Twenty Canadian wines that rocked in 2020

(c) @tiny.wide.world and @winealign

Year-end lists and greatest hits have always elicited a personal introspective fascination, not any lists mind you but mostly those involving music. Always curious to find out if someone else thought the same songs or albums aligned with your own. Such lists are met with growing skepticism and so the words “top” or “best” should be taken with a grain of salt, scrutinized with impunity, viewed with subjective prejudice. Music and wine need not be considered as ranked, top or best but instead contemplated with dead reckoning, as if throwing a buoyant opinion overboard to determine the speed of the mind’s emotion relative to thought, which was assumed to be dead in the waters of judgement. The feeling of being moved, stirred up in sentiment, excited and reaching deeper into understanding, these are the reasons to tally a culminating register. Neither for enumeration nor for classification, but for the indexing, of harbingers and that which makes us feel.

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

What transpired over the previous 12 months has not left the arena of the unfathomable and the absurd, but with respect to Canadian wine there can be no doubt that a next level of greatness was reached. Holiday time will be somewhat solitary as 2020 winds down and while the sharing of bottles will surely mean more repeated sips for the few involved, they will be sweet ones and are not to be taken for granted. As for the exercise of creating a rocking roster of Canadian made wine, well here on Godello this so happens to be the eighth annual for an instalment that first appeared in 2013. Now adding up to seven more entries than the first and acting as natural segue, a transition and salvo towards crossing over the threshold where 2021 awaits.

Related – Nineteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2019

Twenty. Not an arbitrary number but rather an arbiter of perpetual and developmental prowess of a nation’s wine-producing ability and surely while knowing that no fewer than 20 others could of, would of, should of made the grade. The quote is a timeless one and will be employed once again. This curated list is “biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it.”

Related – Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

In 2020 Canadian wine came to my tasting table in ways no other year made it happen. There were no excursions to British Columbia, Nova Scotia or Quebec, save for a 36-hour round-trip drive to Halifax in delivery of precious human cargo. No Cuvée or i4c. No VQA Oyster competition, Somewhereness or Terroir Symposium. No walk-around tastings. Despite going nowhere the opportunities to sample Canadian wines were of a number higher than ever before. Safely distanced tastings at WineAlign headquarters, at the welcome emptiness of Barque Smokehouse and in our homes brought Canada’s finest bottles to us. Though we were unable to convene in June at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada, a prodigious alternative became surrogate in the guise of the Guide to Canada’s Best Wines, a.k.a WineAlign’s GCBW. Over the course of six weeks we tasted through 860 samples and not just any mind you but truly Canada’s best. We were sad to miss Tony Aspler’s Ontario Wine Awards and David Lawrason’s Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates. Here’s to hoping 2021 will usher in a return to assessing and celebrating together.

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

The numbers chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine continue to march ahead, as promised by the annual billing. In 2018 the list counted 18. In 2017 there were 17 and in 2016, 16 noted. In 2015 that meant 15 and 14 for 2014, just as in 2013 the filtered list showed 13. Last year? You would be correct if you guessed 19. There is no red carpet for 2020, it just doesn’t feel appropriate or right but keeping on is essential. “Whence comes the sense of wonder we perceive when we encounter certain bottles of art?” Here are 20 most exciting Canadian wines of 2020. Twenty Canadian wines that rocked.


Le Vieux Pin Ava 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($29.99)

Calculated, figured and reasoned, a 51 per cent roussanne, (36) viognier and (13) marsanne organized, Rhône motivated blend that just fits right. A kiss of new wood and a 35 per cent wood campaign, slightly more in steel and then the other freshener, that being a fifth of this exceptional vintage fruit having seen time in concrete tank. Yes the aromas are wildly fresh, far away tropical and cumulatively enticing. A white blend of rhythm and soul, actionable in every part of its drift and coil, democratic, of no accident, come up to please and at the same time, foil. Offers this and that, high tempo acids opposite fully ripened fruit and all tolled, wrapped up with a tailored bow. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted October 2020

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($29.95)

Cave Spring’s is Ontario riesling and along with three or four others the CSV has been the benchmark for decades. CSV is one of the reasons to believe in riesling, versatile, brutally honest, speaker of the mind, telling us like it is. As for 2018, frosts in late ’17 reduced the upcoming vintage’s yield potential. Long, hot and dry was ’18’s summer and so doubling down occurred. Less yet highly concentred fruit was pretty much assured before September turned wet and humid. CSV embraces and stands firm in its dealings with nature so while there is more flesh and flavour intensity there too is the tried and true structural backbone. Surely a highly phenolic riesling but every aspect is elevated in this game. A hyperbole of itself, gangster riesling, the jumbo package, age-worthy and stone-faced beyond compare. Best ever, perhaps no but perchance something new, riveting, magnified, extravagant and well, fine. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted October 2020

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($37.20, Stratus Wines)

The concept behind Baker’s single-vineyard riesling is for the top tier one to be possessive in the matters of majestic and dignified, which quite honestly it is. Funny vintage that ’17 was and yet in riesling there can be this slow melt, tide and release of intricacy and intimacy, which this Picone does. Like taking a picture with the slowest shutter speed, allowing the sensor a full allotment of time in its exposure to light. This is the dramatic and hyper-effect and how Baker captured the highest riesling resolution imaginable. The succulence in the acids over top juicy, juicy fruit and this great entanglement is majestic and dignified. My goodness Charles, I think you’ve done it. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted April and October 2020

Martin’s Lane winemaker Shane Munn

Martin’s Lane Riesling Simes Vineyard 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($45.00)

First tasted at the winery in 2018 after only one year in bottle. A cooler vintage and less residual sugar (4 g/L vs. 6 in 2015) and also one reaching for its phenolics. The Alsace Clone (49) planted in 2008 is coming into the zone with this textured ’16 from one of three single vineyards on granite in East Kelowna. There is that minor number of sugar but there are acidities and reminiscences to the motherland that supersede and infiltrate the nooks and crannies of the fruit. Who in the Okanagan neighbourhood would not be envious of the clean clarity that this riesling achieves. Very focused, tightly wound and surely able to unravel ever so slowly, developing beeswax, honey and gasses as it will, over a ten year period. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted April 2020

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($37.15)

Wound tight like a coil around a winch with precise threading and pinpoint spacing for chardonnay that wins the vintage. Reductive style to be sure but only truly noted because of the freshest vibes this side of Motown. Got rhythm and blues, not to mention funk and soul. Clean beats, in step, three-part backing vocals and a purity of sound. Taste relays all these things and more, of succulence and in satiation guaranteed. In other words timeless and the willingness to pour on repeat will be a continuous thing of perpetual satisfaction. Last tasted October 2020. There is no secret that 2016 can align itself with the best of them in Niagara and chardonnay is clearly right in the middle of the discussion. Knowing that, how could the iconic triad of varietal, producer and vineyard not rise like fresh summer fruit cream to the top of the discourse? The years of Pender and Bourgogne barrel studies have come to this; spot on in blending Quarry fruit from wood and associated forests, staves and toasts, here the crux of sonic, sonar, and olfactory waves are met in optimum phenolic crash. The crush of chardonnay, the cryogenic liquid wait and the ultimate goal is achieved. Balance is struck at 12.5 degrees alcohol and all the perfectly seasoned grape tannin you could want. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2020

Leaning Post Senchuk Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario ($45.20, Nicholas Pearce Wines)

Set apart from the Bench wineries and while still beneath the Niagara Escarpment Senchuk Vineyard sits on more of a plain that gently slides down the Lincoln Lakeshore and into Lake Ontario. Perhaps it will become Ontario’s next sub-appellation. Sandy soil is maculated by largish stones three to four feet down. This atop a bed of grey clay so the low vigour of the sandy soil will be offer up a flip-side, a foil to the heavy clay of nearby locales like the Beamsville Bench. This third chardonnay from the home vineyard comes off of vines planted in 2011 so now this seven-year old fruit is starting to really mean something. And Ilya Senchuk is a winemaker who studies, concentrates and plans his work around clones. It’s not just about where to plant which varietals but which clone will work best and where within the greater where. Vineyard, vintage and variance. Senchuk truly believes that greatness is determined by varietal variegation, from vineyard to vineyard and from year to year. From 2018: 64 per cent Clone 548 and (36) Clone 96. Listen further. Warm season so picked on September 18. The grapes were gently whole cluster pressed (separated by Clone), allowed to settle in chilled tanks over night. The juice was then racked into barrels; Clone 548 – one puncheon and three barriques, Clone 96 – three barriques, where they underwent spontaneous alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. The lees were not stirred and it was allowed to age for 16 months. Power, body, tons of fruit, definite barrel influence, a southern Bourgogne kind of vintage, so maybe Pouilly-Fuisée or Maconnais Village with a specific Climat. For the time being we call the Village Lincoln Lakeshore and Senchuk Vineyard the geographical designation. The lemon curd and the acidity are there in a great tangle so yes, this is trés cool chardonnay. I think we can safely say already that the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay grown in Ilya and Nadia’s home vineyard is on its own, one of a kind and makes wines that don’t taste like anywhere else. This 2018 cements the notion and opens the next stage of the discussion. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2020

Lightfoot And Wolfville Ancienne Chardonnay 2017, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia (462093, $56.95)

Exceptionalities worthy of hyperboles are befitting this chardonnay of concentration, textural satisfaction and immediate gratification. Apple distillate to nose, a walk through a perennial garden on Fundy shores in late summer bloom and then citrus in so many ways, incarnate and teeming with briny, zesty flavour. If your are counting at home, this Lightfoot family wine by way of Peter Gamble and in the hands of winemaker Josh Horton is now six years into its tenure. As the crow flies, qualitatively and quantitatively speaking refinement has never ceased to improve. Has arrived at its new Minas Basin tidal heights, crisp and salivating, finishing on the highest of notes. Chardonnay god of ocean tides, “all night long, writing poems to” Nova Scotia. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted October 2020

(c) @tiny.wide.world and @winealign

Mission Hill Perpetua 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($60.00)

Dichotomy in chardonnay, grand and graceful, powerful and elegant. Reductive and not acting this way but rather in what is now descried as the post modern style of chardonnay, from Australia to New Zealand, Bourgogne to B.C. Huge fruit concentration, wood equalizing yet in check, acids controlling yet relenting, structured assured though not overly complicating. Orchards combed and fruit brought in to make the composition sing with flavour while the work put in shaves down the rough edges and pieces fit snugly together. Top vintage for this label. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2020

Blomidon Cuvée l’Acadie, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia ($35.00)

The entirety of a sparkling wine oeuvre is modified and transmogrified, designed and decreed of a new morphology where l’Acadie is concerned. It must be conceded that the Nova Scotia varietal speciality is destined to create cracker, lightning rod, back beats and bites in Nova Scotia sparkling wine. This from Blomidon adds spice, apple skin, orange zest and stony moments throughout. It’s amazing. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2020

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc De Blanc 2015, Traditional Method, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (315200, $49.95)

As always 100 per cent chardonnay and 2015 is perhaps the vintage of the most golden toast, as if made by agemono, with the most lemon and lees ever assembled in a Cuvée Catharine, vintage-dated Sparkling wine. An intensity of aromas swirl around in citrus centrifuge into which the gross cells don’t seem to want to go. On the palate is where they rest, layered and leesy, textured with a sense of weightlessness and wonder. Henry of Pelham channelling an inner Japanese cooking technique. Feels like some time is warranted to pull all this together. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted October 2020

Stratus Blanc De Blancs 2013, VQA Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario ($75.00)

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

At a Somewhereness gathering a few years back Thomas Bachelder poured me his first gamay and while I remember the light, I could not have known what complex cru notions the maniacal monk had up his sleeve. Who knew that Twenty Mile Bench gamay would gain standing in “Villages,” “Naturaliste,” and two Wismer-Foxcroft iterations. And so here we are with the more intense of the two whole cluster siblings and the one chosen to celebrate its 52 per cent wild bunch inclusion. The fermentation technique transposed seems almost “alla vinificazione Piedmontese a cappello sommerso,” though by way of sangiovese in Chianti Classico what with a glycerin feel and a formative fabric so tactile to the mouth’s touch. Stemmy? Not a chance. Herbal? Nope. More like a Côte de Brouilly to the Wismer-22’s Brouilly, not quite Morgon but savour and structure are serious, righteous and very much here. That I did not buy cases of this stuff is a real concern. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted November 2020

Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (524231, $29.95)

What Courtney brings to the table in gamay is what we’ve come to expect from Ontario, that is structurally contracted and age-worthy wine. Now understood to be a Cru designate, carved from a decade of research and well-defined. You could build an entire cellar by way of Malivoire’s multi-varietal work and the many tiers they fashion from drink now, through mid-term aging and up to here in a gamay that will go long. I’ve tasted a few older Malivoires lately and have been blown away by their longevity and also tasted this Courtney from barrel last winter. The whole bunch strategy has come to this, a knowable, beautifully swarthy, fruit protected and into the future protracted guarantee of fortitude and change. Reminds me of Michael Schmelzer’s Montebernardi Panzano sangiovese. Grande. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2020

Rosehall Run’s Dan Sullivan and Goode

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2018, Prince Edward County, Ontario ($42.00)

