sample tasted January 2020.  Drink 2020-2023

Le Strette Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC Pasinot 2018

Nascetta, or Nas-cëtta, as they say in the commune of Novello with fruit out of Pasinotti, Bergera, Pezzole and Tarditi at altitudes of 350 to 420m. Planted over many decades, in 1948, 1983, 2009, 2014 and 2016. The Piedmontese grape rarity likes the sandy, calcareous clay and its emission is semi-aromatic. This example sits somewhere between riesling and gewürztraminer though truth be told seems closer to friulano what with its glycerin and off-dry sentimentality. Novello is the place and the heights help bring about the oiliness and preserved citrus notes from the grape. Needs another year to fully bloom. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Favorita DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Favorita DOC Donna Costanza 2018

A label made by Lucrezia’s father (who passed away in 2010) for his wife and her mother. Endemic, full of drive, a touch of a sweetness and in a way a cool, northern example that is linked to inzolia, or even zibbibo. More texture here and alloy notation. Lingers with herbs and sweet citrus. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roero Arneis DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Arneis DOC Pradaj 2018

Pradaj in Piedmontese is “A valley with grass and flowers” and clearly a reference to the aromatics in the grape variety from this place. A perfectly correct and referenced arneis indeed and an ideal match to the local Plin agnolotti filled with herbs. When the arneis from Roero speaks clearly it does so like this, unadorned, floral and calm. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Birbét

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Birbét Donna Costanza 2018

Mosta d’Uva parzialmente fermentato or, grape must partially fermented to five point five per cent alcohol. Served traditionally as dessert though it could certainly be employed in aperitivo format, as Brachetrto d’Acqui often is. Very cherry, lightly carbonated and sweetly herbal. Simple pleasure. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

godello

Godello in Cherasco

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

There are times when you do it just for the continuity because time marches on, no matter the circumstances. There is no disputing how different 2020 was and frankly the flip to 2021 will not bring about significant change or any semblance of a return to what was, at least not in the first several months. Yet the compelling urge is there, to quantify and qualify this annual Godello list of wines that opened, expanded and blew a mind in 2020. The concept for a year-end summation was launched in 2012 though it was the publishing of 14 in 2014 that made it very official, if only in the mind of one Godello. Matters little whether this qualifies as the seventh or the ninth because in wine one should always eschew semantics for the liquid truth found inside the bottle, elixirs they are of most profound, ethereal and honest propriety.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

This will be a much different list than ever before. While I did manage to squeeze in 25 days of travel in the first 56 of 2020 those were the last of this calendar year. That’s at least 75 short of my normal yearly schedule and so imagine that if an average of 30 wines are tasted each and every day on the road, well then that would tell us that at the very minimum 2,250 wines were missed this year. Not entirely true because at least half that many, if not 75 per cent more were made available to me and my WineAlign colleagues over these past nine month of quarantine, isolation and safe-distancing tastings. Still the make-up of what was tasted has been very different, the most notable being the lack of unrepresented or not found in market wines. Less discovery in 2020 to be sure.

Campo Spritz

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

According to my personal critic’s database on WineAlign I reviewed 4,450 wines in 2020, keeping in mind that many of those reviews were for wines tasted in 2019. Up until this year I was consistently behind or back-logged with hundreds if not more than a thousand tasting notes in the queue, unedited, unresolved, not yet reconciled, unfinished, not-posted. Since the global pandemic abruptly delivered me home in the dead of a late February night from Faenza to Firenze, through Frankfurt and to Pearson I have not been able to resume travel. These last 10 months have allowed for a massive catching up. There are now a thousand less wines to finesse and publish then there were this time last year, very few raw and rustic songs waiting for the editing process. All the choices on this 2020 list have been solidified and already been opined with confidence for the world to scrutinize. In 2020 there is nothing left on the table.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

Slipped outta Dodge under the cover of darkness…

This year’s list is indeed different. The get togethers were few and far between. The travel non-existent. That is why you will recognize more producer names and also a more “archetypal” bent to the choices. The year dictates such a direction and as we all know, you have to listen to what the vintage tells you but also to remember and thank the true pioneers for getting all of us here. Perhaps the greatest influence on how this composition came to be was a conscious choice to omit the older vintages tasted in 2020. There were less to be sure but it just feels like keeping them kind of secretive is the way to go. Let’s hope a connection to that part of this exercise will make a return in 2021. As always, heartfelt thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, so please be encouraged and read on. Alas, Godello’s 20 mind-blowing wines of 2020.

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (23128, $17.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Gets me every time. Not just one of the finest meets best value chenin blancs available out of South Africa but an example to hang all your hats on no matter where white wine comes from in this world. Still the knowing nod and incredulous head shake that $18 CDN can buy you fruit from six blocks that are mainly 38 years of age but could possibly include 1974 Helderberg planted vines in Stellenbosch. “Core of the business” and arrow through a chenin heart. Great ferment, like a (catherine) wheel. Layers of design, creamy with thanks to secondary lees aging but somehow still texturally chewy. Barrel notes make a point in a vanilla brûlée way and yet each sip is like taking a bite from a piece of firm, ripe fruit. “I need more texture. You need to give me more texture, texture, texture. You need to give me more texture.” Old Vine Reserve obliges every time. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Selbach Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2018, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (17498, $45.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

The triad of producer, appellation and vineyard gets no more arch classic than this with a riesling in Spätlese form at the hands of Selbach-Oster. The pitch and sway in this Wehlener Sonnenuhr vinyeard is 2018 dance card perfect, tight and fluid. Succulent acids are burgeoning and urging the fruit forward, sideways and every which way but loose. This is a wine that gets what needs and gives what is wanted. Will only improve with a few years and then there will come a day when an air or vapour trail falls away. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted November 2020

Tyrrell’s Belford Sémillon 2017, Single Vineyard, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, South Australia (14322, $46.95, Select Wine Merchants)

Belford Vineyard (formerly Elliot Farm) is Hunter Valley leader Tyrrell’s single-vineyard leased sémillon with so much promise in its corner. A top varietal vintage for one thing and the well-draining sandy soils for another. Sémillon thrives in these conditions and so what comes from this awe-inspiring wine is exactly what you possibly wish for when selecting from Hunter Valley. This wine is swiftly, justly and perpetually lit, a smoky, paraffin waxy, über salty, elemental, aerified, verified mineral wine. So focused and precise. Mon dieu, Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Fresne Ducret La Grande Hermine Champagne Premier Cru 2008, AC Champagne, France ($78.00, Nicholas Pearce Wines)

Hard to believe the age because while this almost certainly achieved an immediately retro toasted and evolved stage in its youth and though 12 years have passed the present day imaginings are dreamed to persist within that very immediate stage. As creamy as it is toasty, the textural body politic in La Grande Hermine is one of great cerebral and figurative impression. You feel, intuit and embrace such honesty and possibility. Drink this vintage dated Champagne all winter long. Its calming presence will preserve you in a state of grace lower than a snowman’s blood pressure. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2020

El Esteco

El Esteco 1947 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (15082, $24.95, Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.)

From Argentina’s northern desert where some of the country’s oldest vines perpetuate existence while thriving fiercely in a hot climate. So yes it is true that some fruit from 70-plus year old vines, well trees really, make their way into this special Salta wine. Dense and concentrated, Cassis times 10, savoury and truly expressive. Oak is well-managed, not shy mind you but these old vines deserve some added and fortifying structure. Do not miss this. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted August 2020

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Maipo Valley, Chile (403980, $160.00, Escalade Wines & Spirits)

Though essentially a cabernet sauvignon at minimum 90 per cent, it would normally need saying to never discount the blending attributes of cabernet franc, merlot and in recent years, petit verdot. The nooks and crannies filled by the other grape varieties are some of the senses of wonder that have illuminated and elucidated the magic of Don Melchor. And yet years of such thought is turned on its head in 2017 with a 98 per cent pure cabernet sauvignon Don Melchor and only two bits of cabernet franc. Speaks to winemaker Enrique Tirado’s vision of the varietal and vintage relationship. After all, this is his baby, a passion project that spans 20 vintages, from which he looks to “harvest the beauty of the balance of the Puente Alto terroir.” From Viñedo Don Melchor, D.O. Puente Alto and Valle del Alto Maipo, old vines planted 1979 to 1992, new from 2004-2013. The vintage was above average in terms of warmth, cooler temperatures at harvest preserved acidities and sealed the (near) mono-varietal deal. At 30 years into its tenure Don Melchor hits a new stride and it would be hard to argue against the levels of subtle, demure, balanced and ethereal in this 2017. Perfect fruit? Pretty darn close and a bouquet of fresh picked flower-herb-fruit that merge, meld and grace together. One for this age and to age gracefully, slowly and predictably for 20-25 years. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted October 2020

Taub Family Vineyards Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley, California (849434, $235.00, Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd.)

From proprietor Marc Taub who’s family has been prominently part of the Napa Valley wine fabric since prohibition and who in 2013 acquired Napa Valley producer Heritance, later evolving into Taub Family Vineyards. His winemaker is Tom Hinde, a Sonoma and Napa specialist who cut his teeth for seven years at Flowers, but also at Kendall-Jackson, Hartford, La Crema, Lakoya, Cardinale, Stonestreet and Verite. Add in a mere three acres within the historic 300-acre Beckstoffer Vineyard first purchased by Beaulieu founder Georges de Latour in 1928, called Beaulieu Vineyard Number 3 and made by winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. The 2017 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon are a very special lot. That much we know. Add in the pedigree, torch passing and respect for these necessary tenets of wine-producing business and well, hello. Utmost attention to detail, optimum extraction and concentration, sultry, supple and ultimately divine. There is this fine, fine, almost indescribable salty vein that cuts through the fruit and the fat like perfect umami seasoning in the most decadent dish. With meat or seafood, California or Japan, take your pick. Drink this either way. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2020

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $59.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Even though the ’18 HR PN took my breath away nine months ago, the not yet understood nuance of this wine surely clouded first impressions. However small a sample size this may be is more than enough to prove time’s effect on wine, pinot noir and Hamilton Russell’s spiritual connection with the grape and how it personifies the Hemel En Aarde Valley. Fragrance, perfume, essential oils, Lilac, Lilly of the Valley and the sweetest tobacco smoulder. Captivating now and quite likely will be so into the mid 30s.  Last tasted August 2020

There have been many Hamilton Russell pinot noir poured in my anxiously awaiting glasses over the last five years. It’s hard to believe we are here at 2018 but time is a joy when you are having a noirmance. The fruit is exceptional in this vintage because it just feels like the warm day/cool night fix is in. The diurnal flux has locked in freshness and sweet tension like no recent memory can recall. Makes for a most grippy yet excitable pinot noir of concentration, presence and promise. Benchmark in every respect. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted November 2019

That Marco Cirese Sangiovese stare. His Noelia Ricci and Pandolfo are crucial, fundamental and illustrative of what is possible in Emilia-Romagna. #sangiovesediromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020

Noelia Ricci Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Godenza 2018, Emilia Romagna, Italy (The Vine Agency)

Godenza was the name of the podere (house) on site at a one hectare vineyard at 340m, the highest section of Ricci’s land. The introduction of concrete tanks is surely responsible (in part) to the freshness and reduction but also poor, well-draining calcareous soils that complete a relationship with open-knit and fragrant red fruit. Adds up to complexities and beauty, not to mention the hands-off, unadulterated feel of this wine. At the top end of quality and elaborate expression for the appellation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Because he’s Dario F-in Faccin, that’s why g-dammit! #carobbio #sangiovese #chianticlassico #panzano #galestro

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy ($33.60, Alta Wines)

Stop in here for a rest and exult in the near perfect grace, charm and collective soul in the heart of an Annata. To say that the Novarese family and Dario Faccin should feel the greatest sangiovese reward from this appellation would be a grand understatement. This version of Panzano and Chainti Classico DOCG is what it is, what it can and must be. Should be. Has to be. Richly glorious and confidently understated. The cleanest sangiovese and the one that speaks most succinctly of the land. These are the reasons why Carobbio is the most underrated, but for how long? This ’16 will see proof to that and so much more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2020

With the brothers Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli

Now to introduce you to the Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli brothers, Alessandro and Andrea, two men who covet, own and articulate their western wing of Castelnuovo terroir. As custodians of these classic southern Chianti Classico Alberese and Galestro vineyards they have come to understand their nuance and their specialities. So, Riserva from 2015 now comes to its beginning having needed every bit of the extra two years in bottle it has received. Yes this Geggiano ’15 Riserva still needs time and if you abide by the premise it will come alive, surmise and in turn, surprise. In fact it will make a lasting impression and stay with you forever. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Stem Wine Group)

The acumen, wisdom and also the persistent reduction are formidable in this incredibly concentrated wine. So Monsanto, so in delivery of San Donato in Poggio, so Laura Bianchi. Seemingly equipped with the needed stuffing in the way that 1968 managed to accrue over 50 years of travels. Here in Gran Selezione form the tendencies and the abilities are multiplied tenfold. Magnificent and magnanimous, the concentration is foiled by focus and precision, from all that has come before, moving into the present and then going forward with everything that occupies, in hopes and dreams. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted February 2020

Vineyard at Salicutti

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sorgente 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The last of the cru, single-vineyards planted at Salicutti and not surprisingly the one with most red fruity juiciness that keeps a lineage with the Rosso. If a portal into knowing what it makes to taste the bright side of 2015 could be described then why not make use of this ethereal Sorgente to learn of such things. Voltage, tension and vibration. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Francesco Ripaccioli

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Le Sommelier Inc.)

Barrel Sample. Now this is something exceptional. This is what Casaccia is obviously capable of producing, The sweetest Canalicchio fruit of all, to date and with a rising low and slow angling of acidity (as opposed to straight verticality) that carries the fruit to great heights. This will be a triumph and in fact it is already tasting like a piece de Canalicchio resistance while it sings a long maestro song. A soloist that needs no accompaniment although food, company and peace would not hurt at all. Obviously this is more than just the northern side of Montalcino and more than Canalicchio. This is Casaccia. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted February 2020

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2013, Tuscany, Italy

The ’13 will be released on January 1st, 2023 and as the name Diecianni suggests it is a Riserva that 10 years minimum are needed before readiness begins to take shape. The selection is from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. The vintage of the great polyphonic-phenolic, elastic and stretched ripeness, by photosynthesis without heat, of muscles with energy and ones that will develop, remain and use their power to keep the fruit alive. That said it’s a wine of wood and the highest level of salinity, sapidity and a tang that is exhibited by no other Brunello di Montalcino. A concentration that is simply outstanding and in some minds, will even be eclipsed (or not) by 2016. The finesse and architecture of this wine are as good as it gets. Drink 2026-2042.  Tasted February 2020

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Riserva DOCG Castelletto 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($59.95)

From Canale vines 50 years old and the most historical vineyard for Malabaila, as documents show. Riserva here means two years in two, three and four year-old barrels. Yet another silky Roero and example of nebbiolo that could not have been born anywhere else. The “little castle” is a charming nebbiolo, fine of all its constructive parts with an ease of sensuality that just shows how confident, casual and natural life as it is just happens to be. Castelletto knows what it is. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Elena Sottimano

Sottimano Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($103.95, Le Maitre de Chai)

Basarin in the newest Cru for Sottimano, established in 2014 though the vines are already between 45-50 years old. Released just at the start of 2020 and already displaying a prominence in aromatics that speak to this exceptional nook just below Neive. From a vintage blessed for its place in history matched by a requiem for a dream. Crunchy for nebbiolo surely caused by the policy of classically long Piedmontese maceration, drawing fruit with gentle impunity and long-grained tannins in thrushes and intermingling chains. Pure dark fruit (almost raspberry) and a generous application of wood varnish. Architecture, length and character, all together. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted January 2020

With Francesca Vaira

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Bricco Delle Viole 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($113.95, Groupe Soleil)

The thing of Bricco delle Viole that is beauty emits with gala fruit force into the canals of the layers. Bricco dell Viole the singular Barolo cru, from which fruit, texture and extension are consistently planned out, mapped and organized. So wound, so found and following a path that runs along a line along a circle. Slow unwind and unfolding coming, culminating in developed notes, to be far away, somewhere between then and then. Too soon to tell. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2017, South Australia, Australia (12016, $150.00, Mark Anthony Group)

Another old friend, St. Henri, once a wine for a special occasion, now one for all times. No, not a baby Grange but to me this is to Penfolds as Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus is to Maison Bouchard Père & Fils. Not that there is any resemblance to pinot noir save for the fact that in terms of shiraz, St. Henri is the elegant or if you will, the Burgundian one. Penfolds like to refer to Henri as “an intriguing counterpoint to Grange,” and that seems right in the sense that power and optimum concentration are never the point. It is a multi-regional blend, from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley and Port Lincoln. There is no new wood exercised; it spends 12 months in 50-plus year old vats. Distinct style, unique pedigree and alternative execution. Adds up to intrigue, enigma and mystery, which is just what an iconic and signature counterpoint should do. Acidity and structure are tops, bar none. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 2018, Douro Valley, Portugal (12076, $160.00, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits)

The third consecutively declared Vintage Port by Taylor is one of 18’s most powerfully restrained. Taylor describes their 2018 from a “year (that) seems to have given it an additional layer of density and weight.” Apropos it needs saying because texture this viscous is clearly vintage driven. After record aridity in 2017 it was a wet March that was welcomed with open arms and water tables but the rain kept up and so mildew became the challenge. Worse was damage from hailstorms in the Pinhão area, including Taylor Fladgate’s Quinta do Junco. But the heat came and on August 3rd at Quinta de Vargellas they recorded a temperature of just over 44°C. Ripening happened in a shorter and more concentrated window, a good thing in the world of VP, as witnessed by the no holes, all in, singular in vision and style Taylor 2018. Not the gangster power surge of some others mind you and the violets give little aromatic space to fruit nor perfume that tries to steal the spotlight. These are remarkable tannins and it could be periods of ages and epochs before this begins to move into complexities secondary and tertiary. If I were as young as I think you are I’d invest in this Taylor for the next 30-plus years of evolution. Drink 2027-2044.  Tasted November 2020

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Please reach out to California and a Mondavi retrospective at To Kalon

Give a view an arch and he’ll ask you to stay for dinner #tokalon2017

Update: As much as 900,000 further acres have been lost to fire since September 14th and because of the recent Glass Fire there have been many evacuation orders for parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. As of today nearly 66,000 acres have burned. Three fires had merged, resulting in one big fire initially threatening Napa Valley and Santa Rosa. Thank goodness the containment has now reached 30 per cent but there is still a long way to go. The road to recovery will be even longer so please consider donating to help all the families, businesses and first responders.

Related – California Update: Napa Valley

The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund and Sonoma County Resilience Fund

Provides gift cards to evacuees and emergency relief services to those affected by the fire, including temporary shelter, meals, counselling and assistance in navigating insurance claims.

Wine Country Fire Relief Fundraiser

A gofundme campaign, launched by five wine industry marketing professionals, focuses on direct relief for farmworkers (a vital part of the wine industry’s fabric) affected by the Glass Fire Incident in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

California Wildfire Relief

Supports firefighters, low income families and animals that are suffering due to wildfires. It helps provide emergency supplies including food, water and medicine.

Latino Community Foundation

Distributes contributions to Latino-led organizations that are helping families displaced by wildfires across the state.

Women’s Foundation California Relief and Resilience Fund

Funding goes to every domestic violence shelter in the state to help care for survivors who are unhoused or feel unsafe.

Thank you to Karen MacNeil for her update and for sharing these words from Linda Reiff, President of Napa Valley Vintners:

“We are deeply grateful for the tremendous care from around the world, and for the hard work and dedication of fire fighters, first responders and volunteers who are here from near and far to help us.  At our core, we are a strong, agricultural community where grapes have been grown and wines made for more than 150 years. The Napa Valley is still here, our community spirit is fierce, we will get through and beyond this.”

