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Archives: December 2016

Tasting of a Lifetime: Bruno Giacosa Barolo & Barbaresco 1961 – 2008

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bruno_giacosa_mini_set_smIn comparison to many of the collectors I know, my experience with Barolo is relatively short. It was only eleven years ago that I was pulled into the world of Nebbiolo. I was warned by others that it could happen, that I might be entering into a hobby that would become a lifelong obsession. The world of Barolo and Barbaresco is vast, and the unique experiences depend on so many deciding factors. The soil, the climate, the exposition, and altitude are just the beginning. When you take it to the next level, you see that the lists of vineyard names and unique qualities of each one can fill a book–in fact, they have. Then you look beyond that, to the vintage, the winery, the winemaker, the style and the passion.

You start to realize that with each wine you acquire and enjoy, you are further embarking on a journey to understanding how a bottle of fermented grape juice can be so moving, or simply stop you in your tracks. That’s the magic of Barolo and Barbaresco.

bruno_giacosa_cork_extractionsmThe history of this region, and how it came to be, is just as important as the factors which decide what the experience will entail. From that living history, we come across the names of producers who have shaped the entire region, and what we perceive to be the greatest experiences we’ve encountered. From that list of names, one person who stands out for his pioneering spirit, insights, and unique abilities, is Bruno Giacosa.

Bruno Giacosa didn’t learn his craft studying enology at school. Instead, at the age of thirteen, Bruno began working in the cellar with his father and grandfather, who made their business producing wine that would be sold in demijohn instead of being bottled at the winery. This wasn’t a family of farmers turned winemakers; this was a family of grape brokers who had established long-lasting relationships throughout the region. The experience of touring landscapes of the surrounding villages with his father helped to shape Bruno and hone his most valuable asset, that is, his ability to source the best fruit for both Barolo and Barbaresco.

bruno_giacosa_villero_1989smLocated in Neive, Bruno took the reins of the family business in 1960 and immediately began bottling wine from what would become some of the biggest named vineyards in the region. His first vintage was 1961, when he bottled a Barolo (with fruit from Falletto) and a Barbaresco (a mix of Gallina and Santo Stefano). Before long, this culminated into the release of vineyard-designated wines, starting in 1967, at a time when few producers saw the winds of change on the horizon. Along with producers like Angelo Gaja and Alfredo Currado (Vietti), Bruno Giacosa began to pave the way for Barolo and Barbaresco as we know it today.

The one thing that he didn’t have was his own vineyards. Even with Bruno’s skills of sourcing the best fruit, he watched as farmers became winemakers, making the best vineyard sources more difficult to acquire. Without skipping a beat, and always ahead of the curve, Bruno purchased his first vineyard in 1982, the one which he has been accredited for making famous: Falletto di Serralunga. Over the years, he would go on to buy more parcels, taking pieces of Asili and Rabaja in Barbaresco; yet through that time, Bruno continued to source fruit, but only when it was up to his standards. Many Barolo collectors lament over the loss of Giacosa-bottled Villero and Vigna Rionda–and in more modern times, Santo Stefano.

bruno_giacosa_asili_2007smHowever, it was Bruno’s quest for the utmost quality that drove him to create the wines that we know and love today. In the greatest vintages, we would be treated to the release of his epic red label riservas. In the poor vintages, Bruno would simply declassify his fruit and sell the juice in bulk. To this day, lovers of Barolo and Barbaresco hunt for leads that could explain where this wine went to.

As for the style that defines the house of Giacosa, it is often referred to as traditional. Yet this is by no means a stark traditionalist approach. Instead, Bruno wanted to make great Barolo. The broadest way to describe this approach is with macerations around 30 days long, fermenting in stainless steel with moderate temperatures, and aging in large Botti of French origin. That said, I’ve heard stories of this approach varying over time. But does that really matter? In my opinion, it does not, because the fact remains that these are some of the greatest wines that were ever made from throughout the region.

Unfortunately, Bruno suffered a stroke in 2006, which was followed by the temporary loss of his highly talented oenologist, Dante Scaglione. With her father’s health in decline, Bruna Giacosa (Bruno’s daughter) stepped up to the mantel, and what followed was a period of unevenness. However, with Dante back in the winery, Bruno back on his feet, and his daughter at his side, I have high hopes that the Bruno Giacosa winery will be back on top once again.

