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Archives: July 2016

Modern-Day Pioneers of Californian Winemaking: Peter Michael

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Peter Michael GlasssmSome tastings leaving you wanting more, while others are hardly of note. However, sometimes you find yourself at a tasting that leaves such an impression on you that afterwards you think about how lucky you were to experience it. That’s exactly what happened to me when tasting through nine vintages of Peter Michael.

The story of how the Peter Michael Winery came to be is a fascinating one, especially when it’s being told by his son Paul, who was just a teenager on holiday with his family when he one day realized that the trip was really meant to scout out a location for their new winery.

In 1982, Peter Michael purchased 630 acres of volcanic ridges on the western face of Mount St. Helena in Knights Valley. It was a little-known location, which had played host for vines over a century ago, but disappeared into history through prohibition and disease; and so, it came with no guarantees of success. However, Peter was determined and believed in the terroir. Suddenly, family vacations became the start of a whole new era for the entire family, as they began planting and laying the foundations for today’s Peter Michael Winery.

PetermichaelValleyIt all started with Bordeaux varieties, and then with the help of Helen Turley, the winery released its first wine in 1987, a Chardonnay. Much has changed since then, as the family has worked to delimit each of their parcels, splitting them up by soil types and microclimates. Looking to marry the ripeness and fruit intensity of Sonoma with classic old world winemaking, Peter Michael enlisted a team combining winemakers from the old world and the new. In fact, the list of famed winemakers who have contributed goes on and on.

On thing that has remained the same is the family that brings us these amazing wines. Peter’s mantra, “mountain vineyards, classical winemaking, and limited production”, has been followed since the beginning, and the goal is to keep the winery under 100% family ownership for at least 100 years. Looking at the pride Paul feels when speaking about his family and their accomplishments, it’s hard to imagine that they will ever give up the reins. Knight’s Valley is in their blood.

Peter Michael 2smOn this day, it was a tasting of two wines, both from the estates Les Pavots (The Poppies) vineyard. The first was the acclaimed and highly sought-after L’Apres-Midi, a Sauvignon Blanc with a touch of Semillon, which pays tribute to the great white wines of Bordeaux, but in a truly Peter Michael style. This was followed by the wine bearing the vineyard’s name, Les Pavots. This is a wine that speaks to the old-world wine lover, as well as the new. It’s a Bordeaux blend, made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, with varying amounts of Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Somehow the cooler climate and rocky volcanic soil lends Les Pavots a classic feel and refined balance, all while displaying perfectly ripe California fruit. Both wines are beautiful, and both are also highly limited.

In the end, it’s amazing to think about the courage it must have taken for the Peter Michael family to embark on such a journey. Today, they enjoy a much-earned respect from wine lovers around the world. Enjoy!

On to the tasting notes:

petermichaelmidi2010sm2010 Peter Michael L’Apres-Midi – The nose showed intense citrus and minerals, gaining richness with time in the glass, adding floral tones and hints of wild herbs. It displayed soft textures on the palate, along with flavors of ripe peach, apple, melon, hints of honey and inner floral tones. It finished with a zing of acidity, yet remained pure and elegant, tapering off with notes of young peach and crushed stone. (93 points)

2011 Peter Michael L’Apres-Midi – Showing a darker and richer side of L’Apres-Midi, the ‘11 opened up with notes of ripe peach, kiwi, and minerals in an alluring display. On the palate, I found silky textures, which gave way to smoky peach, apple and wet stone. The finish was long and intense with floral perfumes, ripe peach and hints of honey. (94 points)

petermichaelmidi2013sm2012 Peter Michael L’Apres-Midi – The nose showed intense fruit and floral tones, displaying ripe pear, apple, hints of spice, crushed stone and honey suckle. On the palate, it displayed perfect balance with soft textures giving way to tart lemon, zesty minerality, and exotic inner floral tones. Sweet apple, citrus and spice waited for me on the finish, which was remarkably long and fresh. What a beautiful performance from a wine that I would love to sit with for hours. (95 points)

2013 Peter Michael L’Apres-Midi – The nose was rich and fruity with hints of vanilla and wild herbs, which turned to floral perfumes. On the palate, it was lively and pure, seeming to hover upon the senses, displaying ripe stone fruits, and sweet inner floral tones. Hints of honey and ginger lingered on the finish. The ‘13 L’Apres-Midi is gentle giant of a wine that finds beauty in its understatement. (93 points)