Fortuitous time and place are the combined recipient of the primary assist for Rosehall’s JCR Vineyard pinot noir, a varietal stunner that seduces from the word go. A drinking vintage, early, ethereal, not lacking but easing in and out of structure, ready to please in the proverbial vein of immediate gratification. Then the County tones, reverb and static mosey on in like a Telecaster’s light jing-a-ling. Rises to an interlude crescendo and explodes into rock ‘n roll bands. In the County the poets make these things happen, then “sit back and let it all be. Tonight, in Jungleland.” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July and October 2020

CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir Block 2 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($54.90)

Block “2” is genuine and fine pinot noir, a pinpointed example multi-faceted in its origins. An exclusive block and also a dedicated clone to make this what it is; ripe stem earthy in phenolics ripe and ready plus a natural and wild fruit sweetness that can’t be replicated by anything but what happens on and from the vine. Anytime pinot noir is experienced as a wine at one with site, clone and vine you know it, feel it and intuit the connection. The forging is a bond unbreakable, as here with Block number two. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2020

Culmina Hypothesis 2014, Golden Mile Bench, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (414243, $49.95, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

The Triggs original, Hypothesis is an Okanagan Valley flagship red that celebrates the upper benches in what has become the great Golden Mile. This district is no longer a matter of new fashion, it is in fact a place to make serious Bordeaux-varietal red wine. Whether cabernet franc or merlot take the lead there is always cabernet sauvignon to tie the room of lit luminescence together. Culmina’s is bright-eyed on a face of dark fruit, chewy like liquorice and sweetly herbal, naturally sweetened by dessert warmth ripening. You smell, feel, sense and taste the land in this wine. That’s what makes it so special. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted June 2020

Black Hills Nota Bene 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($68.99)

Methinks winemaker Ross Wise is giddy (and that’s a stretch for the stoic man of leisure) in what he must know will be the great eventuality of the Nota Bene 2018. By way of reminder this is one of Canada’s most accomplished and massive reds of great notoriety. The flagship of Black Hills in Bordeaux blend apparel, master of ceremonies and lead singer for B.C. Climat, Somewhereness and terroir. The maestro blend to speak of mystery, riddle and enigma. This ’18 is smooth and I mean smooth, ganache silky and focused. In youth you chew the mouthful, later on you’ll draw and imbibe. Further on down the road you will sip and savour. Quietly luxurious, rampantly delicious and pridefully profound. Top. Grande. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wide.world and @winealign

Megalomaniac Reserve Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario ($49.95)

Ah, finally! This is the aromatic profile of a reserve style Ontario cabernet franc, well, not “the” but “a” godly one. Concentrated and layered, like phyllo or puff pastry folded again and again upon itself. May seem dense and without air at this time but with time the folds will expand and stack with weightlessness. The variegated red fruit in betweens are juicy, sumptuous and so packed with flavour they will burst when bitten into, or in this case, explode in the mouth. Texture too is all pleasure, as will be the eventuality of exceptionality created by a triangle that includes complete and fine tannin. One of the finest and from a vintage that holds the cards for cabernet franc excellence. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2020

Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($75.00)

Niagara’s most premium solo cabernet franc is turned upside in 2017 and does everything that needed doing to make what is quite possibly the best solo effort in that vintage. Of fruit so dark yet pure and allowed to act, move and speak as varietal in place. Walks that Beamsville Bench walk and talks that cabernet franc talk. World-beating, wholly and truly. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted October 2020

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

Hidden Bench La Brunante 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($85.20)

From a La Brunante year to speak of truths and there is no doubt the team was excited about the prospects of this formidable Beamsville Bench blend. The triad is merlot (43 per cent), malbec (35) and cabernet franc (22). I’d say it was the warm climate and long season that lead to then winemaker Marlize Beyer’s decisions of assemblage. You could pour this blind with red blends from Bordeaux and Australia with nary a taster being able to truly separate one from many others. And yet there is a singularity about these aromatics that are so hard to define, like spices in their simmering infancy ahead of what brand of togetherness they will assign. As for texture and length, balance is exemplary and longevity guaranteed. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted May 2020

Good to go!

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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

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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

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WineAlign

California Update: Napa Valley

Speed date afternoon with some of @napavintners finest

We have all been thinking about California lately. As of September 15th a staggering 7,718 wildfires have burned 3,154,107 acres, damaged or destroyed 5,412 structures and killed 20 people. Devastating numbers and when you begin to read headlines like “Maps: Fires and Air Quality in California, Oregon and Washington,” “California wildfires leave behind trail of devastation and death” and “Smoke from the U.S. wildfires has reached six Canadian provinces,” well then you begin to worry about so many more people and places. Be thankful there is wine.

If intoxicating then well, wine is also nourishing, may even heal the ulcers through which we in the world are bleeding and the acreage where those on the west coast are burning. That is why yesterday’s communication from Napa Valley Vintners struck a chord. The press release began this way. “Wine has the power to bring people of all different backgrounds together. The vintners in Napa Valley believe our community and industry should be open and welcoming to people of colour, whether working in the industry, visiting Napa Valley or enjoying our wines anywhere. With that in mind, today we pledge over $1,000,000 in scholarship and mentorship programs to increase diversity, inclusivity and opportunity in all aspects of the wine industry.” Amazing. The world is burning all around and Napa Valley keeps working towards what’s better, planning for what’s essential and announcing the following:

We are proud to team up with the following organizations to achieve this goal:

  • Bâtonnage: Educating on the challenges and opportunities women and minorities face in the wine industry
  • UNCF (United Negro College Fund): Giving all Americans equal access to a college education
  • Wine Unify: Amplifying the diverse voices of wine professionals

This new support builds on NVV’s longtime commitment to youth mentorship programs in Napa County through Auction Napa Valley proceeds. This year alone, nearly $2 million was invested in nine local non-profits whose mission is to close the achievement gap and help at-risk youth succeed. We have asked our members and trade partners to join us in this effort. While there is still much work ahead, we look forward to welcoming an increasingly diverse chorus of voices to our valley and our industry. Learn more about the NVV efforts.

Invest $1 million in new scholarships

NVV will partner with UNCF to create a new scholarship program for people of color to pursue college degrees in subjects ranging from grape growing, winemaking, marketing, business and more. Each year over the next five years, NVV will invest $200,000 in scholarships and will encourage its members to bolster the scholarship program with donations to help even more students and to ensure the effort extends beyond five years. UNCF has been managing scholarships for minority students for 75+ years and is the largest and most successful minority organization of its kind.

Invest more than $100,000 in two new mentorship programs

  • Bâtonnage fosters solutions for a more positive, inclusive path forward for women and ethnic and racial minorities to achieve equal representation, equal opportunities and equal leadership positions within our industry. Over the next three years, NVV will help fund a mentorship program aimed at providing resources, guidance, recommendations, internships and training programs.
  • Wine Unify was founded by Napa locals Martin Reyes MW, DLynn Proctor, and Mary Margaret McCamic MW. Their mission is to welcome, elevate, and amplify the voices of underrepresented minorities through mentorship and education. NVV has committed to work with Wine Unify over the next three years to help fund their ongoing programs.

Which brings me back to an event in Toronto one year ago, hosted by Napa Valley Vintners and their Canadian partner Paula Oreskovich at Energy Plus Communications. Napa Valley “Celebration of Excellence” Speed Tasting and Trade Tasting was held on November 7th at the Royal Ontario Museum. More than 25 vintners from the Napa Valley were on hand. Trade were afforded three minutes with each producer/vintner to hear their story, taste their two wines per station and ask questions before moving on to the next vintner. It was a thrilling experience as a dating journey to Napa Valley from grape to glass. Wines from Napa, Spring Mountain, Oak Knoll, Oakville, Stags Leap, St. Helena, Yountville, Rutherford, Calistoga and other appellations were poured. Most impressive were the many varied back vintages shared by these producers and their Ontario agents. 

Donate here to California Wildlife Fire Funds and also here

So the question begs, why am I sharing my tasting notes with you now, almost one year later. First and foremost to remind us all that California needs to be front and centre in our minds and hearts. Second, many of these singular wines are still available in very limited quantities through VINTAGES. Third, because I feel like it. Here are my notes on 24 wines tasted.

Artesa Vineyards And Winery Estate Pinot Noir 2016, Carneros (12519, $60.00, Andrew Peller Import Agency)

From the Napa Valley side of Carneros but also with fruit grown up as far as the foothills of Mount Veeder. Very pure and clear pinot, red fruit juicy, candied in a terrifically stylish and delicious way. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Blackbird Vineyards Arise 2016, Napa Valley ($79.00, Paradigm Fine Fine Agency)

From winemaker Aaron Pott, mainly Oak Knoll fruit off of 20-plus lots sourced in Napa Valley off mountain tops, from hillsides, on bench lands and off of valley floor vineyards. Nearly two years in half new, half seasoned French barrels. A blend of merlot (55 per cent), cabernet franc (25) and cabernet sauvignon 17) with a splash of petit verdot in a mere mortal’s affordable flagship red. Surely a nod to Pomerol with a wink at Napa Valley. Tart, intense tang and really good acidity but also woody and yes the name is Beatles related. “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Black Stallion Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Transcendent 2015, Napa Valley (439968, $200.00, Select Wine Merchants)

From the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and surely Black Stallion’s head of the stable, signature triple-crown wine. A top tier cabernet sauvignon made from the best grapes grown on mountain sites above the fog line. Not just one hilltop vineyard with a view but several; Veeder, Spring, Diamond and Howell, with two per cent Oakville tossed in for good grounding and balancing measure. A four-part essential, Mountain Napa a cappella performance that simply demonstrates, in complex music written for four voices, what a layered wine cane be and in doing so, expresses wow factor times four. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2019

Cain Vineyard And Winery Cain Five 2013, Napa Valley (727925, $199.95, Rogers and Company)

Bordeaux idea with fruit from Spring Mountain, five pronged and truth be told only Cain Five smells this. Earth and soil, elevation and intensity. Botanicals, tar, hillside tea, brush and weeds, natural yeasts and so bloody savoury. Sensorial experience in the fifth degree. Persistently doles out palate amercements with seamless consistency and the pain is all pleasure, each lashing accepted submissively like the one before. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted November 2019

Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2015, Napa Valley (12544, $100.00, The Vine Agency)

Fruit sources are both Stags Leap District and Yountville AVAs with smaller portion support by petit verdot, merlot and cabernet franc. It’s predominately SLD with one quarter coming from Yountville in a most classically dark-berried and unctuous Napa Valley style. The aridity of the vintage and at this point the age have conspired to accentuate the concentration and the spice. Correct to the nth degree. Drink 2019-20212.  Tasted November 2019

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Hommage 2014, Napa Valley (739219, $156.00, Azureau Wines and Spirits)

A reserve cabernet sauvignon at 77 per cent with petit verdot in Calistoga. Bloody unctuous, deliciously lush and luxe cabernet. Though set into a price range with parameters of equivocation, for those who seek the tête de cuvée of a professional Napa Valley estate’s cabernet range with a true microcosmic sense of place, this Hommage signature from Clos Pegase will rise to that fore. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2019

Darioush Napa Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley ($150.00, Breakthru Beverage Canada Inc.)

The signature cabernet sauvignon from southern valley sites where cooler winds can prevail and off of estate vineyards in the Mount Veeder and Napa Valley AVA’s. This ’16 is possessive of it all with twang acidity tang surrounding the rich chalky liquidity of the southern valleys’ cabernet beauty. Highly composed wine, in total clarity, control and surprisingly fresh alacrity. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Eleven Eleven Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Laki’s Vineyard 2016, Napa Valley

From winemaker Kirk Venge who practices the art of fashioning varietal wines “for more glasses”, and making a wish for all of us to stop everything you’re doing, to take stand and notice that “this is what we’ve made.” Not so much a contemplation, rumination or meditation as a recognition and an appreciation. In this case a 100 per cent estate Oak Knoll cabernet aged in 80 per cent new French Oak for silky smooth texture and dry as the desert styling. Quite finessed and harnessed for exemplary balance. Ready to rock. Drink 2  020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley (96016, $25.00, Andrew Peller Import Agency)

Hand-brushed vineyards, which is winemaker Jenny Wagner’s way of crop thinning. Good acidity lean and sharp, really impressive and in a vein quantifiable as the most appreciable of all the Caymus stylings. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Gallica Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, St. Helena (12521, $269.00, Lifford Wines and Spirits)

From the family property in St. Helena and cabernet sauvignon planted in 1990 on deep and low fertility Cortina soils. Mixes in one-quarter cabernet franc from Rosemary Cakebread’s vineyards in the Oakville range, 130m above the Silverado Trail. All organic, with the franc brining in components of florals and posit tugs of savour, sapidity and physicality. Not that the sauvignon needed any help because that fruit is rich, wise and complex as a stand alone but the franc surely elevates the entire collective into rareified air. Tasted with Gallica’s Sales Director Alex French. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted November 2019

Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Oakville (606517, $120.00, The Vine Agency)

Suzanne Groth’s 2015 is the first vintage with new Director of Winegrowing Cameron Parry, hired in 2014 as only the third winemaker in Groth’s history since the family’s first vintage in 1982. The estate cabernet’s fruit comes from right in Oak Knoll and may just be the dictionary entry for parochial red fruit with its distinct savoury edginess. That said you feel or at least intuit the 14 per cent inclusion of merlot what with a subtle doubling down of brushy autumnal dried fruit and verdant notes. Overall tart and beautiful, an honest and true expression of Groth and Oak Knoll. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2019

Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley (273391, $99.00, Noble Estates)

Hall is based in St. Helena and in a Napa Valley tasting of 24 diverse options of great and elevated quality it is unequivocally the most forward and naturally understood wine in the room. If perhaps it presents as simple on the outside it is confidently complex on the inside. In this regard you can imagine the sentiment provided by 50 per cent new oak but you feel it bigger, better and more so on the palate. Provides the context for texture, of a seamless blending in chocolate and chalk. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2019

Hoopes Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Oakville (534800, $113.00, Wilson Group Wines & Spirits)

From the 1983 planted 10 acre estate vineyard in Oakville, very much considered the flagship wine. Only To Kalon shares a volcanic element affinity with the quarter portion at Hoopes, an important if not profound geological inclusion in the Oakville sub-appellation. Lindsay Hoopes is justifiably high on this 2014 from Spencer Hoopes and fruit found at the base of Yountville Hill. In addition to being basaltic it’s also the most geologically diverse on the valley floor; contains sand and clay in packed density and as determined by the legend David Howell, ’tis is magical place, here confirmed in what is truly a cabernet of magic. Now having arrived in its window, have a go and then repeat for the next 10 years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Keenan Merlot 2015, Napa Valley ($50.00, Profile Wine Group)

Plum dusty, chalky and verdant. Showing some dried fruit. Spring Mountain portion is quantifiably structured, though also agreeable in ageable fruit. Thirty five is Carneros fruit so a merge of two cool climates. Quite charming in the end. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley ($84.95, Breakthru Beverage Canada Inc.)