This all leads to December 12th, 2016, at a restaurant in New York City named DeGrezia, where a table full of some of the most passionate Barolo collectors I know, Antonio Galloni among us, built our lineup of Bruno Giacosa. The tasting nearly spanned Giacosa’s entire history, from the inaugural vintage all the way to 2008. You can imagine the anxiety that filled us all, even weeks before the event. I can attest to my own personal health, which had been in decline the previous week, and how hard I worked to get myself back into condition, because this was not a tasting to miss. In fact, this was the experience of a lifetime.



On to the tasting notes:

bruno_giacosa_barbaresco_1961sm1961 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Speciale – Sourced from the Gallina and Santo Stefano vineyards, the ‘61 Barbaresco was unexpectedly youthful and exuberant, showing a touch of volatility that contributed to its raciness. On the nose, I was greeted to a vibrant display of sweet florals and spices, gaining richness with time in the glass, adding dried orange, cedar and hints of dusty vanilla. On the palate, I found silky textures combined with racy acidity, showing dried cherry, mint and inner floral tones. The finish was long yet juicy, as saturating spice and red berry tones lingered long. Frankly, you’d never guess this wine’s age. (94 points)

1964 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva (Falletto) – Having had the pleasure of tasting this during three different phases of its time open in bottle, I was at first greeted to a bouquet of dried flowers, dusty earth and parchment. Over the course of hours, the nose gained a deeper and dark persona, as dried black cherry, undergrowth and a slight musty aroma took hold. Yet hours later, the fruit came to the front, becoming more blue and black than red, with a exotic spiciness. On the palate, dark, pliant textures made themselves known, ushering in silky waves of dried fruit, herbs, dark soil and minerals. It was still youthful in its vibrancy, yet perfectly mature in tannin, finishing on iron-tinged minerality and with a sense of perfect balance. (95 points)

bruno_giacosa_asili_1967_label1967 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The ‘67 was beautiful in its maturity, as a wave of dusty earth, dried florals, minerals and a hint of caramel lifted from the glass. On the palate, it was zesty, displaying a mix of savory minerals, dried herbs and hints of worn spice. The finish was shorter than I’d hoped, yet still wonderfully balanced and refined, with a lingering hint of citrus, red berry and dried inner florals. (91 points)

1978 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – In a word… spellbinding. The ’78 Barbaresco Santo Stefano took all of the lifted floral, cherry, minerals and spice that we love about this wine in its youth and transported them gracefully over 38 years of maturity to form a feminine, elegant wine of purity. It was a pleasure to drink, yet all I needed to truly enjoy it was the ability to take in its bouquet over and over again. Bright red floral fruits and dusty spices led to a palate with silky-soft textures and saturating dried berry tones. A hint of tannin still resonated through the finish, along with mouth-puckering acidity and notes of leather, cedar and inner floral tones. Stunning! (95 points)

bruno_giacosa_rocche_1980_label1979 Bruno Giacosa Barolo – The ‘79 Barolo was completely mature yet still quite enjoyable. Here I found a nose of dusty potpourri, dried cherry and a hint of parchment. On the palate, lifted, feminine textures gave way to tart red berry and hints of cedar. It was persistent, yet a bit linear, ending with medium length and a bitter twang of tart red fruit. (90 points)

1980 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche di Castiglione – The ‘80 Rocche displayed a fully mature bouquet of tart dried berries, orange peel, hints of caramel and iodine. On the palate, I found savory and herbal-infused remnants of red berry with hints of cedar and spice. A wave of acidity maintained freshness throughout and paved the way for a pleasurable finale of dried berries and earth tones. (92 points)

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche di Castiglione – What started as a vegetal nose of cucumber and herbs quickly evolved into a wonderful display of crushed strawberry, brown spice, earth and dried roses. On the palate, I found soft textures with a rich display of spicy crushed cherry, which was pumped up by a pulse of vibrant acidity and mineral thrust. It finished on dried red berry, which coated the palate and slowly faded to minerals and earth. (94 points)

bruno_giacosa_rocche_1986_label1986 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche di Castiglione – The nose was dark and massive, with plush notes of black cherry, sweet herbs, earth followed by hints of almond, celery and dried cedar. On the palate, I found vibrant, acid-driven textures overlaying rich dark red fruit, with hints of balsamic, smoke and spice. This finish was shorter than I’d hope yet left a sense of utter balance and remnants of minerality. (93 points)