We’re worried about all of you in northern California. Please stay safe.

Recalling simpler times

My last visit to To Kalon Vineyard was three and a half years ago, Oakville site of that consequential plottage, koan of sorts, most excellent agglomerate of soil, vine and canopy. To Kalon functions as an enigmatic invitation to rethink the meaning of wine, so speaking of The Robert Mondavi Winery and Arterra Wines Canada, enlightened educator Mark de Vere MW will soon be moderating a virtual tasting with Constellation Brands winemakers Thomas Rivers Brown and Carol Shrader. In a couple of weeks time, on Friday, October 9 at 1:00 pm (EST). I will be participating and tasting 2017 and 2018 Double Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon. The plan will be to explore the vast diversity and fine quality of the Oakville terroir and To Kalon Vineyard. Which brings me back to May of 2017 and a week spent in Napa Valley completing the Robert Mondavi Winery To Kalon Vineyard certification program.

There were cellar tastings, Chef Jeff Mosher prepared dinners, hot air balloon flights, vineyard cycling tours, UC Davis research investigations and most enriching seminars led by Director of Wine Education De Vere and winemaker Geneviève Janssens. Inside The CIA (Culinary Institute of America) at Copia, Napa classrooms the sessions taught included west coast, global and To Kalon examples of cabernet sauvignon. The Napa Valley panelist apprised cabernet sauvignon flights were filled with archetypes, icons and Mondavi retrospectives. Rarely does one get to go at so many learning tools and experiential gifts of history through such an array of high quality varietal wines. De Vere made a request by asking everyone to dig deep, do some soul searching and get to the bottom of the new versus old world paradigm. “Let’s get an unbiased impression of what the differences are and what might make them different. California has reliably dry summers but much more day/night diurnal temperature fluctuations. Bordeaux stays warm at night and thus differing ripening patters. Napa significantly more sunshine hours but not necessarily more total heat.”

Related – En route to Mondavi

#tokalon

Then the vineyard’s prodigy spoke. Graeme MacDonald’s experience and published work have by now made him THE historian of Napa Valley’s famed To Kalon Vineyard area near Oakville. MacDonald is a To Kalon farmer who has written a history of the famed grape growing area for the Historic American Landscapes Survey. His work is part of the Library of Congress. The vineyard was started in 1868 by Hamilton W. Crabb, an innovator in wine marketing and vineyard techniques while today the Robert Mondavi Winery, University of California Davis and Andy Beckstoffer control most of its land. For McDonald To Kalon is simply a place entwined with his family’s history. 

Start raising a child 100 years before they are born because that’s when you begin to prepare the environment they will be born into. #tokalon #graememacdonald #tokalon2017 #tokalonvineyard

“It was really for me a great way to document the history for our children. I want to leave something that explains why I am so passionate about it,” MacDonald said. “Start raising a child 100 years before their birth because that’s when you begin to prepare the environment they will be born into.” The Wappo people called it “Tu-ia-halusi, or ”beautiful land” to describe the upper Napa Valley. The name To Kalon is Greek for “highest beauty,” or the “highest good,” as per H.W. Crabb in 1889.   “I try to make it mean the boss vineyard,” says McDonald. Also a pivotal part in Aristotle and the most important (and first) wine poured in the time of Jesus. This from the most important winemaker in the history of Napa. It took 100 years after it was predicted by Crabb but that is when Graeme’s grandfather committed to Cabernet Sauvignon (circa 1978). The family wines were labeled under the name Detert Vineyards.

Flight #1

Global Styles

Château D’Issan 2013, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (511469, $114.00, WineAlign)

Tasted blind in Napa, the first impression is Chile due to the capsicum bite and wood that expresses as savour and piquancy. Herbal with currants and tobacco. Impressive smoky wood integration overtop gamey, Bretty, animale character which talks a Bordeaux vernacular. Fruit is subtle, restrained and waits for the finish. It’s Bordeaux, or course. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2017

#metaphysicalmonday #cliffmay #thenostalgiaoftheinfinite #dichirico #campanile #missionstyle

Concha Y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Terrunyo Las Terrazas Block, Andes Pirque Vineyard 2013, Maipo Valley, Chile (562918, $29.95, WineAlign, Escalade Wines)

Now a slight demure, dusty but cool, minty, creosote and graphite, like Coonawarra perhaps. Some granite soil funk so could also be South Africa and yet there is this very high acidity and eucalyptus. The aesthetic is more about fruit than tannic structure. Some carménère in here likely – the smoky edge would say so. It’s Chile because the herbs and black currants dominate so clearly from a warm part, i.e. Maipo. Last tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2016

Big floral vintage for the single-vineyard Terrunyo cabernet, rich, lush and hedonism defined. The varietal stands out in the vintage with the heavy lean to fresh flowers, along with the waves of alternating blackberry and Cassis. The alcohol and the weight are certainly formidable but the aromatics and fruit heavy tonality keeps up with the heat. Big boned and barrel conscious, this CyT is a big wine for a modest price. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted August 2016

Mark de Vere MW

Mollydooker Cabernet Sauvignon Gigglepot 2013, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia (SAQ 12449825, $54.00, Breakthru Bev Canada)

Ripe, high acidity, elevated tones and dark fruit. More like Argentina here and the palate also suggests Bordeaux but it’s too ripe. The high acid, metafictional mochafication and extreme ripeness puts my guess in McLaren Vale but also because of the richness and ripeness. Some dark red fruit is exceptional, part dried, with liquorice, both red and black. Really lovely wine, juicy, with a high level of fruit from some great vineyards. A genuine product of Sarah and Sparky Marquis from which 16 per cent alcohol is pulled off with remarkable ease, with thanks to tannic structure and extract. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017

Me and Mondavi

Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon Three Pines 2013, Jonkershoek Valley, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (288316, $28.85, Vonterra)

This seems the most Californian but Alexander Valley in its current of currant and savour. Tastes like Clos du Bois, but we’re now in South Africa. Quite anti-reductive, little to do with granite, funky soil and rubber tree plants, but it hints at all this from Stellenbosch. like juicing liquorice, bokser and umeboshi plum mixed into Ribena for a juicy cocktail. This may be closer to Cali than the rest because of the supple triumvirate of fruit-acid-tannin for structure. Terrific representation from the Jonkershoek Valley. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017

Flight #2

West Coast California

Justin Vineyards Isosceles 2015, Paso Robles, California (684282, $136.95, The Vine Agency)

Quite the Cassis richness and genteel nature, ripe but of a humble extraction with a distinct garrigue note. Very Napa-ilke though there is a high love of acidity. Tasted blind you might think it could very well be a Mondavi but it’s too jammy and there is a plethora of red fruit purée,. That it turns out to be from Paso Robles is a perfect example to show that further south can translate to a warmer climate… but not always. Cool nights are adding their own extreme example of diurnal temperature swings so that 16.0 per cent alcohol, coulis and acidity can coexist. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Chef Jeff Mosher’s Fresh Spring Pea Risotto at Mondavi

Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello Vineyard 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains (89284, $86.95, Rogers and Company)

Quite savoury with Mediterranean accents, black olive and brine, cool and minty, seemingly accented with American oak. A cloudy moments suggests Alexander Valley, but clarity wins so better still Santa Cruz Mountains. So is this a Ridge? Elegant cabernet sauvignon, 75 per cent with merlot and bits of petit verdot and cabernet franc. Positioned to an ocean proximity overhanging Monterey Bay and above most of the fog so the growing climate is its own. Keeps sugar and alcohol down for a cool and elegant expression. Last tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017

From the next arid vintage with more immunity always gifted by the Santa Cruz Mountains terroir so that Ridge can do what they want and what is needed. Three-quarters cabernet sauvignon, 20 per cent merlot and quick Pollockian slashes of petit verdot and cabernet franc meet in the studio to create and complete the piece. There is more acidity and tension on the nose than noted in 2012, with red currants and black fruit swirling in coulis centrifuge to distract from what wants to grip and tear you away. The purity and cool texture of a Ridge cabernet is unlike any other; it stretches this way and that, never breaking, tearing or shearing but not because is has been patched, quilted or restored. It was always this way and will stay so for 15 to 20 years. Tannins are fine and support what happens, in any way they are asked to do. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted April 2017

Tacos at Morimoto

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County ($80.00)

A bit of demure, lots of black fruit and a note or orange rind. Again terrific acidity, and tart, crisp, chocolate edging. Sensing a combination of oaks in that chemistry effect when merging into the fruit of Alexander Valley. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, (255513, $44.95)

The aridity of 2013 has now translated into some lovely development in bottle that trials and tribulates with its wealthy pool of rich, ripe and silky chocolate texture. Such a typically reasoned Napa Valley explanation with 47 years under its increscent belt. Serious tannins need five years to seek settlement and to carry structure for to build a home for the ripe fruit. At 14.8 per cent alcohol there is much to fuel and keep the abode bathed in warmth, along with American oak in pancetta ooze, augmented by smoke and spice. Chewy and huge. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February and June 2016, May 2017

Bob Swanson of #napavalleyballoons is the man. Slice through butter flight over the Sacramento Valley to 1000 ft, #splashanddash in Putah Creek and a smooth, exacting landing on a dime on the back of a flatbed.

Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Walla Walla Valley, Washington

Drawn from Seven Hills’ founding blocks, planted by winemaker Casey McClellan and his father in the early 1980s. Very ripe, rich and unctuous aromatics, also floral, big tannic structure, candied complexion with mint chocolate candy cane and yet its aridity dominates the back side. Continental climate with maritime overtones in a Walla Walla cabernet under the influence of the rain shadow. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2017

Flight #3

Napa Rocks

Inherit The Sheep Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Coombsville AVA

Inherit The Sheep, a multi-play on words, launching point “the meek shall inherit the earth,” followed by “the farmers shall inherit the sheep” and prophesied as Clay and Tersilla Gregory may never inherit anything else in their lives. As for cabernet sauvignon, Coombsville just seems to be a natural extension from the concept of Napa Rocks. As Mondavi’s Mark de Vere made sure to point out, “the reputation of Napa comes form the quality of the wine made here, not the quantity.” About 150 million years ago a domino of events began to occur…ocean plate under the continental plate….volcanic influence and marine rock. A mish-mash, super geological group of alloy musicians. Coomsville gets it too, exemplified by this rich, highly perfumed aromatic cabernet, soil a major factor in the duality of tart meets tang, some dried herbs and dusty, chalky tannins. As a memory, Clay Gregory used to be a GM at Mondavi. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2017

The meek shall? Focused alternative #napavalley AVA expression #tokalon2017 #coombsville

Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (731810, $76.75, Mondia Alliance)

Deeper, higher tonality and lifted though it’s from liqueur and not acidity necessarily. So much chocolate, perhaps dominant by American oak but also a comestible layering and pressing that comes by ripe and concentrated fruit out of Stags Leap District. East side of the valley, volcanic and alluvial, so perhaps the place and its victuals speak loudest, dark chocolate and red cherry, quite chewy and with middle palate tannin, focused and lined. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon (West To Kalon Vineyard) 2013, Napa Valley

Very juicy, acidity driven, extraction and high level tonality. A fineness discerned with immediate notice, layer upon layer of distinction and elegance. Tasting blind it could be the Mondavi Reserve, acidity is very present balanced by plush fruit ripeness, blacker than red, slightly savoury and so Oakville. Turns out it is west To Kalon Vineyard though not labeled as such. For Graeme McDonald “it tastes like home.” Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2017

With Sara d’Amato

Tres Sabores Cabernet Sauvignon Perspective 2013, Rutherford

The jam is in, a bit to the right of ripeness and so a left leaning structure. Already noting some balsamic, soy and even a faint tick of truffle, not quite raisin but there is an indication it’s beginning is around the corner. Tthe palate brings more energy but this lacks balance because the fruit is overripe. Three flavours. Rutherford Bench fruit. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted May 2017

Cade Estate Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley (325027, $206.95, The Vine Agency)

Classic next level Napa Valley depth, structure and intendment. Full on welling sunken weight, oak very much apart of every moment but not overly spiced. Through that big oak bent there is something akin or at least draws memories to Atlas Mountain. Incredibly ripe with aggressive, thick, needing 10 years to devolve tannins. Could be Atlas but is in fact Howell Mountain, one of the eastern AVAs from which mountain fruit delivers more intensity of tannin. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted May 2017

Flight #4

Oakville

Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley
From Linda Neal, long-time vineyard manager who purchased the Oakville property in 1987. A distinctly perfumed-floral cabernet sauvignon, of violets, but also a dusty, silty-salty mineral aroma. Terrific acidity, just terrific, the type of tart intensity that causes anticipatory salivation. Reminds of cabs off of Terra Rossa soil, a.k.a. Coonawarra but also the Panzano terroir of Carobbio. Geologically it’s volcanic in origin, off of a hillside vineyard. Intense and offering a fully focused commitment straight through the finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2017

Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($179.95, The Vine Agency)

Richness but reserved, demure, unhurried in a calm state. More of an exotic perfume, jasmine and bougainvillea, still some salty grit and certainly mineral but fuller, with an ooze of dark chocolate and body politic by firmness and tannin. Beneficial bitters on the finish. It’s way, way too young to fully appreciate. Special fruit is saved for this next level cabernet sauvignon from its very own patch of free-draining alluvial soil. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2017

Geneviève Janssens and Mark De Vere MW

Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Oakville, Napa Valley (39388, $29.95, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

An annual parade of quality comes from Franciscan with this Napa Valley cabernet, a wine that is quietly commercial and respectfully true to its roots. It’s quite chalky and the tannic grain is truly in focus while the fruit speaks with premium ability, certainly sheathed by Americanized vanilla oak. Savoury to a point but still quite naked truthful about fruit in its ripe clothing. Always well made and at its best in 2014. Drink 2017-2021.  Last tasted October 2017

Even more reserve and also into reductive, with darkest fruit, Cassis, carob and graphite. So much chocolate, dark, bitter and high in cocoa. Coating tannin, present and demanding, a bit west. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Huh. A day after tasting these #tokalon wines #tokalon2017

Nickel & Nickel John C Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($179.99, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Dark cherry and Cassis oscillate in waves, punishing the shores of first prefacing perfume and then recursing acidity. A distinct profile that speaks so similarly to a Mondavi To Kalon but in Oakville…it’s hard to know, distinguish and be certain but so tempting to hedge guessing bets on origins. Such fineness, dramatic acidity and persistence, so not surprising it’s just across the road (Hwy 29). A very special tract of terroir in its own right this John C. Sullenger Vineyard. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley (29207, $59.95, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

Oakville’s rich Cassis and mocha swirl welcomes wood and baking spice, then floral meets herbaceous Freesia. As a Mondavi cabernet, Oakville sits high up on the sapid meets tart scale and is expressly long. The palate really suggests older world Bordeaux but it’s almost too ripe, chalky, chocolate ganache rich, especially at the finish. A touch of Brett brings me back to structure and old world but there is an equal and opposing fruit-tannin seamlessness and smoothness. Its fineness of acidity means that it ends up balanced. Markedly correct, intense and proprietary for 2013. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2017 and February 2018

Flight #5

To Kalon

Narrowing it down to the vineyard, De Vere is insistent on what matters. “Elements of style and quality, not just, but a stylistic, a feel, difference, less broad in expression like Oakville or classic like the direct Napa Valley tier.” Rutherford’s alluvial fan vs. To Kalon’s alluvial fan complex vs the same, but different, from Oakville. The east side of the Oakville AVA receives more of the warm afternoon sun as compared to the sedimentary-gravelly alluvial loam on the west, with more volcanic but heavier soils on the east. There they are low to moderate fertility and fairly deep. All this adds up to more than 100 soil variations in Napa Valley, one half of what exists on earth. To Kalon receives shade a full hour earlier than the east side of the valley. It’s reserve fruit is more likely to be found where the large pebble, gravelly, well draining soils are found, further west, abutted up against the mountain range.

As an aside, talk about Napa Valley wines often leads to the fruit-jam complex. “Fruit bombs (you will know),” says De Vere, “are not just a factor of sun, ripeness, and brix. They are a result of less tannin and acidity, from vines stressed after veraison to develop ripeness but without the balancing factors. To kalon’s soils develop acidity earlier and maintain it. Acid-tannin-pyrazine, that’s the order of development.

Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2014, Oakville, Napa Valley ($250.00 estimate, Halpern Enterprises)

Presented by Eduardo Dingler, Napa Sommelier. High toned, deep, deep dark fruit, gets right up the olfactory. Young, chalky, tart and with the dark fruit sitting serious and looming, like a cross-legged Buddha on the ledge of a 10-foot To Kalon wall. Sees 62 per cent new French oak after six to eight weeks cold soak pre-fermentation. In an environment without alcohol you get this layered juiciness and tart aromatics without astringency. That’s the crux and the key. Balance, density, true to the To Kalon spirit. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2017

Alpha Omega Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($188.00 estimate)

Presented by Alpha Omega’s founding winemaker Jean Hoefliger. “Napa has a consistency of climate that is unmatched, anywhere.” On Andy Beckstoffer, “Andy was very receptive to my very expensive lap dances,” and about the vineyard, “in an era of globalization, To Kalon’s DNA is the most important in Napa Valley. The site in Napa easiest to find in a blind tasting because of acidity and tannin, backbone and skeleton.” Hoefliger’s ’13 cabernet sauvignon is a construct of granularly dense tannic structure and non-readjusted acidity. Darkness ascends or descends as the glass goes, brooding, seemingly from deeper clay soils within the alluvial variegation, a wine in which the tannins have been joined, linked, layered, polymerized. Having used a long maceration makes this dense, intense and ageable. To be exact, 45 days on skin, then in the end unfined and unfiltered. Wow does this remind me of modern Piedmontese nebbiolo but with so much more intense red fruit, notes of incense, wild fennel, cinnamon and candy hearts. Just tremendous structure. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted May 2017

Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($220.00 estimate)

Bright but at the same time with a hint of dried fruit so good balance between the two, meaning the acidity is in control. John Hazak: “What To Kalon has that separates itself from our iconic Hewitt Vineyard is age ability and a dense core that opens up with age. It sets it apart from our top Rutherford sites.” A chewy To Kalon by tempered ganache, a child reared on plenty of barrel fermentations to capture individual parcels of beautiful fruit. Carries a cool minty savour at the finish and lingers across the top of the gums above the teeth, leaving that anaesthetizing feeling. Brilliant in that respect, not quite ready though will come into its own not too far from now. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Station 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley ($150.00 estimate)

Certainly more dusty notes, garrigue, savour and a hint of black olive, but all red fruit. From Oakville Station (labeled as such, from the UC Davis grown plots of vines). “The best way to understand To Kalon on the surface is to take a bike ride,” says Charles Thomas. “to understand why a gradation across a kilometre is so crucial. There is ample tannin in To Kalon but also a fineness of tannin. It is forgiving of many aspects of viticulture and especially winemaking. You always see the vineyard.” A transitional wine, ripeness but not super so, perfumed and the subtleties of the vineyard. Cherry blossom big time. An island surrounded by Mondavi on all sides, more fertility here in this block, a soft, delicious chocolate finish. A transitional era styled wine. Aromatic and not with the same density (with 10 merlot and 5 cabernet franc)but beautiful all the same. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley (670463, $149.00, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

Mondavi’s 2013 Reserve from the iconic To Kalon Vineyard plays a different role when nosed side by five each with other similar terroir cabernets, in this case by Cliff Lede, Alpha Omega, Provenance and Cornerstone. The Mondavi would show as a muscular cabernet in a solo tasting irrespective of the flight but with relative reference points the Mediterranean savour stands apart, especially in this high-toned aromatic vintage. The wine is embossed and eschews syrup for chew and density, the chalky tannins already beginning to show some development and integration. After going through the basket press, the haute cultured barrels bring out this insieme-collective of sophisticated To Kalon sweet acidity and tannin, leaving extracted bitterness behind. This works in elevating the texture of silk and softness, insisting upon and stamping a guarantee of longevity. The excellence is rounded out with some fragrance from petit verdot and further finessed, grainy tannin by cabernet franc. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley (670463, $300.00, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