Ashley Heisey’s 2014 is more than just a child of a most arid vintage in Napa Valley’s recent history, it was also early and with no frost during bud break, the strong, early fruit set in the vineyard organized the season on a collision course with all things warmth. High temperatures and no rain meant an early August harvest of cabernet fruit already deep into black cherry and blackberry. By 2019 this LMR signature red is speaking in Mayacamas Mountains tones, resonant, baritone and profound. The drying of fruit, spices and tannins are combining at a vanishing point from which perspective optimizes in the here and now. Drink this in perfect window opportunity over the next two years. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Luna Vineyards Sangiovese 2016, Napa Valley (La Céleste Levure)

From two elevations, floor and foothills, mainly planted in 1999. Game Farm Vineyard on the Silverado Trail below Rector Creek Dam is the most important source, of shallow, rocky soils that stress the deprivation out of need to struggle sangiovese. The cooler Napa Valley sites bring the savour and ulterior form of tension to the mix. Elévage is warm fermentation, malolactic encouraged, 30 per cent new French and Hungarian oak barrels for 20 months. The result is in a Chianti Classico Riserva vein, fruit highly concentrated with some dried desiccated notes and no shortage of local savour. That’s really what separates it into a Napa Valley thing, far away from the Tuscan homeland. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2010, Napa Valley ($140.00, Andrew Peller Import Agency)

Fabulous retrospective look back at a wine produced by the then 32 year-old winery from a selection of grapes from all four estate vineyards located in the home lands of the winery. A highly specific gander into Napa Valley’s smallest AVA, very influenced by marine essence for a guarantee of freshness that persists even today. Rich but compressed and dried herb sumptuous. Beautiful wine, so textured and having been purposed for structure now resides in a realm dominated by sweet spice. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Revana Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, St. Helena (12528, $265.00, Le Sommelier Inc.)

Revana Family Vineyards is owned by Dr. Madaiah Revana who currently is a practicing Cardiologist in Houston, Texas. Thomas Rivers Brown is now employed as winemaker and Jim Barbour as Vineyard Manager. Taken from eight acres, planted in 1998 with the first vintage being 2001, originally in the hands of Heidi Barrett and this was her last vintage. A geological site in St. Helena of alluvial flow off of the Mayacamas range. Intense black olive and very Mediterranean in complex scenting with great acidity. All in Cassis fills the flavour profile. Ten year-old cabernet sauvignon still going strong. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera 2016, Napa Valley ($84.00, Brand New Day Wines & Spirits)

“Vespera,” as in late-evening, gathering time. Estate grown and organically farmed red blend from Collinetta Vineyard in Coombsville and Grigsby Vineyard in Yountville. Varietal composition is 57 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (37) syrah and (6) merlot, aged 17 months in small French oak barrels, 65 per cent new. Floral and beautiful, silky, silken, lush and so elongated. Spiced and juicy peppery, warm to humid with generous alcohol though very fluid and forward. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa Valley (60152, $124.95, Profile Wine Group) 

A massively structured and concentrated wine with teeming and oozing fruit, heavy barrel accord in which texture and tannin weave a future likely to unwind over two decades time. Classic Signorello spice and red citrus. Very limited quantities (by mailing list only) and out of the hands of a new winemaking team. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Silenus Cabernet Sauvignon Tyros 2015, Napa Valley (16409, $49.95, Carpe Vinum International)

From Oak Knoll and fruit that used to be sold to Mondavi, very modern and with 22 per cent merlot. Verdant liqueur tones and real glycerin. Herbal and slick with a thinning in elasticity. “Mini” debauching here. As for the name, Tyros means apprentice, in reference to Silenus being mentor to charge or beginner Dionysus. Also an old Greek naval town in Arcadia, Peloponnese. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Taub Family Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges Iii Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley (12538, $225.00) 

From proprietor Marc Taub who’s family is 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 overall pedigree is at the top of the unparalleled game and so huge fruit expected, hedonistic result gained. So much fruit, spicy and massive structure with the future holding so much truffle and charcoal, figs so very Rutherford and could only be from the place. Massive chew of cabernet sauvignon fruit and also very seasoned into the Ribena. All that said there is something hidden, something potentially profound about the Chiaroscuro magic concealed within. Wouldn’t be in a such a hurry to find out what lurks inside this rare Napa Valley wine. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2019

Trefethen Family Vineyards Merlot The Cowgirl And The Pilot 2016, Napa Valley ($125.00, Vinexx)

A tribute to Janet & John Trefethen, Cowgirl and Pilot respectively, from a vineyard planted in 2003. Merlot grows best on the clay-loam-silty soil valley floor and the site confirmed the potential from the very first vintage, so says Jon Ruel, CEO and viticulturalist. This truly is Napa merlot, from thinned clusters, trimmed of tips and shoulders like pinot, evenly ripened and it shows. Seamless merlot to be sure with a beautifully spicy finish. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Trinchero Cabernet Sauvignon BRV 2013, Napa Valley (514224, $120.00, Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.)

Part of the third generation Heritage Collection line in the hands of Bob Torres nearly 70 years into the family’s work at Trinchero. Off of soils ranging from gravelly to loamy to alluvial, the BRV comes from the Atlas Peak AVA and my is it big and brawny. So much black olive, brood and badass attitude, inclusive of a 10 percent mix of malbec and petit verdot. They add structure in a wine of crazy high pH (3.95). Just wow. Still a bambino. Drink 20121-2031.  Tasted November 2019

Good to go!

godello

Speed date afternoon with some of @napavintners finest

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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 stony, calcium carbonate soils rich in Alberese. Epitomizes the Bindi Sergardi-Castelnuovo Berardenga cherries and roses freshness. If lighter then great, if sneaky structured even better and it is those roses (mixed with nasturtium) in an imagined spice that comes from chewing on fresh petals. Ripe, 2016 and intensely satisfying. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Caparsa, name of the estate and the main house. One hundred per cent sangiovese aged mainly in cement. A straight ahead and crunchy Annata with a noblesse and a natural accountability that speaks in Paolo Cianferoni’s body language. Still a touch aggressive and yet the acid-tannin structure is quite impressive. Also tasted from a bottle open four days ago and truth be told the difference is negligible at most.  Last tasted February 2020

Lovely glycerin and elastic sangiovese not without a generous component from barrel. A touch of greenish tannin from that wood but plenty of fruit to swallow it up, or at least will do so in time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($33.60)

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

Castello Di Bossi Chianti Classico DOCG C. Berardenga 2016 (994608, $22.95)

The push-pull of conversion takes richesse and melts it into firm grip for sensations only a ’16 of such style can drift. The cherries of Chianti Classico are so magnified in maceration and liqueur, so much so this may just be the dictionary entry. Wild and so full of energy as if this were not Annata and yet not quite Riserva. Wow from this wine. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Dall’Anno Mille 2016 (383604, $19.95)

Five months in there is really not a huge amount of movement to speak of save for a rise in energy that indicates this Annata is coming out of its slumber. It also means that six more months should really see it blossom, flower and sing.  Last tasted February 2020

A huge leap in quality for the Radda producer, clearly a sign of work put in the vineyard and steps towards making the right, correct and delicious local sangiovese. A really textural wine and of really fine acidity. Molta buona. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2016

The single vineyard at the top of the hill at 450m is the Alberese dominant site for this stunning sangiovese of concrete and barrel, but the treatment is just about as hands off as it gets. The vineyard was planted in 1988 and these 28 year-old vines at the time are surely in their prime. Yes time is important but the actionable gestures are already playing with our emotions and tugging on our heartstrings. Such a focused wine. As a reminder there is no Gran Selezione produced at Monterinaldi and so think about the isolated cru in the best vineyard making this wine. Just think about it. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria di Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio Teo 2016 (250563, $17.95)

A solid Annata in 2016, fruit already moving forward in development, acidity hanging strong and tannins melting in. One of the more silky, creamy and chocolatey of Chianti Classico. Well-made to be sure and offering plenty of maximum consumer friendly pleasure. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Il Barlettaio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Quite an extracted and well-pressed 2016 from Il Bartellaio that has steamed straight ahead and come into drinking window view. Take this and use it now for best results. Solid sangiovese to clear the senses and begin anew. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (211599, $18.95)

Lornano is one of those Chianti Classico estates that requires patience, both from its makers and its buyers. The soils and the compounding elévage work insist that the wines remain in bottle before revealing their charms. This 2016 is exactly one of those wines that speak to the manifesto. The fruit is here and the possibilities are long and endless. Wait to embrace them. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($19.95)

Talk about time. Losi’s sangiovese demands it, insists it be granted and brings beauty when we are properly listening. The Alberese remains in charge and the fruit is aching, waiting, nearly ready to bust out. So crunchy and chewy in simultaneous rumination, so cherry hematic and full of vintage wealth. One of the estate’s best Annata to date. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Piemaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Le Fioraie 2016 ($29.99)

A remarkably rich and layered 2016 from Piemaggio, full on with impressively concentrated fruit. The cherry ooze and chocolate melt are unrelenting, coating the palate with each subsequent sip. Leaves a mark in many coats. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Perano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (10360, $24.95)

The white and grey clay plus fine decomposed Galestro soil mixes with great 2016 promise for one of Gaiole and the greater territory’s most polished ’16s. Almost too good to be true and in just Frescobaldi’s second vintage. Almost feels like a peak has been reached so the question is, how far can this property go. Sky’s the limit? Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico DOCG Il Palei 2016 ($23.99)

Lovely wine from the kids at Catelnuovo’s Villa a Sesta in 2016 with so much grace and beauty. Not that this has been lacking before but this takes a wonderful step forward. Helps to wait another year to taste the pure cherries and the fine liqueur. Has really integrated and is ready to roll. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The wait is almost over and the opportunity nearly upon us to seek and find what grace comes from Castell’in Villa’s Annata 2015. There are few peers that require this much attention to detail and patience but it is the Principessa Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa who demands that she ands also we do this. The estate gifts sangiovese from so many plots, blocks and micro-climates and yet we still must wait for these parts to come together. They are and in rhyme will only slide in for the ultimate glide, in time from fruit, herbs, wood and in the fineness of what lives. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Pruneto Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

Developed dried fruit resides in Radda space, oxidative and old-school. A charmer with a very specific style. Know what it is. Spice all over the finish, both from wood and in that dried drupe. Drink 2020-2021. Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

Buondonno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Casavecchia Alla Piazza 2017

Gabriele Buondonno’s 2017 is what you might refer to as a tour de force, a recklessly controlled gangly and gregarious mulch of ripe fruit and massively structured maintenance. That it maintains its poise is remarkable considering the heft and the fortitude. Warm spot where these vines grow and so there was no avoiding the sun in this torching vintage. So young and far from innocent, fruit so priceless and anything but precious. Let it ride for a while. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (508507, $29.95)

So much cherry and so little time. Not the biggest expression of Castellina though surely one of the most effulgent there is. Rich in the faux sugary ways of sangiovese from warmth and in youth. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 (705335, $40.00)

Quite reductive for a sangiovese from Volpaia and so indicative of what the land requests, matched be the efforts of the team. A liquid white pepper pique is so unique, so interesting and so much the catalyst to create the lift and the character. The possibilities for changes through the aging process are of a stronger potential here than from so many 17s, though time remains for the results to be seen. Real length from this high altitude sangiovese purports to promise that Volpaia’s ’17 Riserva is in true Radda form and charm. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Di Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Rància 2017 ($55.75)