1989 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero – The ‘89 Villero opened with a funky earth, mushroom and mineral-driven bouquet, yet quickly evolved in the glass to reveal bright red fruit with rosy florals, undergrowth and spice. On the palate, I found soft, silky textures, which seemed to touch upon all of the senses, as notes of undergrowth seemed to carry over from the bouquet, leading to ripe cherry, spice, cedar, and a slight grip of still youthful tannin. It finished youthful with dried cherry, minerals and hints of exotic spice. With the exception of a slightly dirty quality on the nose, this was exceptional. (95 points)

1989 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto Riserva – The ‘89 Falletto didn’t perform as well as past bottles I’ve experienced, as it seems it may have been poorly stored at one point in its life. The nose showed minerals up front, along with dried berries, spiced orange and notes of undergrowth. On the palate, I found dark, almost murky, red fruits with notes of coffee grinds, sweet spice and moderate tannins. A roasted sensation lingered, as it finished on briny minerality. (NA)

bruno_giacosa_asili_1996_label1996 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto – This opened with a beautiful and exuberant display of wild berry, dusty spice, rose, licorice, crushed stone minerality and smoke. On the palate, I found angular textures with youthful tannin, yet its vibrant spiced-cherry fruit maintained a wonderfully drinkable persona. It finished on palate-coating tart red berries, tar and leather tones with hints of lingering mineral-infused tannin. (95 points)

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – My love of Giacosa’s Asili seems to grow deeper and deeper with every taste. Here I found an earthy and seductive bouquet of savory herbs and seared meat, which transformed to crushed berries, plum, roses and hints of moist soil. On the palate, I found soft textures contrasted by youthful tannin, as vibrant dark-red fruit filled the senses, along with, earthy minerals, anise and bitter balsamics. The finish was youthfully dry, yet dense red fruits prevailed, promising many years of development. What a beautiful wine. (96 points)

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche Riserva – The ‘00 Rocche was simply seductive with an alluring bouquet and enveloping on the palate. Here I found a dark and inviting mix of crushed cherry and strawberry with sweet spices. On the palate, soft textures gave way to floral-infused cherry, as hints of leather and earth tones filled the senses. The finish was long with a yin-and-yang of sweet red fruits and a bitter twang of spice and herbs. Although this came across as a bit roasted, it was still so easy to like. (94 points)

bruno_giacosa_asili_2004_label2001 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva – Where to begin with this elegant beauty of a wine? The nose was a dark and exotic beauty which filled the senses with aromas of cinnamon-tinged black cherry, brown spices, tobacco, dusty florals, and tar. A massive wave of dark fruit swept across the palate, delivering saturating fine tannin with notes of leather, cedar and exotic spice. The long finish lingered with resonating tart red berry, spice and a coating of fine tannin. The is a gorgeous wine with marvelous balance and decades of evolution ahead of it. (97 points)

2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The ’04 Asili was firing on all cylinders tonight. One of the first wow wines of the tasting, and it stayed with me throughout the entire evening. Almost impossible to take my nose from the glass, with a mix of fresh herbal-tinged cherry, exotic florals, minerals and green olive. On the palate, it was rooted in the earth, layered, and showing masses of structured depth, as saline-minerality paved the way for dried cherry, leather and iron. It finished unbelievably fresh on a note of cherry pits with hints of spice and fine tannin. There’s so much potential here, as my last comment to my fellow tasters was, “why don’t I have this wine in my cellar?” (98 points)

bruno_giacosa_rocche_2008labelsm22007 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The ‘07 Asili was so easy to like, taking the ripeness of the vintage and combining it perfectly with the house style. Here I found a bouquet of sweet florals and spice, with hard red candies and the slightest hint of undergrowth. On the palate, I found intense dark red fruits ushered in by angular, weighty textures. Vibrant acidity mixed with grippy tannins, which provided the perfect contrast to the ‘07’s warm vintage persona. It finished long on spicy red berries, bitter cherry and spice. (94 points)

2008 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche Riserva – (served blind) This is one of those moments where you consider the score versus the cost, and you have to question whether one should affect the other. The controversial ‘08 Rocche was served blind, and it was clear that it was Nebbiolo. What was not clear was where it was from, and no one would have guessed Giacosa Riserva. The nose showed ripe cherry with a dusting of spice and dried orange. On the palate, I found tart red fruits with saturating minerality and a zing of fresh acidity. Youthful tannin coated the senses, drying the palate and finishing on notes of spice and cedar. (90 points)

Article, Tasting Notes, and Photos by Eric Guido

The Cellar Table’s Top Wines of 2016

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Blind Tasting, The Ultimate Equalizer

Somehow this year got away from me. As I sat down to think about a new blog, it suddenly dawned on me–that it’s time for my top wines of 2016.