Tasted during a To Kalon Vineyard retrospective in Napa. Though sinfully young the 2014 seems bright and focused, accessible, closer to ready than the 2013. The secret, special, double secret bottle, only 150 cases made, not really available for trade, pure To Kalon. Refined, here and only here as 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon, spice but melted and oozing into that liqueur, there is a seamlessly woven fabric of vineyard that just seems soft, supple and elastic. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted May 2017

And a few more Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon tasted that May

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010, Napa Valley

The 2010 Reserve is a sensory wine in the most attention grabbing way, as experiential and inspirational as can be when such an inhalant gets hold of the senses. Deepest dark fruit of impossibly zero evolution and everything in line with the classic Mondavi-To Kalon relationship. Blackberry, Cassis, black olive and silkened in texture as the Reserve can ever be. Pure weave, ethereal liquidity, fresh, finessed, focused and exacting. Tough on a winemaker? That’s why this is so good. A grand cru Oakville classic, great wine from a challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006, Napa Valley

Actually some development here, straight into secondary time framing from which balsam and spice are front and centre. The masala comes from cassia stick, bokser pod and liquifies in plum liqueur. Lots of chocolate ganache and in some ways the least indicative Mondavi Reserve vintage for a To Kalon cabernet sauvignon. Acidity is quiet and perhaps this is just a moment in time. Maybe in a year or two the acids will step out of the shadows and rear up once again but I wouldn’t wait nor hold my breath. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005, Napa Valley

Tasted in an auspicious group that included a Gros Clos Vougeot ’13, Grange ’11, Haut-Brion ’11 and Sassicaia ’11, all led by Mark de Vere MW and culminating at this Mondavi Napa Valley Reserve ’05. Or as what De Vere quips, “just another night in Napa Valley.” A cool vintage now showing some secondary notes though still presenting balsam, tempered chocolate ganache, pencil lead and graphite. Floral vintage of ethereal whispers and the trilogy promise of the EPF. Elegance, power and finesse. Dark To Kalon fruit and mouth-watering acidity with a vanishing point of mystery still on the horizon, like walking with someone we don’t fully know but feel comfortable in their presence. Still elicits more questions than answers so for a vintage like 2005, 12 years seems to be peak performance. The tannic finish supports Cassis, dried herbs and a briny Mediterranean black olive bite. Tannin begets fine bitters. “Using oak is the virtuoso way to express To Kalon fruit,” says Geneviève Janssens, “after fermentation, to preserve the personality of To Kalon.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard 1999, Napa Valley

This from a time when Mondavi labeled the reserve cabernet sauvignon as “To Kalon Vineyard,” a moniker of essential meaning that would return 14 years later on the 2013 bottle. If this were what Mark de Vere referred to as “a confusing moment in history” I could not say but “this strange bottling” provided an unequivocal and seminal turning point in this wine’s storied past, present and future. It was in fact a small, special cuvée, a little bit different than the ’99 Reserve. “The coolest vintage on record, until it wasn’t,” because of a warm period at the end of summer and early fall that ushered forth a certain, singular sort of ripeness. Regardless of memories, characterizations and twists of fate, this single-vineyard cabernet is as finessed, focused and precise as any Mondavi Reserve. It persists chalky, fine and gritty in tannin running amok, dragging the acidity forward and around. The workout is something to behold, a dispatch of late Napa fashion and never more successful than right here. The dépêche mode of To Kalon is by now famous but culminated with this ’99 for everything to follow, with consistency and a guarantee of modern quality. Listen to it croon “try walking in my shoes.” Many have and many continue to pay homage to this Napa Valley originator and pioneer. It’s a cabernet sauvignon of faith and devotion. Drink 2017-2029.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1988, Napa Valley

A vintage of reducing and concentrating liqueur, high-toned, distillate, California IGT. A bottling style of the time and the vintage must have procured such fruit meets tannic intensity that it has taken a long time to relent. Higher in acidity than savour, pulsating, energetic. Still a bit frenetic in its wildly animated state of perpetual suspension. A bit Bretty but 1988 carries such an old world sentimentality and the many ties that bind. Despite the great and gritty acidity it remains a balanced cabernet sauvignon, earthy and old school but I’d wager it will continue to drink this way for seven to 10 more years. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1976, Napa Valley

“What order to do pour a vertical tasting,” asks Mark de Vere MW. “When you have 1988, 1999 and 2000 in the mix? You have to think about how the wines were made, how the grapes were grown, without sophisticated equipment, with vineyard managers and winemakers who didn’t know then what they know now.” But, this house named Mondavi has seemingly always known, respected and responded collectively over these things. The terroir – To Kalon. Since tasting 1975 one year ago I can say this: 1976 is remarkably alive, sound and vital. From a very dry year. Ten days of “prolonged” skin-contact. Dill present along with preserved plum, of course mushroom, truffle and what separates this from ’75 is acidity, equal to over even performing above that of 1980. Spice! Tart and still intense. Amazing. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville BDX Red Wine 2015, Oakville, Napa Valley (SAQ, $75.75)

As always the high quality To Kalon fruit as a base source puts the odd in high favour but the idea here is to use parcels that produce lushness and lower tannin so that the wine gifts quite a bit more instant gratification. Mostly cabernet sauvignon with cabernet franc and originally only sold on premise. Extension through barrel is 24 months in mixed (55/45) Allier French for a liquid chalky result, preserved top notch acidity and a sharpness that demands protein attention. Can’t miss the graphite/pencil lead and in this specific case, tongue tripping vowels which talk the talk of this specific red blend. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Oakville District, Napa Valley

When tasted side by side the genetic lineage and connection to 1999 at ten years apart is uncanny and so it is To Kalon that ties the two, threads the similarity and is the reason. Black olive as always, dusty garrigue and this medi-pedi (Mediterranean pedigree) that unites all cabernet sauvignon from Oakville sites. Same wisdom and freedom, same feeling felt. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, Oakville District, Napa Valley

Has aged with To Kalon grace and while texture is seemingly everything, still you are reminded to engage with the fully seasoned, exigent exhale from the spice box. Aromatically present in balsam and fig, the vineyard’s black olive and then acidity off the proverbial charts. We see how To Kalon mellows in Oakville form, integrates and acts out the marshmallow of time. Hinting now at the tertiary which comes quicker in this range and that is perfectly, allegedly understandably fine. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2013, Napa Valley

As with the sauvignon blanc the fruit source is Schweitzer Vineyard, here for the cabernet from three blocks all leading to a bigger, fleshier style. Treated similarly to the Oakville cabernet, long maceration in oak fermenters and 24 months barrel time, six more than the Oakville Reserve because these tannins need further taming. Deep red fruit in tones of strawberry, raspberry and plum with moments that are not unlike European reds in hot climate/seasons. Turns to spicy white toffee, vanilla and before too long the screeching breaks down the scree of tannin. Wait five years. Trust that idea. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2017

A few basic bottles were on hand to greet us @RobertMondavi before the finest wines and cake were offered.

And the opening wines in Mondavi’s cellars

Château Haut Brion Premier Grand Cru Classé 2011, Ac Pessac Léognan (263251, $1,599.85)

A cabernet sauvignon dominant Pessac Léognan off of gravel soils in contrast to some other First Growths Haut Brion is keenly about Château, of reputation, history and acumen. A Bordeaux to cause revelry and from 2011 fresh like you could never expect or imagine. Lithe and mineral, dusty stone and focused. Of continental temper and elegance, black olive and quality chocolate, toasty espresso and late arriving spice. Taste, gather, repeat. Will surely develop next level time-honoured notes of forest floor, mushroom and delicately rendered baking spice. In 20 years and further long-lived expectations. My kind of longevity though the fineness says it will ready itself quite soon. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2017

Domaine Gros Frère Et Soeur Clos De Vougeot Grand Cru “Musigni” 2013, AOC Bourgogne ($300.00)

From the top of the slope at Musigny in a distinct and compelling Clos de Vougeot of intensity and finesse. Deep rooted earth and black cherry fruit, so much fragrance and delicate. A just sharpened pencil, a brush with fennel and lavender, a gaze through a looking glass. At its most calm, a palate silky and accented by a complex mix of spice. A wine to ask “what makes a great wine.” So much more than the length and the finish, always circling back to the start and about the quality of the bitters in their refinement. Where in the process does this occur? When is the magic performed? All the way through and as a by-product of the paradigm of site. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted May 2017

Sassicaia 2011, Doc Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy (480533, $229.95)

Showing maximum warmth and spirit, high savour by liquorice, mint, fennel and so much spice. Marchese Niccolò Incisa della Rocchetta fixing Bolgheri just as his father did while Robert Mondavi was doing so in Oakville at To Kalon. Revolutions is different places and for Sassicaia, a clear varietal vernacular. Apposite Bordeaux like power and a supple wrist in using extra hands with cabernet franc. Still those chalky tannins. Drink 2020-2029.  Last tasted May 2017

Certainly a Sassicaia borne of the earth and the vintage. Cooler, with increased sapidity and elevated aromatics. While not volatile there is certainly an intimation at acetic behaviour. Though supportive in only 15 per cent of the two Cabs blend, cabernet franc stands firm in its concentration of tobacco, peppercorns a-popping in the pan and a smouldering of currants over an open fire. This will age for decades and return to its beautiful natural state with time-weathered, rugged facial lines. A leathery Sassicaia this, with tight, drying tannins and in need of two decades to show off its birthright. The 2011 Sassicaia is a loyal, aristocratic example to the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta’s dream of creating a ‘thoroughbred’ wine where the ideal was Bordeaux.  Tasted November 2014

Good to go!

godello

Give a view an arch and he’ll ask you to stay for dinner #tokalon2017

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and Riserva 2004

The Albeisa bottle is the symbol of the Langhe territory

Preview of Barolo DOCG 2016

Nothing in the behaviour of these nebbiolo consents to their age. Too serious, too impenetrable and at the same time terribly sharp, focused and severe. Wines as stiff as justice. Somehow they intimidate us but also create an environment for sheer, prolonged and utter enjoyment. Or at least they will, eventually, with time. When they arrive at their intended destination they will surrender a Barolo impression that we are barely drinking them. A retrospective look at yesterday Barolo DOCG 2006 and Riserva DOCG 2004 confirms from then, through current considerations, what will happen tomorrow.

Nebbiolo seekers may still be reminiscing about the Barolo & Barbaresco world opening as the largest appellation tasting for Italian wine in the United States. The event took place in New York City back in February 2020, featured over 200 producers, hosted 800-plus trade attendees and 500-plus consumers. Big stuff. As for me, my most recent Langhe experience was in January 2020 when I travelled to Alba in Piemonte for Nebbiolo Prima 2020 and Grandi Langhe. I tasted more than 600 nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera, arneis, freisa, chardonnay, pelaverga and even riesling during the eight day work staycation. Grande.

Related – Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005

Tasting at Nebbiolo Prima 2020

Vintage 2016 was the first from which Barolo DOCG exceeded 14 million bottles and that number accounted for 22.4 per cent of the total volume reported by the Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani. That Barolo and Barbaresco are so prominent is due of course to their international stardom but from a real and factual standpoint the fact is that nebbiolo plantings make up 37 of the Langhe region’s total vineyard space. All appellations and varietals are important and need to be tasted at the combination of Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe Trade Fair. Yet the bottom line remains. Barolo is king and most attendees are puppies in love when it comes to chasing that regal nebbiolo dream.

Menzione Geographica

Barolo’s cru system has elevated nebbiolo to the top of the Italian wine charts and few would argue against it residing at the head of the global wine buying and collecting chain. Mentioning the geographical location is Barolo’s calling card and no other Italian appellation has built such a veritable reputation on the pinpointing of locations. The mere preesence of a Menzione Geographica on a Barolo label tells a specific story. In 1879, Lorenzo Fantini in his “Monograph of Vine Growing and Enology in the Province of Cuneo,” offered an accurate description of the zone and defined Nebbiolo as “the prince of vines.” Again, Fantini in his “Monograph” wrote “if the vine has within itself excellent qualities it is also undoubtedly true that the elaboration of its heavenly juice requires favorable land and soil. Not all soils provide equal savor, so if we must doff our caps to this princely vine, we must revere with equal respect that earth which hosts and maintains it…the vine growth along the Langhe slopes, so rich and luxuriant, dominates all other cultivations. To the amenities and asperities of those hills, the hand of man and investment have cultivated the most splendid of vines which in turn have entirely altered the aspect of those localities. If from the high plateau of La Morra you cast a look at the vast surface of grape vines stretching out before you, upon beholding those magnificent vineyards, so won.” (Source: “Nebbiolo the Territorial Vine” by Pietro Ratti 2004)

Barolo by the numbers

By the numbers

Albeisa is a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to develop and promote the wine production of the Alba area. The Union of Alba Wine Producers manages the use of the bottle Albeisa, or Alba bottle, and represents approximately 230 members and 13 million bottles. Thanks, as always, must be afforded Albeisa’s guiding light and force, as in the organization’s President, Domaine Punset’s Marina Marcarino. This is what I have said (more than once) about the fearless leader and her charge. “Always the first to pioneer, lead, teach and share, Marcarino expressed the pride and the passion of the community of producers that worked tirelessly to create this formidable assembly. Albeisa’s goal is not singularly focused. This event is not simply a matter dedicated to the tasting of wine. Agricultural evolution and wine-producing innovation are a major focus, always with a socio-economic bearing kept in mind.” At the opening dinner in Alba at the week-long host Hotel I Castelli, it was pointed out that the number of declarations for labelling always exceeds what is bottled. That is because three of four years after harvest 25-30 per cent of producers decide to de-classify their Barolo (2013 numbers). In that vintage 147 declared and 128 bottled. In terms of menzione geographica 46 per cent declared and at harvest 23 actually bottled with the name of a Barolo cru. There has been a steady decline of the de-classification of grapes. Barolo’s loss is Nebbiolo DOC’s gain.

Journalists at Nebbiolo Prima 2020

The feelings and sensations gained in assessment of so many Barolo perforce was at the time, an unbearably lucid experience. The exercise is a test of will, staying power and endurance. Nebbiolo Prima is a sprint and a marathon wrapped into one. Who could not be made stronger, wiser and yet so humbled by having tasted through the experience. These notes reflect my experience, my connection to Piedmontese life, performing to others rhythms. The totality of these tasting notes cover Barolo DOCG 2016 (197), Riserva 2014 (6), 2006 (20) and Riserva 2004 (7), played to the tune of 230 reviews.

All the Nebbiolo. Nearly 400 over four days. Roero, Langhe, Barolo, Barbaresco.

  • ***** denotes wines of the vintage

460 Casina Bric Barolo DOCG Bricco Delle Viole 2016

A cracked not-pepper, yes reductive if early corrective without reveal and aromas are all tar melt to fresh roses, though high in tone. This is Bricco delle Viole and will be very serious Barolo, tightly wound and equipped with some formidable structural unease. Look forward and further, far down the road. Drink 2023-2029.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Abbona Marziano Barolo DOCG Cerviano Merli 2016

Quality concentration, richness of fruit, wild-eyed acidity and mature tannins make for an across the board effective and pleasurable Novello Barolo. A fine sample that will drink well early and in the near term. take full advantage. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Abrigo Fratelli Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Big-boned nebbiolo here in Ravera clothing, so rich and concentrated, clearly from a warm part of the cru (perhaps the warmest) and a winemaker who allows the heavy fullness to do its thing. Welling and oozing with sumptuousness, thick tannin and ultimately a matter here of great Novello density. A style born out of necessity. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Very handsome Novello nebbiolo, finely chiseled Ravera structural components with taut flesh and timeless disposition. The variegated hue tells so many stories through so many layers, as does the way the transitions move through space and time with finesse and effortless ease. It’s a highly tannic and fierce competitor but the race is a marathon in this case, not a sprint. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted January 2020

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Welcome to Bussia. This is the prudent one, far from promiscuous and very promising. Hides everything and is not so fast to give anything away. The textural components are all together; chew, crunch, soft and crackling. Grooves slowly and changes tempo. Not sure which way it will go but its subtlety and its impression will not be denied. From Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Alario Claudio Barolo DOCG Sorano 2016

High toned and octane Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with acids ripe, ripping and all over the map. Makes the fruit look silly and small though tannin is negligible. Simple red lightning in Barolo. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Alessandria Fratelli Barolo DOCG San Lorenzo Di Verduno 2016

Youthful Verduno but the sample exhibits tones quite up there with red citrus and wood-derived signs. Still a bit lean and verdant. In this adolescent state of grace it just seems woody, chewy and not even close to prime time. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Alessandria Gianfranco Barolo DOCG San Giovanni 2016

Fresh and effacing, ripe and ready for all that’s coming. Very Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo, in a flat out juicy way and tannins stuffed in back pockets. Knowable and reasoned for what mind of expectation commits. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Assessing Barolo DOCG 2016

Alessandro Rivetto Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

So very ripe and extracted of very red berry Serralunga d’Alba fruit in a candied if savoury way. A nebbiolo of fruit, high acidity and simple structure. Nicely drinking and if it’s inexpensive I’ll gladly drink a few. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Amalia Cascina In Langa Barolo DOCG Le Coste Di Monforte 2016

Quiet and in low light demure, not overly expressive for 2016 Barolo. Tart and dry, not must juice or even moisture. Can’t see this Monforte d’Alba developing much more complexity though when it settles there will be pleasure afforded. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Angelo Negro Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

This is nebbiolo of largesse. prim, proper and so bloody commercial for all the correct reasons. Everyone can enjoy this as nebbiolo, Serralunga and Barolo. Clean and crisp with all the mild mannered and perfectly reasonable parts. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Anna Maria Abbona Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Quite smoky, so much so it seems that the smoke has only very recently been extinguished. So much barrel toast and smoulder. Juicy with tobacco resonating throughout. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo in the big time, ripe, rough tumbling and nearly rambunctious. The warmth and developing liqueur is nothing but comforting and enveloping. Carries through without staying away from the initial portent and plan. Big, Rocche di Castiglione boisterous and impressive. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

And now for something completely different. This nebbiolo from Monvigliero is all saucisson, or in this Piedmontese instance, Cottechino. Honestly, just like it, raw and hematic, but also liberally perfumed, with roses of course. Structurally there are few equals and so the diversity in expression leaves a long-lasting and highly consequential impression. Now we are beginning to see why some would consider this Verduno as one of the greatest vineyards in the world.  Drink 2023-2036. Tasted January 2020

Anselma Famiglia Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

A wealth of collected features and possibility abounds in this Monforte d’Alba Barolo though the barrel is still very much a prominent aspect of the coverall condition. Really textured, chewy and tannic of push and thrush. Layers of Bussia structure need to peel, unfold and melt away. Drink 2022-2029.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Ascheri Barolo DOCG 2016 ($56.99)

The Ascheri label is from La Morra. Seemingly the sort of Barolo that was, is and will always be this way. A bit rustic, surely made to act like itself vintage after vintage, coming across as fresh enough and equipped with all the dried fruit, savoury edging and portents that speak to the nebbioli of generations. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Ascheri Barolo DOCG Coste & Bricco 2016 ($75.00)

Quite extracted and concentrated Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with so much orange on the nose. Blood, scraped and juiced but also hematic and layered. Huge wine of fruit, acids and tannin. Nothing left behind, in the Coste & Bricco fields, in the barrels or on the table here. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG 2016

All in nebbiolo of earthy, swarthy and concentrated if chewy fruit. Also a touch volatile. Drink 2021-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Aurelio Settimo Barolo DOCG Rocche Dell’Annunziata 2016 ($54.95)