Few Riserva can seem so far away and yet so close to within reach. Rancia would have survived the 2017 crazies as unscathed as any, of that there can be little doubt. Quite reductive and youthfully challenging the matter here is one of no holds barred and options yet unexplored. The mild astringency is perfectly normal and Rancia Riserva will find its way out. Bank on it. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($29.95)

Only from the upper vineyards closest to the cellar, one of the more pristine Riservas, of freshness, purity and clarity that Molino di Grace sangiovese did not used to show, but changes have led to this. You don’t think about the transitions or the structure because they just present themselves effortlessly and seamlessly. A remarkably fresh ’17 that was picked late, on time and best decisions were made in the cellar.  Last tasted February 2020

Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($39.95)

Luiano’s ’17 Riserva is a bad boy, a troubled youth of rebellion and great strength, its frontal cerebral cortex not yet fully formed. Massive attack of fruit and tannin, not to mention natural acidity of another mother. Really wants to see you and be with you, ‘but it takes so long my Lord.“ Hmmn my lord. What a formidable San Casciano Riserva, still full of innocence, searching for its elegance. May turn out to be one of the best. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Marchese Antinori 2017 (512384, $49.95)

Quite reductive and yet relenting for an Antinori Riserva with a dollop of cream silkening the formidable fruit and its shellac of structure. This is ’17 at the height of warmth and everything else that makes the vintage one of great interest, To some the tannins could be seen as unrelenting and more than challenging for balance. That they are yet when they give in the fruit should be at its peak. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017

“I’m happy with our 17s but I don’t know that i would classify them as Monte Bernardi wines, in fact Retromarcia was missing 50 per cent of its fruit due to frost.” The honesty of Michael Schmelzer. That said it’s as delicate and pretty as it gets for the vintage and while a bit of an anti-Riserva so to speak, I have to beg to disagree because the mild swarthiness is very recognizable, comforting and always lends to energy and excitement in the wines, especially when they are young. What wan’t necessarily noted in Monte Bernardi’s Annata that shows in Riserva is the silky and elastic woolliness of the texture and the coating tannins. This is a most unique expression of Panzano and the vintage, a coagulated, hematic and crunchy earth-driven sangiovese with some of the finest varietal tannins around. Crisp and taut, fresh and promising with a long future laid out ahead. If Monte Bernardi is what you seek, this will satisfy your every desires, and your means. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2017 ($45.00)

Another hefty and balanced piece of Radda sangiovese heaven here from the Bugialla label, a Poggerino sign of true reality and success. A Riserva of the land, of the vineyards and of specific blocks, rows and vines. What tannins these are, demanding, of a time, certainly a vintage and a place. Make ‘em as they are given to you, That’s what winemakers like Piero Lanza do. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Riecine Chianti Classic Riserva DOCG 2017

Such a fine liquid intensity with deeply sensorial acidity makes Riecine’s 2017 an unmistakably dramatic one. You have to appreciate the lightning fruit matched against the savoury herbal Gaiole backdrop and the sheer luminosity that brightens the fruit. This is a formidable Riserva but for reasons not usually noted. In a world and a class of its very own. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2017 (930966, $24.95)

Rich and so developed, a Riserva for the people and one to hang an early hat on. So many have to wait but the Zingarelli is telling you the time is now to seek enjoyment. While the unapproachable ones work their way through trials and troubles this Famiglia will welcome you to the table. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Poggio A Frati 2017 (23358, $32.95)

Poggio a’ Frati is consistently layered with all its categorical character, beginning in the soil and finishing in the glass. Never overbearing and always filled to the tang in prim brim with ever-bearing berries. Quite tannic this 2017, less than ready, impressively structured and fashioned in a Gran(d) way of design. Could easily slide appellative categories, up, down, side to side. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

With the brothers Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Cantalici Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Baruffo 2016 (541078, $32.95)

Ahh, that Gaiole essence. The hills, the bush, the things that grow, all the scents and perfumes. All found tucked under the arm and laid beneath the skin of this glorious sangiovese. Carlo Cantalici is surely proud of this 2016 and he has pressed his fortune for a ticket to longevity. The wine is almost ready, almost but not quite. “Under my thumb, the girl who once had me down.” Won’t be for long.. soon the change will have come and it’s down to Baruffo. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Few Chianti Classico Riserva exhibit this combination of heft and also hard to get demure. Mildly smoky and with a tar-roses-char like some nebbiolo and more so because of the gangly wood spice and tannic thrush. Big wine with years to go before the herbs and the grains relent. The fruit needs to be patient and hope holds for that to happen.  Drink 2023-2027. Tasted February 2020

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2016

If you can’t smell and taste the Galestro soil specific to Carparsa’s corner of Radda than you may need to heed a bit more attention. There’s an elegance and a fortitude mixed with a fine sour cherry that makes this singular, specific and a wine that mimics the place. Very structured, acids sharp, pointed and fine, linearity sure and trustworthy. Clean, finessed and definite with all the organic, natural and compost plusses kept in mind. Carries all the necessary bones and attributes to arrive at a seven year mark up to double that time. Inimitable saltiness that’s not really noted anywhere else.  Last tasted February 2020

From Paolo Cianferoni on a 12ha Radda estate at 450m. A citrus note lines the aromatic front, almost white grapefruit but also bleeding red, of pomegranate and red currant. Lovely mid palate, pure and purely ’16, with purest Radda acidity and chaste laser focus. Great attention to detail in the vineyard is more than apparent, translating with utmost unalloyed and unsullied clarity straight down through the glass. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Doccio A Matteo 2016

A single-vineyard Riserva from the plot above the smaller second house called Caparsino and filled with all the soils; argile, Galestro and Alberese. Surely an absolute about face expression with higher volatility and a high, near and nigh potential for advancing porcini notes. A deeper and darker black cherry. Characterful and mature in such a different way, The acidity is uncompromising even while the wine acts oxidative with more wood than the other Riserva. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (47118, $29.95)

The classic Carpineto way, done in the vein of ancients with a look to the future. There’s a high tone running amok with a toast of the fruit and a plum maceration deeper down. High level acidity and “you can’t disguise” the type of work done here. Tell me lies? Not so much. The truth in clarity of a Carpineto CCR is always spoken. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A San Donato in Poggio vernacular comes closer into view with this Riserva from Paolo Paffi. The orange is studded with aromatics and the local limestone runs through every vein. It also bleeds from every pore before talking tannins and the probabilities for a long future. Tightly structured wine here, compact, versatile and voracious in its virtuous pursuit to eat, drink, sleep and extoll the vintage. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Della Paneretta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Castello di Paneretta strives for clarity and purity from a gorgeous vintage that could have allowed for more depth and density. The decision to stay clear of overdone and overwrought is a beautiful thing and so much pleasure is our fortune. Lithe, open, fragrant and sumptuous. A Riserva reserved strictly for drinking. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Bossi Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (113316, $38.95)

A Riserva from Bossi is one that makes so much sense in what we’ve come to expect from the appellation, that is sweetly rendered fruit, spice primarily oak derived and great punch. A crunchy Riserva this is, taut, tight, tannic and worthy of time. Give it that and more. The fruit is 2016 after all and from the great wide open Castelnuovo Berardenga space. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (719864, $34.95)

Great godly perfume, San Donato to the nth degree, welling and simultaneously rising. The glass is full no matter the quality of the contents, the texture filling and seamless, the extension forever forward. What you have is the portal into Il Poggio and know this. That Riserva and that Gran Selezione can and must be extraordinary and off the charts. The launching point here seems plenty great enough for all combined and concerned. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($49.60)

Deep Riserva from Verrazzano in 2016, full of all things driven, ambitious and tonal. Volatile at this stage because of a reductiveness multiplied by fruit liqueur that can’t help but rage. Really needs to settle and become itself. For now there’s angst and intensity. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2016 (993360, $29.95)

The appellative category is looked at, considered, scrutinized and a decision on its stereotype lands here. Petri is the cornerstone and the exactitude, especially for Greve in that it just acts in ways you expect there to always be. Earthy crunch, crusted fruit, herbs, Amaro and sweet tannins. Drink this early. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($41.95)

You really do need to pay a visit to Colle Bereto’s slice of the amphitheatre pie in their sector of Radda in Chianti because the soil, expositions and micro-climate beg for this response. How else to try and understand the tenderness and desire multiplied for such high level and full-bodied result. Few if any combine richness with elegance, mid-level volatility with down to earth sensibility. Clear and animal magnetic together. It’s remarkable. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (216309, $24.95)

Come and get me is the quick, early and olive branch extension from Castello di Gabbiano’s ’16 Riserva with all the Mercatele in Val di Pesa confluence that can be jam packed into one voluptuous bottle of sangiovese. Plenty of stuffing and deep red flavours, into plums and a clafouti full of softened berries. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monterinaldi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Dall’Anno Mille 2016

The Riserva is a highly refined wine but it is not wood that makes it this way. Concrete is the order of the way that wines are refined, with some old barrels and some amphora. No it is the vineyards the cause this Riserva to act so polished and stylish with so many herbal and woodsy hints it flashes before your nose, brain, taste and eyes. As a reminder there is no Gran Selezione produced at Monterinaldi and so think about the Riserva as being the wine of best selection and has always been this way. Hard to find a reason to change. Perhaps soon from another set of parameters (including concrete eggs and amphora) and vines.  Last tasted February 2020

Lovely vintage in Riserva form for Daniele Ciampi, of fruit sweetly developed, ripe and effusive. Full extract, tang and force all combine to grip the palate and keep it all swimming upstream. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Amphora 2016

From a tank sample. The in process sangiovese with no name that includes quite a compliment of concrete eggs and amphora raised fruit. Fermentation as with the others one year in concrete vats and then to the new vessels which could become the Monterinaldi answer to Gran Selezione. The fruit sources are part Boscone and part Riserva sites that are in the middle of the hill below the borgo. Same silk texture, same stylish classicism and yet the brushy, fennel savour is somewhat lost. Same but different and in this opinion completely worthy of the Gran Selezione appellation. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($43.95)

Still a youthful, closed and reductive 2016 in Riserva form there is a whole helluva lot going on in Capponi’s wine. Wooly, swarthy, volatile, uninhibited and nearly exhibitionist from all there is to nose and in showing its natural self. There’s something of a missive vernacular far from soft spoken in how this acts like whole bunches redacted in unstoppable fermentation. Like a waterfall rush of flavours, textures so wild and so free. What have you done here Sebastiano? Gotta give in and try, put some away and see if you can figure out the reasons why. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Famiglia Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Villa Cerna 2016 (14200, $29.95)

Proper, rich and savoury, very soil driven Riserva, ubiquitous in that it speaks for a large set of parcels and remains focused. Chewy with fully developed fruit sets, some dried sweetly in leather jackets, some perfectly ripe and yet to advance. A verdant note mixes in. All there, layered and at times disparate but complex as needed. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Montecchio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Fashioned from 95 per cent sangiovese with a richness that reaches peak San Donato. Elevates so much so it speaks to layering, variegation and intention. Warm, inviting and alleviates any concerns about nervousness or undue tension. So carefully extracted, crafted and exacted. A house in flux of experimentation and the pushing of boundaries moves from strength to strength. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($39.95)

A warm and fuzzy Panzano feeling felt straight away, humid, spicy, Galestro instructed. Some pretty serious tannin, weight, magnitude and a considerably deep impression. Quality with high acid notes acting as a foil to the formidable thing of it all. Bigger that ’15 in so many respects. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2016

Levigne from Angela Fronti delivers a duality that talks in a vernacular made of more than a commune. The concept is Gaiole meets Radda and each has its say though their mingle and intersectionality layering clouds the distinction in the way you’d hope they would. There’s a softness and a brut strength behind the exterior that tells something conceptual and educational is happening. Forget light, bright and easy. Bring on the ambition, the execution and the swagger. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (282921, $44.95)

The full compliment fills Le Fonti’s 2016, led by a purity of vintage fruit second to none and a fineness of aromatic spice that repeats with delicate bite after you taste and let it linger. So subtle and balanced, danced with agility and poise. A wonderfully understated and stealthily structured 2016. Remarkably delicate. Truly. 20 years easy. It’s the good shit from Guido Vitali. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Ormanni Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Borro Del Diavolo 2016 (435149, $44.00)

So you say you want a feeling for how things once were, how there was a time when steeping in tradition made for comfort, understanding and nobility. So you want to taste sangiovese with the intuition of ancients but you want crisp, clean and pure. So look to Ormanni, dual commune citizen, Poggibonsi meets Barberino Tavarnelle soil and climate. Big and gracious this is, magnanimous and generous too. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

The bright light and fresh face of Capaccia is something exceptional, exciting and new. So much fruit and rose petal emits from the nose and while comparing sangiovese to other important grape varieties is neither necessary or my style I have to say that the Premier Cru (Nuits-Saint-Georges) feeling of this fruit can be imagined in pinot noir terms. Rarely do I feel the need to do this but this Riserva takes me there and then comes home. Huge stride forward for the estate. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Torselli Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)

Just what you might, would and will expect from a 2016 Riserva in the hands of Poggio Torselli, leader for the modern San Casciano. Silken, sweet fruit filled, creamy, soft oak and mellow. A menthol note runs through and cools. Drink 2020-2023. Tasted February 2020