This year was without a doubt the most epic, diverse and in-depth year for tasting of my entire career. Over the course of the last 11 months, I’ve logged over 800 tasting notes, and that is without transposing the majority of substandard performing wines from paper to computer. What’s more, I still have an entire notebook of tasting notes from my trip to Burgundy this summer, where my tastings of the 2014 and 2015 vintages have yet to be recorded from shorthand. In the end, there’s only so much time in a day and in a year. That said, (with the exception of Burgundy barrel tasting), each and every wine from the daily drinking variety up to the absolute unicorn wine–a once in a lifetime experience–has been recorded.


Greatness Realized Through Ornellaia

This year was full of amazing tastings and experiences. Beyond Burgundy, I also traveled to Italy to taste with winemakers and professionals from around the world at Collisioni. I was fortunate to host a number of the world’s top names in wine at multiple dinners and events through Morrell. And of course, there is my local Barolo tasting group, which is one of the best groups of people and collectors that I have ever known. As a group, we were able to assemble a number of epic tastings, including Giuseppe Mascarello, Bartolo Mascarello, plus 1996, 2001, and 2004 vintage retrospectives. All of this has culminated into my top wines of 2016. Every region, every style, and vintages spanning a lifetime were all given a fair shake, and the results are below.


Tasting at de Montille

Whenever one of these wines was available, they were added to Morrell’s inventory, but I apologize that some could simply not be acquired. That said, this is a list about my favorite wines of 2016, not my favorite wines that we sell.  I have added many of these wines to my own wine cellar and continue to pursue a number of the more elusive items.

Lastly, I want to thank the readers who have reached out and taken the time to extend their gratitude to me over the years.  Frankly, it’s often a daunting task to take the time to photograph and take notes on nearly every wine you taste.  The desire to sit back and enjoy the simple pleasure of these wines and dinners, without cataloging the finer details, is high.  To the readers who have extended their thanks for what I do, I am sincerely in your debt, because without that vote of confidence, I would not be able to do this.

Thank you, and Enjoy!

On to the tasting notes:

terre_nere_santo_spirito_bianco_2014_mediumsmTop Value White of The Year

There was no question in my mind about this top value white wine. We always hear the comparisons of, this is the white Burgundy of Italy, California, Spain, and on and on. Well, in this case, this really is the White Burgundy of Mount Etna. What Marco De Grazia has achieved with the ‘14 Santo Spirito Bianco is nothing short of magical. To think that this wine only costs $35 is unbelievable. Open this wine, and watch it evolve over the course of hours. You will not be disappointed.

2014 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Bianco Santo Spirito – Another fantastic showing, with a rich display of ripe pear, spring flowers, almond, mineral-tinged citrus and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, I found silky, medium-weight textures with creamy white peach, mango, ripe melon and refreshing acidity. The finish was long, with palate-saturating tropical fruit, kiwi citrus and sweet cream. (94 points) Find it at Morrell Wine!

tiberiomonteTop Value Red of the Year

Since I tasted the 2013 Tiberio Montepulciano in Italy this summer, I kind of knew it would make this list. Frankly, I’d have to work hard to come up with a better quality-to-price ratio wine than this. Most people who know Italian wine know that Montepulciano can be a great value, but Tiberio took it to an all-new level. The purity and sensuality of this wine is undeniable, and to think that it retails at $17. Open it up, give it a short decant, and indulge. I’ve bought it by the case for my own cellar, and I strongly urge you to do the same.

2014 Tiberio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – The nose showed rich cherry and forest, woodland notes, with a hint of undergrowth, subtle spice and minerals. On the palate, I found silky, mid-weight textures with saturating, fleshy black cherry, firmed up by a coating of minerals and fine tannin. It finished with dried cherry, licorice and inner dried floral tones. Gorgeous purity. (92 pointsFind it at Morrell Wine!

gourtTop New Release in France

I’ve been talking about Jérôme Bressy for the last two years, and now having tasted many vintages of the the Vaucluse Rouge, I firmly believe that the 2013 may be the best wine he’s ever produced. Jérôme is the mast of the Rasteau, even if his wines are no longer able to be labeled as such by law. However, it doesn’t matter, because his name has gained notoriety over the entire region. If you’re looking for the new up-and-coming Icon of France, you may be looking right at it with a bottle of Gourt de Mautens on the table.