Some quietly acquiesced development already in this sultry and sumptuous La Morra Barolo. That nebbiolo can do this is youthful exuberance is the speciality of the place, especially in Rocche dell’Annunziata where the acumen amongst winemaking is off the charts. This may peak earlier than some others but full enjoyment can be had nonetheless. Drink 2021-2026.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Barale Fratelli Barolo DOCG Castellero 2016

Youthful and slightly lean Castellero, with a transparency and tisane to be very sure. Really classic Barolo commune tannins, not overt as say anxiety inducing, but more than properly present and accounted for. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Barale Fratelli Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

The aromas here are dramatically 2016. Ripe and racy with a cured salumi note. Stay here for a few minutes and you are gifted tar and roses, For real. The way this Monforte d’Alba Barolo has been handled is so proper and gives it every opportunity to succeed. High quality Bussia for sure. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Batasiolo Barolo DOCG Briccolina 2016

Quite the gregarious and expressive Briccolina aromatic sensation emits and gifts while in withstand against a formidable structural exchange. Plenty of fruit and just as much wood mean modernity and a whole lotta vanilla love. It’s a style to be sure, almost late 90s and early 2000s but there can be no avoiding what pleasure so many will derive from such an exercise. From Serralunga d’Alba. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Bava Barolo DOCG Scarrone 2016

The full gamut of fruit play is in. Scarrone is orange in so many ways and also umeboshi plum, prune, berries and ultimately like a slow rendered Marbella demi-glacé. Very rich Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo, welcoming its wood and giving away without shyness nor restraint. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Oh my the tobacco on this Verduno nebbiolo from Monvigliero is uncanny. Like grandfather’s pipe snuffed out but lingering and so obvious when you enter the room. Then the scent turns sweet and comforting, a warm hug of a nebbiolo beneath a blanket of couverture by tannin. Throws the cru at you with everything it can and should. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted January 2020

Borgogno Barolo DOCG Liste 2016

Particular and singular aromas from Liste speak of and to a Barolo nebbiolo sense of wildness and freedom. Great acids, fruit slung across a pole draped with both fruity and earthy opportunity. Really compact and extended with great length. A touch peppery warm but when it settles the beauty will surely emerge. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Borgogno Francesco Barolo DOCG Brunate 2016

A forceful La Morra nebbiolo in hard-shell clothing there may seem to be morbido and amenable aromatic compounds but the palate hits you like a ton of mortar and brick. Crunchy, earthy and intense. This Brunate will soften and become a much more impressive wine in five plus years time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Boroli Barolo DOCG Brunella 2016

The high resonance distracts with both brightness and humour though it purports to tell a thin story. The insubstantial texture speaks to the fruit conecntration and the inability of structural parts to save. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Sommeliers of Nebbiolo Prima 2020

Burlotto Comm. G.B. Barolo DOCG Acclivi 2016

A bit past prime aromatically speaking with a developed note of dried fruit and yet with some scarped skin energy that gives it a rightful tang. Quite orange in flavour, some tisane and mild finishing tannic twang. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Borgogno Fratelli Serio E Battista Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Cannubi of Barolo spice cupboard is just thus, just like this. That and sweet dried fruit, desiccated floral petals and some mean verdancy in the tannins. Seems soft but it’s really not. Time will ease the edging and the tension. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Boroli Barolo DOCG Villero 2016

The third Villero style comes across through this more gregarious and less subtle Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo. Seeks quicker admiration and offers more immediate gratification. Texture is more liquid chalky and acids more integrated. Peppery in a non-reductive and French way with a really, really juicy finish. Fast admiration for such a specimen. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Bosco Agostino Barolo DOCG Neirane 2016

Taut Verduno nebbiolo, richly embossed, hungrily ambitious and dealing in parts long, purposed and fine. Quite a warm compliment of Neirane seasoning, salt, pepper and wooden piques over every bit of the fruit in and out of time. We’ll see about this barrel bruiser because the red fruit seems to handle it just fine. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Bovio Barolo DOCG Gattera 2016

A gregarious La Morra this Gattera in aromas though more down to earth on the palate. Texture is lean and elastic while tannins sharpen their digits on the fruit. Some distraction and separation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Bovio Barolo DOCG Rocchettevino 2016

Deep inhalant of La Morra nebbiolo this one with as much Rocchettevino vineyard soil, climate and tradition instilled, installed and distilled. Quite tannic and tense, in fact the attention to nervous detail is commanding and invigorating. A high quality structural if old school example. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Brezza Giacomo E Figli Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Tough early, tart and intensely textured Cannubi, very cool in climate oriented and sweetly herbal. Relatively soft and amenable acids, but also, in a way, Barolo tannins. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Brezza Giacomo E Figli Barolo DOCG Sarmassa 2016

Sarmassa for Barolo nebbiolo brings a cupboard full of spice, a brush past greenery in winter in the wood next to the vineyard and steeps a tisane from all the twigs, leaves and herbs. Then turns to face the roses, where sweet notes bloom and pleasure awakens. Will offer great pleasure in the five year range. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

As you might expect the uncanny scent of roses in so many incantations is the thing and everything, at least in the beginning. Fresh bouquet and dried petals circulate in stereo. Offers nebbiolo faith to go on and it’s only just begun. Though the absolute tightly gift-wrapped fruit needs little and asks for nothing at this early stage it will in turn return everything it received. A wonderful vintage of Coste di Rose Barolo. “This will be our year, took a long time to come.” Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted January 2020

Bricco Giubellini Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Still reductive and in this case the rubber and pepper are how it shows. Chewy and near massive in its acid-tannin missive continuum. Really dramatic and big-boned nebbiolo from Monforte d’Alba with a need to come about and into balance. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Bricco Maiolica Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Diano d’Alba 2016

The tonality here is exceptional, high and mighty, unsettled, breathing heavily, yet disturbed. Needs time. From Diano d’Alba. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Broccardo Barolo DOCG I Tre Pais 2016 ($48.95)

Broccardo’s is a three-pronged Barolo affair from vineyards in Monforte d’Alba, Barolo and Novello for a true house amalgamation by Fillipo, Laura and Federico. While firm enough to speak about proper and cumulative nebbiolo structure there is an estate feel to I Tres Pais, a Piedmontese dialectical three verse poem that speaks to land, people and wine. That’s what Barolo is all about. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January and April 2020

Quite closed with little aromatic give. Seems protective, not so much reductive but keeps its Serralunga d’Alba Brea secrets hidden. The palate reveals more and especially a solid architectural foundation on which fruit can climb. This is a finessed and impressionistic Barolo with a great future ahead. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Bruna Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Baudarina 2016

Good Serralunga d’Alba fruit core, a touch overripe and acidity tart, taut and in charge. All about that compendium distilled through Baudarina. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Bruna Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Bricco Ambrogio 2016

Really quite herbal, almost Amaro nebbiolo, cool, verdant, forest floor and foliage throughout. Solid structure with a minor note of bitters and drying edginess in the end. Fine appreciation for translating the Roddi-Bricco Ambrogio sense of place. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Burzi Alberto Barolo DOCG 2016

Another simplified nebbiolo in La Morra Barolo dress albeit with a next level quality of concentration, chewiness and heft. Tannins are relatively mild and so it’s like Langhe Riserva, if there were such a thing. Lovely to drink, any night of the week. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Burzi Alberto Barolo DOCG Capalot 2016

A bit of rose in the La Morra nose candy and a scrape of orange zest mark the entry before this Capalot nebbiolo gets down to serious tannic business. A clear message of ripe citrus melts into a fruity tisane with a few herbs and leaves stepped in for good measure. Fun little La Morra and neatly soothing. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

***** Cagliero Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Yet another completely different expression of Ravera and showing the great diversity of wines made from the cru. Tonality is higher but not so high as to shine so bright you need to wear shades. Builds and builds, first from ripe red fruit then through fine acids and elastic texture then to really fine tannins. A ver precise and accomplished Novello Barolo with so much life laying put on a red carpet ahead. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted January 2020

Camparo Barolo DOCG Boiolo 2016

Very tisane in its aromatic beginnings, like Rooibos with a wedge of lemon. A bit lean and musty, like cool climate pinot noir from a less than ideal fruit vintage, here from Boiolo cru in La Morra. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Cantina Del Nebbiolo Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Perno of another Monforte d’Alba stripe and colour, a bit dank and reductive, left to its own devices within the imbalance of its unhinging. Gives you its heart but you want its soul. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Carlo Revello & Figli Barolo DOCG 2016

Different sort of La Morra nebbiolo here, part tisane and part liqueur. Not sure it knows what it prefers to be. Hard to be both. The fruit seems concentrated on the nose but stretches leaner on the slightly dilute palate. Good enough. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Casa E. Di Mirafiore Barolo DOCG Lazzarito 2016

Quite the firm Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo from Lazzarito cru right here, grippy in every respect, transparent, reeking of rose petals and old-school in many right ways. Does the singular thing it should and does it really well. Not so very multi-dimensional nor does it need to be. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Giuliana Drocco and Simone Ortale, Cascina Adelaide

From Serralunga d’Alba and because though this is just a baby doubled down by the forceful cru it is a highly precocious little one, with thanks to a vintage that opens earlier in this part of town. This may be a funny way to start the description of a very big wine but the intuition and clarity spoken by the 80 year-old vines is massive in missive, front loaded with fruit, acid and tannin. Back loaded too so expect a 20 year journey, give or take a few. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016 ($112.00)

From Barolo’s grand vineyard and in the hands of Simone Ortale a most elegant representation. Lighter, transparent, more floral aromatica and only handled inside the cellar by grandi botti. The result is also a sharper, pointed, high acidity nebbiolo, with more energy and lift. While still just an infant you can’t escape from seeing and tasting Adelaide’s Cannubi this way. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Fossati 2016

A bit over to right side of extraction and concentration for Fossati driving forward with drying fruit mixed into the gregarious personality of the wine. The extra push of spice and herbal accents come with some Bretty quality along from La Morra as if like Rhône grenache in a warm vintage. Cool and frontal, fully unabashed in untamed beauty. Tannins need time though too much will go too far. Undeniable power. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Pernanno 2016

From Castiglione Falletto and one of eight cru produced by winemaker Simone Ortale. So apposite to what comes from Baudana, here more delicate, soft (even mores so than the Italian morbido) and an unseen nebbiolo to match with foods not necessarily associated with Barolo. When thinking pinot noir, think again. Think Pernanno. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Preda 2016

Preda meaning “strong point,” a vineyard right in front of the winery and 25 years old. As a nebbiolo it is the rustic one, at the bottom of the Barolo hill and also planted to barbera. A rich marl and sandy soil so opposite to the marly silt of Cannubi. A touch hematic in a mixture of iodine and blood orange with clear herbal and red citrus running through its veins.Though maturity and wisdom may not be at the levels of the likes of Baudana and Pernanno the effect are purely Adelaide. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Ballarin Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

A bright and effusive Bussia for Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo can be just like this. A Barolo happy in the moment, full of berries and red citrus, with acids up front and tannins unobtrusive. A Barolo to drink now and for five-plus years while the tough ones sit and stew. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Ballarin Barolo DOCG Bricco Rocca 2016

Freshness of fruit comes clear and concise in this nebbiolo from Bricco Rocca in La Morra. Crunchy red fruit, of currants and candied roses with fine acidity and not so much easy as tannins that can’t be dealt with. A really pretty Barolo. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Lovely estate Barolo vineyard touch and gentle slide with rose petal and the mildest concrete meeting salumi cure. More than sneaky tannin but this slow creep and rise up to a yet unreachable crescendo. Star, painted Rothko swaths of rustic colour but so pure, so clean and so modern, yet not. Boschetti. Drink 2022-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Cascina Chicco Barolo DOCG Castelletto 2016

Light and airy, no real need for brooding and like a full moon rising this goes dancing in the light. Knows where the music’s playing, feels the night. Nebbiolo like a Neil Young tune strummed on a harvest moon. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Del Monastero Di Grasso Giuseppe Barolo DOCG Bricco Luciani 2016

Classic La Morra really, light and transparent, tart and comforting. Some bitters and tonic as well though more like drops in a rosewater cocktail. This really brings the roses, dried, distilled and then soft to drying tannins. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Plin

Cascina Sòt Barolo DOCG 2016

Peppery reductive, full fruit development ensured, ripe and regal Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo. Great palate presence, focused and highly tannic. Acids are the glue and the catalyst for fun. Will please so many, of any and all camps. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Cascina Sòt Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Here the citrus in namely orange stylistic is mixed with cured salumi in a Bricco San Pietro nebbiolo of firm Monforte d’Alba form. Texture forms a step up and creates a new mood for older styled clothing. This is a classic in its particular and parochial way in how it talks the talk and walks the walk to complete a sense and for a place. Really proper and will live long. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Casetta Flli Barolo DOCG Casa Nere 2016

Classic, old-school, rich and dusty nebbiolo from the Casa Nere cru in La Morra. Some mustiness but a cool savour that speaks to ancient soil and the adage that tells us nebbiolo needs time and the glass. This will come around. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Castello Di Verduno Barolo DOCG 2016

Lightly candied, tea soaked and orange citrus macerated. Solid and Verduno purposed, slightly old-school and perfectly seasoned for some good Barolo times. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Cavalier Bartolomeo Barolo DOCG Altenasso O Garblet Suè O Garbelletto Superiore 2016

So bloody volatile and hematic valentine. Earthy fruit and crunchy texture, finishing with tough tannin. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Bigger, thicker, fuller packed Bricco Boschis nebbiolo is this, of greater concentration and without compromise. The consistency carries through, from the aromatic start, with an startling chromatic burst, through the waves of palate strength and energy. Then with tannic thrush so integrated and yet unyielding. That’s how structure ensures longevity. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Ginestra is a Monforte d’Alba animal altogether different. So rich, compact, rife with connective tissue and full on expressive. Big in every respect beginning with its berry and cherry fruit all the way down through the lines of structural adversity. So much gumption, attitude and power. Must be the sun, the exposition and the heights. The Sorì Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Cordero Di Montezemolo Barolo DOCG Monfalletto 2016

An advancing nebbiolo is like this with fruit very developed and tannins keeping things from going soft or past prime. In its wheelhouse just about already, integrated, playing as one, ready to match the table. Make use of this Barolo while more formidable examples take their sweet time. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Costa Di Bussia Tenuta Arnulfo Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

So many things to fault here. Volatility at the top, barnyard below and the shower curtain drawn. Obviously a flawed bottle.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Crissante Barolo DOCG Del Comune Di La Morra 2016

Up there in terms of tones played and light, in cherry and rose water. A hint of liquorice and fennochio so savoury in an aniseed way. Tart, chewy and from the La Morra earth. Solid commune-based nebbiolo. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Lalibera, Alba

Crissante Alessandria Barolo DOCG Capalot 2016

A quiet La Morra nose, a cool factor, a mint to evergreen line but oh so subtle as such. Good strength in acidity and command in tannin. This is a confident wine with Capalot bones and some fruit substance to cling on, hang around and be there when the integration takes place. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Curto Marco Barolo DOCG Arborina 2016

Dusty and rusty La Morra-Arborina nebbiolo, earth-crusted and fruit just a touch dried. Seems older than ’16 and were it a five to seven year-old Barolo it would seem perfectly suited and aged for what should and even must be. Lacks freshness for 2016 but truth be told it would come across as true and worthy without the stigmata of vintage attached. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Conterno Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Wild berries meet juicy acidity in one of those Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo that rushed to the secondary gate and should remain there for a few years. Knows itself before many do and that advanced personality will see it drink beyond its age while others wait to grow up. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Pressenda Barolo DOCG Le Coste Di Monforte 2016

Quickly the tone of Le Coste di Monforte is revealed, on the light and drying side of nebbiolo things with a wild berry note that’s subtle and rewarding. Tannins seem to exceed the fruit a touch though they care little for bitters. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Pressenda Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Rich, ripe and developed at least as far as 2016 sugars are conceded and concerned. Goes at it wholeheartedly, without hesitation and includes a minor note of verdancy. The wood fills in the holes and you notice it. I promise you. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Dosio Barolo DOCG 2016

Spice notes on the nose take centre stage so wood is the immediate factor of record. Tannins follow suit and in between is acidity quite fine and very respectable. This is an architectural nebbilolo from the La Morra producer of perfectly reasonable ubiquity and top notch seasoning. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Dosio Barolo DOCG Serradenari 2016

Candied and earthy at the same time so feet in two worlds and not really quite connected at the twain. Crunchy tannin with a fruit lingering nicely in its youthful time of need. Solid La Morra if not truly remarkable Serradenari Barolo. Drink 2021-2025.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

With Giorgio Boschis

E. Pira & Figli Barolo DOCG Via Nuova 2016

Via Nuova is the assemblage, the house wine, Vigna della Casa and a wine of all encompassing perfume. A mix of finesse and structure. Also textured with a charming glycerin and experiential moments in thyme. There is much pride and dreaming hope for 2016, with great aging potential. The tannins creep up, take hold and remain, secured and bonded. That’s nebbiolo grip and persistence incarnate. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted December 2019 and January 2020

Why is Mosconi so special. “Why is anyone more beautiful than the other?” Nature. A connection to Domenico Clerico and when Chiara had a chance to join this plot she jumped. The flowers come at you in waves. The fruit is everywhere and all is stored inside, kept safe, comforted and comfortable. South facing below the village and again it just must be the place that brings this level of joy, elegance and structure. There are 25-30 years of life ahead for this 2016. So glad Chiara became a part of la squadra Mosconi. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted December 2019 and January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barolo Cascina Nuova DOCG 2016 ($54.95)

“I consider 2016…a perfect vintage,” says Valter Fissore, “fresh, elegant and complex.” This comes from the youngest vines, under 17 years old, made for those who don’t want to wait 20 years. A Barolo that you could not find 20 years ago, from a blue vintage, the best kind. Yes, a true blue vintage it is, not just a simple blue and so very different to barbera. Fine tannins but ones that are very present. They build but not too much. “My Barolo are neither traditional nor modern. They are post-modern.” Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

A 50 day maceration with a big amount of capello sumerso and 24 months of botti aging. From the blue vintage and fruit in the heart of La Morra that is the epitome of Ravera. Grippy and smooth, silken texture and tannins at their parochial finest. Savoury and sapid, wound tight and walking a straight line. No angles, no edges, niente spiggolo. Reminds Valter of Elvio’s Brunate ’78, at least in style; drinkability, sweetness and texture. Can bend without breaking, inveterate, elastic, long and eternal. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

Enrico Serafino Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

A slightly warm annd boozy nebbiolo this one, warm site(s) in Serralunga d’Alba derived and delivering a wealth of spiced red fruit. Again it is acidity that directs the motive and the plan. Just a touch overripe and overdone. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Ah Fossati and its flirtatious aromatics, cheery, cherry and floral. A candied pansy and rose, a red citrus and a lightning quick set of fruit reflexes. Terrific texture, presence and finesse. Does what needs, for La Morra, come what may. Proper, elaborate and fine. Drink 2022-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Ettore Germano Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016 ($89.00)

The most reductive Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo in the day’s tasting thus far is this cracked pepper one sprinkled over a hard savoury candied shell. What fierce and grippy structure this killer Cerretta exhibits with no prisoners taken, so none can be released. Well perhaps in five or so years there will be some sort of release and while fruit is pretty strong in its own right I’m not so certain it will keep up with the Joneses. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Fenocchio Giacomo Barolo DOCG Villero 2016

Similar Villero transparency, effusive character and boundless possibility. Never needing to strike with force or command attention. The fruit concentration steps up with this example as does the acid-tannic lineage. The texture and drying, sear-sucking, moisture deprivation is noted so balance is just a bit teetering. Still Villero though, from Castiglione Falletto. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Figli Luigi Oddero Barolo DOCG 2016

All things being equal there is nebbiolo, Barolo and overall ubiquitous personality emanating from this wide-ranging one. Takes everything in stride, assembles the parts and creates the classic construct of local apparatus. Everyone can use this machine and use it well for a decade. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Fogliati Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Lovely aromatic beginning, floral, near racy and if smells were juicy this would be how they were. The palate follows suit with plenty of flesh, also provided by buoyant acidity. Crisp, clear, clean and nothing short of drinkable. Stuffing is ample and to be honest a breath of fresh, not kill you with tannin air. Quality Bussia out of Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG Fontanafredda 2016 ($33.00)

Quite ripe and effusive at the same time, part fruit juicy and part bright red citrus light. A middle road taken Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with prominent features and structurally sound constitution. Quite composed, grippy and ready to take on a ten year run. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

Quite ripe, overly so, extracted, pressed and compressed. The concentration is clearly impressive though there’s not much substance behind the fruity veil. Will drink well for a few years and then fall asleep into an oxidative state. From Serralunga d’Alba. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Now into the Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo of Villero, so apposite, ulterior and offering the great change of pace. Firm, transparent, beautiful. Seemingly simple and just lovely there can be no hiding feelings that this from Castiglione Falletto is holding back layers lining the floor of the depths. The subtleties are boundless and the finesse too. Some may find this lacking but if you can’t see the forest for the flesh you not be paying close enough attention. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Fortemasso Barolo DOCG Castelletto 2016

An apposite Castelletto from Monforte d’Alba, still transparent but with fruit and substance of a deeper heart. No real glycerin to the texture and though it shines through there too is a next level layer of concentration. Perhaps not in comparison to certain storied cru but in quality compassion nonetheless. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

A completely new Italian experience through a lens into the streets of curious Cherasco.

Fracassi Umberto Barolo DOCG Manteoetto 2016

Somewhat closed nose though you can tell even without tasting that the palate will be rich. Deep cherry notes come across that transition and there is indeed this creamy texture leading down a path to lactic taste. Winemaking is on display here. From Cherasco. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Franco Boasso Barolo DOCG Margheria 2016

Strength in protection and reduction makes this a Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo to look at in protractive ways. A touch of Brett is clearly in the fray so expect an earthy, grippy and woolly Margheria for the long haul and the stay. Not going anywhere for quite some time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Franco Boasso Barolo DOCG Gabutti 2016 ($46.95)

There’s a next level set of circumstances presented and acquiescesd in this Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo from the prominent and formidable cru of Gabutti. Fruit is big time while structural components are bigger. There can be little reason to go at it all in while so youthful because better and more integrated lies ahead. Liquid chalky, fine acidity and textural identity define and get in the face of tension so that movement happens and will continue in this positive way. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Franco Conterno Barolo DOCG Panerole 2016

So much wood influence as noted by the vanilla, graphite and even American-oak like coconut on the nose. Hides the nebbiolo character entirely. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Francone Barolo DOCG 2016

Overripe and oxidative. Dried flowers and fruit. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Francesco Rinaldi E Figli Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Quite youthful and candied strawberry Cannubi. Younger vines perhaps and a bit of bubble gum-jammy aromatic start. After that all tannin and grip. Drink 2021-2025.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Here is yet another stunning aromatic Verduno nebbiolo from Monvigliero albeit once again so stupidly youthful so as to get in the way of the knowing and the wanting. Lovely palate texture, silken and fine. All the structural attributes follow suit, in precision and long a perfectly reasonable line. Will be a great one. Drink 2023-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barolo DOCG 2016

Very structured, highly classic and fruit secondary though righteous and proper enough to hang aboard a solid framework of Barolo ubiquity. Classic Novello in so many understood and expected ways. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Baudarina

Richer and more extracted nebbiolo from Serralunga d’Alba and Baudarina is just this. That said the concentration from ripeness and pressing has has not brought along the negative aspects in tow. No astringency, verdancy or bitters so that’s a very good thing. Drink younger while more demanding commune crus bide their time. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

The thing of Bricco delle Viole that is beauty emits with gala fruit force into the canals of the layers. Bricco dell Viole the singular Barolo cru, from which fruit, texture and extension are consistently planned out, mapped and organized. So wound, so found and following a path that runs along a line along a circle. Slow unwind and unfolding coming, culminating in developed notes, to be far away, somewhere between then and then. Too soon to tell. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Gagliasso Mario Barolo DOCG Torriglione 2016

A highly specific nebbiolo from Torriglione, fruity but shy, tempered and distilled. A liqueur like nose but nothing too heavy, sweet, salty or sour. Ulterior and finessed, sharp and mineral, spiced and even spicy. A real La Morra Barolo with the ability to allow you to find joy in a half decade’s time. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Gagliasso Mario Barolo DOCG Rocche Dell’annunziata 2016

Another fine exampe from Rocche dell’Annunziata where there just seems to be a collective intuition for righteous, classic and proper. Great structure and concentration right here, second to none. Prime La Morra Barolo, primal nebbiolo and primo execution. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Garesio Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

An ulterior version of Barolo from Serralunga is this, high in its tonality and buzzing with energy. The acidity is in full tang while the tannins too do the same. Not so much grippy as full of energy. Very good short term potential. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Garesio Barolo DOCG Gianetto 2016

Quite solid of Serralunga d’Alba bones and equally capable in Gianetto flesh is this high acid dripping with red fruit nebbiolo. Pretty sharp and exceptional in tang from which that acid structure is everything and more. Will drink like this for a few seasons and then fade lightly away. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Gemma Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Somewhat thin and dishy Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo without much ado. Purely and clearly varietal in its locality though the drying tannins do not quite match the fruit. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Gemma Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

Just smells like liqueur, hot and bothered, no delicacy for what nebbiolo wants and needs. Very extracted, concentrated and full of spicy glycerin, there’s just a lack of love and finesse. Impressive though for and from Serralunga d’Alba. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Very aromatic, highly prominent proboscis and spiced to the hilt. One of the very few nebbiolo that noses fennel in very fresh form. Also a tomato aspect but no leaf. Takes what the grand-sized Bussia cru gives and runs with the feeling. No shortage of Monforte d’Alba character or complexity. The winemaker must be pleased with this work from 2016. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

A bit troublesome to nose, earthier than expected and a bit subdued. Perhaps just the block in Ravera that broods and sleeps a bit. Calm I suppose is what this Novello nebbiolo needs and chooses to exercise. Continues to flatline with not much tension in the mix. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo DOCG Sottocastello Di Novello 2016

Quite up front this Novello nebbiolo sits with great presence. The response will be one met with consideration for greatness and it should merit some of that adulation. That said it’s stretched and youth likely its best attribute. The stuffing is not fully insulating. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria del Signotori

Gian Luca Colombo Vini Barolo DOCG Bricco Ambrogio 2016

Quite right this Bricco Ambrogio. Old school perhaps but finessed, righteous and well executed. Sensical and proper handling translate the Cru to this wine. Tannins are firm and elongated with just the sort of nebbiolo fruit core you expect every time you taste. Really solid wine from Roddi. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Giovanni Rosso Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016 ($91.50)

Oh my the wealth of strawberry and cherry is exceptional in this juicy Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with some dried fruit edging. Shows a converse effect by barrel infiltration that makes it quite the gregarious one. Drink this Cerretta early. Drink 2020-2023.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Giulia Negri Serradenari Barolo DOCG Serradenari 2016

Stinky, mephitic, closed and ultimately a matter of being heavily reductive. Not much else happening because the palate is stretched and lean. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Grimaldi Luigino & C. Barolo DOCG Bricco San Biagio 2016

Decent fruit concentration though over-pressed and managed so that the latter half is astringent and tannins are concerning for their green streaks. Plausible in the short term, though will be troubling later on. Drink 2021-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Josetta Saffirio Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

When nebbiolo emits this wild berry lift it’s just like this. You can fully imagine lying in a patch of June strawberries and eating them one after one. There are a million ways to go with nebbiolo so here presents just one of those ways. More acidity than tannin and that’s just the way this needs to be. From Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

I Colli Rossi Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Monforte d’Alba 2016

Slightly mephitic and full on tang dominate the aromas. Youth is a factor in most reductive ways while mouthfeel is quite special. A disjointed wine now and spirited, spiced, so protracted in a protected shell. Seems like the candied fruit and floral will turn into beauty someday. Much patience needed. From Monforte d’Alba. Drink 2023-2029.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

L’Astemia Pentita Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

Volatile and Bretty together for a true lesson in older-schooled, microbial Barolo. Earthy and wet forest, river’s edge fruit. Not a whole hell of a lot of pleasure to derive here. Drink 2021-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Who makes it happen? They do

La Bioca Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Crunchy and candy-savoury fruit with an earthy twist and a seriousness that speaks to Ravera the place. Perfectly middle ground example with weight, transparent clarity and a very expressive nature. Truth be told you feel the wood at the end. so wait on this Novello until tomorrow. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

La Carlina Barolo DOCG 2016

Quite ripe and very strawberry, cool, minty, herbal and with top notch acidity. Tannins are chalky, fine and grainy. So youthful and great expectations lay ahead. From Grinzane Cavour. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Le Ginestre Barolo DOCG Sottocastello Di Novello 2016

Big time aromatic Novello front, storm of flowers, ripe fruit and compact forest floor humus. All in with the aromatic wavs and nicely delineated to allow for good quality palate feel. If a touch sappy, the structure follows suit with sweet acids and also tannins. Really good presence and precision in Barolo with a long life ahead. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

La Fusina Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Perno just seems to climb higher and higher, rising with all its parts in flight and unhinged. This Monforte d’Alba example carries a deeper sense of weight but still its temperature rises. All in for the sense of place. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

La Rachilana Barolo DOCG 2016

Strong mocker this Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo, fully reasoned, ripened and seasoned. Absolute clarity in vintage notability; rich, aggressive and tannic. Nothing held back and time is of the apposite essence. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Le Cecche Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

Harkens back to the adage of Bricco San Pietro being a cru of orange scrape in a citric range. Simple here from Monforte d’Alba, syrupy with spice and tannic liquidity. Representative if coming across a bit juiced sweet. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Le Strette Barolo DOCG 2016

More gregarious to nose with plenty of citrus, namely red of pomegranate and currant. Also a tomato leafiness and/or water that brings the verdant savour. Wood spice all over the back end, beginning with a peppery pique in the trip of the tongue . From Bergera-Pezzole cru in Novello. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Lodali Barolo DOCG Bricco Ambrogio 2016

Simple, fruity, unadorned and not particularly structured there is some basic pleasure to find in this young Roddi nebbiolo. The Bricco Ambrogio tannins are late arriving and don’t stay particularly long. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Checkpoint Cherasco

M. Marengo Barolo DOCG Brunate 2016

Sugary aromatic waft of plum, peach, apricot and orange. Almost a saffron-like botrytis but its faux and curious. Texture is of the crusted and crunchy kind with a structure linear and polar when considering the nose of this La Morra nebbiolo. Curious Brunate for sure. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

M. Marengo Barolo DOCG Bricco Delle Viole 2016

Quietest of the Bricco delle Viole, set highest atop the Barolo hill’s tone, equipped with the chalkiest, finest tannic grain. This one sears within, into and inside, lined with the dried, crusted petal florals and a curative strip. Crunchy and crusted, white pepper and great purpose. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Malvirà Barolo DOCG Boiolo 2016

Good if very transparent fruit concentration, currants and pomegranate, tannins a bit tart, taut and drying. Herbal and an Amaro note. Flattens at the finish. Drink 2020-2021.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Marengo Mauro Barolo DOCG 2016

A solid tannic example of nebbiolo with a penchant for firmness and drying notes to match the fruit content of a good vintage. Crunchy and crusted, herbal and cool climate factored. Should turn into something very proper. Drink 2021-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG 2016

“Classic” Barolo from three Monforte d’Alba vineyards, including Béri and Conca L’Annunziata planted in 1982. Round, rife with ripe ’16 fruit. Neither pushy nor risky, meaning the sweet acids and gentle tannins simply round out the possibilities. So pleasant and that’s what this is all about. Ideal restaurant Barolo. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG Conca 2016

From La Morra commune and Conca cu. Very pressed, slightly oxidative and welling with cherry liqueur. Some sweetness and pushy tannin. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG Gallinotto 2016 ($74.95)

Gallinotto is 100 per cent from Béri, the oldest vineyard and meaning “a small chicken,” from Piedmontese dialect, now also Italian. There is as much earthy substance as substantial fruit from Béri though not as savoury as you might think. Very grounded with roundness and texture on the palate. All the parts coalesce into classic nebbiolo patterning and you intuit a further purpose yet to be revealed. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barolo DOCG La Serra 2016

As the name suggests, La Serra comes a single vineyard in la Morra. Fashioned with power in mind, this is a small lot, raised in small casks nebbiolo to fortify and strengthen for a fulsome wine. The vanilla and graphite are prominent early and the transference to integration will be low and slow. Highly concentrated though also woollen, silken and a very linear wine. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016

From Serralunga d’Alba, three years in tonneaux, a light and lifted nebbiolo from Cerretta cru. High-toned and also showing some rusticity across a range of dried floral and herbal potpourri. Roses for sure and a wood in space-time continuum. Classic really. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Trèsüri 2016

From three parcels located quite proximate to Roncaglie in La Morra, inclusing 20 per cent of fruit from Cerretta. Three parcels on the highest parts of the hill gift fruit to spend three years in Grandi Botti. An easy, amenable and approachable Barolo for4 everyday use. Tons of sunshine, ripe fruit and ready, perforce to proceed. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Veglio Barolo DOCG Gattera 2016

Richness and concentration on the nose like few other La Morra with palate texture using the land and the barrel to full advantage. Some earthiness and beetroot with sharp acids and demanding tannins. Big wine from Gattera with potential for those who like things in such packages. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Monchiero F. Lli Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Castiglione Falletto 2016

Cool, savoury, climatic old-school nebbiolo with all the classic moves and parts. Rose petal, tight acidity and dry your eyes, demanding tannins. Also peppery and pushy. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Monchiero F. Lli Barolo DOCG Rocche Di Castiglione 2016

Intense aromas speak louder and tell a quicker if deeper Castiglione Falletto story about a place (Rocche di Castiglione) and the potential. Smell this and exclaim. “Wow.” there’s a depth and a power, albeit a restrained one that is so modern and purposeful. Full in every respect, more so acidity than tannin but the latter is not exactly slumped in slouch formation. The excessiveness will work to dramatic early effect though not for decades. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Morra Diego Barolo DOCG 2016

A curious perfume, flowers desiccated and macerating in a simple syrup. A faux botrytis like saffron broth perhaps with plums and sangria like notes. Unusual and then raisining on the palate. Almost tropical. A style to be sure and worth watching the progression. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Morra Diego Barolo DOCG Monvigliero 2016

Taut, dusty, cinnamon-spiced and hard to get. So youthful, way too early to speculate and yet the aromatics speak to Monvigliero’s ability and to its charm. Gets inside the Verduno nose and never relents. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Getting down to the gritty La Morra earth and the nitty grip in nebbiolo from Rive cru that takes little heed in the need to keep prisoners. Crunchy and full barrel effect in place with fine-grains of tannin filling every nook and pore. Will ride out two decades of development through funghi umami and tartufo. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2020

Harder and tougher than other Brunate in that all parts are tense, nervous and demanding in such expedient youth. There needs to be a low and slow unwind to get to the heart of the nebbiolo matter. Will turn and morph into something crucial for La Morra. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Paolo Manzone Barolo DOCG 2016

Very pressed, extracted and ropey without much energy or drive, There are some grains of tannin but the waning is already in. Drink up and use what Serralunga d’Alba pleasures are contained within the here and now. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Paolo Manzone Barolo DOCG Meriame 2016 ($57.95)

Serious nose for this Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo with a grand tisane mixed into the gangly and gamey parts of the constituent plan. Tannic in so many ways, not the least of which is the steeping sachet of herbs, spices and all the parts of Meriame’s land. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

There’s something stirring in this formidably structured Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo, something about fruit but so much more about spice. All sorts of red citrus, seasoning, tar and roses abounds in a mess of Parafada fruit, Impressive, structured and long. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Alessandro Olocco

Ornato is at the higher ranges of Serralunga d’Alba, all clay and no sand. Same elévage as Parafada, meaning 24 montbs in Grandi Botti and French oak, pus a further 24 months in bottle. So much more charming than what we often consider as being Serralunga, Conversely grippy, big and intense. Soil’s tension passes and threads through the structure and it sticks because of the great concentration. Aggressive without astringency. Will live 20-25 years easy. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2020

Parusso Armando Barolo DOCG 2016

The salumi cure and high toned aromatics are a dead give away for style and for what sort of chalky-sandy-marly soils this must have come from. Also developed and full of fruit that has made its full phenolic journey through to a late harvest. Will offer up its best pleasure earlier rather than later. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Pecchenino Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Youthfully reductive in fact dramatically so and wound so very tight. Rich and and not yet gracefully textural but smooth and capable of turning supple. A minor aromatic distraction comes from a microbe undefined. We’ll see which way this Bussia from Monforte d’Alba decides to go. Drink 2021-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Quite the rich and substantial fruit component in this from Le Coste in Monforte d’Alba and no surprise from the exceptional cru. You would have to be a fool of a big and misguided scheme to mess up Le Coste. The glycerin and palate presence are nothing short of grand in the way of how fruit works with barrel pride. This is for you who want a mouthful of Barolo. Mosconi abides. Drink 2023-2031.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Pelassa Barolo DOCG San Lorenzo Di Verduno 2016

Quite high toned with plenty of chocolate on the nose from wood. Too much tension and tartness to the point of high distraction. Vinyl and dusty. Too much. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Piazzo Comm. Armando Barolo DOCG Novello 2016

Quite extracted, syrupy and almost jammy nebbiolo. Even a touch oxidative and moving quickly, especially across the oxalate palate. No notability in the tannic structure. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG 2016 ($71.25)

A blend of communes for true estate blending business. Rich and developed dark fruit that goes for broke right from the word go. Also major tannins of mean business and some final bitters. No turning back from this one. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Pira Luigi Barolo DOCG Margheria 2016

Oddly perfumed and quirky with big tannic thrush over delicate textured fruit. A bit disjointed though the singularity and offer to connect with a sense of place (Margheria in Serralunga d’Alba) makes this a nebbiolo to look forward to, somewhere four to five years down the road. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Marcarini Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di La Morra 2016

Light, effusive and mild tisane of orange peel, herbs and woodsies. Lots of wood here and time is needed though it’s far from a spicy affair. Soft in texture and potential possible. Remains to be seen if there is enough fruit. Gotta have fruit. Hopefully that La Morra fruit. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Curious aromas, almost bloody, candied, floral. Such red fruit is a delicacy, exotic, floral again and even a touch reductive. A liqueur d’expedition in a way or in so many ways. Some mustiness needs to dissipate and when it does will reveal nothing but flowers. Tannins will not be forgotten, mistaken or forsaken. They from La Serra in La Morra mean business. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2020

Podere Ruggeri Corsini Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro 2016

More orange scrape in the many varied citrus scents in this Bricco San Pietro. The cru gives and continues to give this way. Nice delineation if a bit lean in terms of feel across the palate. Simpler and easy as it comes. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Colla Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Cracker crusted Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo, firm, grippy and jumpy. Certainly still a minor amount of reduction keeps this fresh and intact. Not yet ready for prime time though the stuffing, bones and flesh are all there to make it happen. Remains to be seen if too firm and grippy Bussia get in the way. Drink 2023-20229.  Tasted January 2020

Poderi Luigi Einaudi Barolo DOCG Cannubi 2016

As per the Cannubi prefect here Barolo commune presents the taut form, firm grip and tension filled youth. Località uncanny and far from entering a state of unraveling. Cool centre, savoury middle ground and firm as heck finale. Will always lay and be like this. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Principiano Giuseppe Barolo DOCG Boscareto 2016