2014 Peter Michael L’Apres-Midi – The nose was peppery with rich and savory notes of lemon, wild herbs, olive and green apple. On the palate, I found tense, angular textures with young stone fruit and hints of spice. It finished on wild herbs, lemon and brisk acidity. The ‘14 is hard to judge today, as it comes across and remarkably youthful. (92 points)

LesPavotslineupsm2006 Peter Michael Les Pavot – The nose was gorgeous with rich black currant, cherry sauce and spice, complicated by hints of wild herbs and olive. On the palate, silky textures faded to reveal intense dark red fruits and spice, yet it remained remarkably elegant and refined. The finish was long with saturating raspberry fruit, herbs and minerals. The ‘06 is in a beautiful place right now. (95 points)

petermichaellespavot2007sm2007 Peter Michael Les Pavot – The nose showed tart cherry and floral perfumes with hints of sage and dusty spice . On the palate, I found silky textures with medium weight, giving way to black cherry and blueberry with still-youthful tannin contrasting vibrant acidity and providing a truly classic feel. The finish was long with notes of dried blackberry, pine, tobacco and herbs. I’m usually not a fan of the ‘07 vintage but Peter Michael’s Les Pavot is a real standout. (96 points)

2008 Peter Michael Les Pavot – The nose was restained with notes of dark earth, dried cherry and minerals. On the palate, I found a mix of cherry and blueberry, yet all was kept in check by a mix of brisk acidity and tannin. It finished on hints of cola and spice. At nearly eight years old, I found the ‘08 to be a bit of a mystery to me, but it’s possible that we’re seeing it through an odd phase. (92 points)

2009 Peter Michael Les Pavot – This showed a dark, deep and layered bouquet of blackberry and herbs in an almost-savory performance with hints of tobacco pulling up the rear. On the palate, tart cherry gave way to wild herbs and minerals, and it gave a perfectly balanced and almost juicy performance. It finished on a contrast of vibrant acidity and ripe fruit. This wine is a pleasure to drink. (94 points)

petermichaellespavot2010sm2010 Peter Michael Les Pavot – The nose was dark and brooding, showing blue fruits, savory cherry sauce, dusty spice, hints of wild herbs, minerals, and pepper. On the palate, it was soft-textured, almost creamy, with intense black cherry that seemed to coat all of the senses. Youthful tannin came forward on the finish, as its rich fruit slowly tapered off. The ‘10 is still quite young yet full of potential. (93 points)

2011 Peter Michael Les Pavot – The ‘11 Les Pavot is already quite appealing today, with a mix of spicy red and blue fruit and minerals on the nose. It was super-soft, yet not weighty on the palate, with notes of ripe blueberry and spice. Hints of tannin came forward on the finish, drying the palate, yet not detracting from the experience. In fact, I found ‘11 Les Pavot to be one of the most enjoyable and ready-to-drink wines from this day’s flight. (94 points)

2012 Peter Michael Les Pavot – The ‘12 displayed a gorgeous bouquet of dark fruit and spice, with hints of pepper, lifting herbal tones, and minerals. On the palate, I found silky textures, yet seemingly weightless somehow, displaying a mix of cherry and blackberry, which gave way to wood spice and sweet tannin. It finished long and refined as its dense core of fruit persisted and youthful tannin coated the senses. This is a classic in the making. (96 points)

2013 Peter Michael Les Pavot – The nose was restrained at first; yet with coaxing, it opened up to reveal dark earth and minerals, followed by dried blueberry, floral tones and brown spice. On the palate, I found a soft and elegant expression with blackberry fruit and spice, followed by sweet tannin that saturated the senses. It was long, structured and spicy on the finish, with hints of dried berries, ginger and dark chocolate. This is so youthful today, yet you can sense the potential in the glass. Truly Stunning! (97 points)

Article, photos and tasting notes by: Eric Guido

A Vinous Evolution: Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo

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fontodi-villaI started with Chianti Classico, like many other Italian wine lovers, I’m sure. It’s simply the most likely of all Italian wines to be placed in front of you throughout your life. Whether it was at a pizza restaurant growing up or a friend’s table when you were just getting old enough to want to move beyond beer and wine coolers–Chianti was there for us all.

However, not all Chianti is created equal, as we’ve all learned the hard way. And what’s more, wine writers have only just started to broach the topic of the many different expressions and diverse terroir of Chianti. I for one look forward to this new renaissance of Italy’s favorite wine.

fontodilineup2smOver the years, I’ve written hundreds of tasting notes on Chianti Classico, and I have probably tasted a thousand more that didn’t move me to pick up my pen. Through it all, there have been a handful of wines that have stood out as the pinnacle of what the region and its producers are capable of. These are the wines that thrill us in their youth but also have the potential to age, which isn’t a trait that many people associate with Chianti. I can count these producers on one hand, but within that group, you will always find Fontodi and their top Chianti Classico, Vigna del Sorbo.

Vigna del Sorbo has come a long way since it’s inception in 1985. In the beginning, it resembled the best qualities that Chianti had to offer at the time, with sangiovese at its core (as Chianti Classico requires), a healthy dose of Cabernet Sauvignon and aging in new wood. Yet what set Vigna del Sorbo apart, and is only just starting to be talked about today in Tuscany, is terroir. That term that we see over and over again, yet don’t think for a moment that the word’s overuse should ever take away from its importance–as Vigna del Sorbo is a perfect example of just how important terroir is.

FontodiVigna del Sorbo was the brainchild of Giovanni Manetti, the man behind the scenes at Fontodi. It was his passion for Sangiovese which drove him to experiment and finally arrive at the elevated position which his winery enjoys today. You see, even going as far back as the 1985, Giovanni wanted to show the world that a 100% expression of Sangiovese could create a world-class wine. It’s because of this that he created the well-received Super Tuscan, Flaccianello. However, it took time for Giovanni to realize what Vigna del Sorbo was truly capable of.

A recent tasting of thirteen vintages followed Vigna del Sorbo from it’s deep roots in modern-Chianti (of the time) with the 1995, through the growing pains of the early to mid 2000s, and right up to the truly epic (100% Sangiovese) 2012 vintage.

Fontodi-galestroIt was amazing to witness not only the vintage characteristics, but also how Fontodi has tinkered with and refined their style. I was lucky to be sitting with a longtime friend and great resource of Chianti knowledge, Gregory dal Piaz (who happens to be in the middle of writing a book on the topic of Chianti). Greg’s insights on each vintage were priceless.

However, what became apparent to me throughout the evening was that no matter the winemaking style of Fontodi at any given time, the abilities of its winemaker and the prestige of the sight also shone through. The ‘95 was classic, as was the ‘99. They made me question how anyone would choose to change this formula. However, all doubts faded away when tasting the ‘10 and ‘12, because they were as beautiful an expression of Vigna del Sorbo that we could ever hope for.


Federico Manetti, the new generation at Fontodi

Watching as the percentage of international varieties faded from the 2008 through 2012 Vigna del Sorbo was an eye-opening experience. Some would say that this decision had a lot to do with global warming and how it became difficult to keep alcohol levels down with the addition of Cabernet. The word from Giovanni himself is that he was able to acquire a second parcel of Vigna del Sorbo, one which contained significantly older vines. The addition of this fruit is what Giovanni believes makes the current vintages as good as they are.

No matter what the reason, what this tasting proved to me without a doubt is that Vigna del Sorbo is a world-class wine, which I would place against the best of the best. I’m happy to have many of these vintages in my cellar, and I look forward to adding many more.

On to the tasting notes:

vignadelsorbo1995Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 1995 – The bouquet had me the second I put my nose to the glass. Here I found a perfectly mature display of crushed black cherry, floral undergrowth, dusty dry spices and hints of musk. On the palate, it displayed a perfect balance of acidity and mature red fruits, which were fleshy and vibrant next to the wine’s integrated tannin. It finished long with dried floral and earth tones. What a great way to start our tasting, as the ‘95 was perfectly mature and holding strong. (94 points)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 1997 – The nose was dark and slightly muddled with ripe black cherry and sweet herbal tones. On the palate, I found soft textures and brisk acidity with red fruits, yet there’s a serious lack of depth here. The finish was clipped and a bit simple. Like most ‘97s, the wine ultimately came across as fading, with a decline in purity of fruit and leaning toward a dank and unbalanced place. (87 points)

vignadelsorbo1998Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 1998 – The ‘98 is drinking beautifully, and it suffered only from being placed so close to the ‘95 and ‘99. On any other day, I believe this wine would be turning heads with its dark and earthy bouquet of ripe strawberry, florals and cedar. On the palate, I found soft textures with spicy, dark red fruits and hints of mushroom. With time in the glass, it lost some of its persistence on the palate, yet still showed strong, finishing long on dried cherry and hints of earthy funk. (93 points)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 1999 – The ‘99 is classic in every sense of the word. Today it still comes across as young, yet there is a balance of fruit, tannin and acid that makes it seductive and easily enjoyable. The bouquet was pure class, showing haunting dark floral aromatics followed by black cherry, strawberry, spice and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, I found fleshy textures, with a core of sweet tannin and brisk acidity lending vibrancy. Black cherry, spice, and minerals were all on display in this perfectly balanced beauty. It finished long and intense, still showing youthful structure and promising years of development down the road. (96-97 points)

FontodiVignadelSorbo-2001smsmFontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2000 – The nose showed undergrowth and moist soil up front, followed by blackberry and minerals. On the palate, I found pliant, juicy textures, yet lacking the fruit concentration of other vintages. This finish was pleasant yet a bit short with mature strawberry and cherry notes. I don’t see much of a future for the 2000, yet it’s drinking perfectly well today. (90 points)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2001 – While some other tasters felt the ‘01 lagged behind, I found it to be youthful yet truly classic with vibrant fruit and sweet tannin. The nose showed rich cherry with dusty florals, spice and fresh-turned soil. On the palate, it was still youthfully tight with gripping tannins slightly restraining its bright red fruits. A core of minerality added further depth and lasted throughout the finish along with dried cherry and spice. This wine is in need of another five or more years before entering its early drinking window. (95 points)

FontodiVignadelSorbo-2004smFontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2004 – The nose was earthy with dusty soil, leather, dried flowers and sweet herbs. On the palate, I found angular textures with gripping tannin, giving way to tart cherry and brisk acidity. Tannin coated the palate throughout the finish, drying the senses and the wine’s otherwise beautiful fruit. I hope to be wrong one day about the 2004, as on this night it seemed as if the wood tannin may outlive the fruit. At the moment, it’s a hard wine to like. (91-94 points)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2006 flawed

(Tasting Notes from 10-27-15) This is dark and brooding, still a black hole of a wine, and in need of time. The nose displayed floral perfumes of mint, cedar and savory herbs, followed by dark red fruit and hints of dusty spice. On the palate, angular textures gave way to youthful tannin, bitter black cherry and wood tones. It was dry on the finish, but youthfully so, with a core of concentrated red fruit that wouldn’t relent. This may be a classic in the making, but in need of 5-10 years in the cellar. (94 points) Find it at: Morrell Wine

FontodiVignadelSorbo-2008smFontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2007 – Big, fleshy, racy and hot may work in Napa, but it’s hard to pull off in Tuscany. The nose was large-scaled with ripe black cherry, espresso bean and intense sweet spice. On the palate, I found weighty textures with densely packed red fruits wrapped in a mix of sweet, sweet tannin and spice. It finished on dried cherry, cheek-puckering tannin and a hint of heat. There’s an audience for the 2007, but it’s not with a group of Chianti lovers. (93 points)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2008 – The nose show masses of dark fruit, olive brine, espresso and savory spices. On the palate, it was large-scaled and monolithic with a wave of dark fruits and murky, almost moldy notes. It finished clipped, with remnants of undergrowth and funk. The 2008 came across as either being in a very odd stage or having been too fruit-concentrated and oaked-influenced at the winery. (NA)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2010 – The 2010 is a classic in the making with a perfect balance of intense yet pure fruits and sweet tannin. On the nose, I found sweet, dusty spices along with ripe cherry and cedar. On the palate, it was polished, refined and perfectly balanced, as intense red fruit and minerals coated the palate, followed by a wave of sweet tannin and spice. The finish was structured, yet its persistent fruit continued to resonate. I see this aging into something resembling the amazing ‘99. (96 points)

FontodiVignadelSorbo-2012smFontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2011 – The nose showed dark red fruits, black olive and hints of pepper. On the palate, I found blackberry, cherry and licorice with hints of savory herbs. It finished with big, gruff tannin, feeling rich yet unbalanced. This was another hard wine to judge among its present company. However, as much as I’d like to think it was just outclassed, the ‘11 came across as dark, beastly and lacking balance. (91 points)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2012 – The 2012 took all the the classicism of 2010, but it added an airy, almost ethereal quality, which in the end was quite attractive. The nose showed bright cherry with sweet floral tones and dusty spice. It was lively and intense on the palate, with focused acidity ushering along a core of concentrated red fruit, minerals and spice. This was like a freight train across the palate in its youthful state, yet it still finished long and refined with a classic coating of sweet tannin. This is even better than the last time I tasted it, and it’s another one to put in the cellar to love for a long time. (96 points) Find it at: Morrell Wine

Just for fun, I’ve added Fontodi’s Dino.  Giovanni’s tribute to ancient wine making techniques.

FontodiDine2013smFontodi Dino 2013 – The nose opened with exotic floral tones, ripe cherry, dark soil, minerals, and a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it displayed racy textures with sweet strawberry fruit, a hint of tropical citrus, spice and tantalizing acidity. The finish was fresh with vibrant acidity dancing on the senses. Simply gorgeous. Dino is one of the most balanced and enjoyable Amphora wines that I’ve tasted from Tuscany. (94 points) Find it at: Morrell Wine

Article, tasting notes, and photos by: Eric Guido

1996 Barolo and Barbaresco, 20-Year Retrospective

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Mascarello_Monprivato_Ca_D'Morissio_1996smWhatever happened to our dreams of 1996 being a great vintage? For over a decade, I’ve been pursuing this vintage with hopes that it would be another 1989, yet now I begin to wonder. Last year we put together a blind ‘96 Barolo tasting, and the outcome led me to believe that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. The odd thing about that tasting was that the best-performing wines were all produced in a modern style. That wasn’t the case here at our 20-year retrospective tasting.

At the 20-year mark, the majority of these ‘96 Barolos are still as hard as nails. What’s more, in some cases, the fruit appears to be receding and drying out, even as their tannin and acidity continue to power on. On this night, we tasted the best of the best, and when all was said and done, only a handful of them truly impressed. However, what a handful that was, as two of my top three wines are at the peak of the pricing pyramid and extremely hard to find. In fact, the most all-around enjoyable wines of the evening were from the Barbaresco flight, which did well here due to their more feminine and softer fruit profiles. Of course, three out of four were Bruno Giasoca, with Cappellano (a wine made from purchased fruit) scoring very high as well.

Barolo_MixsmIn the end, considering the list of names tasted here and the notes and scores I left with, I’d find it very difficult to recommend many of these bottles to the average consumer. While the Ca d’Morissio was drop-dead gorgeous and with a long life ahead of it, I only see availability in Europe, and at almost $500+ per bottle. My runner up, the Giacosa Riserva Asili can be had for $450+ in the US, which isn’t so bad when you consider the cost of recent vintages. That said, I won’t be seeking out any to buy. As for the Massolino Vigna Rionda, that’s the bottle that I would buy, assuming you can find it (for readers in the UK and Switzerland, you may be in luck). The Massolino was ridiculously close in quality to the top-scoring wines at this tasting. If you really want a great ‘96 Barolo in your cellar, that won’t break the bank, then this is the one to hunt for.

Barbaresco_mixsmSo how long do we need to wait for these wines to come around? At this time, I would look to start drinking any ‘96 Barolo from a modern-styled producer. For the traditionalists, you’re looking at another 5-10 years or more. As for Barbaresco, with the proper decanting, these are just entering their drinking window.

As is usually the case, whenever my vintage reports come back with any negative feedback, I’m sure there will be many who will call me out. However, what kind of writer would I be if I didn’t share my honest opinions with my readers? I hope I’m wrong, but at this time, ‘96 isn’t looking like the all-around great vintage we had all hoped for.  At the top of the pricing pyramid, your chances of a great experience increases.

Barolo_Blind_1996smMy advise is to tread lightly, and look for Barolo recommendations from those who have recently tasted the wines. As for Barbaresco, this tasting has tempted me to dig deeper, as this night’s examples were showing beautifully.

On to my tasting notes:

(All wines were served blind in three flights.  Bottles were opened between 9am – 11am, decanted for sediment, and then returned to their original bottle until the start of the tasting.)

Castiglione & Monforte d’Alba

AldoConterno_Granbussia_1996sm1996 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia – The nose displayed dark fruit, as blackberries dipped in liqueur, sweet spice and hints of espresso dominated. On the palate, it was soft, dare I say diluted, with notes of plum and tart cherry. It finished stern, with drying tannin and bitter remnants of red fruit. Everything about this wine made me believe it would be a modern-styled Barolo. (90 points)

1996 Vietti Barolo Rocche – The nose opened strangely, revealing notes of crushed seashell and saline-minerality. However, with time, the Rocche evolved with a display of floral undergrowth, brilliant red fruits and fresh green flora. On the palate, it was firm from start to finish, with earthy red fruits and intense minerality. Dried floral tones lingered throughout the finish, along with drying tannin and minerals. I had high hopes for this bottle, but it appears to be in a very closed phase. (91 points)

Mascarello_Barolo_Ca_dMorissio_1996_2sm1996 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – The nose showed dark red fruits, menthol, sweet spice and dried flowers. With time, its fruit fleshed out, as a beautiful expression of fresh roses appeared. On the palate, it was lean yet with persistent tart cherry fruit that stained the senses. It finished structured and tense, yet the fruit remained intact. I have to wonder if this may have scored even higher had it not been tasted next to the Ca d’Morissio. (93 points)

1996 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Ca d’Morissio Riserva Monprivato – This revealed a bouquet of dusty black cherry, dried flowers, dark exotic spice and crushed stone minerality. It was hauntingly dark and and floral. On the palate, I found pure fruit and saturating tannic structure, as tart black cherry steamrolled across the senses, leaving a trail of acid-tinged minerals in its wake. The finish was long and structured, with lingering notes of dried berries and inner floral tones. I can only imagine that this wine will see a very long life, and I seriously hope to be able to taste it again. (96 points)

Barbaresco (Or the story of three Giacosas and a Cappellano)

Giacosa_Barbaresco_Asili_Riserva_1996sm1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Asili – The nose was deep and layered, revealing ripe red fruits, plum, sweet spice, tar, smoke and earth. It was dark, seductive, and even a bit savory. On the palate, I found silky-soft textures with spiced cherry and plum coating the senses, along with licorice and violet florals. It finished incredibly long yet balanced and fresh with inner florals and remnants of dried cherry fruit. As it was tasted blind, I had guessed this to be the Rabaja–looks like I should be buying more Asili. (96 points)

1996 Cappellano Barbaresco – The nose showed dusty florals up front, with ripe cherry, exotic spice, menthol and sweet floral tones. On the palate, it was vibrant with silky textures that caressed the senses, as dark red fruits and inner floral tones persisted well into the long finish. Its structure loomed, along with a coating of minerals and a hint of herbs. This may not be quite as moving as the last bottle I tasted, but it was still an amazing experience. (94 points)

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà – The nose was sweet and layered with dark red fruits, dusty florals tones and minerals. On the palate, I found soft, juicy textures with vibrant red berry fruit that coated the senses. Tannin came late and lasted long into the finish, along with lifted minerality and dark fruit. (92 points)

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Albesani di Neive – The nose was perfumed and floral with bright cherry and minerals in a very pretty expression. On the palate, I found soft textures with dark red fruits and spice, yet there seemed to be something missing throughout the mid-palate. It finished on dried red fruits and inner floral tones. On this night, the Santo Stefano came across as small-scaled and pretty, but not much else. (90 points)

massolino_Barolo_1996_smSerralunga d’Alba

1996 Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda – The nose showed intense minerals, almost saline, with sweet herbs and dark red fruits. It was structured on the palate, yet showing intense dark fruits with a zing of brisk acidity before it’s still youthful tannin took effect and saturated the senses. It finished dry with a coating of minerals and tart cherry extract. This is still a baby, but it’s sure to enjoy a long and fulfilling life. (95 points)

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto – The nose showed dark black cherry and minerals, yet it was restrained and ungiving at this stage. On the palate, the fruit turned crystalline and brilliant with mineral-wrapped black cherry and dark herbal tones that shot across the senses. It finished on concentrated red fruits, iron and fine tannin. I feel like many of the other tasters were let down by the Falletto tonight, yet I found it to be youthfully poised to grow into a beautiful wine. (92 points)

Cappellano_Barolo_Otin_Fiorin_96sm1996 Cappellano Barolo Piè Franco Otin Fiorin (Gabutti) – The nose displayed an attractive mix of minerals, dusty red fruits, spice, and iron, all with a savory leaning. On the palate, I found dark, bitter red fruits and minerals with earth tones and inner florals. It finished on fresh herbs, minerals and earth, with a coating of gruff tannin that saturated the senses.  As is often the case with Otin Fiorin, I have to wonder if it just needs more time to truly show it’s potential. (94 points)

1996 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato – The nose was almost savory, showing olive brine and sweet herbs before turning to crushed cherry, brown sugar and dark chocolate. On the palate, it was silky but also a bit one-dimensional, with notes of red berry, smoke and a hint of minerality. It finished on dark red fruits, yet it was murky and partially restrained.  Unfortunately, I feel that the fruit here simply didn’t integrate well with Ornato’s barrique oak aging.  (89 points)

Article, Photos and Tasting Notes: By Eric Guido