2013 Domaine Gourt de Mautens (Jérôme Bressy) Vaucluse Rouge – It’s not often that I open a note with an enthusiastic “Wow”, but the 2013 Gourt de Mautens deserves such praise. The bouquet opened with an intense display of white pepper, crush mint (or is that basil), rosemary, moist earth and hints of sweet brown spice. On the palate, it was impossibly soft and enveloping to all of the senses, yet vibrant with a display crushed violets, black fruit, and savory olive. Tannins mounted toward the finish, as the wine resonated on peppery spices and a resounding note of black olive. I can’t wait to see where this wine is going over time. (96 pointsComing Soon to Morrell Wine!

dauvissat-lea-forestsmTop Burgundy

And then there’s Burgundy, and this year’s top wine is both exceptional in its quality and an amazing relative value. I say that, because even at $100 a bottle, the 1er Cru La Forest from Dauvissat can run laps around the competition. This is white burgundy at its best and with many years of development in store for us.

2012 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru La Forest – The nose was tight, taut and lithe at first, with seashore-inflected mineral tones out front, followed by green apple and hints of lime, yet with time it began to blossom as floral tones arose, along with pear and crushed stone. On the palate, it was a bundle of energy, yet wrapped tight and angular in its youthful state, showing inner floral tones, lemon, apple and saline-minerality. The finish was fresh with vibrancy, lending a last mouthwatering burst of green apple. This was a tremendous experience, having followed the 2012 for an entire day; it simply continued to steadily open more and more. (95 points)

donnhoff_hermannshohle_2015smTop German Riesling (2015 Vintage)

The 2015 vintage in Germany will prove to America that this is a wine-producing country to be reckoned with. While I’m usually a bigger fan of the drier styles of Riesling, there is no denying that the categories of Kabinett, Spatlese and Auslese truly excelled in 2012. The property of Donnhoff is one that everyone should know already, and their Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Spätlese is easily one of my top wines of the year.

2015 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese – The ‘15 Hermannshohle Spat was off the charts, with a bouquet of spiced florals, sweet sliced apple, crushed stone and hints of fresh ginger. On the palate, it was layered and intense yet still lifted, with saturating notes of lemon curd, spiced apple, minerals and electrifying acidity. It finished fresh and long with lingering notes of citrus and minerals. This wine has decades of development ahead of it. (96 pointsFind it at Morrell Wine!

bartolo-mascarellotastings-1999smTop Vintage Barolo

If you love Barolo and haven’t realized that 1999 is quickly becoming one of the greatest vintages of the last 30 years, then now’s the time to start tasting. It’s remarkable to think about how many ‘99s have performed well beyond expectations. As for Bartolo Mascarello, which was tasted in a vertical of Cantina Mascarello, the wine is truly magical.

1999 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo – What a pleasure it was to enjoy the ‘99 once again. It’s a truly great wine in the making. Here I found a bouquet of mineral-infused, dark red berry fruit with hints of sweet herbs and spice. With time, dusty floral tones came to the fore. On the palate, a focused wave of red berry fruit with acid and mineral-driven tenacity splashed against the senses, leaving inner dried floral tones and hints of fine tannin. It finished structured and classic, with tart red fruits and dried spice. This was a gorgeous showing, and it’s a wine that anyone who loves Bartolo must have in their cellar. (97 points)

scavino_rocche_dell_annunziata_2010_3_of_2smTop New Release Barolo

To all of the Scavino naysayers, you can skip this wine, and leave more for the rest of us. What it comes down to is that the Scavino style has changed dramatically over the last 15 years, yet many people still associate them with the modern stylings of the ‘90s. However, the reality is that they are making some of the best wine in the region today, and the 2010 Rocche dell’Annunziata is a testament to what they can accomplish.

2010 Paolo Scavino Barolo Riserva Rocche dell’Annunziata – The bouquet was haunting in its mix of dark fruit with sweet and savory herbs. Earth tones, dried roses and crushed stone minerality developed in the glass. On the palate, I found soft and enveloping textures, contrasted by spice and mineral-laden red fruit, tobacco, vibrant acidity, and a coating of sweet tannin that saturated the senses. It finished long and structured, resonating on dried cherry and minerals. This is a gorgeous expression of Rocche dell’Annunziata. (96 pointsFind it at Morrell Wine!

vignadelsorbe99Top Vintage Tuscan Wine

It’s no secret that I love Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo. This is a wine that I’ve been collecting for years, yet I seriously wish I had started much sooner. Earlier this year, a group of fellow collectors assembled a massive vertical of Vigna del Sorbo, and the wine of the night was easily the 1999. If you can find it from a good source, this is a world-class wine that is still seriously undervalued.