Very pressed and already oxidative. Not sure this will every offer bright and lively pleasure. Perhaps an off bottle. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Raineri Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Now we see that Perno can deliver so many different things. In here the tobacco is strong, lit and smouldering. Quite herbal as well, richly juiced and strong as tannic tea. Massive Monforte d’Alba wine with tannins of great demand. Needs the most amount of time but clearly the stuffing is there. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Rocche Dell’annunziata 2016

On the earthier and swarthy side for Rocche dell’Annunziata with red plummy fruit crusted by clay and mineral salts. Still it can be nothing but La Morra Barolo from this storied cru what with its structural components seamlessly woven together. Another respectful nebbiolo with attention paid to local detail. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Marcenasco 2016 ($59.95)

Pretty nebbiolo from La Morra, simplified, rose-candied and full of expressive fruit. Some will scoff at the lack of structure and seriousness but who could not want to seek the pleasure in its bright tones and lightness of being? Is it Barolo? Marcenasco? Of course it is. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted January 2020

Réva Barolo DOCG 2016 ($66.15)

Another highly seasoned nebbiolo of rather dark red fruit and barrel piques that create spikes and valleys in the wine. Hangs on with enough energy to see the acidity match the fruit stride for stride. There’s a sense of structure to see this ’16 last for a decade strong and long. Drinking window will open shortly so the temptation will be to imbibe often and early, thereby fertilizing the narcotic poppy of drinking pleasure. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

There is plenty to attract and be attracted to from this swarthy and regaling Cannubi. Big red fruit, dried wild strawberry, tart raspberry and very firm tannins. The pressing and subsequent astringency are temporary but will lead to an earthbound secondary stage.  Tasted Blind, January 2020

Réva’s Cannubi is based or is the extension of an idea, initialized in 2012, to have three different expressions in Barolo. The search is for elegance of La Morra or Barolo and the structure of Serralunga or Monforte. The third is a combination and that is found in Ravera. The Cannubi plot was owned by Fratelli Barale, a Cannubi di Cannubi right next to the cemetery of Barolo. It’s still a rented property and will be owned at the end of a 10 year contract. Pure Barolo, close your eyes and this is recognizable as the dictionary entry. Hue as in deep depths of pure red with a streak of light. Palate of acidity and fine tannins with length. Rich without being too strong. Not closed, does not attack your mouth and yet there is grip to keep it moving forward. Really fine tannins and fruitful pleasure. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted January 2020

The single-vineyard cru Lazzarito is added in 2016 and it is Daniele Gaia’s first harvest at Réva. Drive the best car and drive it right away. “This is the best wine Réva has never made,“ says Gaia with great irony mixed into humility. Tasted from low temperatures (22-24 degrees) in tank there was fear of Lazzarito’s tannins. Here above Serralunga a long strip on the top of the eastern side of the hill gives a marl-calcaire meets sandy soil and so the best of both structural worlds; freshness (also from high pH) and grip. Yes it’s silly young and impressionable but already handsome, unadorned and fruit so crunchy, yet also sapid, a pinch salty and the impression of acidity is a freshness with thanks to that elevated pH. A sample but already in bottle and will be released in two years. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

Revello Fratelli Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2016

Solid Serralunga d’Alba juice in far right extraction without problematic grit. Cerretta Crunchy and tannic, fruit juicy and expressionist. Gives away all of itself and needs nothing in return. Will show well for three, maybe four years. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Reverdito Michele Barolo DOCG La Serra 2016

A big barrel influence on a La Morra nebbiolo of concentration means this will turn into something smooth, chocolatey and secondary before too long. Somewhat one-dimensional for La Serra in that respect. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Reverdito Michele Barolo DOCG Badarina 2016

Light, airy and transparent Serralunga d’Alba Barolo here with a nice balance between grip and finesse. The fruit has been gently coaxed, receives and creates its structural Baudarina identity with relative ease. Top quality mid-weight example. So reminds of the Barolo from Scarpa. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Rinaldi Francesco & Figli Barolo DOCG 2016

A slight oxidative note but still quite attractive with dried strawberry and a natural cure. Quite frankly smells and also tastes like a field blend of grapes picked at different times, stacked and fermented together. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Rizieri Barolo DOCG 2016

Wildly aromatic front, namely untamed strawberry and some verdancy tossed in. Very La Morra nebbiolo in a rich and concentrated way, nearly glycerin, certainly taken full advantage of vintage possibility. Not overly complex or tannic but very, very drinkable. Drink 2020-2024.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Roberto Sarotto Barolo DOCG Bergera Pezzole 2016

Overtly hot and bothered. deeply rendered and distilled. Heavy extraction and vanilla in waves. So much wood. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

The brighter and higher toned Rocche dell’Annunziata is this example where fruit is parochial fruit but a steeping and a warmth takes it to a different level. More palate presence and furthered tannic fineness. There’s so much to appreciate and understand here, namely La Morra finesse and beauty. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo DOCG 2016

Wild berries and all the others in the market well up in this most fruity of Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo Barolo noses. It’s almost impossible how much red, blue and black berry fruit is in the mix. There are structural aspects but they pale in comparison. This one-dimensional wine is really something else. Modern is the understatement. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roccheviberti Barolo DOCG Rocche Di Castiglione 2016

Slightly elevated in its lift and sour entry. Very much in the saffron, blood orange and scraped skin vein. Searing inwards and so bloody implosive Rocche di Castiglione. So much character and Castiglione Falletto personality in abound. Wait for this to come back down. Drink 2022-2028.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

A particulaly youthful and formidable nebbilloo from Bricco Boschis in Castiglione Falletto, no shrinking violet of a cru or in how it can confound the young and impressionable. There’s so much going on with respect to aromas; cured meat, fresh roses, rosewater, paved roads, fennel frond and spice. Then comes this brick of texture of inside like airy nougat. So real, so purposed, finessed and of the greatest intendment. How can you not see this but as a twenty year wine? Can’t you hear the organ croon out length, building to crescendo and classicism? Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

Ruggeri Corsini Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

Here is a really taut, firm and yet forgiving Monforte d’Alba nebbiolo from Bussia. Unmistakeable as Barolo with its masculine missive, its unrelenting structure and how it just says wait. Emphatically so. Big bones and long aging probability for sure. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted January 2020

San Biagio Barolo DOCG Capalot 2016 ($59.95)

Quite high-toned and really tannic La Morra nebbiolo. Very little Capalot fruit joy early and perhaps may not really come. Can’t imagine the fleshing or the integration. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Sansilvestro Barolo DOCG Patres 2016

Lean and closed, very youthful, not giving very much away. Chewy fruit, ripe acids and even riper tannin so when it emerges from the shell there will be a big ropey nebbiolo to sink teeth deep into. Drink 2022-2027.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

Silvano Bolmida Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

From the very large cru comes this high-toned nebbiolo with a certain sort of 2016 aromatic waft in tow. The citrus one bending towards the oxidative. Stays put and in touch with its plum fruit and tart acids. Drink soon. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Simone Scaletta Viticoltore Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro Chirlet 2016

Very cured and curative nose personality, like meats hung in the cellar of a wet concrete floor. Smells like winter, damp and draughty but it’s somehow comforting and encouraging. Tart, full on tang and really solid extension. Singular Monforte d’Alba Barolo from the nook of Bricco San Pietro Chirlet. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Sordo Giovanni Barolo DOCG Perno 2016

Now welcome to Perno. Perno of Monforte d’Alba specificity. Perno to tell a cru story, of sweet, sour and salty fruit, if it can be thus simplified. Tang in fruit, tart in acid and crafty in tannin. This is no breeze but it does keep blowin’ down the blow. Wild and ripping, energy like few other. What drive from a cru that knows how to live. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Sordo Giovanni Barolo DOCG Rocche Di Castiglione 2016

A touch of stable floor and a blue sky, late fall, fresh day’s ride along the trail. That and fresh red berry, plum and rose petal. So much aromatic Rocche di Castiglione beginning. Speaks to place (Castiglione Falletto) with palate feel and then a crunchy crusted finale. Yes this will morph into a fascinating wine in middle age. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Cucco Barolo DOCG Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

Ripe and effusive, bright aromatics, quite floral and great potential ahead. Quite pure for nebbiolo with enough grip after extraction to send it further than many from Serralunga d’Alba down a crafty and well-designed road. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Cucco Barolo DOCG Cerrati 2016

The Cerrati tones are set to the top right here and there’s no stepping down any time soon. A plum liqueur dominates with tannins so strong, so firm and admittedly, so fine. Big and chewy, the kind of Serralunga d’Alba Barolo that will really develop some dried fruit meeting cured meet, nuts and even a bit of funghi character. there’s surely enough finesse to see that happen. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta L’Llluminata Barolo DOCG Sant’Anna 2016

Fruity but in a juiced and reduced way, then swelled again with water. That sense is not so obvious but it describes the gains and losses of this La Morra Barolo’s swells. Texturally speaking it improves and impresses, as do the work of acids and tannin. Curious and potentially great. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Montanello Barolo DOCG Montanello 2016

Very pretty Castiglione Falletto nebbiolo here from Montanello. Most overtly aromatic, never achromatic, seemingly pushy and tannic. Older of mind, body and soul. Old soul. There’s always a place in our hearts for such a Barolo. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Rocca Barolo DOCG Bussia 2016

A deeper down the Monforte d’Alba well, twist of fate, somewhat dank though clearly serious nebbiolo of Bussia fame. So much tannin and yet charming. No questioning the personality and the effort. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Trediberri Barolo DOCG 2016

Cool and floral, red fruit in the candied to naturally sweet spectrum. Some tisane, savour and fine acidity. Tannins are easy and supportive. High ranking on the La Morra amenability factor. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Veglio Luigi E Massimo Barolo DOCG Raviole 2016

The Grinzane Cavour cru is indeed Raviole, the singular shape filled with red cherry fruit at the centre lightly volatile and edgy. Earth crusted and a potential for funghi or tartufi is definitely in the saucy or flaky future for this grainy farina nebbiolo. So curious and with so much possibility. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Vico Luigi Barolo DOC Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba 2016

A reductive one, one part woollen, one part peppery (like Cornas syrah) and one part volatile. really, really interesting and curious nose. Stays true to Serralunga d’Alba course both on the palate and in the way the retexture mimics, then creates. Such potential and possibility excites, as does the length. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Vico Luigi Barolo DOCG Prapò 2016

Really nothing else in this long flight of Barolo smells like this Serralunga d’Alba nebbiolo from Prapò. It’s a washed rind cheese meets berry clafouti with a yet undetermined set of bones and future. Confounding really and an absolute glaring example of Barolo in youth that resembles nothing of what it will one day become. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Viberti Giovanni Barolo DOCG Buon Padre 2016

Più Comuni brings vineyards together in strange advance with high toned character mixing with an ooze of liquorice and really developed red plummy fruit. Also some Brettanomyces then true tang from acidity. Big wine that climbs all over the map. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Vietti Barolo DOCG Lazzarito 2016 ($175.00)

Reductive and protected with little movement this early in its youth. Good core of red Serralunga d’Alba fruit albeit a bit gritty and then some bitters creeping in. If a bit hard-pressed and drying you simply must intuit the youth and what kind of eventuality it will transpose towards and to what end. Forget it Jake, it’s Lazzarito. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

***** Vietti Barolo DOCG Ravera 2016

Here comes the seductive Ravera with everything beautiful up front at first scent. So liberally perfumed but a subtle fragrance, rose petal, jasmine, orange aerosol in thought only, of cherries and greenery. What follows nay not be as consequential but enough stuffing and grip to avoid any sort of Novello nebbiolo letdown. Still Ravera, still strong. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Virna Borgogno Barolo DOCG Sarmassa 2016

A lurker perhaps this Sarmassa, while the wood on this nebbiolo is very up front. The texture is all barrel derived (at this stage) and fruit seems a bit subdued. Cool factor for sure, lean (again, in the present) and not entirely allowing for the joys of ripeness or the representations in concentration to be set free. Dries out and peppers reductively in the end so please, don’t touch this for five years easy. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Voerzio Martini Barolo DOCG 2016

Sumptuous nebbiolo of red berry and orange tinged fruit, quite impressive concentration and a modicum of structure. Love the acidity here and the liquid chalkiness in a La Morra that strikes as being a rendition created through master blending. Quality wine of solid proportioning. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Thick in many ways, concentration for La Morra and also texture for so many layers upon the palate. This is La Serra and its ability, not to mention potential. This time around the pace is slower and the need for admiration is tempered by a better pace. Should drink beautifully in five-plus years. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Barolo Riserva DOCG 2014

Anselma Famiglia Barolo Riserva DOCG 2014

Buzzing nebbiolo of wild fruit and an almost co2 effervescence. Not quite but it sure makes you feel like the enzymes are still alive and working. Unusual to be sure. Drink 2020-2022.  Barrel sample tasted January 2020

An aged Barolo here of big extraction, still raging tannin and more than a shake of Brettanomyces. A curiosity more than anything else. Drink 2020. Tasted January 2020.

Franco Conterno Barolo Riserva DOCG Bussia 2014

Good ropey red fruit is met by some Bretty character and mildly earthy beetroot. Quite the earthy Barolo with old-world, old-school charm. Acids and tannins are expected, directed, offer a sense of place (Bussia) and in the end are quite fine. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Giacosa Fratelli Barolo Riserva DOCG 2014

So unusually scented Barolo of evergreen and charred tomato, followed by a brittle and gritty textured palate. Some old-school winemaking and rigidity here. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Gigi Rosso Barolo Riserva DOCG Arione 2014

Thin and herbal, almost weedy nebbiolo. Advanced into oxidative beginnings, bricking and faintly scented tomato leaf. Not much pleasure left here. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Lo Zoccolaio Barolo Riserva DOCG Ravera 2014

Overripe and over-pressed so that all the hard tannin and astringent notes come through. Simple and tart. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

The Marrone Sisters

Barolo DOCG 2006

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2006

Marrone’s 13.5 year old Pichemej Barolo is heady stuff, unspeakably high-toned and equipped with fierce if drying tannins. No missive here and wholly in charge of your senses. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Alessandria F. Lli Barolo DOCG San Lorenzo 2006

Really quite youthful ’06 from Alesaandria in Verduno with a continuance of strong continence and firm grip still going and even growing. Really the strength is the calling card for all constituent parts through acidity and tannin are the clear winners. Drink soon though food matching is a necessity. Osso Busso and polenta. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Aurelio Settimo Rocche Barolo DOCG 2006

Settimo’s Rocche ’06 from La Morra is ostensibly full-on tertiary and if surprising it matters little because the porcini and tartufo are quite stunning. That said the ‘98s in my cellar better be consumed ASAP. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Boroli Barolo Cerequio DOCG 2006

Astringent and gritty. Overtly malic has made this nebbiolo brittle and hard to swallow. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

High-toned with the kind of violet purple fruit that makes for a Brezza-Sarmassa-2006 trilogy. More like a triptych because the seamlessness between fruit, acid and tannic parts is quite fortuitous. Precipitous nebbiolo for dinner matching right now. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Lots to delve into with this Ravera and it’s strength for Barolo by Cagliero. Full of energy, drive and bright-eyed salutations. Big wine with lots to give. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Casetta F.lli  Barolo DOCG 2006

An aged Barolo here of big extraction, still raging tannin and more than a shake of Brettanomyces. A curiosity more than anything else. Drink 2020.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Del Monastero Barolo DOCG Riund 2006

Here a La Morra nebbiolo with all of its bones in tact and plenty of flesh hanging on the frame. The fruit persists albeit swathed in chocolatey barrel and the acids are sharp and pointed. Like most ‘06s the tannic structure is strong and supported by no holds barred extraction. This Riund example maintains balance within all these larger than life parameters. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Luisin Barolo DOCG Leon 2006

Certainly showing age at this stage the ooze is in and the melting of all parts are welling up the glass. Still the acids and the tannins take charge. When don’t they from 2006? Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Codero Di Montesemolo Barolo DOCG Monfalletto 2006

Massive aromas, over the top in many ways, nearly suffocating. The palate on the other hand is quite beautiful, high energy and chic. The finish is woody and full of café. A tale of many worlds in this middle-aged nebbiolo, La Morra, Monfalletto, Barolo. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Conterno Fantino Barolo DOCG Sorì Ginestra 2006

Notable for the extraction happened 13-plus years ago with a forward notation that the fruit stands the test of pressing time. Really chalky and liquid stylish still so it really can handle the 2006 Monforte truth. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Gagliasso Mario Barolo DOCG Rocche Dell’Annunziata 2006

Age puts this ’06 from La Morra on the wane side of nebbiolo life though both acids and drying tannins remain fierce, grippy and in charge. This one packs some serious 13-14 year-old punch. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Something ulterior here from Ettore, mingling, alive, balanced and fine. For one of the first times the three main ideals are in synch, or nearly so. A bit heavy o the wood-induced character but everything knows and seems to fit into its right place. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Principiano Giuseppe Barolo DOCG 2006

Highly aromatic wine of a multitude of savoury elements. Spiced in many ways, east, west and everywhere in between. Sweet fruit persists but clearly submits to the wood, the acids and that masala of spice. Peppery and sharp, so interesting though not quite developed into present tense balance. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Veglio Barolo DOCG Gattera 2006

Wholly curious aromas emit preserved orange and baking spice from the Gattera in La Morra by Veglio Mauro. There’s almost no frame of reference here but for the heavy hit of acidity and tannin that take over. Tons of complexity and character. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Monchiero F. Lli Barolo DOCG 2006

Completely about face in aromas here from Castiglione Falletto, more evergreen and specifically pine. Very earthy and not forgiving to taste. Perhaps a minor note of TCA. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Simone Scaletta Viticoltore Barolo DOCG Bricco San Pietro Chirlet 2006

Quite heady and savoury Monforte nebbiolo with so much tannin from early extraction still safely secure in pocket. Quite woody but the dark Chirlet Bricco San Pietro fruit seems to handle the ever-going onslaught. Will do so for another year or two. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Montanello Barolo DOCG Montanello 2006

Quite high-toned but also earthy with sweet flavours mainly from oak on the palate. Acids are the driving force and all in all the balance is quite good. From Castiglione Falletto. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Tenuta Rocca Barolo DOCG San Pietro 2006

Nice little red fruit Monforte nebbiolo that seems to have avoided the ’06 tendency to overdress, extract and stress. And so it is not heavy pressed and while it may miss out on the structure of some big and badass ‘06s at this stage it is nothing but pleasant and joyous San Pietro. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Lovely are apparent Barolo from the section of the Sarmassa cru that brings the lovely. Elegant nebbiolo at 13.5 years old is just this. Red fruit, ripe acids, a touch of volatility and sweet chains of fine-grained tannin. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Barolo Riserva DOCG 2004

Anselma Barolo Riserva DOCG Adasi 2004

Stink bomb. Sweeter fruit on the palate but the aromatics in earthy merde steal the show. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Barale Flli Barolo Riserva DOCG Bussia 2004

Quite advanced to no surprise or complaint with fruit compliant in age notable extension. More tannin than acidity in this ’04 and in fact the vintage was not nearly as demanding as referenced by the formidable ‘06s in this tasting. This is a lovely retrospective look at 2004 Riserva. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Nice drop at 15 years-old, red fruit intact, not having been asked to do too much. Quite tart and still so very tight but the winding is beginning to allow the winch to go the other way. The uncoiling means good drinking times over the next five years. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Germano Ettore Barolo Riserva DOCG Lazzarito 2004

Age is showing with great transparency because the volatility and earthy character is really up front. Woolly and swarthy with high level 2004 acids and drying fruit. Juicy enough but up there in the tonal spectrum. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Josetta Saffirio Barolo Riserva DOCG Persiera 2004

Just what the Barolo doctored ordered for 15 year-old Barolo with brightness matched by angst. A real posit tug is in effect between juiciness and structure. The force seems to be winning but the flesh is hanging on. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Aging to be sure but an exotica in aroma that is very special. A Bussia reality that delivers much fantasy 15 years on. Chewy and earthy with violets, roses, tar and fennel. Wild ride and happy to have hopped on. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Vite Colte Barolo Riserva DOCG Essenze 2004

Quite advanced, full of reduced liquor and still tannic at the finish. A bit astringent despite the redemption offered by coolness and florality. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Grande, Chianti Classico

      Tasting through 175 Chianti Classico DOCG from the last three vintages confirms the territory’s ability to consistently achieve another level of quality

Passport to Chianti Classico

In February I made the annual pilgrimage to Tuscany for the Chianti Classico Collection to taste through a few hundred examples of the local sangiovese, a perennial workload that is my pleasure and indeed, my privilege. Feel free to scroll down past the next few thousand words to read the reviews. I have been repeatedly fortunate to take in the renowned history, food, olive oil and vineyards but most importantly have been the forged relationships with so many producers and custodians of what is affectionately called the Gallo Nero. At this time travel for work and also pleasure remains unknowable and it will be this way, at least for the immediate future. All of us have to wait and see when the next visit can be possible, to again take in the hills and landscapes where Italy’s most important grape variety is grown. That is why the partners at WineAlign have joined virtual hands with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, Chairman Giovanni Manetti, the producers and sangiovese to orchestrate a different kind of sensory experience. They created an opportunity for the region’s wines to be delivered directly to the consumer’s doorstep. Two unique Chianti Classico mixed cases, each a masterclass in a box. A second set will follow in late summer/early fall.

The Passport cases are a culmination of years of learning, tasting and hard work. They are the first of their kind for WineAlign and the 12 wines chosen are foremost a decision made collectively after the critics each sat down to taste dozens of examples. The wines are also an extension of what new facets and nuances about Chianti Classico’s sangiovese John and I learned in Florence back in February. For me that continuing education goes back several years now. Since May of 2016 I have made nine visits to Chianti Classico and tasted more than 1,700 different wines. In February 2017 I was honoured as an official ambassador by the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico. I take my role as ambasciatore to heart and feel the profound weight of the title and the endearment. It is a great professional honour to speak, write and educate on behalf of the region but the work and the messaging from and for the farmers, producers and the land is a two-way street. The people who bottle Chianti Classico are shepherds of place and I, along with many others, act as messengers of their wines, but more importantly, their story. We all take this journey together. The sentiment is a shared one, the relationship symbiotic and the feeling entirely mutual. And so the Passport Cases are a product of much thought, purple teeth, blood, sweat and joyous sangiovese tears.

Since 1716 Chianti Classico has preserved the unique qualities of its native land and soils and it is the Black Rooster that protects the wines from all imitations.

Chianti Classico Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti

Sangiovese and the quality pyramid

Sangiovese. The grape that defines Chianti Classico. Other endemic grape varieties may or may not augment the wines; canaiolo, colorino, pugnitello, malvaisa nera and others. So too might cabernet sauvignon, merlot or syrah but at the heart and the crux (at a minimum 80 per cent to qualify for DOCG status) of the matter there is always the local and unwavering sangiovese. Then I would imagine many of you are wondering about the levels of appellation that make up the tiers of Chianti Classico’s DOCG pyramid. There are three, Chianti Classico DOCG, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG. Each and every bottle that is made from 100 per cent grapes grown in the delineated Chianti Classico area is stamped with the Gallo Nero, a 304 year-old symbol of guaranteed quality for the territory. What separates the tiers is aging in barrel and bottle (12, 24 and 30 months minimum) but also thresholds for extract and alcohol. As a general rule the price rises as the pyramid is ascended but some Annata (as they are referred to) can be more expensive than Riserva and vice versa. Same goes for each of these levels in relation to Gran Selezione, but for the purposes of simplicity, for an estate that bottles one, expect the GS to be at the peak of importance and also cost the most. For others the traditional Riserva or perhaps a self declared cru rises to the top. Keep in mind that Chianti Classico is a region of vineyards farmed by single estates. You need to get to know them, one at a time. We all want to compare apples to apples but one producer’s silver may be another’s gold.

PDO Olive Oil is a guarantee of quality

Partnerships also travel across commodity lines and one of Italy’s most symbiotic affairs lies within the joint ventures of Chianti Classico DOCG and Olio DOP Chianti Classico. The two are inextricably linked, not just by territory but by a shared passion of estates. Winemaker and Olive oil producer are in so many instances one in the same. While many consumers don’t know the difference between a PDO oil, an Italian extra virgin oil, and non-Italian or even non-extra virgin olive oils, there are profound reasons to care. Looking at price without understanding the real value of a PDP product is key to the message.

Start with preventative benefits and a healthy lifestyle. Two spoons a day of Italian extra virgin olive oil, or better still, PDO oilcan prevent serious illnesses. Some Italian doctors have proved that oleic acid creates an anti-inflammatory barrier that can prevent, for example, some forms of tumour from growing. The Food and Drugs Administration (USA), also maintains that oil is, to all intents and purposes, a “medicinal food”, if it contains at least 70 per cent of oleic acid: Italian extra virgin olive oil certainly does. But although this information is easily accessible to everyone though multiple means of communication, there is still a great deal of confusion and even ignorance surrounding the oil sector.

The first organized (and voluntary) Consortium of Extra Virgin olive oil produced in Chianti Classico dates back to 1975. From the beginning this structure defined strict regulations to obtain a traditional, fine quality product. In the year 2000 oil produced in the Gallo Nero hills obtained European recognition with PDO certification, thanks to those very specific chemical and organoleptic features that link it inextricably to its terroir of origin. Twenty years on, PDO Chianti Classico olive oil is still a small niche production of very high quality.

Gallo Nero Lounge, Chianti Classico Collection 2020

Regulations and the 2019 harvest

The fruit must be processed within three days of harvesting, in temperature-controlled conditions. All PDO Chianti Classico oil is cold-extracted and the processing temperature may not exceed 27°C. Yields may vary from 2-3 kg per tree, depending on the number of olive trees per hectare (but it is actually much lower). As with sangiovese for DOCG wines PDO Chianti Classico must include at least 80 per cent of olives from the four main varieties grown in the production zone; frantoio, correggiolo, leccino and moraiolo. The year of the olive harvest must always be shown on the label. Lastly, it must correspond to certain chemical and organoleptic parameters which are an improvement on and/or more selective than those for non-PDO extra virgin olive oil.

In 2019 the total quantities were hugely affected due to the weather and compared to the previous year’s harvest PDO Chianti Classico suffered a 75 per cent loss of oil destined for certification and 50 per cent of non-certified extra virgin oil. Despite all this organoleptic qualities were high, showing the pleasant, piquant hints of fresh and aromatic herbs on the nose, typical of Chianti Classico PDO oil and the bitter olive/raw artichoke flavours with a spicy finish of rocket, chilli pepper and black pepper. All these features are typical of Gallo Nero PDO oil, and of the terroir, problematic for olive growing but generous in the complex sensations it offers.

Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

Come on up for sangiovese’s rising

When we look retrospectively back at the last seven vintages in Chianti Classico the upward trend in quality argues in favour of the law of increasing returns. Producers have invested time, money and hard work, small farms have moved from home-gardening to professional vignaioli and larger estates have ticketed block-specific projects to compliment commercial continuity. Chianti Classico’s agglomerated return is more than proportionate to investment. Any graph will show the rising, from market share through qualitative studies of ripeness, extract and balance, to critical praise across the board. Writers everywhere are on the bandwagon, circling the region with written hyperbole in recognition of the good becoming great with a kind of religious and spiritual belief.

Chianti Classico Ambassadors, 2020

Vintage reports

The 2013 vintage saw great variabilities, first from the weather, in spikes and storms, then in the resulting wines of which no two seemed the same. The “blood orange” vintage I like to call it and the first in recent memory to really speak of sangiovese’s great complexity, multiplicity and diversity. What followed might have ended things altogether and prevented the current streak from continuing. The 2014 growing season was fraught with challenge; inclement weather of frosts, rain and cool temperatures, not ideal to make impressive and strutting sangiovese, but producers hunkered down and their mettle tested, showed what experience, acumen and forward thinking could produce. Like 1998 and 2008 before, 2014 was and still is a vintage of sneaky structure.

Sommeliers of the Chianti Classico Collection

Then comes along the easy, breezy and close your eyes year that is 2015. Virtually no climate hurdles and wines that make themselves. Is ’15 one for the ages? In a word, no. Will these sangiovese drink beautifully and defend cellars everywhere from bottles snatched, their corks pulled and the wine spilled too early? In another word, yes. All wine regions need a 2015 in the throes of enigma and glory. That’s where 2016 fits in, after the calm and before the storm, or in the case of 2017, the fire. The 2016 vintage was about as perfect as it gets, allowing sangiovese to fully ripen at 600, 650 and even more meters above sea level, to turn vineyards in places like Radda, Ruffoli, Lamole and Monti into veritable Edens. The wines of 2016 are glorious and structured. They will live in infamy, respectfully, without grandstanding, low and slow in development, long into a sangiovese night. This is where Chianti Classico became the future.

John Szabo M.S., a.k.a. Il Professore

It may have rained some in the last months of 2016 but after the calendar turned there was no precipitation until the beginning of the second week in September. Imagine what the berries looked like on vines before those rains. Picture the desiccation, consider the sugars and know the unevenness of phenolic ripening. Once again the farmer’s imperative for digging deep to trust intuition became paramount to save the vintage. Patience encouraged those sangiovese clusters to swell and take advantage of three blissful weeks that followed. Warm by day, cool at night, phenolics hitting their peak. The sangiovese of 2017 are singular and in the most concentrated wines their tannins are really something, at times dire, aforementioned in terms like “so-called death squads.” At the base of the appellative pyramid they can be consumed early but as a general rule, the higher you climb, the wider the gap becomes and the longer you may need to allow for the structural components to settle in. A complete about face comes with 2018 in Chianti Classico of grace, understated beauty and ease of drink-ability. They are a fresh collective breath of sangiovese air, a break from adversity and a set of wines to enjoy in advance of another vintage that will bring yet another step up in quality and ultimately glory.

If nine were eight

In Chianti Classico we break the territory down by commune. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes. I am not alone in truly believing that the sangiovese changes from commune to commune. Even recently it may have been far too difficult to say that each commune has a specific set of characteristics, but with so much good wine on the market the qualifying of definitions is becoming clearer and easier to do. The sangiovese made by each producer are in fact singular and surely related to the soils, however complex they may be, within the boundaries of their commune.

Through to December 31st, 2018 there were nine communes. Greve in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castellina in Chianti, Poggibonsi, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. On January 1, 2019 Barberino Tavarnelle became a new commune, thus reducing the total in Chianti Classico from nine to eight, by merging the municipalities of Barberino Val d’Elsa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. The joining is one of fourteen mergers of municipalities in Tuscany approved in recent years. These days of writing feature articles about a place within a commune inside a territory tells and potentially schools us about something highly profound. Riddles, mysteries and enigmas are now yielding to solutions, comprehension and understanding. The special nooks in Chianti Classico are geographically defined pockets where vineyards and villages align for organized, like-minded production and same-belief system marketing.

With Dario Cecchini and Nadia Fournier

The territory is commonly divided by commune but its tiers of structure do not end there. There lies within more specific sub-zones, zonazione, places of interest where microclimates and shared geologies bring land and producers together. Five of the nine Chianti Classico communes have their own Associazione Viticoltori or Vignaioli; Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and San Casciano Val di Pesa. San Donato in Poggio has also banded together within their commune of Barberino Tavarnelle. Greve is the notable exception because the precincts of Lamole, Montefioralle and Panzano in Chianti have each formed their own associations. These three exist inside the greater neighbourhood that is Greve in Chianti. Panzano may not be the only sub-zone of its kind but at this triennial level of the place within a place, within a place pyramid it is arguably the most unified and defined frazioni of all.

Chianti Classico Collection 2020, Stazione Leopolda, Firenze

The reviews

Which brings us to the wines. In February I tasted and reviewed the following 177 examples of sangiovese. Please feel free to advance forward to the DOCG level and vintage you wish to read about by right-clicking on their WineAlign-linked sub-headings.

Passport to Chianti Classico: Case #1

Passport to Chianti Classico: Case #2

Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (31 Notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (50 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (13 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 (2 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (12 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (32 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 (6 notes)

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014-2004 (5 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017 (8 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 (16 notes)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015 (2 notes)

Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($29.02)

Tasted with Roberto Stucchi from a tank sample ready to be bottled. Stucchi reminds of the 220mm of rain in August which causes a déja vu Gaiole reminiscence for me going back to August of 1995.  A wet and auspicious start fasts forwards to a a happy ending. So fresh. Light yes but back up the truck and imbibe with reckless if joyous abandon. You just want to drink this while Roberto quips, “and present it as Grand Selezione.” Wink wink, nudge, nudge for the tongue-in-cheek gamay of sangiovese vintage in Chianti Classico. Shine sangiovese shine. Drink 2020-2025.   Tasted February 2020

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (168286, $23.95)

The brightest Bibbiano to date is this 2018 from Tommaso, ripe to ripest and with an extended cappello sommerso feel to the glycerin fruit. Crunchy in as much as you could want, very Castellina (or at least Bibbiano’s two-pronged valley within) and perfectly positioned as a Chianti Classico sangiovese of character. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Fresh sangiovese from Castelnuovo Berardenga and quite heady in its rich constitution with a wooly character and sneaky thick texture. There is a sour if supportive edging to the acidity and it rolls right along with the fruit. New version of old school if a label needed to be put on what this is. Still crazy after all these years. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG Podere Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2018

You need to consider the micro-climate of these terraced vineyards of Casavecchia alla Piazza in the heights of Castellina at the western limit of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro. ’Tis a weightless weightiness, a crafty way to compose sangiovese with energetic blood orange winter lightness of citrus being and to make for a wild ride in Chianti Classico expression. Big and invisible simultaneously while conversely stretched, elastic and regaling. You must taste this to not understanding but smile trying to do so. The only living boy in Chianti Classico. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (356048, $19.95)

Classic Carpineto, savour in and out of every red fruit poured pore, sip and savour. Long as a Greve in Chianti summer’s day and so worthy of carrying across and through several winters. Keep warm with this comforting and soothing Chianti Classico. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Extreme brightness of Castellina in Chianti sangiovese in Castagnoli’s 2018, tightly wound and crunchy herb and earth crusted, tart and properly focused on both its intentions and the small lot crafting it purports to tell. Good story right here and one worth knowing. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (970095, $24.95)

Solid work in 2018 from Castellina’s Castellare, fresh as you might desire and developed to a starting point that’s ready to enjoy as the words are spoken. Structure is somewhat sneaky, more so than initially realized. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG Ama 2018 ($34.95)

Forget about launching points for 2018, Castello di Ama’s is the whole matter, all points 360 degrees on the compass covered, at the beginning, through the middle and extended at the end. More than just a fresh face there is a density of fruit-acid circling on the palate and then this slow simmering warmth developing late, later and latest. “I never, never wanted water once.” Quenching. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($24.95)

Quite the startling and striking sangiovese from Querceto’s Dudda Valley in Greve vineyards from 2018. Real savour over fruit attack, short perhaps of full glycerin though no slouch in terms of macerated texture. Just a touch, if properly volatile. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG Volpaia 2018 (953828, $28.95)

In terms of 2018 this from Volpaia is one of the harder vintage Annata to crack and in fact the traditional construct speaks to sangiovese’s need for time. A crunchy exterior protects the soft and layered interior to double down on suggestions that say wait five years before diving straight in. You of course can enter this Radda sanctum earlier but 2024 or 2025 will see the beginning of true glory. The worth will prepare, support and enrich the wait. Volpaia’s is truly one of the most structured Annata for the vintage. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Guado Alto 2018

Guado Alto is indeed a high level Annata and spoken in upwardly mobile tones for Greve sangiovese. Rich as ’18 can thrust upon fruit and then really wound acidity that strides and even sings baritone along. Big wine, very red and layered with the tops of them. The smallest and the the first of four Vicchiomaggio cru that provides for only 50 hL (6,000 bottles). Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Coccia Giuliano/Castellinuzza E Piuca Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Perfume of an ulterior sort, not just exotica but also something sappy, resinous, oozing even. Pine and more herbology than many this speaks to Lamole certainly but even more so altitude and all the Mediterranean shrubs that grow at altitude. Also speaks to wind and aromatics flying hither and thither. Such parochial stuff oh my. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($31.95)

Radda perfume for sure and certain, but the most pertinent aspect to note and ultimately take away from Bernardo Bianchi’s 2018 is architecture. His is structured Annata that cries for patience and expects to be at best three years forward from Anteprima. The fruit content and variegated intermingling with the structural parts is elastic in its seamlessness so you can envision a ten year or more development before real secondary character interjects. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Journalist taste at Chianti Classico Collection 2020

Famiglia Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($27.95)

Floral and candied aromas, rose petal and a liquid, San Casciano Galestro melted and stirred into red juice. Quite juicy and liquid chalky in fact. Simple, quite pretty and very drinkable straight away. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Cigliano Di Sopra Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

From a place (San Casciano) that gifts perfume but in the most savoury of ways. There too is a deep red darkness to the fruit and here the full advantage of 2018 is taken into consideration. Everything here is done with acumen intention, including maceration, pressing and extraction. The redundancy effects the outcome, restricts the subtleties and brings immediate gratification. Fourth vintage for the estate’s young winemakers and expect two steps forward from 2019. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fèlsina Chianti Classico DOCG Berardenga 2018 (730788, $29.95)

Fèlsina’s Berardenga is a fully developed 2018 with massive attack of the greatest generosities offered and with zero inhibition. Crunchy, Castelnuovo fluff-earthy and in a world where “you drink my wine, so why don’t you make your world mine.” Trouble moves away with a sip of this ’18, leaving a feeling of warmth and settled intensity. This will develop remarkable secondary attributes in only ways Fèlsina can. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Le Miccine Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Subtly aromatic, seemingly brushy, forested and mountainous in origin. Gaiole in fact, surrounded by olive groves and plenty of cinghiale housing woods. You can feel the wood and the woods in the way it smothers, exhales and reels you in. Very rich and highly irascible in its voracious meatiness. Singular expression to be sure. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($24.50)

This is perhaps the most approachable, amenable and refreshing Luiano ever made by the unflappable Alessandro Palombo. Beautiful wine here made by the man with the mitts, the maestro from San Casciano. Fruit first, fulsome, flying and mouth-filling. What else needs to be said? Perhaps that this will live in a certain kind of infamy, to be opened in 2055 at which point Palumbo will taste, shrug and walk away. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Big, deep and low-toned sangiovese is just this, having taken full vintage advantage for the great welling effect. Dark, purposed and attacking. Leaves everything on the table, securely weighted and fastened. From Greve. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico DOCG Retromarcia 2018

Let’s talk about the passion. Let us discuss the care, the careful consternation and the vineyard work that leads to something so effusive, effulgent and expressive. Let’s consider this southern Panzano perfume. Once we have exhausted all the shadowy hyperbole we can then begin to understand how Michael Schmelzer builds or rather stands back and watches as his sangiovese constructs itself. The present and the future are right here. Drink now, then and forever. Would love to see this in 15 years, or perhaps more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Monteraponi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

There can be no denial or denying the knowing, no lack of understanding in fully accepting a Radda height accessed, performed and used for full effect. Sangiovese knows how to make über plausible use of its hillside altitude and by association the forested surroundings, but in certain cases it requires a sanctimonious winemaking intuition and that right re dihere is the crux of Monteraponi’s situation. A corner of Radda expressed by Michele Braganti in ways no one else may try and as such, exercised as it must be. This is Chianti Classico for what it is. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

If ever a Poggio Scalette adapted to, extended from and celebrated a vintage it is this from 2018 that hyperbolizes the context. Richesse like never before or perhaps memory serves short and blinders allow for new beginnings at every time and turn. Big sangiovese for Ruffoli in Greve here from Jurji Fiore and one that speaks to what can happen at heights in warm times. A bit apposite to expectation and causing some wild thoughts. Need to re-visit this time and time again. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Regini Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Quite resinous and sappy sangiovese, reminding of Lamole but without the accompanying floral perfume. A touch beyond, on top of and reaching over the subtle line. Fine enough and better to drink this young. From Castellina in Chianti. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Riecine Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($28.95)

Fully conceived, attacked and modernized sangiovese in the brightest red fruit vein, of berry mixed with red lightning. Amazing Gaiole vineyard gives life to the 21st century. Fabulous acidity and freshness from the hands (or lack there) of Alesandro Campatelli. Structure creeps in and confirms without conforming to any static standard or typicality, in mixed levels of attack. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (222810, $19.95)

Full on attack from warm, ripe and concentrated 2018 fruit defines Rocca di Castagnoli’s 2018. This brings and delivers the whole lot of goods right from the top for immediate enjoyment. Total extraction to throw every iota of acidity and available tannin into the mix. Acts youthful and wise at the same time. Terrific three to five year Annata that expresses everything at once and all the time. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 ($34.95)

Monti in Chianti is gathered, accumulated and condensed into this Annata with extreme prejudice. That which is left to the imagination in the work of Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi is sottosuolo, in the Galestro of his Gaiole vineyards. Not that the ’18 is less than intense because Marco’s sangiovese takes nothing for granted and leaves little behind on the canes, spurs and leaves of his vines. It’s all here in this Annata, boasting of great confidence and every rock that can be bled into sangiovese’s varietal lifeblood. Extreme tightness of acidity and structure for to speak of freshness, protracted towards potential. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (234308, $21.95)

Quite heady and excitable Castellina here in San Fabiano Calcinaia’s Annata out of 2018. Crunchy, classically rustic, in request of patience, time and the need to wait in bottle. Pretty traditional and fresh stuff right here for you who like what style of Chianti Classico you’ve known, seen and wish to continue drinking. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (282996, $19.95)

The most extracted and distracting sangiovese comes from San Felice and in 2018 the fruit is met, matched and driven by the barrels from whence it came. What a full bodied, throttle and concentrated Annata this is, truly, unabashedly and completely. The hands of Leonardo Bellaccini go all out to brings even bigger parts for the all in example. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

From the southwest corner of Greve in Chianti, southwest of Montefioralle and close to Panzano. Modish and modern for 21st century sangiovese is just this, stylish, chic and highly motivated. Quite fully developed and felt red fruit of glycerin, pectin and mouthfeel but you want more and more. Impressive magnitude in bringing so much fruit into the mix. Not overtly high in acid or tannin so use this early and often. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted twice, February 2020

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Reductive and peppery stuff here from Kosher Chianti Classico producer Terra di Seta in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Quite representative for the capabilities of the commune in warmth, strength and early tension. The shell needs to crack before the charm may spill forth. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Panzano

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2018

Newfangled and old-school actionable in simultaneousness Panzano activity, an entanglement of classic sangiovese and colorino in a web of reductive meets candied shell beauty. Very tannic in a surprising turn away from the fast and furious fruit welling. Wait for the twain to be met. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG La Ghirlanda 2017

Such a pretty, focused and far from enigmatic 2017 is this comforting sangiovese, the floral and sweetly perfumed La Ghirlanda from Bindi Sergardi. Yes it’s an expression of Castelnuovo Berardenga but so much so a feeling of Mocenni, at least in great part. Also peppy, wryly and with a devilish smile, like an ironic Leonard Cohen song. “Is this what you wanted?” Not to worry, La Ghirlanda is not haunted by the ghost of you and me. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Warmth and altitude combine for Radda beauty in a modish sangiovese so much more fine than beast. The earliest onset of drinkable recognition comes straight from the charm of this well-made wine. Cracks the whip quickly to solicit structural notes for a fast interaction with fruit to find an immediate and insistent coefficient of existence. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (23325, $16.95)

The warmth and the development make this the most approachable and get me now sangiovese you ever did encounter. Well done for 2017 in that the fruit was allowed to develop its phenolics across a broad spectrum of high yield vineyard fruit. Solid reasoning and seasoning makes this work. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Burrone 2017

Quite wildly aromatic this from new and exciting Ca’ di Pesa with a deeper set of structural values than the initial fruitiness would have led you to believe. Just feels like a conglomerate bleed, full of Panzano Galestro, Alberese and even a streak of wispy Arenaria running through like dark cherry in its veins. Very impressive indeed. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2017 (403733, $24.95)

Deep feelings from this Gaiole sense of sangiovese wonder. All that 2017 can gift is settling in with comfort, warmth and the R.E.M. subconsciousness of a Chianti Classico dream. Richly fruity, layered, dramatic and fine. Finest modern day Annata from the house in a vintage that makes the result even more impressive, poignant and important. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

In bottle from a tank sample and essentially a finished wine yet bottled. Picking started on September 19th. Quite heady for 2017, full of all the acids and Caparsa tannin that came of 2016. Lively sangiovese with drive, structure and one of the greater abilities to age. There’s a perpetual triangle of motion and precision that keeps the drive alive. An Annata in Radda that clearly benefited from the heat of the vintage. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($33.60)

Tank sample – a finished wine but not yet bottled. The 2017 Annata from Carobbio comes as such a surprise, a complex equation identified with the sweetest tannins imaginable. Really quite unexpected, fresh and feels silky in the mouth, clearly one of the finer ’17 Annata’s produced. Structure’s candle may not hold up to the vintages that came before but that does not seem to matter. Don’t think too much, just drink this one and thank Dario Faccin for making it this way. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico DOCG Capotondo 2017

Classic Radda and savoury, dusty and quickly reached sangiovese for Capotondo and exacted as would have been expected. The traditional quotient is reached, breached and put into full effect. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Sola Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From Barberino Tavarnelle. High tonality and dusty, reductive and closed young sangiovese. Pressed and picked early with heat and kept acidity though somewhat greenish tannins and not wholly formed phenols. Needs time and then not so much. Drink 2021-2023.   Tasted February 2020

Casale Dello Sparviero Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (10358, $17.95)

Such a big and polished wine, like something out of reach neither in the immediate nor in the deep past. The barrel is everything and yet nothing at all. Fruit swoons and hides behind the wood and waits in wings, static, without wings. Strong and not far from balsamic and cedar notes of the next stage to quickly come. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A subtle, quiet and reserved Annata from Panzano’s Casaloste, a bit in demure and not the 17s of many other. That said there is plenty of fruit traction and interaction. The warmth of the year is noticed, the pepperiness exaggerated and the acidity quite the same. Pretty big and boisterous. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castelli Del Grevepesa Chianti Classico DOCG Clemente VII 2017

All sorts of fruit collects and weighs down in this attacking sangiovese, of tart raspberry, strawberries red and green, currants and a spice masala that speaks to sources here, there and everywhere. Savoury dried nuts, meats and cures make this complex if a bit all over the place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($24.00)

San Donato is Poggio orange, hematic and of a specific tang and that makes for a notably distinct and obvious sangiovese. This aromatic recognizability is comforting and conditions the palate to accept the reality that one need’s to pair this wide open red so that it and all feel supported. Fresh pasta ands cinghiale would do right. Such a proper version of ’17 for the frazione. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (339937, $19.95)

Albola’s 2017 is one of the deepest sangiovese expressions, more flavourful than aromatic, fully formed, developed and realized. That means the vines, vintage and veins run deep in Radda’s blood and the feeling is of deep concentration. Nothing is left on the table. It’s all in the glass. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG Cavaliere d’Oro 2017 (219808, $18.95)

If the all-purpose Chianti Classico is what you seek from 2017 and for immediate gratification than you have arrived and that can be pronounced unequivocally. This is a Mercatale-San Casciano in Val di Pesa beeline straight to the right place. Crisp, clean, fresh and elastic fruit speaks of the grand time and place. Warm and inviting with a concrete freshness that does what needs. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($22.95)

Quite bright and effusive in 2017 there’s a feeling of the gentle and the comforting in this from the Castello di Radda. The liquid chalky texture is a bit distracting while the wine strolls uncaringly along. A bit aloof and unremarkable but surely no offence meant or taken. Happy is a glass in hand. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($30.45)

Such a unique aromatic expression here from Castello di Verrazzano and the pattern is becoming a thing of great consistent beauty. The judgement is sound if nearly spot on from a challenge and so the structure supporting makes for a resounding drink of sangiovese speciality. Very impressive for the year. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (383604, $19.95)

The bulk of the juice ferments and ages in concrete vats and a mere 20 per cent sees time in old barrels. A house that travels from strength to strength says so much about the supporting cast of characters that have elevated the game over these last three vintages. Just as this has happened you wonder what will come next. In the meantime this ’17 walks lightly, speaks confidently and pours a charming glass of deliciousness. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Pretty wine here from Cinciano, ripe and really acting out the vineyard play of multi-faceted sangiovese coming together for a seamless estate expression. No holes, plenty of charm and more than what is needed from varietal, vintage and place. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($31.78)

Hard to imagine how a 2017 Chianti Classico can raise the bar across all its constituent parts as this from Conti Cappone is able to effect. The level of primary meeting intellectual notability is well, notable. Fruit rises up to meet acidity and acidity to rise for the challenge of sweet tannin., The bond and the chain is unbreakable. In Annata. No less. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Dievole La Vendemmia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($23.95)

A sweet and salty liqueur from Dievole’s 2017 with all the layers that great modern aging vessels can gift. A highly skilled effectuation and subsequent result gives this Annata such a drinkable and amenable feeling. Very polished and chic wine right here. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (354019, $19.95)

A wide array of fruit qualities come together with hope, dreams and anticipation. Along with the pressing also comes a reductive and slightly baritone note thats speaks to the style as it repeatedly goes out, seeking love. It will find some, in time and for a few good drinking years. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Fattorie Melini Chianti Classico DOCG Granaio 2017 (395145, $19.95)

Candied florals, a sour note with hard-pressed fruit and brittle tannins. Plenty of wood and a tough nut to crack. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Lamole

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta Di Lamole 2017 ($36.95)

Un unmistakeable moment begins right away with I Parfumi di Lamole, forging an immediate connection by way of aromatic emissions from the always suave and conversely strengthening Filetta from Fontodi. The vintage is both fortifying and also hyperbolizing for the frazione and with this stellar house’s ability it just comes out equal and right. So long and never dissipating. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (933317, $39.95)

Equally if oppositely aromatic to the Filetta from Lamole and so properly judged, with wood less interested in taking over the project in this vintage. The production seems to have taken a step away and just allows the lightness of structure to mellow along with the litheness of being. Great decision making puts this in a league of its own. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

I Sodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (435123, $18.95)

Ripe and relatively pretty sangiovese from I Sodo, a touch pressed but within reason. Goes for all the marbles early and so that is when you must make use to pair, match, sip and enjoy. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (85209, $24.95)

Recently bottled and more than a pleasant surprise because 2017 is a vintage that you had to make exaggerated adjustments then wait to see if the chances taken would lead to positive results. For Il Molino di Grace the proof is in the depth of fruit expression but also in the consistency, or rather the torch taken and growth forward. The best 17s are those that adapted to challenge, adversity and were willing to change. In that way they resemble themselves and add new breath to the light that is sangiovese. Here Annata shows off idiosyncrasy, complexity and multiplicity. As fresh as 2017 can be with enough structure to keep moving forward. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2017

The savour and dustiness of sangiovese coupled with a challenge are on display from this deeply rendered wine. Il Poggiolino’s is not uncommon for the vintage and the fruit is dug in so deep, into ripeness and the earth. There’s surely a dried component, both fruit and herbs but also acids and tannins in their tight angles. Will settle a bit and drink well for three years. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (704346, $34.95)

The vintage sends sangiovese in so many directions, some into the well filled with simple fruit and others over the wall into ultra-savoury territory. Paolo di Marchi’s does both and more. There’s a freshness and a depth to the not so serious but oh so serious conflagration. What’s special is the supple and actionable structure, of acidity embracing and unproblematic tannin. Works like an Isole e Olena Annata should, with imaginary Riserva folded in, with all stones rendered and all points looking north. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG White Label 2017 (476317, $24.95)

A solidly constructed Annata from Lamole here with some advanced features that have it drinking well at exactly this juncture. Tart and rich in converse relationship but conjoined as required. Well made and a triumph for the estate. “Had to keep walking” to find the amazing. Sensei Lamole. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Le Masse Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Very pretty wine again from Le Masse with greater acids and bigger tannins than many. That this was accomplished without too much consternation or pressed aggression is a true testament to all facets of the process. Commendable in many ways. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

L’erta Di Radda Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A wild berry sangiovese if ever there was one from Radda and clearly a vintage matter coupled with the want of L’Erta to happen. So much fruit substance and not exactly a drive to age. Matters not in cases such as this. Crushable as a result. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Expect Montefioralle to deliver something other at all times but especially from this. Expect the unexpected, the idiosyncratic and the unusual. Look out for the beauty from things even if you have little frame of reference. Then take in the Damson plum and the dusty tannins. Most of all don’t be shocked at the acidity that can only come from Lorenzo Sieni’s parochial sangiovese.  Last tasted February 2020

Dry vintage, full fruit, deep red, almost out of cherry and into plum, better acidity than some of its ilk and says Lorenzo, “not greens tannins.” Agreed. Quite silky, almost glycerin and long. Well done Sieni, well done. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Monterotondo Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Vaggiolata 2017

One of the tougher sangiovese nuts to crack, Gaiole or otherwise and yet this Vaggiolata vineyard Annata is so very brushy and bushy Chianti Classico. This maker is that kind and the heart is soft beneath the stony exterior. A perfect example of Chianti Classico needing time to enter the fields of agreeable and charming. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Things turn brighter in a sangiovese like this from Radda, not so much lighter as one from which fruit can shine. Light in terms of tannin but sneaky enough to elevate and extend. More chew than crunch in a pressed fruit roll-up carnival of the heart ’17. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted February 2020

Podere Cianfanelli Chianti Classico DOCG Cianfanello 2017

Quite a boat filled with sweet and herbal notes are part fruit and part tannin though less so in terms of acidity. A bit soft that way even while the grains keep things seized at present. Drying late in that way and not ready to say three words, like yes, now and integrate. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A little bit of San Donato in Poggio goes a long way into defining a special sort of Chianti Classico with this by Podere La Cappella a prime example. The white Alberese is herein always a factor with the orange so deeply sensory and frankly distracting. In a good way to even better so think about fruit and acids as one with the strength to receive and work alongside structure. Rich 2017 here.  Last tasted February 2020

Sangiovese with merlot in two and three year old botti and barriques, to be bottled in two weeks. Smells like Colombino stone, licked by rain with the fruit at its highest La Cappella promise. It’s never been this rich or full but sapidity will always streak through these wines. It reminds me of really high quality mencìa, in a way, piqued by toasty spice, juicy and ready for great meats and roasted vegetables. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($26.75)

Almost always set at the centre of the heart, of richness and hematic depth. The warmth and development of Piero Lanza’s Radda sangiovese are never to be underestimated nor should there ever be shock from the accumulated results. They are made exactly as the vineyard and the vintage dictate. And they are in balance. This 2017 falls right into line. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Al Sole Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Tons of fruit and fruit pectin content in Poggio al Sole make for a delightful if quite sumptuous 2017. There is nothing light or lacking here and in the short term it’s a good a bet as you are likely to taste. Not all vintages and every estate need to provide structure. Seek, find and imbibe. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Pomona Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

The way of Pomona is carefree and natural yet knowing and exacting. The Castellina in Chianti sangiovese here may seem at ease, mellow and even soft but it can bite if it so chooses. The fruit sources are wise, the chance they are afforded high and the way the slow build careens then slides is magic. Few Chianti Classico can do what this can. Get to know the plan. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Francesca Semplici and Riccardo Nuti, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG ‘Primum Line’ 2017

From 95 per cent sangiovese with colorino, picked smartly over the course of September, if a bit variable the stacking and layering saves and fills, covers and extends so that the middle palate gains flesh and the tannins are ripe enough. Going strong.  Last tasted February 2020

Spring frost has resulted in minuscule quantities from a very young vineyard (though 22 years of age). Pretty impressive for Annata, with enough freshness to balance the weight and the sheer presence of this wine. This is the Premium (Primum) alternative to the original and much larger production Chianti Classico DOCG. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Vineyard truths are spoken in a San Donato vernacular with exceptional grace and humility. This is a bit richer and pressing than might have been ideal so the tannins are somewhat brittle and drying but the overall togetherness is more than proper. Finds the ways to reach back for more when needed and to hold back when necessary. Mostly in balance as a result. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (728816, $48.95)

The Querciabella warmth and relative hedonism is on display in 2017 but knowing what a year or two can effect on this sangiovese is so essential to looking at them in their youth. This 2017 will turn into one of the finest of the territory for two most important reasons. A collection of grapes from more than one commune source and a stringent sorting process that pulls out then combines the best. The tannins are really fine here. Let it rest and look for the great relish between five and ten years on. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Deep, hematic, rich and also ferric. This fully extracted and concentrated sangiovese brings it all up front, centred and with furious haste. Gives everything now and for all to want. Wants for nothing moving forward so use it, abuse it and don’t pause too much in case you are thinking to cellar and then reuse it. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Risotto, Caffe dell’Oro, Firenze

Ruffino Santedame Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (523076, $19.95)

The advantage in vintages like ’17 is clearly one enjoyed by larger estates because moving fruit around for cuvée speciality makes blending the crux of the matter. And so Ruffino’s is a well-managed, masterly arranged and all purpose Chianti Classico. This is a time to try Ruffino’s beautiful Annata. It will not disappoint. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Welcome to Roberto Bianchi’s wonderful world of sangiovese foraged, forged and formed by a cappello sommerso beginning. Creates a texture that captures Radda and the new Chianti Classico from out of the ashes of a hot vintage and a really old Piedmontese technique. Nowhere can locked in freshness and texture combine for such great effect. Dramatic and grounded, each with as much necessity as feeling and time will dictate. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Not so many reductive sangiovese in 2017 and those that are tend to be peppery with brittle tannin. Not the case in Vecchie Terre di Montefili’s as the shell protects freshness without compromise to safety. Aromatics therefore come through the cloud and talk in floral tones. This sits elevated at a lovely precipice but not so high as to extend volatility above and beyond the fruit. Organic, from Panzano and truth be told no other sangiovese smells as exotic as this. Just delicious and will age really well. A highlight of the year. Bravissimo. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2020

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Terre Di Prenzano 2017

The middle of the road is properly taken for a 2017 Annata of medium bodied notability. Hard to say what the winner is but going with fruit is a good bet. Acids and tannin are a bit soft and a bit hard, neither really winning or losing. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($35.95)

Truth be told this 2017 from Geggiano persists as a youthful and too early to call Annata. The particular Galestro and Alberese in these micro-climate championed western wing of Castelnuovo vineyards make for some of the communes most charming meets structured sangiovese. Why should the heat and the challenge effect anything otherwise. So much here, so many levels of Chianti Classico to unfurl. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (283580, $23.95)

Beautifully drinking 2017 Annata with a Montefioralle smile and charm. All the adjustments have been made so that acidity fully supports, surrounds and extends the fruit. Some tannin at the finish but thankfully quick and not the point that matters most. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Giulia Bernini, Bindi Sergardi

Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico DOCG Ser Gardo 2016

The newer of the two Bindi Sergardi Annata is Ser Gardo, taken from vineyards on the producer’s I Colli Estate. Dedicated to Niccolò Sergardi, a.k.a. Sir Gardo, Governor of the city of Siena (1530) and guardian of the city. I Colli gives way to the IGT (Achille) and this Chianti Classico off of s