Quercia Al Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Surprising or not the ’16 Riserva from small batch Quercia al Poggio is a pretty heady and serious wine, reductive, rich and a tough nut to crack. Plenty of wood sheathing at this very stage brings texture, silken and quite creamy. A whole lot of everything that will require time. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Querciabella is entrenched deep in its roots in that Riserva is a true extension of Classico, stylistically speaking. While there are moments of density and hedonism the grounded nature keeps it cool, calm and collected. The level of development is something that has begun but the low and slow process is born of a structural guarantee. Aging potential is really there. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. Wood off the top, spice, spicy and full of sultry notes. So specific to place and its just understood. Crafty Riserva with sweet tannin and an effortless swagger. Soft enough to begin drinking well in late Spring 2020. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019 and February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Ser Gioveto 2016 (974964, $28.95)

Some Riserva need time and some are so fresh they beg to be had. Sergioveto is one unto itself, of a moniker that says I am a clone and a different sort of sangiovese. In fact the herbal and dried fruit notes mixes with graphite and incense make for a distinct Castellina affair. Drink this early and often for best results. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

San Felice Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Grigio 2016 (716266, $29.95)

A Leonardo Bellacini sangiovese will always seek top ripeness and first rate barrel and so no shocker here. Reached the expected heights with 2016 fruit carefully crafted for best results. Leo did not press matters or go too far despite the vintage temptation and a really fine wine has been made. Classic, pristine and enticing. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Greve is the source and Terreno’s gorgeous fruit comes from a Right Bank spot that warmed to the task in 2016. The silkiness and quality glycerin texture is so inviting and truth be told, born of fruit so pure and true. A highly polished wine with so much upside. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Villa A Sesta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Rich and high acid Castelnuovo Berardenga ’16 from Villa a Sesta, warming, caring and smooth. No fruit has been missed or harmed in making this lush and lightly spiced Riserva. Real quality and clarity with just a hint of local savour. Makes this the real deal. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (599308, $31.95)

Montefioralle savour and development covers the phenolically parochial fruit for Viticcio’s well made 2016. Pressed for success, showing its full plume and locally developed flavours. Very much a sangiovese with a sense of place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Paolo Cianferoni, Caparsa

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2015

Warm, inviting, broad shouldered but on the leaner side of muscular. Rich liqueur, fine tannins and here sharp acids. Crunchy Alberese and Galestro earthiness and real savoury as a textural ideal. Just drinking right well in the here and now. Use it up while waiting for the great 16s. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Bandite 2015 (230672, $24.95)

Anyone who knows the Lornano oeuvre knows that looking at a 2015 Riserva so soon in its life is like looking at a stopped clock. Gets you thinking about wanting to leave. The zeppelin walls of tannic fortitude, faux reduction and rock led solid elemental credit are far from paying out. In this neck of the Castellina woods they make Alberese sangiovese the way they used to do. In five years time we’ll be able to say “I can hear it calling me back home.” Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($24.95)

Losi Querciavlle, bastion of one of the globe’s most impressive Alberese landscapes and home to some of this territory’s finest chiselled sangiovese. Like marble structures slowly formed by only those who know how to separate the form from the mass. This is the intuition Pietro Losi and his prodigies know and gift to the world. Give their wines time and you will understand. Like this ’15 Riserva, strong, confident, understated, perhaps yet misunderstood but surely pure and true. Bravissimo. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Lunch, Terre di Seta

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Pellegrini Della Seta 2015

A Kosher Chianti Classico Riserva made from 95 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon. Aged in tonneaux and barriques, half new. A smoky touch and very silky texture. A selection of grapes as opposed to the cru of the Gran Selezione. The first vintage was 2010 and while there persists the style of peppery reduction there too is a smoothness and a mentholated note to what happens when fruit hits wood. Sangivoese with agreeability, age ability and certainly a step up for the table when the category needs to be employed. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

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

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Fanatico 2015

Villa Trasqua Riserva comes into its own no less than five years after vintage so the window of opportunity for pleasure seeking is really just now opening. The glimpse into what it can be reveals a recent school of stylistic thought, rich and extracted, full of concentrated sangiovese with a savoury edge. This ’15 is one of the warmest yet, resolute and resilient to keep moving with energy and constant speed. Riserva in the marathon, not the sprint. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014-2004

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2014

The quercetina vintage, from which vines protected themselves with flavinoid, anti-oxidant properties in response to solar radiation and changing weather. The crystals that form in the wines and on the corks are harmless and do not alter aromas or flavours and Paolo tells the world they are there. Funny because it was a cold and wet vintage. The Caparsa style, cool excitability, finesse and structure are here in the way they will be in ’16 albeit with more cool thoughts. Under appreciated and undervalued. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparsa, Radda in Chianti

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsa Doccio A Matteo 2012

Lovely bit of development from a vintage of great fortitude and possibility though seemingly only recently softened. Now smooth tannin and yet so, so very sangiovese. The red fruit carries a liquorice note not noted in later wines and here the complexities are blooming, changing and renewing their vows. Lovely look back and easy on the volatility scale. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2007 (1500ml, $115.00)

There is a depth here and a development that says ’07 will not last another fortnight though while it acts this way it will continue delving in the sort of secondary truffled and porcini notes that dole great pleasure. Solid start right here to a 13 year-old Riserva that is simply a treat to behold, wonder and nod in agreement at the 2020 Chianti Classico Collection. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2007

A warm vintage and Piero Lanza would say “similar to 2015,” higher in extract and well-developed phenolics. Has aged really well, the secondary notes fine and so closely recalling a dried strawberry mind. Acids are very persistent and strengthen the drying tannin and the longevity of this wine. Won’t travel another 13 years but should linger nicely for a few more. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2004

While 2004 has aged considerably as compared to 2007 the style and character are so different you would almost think they are not linked at all. Deeper, stronger and of a plum fruit way, with balsamic and lightly truffled notes. More wood, wood spice and a brown butter nuttiness. The palate is staying alive with a Tuscan flavour that was the order of that time and eventually leaves the door open for a Raddese character 10 years forward to take its place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2017 ($48.95)

The first of the so-called death squads to be released, a.k.a 2017 Gran Selezione is this from Castello di Ama, collective soil of top estate Gaiole fruit and fully recognizing the soul from whence and where is came. Quintessentially Castello di Ama and full of all the warmth and succulence in the way that fruit can act out of such a heat-scorched and arid season. Crunchy and dusty, plenty of macerating plums and no lack of wishful tannin. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2017 ($75)

So apposite to the Fonterutoli Annata “normale” in that the tonality is high, mighty and still rising. More crisp notes, feathered ripeness and a liqueur that seeps, steeps and spills. Some might feel it hot, others bothered and here the sentiment is like indoor winter comfort. That must be the idea; farmhouse dining room, hearth alight, hearty fare, company, sangiovese to the maximum degree. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vicoregio 36 2017

Of the Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Vicoregio 36 is the biggest, baddest and most tannic beast of them all. The fruit seems worthy and task equal though time is of that essence in understanding. Such a wild ride and yet so like 2017 to make that happen. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Badiola 2017

Badiola is an entirely new way to investigate Gran Selezione in that it hits all the high notes. Tripping the acidity light fantastic and sweet tannic grains of mighty proportion. Where the fruit is at is anyone’s guess but let’s assume it will emerge when the lights begin to dim. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Picchio 2017 (938738, $49.00)

Il Pichio 2017 is a fully formed, rich endeavour of concentrated fruit and a bastion of structure. Delivers all the necessary goods to develop, pivot, morph and turn into something secondary that will be no less interesting to behold. Watch it unfold and behold the pleasure. Top styling, balance and wonder that captures, subdues and puts a vintage in its place. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Coltassala 2017 ($84.00)

Volpaia’s Coltassala is a really concentrated Gran Selezione and one of the vintage’s early risers. That tells us it will go to bed equally early and slumber for quite some time. The architectural wonders of Radda heights are acclimatizing as we speak but will not open up the shutters and the doors for years it seems. A full compliment of ready and willing fruit is there but kept and suppressed. The emergence will be a vintage exceptionality and live that way for longer than the average ’17. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2017 ($74.95)

Magnificent and magnanimous perfume emanates from Bastignano 2017 in ways never noted, nosed or thought to be needed. Jackie Wilson Gran Selezione. A wine that can “step up and face the world.” Listen. The roses and violets mix with that ’17 savour and the dried notes match the fresh ones step for step. “Your love keeps lifting me higher and higher.” Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Querceto Di Castellina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sei 2017 ($57.95)

Querceto di Castellina’s varietal Gran Selezione sangiovese is the work of oenologist Gioia Cresti (Carpineta Fontalpino) and agronomist Valerio Grella. Sei is the number six in Italian and there were many instances of this number coinciding with the production of their Gran Selezione. The (Belvedere) single-vineyard wine comes from a special selection of grapes in a vineyard area measuring 6.6 hectares with a density of 6,666 vines per hectare. The tonneaux barrels predominantly used hold 666 bottles of wine and family matriarch Laura was born on 6/6/46. Another wild and carefree Gran Selezione from the Castellina estate brings acidity to new sangiovese heights, to no surprise at 480m, with a tone not oft seen in this territory. Serious tang and seriously tart, fruit buzzing of currants and citrus everywhere. Will evolve into the most singular GS that can be next level imagined. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Capannino 2016

Capannino’s side of the Bibbiano tracks makes Gran Selezione that dissolves like good dark chocolate on the tongue. Never relenting, piquing of energy and spice, here the land makes sangiovese buzz and pulse with drive and intensity. Rich and rendered, still a meaningful two to three years away from integration. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Mocenni ’89 2016

Mocenni takes all the advantage that 2016 can possibly pass its way and runs carefree into the wind. The fruit is pretty much as ripe as there can ever be in sangiovese struck by silver acidity and gold tannins, so you can imagine the result. This needs 10 years to fully unfurl, unwind and unfold. Please give it at least half that much time. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Cantalici Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016 ($60.00)

Just a lovely smooth, acidity supported, chocolate and spice Gran Selezione with stage presence and drawn by an artist’s fine line. Great attitude here, a mix of the new and the old. Presents Gaiole to the world in beautiful hyperbole and with accredited distinction. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Classic Carpineto with big juicy fruit, high acidity and a dusty volatility that speaks to youth like few others of its ilk. Will settle and turn into something lengthy, characterful and fine. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Casa Emma Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

From San Donato in Poggio and some of the territory’s juiciest sangiovese is magnified and hyperbolized in Gran Selezione form. Plenty of wood though not overly suppressive of the fruit. Nice balance and spice to boot. The vineyard is a piece of heaven on a hill and Paolo Paffi’s touch is full of grace. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2016

The richest of Verrazzano’s wines is this Sassello and the story is a great one. One of history, progression and birds with great taste. Grapes gone from table wine to Annata through Riserva and now in Gran Selezione form grown at 480m. So much chocolate and wood derived spice. Thick and unctuous for the category and that’s really saying something. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Dievole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Disessina 2016

Vigna Dissesina occupies a Castelnuovo Berardenga world of high level fruit, acids and tannin encouraged and accumulated at the highest professional level around. All the necessities that resources can provide do what’s right necessary and abide by making high level Gran Selezione. All are here in this bottle. Exceptional wine with style, layering and class. Drink 2023-2031. Tasted February 2020

Fèlsina Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colonia 2016 ($208.99)

The consistency of Fèlsina in terms of well pretty much everything reaches the summit, apex and summit of this Colonia. Fruit, acidity, style and effect are all accessed in a similar way while barriques fatten and enrich this Gran Selezione to the point of bracing. Perhaps the most accumulation ever in a Colonia fills this 2016 with supreme fruit quality and a base of acidity that drives the engine. Massive tannic extension and energy of intensity. Huge wine with big plans and twenty years lay ahead. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted September 2019 and February 2020

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2016

Extremely youthful ’16 but the clarity of that vintage’s fruit can’t help but be up front and present. The accountability begins right here, with 2016s out of which fruit was allowed to stay fresh and yet in Gran Selezione form there has to be time. Allow for development and the accumulation of flesh, but also succulence. This sumptuous Margone comes replete without the old style of hammer on head mentality. It’s the new and elegant one. Tasting this offers a clear picture into how Iacopo Morganti has impressed his talents and his will onto the wines of this estate. Sip one here and there over the next 15 years and it will be as close as one gets to standing in these Panzano vineyards in a pair of the Grace’s shoes. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2020

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016

Begins at a point just exactly where the Riserva ’16 takes its leave and carries the torch of purity and delicacy. Efficacy too, efficiency for sure and an effusive level of strength that belies its lightness of being. Yes it takes richness in sangiovese from Panzano and this estate to another level but never forgets the heeded understatement it demands to pay forward. Another outstanding effort and worthy of 20 plus years in the cellar. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Principe Corsini/Villa Le Corti Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Zac 2016

The transition from 2015 to 2016 takes Zac out of the IGT realm and into the appellative one occupied by Gran Selezione at the top of the heap. This new position atop the pyramid is the right and apropos one as a legacy of love and respect. Extreme juiciness defines this Zac from Duccio Corsini’s Le Corti and the amount of kudos it deserves has everything to do with how it has been given every opportunity to shine. Succulent acids and grand red ripeness are what you want and hope for. That and a long life ahead. Grande Duccio. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Colledilà 2016 (293522, $59.95)

Of the three Ricasoli Gran Selezione Colledilà is the succulent and opulent one, of candied roses with spice and high quality, succinctly Gaiole acids. Sumptuous, unctuous and built for pleasure. Amore even. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Roncicone 2016

The Monti in Chianti artist formerly known as IGT is now a knight in shining Gran Selezione appellative armour. The 2016 vintage marks the launching point for one of Francesco Ricasoli’s sangiovese explorations and believe when it is said that one thousand years of Ricasoli thought have led to this. Roncicone is varietal strength embodied, also wisdom, methodology and in potion terms, herbolgy. Mixed an elemental Amaro with chewy red fruit in hyper-sangiovese reality. Ripe and concentrated, a tour de GS force. Single vineyard, proud and opulent. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Ceniprimo 2016

As with the Roncicone, Ceniprimo moves from IGT to Gran Selezione in a catgory shift to peak pyramid appellative Chianti Classico that is, well, categorical. The dine first single terroir sangiovese exploration is the biggest of Ricasoli’s three and also the one submerged under the most amount of barrel. Gaiole and Monti are reasoned and seasoned in GS framing with richness and über smooth consistency. While surely a big big wine it too will silken and lengthen after enough time has elapsed. Sangiovese. It needs the bottle. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sergio Zingarelli 2016 ($122.95)

Sergio Zingarelli the Grand Selezione is the rock, the gentle giant, the patriarch of the company’s wines. As a Grand Selezione it allows its actions to speak for the rest of the portfolio to follow. It leads the estates; Macìe, Sant’Alphonso, Fizzano and La Tavelelle. In 2016 the sangiovese is so different and yet so Castellina in that red cherry fruit core teased by spice. Smells like roses and the feel in the mouth is swelling, rising like a tide increasing as it barrels in. In the scheme of timing it would be prudent to allow those waves in years to go out several times before looking for that window of Grand Selezione opportunity to begin. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vendemmia Assai 2016

Assai is the estate cru, of the oldest vines on the property and 100 per cent sangioevse aged only in tonneaux A step up in fruit quality handles the wood and the category (including the Kosher angle) with more energy and finesse. Also a reductive rubberiness that so reminds of South Africa. Quite the dark chocolate component though also vanilla in waves. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

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

Carpaccio at Terre di Seta

Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vendemmia Assai 2015

Assai is the estate cru, of the oldest vines on the property and 100 per cent sangioevse aged only in tonneaux. A hyperbole of dark fruit, strong wood adage and fully reasoned meets seasoned Gran Selezione with all the protective, resinous, wood-spiced and tacky tannic bite. Really needs to settle and mellow. A top Kosher expression of firm, big-bodied reds will satisfy a high end corner of a very specific market. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Good to go!

godello

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WineAlign

Malivoire gets Mottiar and Mottiar

Back in January a group of Ontario-centric, local-fanatical and intrepid Toronto-based journos made the annual trek around the QEW horn and down into the Niagara Peninsula’s land of plenty. The Friday night destination was Fallsview Casino for the annual Niagara Icewine Festival, annual gala of wine and dine stars. We dressed to the occasion; John Szabo M.S., Jamie Drummond, Malcolm Jolley, Sara d’Amato and Godello. You can read up more about that essential event in Sara’s roundup over on WineAlign.

Godello, Sara d’Amato and John Szabo M.S.

Related – Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES January 25th, 2020

On the morning after we five and the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario’s (WMAO) Magdalena Kaiser paid a visit with winemaker Shiraz Mottiar of Malivoire, a Beamsville Bench producer moving from strength to strength and purveyor of Bench wines simply getting hotter and hotter. Or, as it is said, Mottiar and Mottiar. Malivoire’s are some of Ontario’s most thoughtful varietal wines occupying all the necessary levels and tiers; estate bottlings, small lots and single-vineyards. The whites focus on chardonnay and melon de bourgogne, the reds in gamay and pinot noir. The ace in the hole concerns the province’s finest grouping of Rosé and in fact the Moira Vineyard gifts arguably the best in Ontario. That vineyard along with the winemaker’s home Mottiar block are inching upwards into Premier Cru territory.

Shiraz Mottiar is a thoughtful man of grace, empathy and conviction. He’s also an experimenting scientist with an artist’s brush touch, at the leading edge of his work through wild ferments, whole bunch fermentation, stem inclusion and carbonic styling. He pushes boundaries, slides into percentages many would fear to tread and his wines always come out clean. He has the magic touch and everyone knows it. And he makes wines everyone can afford. You could build an entire cellar by way of Malivoire’s multi-varietal work and the many tiers they fashion from drink now, through mid-term aging and those that will go long. I’ve tasted a few older Malivoires lately and have been blown away by their longevity.

Meeting the Bench man of great insight for a morning’s barrel through the @malivoire oeuvre ~ All carefully, thoughtfully and properly conceived. New marketing and labels pretty sharp too.

The group tasted through 10 examples with Shiraz and these notes reflect that gathering, along with two tasted at the Icewine Festival and one older Melon from last summer. The notes on the 2019 Pinot Noir and Gamay barrels tasted through are restricted to internal rumination and imagination but know this. When those wines hit the bottle they will re-write the varietal script for Ontario. Wait for them.

Malivoire Bisous Rosé, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($29.95)

The latest disgorgement of Bisous Rosé from Bench pinot noir still sees 24 months of lees aging but now strikes drier than expected. There’s crème fraîche and strawberry tang, more angst than before, crunchy fruit and well-propositioned delineation.  Last tasted January 2020

This ambitious dry Rosé from Malivoire is all about the kisses, not so much in a tuck you in at night sort of way, but in a greet you at the beginning of the night peck on both cheeks. It’s really quite down to earth this Bisous, taken from the rich limestone chalky and cakey soil up on the Beamsville Bench. Twenty-four months of lees aging deliver a strong message of texture but not enough to harden what is ostensibly soft and hugging, traditional method sparkling wine. Now in bottle 18 months this has settled into a comfortable and familiar ambient space, “it’s like heaven to me I must confess.” I’ll be happy to steal my kisses from you, Bisous. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted December 2017

Malivoire Melon 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($21.95)

Just about to be bottled (Tuesday January 14th). Picked late because the acids extended longer than usual and 10 per cent of the fruit comes from winemaker Shiraz Mottiar’s home vineyard. Sugary (not sugared) melons, undeniable and absolute salty and marine shell-like melon de bourgogne notations. The specificity of citrus with ever-present neutral grape spirit streak of embracing acidity. Woke melon, wake-up call to more please. Imagine the possibilities with an increased sur-lie styling. More plantings and potential yields could make this happen. Will receive one last sulphuring before bottling. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Melon 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario

Impeccable balance and extension have come to this in what is the freshest white you could want at six years of age and almost no cost towards getting it here. Melons and lemons and plenty of unction. An argument for this grape, that beautiful Bench and the amount of time invested. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($24.95)

Production is “as much as I can get from that site,” tells Shiraz Mottiar, so maximum 800 cases. As always the aridity and the salinity continue to rise, the acids, minerality, near brininess and ultimate stoic balance so secure at the top of the game. Such a high acid vintage for everything but certainly that includes Rosé, yet still the least amount of skin-contact of the three Malivoire blush. Acids just don’t correlate to hue and flesh. Thank pH for the needle’s movement in how this translates from vintage to vintage. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (498535, $19.95)

The production can max out at 1,300 cases and yes there is more vivant life, energy and expression than the Moira. Different fruit makes for different strokes yet same folks will love what’s going on. Sharp, high acid vintage, sapid, salty and fine. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Chardonnay Estate Grown 2018, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (573147, $19.95)

A blend of fruit from three farms, though mostly Moira in origin. Rich and developed vintage, fruit considered and managing to climb up another rung to imagine fruit from all over, orchards everywhere. Nothing buttery about this chardonnay, just crisp, cracking, “aggression played with,” Shiraz style. More oxygen at the juice level, half fermented in old barrels, through April/May. It’s ideal at this cost and you can’t do much better in Ontario. Approximately 2,500 cases made, a VINTAGES Essential. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($34.95)

To be released imminently, meaning Spring at some point. A block picked early at high acid and low pH, whole cluster fermented, natural fermentation and only 10 months in barrel. For chardonnay it was a vintage for freshness, quite wet throughout but hot and ideal through harvest. The adapted vines caught up, came to speed and delivered high quality. This is a prime example of what is possible when minor miracles come about and for a Mottiar chardonnay that means stoicism, structure and length. Very balanced and poised MC. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Pinot Noir Moira 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($34.95)

A short amount of time in barrel (only five to six months), needing a modicum of structure strengthening and keeping freshness intact. High fruit pectin from what is ostensibly a top Rosé block though not a top red made from pinot noir site. As straightforward and easily understood pinot noir as the Bench will ever give. Such a high-end entry point for varietal and place. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Pinot Noir Mottiar 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($34.95)

The fruit is just juicier, sweeter, more mature and expressive than Moira but also equipped with a next level structure that elevates the Bench game. The one sitting on the darker savour side as opposed to the red popping one. A healthy stem inclusion raises the tension though truth be told you just can’t escape from the beauty of this vintage, the flowers that emit and the pleasure you just get from what can’t help but simply be. Pretty wine from a pretty time. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2018, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($21.95)

Gamay as we know and love, peppery and jolting, embracing and inclusive for all to find joy. From a Malivoire site up aboard a ridge that may not have always been the best site for planting but is increasingly rising into the golden age of gamay reality. More plantings are not merely trend follows but knowing the next 10-20 years of good sites for good wine. Juicy stuff, invigorating and affirming. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Analog 2018, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($34.95)

Semi-carbonic, whole cluster fermented cabernet franc with (the same) in gamay and then some pinot noir. A blend of Wismer and Bench fruit, “tuffeau reverb” and dialled up to “11.” Less than 200 cases made of this most curious and never before connected three-pronged blend, like a Euro receptacle for power plugged in with northern North American grooves. An as is red blend with a bit of sweetness for sipping purpose while rocking out .“Why not just make 10 louder?” Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Wismer Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($26.95)

Quite the juicy little cabernet franc number with all the notes sung as expected, some savoury, some sweetly peppery and some just red fruit juicy. Red citrus, red current and red liquorice. Easy and nary a heady or anxious moment. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Malivoire Stouck Farmstead Red 2017, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario ($29.95)

The Farmstead carries forward from the red blend previously known simply as Meritage, of 60 per cent merlot and (40) cabernet sauvignon. Still so very youthful, quite reductively protected and mired behind a varnished and savoury candied shell. There’s a litany of high quality 2017 Stouck Vineyard fruit lurking behind and also stuck behind a veil of oak curtains, of French and also American in origin. Acts as if Niagara in Rioja clothing by way of Bordeaux styling. Perhaps confusing in youth that will reveal all charms and dignities, not to mention Lincoln Lakeshore nobility when some mid-range years have melted past. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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Montefioralle (more than a feeling)

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

They are growing in sangiovese divinity, or should it be said, divino. L’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle, producers with more than a feeling, who share common ground but also something bigger, stronger, more profound. Montefioralle Divino is a September festival that unites this tiny Greve in Chianti frazione and with a purpose all its own. Theirs is a small section of Chianti Classico and one to call their own. This band is so good they named a medieval village after it.

Castello di Verrazzano’s Luigi Cappellini and the Granfondo del Chianti Classico squadra Canadesi

Related – Two sides of the River Greve

Let’s orient you on Montefioralle’s location. Montefioralle is situated on the west bank of the Greve River and close to Castello di Montefioralle, essentially, ostensibly and mostly southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. As for their famous harvest festival, “Montefioralle Divino è una manifestazione organizzata e promossa dall’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle che saranno presenti alla manifestazione e offriranno i propri vini in degustazione sui banchi di assaggio per due giorni.”

Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

Two days of wine tasting in Piazza Santo Stefano in the historic centre of medieval Montefioralle, presented by a group in flux, from time to time. In 2019 they were Azienda Agricola Altiero, Brogioni Maurizio, Castello di Verrazzano, Montefioralle, Podere Bucine, Podere Campriano, San Cresci, Grassi Roberto, Terre di Baccio, Terre di Melazzano, Terreno, Villa Calcinaia and Fattoria Viticcio. From year to year membership rises, wanes and changes. And so there are others who bottle within this micro-terroir of i cru di enogea; Belvedere, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto and Tenuta Monteficali.

Dinner at Terreno

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The zonazione’s terroir is mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico for Masnaghetti and the geologists to consider in the cartological advancement with an eventual conclusion in menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Tasting at Calcinaia

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following wines were tasted with Conte Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia, followed by a tasting with the producers of Montefioralle in the same location. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill. Two years earlier my group had met with eight such producers at Calcinaia. These 21 tasting notes cover the September 2019 speed dating sit-down with nine estate principals, followed by dinner at Terreno.

Wines of Montefioralle

Altiero Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Always 100 per cent sangiovese, from winemaker Paolo Baldini, from the southeast exposure off the the younger vineyard. This is the perfume of Montefioralle, inexplicable in a way, a very specific combination of flowers and herbs but there is a calm and when made this way, a purity, a clarity. A tradition from before that is forever. Slightly more unctuous and full on the palate with some wood addendum. Proper Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Altiero Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Like the Annata always 100 per cent sangiovese, this time from the older vineyard facing southwest, away on an angle from Montefioralle and looking towards Panzano, the Conca d’Oro and Le Fonti. The red fruit liqueur is quite silky, savoury in a sweet and almost amaro way, so in a word, stunning. Full and polished with some tradition fully stashed away in pocket. From Galestro and Alberese. And it shows. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($30.45)

Essential balance in Chianti Classico Annata, obviously with thanks to the ’16 vintage but even more of a many splendored thing. Concentration and intensity intertwined but truth be spoken this really climbs the hills and then descends, with grace, power and ease. A brilliant Annata from Luigi Cappellini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($49.60)

A sangiovese raised organic and a textural matter really defined by the quality and the length of time in contact with its skins. While not too long the extension was embraced and the certainty of a spot on result is certainly admired. Excellent skins, earthy, rich in tannin and also used to great structural advantage. This Riserva will travel long and go deep. Bank on it. Most rewarding work from il cicliste Cappellini. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2015

This is the wine at Verrazzano first made in 1982 as a Vino de Tavola, then as Riserva and finally as Gran Selezione, first in 2013. The Sassello is the small bird that seeks out the best grapes, in this case at 450m from the highest vineyard on the estate. This just intuits and explains vintage, place and appellation, together in harmony. It’s a cool sangiovese of smooth savour, with great length and slow developing parts. Needs more time. Just does. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Lorenzi Sieni, Montefioralle

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

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

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva is quite lush and full from 2016, no shocker to be sure and of a perfume that moves from Annata and into what grows low to the ground. Really proper appellative effort for the estate and for the frazione, richly embrued in liquified glowing embers and wet spice for days. Needs time to settle in. Very structured Riserva in which to imbibe after some time. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A perfectly consistent follow-up to a ’15 that stole that vintage’s show, here with equal aromatic excellence in 2016. Now showing as a great floral expression (remarkably early it should be noted) in a full bouquet bursting from the glass. There is a level of roundness and fine acid tang with circulative layers as good as it gets. Succinct as sangiovese, Greve and hanging around the finest of Montefioralle. A true Galestro idea presented clear as a clear blue frazione day. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Two sides of the Greve River

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Balze di Montefiorealle 2015

Perhaps not as balanced a vintage as the follow-up 2016 will bring to this Montefioralle Riserva but ’15 can stand on its feet, no problem at all. No sway but plenty of torque indeed. Love the fruit of 2015, as much as one needs to love fruit. The fruit goes in and then back out of your mouth in equal and opposing fashion. In balance, with acids and tannins in tow. Drink 2020-2026.  Last tasted September 2019

Exactly Campriano, distinct and luxurious in its own perfect way. it’s so very Riserva, unctuous with red fruit that seems almost completely absent of wood. It’s because of the land, a vineyard set in the forest “and still so very present.” That also means it’s in the wine. recognizable every year. Always. The vineyard is west facing above the Greve River, on old terraces, with old stones. You can drink this now even if it’s so young.  Tasted February 2019

Just put to market, the vintage will surely have so much to say and in fact already does, with a combination of perfume and spice. Still dusty, with fennel and endemic herbs, teas and brushy plants. There’s a raspberry to dried currant fruitiness that ’14 doesn’t have, also more mid-palate flesh and overall juiciness. A different sort of structure, still with long capabilities but will likely go into a drier fruit profile after the seven year mark. Elena Lapini is a very busy agriturismo and viticoltore proprietor these days and if these most recent 100 per cent sangiovese from two sides of the Greve river tracks are any indication, she’ll be busier than ever before. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG San Pietro di Sillani 2017

A cru at the highest altitude at 480m of sangiovese and merlot (five per cent) with some time spent in new wood. Altitude meant no frost and also less heat from the arid vintage. Eighteen months in big oak casks, this time in new and while the high up frazione perfume is indeed fully emitting its rays there too is a silky smooth note that recalls the new wood. Looks really good and seems very fine though the wood is very involved. Should be very, very interesting. It’s quite refined. Way too young to call. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Mezzuola 2015

The vigna-designate Annata is likewise a modern take on Chianti Classico label appearances notwithstanding but the smooth texture detail and lush glycerin flavours pale in comparison with the new barrique-aged Riserva. Here second and third passage tonneaux allow the marl and limestone of Montefioralle vineyards to speak a bit clearer and to breath a breath of 500m fresh air into this (85 per cent) sangiovese. The merlot (10) and cabernet sauvignon (5) smooth out all the wrinkles for a lush take on Annata. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Guardingo Di Passignano 2015

Do not be fooled by the whimsical classicism of the label into thinking this Greve Chianti Classico from the heart of Montefioralle will be old-schooled, rustic and ancient-styled sangiovese. It is in fact a facsimile of such a notion and in point of fact the opposite is true. The salt and pepper seasoning of 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon are more like spice and sauce to prove the first point. The small barriques aging for 18 months is the second, acceding into a textural Riserva at once silky smooth and then oozing with vanilla, balsamic and resiny syrup. A mouthful to be sure and in the style so well made. A fun fact to know is about the Guardingo Di Passignano, a medieval road and the only passage that connected the three main valleys of the Florentine countryside; Val d’Elsa, Val di Pesa and Val di Greve, Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Melazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cantinato 2015

“Born in the cellar,” of sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon. A true glycerin Chianti Classico for Montefioralle, with unction and spice. Sings like a blackbird. Truly Cantinato, truly. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted September 2019

Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia Mauvais Chapon Rosato Metodo Classico 2014

A tirage of VinSanto in 2015, 37 months on lees and disgorged April 2018. In reference to a siege of Florence by the French in 494, an offer was made, not accepted and the trumpets were sounded. Piero Capponi responded with a call to arms at the gates. A matter of familial propaganda and a wine that reminds of France. Linear, sharp, citric, toasty and so very fine. Really crisp, of utter clarity and streamlined like a sail on a fast vessel. Impressive to say the least. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Sebastiano Capponi

Villa Calcinaia Mammolo 2017, IGT Toscana

Varietal mammolo, fully, completely, capably in control of the wet wool character that only Sebastiano Capponi and (Monte Bernardi’s) Michael Schmelzer can effect, establish and conquer in unique red wine made in the Chianti Classico territory. This is good, righteous and proper volatility surrounding red fruit formed in a cake. Thick and unctuous from 2017 with endless character. Had been looking forward to tasting this finished wine since a first encounter out of concrete tank. Lives up to the billing and the hype. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

This limestone, that Alberese

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2016 ($74.95)

A warm and unctuous La Fornace in fine form, consistent to its loam-sand origins, planted in 1975, at 250m of elevation. Faces due south and sees oak casks, 10 hL, approximately six years old. Showing secure and prevalent texture admitting everything about itself, a single-vineyard sangiovese sight that draws the sun and uses every iota of its energy. Good showing from the furnace, Surely not a shocker from ’16.  Last tasted September 2019

Vigna Fornace, “The Furnace” is indeed the warmest of the Capponi Gran Selezione, full of gathered 2016 sunshine, ready to melt in the mouth acidity, tannins and in this case, chocolate. The acidity is very different to Bastigano, here cured, developed and dare it be said in such a young wine, assimilated. Drink this younger while ye wait for the bigger structure and high tonal Bastigano.  Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2016 ($67.95)

The magical Gran Selezione from the old lady of a vineyard, dating back to 1959. A plot marked by Colombino rock, not quite limestone and not quite sandy Alberese. There is a character in Luisa that no other Gran Selezione displays, neither from Calcinaia or elsewhere. Done up in oak cask, 10 hL, approximately six years old and showing the ease meets power of 2016. Bravissima.  Last tasted September 2019

Now for something completely different. The Contessa’s vineyard is a lifelong dream and confounding sangiovese from which to grab attention. She’s immediately elegant and charming and then so closed. She is predicated on darkening red cherry fruit but her acidity is formidable and so the connection is severe to establish. She lingers with you for so long that you don’t know what to do because she was never really accessible to begin with. Teasing Gran Selezione, an incubus for now, but eventually you will realized the dream. FYI, the oldest estate 1959 planted Contessa Luisa vineyard was dedicated to matriarch Luisa Vonwiller. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2016 ($74.95)

A component of cement egg on top of the 10 hL, approximately six years-old oak casks brings new layers and light to Bastignano and separates it from the other two sangiovese. It also clay darkens and broods, hides in shadows and remains softer, fleshier, but also sneaky in structure. There’s less pinpointed Calcinaia character and more outside in the diaspora personality. If that splits hairs so be it though it needs saying that Bastignano is a man of means.  Last tasted September 2019

Capponi’s Bastignano is a Gran Selezione consistent and repetitively persistent to speak its singular truth. It is truly hematic, a sumptuous, oozing full-fruit sangiovese with above the left bank of the river Greve coursing through its blood. Very smooth, seamless, finely tannic and beautifully high in ripe acida. If all GS carried such acid then the category would float even higher. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2014, IGT Colli Toscana Centrale ($54.95)

Capponi’s varietal merlot is from the 1967 planted vineyard not realized as merlot until many years later. Fermented in cement vats and then 24 months are spent in barriques. A beast really, young at five years in ways most sangiovese are not. So much verdancy, spice, grip, grit, power and need for space, not to mention time. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG Vendemmia 51 2016 ($23.95)

Only two points of merlot with the sangiovese from two picks, the first of which goes here, for increased acidity. Dark floral and fruit scents for sure and some spice. Really like the mouthfeel and the acid-fruit structure. Tannins are quite easy. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($31.95)

With small amounts of merlot and syrah, it’s quite sappy and resinous. Plenty of smooth chocolate ganache, blackberry and backbone with thanks to a Galestro and Alberese soil mix filled with stone. Big Riserva. Really big. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

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godello

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Feeling Panzano’s pull

During the final days of September 2019 we Canadians made our way to Toscana for a week of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico business. While a group of road hardy cicliste e ciclisti were racing their team bikes up, down and around the Granfondo del Chianti Classico winding roads of the territory and others were taking in the sights of Firenze, I was strolling through the Sunday market, visiting with friends and pre-tasting some sangiovese di Panzano. Every time I go I find myself feeling Panzano’s pull.

Godello, Cecchini, Manetti

Panzano’s central Chianti Classico location is crucial in so many ways. Its two most famous inhabitants and native sons are the Consorzio’s incumbent President and proprietor of arguably the territory’s most well-known and respected family-run, not too large, not too small sized estate. That would be Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. The second is the village’s figlio nativo and world famous butcher, Antica Macelleria Cecchini’s Dario Cecchini. Panzano is also home to the Conca d’Oro and few vineyard enclaves are as prolific, scenic and fertile as this wide swath of sangiovese heaven. The frazione within Greve commune is also invisibly set upon the Greve River flood plane, positioned with stead grace and soil exceptionality.

Within Greve it occupies a centrality bordered by commune neighbours Castellina, Barberino Tavarnelle and Radda. You might actually imagine Panzano as the exact middle inside a circle drawn clockwise from Greve in Chianti (12 o’clock), to Volpaia (three o’clock), through Castellina in Chianti (six o’clock), past San Donato (nine o’clock) and back to Greve. Heart of the matter.

Panzano above the Conca d’Oro

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Two years ago I wrote about Panzano and its pioneering association of producers, the Unione Viticoltori Panzano. Please click on the link above to get the full story on Panzano and its raison d’être. The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level.

Breathing in the glory of the Conca d’Oro

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Consider Panzano as a wild unknown country where nothing could go wrong, as a dividing line running through the centre of town, as a ridge slicing on a diagonal axis from Volpaia in Radda to Mercatale in San Casciano, direction Casanuove. All part of the same hill. The ridge’s particular geological composition is consistent and these atmosphera sottosuolo soils that run through Panzano are the epicentral factor in determining the type of physiology common to the sangiovese. Somewhere, somehow, that means something, to someone. It’s a savoury-sapid-saltiness equipped with acidity that makes Panzano’s a freshness not really like any other. This is especially true in Riserva and even in Gran Selezione examples. 

Panzano rocks are all in

These words about Panzano are part of a contiguous acceleration to investigate inward, to focus on the visceral isolations within Chianti Classico. This third such essay published since that September trip means there may be five or more to come in advance of the coming Anteprima and Chianti Classico Collection 2020 taking place in Firenze two weeks from today. Panzano’s story writes itself because the thread of sangiovese consistency has few if any cleaved rivals in the greater territory. Panzano’s wines stand apart with their attention to textured detail, in their ability to shine even in their youth and finally, their acumen to intuit a very straightforward and knowable set of structural values. These are sangiovese of great upbringing, etiquette and most importantly possessive of a great respect for their origins. Panzano is spoken for with great clarity by these producers and their wines.

The Cecchini experience ~ Grazie Dario, Panzano and Chianti Classico #chianticlassico #chianticlassicobootcamp

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following are 34 Panzano sangiovese tasted at Le Fonti, Il Molino di Grace, Fontodi and then followed by dinner at Cecchini. Many are wines I had previously tasted and some of the notes have been updated to reflect new observations. If you ever find yourself in Chianti Classico, I would imagine you’ll not be immune to feeling Panzano’s pull.

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Ca’ di Pesa is 95 per cent sangiovese, raised in second passage barriques (80 per cent) and 20 per cent grandi botti, on average. Dark and rich, black cherry ambitious and really, really modern. A high quality vintage and goes for it, no holds barred. Lots of wood. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva Barrone DOCG 2016

Riserva is 100 per cent fermented in amphora and then moved into barriques, much of it new. Again the ambition is clear. Vanilla, graphite and everything spice. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 ($37.00)

Dario Faccin’s is 100 per cent sangiovese as it will always be going forward and with an amazing acidity of 6.4 (tA). Wow is this still so youthful, even just a touch reductive, from an alcoholic fermentation at a very low temperature. Very low. Oxygen is only introduced at that very low temperature, to preserve not only colour but also aromatics. So be patient because time is its and your friend. The palate is so broad and generous but this is not a barrel tasting. This is real life. Such structure should be illegal. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

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

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2014 ($62.00)

From a vintage that was made for the intensity and manic work of Dario Faccin. You need to investigate so very deep to desalinate and to feel the layers peel away before getting to the crux of Carrobio’s Panzano Galestro and Alberese. Magnificent and large, balanced and massive ’14 oh my. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Casaloste Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

The amalgamation of ripest, richly purposed fruit and high toned meatiness brings the great divide together between levels of the appellative period. This is what you want from a well-developed and purposed Riserva, in structure, out of passion and back into reality. Most excellent and rigorous work from Gionanni Battista d’Orsi out of Panzano. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

I Canadesi and I Produttori di Panzano at Cecchini

Casaloste Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Don Vincenzo 2016

An equal representation of selections from vineyards east and west, harvested and fermented separately and then brought together. Once again there is ambition and heft but balance is brought on by ripe acidities and everything resisting going to the breaches of edges. Such a fine liqueur for Gran Selezione and one to age for decades. A captured snapshot of 2015 with great structure as a frame to the picture. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The first vintage, 80 sangiovese with 15 merlot and 5 cabernet sauvignon. The sangiovese was raised in 25hL botti and the inernational grapes in tonneaux. Darker and deeper than the ’16 to come. Good acidity keeps it moving through the waves of vanilla and graphite. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($44.95)

Rampola’s vineyards grace the top of the northern hillsides of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro valley beneath the village. These are some of the most storied slopes in all of Chianti Classico and the castle that bears the name is one of its most famous landmarks. The richest, most glycerin liqueur that sangiovese is capable of reaching is found in this 2016 but not without accompanying acidity and fine-grained structure. Here from one of the territory’s classic rebel child houses is a formidable Annata from a glorious vintage and the kind of bouquet meets boneset that dreams are made of to last decades. It’s really quite something. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted March 2019

Fattoria La Quercia Il Chellino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From a more northerly vineyard with later ripening and the cool savour is readily apparent. Very expressive, chalky tannic and not yet resolved. Will turn and fire into a terrific expression of Panzano albeit in a highly singular, off the noted grid sort of way. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2016 ($97.95)

Vigna del Sorbo sits in the Conca d’Oro at the southeastern end of the vineyards in clay soils dominated by Galestro and away from the Alberese of the Flaccianello sites. It’s always a refreshing meeting meaty wine but then along comes 2016. The satiating and pleasing factor is there from the start, not wanting for wondering if indeed the possibilities are there. They are in waves with bigger bones, more flesh hanging on though teasing to fall off at the slightest touch of the hand. They will not because structure keeps the meat secure even though it is so bloody tender. With acidity nearing eight on the tA scale there is every reason to believe 2016 Vigna del Sorbo will go 25 years easy, with or without the shedding on tears. Drink 2021-2039. Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2010

Tasted from magnum at Cecchini with fruit wholly, ostensibly intact from a warm and grip-inciting vintage when these Vigna del Sorbo vines would have been in the 35-40 year-old range. Also from a transitional period in the climate change pantheon so therefore a time when climate was more unusual and not yet the new norm. A fruit bomb this sangiovese, juicy and bursting from a blue to black fruit year. Almost Cassis in orientation, cool truth spoken and acidity in the premium value category that lifts the wine with ease. Sip it with grilled beef and the picture is complete. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Standing on the shoulders of giants #flaccianello #fontodi #sangiovese

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2016, IGT Toscana Centrale ($147.95)

“For me this is a Chianti Classico. I’m waiting for others to cross the river together,” says Giovanni Manetti. It tastes of Chianti Classico, albeit with an ulterior profile to Vigna del Sorbo. There is a variegation of Galestro in the soil, along with Alberese, Calcium Carbonate and Pietraforte. The vineyards come down from Panzano and face an opposite direction. Flaccianello is strong and structured, meaty, floral, a compound composition of elements, minerals and the flesh of animale. It’s a big boned boy with acids and structure as a full throttle experience. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

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

Drawn from Botti now at 18 months and the new plan is to extend that even further so 30 months after harvest will become 33-36 when the bulk of the wine goes to bottle. If anything is going to teach the world about the aging needs and worthiness of Panzano sangiovese and Chianti Classico, well the gentle suggestion and confident persuasion starts right here. Dusty and conversely soft, then grippy and elegant too. Drink 2021-2027.  Last tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese DOCG 2016 ($24.95)

Very little has changed in fact ’16 has moved almost nowhere in the best possible way. Sneaky structure is there, in movements of Bach tones and the usual sangiovese brilliance, especially from these multifarious soils. Galestro, Alberese, Pietraforte, calcium carbonate. All in. Last tasted September 2019

”I think it’s a very good vintage,” announces Iacopo Morganti and that is all you really need to know, though take the time to glide along and feel the in synch moving parts. This is essential and partisan to gain an understanding ingrained of deepest knowing. There is something about this house style, this estate gathering and this layering of no-proviso, 100 per cent sangiovese. It walks you down all the way to Rimocine, down to the bottom of the Grace vinyards, looking up at San Francesco and the vines all around. This transports you to a place. Isn’t that what you want? That and great fruit, acids and fine tannin. Southeast Panzano sangiovese incarnate. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Tasting through @ilmolinodigrace ~ The dramatic ’16s and super surprising ’17s. One breath of Gratius and see how it has separated from the pack. These are Panzano of sneaky grip and structure.

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($29.95)

Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)

Incredible depth and richness in Riserva out of ’16, with layers of variegated red fruit not seen in these parts or this appellative wine in quite some time. The linger and the effect is all encompassing and timeless. There will be very little movement in the next three years and perhaps longer. This came to know the who, what and why from the genesis.  Last tasted September 2019

Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2006

Poured from magnum at Cecchini in Panzano. It had been nearly five years since last tasted and the large format has suspended time. Still a matter of all constituent parts lifted, elevated and residing where things are haughty and high. Nigh time to drink up certainly but there is a freshness and an accumulated presence of acidity that speaks of the southeast Panzano site. If land could talk it would utter these sangiovese words. If vineyards could sing these would be the notes.  Last tasted September 2019

An ’06 Chianti Classico Riserva you say, pre-aged, delivered to the Ontario market and presented here in 2014, all in for $24? You can’t fool us. We’ve been duped too many times before. This must fall into the “too good to be true” category. The answer depends on which style of Chianti Classico you prefer. This walks all the halls, plies the trades and hits the marks of the CCR ancients. Comes from a remarkable vintage, holding on but in true advanced, oxidizing and fruit diminishing character. Mushrooms and truffles abound, as does game in the early roasting stage. A note of Brett is here too, not over the top but its presence can’t be denied. Acidity speaks, as does bitter chocolate. This is not for all but all should have a go.  Tasted November 2014

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2017

No change in ’17 “but of course we made less.” Only 15,000 will come of it and don’t expect to see this hit the market for at least two more years. Don’t expect to drink it for three to five beyond that. The concentration multiplied by the concentration multiplied by the barriques makes for an eight digit factor. Yes this is very different than the others and the acidity too but its a magnificent specimen. Massive tannic attack. Just massive. Wait for the elegance to emerge in 2030. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2017, IGT Toscana

Gratius expresses the vineyard in ways the Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione appellative sangiovese do not. This 100 per cent sangiovese reeks of the vineyard; fennel. rosemary and gariga. From the part of the vineyard at the peak of the hill where San Francesco’s hulking sculpture towers and watches over the sangiovese. Grip, intensity, signs, wealth of fruit, knowledge and portents. So fine. Drink 2025-2038. Last tasted September 2019

Only sangiovese as is the plan for the entire estate. That Panzano perfume and glycerin though there is some more weight and bones than others. Reminds of the style that’s constant from Fontodi to be honest. These are some of Chianti Classico’s finest acids, sweet and refined, They compliment and support. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Pomegranates of Panzano

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Le Bambole is the place, the first selection of one piece of land, to have a Chianti Classico that expresses Il Palagio within the territory but more so within Panzano. Richer than some but balanced and sumptuous, big again but you wouldn’t really know it. Definite connection to Annata 2016 even if the vintage is different. And it needs time. No shocker there. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Particular, personal, vintage related, so Panzano. So consistent with the wines to come.  Last tasted September 2019

This services one of the more interesting aromatic entries thus far, not quite exotic but certainly different. It’s partly reduction, genesis and youth but also a certain soil plus some new barrel. Perhaps the most tannic wine tasted all day, this is way, way too young to gain any sense early of. The structural steel and petrified wood components are massive and untouchable, immovable and indestructible. There is great fruit lurking there and that soil, “under the soil, the soil, the soil, yes, deep in the soil.” So wait at least three years before supper’s ready.  Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2017

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (207795, $19.95)

A floral, bright as a clear blue sky day sangiovese, 100 per cent as such and meaningful. There can be no better compliment that a Chianti Classico can pay then this. It tells you it is happy to see the warmth in your smile and the contentment in your face. That’s because it has charmed you and helped you through. It’s really that simple. Wonderful vintage and the best in modern times for Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

The Conca d’Oro below the village of Panzano

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Aluigi 2014

A rich and luxurious ’14 from a vintage out of which austerity might be expected. Instead there is sapidity and structure, glycerin and silken textures. Really good work, surprising or not from Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($31.95)

Officially still a tank sample but it is a finished wine, just awaiting DOCG approval. Very firm and juicy, replete with the classic Le Fonti aromatic profile, of salumi, fennel, herbs and salty savour. Fruit, acidity, structure all there in fineness and Panzano culpability. Needs a year to come together, at least, for sure. Essentially 90 per cent sangiovese give or take a point or two with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyards of Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($44.95)

Two years in the barrel (400 and 500L, one is Hungarian Kader), again approximately 90 per cent sangiovese and the new wood in ’15 was in the 20 per cent range. Here comes that Le Fonti aromatic profile again, as distinct as any sangiovese you will ever nose. Would like to think they could be picked out of a line-up anywhere. Savoury, salty, cured, elegant and pure pleasure available. The quietest 15 per cent alcohol anywhere and from the coolest part of Panzano, to the east. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyard was hit hard by the frost and so only 24,000 bottles were produced, as opposed to the normal number at 55. There’s great freshness especially for ’17. That said the heat stress was not an issue because the right rootstock, the organics and the it factor gave away what was wanted and what was needed. Bright, effusive, even if 2017 offers just a bit less of the place than usual. It’s ultimately elegant and balanced. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Of 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. From 8.2 hectares in the Conca d’Oro. 35,000 bottles produced, maximum to 40 in the next few years. Organic since the beginning, in the 90s. Same beauty on display as noted back in February 2019.  Last tasted September 2019

One step closer to a deep, deep understanding is where Marinai has arrived with this welling, oozing and fully rendered Greve sangiovese. There’s some true depth and fullness to this fruit and this constitution, not to mention architecture. Certainly filled with warmth and spice for the lovers here. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($23.95)

Bought in 1970 and 11.5 hectares planted, jut over half of the estate. A warm, rich and heady sangioivese with 15 per cent merlot. Liquid chalky from French oak on the merlot and very textured. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Cecchini

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Campicaia 2015 ($44.95)

Sangiovese blended with cabernet sauvignon in a Cassis, resiny and sappy Riserva. Plenty of ripeness, richness and ambition. A modernity not always witnessed. Could be Napa cab and a good one at that. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Sangiovese with 10 per cent canaiolo, eight months élevage. A slight wet wool note though just slight and blended delightfully into the glycerin fruit and high reaching acidity. Just what Annata from Panzano needs to express, light, bright and naturally curated. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

A completely new floral approach to Annata, of flowers and herbs specific to the place though not necessarily a stretch to imagine the aromas like Balinese or Vietnamese exoticism.  Last tasted September 2019

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Talk about exotics. The aromatics are all perfume and spice; cinnamon, clove, liquorice, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s a veritable Pho broth in Greve in Chianti, sangiovese clothing. The barrel is an obvious influence but the fruit remains lightning quick and culpable for place. I find it a bit thin and lean for 2016 so it’s a bit of a disparate accumulation. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Rock of Panzano

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico Grand Selezione DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015

A vineyard planted in 1982 and a matter of big barrel élevage. Lovely savoury and brushy perfume again, hyperbolized and extended to extenuating GS style. Lovely texture and mouthfeel. This is the way of connectivity to the land and the place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

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