1999 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo – 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. (97 points)

andrewwill2014smTop Domestic Value

One of my biggest takeaways from tastings in 2016 is that Washington state has really come a long way. This year, I was able to taste through multiple vintages and across a broad spectrum of producers. What I came to find is that California may have a new competitor for our Cabernet spending. What’s even more enticing is how good the entry-level wines are at these estates. The Andrew Will Columbia Valley is a perfect example. I’d be hard pressed to find a better Cabernet for the money.

2014 Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon – The ‘14 Columbia Valley Cab is just stunning today. Here I found rich dark fruits and spice cake mixed with wild herbs and floral undergrowth in a truly alluring performance. On the palate, soft textures gave way to exotic spice and hard red candies with a hint of tannin that provided perfect grip. The finish showed a bit of austerity, yet its focused fruit and balance kept things fun and urged me to take another sip. (92 points)

bondvecina2012Top Napa Valley Cult Wine

It can often be difficult to justify the prices of new-release cult wines from Napa Valley, but in the case of the 2012 Bond Vecina, I totally get it. Bond has been working hard to establish the importance of terroir throughout their range, and if it’s taught me one thing, it’s that Vecina is my favorite Cru from their lineup. This is a wine of such power, intensity and potential that it’s hard not to start stockpiling it in my own cellar.

2012 Bond Vecina – The nose on the ‘12 Vecina was deep and layered, and it required a bit of coaxing before it sprang to life. Here, I found intense dark red fruit, balanced by dusty earth, wild floral perfumes and stunning minerality. On the palate, I found silky textures delivering formidable weight and tannic clout, as a wave of massive dark fruit swept across the senses, leaving notes of cocoa, dried herbs, and confectionary spice in its wake. The finish was long with notes of tobacco, dark chocolate and sweet herbs. I simply didn’t want this glass to ever empty. The ‘12 Vecina is simply stunning! (98 points)

riojasmTop Spanish Wine

I was caught completely off guard by the 1986 Murrieta Ygay Gran Reserva Blanco. I had expected it to be an overhyped wine that couldn’t possibly live up to the praise it was receiving–until I tasted it. Make no mistake, it’s quite expensive, but when you consider the amount of time and care that went into creating this wine and how good it truly is, it all starts to make sense.

1986 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Blanco – There are so many layers and with each tip of the glass, the bouquet seems to change. The hardest part about the ’86 Ygay Blanco is not drinking it too fast. There’s amazing depth on the palate with dense textures, yet vibrant and lifted, playing a sweet-and-sour act on the senses. Minerals, stone fruits, young pineapple, crushed flowers, mushroom, brie, savory herbs…it goes on and on. (97 points) Find it at Morrell Wine!

Top Dessert Wine

To be frank, every time I taste Ben Ryé, I question why I’m not buying it by the case. This is without a doubt one of the greatest dessert wines being made in the world today. If you’ve never tasted one, then you must do whatever it takes to correct that mistake. For what Ben Ryé costs, versus the pleasure it provides, there is no better option.

2008 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé Edizione Limitata – What an incredible nose, starting with spiced orange, mango, and dried peaches, then turning to dried flowers, exotic spices and honey. On the palate, I found rich, luxurious textures, yet perfectly fresh, with ripe stone fruits, dried orange, clove, allspice, white cherry and hints of mango. It was incredibly long on the finish with notes of raisin, dried peaches, apricot…frankly, you can go on and on and on. (96 points)

haut-brion-1985smMy Highest-Scoring Wine of the Year

Blind tasting is the ultimate equalizer, and nothing proved this to me more than an evening spent with a number of collectors with the theme of “bring one of your best bottles blind”. All of the wines on the table were special, but the ‘85 Haut-Brion was on another level.

1985 Château Haut-Brion – Descriptors are almost meaningless on the ’85 Haut Brion, as the wine was nearly perfect. The nose was dark and rich, showing red and blackberry fruits, smoke, animal musk, minerals and a distinct note of menthol. On the palate, it was like silk drawn across your senses, and it was perfectly balanced with rich dark fruit, inner floral tones, and pronounced saline-minerality. The finish was long with dried cherry, minerals, smoke and hints of spice. This is a drop-dead gorgeous, mature Haut Brion that was hard to put down—and it’s in a perfect place today. (98+ points)

Article, Photos and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido